This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it. 

I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.

Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.

And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.

And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.

And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.

We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.

The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.

We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.

I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.

We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.

I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.

One chance to be a rock star.

One chance to jump from a plane.

One chance for graduate school.

One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.

One chance to start my own company.

Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.

I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.

And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?

And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?

We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.


One of my favorite business buzzwords is Convergence.

It describes the interaction of seemingly unrelated industries creating new opportunities, new markets, and new products.

My favorite example is photo copiers. Copiers were traditionally leased by companies through agents that charged by usage. Introduce multi-function printers that are networked and require IT engagement and you have convergence. Copier guys didn’t know about IT stuff and IT guys couldn’t convince libraries to spend $10,000 on a printer/copier combo machine. Convergence in the print market meant an opportunity for lease-pricing models in the IT space.

In every day life, I experience low-level convergence when the most annoying song in the history of the planet plays on the radio in my car, in my doctor’s office, in the restaurant where I’m having lunch, and in the drug store all within a few hours of one another. Seriously, retire the fucking Spin Doctors already.

Higher-level convergence occurs intellectually when seemingly unrelated knowledge links to create a whole new stream of thought.

So that’s what happened yesterday.

First, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse talked about meeting people who’d read his blog and being treated as if they were friends. His audience had connected with him (even if he hadn’t connected with them) and the intimacy of their exchange was at once unnerving and exciting.

Then, I watched Gerard Adams TV (the Millennial Mentor) talk about leaders creating leaders through mentoring. I stuck with it because 1) it’s true stuff and 2) he interviews his own mentor, GenXer Ryan Blair. The takeaway was Blair’s advice to “Create Value” in whatever you’re doing.

Finally, I heard Chamath Palihapitiya in an interview with Kara Swisher, a veteran tech reporter with the Wall Street Journal on her resume, on the Re/Code Decode podcast. Chamath talked about his company, Social Capital, investing in firms that were working for the greater good. He said there is tremendous value in any company that is working to give people back their time.

Okay — connect with your audience, create value, give back time.

As I’m working through the book proposal for my new work model book, I’m playing around with ideas as to how to promote it. The model itself will give back time and the work I’m doing on it should create value. Connecting with the audience should be straight forward as I want the book to address both business leaders who can change their organizational management structure to adopt a knowledge economy work model and the agents themselves who should demand fair work environments that reward results, not visibility.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about how quintessentially X these three men are. Darren built an online business out of his blog, a unique idea when he began 12 years ago. Ryan is a bestselling author of Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain the story of his rock-bottom-to-multi-millionaire trajectory. Chamath has AOL roots and Silicon Valley pedigree and is now looking to finance companies that have the potential to bring more people to the starting line.

There are two key factors in all of these stories: optimism and hard work. Is there anything more quintessentially X than: “Okay, you believe in yourself. Great. Now put your head down and do the work to make something happen.” ?

I’m crushing big time on Chamath and will have at least one more post just on the Kara Swisher interview. Listening to it yesterday, I went all fan-girl in the car. Sigh.

For now, though, the convergence of thought has inspired me to get back to work.

Last summer I read an article that reported a survey conducted with millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) asking them to choose which generational moniker they believed described them: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millennials.

The overwhelming majority claimed “The Greatest Generation.”

I was dumbfounded. How had these morons escaped the fact that the folks who fought World War II and rescued Europe from the tyranny of Nazis were The Greatest Generation? Tom Brokaw, who to many of us GenX’ers is a God, named them that. So it must be true, right?

Taking this survey story to my mom’s football tailgate in the fall, where she and her Baby Boomer siblings host me and my GenX friends and my Millennial cousins and their friends, I thought everyone would be amused by it.

To a one, the Millennials chose The Greatest Generation as their obvious moniker.

“What the fuck have you ever done to earn that name?” I asked, with typical GenX hostility, adding, “Unless you’re simply being ironic?”

My cousin claimed to not know anything about these generational monikers and I wondered if I was unaware of such things at his age. But, the thing is, the Baby Boomers have always told us who they are. Always.

Then they told us who we are: Generation X.

Now marketing bloggers are warning brands not to categorize Millennials, not to try to define them or market directly to them. They will decide what’s cool and what’s not. As if that’s some big new insight in how teenagers and young adults behave.

“Being stereotyped is off-putting,” this blog claims. “No Millennial will self-identify as such.”

But here’s the thing: a generational moniker is not a stereotype. It’s when you were born. So you can’t exactly say it’s not what you are.

You might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a member of the group. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t spend away the 80s and is now putting off retirement because you want to stay involved (i.e. you can’t afford it). Maybe you’re a GenX’er whose parent (mother, let’s be honest) was home every afternoon after school and you grew up well-attended-to and valued. Maybe you’re a Millennial who is not obsessed with social media and celebrities.

