Story lines sell

My brain is exhausted and aching. I’ve been sold to for two days straight. I’m at the 21st Century Financial Education Summit in Melbourne. I’m here because my brother and I have plans to start a business and because I want to hear Tim Ferriss and Richard Branson speak.

Just a kilometre away our diminutive Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is setting the police on non-violent protesters. Once upon a time I would have been there protesting. Somehow I’ve missed the whole “Occupy” thing. Whilst lefties are videoed allegedly being punched by police, I’m at a finance summit. How is this so?

Back at the summit, when a presenter yells out an obvious question such as: “Do you want to make money while you holiday?”, I snidely refuse to join the chorus of “Yes!”. When they tell me a product usually goes for <ridiculous number> but today it goes for <ridiculous number divided by two> I smirk. When they tell us to stand out from the herd but give out free Herald Sun newspapers I enjoy the irony.

But I admire their sales craft. And I admire the people attending, from all walks of life, who have a desire to start a new life, a new story line. I love the hacking of systems and strategies, and I recognise that today the means of production, of marketing, the means of hell everything are open to… well anyone…

As the joke goes, “I’m unique… just like everyone else”. I was researching cold reading recently and realised that apart from being used by palm readers and the like it is also a sales tool. Cold reading is based on the fact that we like to hear good things about ourselves and discount bad things, that we fall into only a few personality types, and that our lives follow predictable trajectories. If you’re in your late teens, you are trying to find a role, in you twenties you can get caught up in what you should be doing, and in you 30s you question earlier choices, and in your late 30s (where I am) you…

“No matter what a man has achieved in life, at (almost) 40, he is likely to feel worn-out, on edge, weighed down and unappreciated. Men deal with these feelings in different ways. Some become self-destructive, while others channel this energetic tension toward a more positive outcome, such as developing their gentler and more principled side.”

Wow. Sounds like me! But probably also sounds like most men approaching 40. So where am I? Am I on the clichéd arc from teenage idealist to hard-nosed pragmatist? Am I on the verge of middle age re-invention or decay?

Are these story lines natural like gravity and the tides, El Nino and La Nina, erosion and eruptions?

People sometimes feel they are stuck in the middle of a story that never changes but this of course, like all things in nature, isn’t true. Other people are addicted to beginnings. A bartender told me last night about her one-way ticket to Kathmandu! Geez it sounded like a good beginning!

Where are you on your storyline?  Can you accept it and use it to your advantage, or will it be used against you? Are you ready to buy a one-way ticket?

Inspired by Venkatesh Rao

“Whatever goes wrong goes wrong any how”

Neil Murray, Lights of Hay

Super 8

I was handed an old cardboard box after his funeral. It was full of Super-8 and Standard-8 film canisters.

The wax cardboard had started to go soft and there was grit and dust settled throughout.

Some of the small reels were in orange Kodak envelopes. Others were loose. Some were unravelling. The handwriting so recognizable and messy. A numbering scheme, but no key to decipher the numbers.

Super-8 is film. You can hold it up to the light and see the frames. It does not diminish like later day magnetic-based Video formats.

With trepidation I asked the family for contributions to the cost of converting the collection. Trepidation that asking family members for money is fraught, but also trepidation for what I might find on the tapes.

I’m assured when I pick up the DVD conversions that there is 4.5 hours of “excellent” footage. The cardboard box is gone though. Apparently it was full of little bugs and had been banished.

Dad’s camera did not record audio. Sitting in silence, I felt like some time traveling voyeur. The constantly changing focus and quality of the images made my eyes work hard.

All the gardens look so neat. Dead relatives appear restored to youth, smiling and limber. Wedding dresses. Flared pants. Vinyl. Children everywhere. Happy young faces.

And it’s seeing the guy who was not in frame but who did the filming.

You see the reactions of the people who are looking at him. You see that that your parents’ relationship wasn’t always beaten down by life and unrealised expectations. You see his attention to strange details, like two dogs fighting on a hotel balcony. You understand when the camera lingers slightly as a pretty, young woman enters frame. You see his commitment to recording birthdays, weddings and births.

You see a collection that runs some 15-20 years and you take it in in a few hours.

You see that he was fastidious and constant with his camera work, disciplined and learned. Something you’ve never seen before.

You wonder why some things only get revealed after death.

And you feel shame for how you let your own adolescent aloofness and your parent’s failed marriage diminish your father like a cheap VHS cassette.

But you also take pride in seeing that he was like you, he endured, left a legacy, and that he was great behind a camera but for too short a time.

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