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The dumb shit is what people remember, so lean into the dumb shit

Let me cue this up for you in this way.

A couple of weekends ago, I had to attend the funeral of a good friend of mine. He was a few days shy of his 36th birthday when he passed. Not great. You can learn a little more here or here.

I’m 36. (Bout to be 37.) I would honestly say one of the biggest honors of my life was his brother coming up to me and asking me to do the final toast at the reception. The kid’s nickname is Squid, and a lot of people at the reception didn’t know why that was his nickname. So I was supposed to tell that deal. Thing is, that’s not a funny story.

If I’m going to end this reception, I’m going up with a couple of funny stories. I mean, that’s what he would have wanted, and that’s what people in a conference ballroom after a funeral want. Some levity.

So I got this one funny story on him, right? (I actually used about five.) But this one story a bunch of people related to me after he died. Let’s run it.

About summer 2001, we were at a party. My now-deceased friend is working security for Georgetown that summer. Basically from 4pm to midnight, he walks around checking on buildings, etc. He has a walkie-talkie on. He can go out (not supposed to drink but does), but he has to respond to walkie-talkie calls.

At this particular party, about 10 of us are in a conversation circle. The walkie goes off. “Unknown male near Copley, potentially pursuing female on way home.” We all stop talking. There’s about a two-second beat. Squid picks up the walkie, looks at us, and silences it. “Someone else can get that. I want to drink with my friends.”

OK, so first thing: hopefully that girl was OK.

Second: at the funeral reception, that got a good reaction.

Third: that happened 16 years ago. When it happened, it took approximately five seconds to play out. A decade and a half later, when one of the people in that story died, I’d say 8 of the people in that circle contacted me with that story.

It’s dumb shit. A moment in time.

But that’s what people remember.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s two quotes from some Northwestern research on “telling your story:”

The CEO relates how he once spent an entire summer cultivating a giant, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through a contact at a global consumer-packaged-goods company. On their fourteenth phone call, he grew impatient.  When he finally asked his contact when her company would be signing the contract, she informed him that she was an intern.

OK, so No. 1: that CEO should be fired.

No. 2: I bet he uses that story at every trade show/convention ever. And I bet everyone remembers him because of it. Now maybe they remember him as a buffoon they can exploit, sure. But they remember him. And since we live in the Attention Economy, that’s some positive shit.

Also see this:

“The dopier the story, the more people may groan—but years later they remember it,” Petersen says. “I will meet people 5, 10, 15 years after [presenting information] and they do not remember the specific data, but that stupid story I told them years ago has rooted itself in their brain.”

This seems like a huge “no shit” comment to me. No one cares about all the stats in your deck. They won’t remember those eight minutes after they walk out of the room. But tell a dumb story, something different, off-kilter, skid-leaning, yea? That will be remembered.

Learn to be uncomfortable

A lot of life is, frankly, a cluster fuck. No one really knows what in the shit they’re doing most of the time. We all try to follow some model or “be a good person,” but a lot of us have done weird stuff to our ass or someone else’s. I mean like, this is just reality. Sorry if I surprised you.

Because there’s a high level of uncomfortable-ness in society but we kinda push it down and try to lead our curated best selves bullshit, I think that when you find someone who can really take a bath in being uncomfortable, you’re like “Whoa, I remember that person!”

I actually often try to live my life this way. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself successful. But I’m out here doing something, I ‘spose.

Lean into the skid. Talk about the uncomfortable shit. Throw out the dumb shit into the world. Be memorable.

Seems like as good a plan as any, right?

Now turn off your walkie and go drink some beers with your friends.

Ted Bauer

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