But if you are these exceptions, you’re just that: an exception.

Generational monikers are applied because they help us recognize value systems. GenX’ers went from being latch key kids to being helicopter parents not by accident.

Sure, there are some habits and behaviors that have more to do with age than generation. Every single group spent time wanting to be different, to change the world, to engage with each other and the universe in a way that was gratifying and meaningful.

Call it the optimism of youth.

Before they put their heads down and went to war because that was what they had to do, even The Greatest Generation had aspirations. And they made strides, they really did, by engaging women in the workforce during the war and leaving them there afterward.

The Baby Boomers had hippies and love-ins and the Civil Rights Movement and they made strides, they really did, on college campuses and in the workforce. Baby Boomers invented branding, brand recognition, and corporate sponsorship.

Generation X thumbed its nose at the establishment, like good little rebels, but then climbed into the boats of corporate America and started rowing. Then two recessions disrupted their soldierly rank-holding so they’ve pioneered an age of innovation and discovery that includes the largest surge of entrepreneurship ever.

The Millennials will have their chance. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to get focused on. Whether it’s some global humanitarian cause or simply finding time in their daily lives to be more than worker bees, the Millennials will make strides. But they shouldn’t reject their heritage.

It’s the values instilled by your era that determine the focus you will have.

We’re very different people because of the time periods that shaped us. And that’s as it should be. Even if we do think the other groups are getting it all wrong.

Star Wars on the Pole

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

I know I’m supposed to be excited about the new Star Wars and honestly, it was amazing. But there’s something annoying about the marketing that’s ruining it for me.

It’s everywhere.

The car commercial where it looks like Darth Vader leading storm troopers in a pass-and-review, the fast food commercial that looks like the pub on Tatooine, breakfast cereals, coffee creamer, and macaroni and cheese. Star Wars is everywhere.

It’s the kind of saturation that Boomer marketers claim is good and I’m sure Disney’s hoping the saturation and the film’s wild success will solve its financial woes.

But here’s the thing: when everyone is using Star Wars to promote themselves, does it really promote Star Wars?

And does it matter?

Why do I feel like our beloved Star Wars saga is on the stripper pole?

This isn’t a fan-geek-dom argument about the sacred world of Star Wars. (We had that right after the film when we wondered if it was okay for Ray to be able to use the force without any proper training.)

This is about drawing lines.

It’s about selling out.

I don’t blame George Lucas for surrendering the brand. He’d done everything he wanted to do with it, creatively and otherwise. He doesn’t need to be Lee Greenwood pumping a single well for oil for millennia.

I don’t even really blame Disney, they doubled down on Star Wars and they needed to win big.

Maybe I’m to blame for being disappointed that such a thing has come to pass. Of course it’s the biggest deal since the episodes 1, 2, and 3 showed up a decade ago. Of course we can’t get enough. And of course Band-Aids wants in.

But enough is enough, right? At some point we can stop ourselves from the gluttony of Star Wars everything, right? Or maybe not. Charlie and I have Star Wars socks and Hollie has Star Wars pajamas. We buy our nephew every Star Wars Lego set that comes out. We own the Blu-ray complete set of the first six.

The question I have is whether Darth Vader on the box makes me want to buy something I wouldn’t normally buy and if so, what does that say about the choices I make?

I don’t think Disney had to stir up the Star Wars excitement. I don’t think they needed to bring new viewers to the franchise (though they probably did). We were all pretty excited just knowing episode 7 was in the works.

Maybe we weren’t enough.

Maybe it’s Disney’s desperation to gather more than just the GenX devotees and our children. Like they didn’t have confidence in our faithfulness to Star Wars and so they went out looking for Boomers and Millennials and foreigners and rom-com-types.

Whatever it is, I’m feeling a little heartsick over it. Every time a new commercial kicks up that same old John Williams tune I feel sad.

They same way I feel when I tuck a dollar in a wanna-be-actress’s g-string.

You were enough, pretty girl, when you had your clothes on.

It’s kind of like looking at your own kid and thinking how there’s never been a prettier baby born on the planet than the one you built.

It’s like glancing around a really great party and realizing you’re the best hostess ever because people always have a good time when they come over.

Imagine listening to other people talk about how much they dread seeing their family and thinking, “Huh? My family’s awesome.”

I’ve been revising my first novel, After December, to send it to a publisher who read two pages and asked for more, then read 60 pages and asked for more. So wow. He’s actually going to read the whole thing.


It’s kind of like someone texting they plan to drop by and you realizing you should change from your jammies and ripped t-shirt into something that doesn’t look like you don’t give a fuck they’re here.

So I’ve been revising.

Full disclosure, this novel has been revised about 10 times since 2012 so it’s in pretty good shape (if I do say so myself). Anyway, I get into reading it and what usually happens is I stop making edits because I’m just reading.

