Posts Tagged With: love

The Perils of Adulthood Part 1: Making New Friends

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The other day I was in my car listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts , This American Life.  The theme was related to the concept of human intimacy and all of the anxiety it causes. The second story was the one that really got to me. It was about how hard it is as an adult to make new friends; and not necessarily just the type you casually hang out with but close friends that you can have a bond with.

It’s a situation that has become fairly acute for me recently. I’ll be 40 in just over a year. My wife (although she appears as youthful as the summer days are long) is also in that “grown folks” age range. Life and time has us in a place now where we are being mindful about the energy we keep around us. We are scrutinizing old friendships, appreciating strong friendships and starting to “date” new friends we’ve met as a couple (as opposed to the ones we individually brought “with” us) . I’m preparing to say goodbye to my longtime “best” friend whom life is taking on a new adventures away from the city we call home and clear across the country. And it’s freaking me out a bit.

Yes I know there are all kinds of technology as well as things like airplanes that can help keep people connected and even be party to the development of long-term relationships. I’m all too well aware. My best friend is moving for a woman she is in love with, who she has been internationally dating for nearly two years and whom she met on Tumblr (that’s a whole other blog).   But the fact is, it’s not “the same”.

We crave intimate connections with other humans that come in many forms: paternal/maternal, fraternal, romantic, and platonic and any other nuance you can think of. It’s our basic social instinct. We are social creatures. And most of us like to have other creatures we relate to in close proximity to use. We want to feel like we belong. And we want to literally feel love.

These are basic hierarchy of needs foundations. It’s why the two previously mentioned long-distance lovers are both ripping themselves away from the comforts of home to be together instead of sustaining a Skype-based romance. And it’s why sustaining and making new friendships as an adult is so important to our productive human functioning.

But making friends as an adult is so much harder then when we were younger. As a matter of fact, making friends gets progressively more difficult as we age. This is both a sociological as well as psychological fact. See this helpful visual aid on Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development from a creative Glogster Educational Blog poster.

erikson-s-eight-stages-of-psychosocial-development-source

 

When we’re in our youngest years, we are selfish little “watery moles” it’s all about us and getting what we need to survive and knowing where our bread is buttered. Then we start figuring out that behavior has consequences and we have choices and we start seeking approval for our choices, including gaining a sense of self worth by starting to collect people who approve of us: friends.

But then we start becoming adolescents and young adults and as we learn more about who we are as individuals we start to get picky….until suddenly we aren’t in a daily pool of human’s representative of the relevant general population to choose from (e.g. school) and if our job is not an extension of our passions and personal identity (which I realize is a very common reality albeit very different from my own) then the people we see at work every day are not necessarily eligible for the type of intimate, growth-inspiring relationship we need as adult humans.

When middle age sets in and we are driven to re-assess our meaning and the meaning of the people in our lives and realize the pool of potentials has now become woefully thin. Of course, as you get much older you begin to once again get less picky and find social groups that will help you remain feeling human and productive despite the realities of your degenerating physical self. My parents are in that stage right now – just having moved from a very isolated environment to a thriving community of humans in a mature life-stage, where they are thriving as they make new friends every day and stay socially and physically active.

I suppose the dilemma I am speaking of comes from my very acute sense of entering middle adulthood and wondering how I am going to find the time and energy to forge new intimate friendships while working so hard to leave my mark on the world.   There isn’t really an online “friendly, casual dating” site to turn to. You have to make a point to get out in the world and start new conversations.

I think that’s why places like upscale, intimate music venues, brewpubs, whiskey and wine bars and “casual” fine dining concepts with eat-at-the-bar and communal tables have become so popular. They are places where people who have an interest outside of finding a “hookup” for the night can stumble upon people with similar interests and strike up a non-committal exploratory conversation.   They are places where gender and mating aren’t the top priority, in favor of connecting via an appreciation of an aesthetic.

But those kinds of places are only great friend-finding solutions in places where there are lots of people with disposable income like urban and suburban areas. What about folks who live in spread out rural areas or small towns or in places that lack the economic infrastructure to create economic mobility, urban development and general means to escape to a greener pasture?   How do you figure out how to find meaningful relationships with a limited pool of prospects to choose from?

