Can of War

There I was, just a kid, but I was in the middle of a war. Coke? Pepsi? I took part in the taste-tests. Look, you weren’t there! We had to pick a side! There I was, unmarked cups in front of me. I didn’t want to look greedy so I took just a small sip of each, I could barely taste the warm sweet liquid as the proctor stared impatiently. My pick was essentially random. I think I picked Coke? In some ways it didn’t matter. In some ways I suppose I lost some of myself that day. It was the Cola Wars.

Coke, the classic conservative, choice of the old generation versus Pepsi the progressive, the choice of a new generation. The new kid on the block challenging the champ. Being the age I was, I wanted Pepsi. I was that new generation. But we were lied to, man! Over some sugar water!? The things I did. The things I saw. There were even times when I had cola for breakfast, right alongside my Cap’n Crunch cereal. It was a different time back then, life was cheap, soda was cheaper.

I’ve got the battle scars to prove it. Brittle bones, yellowed teeth, war is hell. And the indoctrination, oh the mind-control we were under. Our eyes were glued to the tele-screens as they beamed in ad after ad telling us what to drink in every insidious way they could. You think he was called the King of Pop solely because of his domination over pop-music? Pop is also another name for cola. I saw the footage of that tragic Pepsi commercial, and the King of Pop was changed after that. The war affected us all.

No, I don’t touch the stuff anymore. Well maybe a sip for old-times sake every few years, but I don’t enjoy it. The taste no longer suits me. I guess without the stream of ads flowing into my brain, the flavor can’t stand on its own. Or maybe I’m just bitter. We were so young, man. Caught in the middle of a fight we didn’t want. We had no choice. What were we gonna drink? Ginger Ale? Dr Pepper? Tab? Water? That sh*t wouldn’t fly.

We did what we had to, and when it came down to it, we drank whatever cola the restaurant had on tap. None of it mattered. The war wasn’t one cola versus another, it was cola versus us — and we lost.

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Political Debate

I’ve often watched people bicker back and forth about political systems and perspectives. It appears as if they’re attempting to offer some sort of “solution” to the problems facing society today. But by the fact that they never attempt to reach a consensus, we can conclude that they argue simply for the sake of it. They’re pigs rolling in mud, they don’t want to clean up the filth, they in fact love it.

Nothing’s wrong with a pointless argument as long as participants are enjoying the match. It’s like debating whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better — there’s no real answer. As long as you’re having fun discussing whether hand-phasers are a superior weapon to lightsabers, then that’s fine. But if such speculation infuriates you, then it’s a practice you should avoid.

Additionally, the problems of the world keep perpetuating without end. There’s ALWAYS a problem. Therefore, we can readily deduce that there exists a chaotic core to existence. This world ceaselessly churns out a constant stream of hurdles for us to jump over. After all, every game needs obstacles, something to overcome.

Therefore, political debate is futile. It’s sparring with words, a jabbering contest, it solves nothing. Plus there’s an endless stream of problems plaguing the world, plugging one hole only opens up two more. So repeat after me: political debate does not solve problems, it’s simply people arguing for sport.

Why am I saying this? Once in awhile I get caught up in the political stuff and start taking it too seriously, so I’m reminding myself to calm down. There’s no doubt I find some aspects fun, but too much junk food isn’t good for you. And politics is junk food through and through. People that truly want to help others don’t incessantly deliberate, they actually get out there and do it.

Soap Suds

I was washing a plate by hand in the sink. With suds covering my fingers, I peered out the window and noticed the familiar view. But it wasn’t a recent view. I was back at the first house I ever lived in. I recognized the sink and the surroundings. We were back — our excursion to Florida must’ve failed and we returned to Massachusetts. Does that mean my dad is still alive? It feels like he is.

Tears started welling in my eyes. I felt so sad. Being back means my balcony’s gone. I love my balcony. It’s where I’ve sat everyday for the past few months since we’ve been here, gazing across the treetops and marveling at the clouds and their many shapes. It’s where I contemplate life and practice presence. I can even see my little boy’s school from there, oftentimes hearing the clamor of recess.

Sensing my own sadness, my mind made an ocean-view appear out of another window — and I was comforted. I could see the gentle white-topped waves rolling into the warm tan sand. I suppose the ocean would be an acceptable swap for clouds and treetops. Yet my logical mind kicked in and said “Hey! That’s where the backyard usually is. There’s no ocean, it’s merely a mirage!” I was sad again.

