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August 30th, 2011

The Complete Guide to Learning from Criminals

Whenever I’m in doubt and I don’t know where to turn, I turn to my idols, who never let me down: Brainiac, Two-Face, and Spongebob Squarepants.

Ok, just kidding about Squarepants. The rest is real though.

You know, until recently, if I were asked about my idols, I might have said someone like Marshall McLuhan, or maybe Hunter S. Thompson or something. Boring people. Real people.

Not any more. I have evolved. I now get my advice exclusively from imaginary criminal psychopaths.

It’s time you did the same. Here’s why.

What criminals get wrong

Let’s say a guy wants to rob a bank. He’s a normal guy like you or me. He doesn’t want to do a horrible job for 40 years, but he’s not qualified for anything either. He doesn’t think he has any choices in life, and society isn’t giving him of the upside he sees on television or anywhere else. He’s like “screw it, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Now, let’s just say that this guy is like most people. He has reservations about killing people. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Thankfully, a bank isn’t people. If the bank gets robbed, nobody feels bad for it. After all, banks rob us every day; they just gradually introduce it so that they slowly get your consent. Besides, all the money is insured.

So our guy figures he’ll end up in a tropical country somewhere with a beautiful half-Latina half-Asian girlfriend or something. Who loses? Nobody. Exactly. Why would a bank losing a million dollars be a bad thing? Seriously, everybody would be happy. I’m not even kidding. Banks fuck over everyone.

So here’s the thing: if nobody feels bad for a bank, and all the money is insured and nobody gets hurt (in theory), why does nobody do it?

Well, simple. Too many things could go wrong, and the consequences for anything going wrong are massive and dangerous. In other words, it’s too high risk.

They deal in social deviance, doing things that most people aren’t willing to do in order to get ahead. This, by itself, is actually fine. There are lots of methods of social deviance that aren’t illegal.

So the problem isn’t social deviance at all. It’s that criminals do it in an old-school way, for which there are laws, and because of that, there’s collateral damage, death, destruction of private or public property, etc. In other words, the problem isn’t that they break the law, or that they’re criminals. It’s that, in doing so, they might harm you or your loved ones.

Criminals do what they do because they see it as a high-risk, quick, low-effort way of making a bunch of money. They go to the edge of what’s acceptable (and over) in order to get what they want. Some of them are horrible people, and others are doing the equivalent of cheating on their taxes– in other words, not much.

So not all criminals do things that are damaging to society. Some do things that average people consider totally fine, but that just happen to be illegal for larger, sometimes antiquated reasons.

So here’s our first distinction. Violent criminals go to the edges of acceptability. They do high-risk things in order to obtain large rewards quickly. They do this because they are impatient and fail the marshmallow test. This is why they end up in jail.

But hold on, there’s more.

What criminals get right

I was watching a movie the other week about Jacques Mesrine, the public enemy number one in France and Quebec in the 60’s and 70’s. He’s a sociopath if I’ve ever heard of one, but also an epic success in his own way. They literally had to ambush this guy in the middle of the Paris and blast him with automatic weapons in order to kill him. He was like a modern-day Rasputin. Epic.

It was while watching this movie that it really started to click for me.

Here’s a guy that flaunts the rules in a way that nobody else can. Seriously, this dude escaped from jail and then proceeded to return to jail with automatic weapons in order to help his friends escape.

As homicidal as this dude was, I have no words to describe how much guts he had.

So, in that sense, this is a guy we can learn a lot from. Not murder, not mayhem, rape, or anything else of that sort, but definitely what a few friends of mine and myself have now dubbed “skipping the line.”

Ok, imagine you’re going to a bar and the line is long. You stand at the back of the line like a good customer, and the hostess says your wait is going to be like 15 minutes. That time goes by but you still don’t get a table. You’re still waiting. You’re starting to get impatient.

Then, some guy walks in, goes right up to the hostess, whispers something in her ear and she nods and shows him to a table. How do you feel? Pretty annoyed, I’m guessing. WTF, right?

Now, another scenario. Imagine you’re at the airport. There’s a long line for security, as there was for my flight today, but this guy goes to another line, one that you hadn’t noticed, and just whizzes through everything. You watch him show people his iPhone, and he speeds past a giant line. Everything’s the same, except in this case, the system for skipping the line isn’t covert or hidden. He used a 3D barcode or something to get into a special category.

Now, here’s a trick question. Out of all the preceding examples, which one do you consider the most wrong? The bar, the airport, or the bank robbery?