As I write this I am reminded of the thing I tell myself and whomever will listen to me on a regular basis: It’s all about giving yourself permission to belong to everyone and have everyone belong to you.  It’s about the love.  I need to remember to follow my own advice sometimes.

Maybe the lesson we forget as we age is that we are all in this thing called life and the human experience together. We are of one unbroken mind and spirit. If we make a point to open ourselves up and be vulnerable to our fellow humans we have an opportunity to see inside to our deepest selves and realize that we are all the exact same thing.

We are all love. We all have that in common – we just tell ourselves that this thing we call our “self” has all kinds of rules about what we can be an who we can let in.   And the older we get the more rules we accumulate until our wall of rules is stacked to the sky and utterly impenetrable.   But I think many of the brave ones among us learn that we find friends from unlikely places when we let them through that wall.

I suppose what I am saying about this first peril of adulthood – making new friends – is that it’s about more than finding people in a similar life stage and / or with similar interests who have a schedule that matches yours so you can find the time to hang out and do constructive things together. Perhaps it’s also about making a choice to open yourself up and practice random acts of connection.

What if we decided to start selection with the basics (Are they kind? Are they fun?) as opposed to the limiting specifics (Do run marathons like I do? Are they vegan?). Sure – the love everyone method isn’t fool proof. You will likely get disappointed sometimes. But maybe in those situations where you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you also give yourself the opportunity to be uncomfortable and grow as a result and have the same effect on someone else.

For example, start up a conversation with a random stranger that maybe doesn’t look like you or come from your “world”.   Not only might you enhance your human experience by stepping outside your comfort zone a bit an expanding both the degree you are willing to accept the influence of others and have an influence on others based on your differences, but you will most likely find the most basic of commonalities which, if you choose to be a little fearless every now and then, can be the foundation for creation of a truly intimate human bond.

Just imagine how much better adulthood would be if we all, rather than choosing to narrow our circle of friends, choose to widen it. What if we gave more people the opportunity to “play” as opposed to setting such rigid criteria for even getting on the team? As in anything in life, practice makes perfect. So lets not get so rigid in our middle age that we feel like we don’t need to practice making friends and getting along anymore like we did when we were kids.

After all, you weren’t so picky as a child, bonding with whomever was thrust upon you by virtue of proximity at home or school.   It’s the basis of family bonding, really – you love whom you are born in to.   And I bet there are lots of you out there who still have a lifetime friend from when you were young or remain incredibly close with your siblings…despite growing in different directions.

It’s because you made a conscious decision to maintain your connection to your family (given or chosen) because you know it is the right thing to do as a human

So let’s remember we were all born in to this world together and practice making even bigger families as we mature. Let’s combat the perils of Adulthood by remaining ever vigilant that we make ourselves stronger when we give ourselves permission to make it easier to make friends.

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Anthropology, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Do Brands Have The Power To Change The World?

 

apple-nike

Here is the one true thing I know about humans having studied them in action and been one myself for many years: we are essentially “good”. Whether we all know it or not, we share a light of truth that binds us to one another in a spirit of belonging whereby we all have the opportunity to thrive.

This is fact. However, if you disagree with this fact, feel free to stop reading and I’ll catch you later once you have experienced proof of concept. Which wont be long now.

So, yes its true that people are naturally inclined to be good. We know that. But for too many of us these days, that light is hidden in shadows or buried altogether. Or at least we think it is.   We have a tendency – especially in the more economically developed parts of the world – to dive too deep into the distractions of daily life – letting the shiny things substitute for soul shine and forgetting that the good stuff is on the inside. I suppose we have started to forget we belong to one another –that we are love and we are loved.

But here’s the good news – light and love is contagious. It is downright virally infectious. When one human allows their light to shine through in its purest form – that energy draws out the light in others. It is a reflection of our highest common denominator truth and the more pervasive its exposure the more effective its result.

