Overwhelmed by human affection – or, free hugs!

I’m terrible at befriending people. In social events I’m always that one strange lady, awkwardly hiding in the corners and looking like she definitely does not belong there. That’s me.

At work, it takes me a long time to get used to people. Work is a hard environment to try to measure social connectivity; it will vary depending on the type of company or organization you work for. If it’s a competitive environment, or one with large focus on revenues and sales, it will always be harder. People will always be suspicious of your interest in building relationships. You will also be suspicious of them.

Then I arrived at the university, my current workplace, where the goal is to help others, to educate others, to advise them and lead them. Not caring about revenue or sales, just doing everything you can to make sure they achieve success and create beautiful, worthy things. Where people are more selfless and more giving. Where the conversations flow with more honesty and acceptance. Where people will hug you out of the blue. Yes! They will just come up and hug you. I’m not kidding.

I was overwhelmed.

When it comes to friendliness and intimacy, I’m more like Americans rather than Brazilians. I tend to cringe when touched by people I don’t know well. Hugging, hand holding, playing with hair, yikes! It’s not that I dislike physical bonding; it just takes me a while to get used to it. The spontaneity of others throw me back.

But, it’s been 4 months since I’ve been with this new crowd. The friendliness and touchy-feelyness has slithered slowly into my bones. I’ve started – very awkwardly – hugging people out of the blue as well and touching their arms when we talk and other things of the sort.

My comfort zone has been breached. My bubble has been burst. I’ve become…nice!

If I’m this wary about being physically intimate with people, I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult it is for me to express my feelings. I tend to think that most people don’t care about what I have to say, that my opinion is neither relevant nor important. That my advice is disposable.

I know that that’s not true. You don’t have to tell me.

People do want to hear what I have to say. They even expect me to do it. I just never know when I’m supposed to talk or when a friend needs my help or my shoulder to cry on. If people don’t reach out to me, I’ll never know they ever even needed me in the first place.

Today, I stepped out of my comfort zone, my safety bubble. I knew that I had to say something to a friend. It was a special day and I wanted to tell her something special. I had to tell her about the fragility and scarcity of time and beg her not to waste it. I needed to give her advice about what she should expect from the next 10 years of her life. I had to let her know that she will probably receive 100 “no’s” for every “yes” and that rejection is life’s way of letting you know that you’re not there yet. You have to study more, try again, keep going. I told her to read and learn every day. To write as much as possible. I told her to be patient. I told her that if she lived to be 90, then she still had 69 years ahead of her to fuck everything up and make it all better again, thousands of times. I told her to look forward to it. It will not always be great, but it will all be worth it.

I tried to tell her this a hundred times in person, but the words never came out of my mouth. I would just stare at her for a few moments during the day, trying to get the words out, until she would start to uncomfortably shift in her chair, and I would give up.

So, I wrote it all down. I made a list of 30 things that I wanted her to know. I entitled it “30 things I really need you to know”.

What a lame-ass title. I regret that title.

I put the letter in an envelope, gave it to her and told her to read it when she got home. Today is her birthday. She turned 21. How I wish I knew all the things I wrote to her when I was her age. I hope she will read it and reflect on it.

I don’t think she will ever know how much courage and willpower it took for me to write her those things.

I tried to be selfless. I thought more about being useful to her than to stay in my comfort zone, where no human interacts with other humans and we are all shy and sad and alone.

I’m always overwhelmed by human affection. I’m afraid of it. But I know that it is the way to fully connect with those who are important to me. And if it makes a difference in someone’s life, then the effort is needed.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find me giving free hugs out on the streets some day.

Some tragedies are bigger than others

A tragedy happened recently in Brazil where dozens of people were killed in an airplane crash. Among them were the players of the Brazilian soccer team, Chapecoense

The entire country was devastated.

On Facebook, people changed their avatar to art designs that showed support to the victims and their families. For weeks others were posting about the magnitude of their pain and their sorrow and how this tragic event brought the country together. It was a collective sadness.

Companies and organizations held memorials and made all sorts of contributions to the team and the families of the players. Friendly soccer games were held to honor them, where the teams playing wore the jerseys of the Chapecó team. The country was united in the willingness to grieve and remember these victims.

It was a great tragedy.

