Sunday, June 10, 2007

Back at you

Ten random things about me.

1. I get hung up on language a lot. For example, the title of this list - these items aren’t random at all, they are highly specific to me! Randomness implies that something just happened out of nowhere, where these things took years or even a lifetime to turn into behaviors and opinions. Sometimes I’ll read something like this and it will send me off on a tangent, but we’ll try to curtail that here.

One thing that truly bothers me is when I hear someone saying that they have “two choices” regarding a given scenario. You have two options pal, which equals one choice. Two choices implies having a series of options. Choosing one of 52 flavors is one choice, not 52, and then choosing sugar, waffle or cake is another choice, not three. A big deal? Only when you realize that this is how everyone talks. Your only choice is to try not to let it bother you.

If your language skills are problematic I won’t correct you (I’m not a jerk) unless you’re saying something embarrassing to yourself – consistently mispronouncing “radicchio”, for example. It's not as though I never slip up. It is vital to your future to speak properly however, and I will maintain that you won’t get to the top in speaking like Rodney Dangerfield unless you are, in fact, Rodney Dangerfield. In that case, go nuts.

2. I can’t write about a lot of the things I want to. A lot of the most interesting things happening to me center around work issues that will happen down the line. I'm working on licensing programs for our phone and iPod cases, but our license-holders would not want me talking about deals we haven't signed yet, or even let people know that we're talking to them. I can't write about new retail product lines or brand extensions that we haven't launched yet, for obvious competitive reasons. I can't talk about the giant company that is haggling with us over intellectual property issues, because we want to work with them in the future and you've heard of them. Mentioning the issue would anger their lawyers them mightily. Sometimes it’s frustrating to have interesting things happen that you can’t discuss.

3. I am fortunate - I really like my job. Since I started with my company at its inception, it's story is intertwined with my personal story. I have input into our product line and marketing, I meet interesting people, and I get to think about retail products and how people buy and want things all day. I never thought it is what I would be doing (I thought I would be a cardiologist, or an investment banker, or a random rich guy who spends a lot of time driving around South Beach in a convertible). On one hand it's shallow to focus on shopping all the time when there are real problems in the world, but on the other hand consumption is the American story, how we expanded and produced and dreamt - and are now facing some consequences related to landfill, congestion and pollution.

In the last three years my job has taken me to Atlanta, Indianapolis, Las Vegas (a lot), New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Orlando, and a few more places. When I can I try to do something interesting with the downtime. The downside is that when I travel (and I am in Detroit 90% of the time) it can be tough on Lauren and Noah sometimes, and I have to know when to say when. I had a chance to go to Asia for two weeks in March, and it was tough to turn that down, but it would have been too hard on my family. Maybe in a year or two. My dad was always home at three o'clock, and I feel guilty walking in after 5:30. I am pushing to have more flexibility in how we work, but that can be a slow process.

4. I have five months left to write a novel before I'm 30.

5. I am the least educated person in my immediate family - everyone else has been through or is attending grad school. I don't view this as good, and I need to continue my education. I just don't know when it's going to happen. The idea of going to school at night for years is not appealing at all. There has been a lot written about how my generation will be the first to do less well financially than our parents, but not much has been written about the education gap. I'm interested in the master's program in pop culture at Bowling Green (seriously), but it's going to be a while.

6. I worry about the impact our industry (consumer electronics) has on the planet. All of the companies that we compete with and sell products to accessorize sell products that are made from plastic, and our packaging creates waste. Look at your computer and realize the whole thing is plastic, and so is your phone(s), your iPod(s), your clock radio, your wind pants, your tupperware, the bags your crackers come in, and those things on the end of your shoelaces. It's out there. The great news is that over the coming months our firm will be making big strides in sustainable packaging, renewable product materials, and product recycling, and some of those improvements are about to hit stores very soon. Some are simply amazing. I can't talk about them yet (see item #2) but they are pretty cool and I think they are important.

7. I am extremely optimistic about the world's next 50 years, and I think that they will be an exciting time to be alive. We're waking up globally to climate change, human migration, labor issues, species extinctions, democratization of information, and so many other issues that are reshaping the planet radically in a very short amount of time. This awareness means that we will develop the will to realize that we (as a planet) should be living in better ways, and we will seek to change things. We should be on the planet to make each others lives better and love each other. We're not here to kill and maim and pollute and deplete and die off. Do I think that the world will become safer, freer, more tolerant, healthier, less polluted in my lifetime? I sure hope so.

8. Writing this list made me realize that I dislike writing about myself the same way I dislike hearing other people talk about themselves. I'm fairly self-aware, but it's soooooooooooo boooooooooring to walk around talking about how fully realized you are as a person. Everyone reading this can conjure a time they had to feign interest in something boring, trivial or annoying that someone was rattling on to them about. Look how long this post is! We're all proud of our career/weight loss/offspring/bored-out engine/ideals/abs/catamaran/window treatment/new fedora/prize-winning melons/Sandy Koufax rookie card/vicuña sport coat, and that's great, but man do we go on about it! How many times have I posted about something I ate since we started writing this blog? Dullsville man, dullsville. Realization: Often I am not all that interesting.

9. When I think about some of the things that formed me into who I am today, something stands out. When I was young, my grandmother watched me while my parents were at work. I benefitted from her full love and attention and we still have a very special relationship. When I was three or four we would drive on errands, or take the bus to downtown Toledo and walk around, or walk up the block to get tin roof in a sugar cone at the drugstore next to the University of Toledo (now it's a Kinko's, but I can still taste the maraschino cherries). She would take me to visit her friends and we would go to the pool in the summer. She would cook all the time and we would have dinner at her house every Sunday night. Having someone around who loves you unconditionally will teach you to love people later in your life. It will set an example for acting less selfishly and giving your time and attention to other people. What I did not know at four was that this lesson is taught subconsciously, and it won't make itself known until you have other people to take care of. What I did know at four was that it is great to be the center of someone's world. Everyone deserves that.

10. It took me more than a week to write this whenever I could steal a few minutes.


iris said...

(Regarding #9) I had the same kind of grandmother! She watched me while my parents worked and I have so many great memories from that time. My sister and I were recently discussing this, and we used the term "unconditional love" as well. It is a truly awesome thing.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense Jon!
You're one of my favorite subjects. We can only talk of what we know. Besides who else can tell your story better than you.
It would be different if you were telling it to promote yourself, or inflating minor accomplishments into the greatest victories acheived in the course of human history.
But as it is, you're a great guy, with tons of interesting things to say. If some ways, everything we talk of tells as much about ourselves as the subject we're talking of.

Jonathan said...

Thank you both, nice thoughts.

Alan said...

Entertaining and informative post, as per usual. Nothing wrong with ride spotting but I enjoy the personal insights most of all. Better get cracking on that novel. You could make this list into Chapter 2. Chapter 1, of course, if you go the Celistine Prophecy bogus adventure story route, is to introduce your character and tell us how you, a Mossad agent in deep cover, came to be posing as a sous chef in the bowels of the Javits Convention Center...C'mon now Jon, I can't write the whole book for you!