That’s why I like working in marketing strategy. While some people might think marketing is the art of fabricating persuasive fiction, I see it for it’s potential to give and spread the gift of truth. It is the medium through which those who direct mass-communication can remind a world full of customers to reflect, empower and spread that truth.

You see, brands have an opportunity to be so much more than shiny things that might be granted the favor of our attention for a fleeting moment in our lives.

Companies who market consumer brands have not just an opportunity but also an obligation to be more than an idea attached to the stuff we use. They can and should be the fuel – the nuggets of energy we engage with every day – that help us get stuff done – driving momentum for the positive social change that will allow all humans to thrive.

It really is a pretty simple concept:

A Brand is an idea or collection of ideas that has cultural meaning, represented in products, packaging and marketing communication as well as in the ways that the companies who market them conduct their business. When we see a brand sharing an idea that represents a deeply held human truth, we can feel that sense of belonging to one another being validated.

So, If brands can truly embrace and reflect the highest common denominator truths that exist in their most engaged customers – for example – they can reach thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with that same light-filled message – since many other humans who might not necessarily be engaged with that brand will also share belief in and commitment to those truths.

 

This projection of highest common denominator values not only provides an opportunity for that brand to reach more humans, but for more humans to connect to one another based on those shared values.

Its also important to realize that getting at those truth’s is not as difficult as one might think. As it turns out, humans like to share their truth – whether they tell you or show you through their behavior or how they curate their lives. I should know – I have spent the last 15 years listening to eager consumer research participants share their stories. And when a brand shows interest in really understanding the human truths their customers hold dear it creates a bond that builds love – the same way it happens when you are cultivating human relationships. Because we are inclined to bond with people who care about who we are deep down and allow us to shine.

So it stands to reason that when brands and companies seek to understand their customer’s humanity, they are not only building a bond that ensures a loyal following but one that also puts a little more love out in to the world.

Now imagine if even half of the world’s gazillion brands were spreading that kind of light every day…to multiples of millions of people at a time. Imagine the world we could create if people were empowered to radiate that kind of love and light and truth and belonging every day in their interactions with all of the brands and other humans they encounter.

Based on the math alone we can see the big picture and it illustrates a very very bright future for humanity.

My mission is to help find and spread this light and remind humans how much we belong to one another so we can get on the same path toward a better tomorrow. Sure there are several light-spreading callings out there from music to religious practice to art and film.   I choose work that communicates through the lens of consumer culture – because I truly believe in the power of marketing love to the world.

Our mission at Culture – the cultural strategy firm where I am a partner –  is to cultivate human connection in the interest of shared thriving. We do this by strategically helping companies understand the potential of their brand from the perspective of their best customer’s highest common denominator values. In the process of finding the upside of humanity in the people who support their companies, the humans who run those companies also get the opportunity to bring their own humanity in to their work. It makes for better business and it makes for a better world for all of us.

So yes – brands do have the power to change the world – by elevating the consumer cultural conversation. Because shiny things with fictional stories are simply disposable objects. But brands that share human truths in their communications and their business practices are love machines that have can bring humans into the light and help us achieve the potential we all have to create the world we want to live in – one where we don’t live in fear of our ability to survive but rather embrace our power to thrive.

 

All it takes is a little love and the willingness to seek out our truth.

 

 

 

Categories: Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Getting Down To Business By Letting The Love In

Framed-Art Print-11707-Business Love-Urban-Giclee Paper-A

I originally posted this article on LinkedIn
but felt compelled to share here as well, since the Narcissistic Anthropologist in me is certain you will want to read it.  😉

Most humans will readily admit to wanting people to like them. While it’s a mild demonstration of vulnerability to do so, it’s one a good amount of people are okay with disclosing, even if they never say it out loud.

All we have to do is look to social media. We affirm one another with “thumbs up” on status updates, selfies and pictures of our dinner. But we all know that this is a more surface-level way of engaging with the world: toe-in-the-water assimilation to norms and mores in hopes of ensuring we belong.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Humans are social creatures. It is encoded in to our DNA to belong to one another so we can ensure our survival. But in a big world that seems to keep on growing, with so many people who focus on differences more than similarities so we can more easily define “us” versus “them, it’s difficult to go really deep with our social relationships. After all, we have been trained not to let the “wrong” person in lest one rotten apple spoil the bunch. Better to be liked so we can ensure we belong somewhere safe and feel a sense of social security.

