View Sidebar

Brian Mayer: product and marketing strategy consultant.

I am based in New York City and I update my blog infrequently. About me.
Show Off Your Angles

Show Off Your Angles

When someone wants to take your picture, you may feel self conscious. You may feel like your hair isn’t quite right or you “take terrible photos.” And yet, you are being asked to create a permanent record of You in this moment in time. Someone cares about you enough to ask to preserve this memory and they want you to add to the digital fabric of the universe. Don’t be selfish. Life is too short. Show off your angles.

July 18, 2019Comments are DisabledRead More
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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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, 2019Comments are DisabledRead 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