Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Objects in mirror are farther than they appear

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Maybe you see a hair out of place, a new pimple, and bloodshot eyes. Or maybe you see your nice, straight, white teeth clearly through laser-corrected eyes. Why did you look in the mirror in the first place? Humans have been looking at themselves since the dawn of time. We've used pools of water, polished stone, metal, silvered glass, and more recently (and somewhat annoyingly) selfies to see what we look like. Looking in the mirror, we see how we believe to appear to others. We use the mirror's image to check our appearance and maybe make slight alterations such as combing our hair or applying makeup.

Now ask someone else what they see when they look at you. You may get varying answers, hopefully polite, but almost always different from what you see in the mirror. The closer you are to someone the farther their description of you varies from your own. A stranger, having no other frame of reference will likely start with your hair and eye color. You may get a "nice smile" and "kind eyes" from someone or perhaps a "dangerous looking mole" in the statistically unlikely event that your target stranger happens to be a dermatologist. Friends and family are more likely to go beyond the superficial. Some of them may obliquely relate to your outward appearance such as "I see your father" (or mother, grandparent, etc.) but those who are close to you probably see you in terms of an anecdote. They may tell you that, 30 years later, they still see the scared child who fell out of a treehouse and broke a leg, or the person who rescued a stray litter and found homes for all the puppies. Ask someone from your innermost circle what they see when they look at you and you probably won't get anything related to your appearance - "I see the person I fell in love with."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Applause goes here

Finally, a post that isn't about travel... I think I'm home for the next couple of months.

I've been catching up on my TV watching, a pastime very important to me as you well know. I was watching a show that featured a character who was one of those kinda creepy (aka very creepy) motivational speakers. At one point, he goes out on stage at one of his shows and although he hasn't yet said a word the crowd goes wild, clapping, whistling, and cheering for him. Another program that I frequently watch has a live studio audience that chants the host's name for several minutes at the beginning of the show. There are quite a few shows like that and I am aware that a large part of that is the warm-up guy, prepping the audience for what's about to happen and whipping them into a frenzy for the host, especially since they've usually been waiting in line for several hours for 30-60 minutes (21-42, after the all important commercials) worth of entertainment. It's got to be a huge rush for those guys on stage though.

It wasn't exactly a stage and it wasn't a late-night network chat-show, but I got my very first public-speaking gig last year. I was contacted by this company and we worked on the proposal a bit, then they flew me out on their dime, put me up in a hotel on their nickel, and gave me a microphone and 60 minutes in front of an audience. I was even interviewed on-camera about it. As my gig approached, I tried to get them to play 'Eye of the Tiger' as I came out, but they gave me some excuse about rights management and it didn't happen. I didn't get the huge ovation or chanting either, partially because nobody knew who I was, but also because there was only one person in the audience. I think she was from Antigua or one of the other Lesser Antilles so, even though she spoke English, I tell myself that she just wasn't familiar with our celebrity-worshiping customs. Still.

I didn't get to experience the huge rush that those professionals get, but I caught a glimpse. The TV shows just recently reminded me of it. I started thinking how great it would be if everyone got that. It's not exactly love that the audience is giving them, there's approval and acceptance directed at the stage, with caring and joy with affection thrown in for good measure. Can you imagine if that happened to you on a daily basis? It wouldn't fix every rotten thing in your life, as one recent celebrity tragedy in particular has pointed out, but it would still be pretty fookin' great (tm). Maybe you don't have a daily audience of millions, or even thousands or hundreds. Maybe it's just that you don't have them yet or maybe you never will, and that's OK. But what would it take, what would you have to do to have your audience cheer for you and chant your name when you walk in the room? If you did that thing (or stopped doing that bad thing) maybe your audience would grow a little bit every season and word of mouth might catch on, as two of your fans tell two of their friends, and so on. And even if you never fully capture that all-important 18-34 demographic, wouldn't it be awesome?

Try it.
And when you're in someone else's audience, cheer wildly for them too.
Let me know how it goes.