But why do we want so badly to belong? Why is our security as part of the social structure so terribly important? Not so shockingly, it is because ultimately what we actually want is to be loved – not just liked. We know deep down that it is our highest calling to truly belong to one another in a way that makes a deeper commitment our common good; to sustaining momentum on the journey to finding our potential and embodying our highest visions of success in this world.

We are beginning to awaken to the idea that maybe there is no such thing as a “them”. We have begun to consider that, as mother Theresa said – “the problem with our world is that we draw our circle of family too small”. It’s a testament our evolution as humans that we are seeking to own the responsibility we have to one another. It’s time to move past the “like” phase and really start sharing the love.

So then, if we are to seek to be loved versus just liked, what does that look like? What does that really mean? What is the difference between “like” and “love”? I recently “liked” a Facebook post that shared the following response as attributed to Buddha:

“When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily. One who understands this understands life”.

Essentially, love means paying attention. It means acting in the best interests of others as you would your own. It means caring enough to be present and experience the world on common ground. It means accepting that it is our responsibility to tend to the care and feeding of all of our humans and not just pluck the ones we think are pretty.

That’s a lot of work. But labors of love are the ones that bear the most fruit. We see it in the relationships that stand the test of time. We see it in the success of die-hard entrepreneurs. We see it in the rapid growth of those companies and businesses that operate from the basis of ideals.

As an anthropologist and sociologist who works as a cultural strategist in the business world, I also see it in the way my clients internalize the deeply human insights around their best customers’ highest common denominator values and light up when they begin to see the possibilities for evolving their brands, products and their business strategies. On a regular basis I see executives make powerful reconnections with their “human” side in a business context in ways that always create change for the better.

Love belongs in business. Love belongs in strategy. Love should be a core competency in our work. Because our work – especially in businesses that have a global footprint – has a profound impact on people. It touches more humans every day (especially in the global brand space) than we can even fathom and in a number of ways we may not even be aware of.

So, consider this a call to action to all those who don’t just want to settle for “like”. If you really want your career, your brand, your company or even just your “self” to achieve its highest potential then you absolutely must remember: we have unrivaled power to succeed when we make a choice to belong to one another and let the love in.

Photo credit: http://www.wallart-direct.co.uk

Categories: Business and Culture, Consumer Anthropology | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Humans of The Willamette Valley: A Celebration of Life

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon for the very first time and take an unexpected “side trip” about 90 minutes north to a town called Jefferson – which is located in the Willamette Valley.  To the hipster-come-borgeois bohemian “metro area” dwellers (not unlike myself), the Willamette Valley is the place where “those awesome Pinot Noir’s” come from.  A haven for wine lovers.

To my friend E and her family – it’s home.   That place she grew up playing in the blackberry bush brambles, living in a kid-paradise of both tamed and untamed nature and watching her Mother tend to the many plants and flowers in her greenhouse while her father worked in his.

E puts together a living as an Artist who does freelance design work.  She is an introvert by nature but you can tell she is retaining an intense light no doubt nurtured by the natural beauty she grew up in and parents who took great pride raising all kinds of living things – from plants and flowers to children – to bloom bright in whatever way nature intended.

E’s mother passed about 4 months ago; several months after E had moved back out there from the East Coast with her partner to care for her in her final battle with Cancer.

When I arrived in Portland for my conference (The World Domination Summit – which will absolutely be featured in another blog entry) – I got in touch to see if it was possible to get together while I was in town.   As it turned out – E’s entire family (all the brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins) would be arriving in just a few days for a planned Celebration of Life that Sunday to honor her Mother.   They hadn’t had a memorial service and – as it turns out, in the true spirit of her family – the preferred method of commemoration was that of a joyful gathering in the place and with the people her Mother loved most.

