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I’m Rob. Thanks for being here. Let’s do this.
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Caring is not an easy subject.
Of course, in theory it’s damn easy.
Care about the people you love.
Care about the work you do.
Care about the life you live.
And yet, caring comes with so many drawbacks.
Let’s talk about supervillains for a second here.
Here’s my theory about why villains are more interesting than heroes.
It’s not because they look cooler (which they often do).
It’s because of their motivations and backstories.
A superhero often has a backstory and powerful motivation, sure.
But in a way it’s often very… moral.
A superhero often stands for something good and righteous.
While a supervillain is often an idealistic person who’s taken things too far.
Or who’s gone through a tremendous level of disappointment and pain.
This is why I like the Batman but I love the Joker.
One is a damaged kid who wants to protect everyone at the expense of himself.
The other wants to prove anyone can go mad on a particularly bad day.
You can’t argue with the first one.
But the second one really makes you think.
Now, here’s the kicker: I think both come from a position of caring.
The problem is, of course, when you end up caring too much.
Because you open yourself to a variety of things you may not control.
Batman cares so much he doesn’t mind if he dies in the process.
The Joker is a bit more complicated, because of his multiple inconclusive backstories.
But in one of them, he cared so much about comedy and his wife that he went mad.
Which brings me to Martha Nussbaum, who said:
“You should care about things in a way that makes it a possibility that tragedy will happen to you.”
There is something in this idea that punches me right in the gut.
I’ve always associated anxiety with caring, and now I know why.
It’s because they’re interlinked.
If you don’t care about anything, technically nothing can make you suffer.
Of course, human nature doesn’t really work that way.
Even those who “don’t care” are often just hiding a past moment where they did care.
But there is something incredibly wise about this threshold of caring.
And about accepting the consequences of caring.
Caring so much that you accept tragedy may happen.
I am now engaged to my best friend of almost 14 years.
I care deeply about her.
But tragedy would come if we couldn’t be together anymore.
I care deeply about marketing and advertising.
But tragedy comes when I feel I didn’t go a good enough job at it.
Or when I see all the bullshit that discredits an industry I otherwise respect.
I care about people bringing their quirky selves to work (myself included).
But tragedy comes when that isn’t met with respect by their peers.
Now, do any of these tragedies invalidate the importance of caring?
Of course not.
And yet, how many of us build an armour to protect us from tragedy nonetheless?
This is not a critique, it’s an observation of human nature.
I know I’ve spent so many years building my own armour.
Fuck, I often spot myself still building parts of it.
But I’m also trying to dismantle other parts of it.
Our present emotional protections always come from a sort of past trauma.
And the higher the level of protection, the less we expose our level of care.
And yet, without this level of care there is so much we collectively lose.
Because caring and tragedy go hand in hand on all things involving creativity.
High risk, high reward I guess.
You may think of it as a reason to not want to play the game anymore.
And that is very, very valid.
But as far as I’m concerned, there is always a trade-off involved.
A place where there’s not much care might not offer a lot of tragedy.
But it’s also probably not going to yield very interesting rewards.
I think this is why so many people love agencies.
Despite all of the problems that come attached to them.
I imagine it’s also why people love the fast-paced vibe of startups.
Despite all the terrible work-life balance questions I often hear about.
It’s why the best clients have skin in the game by showing they care.
Because showing they care means they get invested in doing something different.
Which of course means it may fail, but that’s the price of trying.
Caring hurts, but only to the extent of how much it might be worth.
I’m learning that few things make me come alive more than deeply caring.
Even if that means I’ll face some level of tragedy along the way.
It’s probably not a coincidence that I relate mostly to people who live the same way.
Whether that’s friends, colleagues, peers or clients.
In case of doubt, dare to care.
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