Mad Ave & Persuasion / Fear

Joan defines herself by her looks and power to seduce. She uses it and loathes men for falling for it. And she can’t help herself but torture Lane on his way out for being attracted to her. Such a finely written, complex character.

I’ve recently started watching quite a bit of the TV series Mad Men, a show about advertising executives on Madison Avenue in the 60s and 70s. It touches on a wide swath of topics from the creative side of advertising to the business side to the characters’ personal lives and office culture. All while offering commentary on concurrent historical events and underlying cultural tensions – civil rights, the rise of feminism, urbanization and the rise of a powerful 24/7 medium in the form of the television.

Most fans of the show will probably find something in it that reminds them of themselves. I’m no exception. But what makes the show even more interesting is that it seems to show things around me that I may be missing. For example, when I walk through my office on a daily basis, I think very little about the other folks there. Not to say that I don’t care, but my mind is typically preoccupied by some investment problem. And by the time the problem has vanished, so have the other people. I’ve never gossiped or wondered or judged.

Mad Men has characters like that, but they also focus on the ‘others’ – the secretaries and elevator boys and the ignored folks of the office. What are they thinking and what are their motivations? That’s a specific example, but the broader point is that the show does a great job of capturing the many sides of the truth by switching perspectives and delivering them all in a nuanced way – none of the perspectives are more “right” or better than the others. None of the characters are perfect. They experience the same events and progression (“reality”) while seeing them differently.

On a similar topic to advertising, pro tip on persuasion – use visual language to persuade and excite. Conjure associations with positive things. Try not to defend and get into detail – being detailed and right may be worse than flawed and compelling. Also – always use a “because” clause when trying to persuade someone to do something. What’s funny about all these techniques is that I tend to use them at work but never outside.

On a different note, I feel like I’ve been spending some of my time operating defensively, in fear. What’s that all about? I’m not sure. But in response, I feel like it might be useful to compile a list of my current fears in order to bring them into the light and figure out how best to address them with concrete steps. That’s how to deal with my fears I think – name and shame them.

Fear 1 – I stop developing or end up half-learning a bunch of skills and wind up with nothing useful to offer society at large. I’m ejected from my job and set adrift.

Response 1 – Don’t half ass any skills you learn. Make sure you have a genuine interest, then go all the way – meet people, learn, do and get out there.

Fear 2 – When I roll forward my current daily schedule and try to imagine what it will net me, all I see is a ton of $ – not family or friends or an interesting/rewarding life. But to deviate is to lose focus

Response 2 – Value your hours and hobbies and interests outside of work. Assess whether what you’re doing is really fulfilling and if it’s not, don’t be afraid to make a change. I don’t think we’re there yet.

Fear 3 – I no longer know how to optimize my time. Am I spending my time with friends that “aren’t good enough” (since you are the average of your top 5 friends) or in ways that aren’t useful? Am I wasting my time or do I not respect people?

Response 3 – Think about Steve Jobs’ saying “You can only connect the dots in retrospect.” Every interaction is an opportunity to improve/advance and the respect you give will reflect back to you. Think about who you respect and pursue them.

Fear 4 – I worry about ending up alone, but more than alone – misunderstood. Buying a place in the East Bay in what would be the right financial move and feel good but also kill any chance of meeting more people

Response 4 – Value outlets like the Club. Find more. Maybe engage professional help or the help of your friends. How do I get them to seriously engage and help me improve? Approach humbly I guess and be open to their corrections.



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