E and her partner extended an invitation for me to join them Saturday afternoon and evening for a family BBQ in advance of the big Sunday celebration – to let the Anthropologist in me see some more of Oregon and experience ” the native way of life”.  I think she actually used that term. 🙂  But I was just happy to see my friend and also secretly excited to see E’s Dad’s farm – where he has been growing organic medical marijuana among his other crops.  I had never seen anything like that except for on television and my curiosity was beyond peaked.  I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the subject matter of  anything related to deviance (i even got a degree in it – of sorts and even if Marijuana is now technically Legal in Oregon and therefore no longer defined as “deviant” by law).

What I experienced that night was nothing off-the charts on an “indigenous ritual” scale.  Just a collection of loved ones grilling dinner and catching up – enjoying the comfort and discomfort of family interaction in anticipation of what would surely be an emotional day to follow.  But I did experience off-the-charts love oozing out of every person I encountered.  They welcomed me  – a stranger for all intents and purposes – in to their home with so much warmth during a very special and private time in their family’s journey together.

I am grateful for the reminder of my love for humankind and the reason why I chose this calling of observing, capturing and trying to make sense of the human experience.  Over the years I have learned that despite our many differences based on geography, demography, ethnicity, etc. that we have so much more in common than we know.

So I would like to share a celebration of life via a photo journal of  E’s family’s big heart-space in a relatively small part of the world.  As a gesture of gratitude to Honor E’s mother and the love in all of us, here are some captured images and moments from my “native experience” in Jefferson, Oregon:

IMG_1679 IMG_1779 IMG_1672 IMG_1755 IMG_1742 IMG_1733 IMG_1752 IMG_1765 IMG_1777 IMG_1776 IMG_1738 IMG_1689 IMG_1684 IMG_1691 IMG_1696 IMG_1734 IMG_1699 IMG_1756

 

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve – Or Your Skin? Sociology of Style on How we Show Devotion Through Personal Adornment

Marks of Devotion

ring tattoes

 

“Tis too much proved — that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself.”

–Shakespeare, Hamlet

A woman recently tattooed her “boyfriend’s” name on her face as a symbol of their “eternal devotion.” (To be fair, they’d met and been madly in love for a full twenty-four hours.) While others may opt for something slightly more subtle (flowers? a mixtape?), this isn’t the first visible mark of passion to hit the press. Who could forget Angelina Jolie wearing (something rangelina_jolie blood vialesembling) a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck? It’s currently rivaled by Pet DNA necklaces, which offer an enduring memento during and after your pet’s life. While most would consider these drastic steps, many strive for ways to visually demonstrate their undying love.

 

Much of our visible devotion is inspired by a particular relationship. As early as elementary school, children purchase “best friend necklaces,” a heart pendant in two parts: “best” and “friend.” Later in life, many exchange promise rings, engagement rings, and wedding bands to symbolize an eternal commitment to a romantic partner. Former American Idol star Kellie Pickler showed solidarity for a friend who had cancer by shaving her head. Dedication to a loved one that has passed away is commonly marked with a tattoo of his or her initials (and we explored some cool variations on this theme here).

However, people aren’t the only recipients of our devotion. Support for a charitable cause is often symbolized through arm and wrist bands, such as the popular (and now controversial) Livestrong band. A commitment to environmental causes might be broadcast via a kitschy t-shirt, like “Green Is The New Black” (or some cleverer alternatives). Many people show their devotion to their religion with necklaces featuring a symbol, such as a cross or the Star of David.

So why do we feel the need to inscribe our passions, pet projects, and personal ethos across our bodies? And what purpose does it serve? These visible markers are mere signs, a sort of semiotics of devotion. “Signs are not related to the things or states of the world they appear to designate, but they stand for, they stand in front of, quieter intents, words, and deeds,” Marshall Blonsky explains in On Signs. In other words, the visible mark is not the object of devotion itself, but rather something simultaneously separate from and intensely connected to the particular person or cause about which we feel so strongly. They publicly pronounce to the world — and ourselves — our “quieter,” more private passions.

Want more from Sociology of Style, including tips on some more “lower risk” ways to show your commitment?  Click here to visit this article on sociologyofstyle.com

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Rituals, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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