All of these, done right, are victimless social deviance. They’re just deviance with different levels of risk, correct?

Let’s ask another question: If no one got hurt in either of those circumstances, from a one to a ten, how wrong are each of them?

What you need to do is not “play it safe”– which is downright idiotic– but to find is something as high-risk and high-reward as a bank robbery, but without the massive downside.

Let me give you another example. I end up in France fairly often, and since I mostly deal with Americans for work, one of my easiest conversation points revolves around a guy called Loic Le Meur.

Some of you may know Loic, but you’re probably not French, so you don’t know his reputation in France– a country where the majority view government work as being amongst the highest forms of service and status. Where Loic comes from, he’s considered socially deviant as well. So is my French friend Erwan Le Corre (Movnat is doing a workshop in Montreal, btw, which you should check out).

Guys like this, and they differ by country, have labels that their homelands consider fringe or weird. They aren’t easily accepted. They trot the edge in their own way, and are willing to take risks that others aren’t. They’re skipping the line as well– defining themselves differently and placing themselves at the top of their categories.

Normal people are not willing to do this. We don’t have models if we want to be out on the edge. For most people, they have no one that can relate to their need to be that far out.

Entrepreneurs won’t do. They are too acceptable. Politicians won’t do. They are too criminal and unethical (no, seriously, they are). We need someone else– a group we can look to and emulate, the same way people think “What would Jesus do?”

Society is far too boring. There is no one we can look to, so we have no choice. Magneto, Moriarty, and Mr Freeze– that is who it has to be.

Acting like a criminal for fun and profit

Let me ask you a question: according to Rotten Tomatoes, 94 out of every 100 critics thumbed up the Dark Knight. Why do you think that is?

Is it because of Batman? Guess again.

It’s the Joker.

The Joker is the personification of risk, something the average person finds thrilling. He does things that others would never dare to do, but everyone sees inside themselves. Why is that?

Modern society is stifling. The options for how to behave are limited and unfulfilling. Max Weber called it the Iron Cage because it eventually stifles and crushes anything polarizing. We have no choice but to submit in the majority of our lives.

What we start realizing if we spend enough time in cities is that this society breeds sheep. This isn’t even necessarily bad– it’s largely responsible for the stability of the age we live in. And these people can’t even be held responsible for it– the pressure of our society is so crushing that you have no choice but to submit, even at the cost of your long-term happiness.

The thing is, society also seems to have taken a wrong turn. When you combine it with the technological advancements we’ve had in the past several years, what we have turned ourselves into is a giant garbage production factory that is throwing itself off a cliff. There’s a fucking giant continent of plastic in the Pacific ocean for Christ’s sake, all made possible by the modern division between our actions and their consequences (Marx would have had a field day with this).

Clearly, social deviance is necessary at this point.

So who’s here to save us? Who’s here to make us feel alive once again, like a normal human being whose soul longs to be free and able to live without the crushing consequences of a drone-filled modern environment, where you can’t seem to make a difference and often don’t even know how to muster up the energy to care?

The only people who are capable of doing this are those who have lived outside society, those who have no place inside of it, and who ignore society’s rules.

The Joker is the personification of anarchy and freedom, and those feelings, when expressed to us in theatre or film, are deeply moving. It awakens a part of us that yearns to be free, but doesn’t quite know how.

But no modern hero exists for those that want to figure this out.

Now, here’s the thing: We don’t have to deface property, kill people, or rob banks in order to find edges. There are lots of modern edges to explore. They are valuable because they’re risky, and only through learning from criminals can we truly know what the edge is.

Finding an edge

Imagine a map of the world, but flat like it was thought to be a long time ago. At the edges, you fall off and die. But what about right before that, the places before these giant imaginary waterfalls? What’s there?

These are places nobody knows about because no one returns from them, or because no one even goes. If you go there, it changes you. You come back different.

But there’s a problem. The map doesn’t exist for these places. You don’t know how to get there. You need a guide.

Here is my suggestion. If you are looking for an edge and you can’t find one, ask yourself what you would do if you were a criminal, or a sociopath, or had delusions of grandeur, didn’t think you could fail, or that there would be no negative consequences. Ask yourself how you would act if you thought no one had the balls or brains to stop you.

The trick is to take on a personality. Play a character– one with no fear whatsoever, no conscience and no understanding of society’s rules.

Play a total sociopath. Find things with high reward, and act towards them as if there were no negative consequences.