Yep. Reading my own work. And loving it.

It’s like a really great workout makes you think you’re in really good shape or answering a couple of Jeopardy questions makes you feel wicked smart.

I read it and I say, “I mean, it’s really good, right?”

Then I look around, realize it’s just me, and stop saying stupid shit out loud.

Of course it needs work. Of course an editor will be brutal when it comes to that. Of course I’m tainted by seeing what I think it is instead of what is actually there.

But for now, just for now, I let myself feel that way you feel when someone else compliments your kid without knowing she’s yours.


Brian is Back

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the gap between the last two chapters of After December.

Today I started “Letters from Spain,” the collection of correspondence from Brian while in Spain.

It’s got emails he sent to Tony, his parents, Joel. It’s got some notebook pages of stories he tried to write. Letters he never sent to Kacie and Melissa. I can tell those stories here.

I’ve always wanted to write an epistolary novel and I think Brian’s time in Spain might be just the right way to do that. Working through the structure and what, exactly, he’ll get out of the novel. He’s got demons to exorcise and some growing up to do.

I’m excited he’s back. But I still have 2000 words left to finish the NaNoWriMo project I started this month. I need to shhhhhh Brian for a few days at least to get that one sewn up.

But YAY! 2000 words in Brian’s 2nd novel and I’m thrilled to see him again.

More later.

Greatness vs. Potential

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The new Microsoft ad says “we all have greatness in us” but it’s a lie. We do not all have greatness in us. It’s the same advertising lie that claims we deserve a perfect smile, a better cup of coffee, or health care options.

We do not deserve anything.

Stop saying stupid shit like we all have greatness in us. Greatness is a superlative. It differentiates. But we are not different. We are all experiencing the same basic human life with only the variations affected by our choices and the choices of those around us.

We do not all have greatness in us. That kind of thinking deludes people into self importance. Your experience is not unique. Your gifts are not unparalleled. You’re not even all that talented.

Ability is earned, just like everything else.

Wanna be great? Work harder. Pay attention. Look up. Read. Learn. Try. Get off your ass and do something about the potential you think you have.

If you believe you have greatness in you, prove it. Do something great. Not something human like volunteering at a shelter or being nice to an old person. Something great like project managing the New Horizons exploration of Pluto or winning 21 grand slam singles titles.

Understand the difference between greatness and potential. Greatness is the culmination of potential, vision, ability, and effort. Potential is just one part of that. We may all have potential in us. But how many have the discipline to define the vision? Hone the ability? Put forth the effort?

Being honest with yourself about your own limitations may be sobering. But it can also be freeing. It can remove the bull shit marketing nonsense of “we all have greatness in us” and show it for what it really is: a phrase meant to sell computers.

Fuck off, Microsoft.

The greatness within me is suffering under my busy, lazy, and easier-not-to-ness. I’m comfortable in my good-enough-ness. I’m satisfied with my above-average-ness.

Fuck your willingness to spread that viral self-importance that makes people think they deserve anything.

You deserve nothing.

Earn what you get. Be worthy of it. Appreciate it.

Gratitude is greatness. Hard work and dedication are greatness.

Delusion and self-importance are marketing bull shit.

Literally: A Rant

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’m not sure when or why it became a thing. I can’t remember if it was a spoof first or if the spoof came after. All I know if there’s some serious language abuse going on.

I scowl only at the GenX’ers who do this because I think they should know better. I don’t know why I think they should, but I think they should.

So to you Millennials and Baby Boomers who are killing me with this shit:

Literally means actually, or without exaggeration. It is NOT the exaggeration itself.

When John Green uses “We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” as the pastor’s favorite saying in The Fault in Our Stars, he’s telling all of us that misusing “literally” is fucking ridiculous.

We cannot be literally in the heart of Jesus because he’s a) not a living person, b) not a national park, c) not big enough to hold human beings inside himself, d) all of the above.

When I hear people say, “I was literally on the floor laughing,” and I think, “Um, no. You probably were not,” I mostly just want to erase them from the planet.

Not in a their-family-would-miss-them way, but in a Please Don’t Vote. Ever. kind of way.

It’s not that hard to misuse words. People do it all the time. I hear them say things like “I would never do that,” when, really, “never” is far from true.

Or “I always think that,” but actually, “always” isn’t the right word for that at all. You cannot always be thinking any one thing. Sometimes you’re thinking something else.

Superlatives are prone to abuse. They know it. They’re fine with it and I am, too. Honestly. I may repeat them to the person who’s abused them, “Really?” I’ll say, “You’d NEVER?”

I get that superlatives are gonna get abused.

But “literally”? It’s not superlative, it’s barely an adjective. It’s like a noun pretending to be an adjective. Literal is an actual state of being. It’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s the honest, balls-out truth.

So literally is the adjective of that state.

