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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.
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, 20190 commentsRead More
100

100

100 Days. 100 Blog Posts.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been very good about keeping up. I spend some nights where I write 4, 5 posts in a row just to keep on pace.

But, as I discovered at 90, the writing is getting easier. The hard part is carving out 15-30 minutes every day to do it.

April 10, 20190 commentsRead More
Dining and Dashing

Dining and Dashing

I’ve never done it before. Intentionally, that is.

One time, last year, a friend and I got up and started to walk out without paying. It was an honest mistake; we were having a great time and simply forgot we hadn’t paid. And the waiter chased us down and we paid, no problem.

Went to that same restaurant tonight, for the first time since the incident. The same waiter was working there, staring, tracking me the entire time. It was uncomfortable.

I left a monster tip.

April 9, 20190 commentsRead More
Poker

Poker

Boy, I got my ass handed to me.

It was supposed to be a casual game, and it was. It has been a couple years since I’ve seriously played poker, and I’d have to admit, part of me just wanted some action.

Instead, I walked into a den of snakes.

Some advice for you that I keep having to remind myself over and over again: if you can’t spot the bad player at the poker table, you’re the bad player at the poker table.

It was a strong table through and through–except for me–and I busted out twice. The only consolation is that I know I played badly and I know I can play better. But knowing and delivering are two very different things. As poker is a game of skill, I have to hunker down and re-educate myself before I’ll let myself go back to the table.

At least I was somewhat humbled in what has been an already pretty triumphant week.

April 8, 20190 commentsRead More
Honest Writing

Honest Writing

There are two types of lies: lies of commission and lies of omission. It stands to reason that there are two types of honesty: expressed honesty and repressed honesty.

My writing has almost always fallen in the former camp. I’m not proud of it. Here we are, my 97th blog post since January 1, and only a handful of times have I let slip what I actually, honestly, believe that I’m too afraid to say out loud.

I haven’t lied once, that I know of. But real truth comes from the darkness: The truths that are too painful or embarrassing or risky to say out loud.

I assume most writing is repressed like this. But I also believe that the best writing isn’t. The best writing is intuitively vulnerable and forces the audience to empathize, if not always agree. And the best writing comes from the hardest thoughts. Best writing comes from the darkness.

I wish I could promise to write more honestly and less repressively; and, maybe, that’s the goal I secretly had in mind when I set out on this one-post-per-day project. But knowing what it would cost me in terms of vulnerability–the kind of scandalous, embarrassing admissions I would have to put on the page–makes me somewhat afraid. OK, very afraid.

It is that fear, more than anything else, that keeps me from becoming the best writer I can be.

April 7, 20190 commentsRead More
Losing Touch

Losing Touch

It’s never as hard as we think it is to lose touch with friends. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, friendship is situational and requires equal effort from both sides. Losing touch is merely a reflection of the nature of the friendship, and has no bearing on how close a friendship it actually is.

The fact is, you won’t talk to some of your best friends for years. Other people, like coworkers, you’ll see every day and never have the same bond with.

I often express regret when I see old friends, as they will, that we haven’t kept in better touch. But the truth is, we’re exactly in touch as we need to be, as the type of friendship we are both comfortable with.

Don’t feel bad about losing touch with people. Focus on building and maintaining the friendships that matter to you and the rest will take care of itself.

April 6, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
Hating People

Hating People

Why would you spend any time or energy hating anybody?

I had a classmate I hated once. Really hated. I won’t go into details for obvious reasons, but I so clearly remember the feeling. It was all-encompassing, frustrating hate. I thought about him all the time. Hate not only of who he was and his beliefs and his attitude, but his stubbornness and unwillingness to change. His complete lack of awareness. How could he be like that? I would spend hours complaining to him with a friend who understood.

The reasons I hated him are unimportant, in retrospect. What matters is, it was a complete waste of time. All the time I spent thinking about how terrible he was was time I could have spent having fun with my friends. Instead of tearing him down I could have been building myself up.

I think about hate a lot now, not because I’ve magically managed to become a higher-order zen master and have removed the feeling from my emotional vocabulary, but because I see hate all the time, everywhere. Our entire news cycle, for instance, seems to be dominated by hate. Even the word “nemesis” has been trending.

Hate and anger and jealousy sells really well. It’s a lot easier to get hate to go viral than cuteness. At the same time, it’s a complete waste of energy. Why spend even 5 minutes reading about something some weirdo in Florida thinks? You’re not going to change his mind by arguing with him. You can’t stop him from believing it or silence him through physical force–at least, obviously, you shouldn’t. Plus, maybe you’ve got him all wrong anyway. Maybe he is a victim of abuse. Maybe he has been badly hurt in the past, and maybe this is his way of venting his frustration. Maybe he just saw a tweet from someone he hated, and responded hyperbolically. Maybe if you met him in real life, you would think he was lovely.

Feel free to disagree with who you like. But don’t waste your time investing in hate when there are so many better things to do with your life. Channel your disagreements into positive forces for change: do something about it instead of stewing in anger.

