Part 1: My BS Problem
Over the course of many years in sales, marketing, communications, branding, and (dare I say it?) managing people and being managed, I have come to learn a lot about bullshit. Can smell it a mile off. Depending on the situation I could call it out for what it is or sweep it under the carpet as if it were nothing at all.
In my consulting practice, I used to take pride helping others metamorphose foofoo from pooh-poo. Sometimes I was paid big bucks for adding a high-concept dessert of my own, often as a thank-you for repeat business.
Today, I try and avoid bullshitting altogether. I bullshit you not. My reprogramming does not come without frustration. For example, in selling situations—where lying is par for the course—I try to establish upfront my hope for an exchange free of the usual bullshit. However, it seems honest-dealing appears even less important nowadays than building a trust-based relationship ever was.
On the other side of the table, I confess, when listening to some salesperson's scatter-brained speil it triggers memories of the unhealthy BS behaviors I am trying to this day so desperately hard to suppress. As bursting out in spontaneous pray rarely helps a business meeting going to down the drain I find myself reciting a childhood ditty for small consolation:
Here I sit, broken-hearted,
Paid a penny and only farted.
One would think that on those occasions where the ultimate prize of winning a retained client is achieved things would be less trying. Ironically, no. There is nothing worse than pooping in your pants when the only napkin available is the one you are mapping out next years communications strategy on. Recently, I had such an experience. I only share it with you to underscore the problem:
The client and me, we're "old friends" now dining at some swank restaurant that serves something that synthesizes art, portion control and money laundering on a ridiculously oversized plate. My convivial client is effusive in their praise for me as I strategize about campaign-this and ROI-that. Then it drops. At a volume the entire assembly of power-diners (with whom you would like to similarly engage with one day) can hear the client guffaw: "Ha! Ami, sometimes I think you are full of shit!" then leaning over to whisper confidentially, "Dammit man! Your plan is pure genius!" Not five minutes later, so loud the vibrations lift the 24 karat gold leaf off my elegantly served dessert, "Ha! Givertz..." (so as to remove any doubt it really is me) "...you're bullshittin' me right! No, no, let me get the check."
Ironic? I would say so. Such exposure makes me shit-a-brick and all I can think of is how the hell can a slither of $60 gold-dusted Black Forest Gateaux make such a mess of an otherwise delightfully refined lunch? Maintaining my composure and protocol when in polite company I nod deferentially like a Gorbachev bobble-head on the rough road to nowhere. Which leads me to another area of my tortuous BS behavior modification...
Addressing non-verbal nodding bullshit is an issue I become aware of when, for example, the check arrives and my companion asks, "Was the chocolate pie worth the 60 bucks? You hardly touched it." What am I to do in such a situation? Deny the obvious, I feel like shit? Now, that would be bullshit, wouldn't it? Sometimes it seems like I just can't win. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't...bullshit that is.
One coping mechanism for dealing with my triggered backsliding is to call out the internal dialogue for what it is and deflect that negative self-talk by calling out someone else's bullshit. Unfortuantely, that too can have undesired consequences. For example:
Cultural bullshit designed to conceal a multitude of corporate sins is upsetting for me. It can trigger my synaesthesia and gives me a headache to boot. So much so, when I hear talk of "vision," "transparency," "authenticity," and similar agency-inspired craptrap it makes my eyeballs barf.
One would think that calling out another person would make for a good alternative diversionary tactic. However, in recent years I have come to accept that personal attacks are unchristian. Even when legitimately directed at unrepentant transparency apostates—I find it easier to focus on the more mundane societal issues of our day. Oh, that's right, such diversionary tactics would make me one of that political class, no less a heretic than the politicians themselves! Again, damned if I do and damned if I don't.
At this point, I conclude that sorting out the mess of my own revisionist bullshit and separating it from the real thing—all in a noble pursuit of transparency and authenticity—is no easy game to play. Caught somewhere between finding Waldo and unraveling the mysteries of a Rubik's Cube I can forgive myself for (almost) giving up. But I can't...forgive myself or give up. I just can't get no satisfaction (and that ain't no bullshit, bro).