I woke up. My eyes opened to the very balcony I missed in my dream — and I was comforted. I feel very much at home here, much more than that first house in my dream, a house I lived-in for nearly three decades — yet it never felt like a home. I don’t know where we’ll be in August of next year. In my mind I see myself here, living the quaint and cozy suburban life.

Who knew that’s what I wanted? But the thought of having lost it made me nearly cry in my dream. I suppose it solidifies how much I care about where I am right now. I’m not scared of losing it, I’d just be disappointed if I did. Then I rebuked my wallet. I sternly declared: “How dare you not provide the ample funds I require! My family and guests deserve better!”. My finishing move was a flying-elbow, the double-bill-fold flew open and landed face down on the floor. I guess I won.

Mentor Series: Michelle

The world looks a lot different to a four-year old, and that’s where our story begins, through her tiny eyes. Fairies, angels, mermaids, roving spirits, and demonic creatures running amok — these are not mere mental musings, but absolute reality. “Michelle! Be careful you don’t disturb the fairies! They’re very vindictive if you cross them.” The ways of the world were explained to her by elderly grandparents, people of the earth, folks that tended the land on an island in the Pacific Rim.

It was at this age when she traveled in a giant metal bird to America — New York City no less. Horns honking, people shouting, her ears were overwhelmed. The air itself, now chilled, hurt her little hands. And her neck couldn’t bend back enough to see the tops of the towers that created the concrete valley she now found herself within. Everything about this dense city, couldn’t be further from where she started: a tiny seaside village halfway around the globe.

So the world to her, IS magic — there’s just no other explanation for it. The gritty city didn’t strip her of magic, it only reinforced it. Though oftentimes, it’s a mischievous magic. This little girl was torn from her home to live with a mom and dad she barely knew. The coldness of her surroundings seeped from her tiny hands into her tiny heart. Dark-magic is very real — and flip-flops, when struck across a small body, are very painful. Thus was life in the age of Ragnarok.

But such a pure spirit cannot by squashed. Light triumphs over darkness. And by the light of the full-moon, she came into my life. A fella that knew no magic, knew no sense of soul or spirit, a guy steeped in the bounds of a fixed well-defined reality. “Michelle, when are you going to put that nonsense behind you and step into the real world!”. But all she saw was a confused young man that denied what was right in front of his face. And so we lived as if in a Venn diagram, overlapping only occasionally in our beliefs.

Perhaps it was the stark contrast of belief that pulled us together, the Yin and Yang, magic and the material. Well long-story short: she won. After decades of trying to make my logical science-based philosophy-of-life work, I gave up. It was unsustainable, I was an anxious wreck. Yet there she was, happily strolling through life without struggling for survival. When she asked, life simply gave her what she wanted. Oh. Therefore, I adopted her outlook and life has been better ever since.

That’s the story of my mentor Michelle. A subtle teacher that never attempted to teach. But through her cheerful way and magical manner, I came to see a better world whose light was meant to warm, not burn.

Making Connections

So the next obvious question is: as a content-creator, how do you create connections?

If you wanted to make friends, what would you do? Would you wall yourself off? Wear the same smelly clothes everyday? Show hostility towards everyone and everything? OR, would you put the best, most inviting version of yourself out there for all the world to see? Likely the second option, right?

Next: If I tell you some facts and figures, you wouldn’t care — and even if you did, you’d soon forget. But what really sticks, are stories. You need to weave narratives into the minds of your audience. If you analyze the content we consume, it’s mostly filler, simple stuff that takes up time — so it’s not the actual material that matters so much as the way it’s wrapped.

Third: Not any boring story will do, it must evoke emotion. Get the audience to feel and they’ll follow you on whatever yarn you unravel. No one really cares about the exact time you entered a building, they want to feel the urgency and apprehension of the moment your sweat-soaked hand touches the almost-menacing door-handle. Think roller-coaster, not museum-tour.

Now, if you can forgive a slight interruption, I was just pausing to think about how much I appreciate you for reading this. Someone recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, and all I could think about was you: an audience of my very own. Yeah it’s corny, I know. But really, it warms my heart to think about your presence as my presents. Number four: appreciate your audience.