When you misuse literally, you’re lying. If you’re not in any way actually “literally” doing what you say you’re doing, then it’s misrepresentation at the least. At worst, it’s you trying to sound purposeful and lacking the vocabulary to make your case. Find a word-of-the-day calendar and move on. Perambulate. Mosey. Peregrinate.

If you think you are “literally” anything, ask yourself, “Am I balls-out, honest-to-Somebody’s God truly this?” Because if you’re not, stop fucking saying literally.

Or I’ll think you’re an idiot.

And probably a Millennial.

The Agent Rejection

Posted: September 8, 2015 in GenX
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m about to begin querying my GenX novel After December to a small press. I made the decision over the weekend after considering, again, the response I received from an agent last spring.

Agent: Nobody wants to read about the 90’s. It’s too recent to be considered historic and too long ago to be considered relevant.

Fair enough. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the 90’s. We have Trivial Pursuit: The 90’s Edition and it’s ridiculously hard. I spent most of the decade wrapped up in my own personal dramas related to high school, boys, college, and my parents’ divorce.

Also there was a lot of drinking and smoking weed.

But the next part of the agent conversation is what made me question why I was even interviewing agents:

Agent: Why can’t the main character just be 22 now?
Me: Like, a Millennial?
Agent: Yeah.
Me: But there’d be social media and a big part of the story is his detachment from his friends.
Agent: Maybe he’s just not into social media.
Me: A Millennial?

I know some Millenials and they’re basically good kids. But come on. They’re value system is very very different from ours. Stripping GenX from Brian Listo is like making Elizabeth Bennett a lesbian. While it might be a doable version of the story, it would be a very different story.

Finally, the agent asked who would read my novel. I said book clubs — you know, those GenX moms who drink wine and remember their high school boyfriends? Possibly college kids now — I read Ethan Hawke’s college-kid-finds-love-and-loses-it novel The Hottest State when I was in college and it resonated.

Agent: So Millenials are a target audience?

As if to prove her point about aging Brian into the now.

The Millenials I know think DiCaprio originated the role of Jay Gatsby. They don’t need modern-era novels. They just need something that confirms their own interests in self, fame, and partying.

So, okay, one agent who doesn’t get it is just a single strike out. Get back up there and keep swinging. What I realized, though, was that agents reflect what the publishers say they want. So I need to find a publisher who will buy my pitch.

Next blog: The Pitch.

20th Reunion

Posted: June 22, 2015 in GenX
Tags: , ,

The consensus at our 20-year high school reunion seemed to be that none of us really feel like adults. We all feel like we’re adulting, like it’s some kind of game we’re in or role we’ve got.

This from a real estate attorney, a police officer, and two people who own their own companies.

We all have kids.

And we’re all just faking it.

There’s a side of me that blames the grey ceiling for this pretense. Those Baby Boomer bosses who won’t retire so we can advance, those grand-parenting enthusiasts who seem a little possessive over our children, those 5K 10K charity fundraising junkies who assign every activity a cause and promise to pray for us.

They’re omnipresent and we’ve been told we could trust them and so we do. But they don’t trust us. They’d still hang the house key around our necks if they could.

We don’t believe in our own adultness because we’re not treated like responsible parties.

We’re building careers and companies, inventing technology and processes, enacting laws and enforcing them. Quietly running the place like the grown ups we are pretending to be.

There’s a humility to thinking we’re faking it. To forgetting we’re the ones in the room with the most experience, knowledge, and ability.

I catch myself sometimes reminding myself of my own credentials and my classmates admitted they do the same thing. We’re so often pressed between Boomer bragging and Millennial preening that it’s humiliating to attempt distinction. There’s something cheap and insincere about naming ourselves experts.

Even when we are the best at what we do, we’re always dismissed as slackers.

It’s especially hard in a room full of people who knew you when you were 17 to remember that you’re now almost 40. Even looking at these people’s children doesn’t stop me from thinking about them as the kids we were back then.

Probably because I perpetually think of myself that way.

It’s not an obsession with youth or denial over the aging process. It’s an honest-to-goodness belief that I have more to learn.

I may not be ready for Hollie to be a teenager right now, but I will be when it’s time. My classmates with teens told me so.

I may not be prepared to retire right now, but I’m putting together the right portfolio to manage that when it’s time.

In the same way I was ready when I finished my PhD, when I started my company, when I decided to lead in a project where following would have been easier.

After a weekend of looking back, I’m ready to focus on now.

Now is the most interesting part of my story. I’m mid-career and my own boss. I’m mom to a kid learning to read, write, swim, and ride a bike. She doesn’t know everything yet and neither do I.

What’s even better is this sense that I’m living my life my way and that while that may be a little scary and unpredictable, it’s going to turn out okay.

It may turn out we’re pretty good at this adult thing. Maybe the slacker generation is exactly the image we need to hide our super hero antics.