For some reason, however, I wasn’t so struck by this tragedy like most of the country was. I wasn’t grieving, changing my avatar or posting about my sadness. I didn’t go out and buy the team’s jersey to show my support and the accident wasn’t a topic of any conversations that I held with anyone during that time.

To people around me, I seemed apathetic and cold; halfhearted. To them, it seemed that I didn’t care. I wasn’t a true Brazilian, perhaps. I had no empathy. No heart.

It’s funny how distorted people’s perception of us can be.

I cared. Of course I cared. It was a tragedy and it made me sad.

But, I just can’t understand why this particular tragedy seemed so much more important than all the others that happen every day, in every street corner, to so many families.

Families lose their children or parents or loved ones every day. They lose them to murderers and rapists and violent husbands or unexpected strangers. They lose them to drunk drivers and traffic accidents. They lose them to floods and earthquakes. They lose them to tirany and war. They lose them to cancer and AIDS and alcoholism and drugs and depression.

Families are torn apart, love is lost, lives are stained, happiness is a blur, suffering is inevitable and mourning becomes breathing.

Most of these tragedies are never known to us, for only the ones who can captivate an audience really make it to the news. Advertising is grateful.

And every time I watch something like this on TV, I cry.

Every. Single. Time.

So, to avoid crying, I don’t watch TV.

I’m not cold.

I actually care too much.

So when a national tragedy like the Chapecó accident happens, I suffer just the same. Just like everybody else.
But I think it is unfair and disrespectful to all the other people in the world who are suffering their own tragedies when one single event is so overexposed and deemed so much more important than everything else.

To me, everyone deserves the same amount of empathy and kindness. Every death deserves to be grieved.

But, to the world, it just seems that some tragedies are bigger than others.

Year Long Prayer

Jeff Buckley is an artist that admire for many reasons, some being his incredible capacity to turn poetry into music, his voice, his guitar-playing skills, his passion. He was complete. He once wrote a beautiful poem, which I have replicated at the end of this post. Inspired by his poem, I wrote the following:

Year long prayer

I pray that you will smile always at the silliest things, like the uncommon brightness of the sun, the colorfully-stained mess your child made on your wall, the crunchiness of that butter-filled toast on Sunday mornings

I pray that you will kiss your lover whole, inch by inch, skin by skin, until everything is permanently stained and scarred and tainted and branded

I pray for everlasting temporary relationships for which you will cry endless tears of sorrow and happiness

I pray for true love at least once in your lifetime, even if it doesn’t last

I pray that you will enjoy full glasses of cheap red wine of the most terrible taste with your closest friends on a boring Saturday night while laughing at nothing in particular

I pray that you will wake up the next day and swear, in the midst of a catastrophic hangover, that you will never drink again (until next Saturday, of course)

I pray that you will cry with every highly uninspired holiday commercial (tears are for the courageous)

I pray for kaleidoscopic frenzies, blinding flashing lights and hypnotic music loudly playing, forcing your body to move in its rhythm, losing yourself in an abstract dream of powerful ecstasy

I pray that you will dance in each and every opportunity

I pray that you dream and in your dreams discover the beauty of your soul

I pray that you discover the magical power of forgiveness

I pray that you understand that knowledge is the most powerful weapon you will ever handle

I pray that you will accomplish all these little things that you probably won’t remember in a little while, for we have a tendency to forget everything that matters

I pray that you become free

I pray that you see

I pray for you and me

I pray

Larissa Fernandes – 2006


Jeff Buckley’s New Year’s Eve Prayer:

You my love are allowed to forget about the Christmas you just spent stressed out in your parents house

You my love are allowed to shed the weight of all the years before like bad disco clothes, save them for a night of dancing, stoned with you lover

You my love are allowed to let yourself drown every night in bottomless wild and naked symbolic dreams

You my love in sleep can unlock your youth and your most terrifying magic and dreaming is for the courageous

You my love are allowed to grab my guitar and sing me idiot love songs if you’ve lost your ability to speak, keep it down to two minutes

You my love are allowed to rot and to die and to live again more alive and incandescent than before

You my love are allowed to beat the shit out of your television, choke it’s thoughts and corrupt it’s mind kill kill kill kill the motherfucker before the song of zombiefied pain and panic and malaise and it’s narrow right winged vision and it’s cheap commercial gang rate becomes the white noise of the world (turn about is fair play)

You my love are allowed to forgive and love your television

You my love are allowed to speak in kisses to those around you and those up in heaven

