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Brian Mayer: product and marketing strategy consultant.

I am based in New York City and I update my blog infrequently. About me.
The Struggle

The Struggle

Throughout time great philosophers from many different walks of life have shared similar advice: the struggle is what makes life worth living.

Buddha famously taught that life is struggle. Marcus Aurelius wrote that hard work is what defines humans vs all other animals. Karl Marx of course defined all of history through the lens of class struggle.

All three men, and many other people throughout time, have lived in extremely different eras, cultures, and geographies, but came to more or less the same conclusion about humans and our role in the world. Why?

My guess is, other than the fact that humans and human nature haven’t really changed in hundreds of thousands of years, that they’re on to something about the world and our place in it. If I may be so bold as to summarize all of their teachings briefly: humans are born and live as creatures doomed for death — for many thousands of years, an early and painful death. To live in a perpetual state of destitution is only to live out one’s natural destiny for a human and the obscure creatures that we are. On the other hand, to live any life that creates good cheer for one’s self or for others, that improves one’s health and wealth, that creates good in the world, is to rise above our base nature, and to do what no other animal has the ability and capacity to do.

This what the Struggle is: it’s our resistance to the fate nature throws at us to destroy us. And in response, we always have a choice. To sit back and let the universe win is the easy choice. To stand up and create our own meaning, build our own environment, define our own happiness—these things require struggle. This is why so many great philosophers have emphasized the Struggle, and this is why you must, too. Because to ignore it, or to be defeated by it, is to give up on what makes life worth living.

July 13, 20190 commentsRead More
Working for New York

Working for New York

I was walking to work this morning and made my way into one of those scaffolding tunnels. I heard a sound and looked up and realized the tunnel was still under construction, and above me a laborer was standing on the framing coaxing a steel girder into place.

The first thing I thought, after “that’s gonna fall on someone’s head and these guys are gonna get their asses sued” was that, at that exact moment, I was surrounded in all directions by people at work.

I realized that any given day in the city there work, day in and day out, subway attendants and transit cops in the caverns below me, white collar types and temps and janitors in the high rises above me, shopkeepers and sous chefs and taxi drivers and priests and baristas and pharmacists and teachers and garbage collectors in the stones and bricks and windows and streets and alleys and nooks and crannies of the city all around me.

Then I looked around and saw the commuters just like me on the sidewalks, the finance and legal types with their dark suits, the techies with their white AirPods, the personal trainers busting out of their gym logo emblazoned T-shirts, and every other type of hard working New Yorker the city has blessed us with, even if they aren’t doing it for the money: the volunteer workers picking up trash in the park, the Hare Krishnas handing out their flyers, the Boy Scout troop on their way to the Intrepid Museum, the college students rushing to the morning class they never should have signed up for.

When you are in a city at work, the work is happening all around you at all times. It imbues the pavement with a mythical quality where power and wealth and excitement is felt with every footstep, the energy of people being productive and getting better and trying harder.

This is not the way it is everywhere. Not everyone is so lucky to live in a place with so much work, so many possibilities. People often get stuck in towns without jobs and can’t leave because family obligations or technology or cost makes it impossible. Those of us who live in a city at work often don’t even realize that we’re the fortunate ones.

Being in a place like New York City where you can live and work every day with millions of complete strangers, all pulling their weight together, is a true privilege, and every time I take the time to observe the city around me I appreciate it even more. I work for NYC, and NYC works for me.

July 12, 20190 commentsRead More
Hair

Hair

When your hair starts falling out you finally start to get all the jokes you’ve heard from comedians and on sitcoms over the years.

I, for one, am terrified of the inevitable so my new best friend is the bottle of Propecia in my medicine cabinet that some company brilliantly rebranded as “Hims.” There’s a topical cream, too, but it says on the bottle it will make my hair fall out before it starts working so I’m a little scared to try it.

I know time only moves forward, but that doesn’t make it any less unwelcome. There are times when I’m invited out now and I’d rather stay home watching Netflix than down shots with friends and that’s unwelcome, too.

The impact of aging on me is minimal, but compared to the almost non-existent burdens in my life, it probably hits closer to home. It’s the only thing in life I can do absolutely nothing about.

So, hello Hims, and goodbye Jew Fro. It was nice while it lasted.

July 11, 20190 commentsRead More
Dignity

Dignity

I just finished Dignity by Chris Arnade and it tells the story that no one in America wants to hear but everyone needs to hear: the story of the true divide in our country, between people whose lives are upwardly mobile and have hope, and people who aren’t, and don’t. Most of all, it tells the story of how our attempts to fix the problems of the forgotten ‘back row’ of American life are perceived by the people they are trying to help: as condescending, elitist, and often exasperating of these problems.

Contrasting the bickering of the political class on either side of the aisle with the real, lived struggle of millions of people, Arnade holds a mirror up to the society that many of us are so fortunate to be a part of — we ‘front row’ elite, who live in New York City and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Chicago and Austin and DC, who work in politics and law and medicine and tech, make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people every day, and have almost no awareness of how these decisions actually impact people beyond statistics. And what’s more, we often presume to know what’s best for people without talking to them or understanding them.

