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Be So Stupid They Cant Ignore You

I had an idea for a business. This was 1993. I was going to take videos of houses for sale.

I would charge a real estate agency per house I videotaped. I was going to get rich. Rich!

Customers of the agency would no longer have to go to the house. They could just go to the agency and watch the video.

I went to six real estate agencies and they actually laughed at me and said no thanks. That was the end of that business idea.

Heres what I didnt have:

  • A video camera
  • Any video skills whatsoever. I never had taken a video before.
  • Zero sales ability. I had never tried to sell anything before.
  • Zero money. I had no idea how I would buy a video camera.
  • Zero knowledge. Did the real estate agency have VCRs?
  • I didnt have a car. How was I going to drive miles around to every house?

I didnt know anything. I didnt have anything. I had no resources.

I gave up.

Today Im meeting with a company that does virtual reality tours of houses. Theyve signed up one of the largest real estate agencies in the world.

Does this mean I should have been persistent?

Of course not.

Ready. Fire. Aim.

Thats the ONLY way you can learn, not waste time, move on to the next experience.

Stupidity is the rungs on the ladder to success.

So then I applied for a job at a comic book store. I loved comics.

We dont really have enough business to hire people, the guy at the comic book store told me.

I wrote four or five novels (I honestly forget) that never got published.

I had them printed up and I saved them for over 20 years. You never know!

Recently I threw them all out. Gone forever. Should I have been persistent?

Of course not! They were horrible.

After I left graduate school, I wanted to have an interesting experience. I tried to move into a homeless shelter.

To be honest, I was so down on myself I thought the best way to meet women would be in a homeless shelter.

It would be like a college dormitory, I thought. Only everyone would be homeless. And lovable.

The manager at the homeless shelter thought I was too crazy to live in a homeless shelter. He said, No.

Persistence is overrated.

If they had said, yes, to me working at the comic book store then I probably wouldnt today be about to interview one of my favorite all time singers.

If the gatekeepers had published any of my novels Id be a struggling and unhappy writer.

If I stayed in graduate school, I dont know. Id have spent nine years working on a useless Phd thesis instead of interviewing prostitutes at 3 in the morning for HBO.

If they said yes to me living in the homeless shelter then maybe today Id be homeless. Come to think of itI do have no home right now. I just stay in short-term AirBnBs.

I could have tried harder. I could have resisted all the Nos. I could have resisted and struggled and fought. But why?

Resistance is the opposite of persistence.

It blocks you into thinking there is only one thing that will make you happy. This is the worst disease and its chronic.

So many people I talk with are unhappy because someone, at some point, blocked some thing they were working on. Like a blockage in the artery that prevented the heart of success.

They get obsessed with this blockage. They cant stop thinking about it. They get angry. They cant forgive. They cant forget.

They get stuck. The No they got ended up defining them.

Persistence in having many experiences is more important than having persistence in one experience.

The other day I saw a guy playing a piano in the middle of the street. I asked him what he was doing there.

Living the dream, he told me. Living the dream.

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You Say These 20 Words All The Time, But Did You Know That They’re Trademarked?

Back in 2014, representatives from the Mormon church’s intellectual property agency Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (IRI) moved to trademark the word Mormon after seeing what they deemed improper usage on religious dating sites.

But can they do that? As it turns out, they can. In fact, hundreds of everyday words are protected under trademark laws.

Do you call the baggies that hold your kids’ school lunches Ziploc bags? Do you call that stuff we all love to pop when the mail comes Bubble Wrap? Then you’re using trademarked words. That’s all well and fine for conversational purposes, but such words can’t be used commercially by brands that don’t own them. They’re called genericized trademarks, and these are a few of the ones we use all the time.

1. Ziploc Bag


“Can you get me a Ziploc bag?” is a question that came out of my own face last night after dinner. Although we use it to refer to every plastic storage bag in existence, it’s actually owned by S.C. Johnson & Son.

2. Bubble Wrap


This term is actually owned by the Sealed Air Corporation, which is really a thing. I cannot in good conscience sit here and tell you to use “inflated cushioning” in its place, so be a rebel and say the trademarked version with reckless abandon.

3. Ping-Pong


SOP Services trademarked this bad boy back in 1931. Table tennis is the generic alternative, but who actually says table tennis? No one.

4. Chapstick


If you want to keep using the word Chapstick to describe lip balm, just know that the people behind Wyeth LLC will come for you. (Just kidding. They don’t care that much.)

5. Crock-Pot


All of those Food Network chefs don’t say “slow cooker” to sound fancy. They do it so they don’t get sued for calling it a Crock-Pot, which is a term owned by Sunbeam Products, Inc. Personally, I think it’s a crock of…well…you know.

6. Popsicle


Leave it to late capitalism to slap the joy of summer right out of your hands! Popsicle is owned by Conopco, Inc. Now go cry into your ice pop.

7. Realtor


If you think you’re a Realtor and you don’t work for the National Association of Realtors, then I’m here to tell you that you’re not. Real estate agent? Yes. Everything is a lie, my friends.

8. Rollerblade


Say “inline skates” like a damn fool next time you want to avoid using Tecnica Group S.p.A.’s widely used “rollerblades” and see how many side-eyes you get in response.

9. Super Hero


Say what you want about the Marvel versus DC Comics situation, but let me just add that DC owns the rights to Super Hero. Do with that information what you will. Marvel fans can opt for superhero, which is the less cool generic version.

10. Taser


Taser International, Inc. owns the rights to this one. You could say “electroshock weapon,” or you could just not.

11. Styrofoam


The generic term for Styrofoam, which is trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company, is polystyrene foam, thus making it the best and most hilarious one of all.

12. Onesie


Contrary to popular belief, the word Onesie was not invented by a 13-year-old who thought they were really, really clever in doing so. You can thank the actual professionals at Gerber Childrenswear LLC for that.

13. Band-Aid


This is the response that those in the know tend to use by default when asked, “What in the actual hell is a genericized trademark?” Generic? Adhesive bandage. Trademark? Band-Aid. Whatever, Johnson & Johnson.

14. Velcro


If you want to stay hip with the kids, don’t say “hook-and-loop fastener” under any circumstances. Velcro might be owned by Velcro Industries, but they can’t hold us down.

15. Dumpster


“Put anything you don’t want in the front-loader waste container,” said no one ever. The folks at Dempster Brothers, Inc. just want us to fail.

16. Hula Hoop


In order to create an alternative for Wham-O’s Hula Hoop, the universe enlisted some help from the least creative person to have ever lived. The resulting term? Toy hoop.

17. Lava Lamp


Just know what if you ever say “liquid motion lamp” to describe a Lava Lamp in any context, I will come for you. Don’t let Mathmos own you. Scream this genericized trademark from the rooftops.

18. Super Glue


This, my friends, is the mother of all generic terms: cyanoacrylate adhesive. Screw it. I’m never saying Super Glue again. You’re welcome, Super Glue Corporation.

19. Aspirin


Next time you have a headache, ask someone if they can get you some acetylsalicylic acid. When they respond with, “Aspirin?” tell them that their ass is getting sued by Bayer.

20. Escalator


If you want to sound like your mom when she says, “the Facebook,” call an escalator a moving staircase. If nothing else, you’ll keep the Otis Elevator Company from breathing down your neck.

If you need me, I’ll be roaming the city streets screaming “BUBBLE WRAP” from the top of my lungs, and if I get arrested, it won’t be because the Sealed Air Corporation is mad at me.

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