Hard decisions will suddenly seem easy.

Fears that have no consequences will reveal themselves for the mirages that they are. Barriers will vanish.

My guess for what happens next? Your hurdles will have to be set a whole lot higher.

* Filed by Julien at 3:10 pm under direction, guide, humour, random, strategy

February 28th, 2011

5 Effective Ways to Use Twitter to... ahhh fuck it

So unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard at least one success story some idiot journalist wrote about how Twitter can do amazing things for some moron’s business or whatever.

Well it’s all true, and even better, if you follow these instructions, this moron could be YOU.

Now I know this stuff may not be easy to believe– after all, Twitter just looks like a totally useless piece of crap from where you’re standing, but trust me, when you see the power of it you’re going to shit yourself. Anyone– and I mean anyone– anyone can get their bullshit popular on this stupid thing. You gotta see it with your own two eyes.

Basically all these people think you’re their internet friends or whatever, even though you’re just a company, and then after a while they’ll just send out your shit because they think y’all are friends… with a COMPANY. lol.

I know, It’s unbelievable. I think it’s crazy too.

So anyway stop sitting on the sidelines watching douchebags promote their crap on this new thing… it’s time you got your self-promoting asses on there and started ruining this new technology for everyone too.

Check this out

You can basically pay to get a bunch of followers, and then everyone on Twitter think you’re all popular and follow you too. And these are REAL people. It’s some seriously amazing shit because, in real life, you would need actual customers to convince others. But here, you can just get a bunch of numbers and then you’ve got this great thing going from the comfort of your own couch.

Even better is that all these tools will totally just retweet your stuff– basically sell all your shit to their friends, for free! That’s why this piece of crap is even better than Amway– on Twitter, you don’t have to pay anyone!

All because of the magic of “social capital,” whatever that is. Seriously I think that’s a made up word, but who cares, that shit works!

How sick is that

Anyway, I want you to go to twitter.com, create an account right now, and then put in an avatar, but not your company name or anything– put a smiling face in there! Everybody loves smiling faces, plus according to some good books about manipulating people, they really draw the eye and shit. Then you can totally get people believing that you care! I know, crazy right?

So after that you’re going to get on there and be all “let’s be friends” and shit. You do this by talking to all these idiots– get this, you’re going to lose it when you hear this– by talking to them about OTHER SHIT. Not even your own bullshit products, but by butting into their stupid conversations and adding your own opinion… I’m serious, you can totally do this and they’re all like “oh, thanks” and they totally don’t know you’re marketing to them. And then, BAM!

Hook, line, and sinker

It’s up to you from here! Remember, create compelling content and you’ll entice people to… ahhh, you know what, fuck this, I’m outta here.

* Filed by Julien at 12:00 pm under humour, parody, projects, social media

January 24th, 2011

The Short and Sweet Guide to Being Fucking Awesome


People will tell you that there are all kinds of yardsticks to measure progress.

What they don’t say is that most of them are worthless.

Money, career, fame… whatever. That’s all fine and good, but the bottom line is that there is one thing– just one– that really matters.

Being fucking awesome.

You can be broke and be awesome. You can be in a wheelchair and be awesome. You can be homeless and be awesome. You can even be dead and be awesome.

You want a purpose to your life? I got one for ya.

From this day forth, your purpose is to be the most fucking awesome person you can imagine being.

Quick story: in my early 20s I used to hang out with piercers and tattoo artists a lot. It was the 90s, and a bunch of us were getting crazy parts of their bodies pierced.

One day I walked up to my piercer friend, Azl, who was pretty much covered with tattoos. Incidentally, he’s now an amazing poker player with a huge backpiece of a king of diamonds (with an axe in his head). Epic.

Anyway, I walk up to him one day in the studio and I ask: “What is it like to look down at your arms and know that all these tattoos are yours– that this is what your arms look like?”

Pausing for a moment for dramatic effect, he answered: “Julien, It is fucking awesome,” and smiled widely.

That’s pretty much it right there.

What kind of friends do you want to have?

What kind of job do you want?

What kind of life do you want to have?

The answer to all of these is simple: you want friends, work, and everything else to be awesome. The more your life is awesome, the better everything is, and the happier you are, whoo!

Seriously, being awesome should be a fucking religion.

There are three– count ‘em, three– standards for awesome. Here they are, in no particular order of bigness.

