When I graduated Clemson I borrowed my friend Elena’s cap. It had a paw and crossed oars which represented her well. I was a crew team drop out so I taped a sign over it that said, “Sponsored by Budweiser.”
It fit. I’d just completed 124 days in a row of having at least one alcoholic beverage at Tiger Town Tavern.
But at 22, graduating university, knowing the true things about me, in this order, were: I’m a drinker, I love Charlie, I’m a writer, and my family’s a big hot mess, I removed the sign before the processional.
My father told me to. He said professors who were considering me for graduate school may not think it was funny.
Wish I could have said that then.
My favorite part of Erika Napoletano’s brand is her vocabulary.
She cusses a lot.
And I love it.
My friend Kevin and I used to have “let’s just cuss” chats on IM and we’d lay down all the swear words we could think of.
Fuck. Holy fucking shit. Damn what a fucking shit storm.
More than just arbitrary profanity, Erika Napoletano’s vocabulary centers on one very important word: “unpopular.” She suggests that being unpopular is not synonymous with being unlikeable.
In fact, you don’t have to be liked by everybody to be successful. You just have to connect with the right people, the people who will buy your product, whatever that product is.
Charlie doesn’t like it when I cuss. Once, on the golf course, he told me my language was embarrassing. See also, How I learned to play golf in silence. Cussing makes some people very uncomfortable and I think that may be why it makes Erika unpopular.
I want to be okay with uncomfortable.
My Nana taught my cousin, who was five at the time, to say, “Please do not use profanity. It indicates that your vocabulary is inadequate.”
So is Erika’s vocabulary inadequate? Maybe.
Or maybe her language is symbolic of her rebellion and her honesty. She is entirely committed to her decision to be exactly who she is and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.
That takes guts.
Be yourself and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it takes guts.
And it could be said like this, “I’m going to be me and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem.” I like that lesson.
From a business perspective being true to yourself relies heavily on faith that there are people out there who want – NEED – what you’re selling. Otherwise, you’re polarizing yourself right out of a business.
Thanks to the internet, the world is more open than ever. Luckily, I sell a knowledge product: my skills, my stories, my know-how. The likelihood that I’ll find the audience I’m looking for is really good.
We no longer have to settle for the hometown in which we were raised. We don’t have to be polite for fear of being rejected by people that aren’t like us. The small ponds of family, school, town, even state are just that: small ponds.
Now we have a whole universe. The likelihood that you’re the only one in the universe that wants to say, “Fuck it, let’s drink,” at eleven in the morning is slim.
The likelihood of finding your kindred spirit, the person who only needs a nipple tweaked to agree that “It’s Thursday,” is as good a reason as any to start drinking at eleven a.m. is actually pretty good.
So Erika says be unpopular, but be true to yourself. And this is not a new lesson, thank you, Polonius.
But it is a hard one.
When we polarize others we risk being alone. And being alone is terrifying.
Then we get online and we see we’re never really alone. There’s always someone out there willing to say, “Fuck yeah! I love drinking while other people are working!”
Where do you come down on being unpopular? Are you willing to try it if it means being true to yourself?