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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.
Being Wrong

Being Wrong

One of the hardest things you ever have to learn is how to be wrong–not just to be wrong, but to be seen as wrong. Those are two different things because many times when you’re wrong you can keep it to yourself and no one is the wiser, but having other people notice you’re wrong can be ego-bruising.

The best way to be wrong is to make sure that you can only be honestly wrong about something. To be honestly wrong about something means that, when you were right, your confidence in your rightness was based in facts that were true at the time as far as you knew. To check the weather report, decide not to bring an umbrella, and then to encounter unexpected rain in the afternoon is not an embarrassing mistake of judgment: you were honestly wrong. However, to claim knowledge about, say, whether or not Virginia voted for Trump in the last election (it didn’t, by the way), when your knowledge is on shaky ground, and then to be proven wrong–that will embarrass you. But you weren’t embarrassed because you were wrong, you were embarrassed because you weren’t honest about your confidence in your original assertion.

Being dishonestly right is the cause of many bad decisions that turn out to be wrong, for no reason other than the decider convinced themselves, and many other people, that they were more correct than they actually were. And that dishonesty is the real source of shame. It’s why people dig in their heels so much to defend ideological beliefs: because to admit that a contrary position could have a grain of truth would be to admit hubris. Your beliefs would have to be wrong, which means you would have to admit your own dishonesty, the fact that you are a fraud. And then everyone else will know it, too.

And these are just things you can believe that have a factual basis. There are many things you can believe that may have no factual basis — for instance, if you believe in a deity with great confidence, you expose yourself to the possibility that you may be wrong. With this exposure comes increased sensitivity to contrary world views.

Avoid being wrong by ensuring you are honest about your rightness. Ensure that your beliefs are based in solid evidence. Then, when you are wrong, you will only be wrong on facts which were unknown or known wrongly at the time. That isn’t ego-bruising. That’s life.

April 22, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Game of Thrones: Week 2

Game of Thrones: Week 2

Nothing, literally nothing, gave me more joy than watching Brienne of Tarth get knighted by Jaime Lannister. If anything perfectly encapsulates the series: the redemption found by its worst characters combined with the triumph found by its best, the hope of the future and the betrayal of the past, the importance of friends and honor in the face of death. The central role of women in the male-dominated world of Westeros (although with the current storyline, it occurred to me at this point there’s only one male character left with any real power: Jon Snow).

Sir Brienne of Tarth earned her knighthood, in the words of Tormund Giantsbane, “hundreds of times over,” and it is fitting that in this lowest moment of the show, where the hope of the characters is bleakest, she gets to see her duty, honor and dedication pay off. It is unfortunate, that like many women, she has to work ten times harder than any man to earn the same honor–and perhaps this was an intentional choice by the writers to highlight this common inequity–but now that she has earned it, I hope that she survives the coming storm in time to get it on with Tormund (because who isn’t rooting for that).

Image result for brienne of tarth knighted

In all, I really appreciated the “calm before the storm” nature of this episode, that we got to see characters interact who hadn’t before, old enemies becoming friends, and of course (no spoilers) the big reveal that Dany had to face in the crypt.

I won’t speculate on who lives and who dies in the next episode, but I hope that no matter what, humanity survives. And given that there are at least 5 more episodes left in the season, that seems like a good bet to make.

April 21, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Passover 2

Passover 2

I wrote yesterday about my family’s seder and how it’s different than everyone else’s; tonight, I was invited to another family’s seder and got to see just how different.

At risk of exposing the closely held private traditions of a family not my own, I won’t reveal too much, but suffice it to say it is fun to see the wide variety of interpretations of this holiday dinner cooked up by (no pun intended) different families.

Had a great time, and the hosts were wonderful. 10/10 would do again.

April 20, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Passover

Passover

Like most Jewish families mine has an annual Passover tradition that bears only some resemblance to that practiced by every other Jewish family. Why? Because tradition isn’t tradition unless everyone does it slightly differently.

I haven’t historically been preoccupied with Passover–some years I haven’t celebrated at all–but this year we got the whole family together, plus an assortment of family friends.

I guess this year, I decided it was better to have a silly tradition than none at all. Which is to say that it isn’t the shank bone and the matzah and the haroset that makes the holiday, but the fact that there is a tradition that everyone more or less knows and we practice together.

We, of course, supplement the dry facts of the holiday with our own family traditions, many revolving around the personality of my dad who runs the whole show and has his own eccentricities. My younger brother has steadfastly refused to solo the Four Questions his entire life, despite, I believe, it being punishable by death not to do so.

But in the end, our seder is just like every other family’s seder in that it’s unique and the same, modern and ancient, family and friends, good food and bad food, all mixed together in the endless Jewish story of contradictions, perseverance, and, well, wine. Chag Sameach.

April 19, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Walking

Walking

I found that walking to work, which takes about 30 minutes, leaves me infinitely happier when I walk into my first meeting than taking the subway to work, which takes about 20 minutes.

Just getting to see my neighborhood from above ground and its colorful hubbub, the cyclists on their morning routes, the finance types in suits with their cappuccinos, the punk walking the fluffy white dog…all the New York characters are out in full force. And you miss it all taking the subway (not that you don’t see characters, mind you, they’re just a lot less active).

It’s a good thing that spring has finally sprung, and such walks are now pleasant and a critical part of my new morning routine, when I can afford the time.