1. Yourself

I was thinking about this yesterday while I was taking a break from exploring this town in Malaysia where I am right now. I sat down and “counted my blessings” or whatever. Here’s some of what I came up with.

If you put this in the context of my 24 year old self, who worked in a call centre, finished at 2am and walked home in the snow, was pretty heavily in debt, and ate nothing but bread and hummus (not kidding), then you realize that pretty much anyone can become more awesome. This means you.

But wait, there’s more! What’s great about the world of awesome is that it’s totally subjective. You don’t have to care about the ways I do it, and I don’t have to like yours. The main judge is yourself, and whether you like yourself more than you did yesterday or last year.

If you do, congratulations! You are becoming, or already are, awesome. But here’s the clincher.

This is only true if you are honest with yourself.

There are a lot of people (people in public relations, or something) who claim that maybe their job is awesome. Or maybe guys that make a lot of money and think that they can be in on this love-fest too. Wrong.

Doing something prestigious does not equal being awesome. In other words, awesome does not look the same close-up as it does from far away. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Your friends/peers

Who are the people that you care about, and that you work with? For me, that’s people like my family, my close friends, my girlfriend, and people I respect in this industry we call the internet.

People who know you are a great judge of whether or not you are awesome, and also, how to become more awesome. But again, only the people who are willing to tell you the truth.

Yesterday, for example, I got a Facebook message from my friend Jason telling me that Snooki, of Jersey Shore fame, is now a New York Times bestselling author. The kind of person that does this is the kind of person you should be counting on; ie, people that keep you grounded.

So one of the litmus tests for whether you are awesome is the people around you who don’t believe the hype. Hey, speaking of hype, enter your email below. Thanks.

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Your peers, btw, can see things you definitely can’t, or won’t. You’re too used to yourself– this is why you think you’re handsome and that your beer belly “doesn’t look that bad.” (Neither of which have anything to do with being awesome, but you get my point.) Other people will always see you better than you can see yourself.

Do you have people around you that you can count on? Then I suggest you go ask them. Find the most awesome people you know and ask them how.

Optionally, ask Twitter. Seriously. A first impression is often just as good as someone who’s known you your whole life (speaking of which, don’t ask your mom).

If you speak to a bunch of people, and they all think you’re great, super! You might be awesome. But, then again, it’s possible that you actually have another problem. See below.

3. Your world

Ok, so first of all, your world is as big as you want it to be, so it’s not important what you choose here, with one condition.

If you are already awesome to everyone in your world, then your world needs to get bigger.

You do this by getting out of the little pond and doing new things, or having a positive influence on people outside of your sphere. You ever notice how people who volunteer (if they’re not self-righteous) tend to be fucking awesome?

I’m pretty sure there’s actually a relationship between how many people you help outside of your sphere and how awesome people inside your sphere think you are. Makes sense right?

My friend Nicole, for example, just told me about a friend of hers who helps children get out of the sex industry in Thailand. How awesome is that. And here’s what’s particularly cool about it: if you wanted, you could be them.

Seriously, it’s that easy. You can just decide to become more awesome, whichever way you want, and then look it up on the internet to figure out how. The knowledge automagically makes your world bigger, which makes you more awesome. Then you just go ahead and do that thing, which is easy because you just figured out how. Whoo!

Anyway, what was my point with this? Oh yes. Being awesome is now your new religion. Welcome to the Cult of Awesome. It’s very exclusive, but there are lots of perks.

Your job is now to look out to the wide world, and take a look at what impresses you, at what you find absolutely great, and then find ways to become more like that.

We need more awesome people in this world, and I would like you to be one of them.

Thank you for reading. Please subscribe below.

* Filed by Julien at 7:35 am under direction, humour, taking action, tips

December 1st, 2010

All social media experts "are actually the same person," Wikileaks documents reveal

Candid documents released by Wikileaks on Tuesday have revealed all social media experts to actually be “the exact same individual,” the Guardian reported.

“Paul from Miami,” as he is identified in Wikileaks documents, appears to be the source of an entire industry of Twitter experts who seemingly give the same advice and yet somehow all have over 20,000 Twitter followers each.

“This is unprecedented,” said Jason Falls, a social media expert, in comment. “Like the moon landing and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, how social media experts make money despite all having the same advice has always been guarded at the highest level. Now we finally know the truth. They are all the same person.” It is unclear whether Falls is, himself, “Paul from Miami” or an actual person.

