Hijacking Awe: Photoshopping Fashion Models, Montages and Genius Myths

While the newsmedia is particularly good at tapping into our fears, advertisers are particularly good at tapping into an entirely different emotion: awe. Why awe? Because awe is the emotion that makes you feeeeeeeeel like you gotta have it. What’s it? Well, that’s the great thing about awe. It doesn’t matter what “it” is. You place the thing you want to sell in the context of something cool and people will buy it.

The big problem is that sometimes people will blindly copy something that is unattainable. Photoshopping models creates unrealistic expectations of beauty and young girls will make themselves sick trying to attain them.

As Katie O’Brien and me covered in the opening chapter of The Straight-A Conspiracy, this also happens in selling ideas. Although you may not realize it, the stories of geniuses like Newton, Einstein, Mozart and Edison are old advertising jingles that humanity can’t get out of its head.

Just as Steve Jobs built the Cult of Mac with himself as the central iGod figure, so Thomas Edison long before made himself the face of his team of inventors acquiring the nickname of the Wizard of Menlo Park. Did Thomas Edison invent the light bulb? Nope. It had been around for 45 years before Edison was even born. And Edison and his team of inventors had to try 10,000 different filaments before they found one that lasted. And while Edison may have died with over 1000 patents to his name that wasn’t because he invented all those things. It was because when you hire a team of inventors and pay them you make damn sure it’s your name on the patent. All of them.

And just like Michael Jackson, Mozart had a super intense stage dad who had performing from a young age. Michael Jackson was the youngest of the Jackson 5 and Mozart was the youngest of the Mozart 2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister Nannerl performed all across Europe so that by the time he was 21 Mozart had the kind of practice under his belt to perform his own masterpieces.

And Newton and Einstein…same deal. Getting the public super excited about physics is hard. That’s why Voltaire and Arthur Eddington knew you don’t sell the math; you sell the man. Voltaire made Newton an iconic figure who had figured out the mysteries of the heavens.

Eddington framed Einstein as a brilliant boy wonder challenging the ideas of Newton for new King of Physics.

All those people may now be dead but the images linger on and like a game of telephone the stories become more and more extreme. The idea is that these people were just born smart. They are magical creatures who solve the world’s problems without trying. The difference is that while no human can look like this…

You can train your brain to do the kind of incredible work that Steve Jobs, Einstein, Edison, Newton, Michael Jackson and Mozart ACTUALLY did. It’s just going to take lots and lots of practice. And work isn’t usually regarded as sexy. That’s why it gets photoshopped out. Instead, those 10,000 hours are usually covered in a montage.

Right after being born in Saudi Arabia, I was taken to the Callen house. Since then, Bryan and I have travelled the world with our Citibank fathers and somehow ended up in LA together. There we'd run into each other at family gatherings and do something that no one else in LA seemed to be doing: we talked about books. Since Bryan was kind of a big deal, Hunter and Bryan hatched a scheme to use his podcast to get on their favorite authors and professors. Out of that evolved Mixed Mental Arts and this tribe. For me, the marriage of entertainment and education is a return to how things used to be before our culture split story into two separate things. It's exciting to be able to build on the work Katie O'Brien and I did for The Straight-A Conspiracy and expand it out to every area of life. While I play a series of roles in the Mixed Mental Arts community (including Shitty Dutch Uncle and Bryan's #1 fan) my favorite role is as Toto who pulls back the curtain and let's the world see that there are no wizards...only men and women who try and puff themselves up to seem important.

One Comment

  1. Virginia Rodriguez Reply

    I think the role as Toto is great. If only everyone saw things as they really are then a lot of things would be different. Not only the way we see school and the effort we put into it but also when it comes to jobs. We wouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t satisfy us. We would push ourselves to do better and reach our goals because everyone has something they want to accomplish or simply get to a position in their life where they can be successful.

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