April 18, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Jordan Peterson Live

Jordan Peterson Live

I was invited by a friend tonight to see “JP” (as he calls him) live at the Beacon Theater in New York. I had just finished his book so I was curious what hearing the author in the flesh would be like. I’ve heard so many things about how reviled this man is, but also (secretly, in hushed voices) from several people how powerful and engaging a speaker he is.

Truth be told, I was underwhelmed on both counts.

The theater was full. Given how much the Upper West Side liberal type hates this Canadian psychologist-turned-public-intellectual, I was shocked to see how big the turnout was, in the heart of the Upper West Side. The crowd was also extremely diverse. I would be surprised if more than 40% of the audience was white. This was surprising to me, given how much I had heard about how Jordan Peterson was perpetrating white supremacy. I did notice, however, that the audience was heavily male.

His entire lecture was, frankly, kind of boring. He comes across as passionate but mild-mannered, talks a lot about personal responsibility (which is maybe one reason liberals hate him so much) and relationships. Far from being a Nazi firebrand he is often portrayed as, he spends a good deal of time renouncing totalitarianism in all its forms.

If I had to describe him, it would be a self-help guru, marriage counselor and therapist rolled into one. In this lecture, at least, he wasn’t very political, at least explicitly. He did spend a great deal of time, as he does in his book, talking about Christian mythology and implications for how one might live a modern life. One thing he certainly didn’t come across as was right-wing. As a Canadian professor with fairly conventional liberal bona fides, he maybe would qualify as a moderate Democrat in the American political spectrum.

As with my journey into his book, I found it curious but I wouldn’t say I’m on the Jordan Peterson train–or, at least, I don’t really see what the big deal is. What did occur to me, though, is how important it is to read / see something for yourself before you form an opinion about it. The media is so determined to shape the narrative on everything, and the only way to truly educate yourself is to dive in and learn from the primary sources directly. I haven’t turned into a mosque shooter by reading his book, nor have I burst into flames watching him speak live (nor I have I particularly changed my own views on anything either). But I now have an actual, grounded basis of experience I can speak to if he ever comes up in conversation.

April 17, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Nothing to Do

Nothing to Do

You ever wake up one morning and just feel like you have nothing to do?

You may feel completely drained. Maybe there’s a lot you could be doing but it’s boring stuff you don’t need to be doing. Or maybe there’s stuff that you should be doing but you don’t feel like it.

This can often happen on a weekend, but sometimes it happens smack in the middle of a work week. And you drag yourself out of bed anyway, and go to work, and the malaise stays with you all day. Even when you check your email and there are 10,000 things to address: you just can’t bring yourself to do anything.

It is on days like this that you may feel like what’s the point. And it is on days like this that you have to get out of this mindset. Because if you’re not accomplishing something each day, even if it’s small, you will feel even worse. And that can lead to a viscous cycle. This is why Admiral William H. McRaven tells people how important it is to make your bed each day.

Get up. Snap out of it. Make your bed. And then do the smallest thing on your list. You’ll be grateful for yourself that you did.

April 16, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Notre Dame

Notre Dame

I remember the first time I saw Notre Dame. I was only 13 visiting Paris for the first time with my dad. I remember looking at this famous building and thinking how small it looked. It’s no taller than your standard East Side tenement. And you forget that because of how large it looms in the collective imagination.

There are few symbols of Western culture that are as universally understood as Notre Dame. The gothic jewel of Paris, one of the most important cities in the world and one of its historical and cultural and gastronomical centers of gravity, as a building that has withstood centuries of religious reformation and revolution and world wars and terrorist threats, Notre Dame is a steadfast reminder of the things we too often forget about today’s world: how far we’ve come. It stands as a tribute to those who have suffered before us and now, after it continues to smolder in embers, it stands as a symbol to our resilience.

Cultural symbols mean something because they are bigger than all of us. We individual humans will grow old and die, and we’ll change our hair styles, and our religions, and shockingly, I know, even our politics. But culture incorporates all of us, and though it changes too as we change, it remains steadfast and rooted in longer standing meaning that we can share. As our culture evolves, especially as the world becomes more interconnected as ever before, it’s important that we are reminded of these common threads of heritage.

Though today’s conflagration was tragic, the rebirth of Notre Dame will reaffirm our global commitment to these timeless cultural values.

April 15, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Winter is Here

Winter is Here

The return of Game of Thrones after a two-year absence got off to a slow start, with a procession by Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen back to Winterfell reminiscent of when we met Robert Baratheon back in Season 1. By the end, we were on the edge of our seats as Brandon Stark stares down Jaime Lannister in the square.

I, for one, was just happy that the show was finally back on the air. It’s one of the few things in life that gives me great joy.

I wish these characters good fortune in the wars to come.

April 14, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Cap Gains

Cap Gains

I’m finishing taxes this weekend. Allow me to go on one of my fun rants.

I get the need for taxes. I do. But what in the hell is the use of capital gains tax?

This is my money. I already got taxed on it when I earned it. Now, I’m investing it. That’s something my government should want me to do. But when I sell the investment, if I’ve made money, I have to pay a tax on it.

Why? It’s hard enough to invest and be profitable doing it. It’s basically gambling anyway. If I’m lucky enough to have beaten the market on something, why am I being penalized for it?

This has to hurt investment because it increases the cost of investing. It also disincentives selling assets which means capital isn’t being allocated to where it would get the most efficient return: it’s being stored inefficiently for longer than it should be.

So, not only does it make me personally angry to be paying a tax on investment profits, it would seem to be bad for the economy as well.

So is it a policy? I’m listening.

April 13, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More