A week from today I celebrate 35 years with my company. Recognizing the importance of such a landmark, I’ll be out of town playing golf with some old friends. I’m talking OLD friends here, guys I’ve known since we were five years old. America’s cultural gatekeepers keep insisting my friends and I are headed for obsolescence, yet in spite of being more frequently nudged by Noel Coward’s observation that “time’s winged chariot is beginning to goose me,” we persist.
Most folks stay in touch because they have to, it being essential to their professional survival. It also helps in the maintenance of conversant relationships unless you are comfortable with freaking people out at cocktail parties with awkward pauses. For others, like the New Yorker’s founder Harold Ross, they’re simply “entranced by many aspects of life, imprecisely.” For those in business however, there’s nothing worse than being branded out of touch, or worse, doesn’t get it.
For someone who’s been in this business 39 years, you’d think I would have become bored with the race or tired of trying to keep up, not giving a rat’s ass if anyone thinks I’m in touch or not. It’s funny how many grizzled veterans of the biz wars tell me they’re bored or just plain out of breath. Not me. I must have a problem. Something for which I should perhaps be medicated. I’m obsessed with consuming information. Though I’ve never heard of Ellen Parr, she said, “Curiosity is the cure for boredom—there is no cure for curiosity.” Amen.
My name is Gary and I’m an info-holic.
Case in point, I read a lot and I send what I read to others. Anyone on the end of my stream of “forwards” will tell you they are peppered daily with articles I’ve dredged up or ideas I’ve gurgitated into their inbox. No doubt, in the course of their busy day, they have little time to read or digest the flood of disjointed information that spills from my desktop to theirs. Such is the price of being tethered to this small corner.
For me, it’s like Garden of Eatin’s organic black bean and flax seed chips with Desert Pepper corn, bean, and pepper salsa—I can’t stop. Joseph Epstein once wrote of a colleague, “His specialty was inserting bullets in other men’s guns,” and my incessant routes are grounded in something akin to that. I pass along what hopefully are the connective tissues in the endless stream of shifts in the digital zeitgeist. Just as trend-watchers aggregate their observations into the next new thing, content creators like us have to stay attuned to every ripple in the land of flat surfaces, be they pages, screens, or holograms.
So I send and send and send some more. Reading anything and everything you can get your hands on is, as Harold Bloom suggests, a selfish act. You’re not making the world a better place by reading, certainly not professional reading. But you are most certainly elevating your and your company’s game. Being a hyper-curious student of not only your own craft but your client’s craft may be the only thing that differentiates you from those who want to steal your business and livelihood away.
So here’s to curling up with that next research study on the effectiveness of social media brand engagement, or Clay Shirky’s bloviations, or Simon Dumenco’s adventures in offline, or that nice, juicy 100-page download on health literacy!