JTBL #18: How a Marketing Apprenticeship Forced Me to Face My Fears and Silence My Inner Critic
Three months. I made it. We made it.
It's been just under a year since I originally took off from Helsinki. Through Hungary, Serbia, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, my year has culminated in Barcelona, in a marketing internship for Thrive Themes working under the expert guidance of Shane Melaugh.
I've faced some tough challenges in my life, some real mindbenders. But they didn't even begin to hold a candle to my tribulations during these three months.
"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." -Phil Jackson
What exactly happened? A marketing apprenticeship is what - a few copywriting exercises and a landing page?
How then did I end up facing the angers I had hidden away in the deepest, darkest passages of my subconscious?
This is one of the toughest blog posts I've written.
It all started in Barrio Gotico with some broccoli and a pair of pants.
Letting the Bottled Up Weird Loose
My escape from Finland was fueled largely by the thought that I needed to get shit done myself - that otherwise nothing would happen. So I don't have much experience working with others, because I've yet to find people who keep up with me.
That's not a boast, btw. I have an insatiable need to keep challenging myself and push my limits. It would be so much easier to be satisfied with something less. So often I find people who are willing to just give up and be satisfied with less than what they truly want.
So when I met my colleagues in Barcelona, I felt like I had run into a room full of marketing soulmates.
I was so overjoyed and excited that I openly let loose with my odd habits. I was sure they could handle it. After all, we were of the same kin.
Like a true social recluse, I hadn't considered that they might not be so instantly trusting as I am, and my strange habits were met with a raised eyebrow. My social calibration was a bit off.
It's not like I was purposely being weird, though. I'd just been living under a rock for so long, that some of my habits aren't perhaps the most socially savvy.
Broccoli and raw eggs?
I've always liked broccoli. But for some odd reason, I seem to be the only person in the world who actually eats it raw. Cool, no harm done. Great snack. Recommended. Gets rid of sugar cravings.
Also raw eggs. Sasha Daygame recommends. Get the free range ones and wash before use. They taste horrible when you drink them plain, but they're an awesome source of protein and a bunch of other nutrients and your stomach will thank you later.
Getting comments about these habits were enough to wake up the tiny voice in my head. The same voice that used to tell me that "you're not good enough for that beautiful woman" was now telling me "you're the weird one in this team."
Formal office attire
Barcelona is hot. And with shitty Spanish engineering, the houses are fucking hot as well. And we couldn't keep the windows open because of butane-man and the street noises below. So it was ridiculously hot and noisy at the office.
I lived at a different apartment than the office, so I dressed for the morning weather, which tended to be much colder than the afternoons when the sun came out and the heat really started blazing.
Which lead to me having warm pants on in a hot office. Having a rather radiant body temperature, I was soon suffocating.
So I took my pants off to preserve work efficiency.
End of story? Nope.
I'm aware that Finnish people take nudity as a natural thing and we generally don't give a shit if someone wants to flaunt their balls or tits around. I'm aware that most other countries don't have such a liberal stance on nudity.
But I never realized the difference could be so radical. People were practically shocked by my attire. I suppose a guy pantsless (not nude, mind) in an office space was just too distracting.
"PUT YOUR FUCKING PANTS ON."
So I did.
"You're causing drama and making people feel bad," whispered the voice.
Etiquette of Meeting People
When we were roaming about town with the group, I continued on with my normal daygame routine. I hadn't realized that this behaviour might be annoying, even rude, to people who hadn't seen it before. I was after all, bouncing off like an attention deficit headless chicken every time I saw something (or someone) interesting.
It never occurred to me before. Surely it was my responsibility to keep up with any group I decide to hang around with?
Another social recluse-mindset then, I suppose: "Every man for himself."
My idea of natural approaches wasn't exactly the most commonly accepted way of meeting people. Most romantic encounters in our marketing team began at clubs, bars, pubs, and Tinder. It didn't help my case when everyone was getting dates through more traditional means of approaching, and all I had was pornhub.com and a bunch of flakes from numbers I'd collected off the street.
"You're being weird. Daygame is weird. Stop it and join the others." said the voice in the back of my head.
Repressed Bitterness Triggered by an Angry Teen
That night when psycho woman flipped haunts me to this day.
Let's clear up one thing. This woman had issues. She was poisonous company. This was obvious to me and I thought it was a good thing she left.
The others didn't see the solution quite so obvious. They saw me being a rude asshole scaring away their friend with my crude remarks and chauvinistic attitude, and understandably weren't too pleased.
I was instructed to leave the premises.
I felt that same hopeless frustration I felt through my childhood.
I remembered the times my mother blamed me for drama and anger fueled by her own issues.
I remembered dad, clueless and incapable, just letting the abuse fly and blaming me for trying to solve the issue. He was probably trying to keep the drama to a minimum, but ended up creating repressed bitterness that would take years to solve.
I saw myself back in that moment, tear in eye, desperately trying to explain that I did nothing wrong.
It all flashed in front of my eyes. We weren't going to resolve this issue that night, so I figured the best choice was to shut up and go home.
I felt like receding back into my shell.
Was I honestly cut out for this? Or should I just go back to Finland and work the security duty in the nighttime like a good little loser? ... whispered the voice.
My doubts turned to anger.
Raw feelings and thoughts spewed onto paper (see previous blogpost), blaming society and American dude for my anger.
Cataluñan Women Play the Game Better Than You
Then I met this one small feisty woman. Cute as hell and designer as well. She promised she wouldn't flake. This particular girl was cute and straight up, and she told me she totally wouldn't. ... and yet, she did.
