This was the crowning jewel of interview questions for the HR generalist sat opposite myself and two other candidates at a group interview I had a few weeks ago (for the entry-level job I didn’t get because I’m a loser…or just not swarmy enough for sales, which is the explanation my self-esteem prefers to go with). The other candidates, clearly younger, had unmemorable, generic and polite answers. Or maybe I didn’t pay attention to them because I was too busy smiling inside at my own answer.
Immediately, I recalled some of my favorite teachers from high school, who I might describe as absolutely brilliant psychopaths. Men, mid-30s and upwards, who would kick you out of class if they thought you were too stupid to waste time trying to educate. Mind, trying to enlighten and expand the minds of a bunch of sheltered teenagers from, more often than not, affluent families, about the mechanics and goings-on of the greater world beyond our palm tree-lined borders is like trying to thread drawstrings back into pants once they’ve been taken out in the dryer: you might as well be in hell. These men were fiercely intelligent, inflammatory, probably popping Xanax in between periods, and no-bullshit policy enforcers. I thought of a recent Fast Company article I read about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, spitting venom with one-liner hits like “Why are you wasting my life?” after an engineer’s presentation, or “If I hear that idea again, I’m going to kill myself.” Jeff Bezos was my high school teacher (not really, but he might as well have been for how aligned in abrasive personality he was to my ‘greats’).
So, I replied, “No BS. I don’t need to be coddled. So long as you’re being constructive, you can be honest with me, because that’s how I’m going to get better. Clearly communicate your expectations for me and I’ll meet them.” I might’ve insinuated some leeway to being publicly humiliated by my prospective employer, but I’m already fucked up from my high school teachers to now gravitate toward people who are real-life variants of Penelope Cruz’s character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona: volatile, snarky geniuses.
Now I’m reading an article called Riding the Hashtag in Social Media Marketing, which more or less documents the “pluck, ubiquity and charm” of Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia. He sounds like someone I could work for, not least of all because I want to get into the social media business. But I realize that I do this a lot: I find companies I want to apply for by reading articles about people who work there (or own everything and everyone in these companies). I pick the culture and the people above the work. I think about personalities like Mugatu from Zoolander, or Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, and I think, “I’d make a great indentured servant to someone brilliant like that, pillaring their vision and genius with my blood, sweat and tears.” Somehow, in my demented and warped mind’s eye, that’s how you get to the top. You build the pyramid for them and then boot their ass off the very top of it once you’re done, also known as learning the tricks of the trade from a great mentor and building your own empire from the ground up. Sure, it might be emotionally scathing, mentally exhausting, and not worth your youth to do so, but how I’ve made it through these infinite failures and months of hopelessness is by meditating on one thing and one thing only:
These were the scenes that came to mind. Did I mention I’m a masochist?