I haven’t achieved zen-level, but I have learned to recognize when my thoughts are being clouded by feelings of resentment and anger. I have learned to turn off the news and most of the media that feeds off of my natural impulse to go tribal and reject those who think differently from me. I have been much happier ignoring sinners against my conscience in everyday life, because they just aren’t worth it.

Yes there are always frustrations and frustrating people. But if you spend any of your precious free time thinking about how terrible someone else is, instead of how great other people in your life are, or what you could be doing to make yourself better, you are doing yourself a disservice. Those feelings will make you bitter and resentful and mess with your judgment. And most of all, they will keep you from being happy yourself. And don’t you owe that to yourself?

April 5, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
CoursePuppy

CoursePuppy

When I was in college I thought it would be a good idea to make a website that helped students manage their classes, take and share notes for homework. It did really well in one of my classes; everyone used it to prepare for the final.

Then I took it to the administrators and tried to get them to have me build their course management system, because our course picker was old school and I thought I could do it better. Went back and forth with the IT department for a while. Ended up giving it up and doing other things.

Low and behold, I found out today that my domain name, coursepuppy.com, is expiring. It also happens to be the same day I found out there’s a YC startup called CourseDog that just launched and is doing the exact same thing.

I debated hitting them up to ask them if they wanted to buy the domain. I like CoursePuppy more than CourseDog, to be honest. But I’m instead just going to let the internet gods give them the domain name instead, if they see it and ever want to pick it up.

I dug up the code for the site and took a screenshot, just so I could feel nostalgic for a second. RIP CoursePuppy. May you rest in puppy.

April 4, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
The Interesting / Self Involved Graph

The Interesting / Self Involved Graph

“Imagine a graph,” my friend said, “where one axis is how interesting you are, and the other axis is how self-involved you are.” Done.

Everyone falls on this graph. Donald Trump: extremely self involved, but also extremely interesting. Elon Musk: also extremely self involved and extremely interesting. Probably why people call Musk the Trump of the left. Then you have Bill Gates: extremely interesting, but not at all self-involved. AOC: extremely self involved, and not at all interesting.

I guess the point of this exercise is to give people a little more credit for being self involved when they have something to be self involved about. On the other hand, it serves as a good litmus test for the sort of people you want to avoid (the self involved / non-interesting ones) vs the ones you want to get to know (the non-self involved / interesting ones). I, for one, am in the other quadrant: extremely self involved and not at all interesting.

Amongst other heuristics, this is one way to view the world. But it obviously isn’t the be-all-end-all of how people can be defined. Imagine another graph where there are completely useless heuristics on one side and heuristics that actually work on the other. This Interesting / Self Involved graph would be about in the middle.

Still, you can tell me friend it worked out great.

April 3, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
How Democrats Can Beat Trump at His Own Game

How Democrats Can Beat Trump at His Own Game

We all know Donald Trump is terrible at so many things. Reading, for example. Or not lying.

But if Democrats want to beat him in 2020 they have to understand and defeat him at the thing he’s good at: marketing.

Trump is a man whose entire career has been built on the power of marketing, and implicit in that skill set is the ability to find what works to get attention.

Today’s case in pivoting on healthcare is a perfect example. Trump knows that in a week, the news cycle will have moved on to something else. But by branding the GOP the “party of healthcare” for a couple days, he learned valuable information. He learned that the American people aren’t going to give him credit for this as a voting issue, and he’d look weak compared to Democrats on it. He knows his base isn’t getting fired up about it. So, he moved on to the next thing.

Trump operates like a political entrepreneur, constantly testing political messages with his market. He’s made for our time: no other era has made the information gathering cycle so rapid as today. Previous presidents had to wait until the weekly paper, or poll results, or even elections to find out what’s working. Trump, on the other hand, has instant access to the world stage with everything he says, which is reported on, dissected, analyzed, praised, and criticized immediately by every facet of society. He can see in realtime what messages work and which fall flat.

What better Petri dish for a marketer to split test ideas?

Remember the caravan? That story started just like the healthcare claim. But that one went viral immediately. He knew he had hit a nerve. He could keep twisting the knife. The “party of healthcare,” on the other hand, was DOA.

You don’t have to like Trump to recognize the genius in his marketing skill set and how he uses the media to shape his message. If Democrats hope to beat him, they need to think like Pepsi going after Coca Cola, not JFK going after Nixon.

This is why I firmly believe the Democrat with the best shot at winning the nomination, and defeating Donald Trump, is Pete Buttigieg. I don’t particularly like him (I mean, he’s barely older than I am and he thinks he has the maturity and experience to be President. The chutzpah.) But he is something the Democrats desperately need right now: a brand.

You can see the stories about him already spreading virally like Trump and Obama before him: he taught himself Norwegian. He’s openly gay. He’s a veteran. He’s a Rhodes Scholar. He’s a small city mayor from a red state. Can you hear progressives and moderate Democrats opening their wallets?

His $7 million Q1 haul is nothing to snark at. And most of all, his youth and vigor give him charisma we don’t see from anyone else in the field except for Booker, Biden and (maybe) Harris.

If Democrats want to beat Trump, they have to beat him at his own game. They have to find a brand that can beat his. This isn’t politics anymore. It’s marketing.

April 2, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More