Arnade does not make the book about politics, although he easily could have (he does interview people about the 2016 race when it was happening, but it’s in a broader context rather than the main point). He explicitly says that the book is not about ‘how we got Trump’ or any attempt to diagnose populism, although it’s hard not to read between the lines and see the connection. Really, it’s just a book about people from all over the country—in big cities and small towns, of every race and age—who all share one thing in common: they have been left behind.

Books like this are important because they don’t attempt to create solutions—this book has no solutions—but instead, hold a mirror to our own hypocrisy about poverty and spur us to take action.

July 10, 20190 commentsRead More
The “Air Bud” Principle

The “Air Bud” Principle

The “Air Bud” principle, from the 1997 classic Disney movie Air Bud, is the argument that something is legal because it is not explicitly illegal. It comes from that famous line: “Ain’t no rule says a dog can’t play basketball.”

I’m surprised I don’t hear this being referenced often, because it is a cornerstone of constitutional limited federal republics. After all, the entire premise of our constitution is that it specifically grants certain powers to the government and those powers and rights not reserved to the federal government are reserved to the states or the people. This is a built in Air Bud defense: if it isn’t illegal, it better be legal.

Free countries tend to follow this general principle. Totalitarian countries have very different laws: if it’s not expressly permitted, it is presumed to be forbidden.

July 9, 20190 commentsRead More
Jet Lag

Jet Lag

I almost never get jet lag, but when I do, it usually takes the form of extreme, full-body punishment. It’s like the travel gods’ version of a hangover and can stay with you for days. If you are unfortunate enough to be stricken with an airborne virus on the flight, it’s not just the drowsiness that sticks to you but a host of other ailments.

I long for the day when someone invents a pill to eliminate jet lag — but then again, such a pill would probably eliminate sleep altogether. That inventor would billionaire, and I would be a happy, happy man.

July 8, 20190 commentsRead More
Portrait of an Artist

Portrait of an Artist

She leans back in the cushions of the wide berth chair, feet resting on the ottoman, draped in a blanket, laptop balanced delicately on her lap. Her left arm dangles up and over the back of the chair, forming a half halo around her face. Her hair shines in the dim light and her eyes flicker, focused intently on the glowing screen in front of her. As she carries her contemplation forward she brings her hand back to the keys and starts to tap out a rhythmic creation, a prose percussion, right on her keyboard. As the words flow more freely the corners of her mouth twitch upward and her lips part in a broad smile.

Watching an artist at work is like watching a frog creating ripples on a pond. It is enchanting, magical, seductive. There is an impermanence to the experience that will be washed out with the next file save — the only record of her struggle will be the words on the page and nothing more.

July 7, 20190 commentsRead More
The War of Art

The War of Art

I just finished Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and if there’s any book that has knocked me on my ass more in the last decade I can’t think of it.

It’s a hard book to read because it tears you apart — it calls you out for the phony you are, you who presume to be a writer, a musician, an artist, who does no such writing or music or art. It slashes your ego and makes you consider that all the reasons you refuse to move forward with your project are just excuses, and bad ones at that.

It’s also an honest book, written by an author who spent decades struggling to become the writer he knew he could be. He lived the war he writes about with brutal candor.

It makes me think about the way I tried to break myself out of [what he calls, and what I now shall call] The Resistance by writing one blog post per day, and how I copped out after 112 days not because I didn’t have anything to write, but because I didn’t have the discipline to open my laptop and write it.

I perpetually have 2-3 projects outside of my ‘real job’ that I have yet to get off the ground, and there’s no reason for that other than myself.

But this isn’t self flagellation. It’s human nature to encounter fear, especially when faced with the fear of what one might accomplish (Pressfield calls the Fear of Success more terrifying than the Fear of Failure). I’m OK with the choices I have made. The only thing that matters is where to go from here: what am I capable of doing, and what am I going to do to get it done?

July 6, 20190 commentsRead More
Taking a Hike

Taking a Hike

Hiking is the last thing I’d ever think I loved, because it’s a totally miserable affair. Being outside in the sun (yuck), getting sunburned (double yuck), the sweat, the sore muscles, the bugs, the prickly bushes, the way your underwear becomes absolutely useless, if not counterproductive…oh, and did I mention the heat?

But in the past couple years, and this weekend in Colorado especially, it has become one of my favorite things. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. Or the views. Or, just maybe, the satisfaction of knowing you did something not sitting home on the couch watching Netflix.

I don’t know, I guess I just finally get the appeal.

My new stretch goal: to climb some of the Colorado ‘14er’ mountains. That could be fun?

July 5, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
July 4, 2019

July 4, 2019

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of AMERICA.

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another; and to assume, among the Powers Of The Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them and formidable to Tyranny only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the people.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, Incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

IN every Stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

July 4, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More