Why America is not my cup of tea

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I was at the Crunchies, an award ceremony for tech companies a couple of weeks ago. It’s a bit like the Oscars of tech.

After telling one of the suits what I’d done with my marketing work, he said:

“Every fucktard offers me that. Why are you any different?!?”

I’ve never met anyone so obnoxiously rude.

He had no manners. and I’d done nothing to him to be treated with such little respect.

So I looked him in the eye and said: “What do I do differently? I don’t work with people like you” and I walked away.

***

“What do you do?” is the first question you’ll get here, if you’re into business-y stuff.

It’s a game of sizing people up.

I have one friend who was first approached at a networking event by this chain of questions:

“What do you do?”

“How much money has your company raised?”

“You’re not telling me. You clearly haven’t raised anything.” The guy went away.

Then the guy came back later in the evening, after learning that my friend’s company had raised several million.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I don’t want to shove it in your face and you shouldn’t judge me on that.”

***

Without wanting to make generalisations, in Britain and Europe, we laugh at ourselves all the time.

We make fun of our weaknesses, we banter and most people treat each other with respect.

You’ll speak to most American businesspeople and they won’t laugh for 30 minutes in a conversation. Nor will they smile. They just seem dead inside, no matter how hard you try – especially the ones in corporate office jobs.

While here, I made a British friend who explained it all.

“Once you know what someone optimises their life for, all their decisions make sense.”

Suddenly I understood all these experiences.

The rude guy at the Crunchies was optimising to make as much money as he could, regardless of how badly he treated people.

My parents optimised their lives to bring up 2 decent, respectable boys who have the right kind of values.

Other friends of mine optimise their lives to be liked by a lot of people and to be the centre of attention.

This trip has made me figure out that I want to optimise my life to have a big positive impact on as many people as possible.

***

Ultimately, the problem with American culture is emotional insecurity. Americans (in general) are hard-nosed because they’re afraid of being honest. They’re not comfortable with themselves.

These rude VC people I met at the crunchies didn’t need more money, they needed a hug.

They needed someone to talk through what was bothering them and to challenge them about their career. They were macho men, who don’t talk about feelings.

At the end of the day, the way you make people feel is all that really matters. Once you make people feel good about themselves and help them out, the rest will come.

Silicon Valley doesn’t value that.

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“What on earth am I doing with my life?”

My mum keeps telling me to not being so hard on myself.

Like most people, yourself included I imagine, I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life.

I quit school at 18. I got a couple of jobs and learned digital marketing. Then I worked for myself and ran my own business in London doing marketing for startups.

I’m 20.

At Christmas, I bumped into an old schoolmate.  He was at uni. After telling him what I’d done, I think he felt a bit intimidated.

I didn’t intend to make him feel that way. I said things like “it wasn’t easy” and “I worked really hard to get there”.

But he looked as though I’d walloped him with a cricket bat saying “I’ve got it all sorted, what are you doing with your life?”

Sorry, I didn't mean for that to happen

Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen

The truth is I don’t have it “all sorted”. In fact, neither do most of the people I admire. And these are the people who I think have it “all sorted”.

In reality, we all compare ourselves to other people.

If someone looks better than us, or is having a better career… we think we’re unokay. We feel a little inadequate or jealous. “What a wonderful life they’re having! Isn’t mine less good!”

It works the other way too. We feel better when people are less okay than us.

That’s why soap operas, and the Jeremy Kyle show are so popular. People watch them because the subcontext is “these people have lives that are more messed up than yours”. And it makes the viewers feel better about themselves.

"Your life is amazing... you're not the scum on my show!"

“Your life is amazing… you’re not the scum on my show!”

Or so I guess. I read that in a book yesterday.

What do I kn0w, anyway? I try and be older and more profound than I am… but there’s still tonnes of life learning I have to do. And I’m a baby in the grand scheme of things.

"Yup... that's basically me."

“Yup… that’s basically me.”

I just quote things I read or hear that resonate with me. Oh, and hang out with lots of older people.

If I compare myself to most people my age – I’m very sorted. I was recently offered a full-time job that pays £50k a year… and I’m 20.

That’s a ridiculous amount of money in my humble opinion, especially for someone my age.

There we go again, making myself feel better by comparing to people who are below me, career-wise.

Oi there! Don’t go comparing yourself to me in terms of how much you’re earning. I know you’re doing that now. So stop it!

Because one thing I learned from people who are older and wiser than me is that there’s more to life than money. Happiness is far more important.

That’s the result of being grateful for what you have… whether that’s relationships, the good weather, the bad weather, coffee, a bed to sleep on and food in your tummy.

So I guess my conclusion to all this faux-worldly-wisdom is to just enjoy the ride.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Make other people feel good about themselves. Sign up to a comedy course so you can make other people laugh. Cut out the people who emotionally drain you. Exercise. Eat good food. Quit a job that makes you unhappy. And find work where you feel like you’re doing good things for people.

I’ll stop taking life too seriously.

And in the meantime, I’ll go back to wondering what on earth I should do next.

They say the world's my oyster. That smells a bit fishy to me.

They say the world’s your oyster. That smells a bit fishy to me.

Convincing people the Queen is my Grandma… getting into afterparties at Sundance and how to be politely angry

“That’s my Grandma.” I said, scrolling through my phone.

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He was convinced, and I had to hold in my laughter for a few minutes. (If you don’t know, that’s actually the Queen)

To be honest America isn’t what I expected it would be.

I thought the people in the Uncollege house would be a bit more mature. I had to send a politely angry message  this morning.

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America doesn’t feel like home. You know when you’re in a place, and there’s only a few people you can open up to.

Many people have come straight from high school or college and have never lived in the “real world”. And I assumed that most people would have that experience.

The Uncollege program is great, however. And the people who organise it are brilliant. It’s allowed me to try out a new field, and make a lot of connections quickly.

***

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I went to Sundance Film Festival. I sat on a coach for 18 hours each way.

I felt a lot of people were superficial. They were moaning about the lack of parking. They bought tickets for films they never saw because they were busy skiing.

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I also charmed my way into the Sundance after party – which is quite an achievement.

I also started making some more films.

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I helped a small video production company one evening.

But I’ve realised the filmmaking isn’t for me.

I enjoy the meeting and interviewing people… the human side. I love hearing people’s stories and understanding them.

I hate the actual video bit… setting up camera, editing etc.

***

So I’m changing tack.

I enjoy spending time with people, going for lunches, dinners and drinks with them.

I like helping people. I like sharing knowledge. I like connecting people. I like being British and charming.

I’d prefer not to be writing all the time, and churning out articles for companies, that I’m not really passionate about.

That means exploring other options.

I could do software sales, account management, PR… even run a marketing agency. In fact I have a few hot leads that I could use to start off a marketing/PR agency.

Basically I want to spend most of life entertaining clients, building a business… and doing work that matters, and makes a really positive difference in the world.

***

In the meantime it’s raining here in San Francisco for the first time since getting here.

It makes you feel like you’re back in England.

Marvelous.