Five: You gotta want it. For example, I don’t want to make pie, my heart’s not into it — so if I do make pie and I’m faced with challenges along the way, I’m probably going to cut corners and not care too much about the final product. Whereas I do want to eat pie (apple or even toffee-pecan) — and I’ll easily eat a third or even half in a single sitting. So, is creating connections your focus? Are you terrified or thrilled by the aspect of connecting with your audience?

To sum it up: Welcome people into a well-kept space. Tell them stories that stir their emotions. Appreciate them, they’re not mere stepping-stones to fame and fortune — the connection IS the goal — content-creators are a dime-a-dozen, you need them more than they need you. The audience is your friend, and you have to go out of your way to make this one of the most important relationships in your life — be respectful and sincere.

Connect the Dots

In business, numbers matter — except when they don’t. I’ve watched nearly every episode of Shark Tank (I might’ve missed some from the first season). The investors will often say “numbers matter” and “You gotta know your numbers! Come on!” But in the next segment when another entrepreneur enters the tank, all of a sudden the Sharks change their tune: “Meh, numbers don’t matter, we’ll figure that stuff out as we go.” What’s the difference? If the investors feel a connection to the entrepreneur, they’ll bend and flex just to make the deal — whereas if the investors don’t feel a connection, they’ll come up with whatever excuses they can to turn the deal down.

It’s the same with writing: content is king, except when it isn’t. There’s thousands of things that can be written about and there’s an audience for each and every topic — so what? Well, text-books have plenty of content, yet people aren’t lining up to read them — it’s because they don’t create connections. It’s not the content, but the connection to the audience that counts. Popular writers cultivate long-standing connections with their readers. Readers don’t care about words, or else they’d have just as much fun reading a dictionary — what they crave are connections.

Likewise, I’ve seen hundreds of stand-up comedy sets, and it wasn’t the specific wording or jokes that mattered — it was a feeling of connection. Hearing jokes told by someone you don’t connect with, is like listening to a guy drone on about nonsense. Whereas if you really connect with a comedian, he can talk about anything and you’ll be entertained. If listening to jokes was what we wanted, we could watch an endless stream of comedians — yet we don’t, we pick a few favorites we connect with.

Similarly with videos on the Internet: why would anyone want to watch some random dude play a video-game for hours on end? The answer? They wouldn’t — but viewers DO want to hang out with a virtual-buddy that’s having a fun time. It’s not about the content, but the connection. It’s the same with songs and lyrics, a song is great only when we connect to it, otherwise it’s: “how can anyone listen to this garbage!”.

Therefore, the actual job of content-creators is to create connections — they just happen to use the medium of content (stories, jokes, videos, music, etc.) to do so. So if you sit there trying to create the best content possible but no one consumes it, it’s as if that content doesn’t even exist. You as a creator want and NEED to connect. To be fulfilled, an artist requires recognition, the feeling that some segment of the world understands and appreciates your work. And it all begins with what? Connection.

Wanted: Writer

Today, I declare myself a professional writer. Whew! That wasn’t so hard was it? But what’s it mean? It means I’ve selected a particular path — and the steps I take upon it, will one-by-one take me to a specific end. From a quick analysis, there seems to be three major components to complete along this path.

The first component is content. I can’t be a writer if there’s nothing to write, right? But the reason I chose this path is because I’ve already proven to myself I can generate a constant stream of content that I enjoy writing. Might it need some fit and finish? Sure, but the raw material is there.

The second component is connecting with an audience. I’ve so-far neglected this aspect big-time, so it’ll be my focus for now. My writing has primarily been a personal-diary approach, so I have to transition to a style that’s more inclusive of others. That’s my challenge, and I’m up for it. The third component is generating revenue. But really, an audience makes this part possible, so it’ll remain on the back-burner until step-two comes to fruition.

So how does one connect with an audience? By wishing it so. In my extensive analysis of content-creators, this seems to be the underlying mechanism, the common-thread they all share. The formula is easy: by performing a particular act (e.g. writing), I intend to attract an audience. It’s my intention that’s key. Previously, I didn’t want an audience, I wasn’t prepared to handle it — now it’s my wish.

“Come on, is it that easy?” THAT EASY!!? Why you little..!! Do you realize how much preparation I put into NOT being scared of an audience. Psh, “that easy”. And don’t forget I also had to prove to myself that I could create worthwhile content. It took over six years for me to accept it — over 1400 entries within this blog serve as the proof I required. Wishing and truly believing in your wish is not an easy thing to do. But wishes are where dreams begin.