I just finished reading a great book by Olga Khazan called Weird – the power of being an outsider in an insider world. I should do a post on the whole book but right now I want to focus on a specific concept. Olga wrote:
“…being in a strange land seems to liberate you from normal thought patterns.”
I’m writing this at a dive bar on Colfax in Aurora right now. Talk about a strange land. Cool thing is, I feel right at home here. Not to mention this place is close to home. Its freezing in here because two days ago it was in the nineties and then it snowed yesterday and today. Nobody is ready to turn the heat on. Glen Frey is not happy. And Colorado is psycho when it comes to weather.
Back on track; one of the many things I liked about Olga’s book is that she leaves a lot open for interpretation. She writes about a concept, does research and provides third party examples and then adds her own personal experiences on top of all that. But she acknowledges everyone is different (that’s the whole point of the book) and may choose their own path, of course.
My own example would be looking at the same art with a dozen people. There will likely be twelve different reactions and perceptions. Everyone is different. Who is right? Why is any one person considered weird if they don’t conform? A strange land is easy to imagine as a foreign country. But its also a painting, a dive bar on Colfax, a bite to eat at an unfamiliar restaurant, a new card game or doing anything out of your comfort zone.
Speaking of weird, for some reason I haven’t been able to read any of David Sedaris’s books in full. But I did a MasterClass of his and loved it. One of my favorite parts was his general point about small talk and experiences. He hates small talk. That man will never ask you what you do for a living. Instead, he will ask if you know anyone in a wheelchair or if you’ve ever had to eat something really gross.
I can’t tell you how many weird questions I’ve asked people and realize a few days later I don’t even remember their name. But those questions lead to authentic and genuine conversations. Which leads to new ideas, laughter and usually something unexpected. Their name (and mine) is irrelevant, but I always remember their stories.
Zig zagging back to Olga, cuz circling is too normal, a strange land truly is liberating. People are consummate judgers and assumers. I’m guilty as charged, but I think a bit less than the average bear. And that is because besides having an open mind, I find strange places fascinating and absolutely liberating. I am free to learn something new and give the people and places I’m attached to a chance to affect me instead of me just trying to affect them.
Of course, it takes two to tango and believe me you, I’m a blabbermouth. So I give. But boy oh boy, being in a strange land and receiving is amazing. So I try to live my life that way and seek out strange lands.
In a way, that’s how we operate at Explore Communications. We are not like any other media planning and buying shop. Some people are frightened of that. Our clients however, love that we will find ways to connect to their tribe (consumers) in a way that is relevant and also unexpected. We find new ways to do old tricks. Nothing is impossible. And we will never provide cookie cutter media recommendations – we are constantly planning and seeking new and innovative ways to help our clients achieve their goals.
Patterns can be comforting. But breaking a thought pattern can lead to unexpected great things. As photographer DeWitt Jones says, “There is always another way.” I think one of Olga’s points is to not be afraid to do it your own way.
Here’s to strange lands and breaking free from normal thought patterns. And here’s to Olga Khazan for a great book that clearly has my mind spinning. Bartender, another round!