A few years ago I was sitting in the office of a friend of mine, a real successful businessman. At the time, I was handing out resumes and applying for jobs. This friend of mine, he’d never been in the military but he thought the fact that I had been was pretty cool. So he tells me I should put “Master’s of Badass Motherfuckery” under my education qualifications. After taking a moment to fantasize about having the balls to do such a thing, I demurred. It’s a fun thought but it’s funnier in the realm of what-if?
“Nonsense.” He said. “You don’t want to work for the kind of people who don’t think that’s funny.” That was the best advice he ever gave me.
Did I actually do that? Yes. But really just to look at. To internalize it. Truth is, I never handed out a resume again (though I think Masters in BAMF Sciences is on my LinkedIn.)
I did, however, start being myself. I got my first major job after pulling out a bottle of scotch in the middle of a job interview. About a year later, when the Chairman asked me how drinks went with a potential investor, I said, “Not well.” When he pressed me for details, I hemmed and hawed and finally said, “He was extremely rude to my date and I punched him in the stomach.” After considering this for a moment, the chairman just said, alright, sounds like you had your reasons. My friend was right, these are the kind of people I want work with. With this company, I got to keep my job, and my friend. And my dignity.
Fast forward a few years.
I was at a grad school admissions meeting over the summer. I showed up straight from Burning Man, still in costume and covered in dust. Once the admissions officers got over the fact that I was caked in dust with rips in my trousers, they were more fascinated by where I’d been. So I told them everything. About tripping on LSD and chasing a sexy Boston pharmacist through the desert. About waking up next to a Japanese lesbian ninja, even describing to them the wrist band that she had worn: “2015 CAMP BEAVERTON STRAP-ON-A-THON” And guess what? They laughed. They’re regular people. A good story is a good story, and to be fair, this is a Journalism school.
So I got in. I start in August, actually.
Running around this way, breaking the rules and quick with the middle finger, it doesn’t fit well with the conventional notion of success. You might not make a lot of money by refusing to “play the game.” I wasn’t able to close the deal with that investor, but I’m still dear friends with Katie, and I’m proud of that.
I don’t know if I can argue that things will always work out if you are unashamedly yourself. Some people may not like the real you and you’ll have to be okay with that. Whatever the cost, it’s up to you to decide if that’s a fair price for staying true to yourself.
Think of it as thinning the herd. Breaking protocol and testing the limits of decorum helps you separate the wheat from the chaff. And there’s far too much fucking chaff walking around in the world, pretending to be wheat.
Be the wheat.