Tensions mounted in the international community as Twitter experts worldwide called to their followers to “trust them.” Amber Naslund, who has actually been seen in person and has a real job, has been vouching for social media experts she “has met in person and knows for sure to be real.” Whether she herself is merely a pawn, or a real social media expert, remains to be seen.

#itsover was seen to be trending on Twitter, as accounts across the world discussed the impending catastrophe. The documents also revealed trust funds, spam, wealthy spouses, and jobs at Starbucks to be the top ways in which those social media experts who are real people pay their bills. Brian Solis, an expert who has been seen in many photographs and is therefore probably real, called for his industry to “engage,” mirroring the advice of many social media experts worldwide. His statement was retweeted by many, casting a spectre of doubt over many Twitter accounts who do all kind of seem to give the same advice, come to think of it.

Traffic to Wikileaks continued to soar despite DDoS assaults as unknown attackers continued to try and take down their servers this morning. “Social media experts could not be responsible for these attacks,” theorized CC Chapman, a content strategist, whatever that means. “Social media experts just don’t know enough about the internet to make it happen,” he concluded.

These allegations, and their implications, shake the very foundation of a nascent industry whose top figures have become well-known consultants and speakers at events around the world, some of which supposedly even happen in person.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange suggested more bombshells might be on the way. Speculation was rampant that “SEO experts” and “marketing gurus” might also all be sourced from a single individual, or worse, be “Paul from Miami” as well. Paranoia is on the rise.

Joseph Jaffe, a known South African social media expert and podcaster, concluded that “joining the conversation” was the only real solution to this dilemma. “We have to flip the funnel and engage, or we will never again be able to build social capital, or be part of the tribe,” Jaffe said, for some reason with a suspiciously American accent.

(With apologies to the Onion and thanks to Jay Baer.)

* Filed by Julien at 8:56 am under humour, social media

November 29th, 2010

The Quick, 12-Step Guide to Quitting That @#$%ing Job You Hate

Guess what, it’s Monday! And you’re still at that job you hate. Nice.

1. 9am. Get to the office. Go straight to the coffee machine. Hang out there for 10 minutes before heading to your desk. Dread the workweek.

2. 9:10am. Check Facebook and email, despite having just done so on your iPhone 15 minutes prior. Delay the inevitable start of an empty, energy-draining day which will leave you uninterested in social interaction, learning, and sex.

3. 10am. Look around at your co-workers. Realize that they are all either a) mindless drones, b) shriveled, pathetic versions of their former, bright selves, or c) social-climbing douchebag sociopaths. Question the purpose of your existence as you stare at your reflection in your computer monitor circa 1995.

4. 10:05am. Realize how much longer you’ve been at this job than what you intended, awakening in you a horrible, hateful anger which had until now remained dormant like a sleeping dragon for longer than you thought was possible.

5. 10:10am. Begin shaking in rage. Pop a blood vessel in your eyeball. Briefly choke the telephone as if it were some unknown person’s neck before regaining your composure.

6. 10:30am. Analyze options. Consider that, perhaps, you could ask for a transfer to another department or another city. With horror, become conscious that everytime you’ve spoken to them on the phone, they seemed even more brain-dead than the mouth-breathing sycophants in Human Resources.

7. 10:45am. Think back to the time you were offered the cool job with the startup downtown. Have dark thoughts about the we-need-you guilt-tripping that was done to prevent you from quitting. Attempt and fail to slit your wrists with a stapler. Finally acknowledge that you will have to either quit, or throw yourself off the roof, this week. It’s a toss-up.

8. 11am. Awaken to the reality that you may still have much to live for. Recall that time you wanted to work on that documentary or be in that punk band. Realize the guitar is still in the basement, and that no one has yet tried out the website idea you had that your girlfriend was excited about.

9. 11:10am. Start a list of the worst things that could happen if you quit right now. Finally acknowledge the possibility that it wouldn’t actually be that bad, despite how anxious you are about it. Picture yourself on your deathbed.

10. 11:20am. Ask yourself if you can live without your daily soy non-fat latté, your gourmet BLT with aioli mayo, or your 100% pure fruit 2pm snack bar. Ask yourself if starving for a few months is better or worse than being here and simply starving on the inside.

11. 11:30am. Realize that, fuck it, you’re better than that. Walk into your boss’ office and quit with dignity.

12. Noon. Emerge from boss’ office, possibly glowing. Go to lunch. Begin your new life.

* Filed by Julien at 6:54 am under guide, humour, parody, rant