When I started writing Man Repeller, like, five years ago, the impetus of my hitting publish was absolutely nothing beyond my thinking that I had an opinion that was being underserved. (That opinion, of course, was that fashion is for women, not men, and why wouldn’t it be?)
I’ve been thinking a lot about that initial motivation lately — partially because of the burn out conversation that’s winning the most air time, but also because as Man Repeller evolves from a single person blog to a micro-sized niche media company and the list of to-dos on my priority list shifts from such incorporeal tasks as, “Think about why Gucci’s Spring shoes are a physical manifestation of the American dream,” to the more tactile, “Make sure developer is aware of final redesign notes, schedule 1:1 with director of sales, call recruiter,” I have to consciously think about that initial motivation to remain energized so as not to lose sight of the future of this thing. It might sound counterintuitive — remember the past, cherish the past, honor the past to carve the future — but it works. Or at least I think it does. Ultimately, I guess we’ll see.
But anyway, the other thing is that I’ve also been thinking about myself.
People are always trying to decipher between who they are in the work place and who they are at home. When I was young, I often heard adults speak of their peers as, “shrewd in business, but family oriented,” which I took to mean as, these people are assholes who happen to have kids. Because the thing is, who we are at work reflects who we are at home and vice versa. Irrational hotheads don’t just switch off when they walk through a door marked “work” or “home” and boom! They’re yoga teachers. That’s not how it works. But appraising who you are at work does allow you to much more objectively consider your character traits and adjust accordingly.
Example: I am really impatient. In my personal life, this has meant thoughtlessly arguing with people I love because I assume they’re saying something they’re not because I’m too impatient to let them finish. Whatever! It’s who I am! Sue me. Love trumps all, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t work at work. Because if you let foolish impatience reign supreme, your employee-retention rate becomes exactly the one man show you’ve been building against. Does that make sense? There are some other things I’ve learned.
Vulnerability keeps you moving. Once I told someone who asked for business advice to bask in her plight. What I meant was that complacency is bad for creativity — it’s the extinguisher that puts out the under-ass-fire. For me, it’s always during those sort of restless moments of acute vulnerability that my vision feels a little bit clearer, my priorities start to shift in a different direction and my ideas, even if they don’t feel this way, are the most fertile.
Kindness trumps niceness. It took me a while to realize that being kind and being nice are not mutually exclusive. You can be kind and nice, but you don’t have to be nice to be kind. In my opinion, it’s much more important to maintain kindness — the sort of humanity that emanates from the innermost slime of your guts — as opposed to niceness, which is often motivated by vanity. Specifically in media, where there is always a microphone up for grabs and an audience waiting to be developed, ask yourself: what’s the fucking point of commanding attention if you’re not going to use that power for good?
Your gut is an oracle. So trust that. Be as confident in what you don’t know as you are in what you do.
On what you don’t know: My dad always used to tell me not to try to get better at what I’m bad at, but to find people who are naturally good at those things. I didn’t get what this meant until I was filing an invoice and accidentally left a zero off of the total sum owed. Einstein said if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its life thinking its a failure. If “tree” is a metaphor for life, there is a 0% chance you’re not a squirrel in some capacity.
On what you do know: Just because something comes easy to you doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone. Listen to that. Give it everything and know that there are two kinds of voices in your head: the honest ones and the liars. The difference between the girl in the front of the fitness class doing 85 burpees like she’s a principal dancer at the NYC ballet and me in the back looking like Quasimodo as I struggle to get through three is that I let the liars in.
Quality is king, quantity feeds obesity. I think this has been the most important one. It is so easy to get caught up in the science of building a “successful” platform — to determine the math equation that injects your product with the hormones that make it plump like a perfectly round chicken on a rotisserie at McDonald’s, but everyone’s perception of success is different and more and more, I’m learning that I’m here to make you feel. To feel myself. And maybe that makes me a stalk of broccoli (please say it doesn’t), but from my understanding, broccoli never killed anyone — only simply enhanced their quality of life. Here’s hoping.
Photographed and collaged by Krista Anna Lewis