This puzzled me, and not least for having quite enough of people disappearing like that. There was obviously something in MY behaviour that made me repulsive to these girls. I had nothing to lose, so I confronted her about it. I asked her, for the good of my social future and for the good of all womankind, to tell me what the hell I did wrong.
And she did. “You don't meet women that way,” she told me in a scolding manner. Well, I do. But asking her to be more specific, I started to understand her point. In her eyes I was just out to get women in some predatory prize-hunting fashion.
After years of learning to become closer to my true self, I felt this shouldn't be so. But ... she was right.
I was doing exactly that. Rather than finding out about people, I was hunting for prizes.
I had no trouble getting phone numbers before. Actually, I've had no trouble being a relatable guy before. But there's always been a routine. Not a canned line with a fake personality-sort of routine, but just some behaviours I had learned were correct. These things are not me and it was causing an incongruence.
An incongruence that made it seem like I was playing the predatory pick up-artist game.
I felt hopeless. After all this work, I was hitting a dead end. I had to stop and look deep into the mirror.
Then I got severely reprimanded for my blogpost by the team. It was the shocker I needed to understand that something was wrong in my way of thinking. Some prideful part of me deep inside was dragging me down.
After many meditations, a long while of self reflection and apologizing to American dude, I realized my blog post wasn't about being angry at American dude at all. I wasn't angry at the world or society's shortcomings.
I was angry at myself. To be so strange and so different, that even in this group of strange and differently brilliant people, I was the one who stood out as weird and odd.
I felt like it was all crashing down. In my mind everyone hated me, I was a hostile womanhater weirdo, I probably was gonna get fired for being an asshole towards my colleagues, all the women in the city wanted nothing to do with me and my coaching company was stuck in the mud.
Finding Sun in Southern Spain
A breath of fresh air came in the form of a weekend-trip to Marbella.
I had arranged for a long weekend in Marbella to see my family and hopefully have a bit of a relaxing time in the sun. It would give me a chance to get out of the city and see some new people. Give me a chance to stop thinking for a while.
Marbella was exactly the Spanish Hollywood I thought it was. Sports cars, insanely expensive wine restaurants, cocaine, bars, golf...
... and the most amazing Norwegian girl.
A local dude had kindly offered to take me out for a few and see the local nightlife. We'd been circling rich people-activities on golf courses and expensive restaurants, so this was a welcome change of pace.
My goal that evening was to be honest, nothing more. I asked some girls if our beers could occupy their table for a second. I politely introduced myself, not expecting to stay for long.
I nonchalantly gave into some small talk. The girls didn't seem much more than some random blondies at first.
I went through my basic small talk-schtick, questioning this girl about movies, her hobbies and interests, expecting to hear the standard dull blah blah responses.
But there was something ... different about her. She put a spin into every one of my dull questions. As if adding a slight spark of colour to everything I said. Then I realized her attire was full of random details: colourful rings and bracelets on her arms, braids in her hair, a colourful dress... and her smile was the brightest I'd seen for months.
Then something struck me. She wasn't just bluntly listening to what I was blabbering about. She was listening to me. Watching how my thoughts work. She had that sense of wanderlust in her eyes, that curiosity about how the world works.
She saw something special in me as well. This brilliant adventurer girl with the most colourful life saw something awesome in me.
I found myself becoming more and more interested in this person and what was going on in her head. She was fascinating. It was my last night in the city, but I could've spent weeks just listening to this girl.
It was the first time I looked straight into someone's eyes, brought my face right next to hers and whispered I want to have sex with her.
The effect of being bluntly honest was profound. Her eyes lit up.
Suddenly I believed in myself again.
Unfortunately the story with Ms. Sunshine was cut abruptly short for time being. I hope we'll run into each other some day.
She had returned some of the lost sunshine in my mind. A confidence that I have a place in this world and could make someone happy.
I noticed something strange on the way back, though.
The voice in my head ... was quiet.
Meditation and Reinventing My Sense of Curiosity
Back in Barcelona I thought... fuck it. I had self-reflected enough. It was time for action.
I closed my laptop and went outside. Not with an agenda in mind, but to see the world. I gave zero shits. If I had fucked everything up, I had nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing. I meditated on this at a busy park bench. My spiteful and rebellious fuck this-attitude changed into a nonchalance. Kind of a worry-free warm breeze in my mind.
Then I saw a lovely pair of buttocks swiftly making progress down Las Ramblas. As all those times before, I ran after her and said hello. But something was different. And.. something changed. A subtle, but significant change.
I suddenly had a worryfree, chilled out curiosity for the world with no need for weirdness or acting cool.
My straight up presence was powerful enough to make this girl stop and become instantly interested in me.
She was a Polish salsa dancer with the sexy butt only salsa dancers have. She invited me over to their dance rehersals.
Something was different. My pride had been completely destroyed, and something positive was growing.
Would you know, my co-workers never did hate me. They respect mistakes as part of learning and we're slowly becoming a team.
My boss didn't throw me out, but rather gave me guidelines on how to improve for next time.
I'm slowly learning that real people, the truly awesome ones... they don't give up on you. They kick you in the ass and expect you to do better next time.
American dude probably hates me for chronic foot-in-mouth disease, but perhaps we'll get along some time in the future.
I had pretty much reached the peak of what I could learn on my own. Understanding that was humbling.
It's time to stop reflecting on myself and learn from others now.