Friday, June 3, 2011

How to be More Interesting

Think about the most interesting people you know.  Why do you find them interesting?  It's most likely because they have lots of stories. 

Since the beginning of spoken word people have told stories.  People used to sit around fires and tell stories.  Everything we do is based around this ability to hold a person or groups attention so you can get your point across.  All the movies and television we watch is all for this one purpose. 

So here's a few things I've been doing to make myself a better story teller.

1.  Realize that everything that happens to you is not important.  These new reality television shows make everyone think that just hanging out at the house is an event.  It's not.  Did you learn something from this event?  Did it make you laugh?  Then most likely you don't need to share it with anyone.

2.  Make notes.  Guess what?  You're memory is not that good.  Why else did people start drawing pictures on cave walls?  Because they couldn't remember what happened last year.  With the sensory overload we experience everyday it's amazing anyone remembers what happened to them this morning.
If you keep just a little list on your phone, or maybe on a little pad of paper not only will it help you be more intersting but it will make you feel better about yourself.  You can go back and see the things you've accomplished that day or things you've overcome.

3.  Make yourself relatable.  Are you talking to the 30 year old guy at McDonald's while you're waiting for your food?  He probably doesn't want to hear about how you went to college and now you're making a million dollars.  Co-worker?  He probably doesn't care about your blog explaining the wonders of cat ownership.  Don't talk to your hairdresser about credit default swaps.  Don't talk to your banker about your intermural softball league.

4.  Be funny.  Everyone wants to laugh and if you can't have a mild sense of humor it will be hard to hold anyone's attention.  You don't have to be Jim Carrey.  And make sure if you tell a joke it's appropriate.  That dead baby joke you and your friends think is a knee slapper?  Most people won't think it's nearly as hilarious.  Take my word on it.

5.  Do your best to stay on the topic of you.  If anyone really wanted to know what happened on Desperate Housewives the past weekend they would've watched it.  There are people who are better at telling stories than you.  They get paid to write these shows and movies.  I know it's tempting to recount the plot of Lost, but unless you have some insight on how Jack's inner battle lead you to establish a new religion.  Don't.

Of course, none of this matters if you don't know anything about the person you're talking to.  So probably the most important thing is learning how to listen well.  You have to be able make some sort of insight from conversation you are having.  It's impossible to be of interest if you don't know what the person you're talking to is interested in.  The only way to find this is out is by listening.  You can only assume so much by just looking at a person. 

Just listening you other people tell stories can help you get better at this.  It really is a lost art form.  One of the best groups of people I've heard trying to bring back this tradition is The Moth.  Go there.  Listen to some podcasts.  Check out there YouTube channel.  There is a lot to learn.  It's pretty entertaining too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Investing in Children

A friend of a friend brought a kid over to my house the other night.  Maybe it was last night.  It got me thinking about why people have kids.  It doesn't seem to make very much sense.

As far as investments in the future go, there are plenty safer bets.

Even before the child is born the cost of having and raising one start to add up.  Doctors visits to check on the heath of the baby and all that jazz.  After that comes the extravagant cost of actually delivering the thing.  You've already dumped thousands of dollars into your investment without any clear sign of whether or not you will get anything in return.

So the baby is born.  You have even more stuff to pay for.  You've got food, clothes, diapers, cribs, etc.  The list could literally go on forever.  Involved in this is probably the biggest cost.  The loss of productive time spent raising them.  Babies require inordinate amounts of attention.  Assuming your skills dictate that you can come out better by working, you can still work and pay someone else to watch the child.  This goes on for what seems like eons as children are not quickly able to care for themselves.

Even after they can supposedly take care of themselves, they really can't.  As the child turns into a teenager you might think the costs would go down.  Maybe you're kid becomes an athlete.  Athletes need a lot of clothes and gear and such.  Expensive.  Maybe your kid is super smart.  Again, these children need lots of stuff.  They want lots of books and calculators.  Ugh, calculators.  Expensive.  Maybe, and hopefully not, your child is just a bad seed.  Lawyers?  Expensive.  If you somehow make past all of this without going bankrupt or losing your mind.  There's still college!  Expensive!

I can only assume people hope that as they grow older that their children will take care of them as they slowly turn old.  What are the real chances of that?  We can assume by the rate at which people save for retirement that even they don't believe their children will take of them.

So, in the end what's really the point?  Dump capital into what seems like a black hole for at least 21 years but probably more like 25.  What is the incentive for people to go through this whole process?  Why would anyone in their right mind want to have a kid?

I don't know the answer to that question, but they sure are cute.