You my love are allowed to show your babies how to dance full bodied, starry eyed, audacious, supernatural and glorified

You my love are allowed to suck in every single endeavor

You my love are allowed to be soaked like a lovers blanket in the New York summertime with the wonder of your own special gift

You my love are allowed to receive praise

You my love are allowed to have time

You my love are allowed to understand

You my love are allowed to love

Woman disobey

Little man believe

You my love are a rebellion

If you’re not making great content, you’re not doing great marketing

This happened in 2011, the year I founded my former online marketing business, EuComunico. I decided that I needed to be creative if I wanted to start something new with no clients and no portfolio. I had the knowledge, but didn’t have anything to show for it. So, I decided to send an e-mail to no one else other than the guy I considered to be the BEST of the best: David Meerman Scott.

To my surprise, not only did he answer my e-mail readily, but he also agreed on lending me 15 minutes of his time for a Skype interview. Below is the original post that I published back in 2011 on my company’s now-extinguished website.

Without further ado, my first professional interview:

2961469474354.original

At the beginning of this month I had the opportunity to speak through Skype with David Meerman Scott, marketing strategist, keynote speaker and author of 7 books – including the bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR“. David’s blog – WebInkNow – is considered one of the best marketing blogs in the world, according to AdAge Power 150. David has presented speeches to companies like Cisco, HP,Microsoft, Ford Motor Company, U.S. Air Force e Dow Jones, among so many others.

And for this reason, I didn’t believe when he agreed to give me 15 minutes of his time to talk about Content Marketing. It was just enough time.

At the end of our conversation, David asked, with the politeness that’s characteristic of Americans that, in case I wrote or published something about him, that I used his full name – David Meerman Scott. Here you can see why: https://youtu.be/W0HgzS0QEY8

LARISSA FERNANDES – You are a great supporter of content as an effective way to engage clients, correct?

DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT – Yes, I’m a really big fan of content marketing, because it allows anybody: individual people or companies or non-profit organizations or governments, anybody, to reach the people that they want to reach through the search engines and through social networks when they create valuable content.

LF – When, in your opinion, did this phenomenon around content begin? I understand that the notion of content has been around for decades, but when did companies and agencies realize that content was so important in the age of the internet?

DMS – You’re right that content marketing has been around for a very long time. If you think about the Michelin Guide, that’s a print publication. That’s a form of content marketing, because it is a guide for restaurants and hotels created by a tire company. Very good example of content marketing.

In terms of the web, for the first 10 years of the internet, and I’m talking from 1995 – when the public web first exploded – into around 2005, people weren’t thinking too much about content. They were thinking about creating things like banner ads, newsletters. But content itself wasn’t very big.

I identified content marketing – although I didn’t use that term back then – as a big thing back in 2004. I wrote a book that came out in 2005 which is called “Cashing In With Content“. It’s a dated book now, it’s not appropriate so much now because so much has changed. But I was one of the first people to talk about content marketing way back in 2005. So that’s what, about 7 years ago? And at that time, people were very very skeptical, because there weren’t that many people connected to the internet yet. And it didn’t seem like something that companies should invest in.

Its only been in the last one or two years that content marketing has really taken of, and the main reason for that is because people now understand that term, “content marketing”. I’ve been talking about content marketing since 2005, but everything I was telling people to do since 2005, and I have written 7 books since then and given about 500 speeches, is that it’s all about content marketing. It’s about creating great content for your website, it’s about creating YouTube videos. Now that we’ve got social media it’s about Twitter feeds and getting a Facebook page and all of that.

There’s been people like me who have been talking about it that have helped. Some companies that naturally gravitated to it that have helped a lot. And its only been in the last year that it’s taken off as a name “content marketing”, that people in the marketplace recognize it. But they’ve been doing it for longer than they actually believe.

LF – Do you think that the fact that content marketing has had a boom in the past year has something to do with social media becoming actual means of communication between clients and companies?

DMS – I think they’re related. And the main reason why I think they’re related is because if you want to use social media as a form of marketing, one of the things that you have to have is valuable content to share using social media. So if all you’re doing is participating on Facebook and Twitter but you don’t have anything interesting that you’re creating, it’s very hard to build a following, it’s very hard to get people to engage with you.

But if you’re creating interesting videos, if you’re creating blog posts, and you’re creating photographs, charts or other types of information, and then you’re using social networks like Facebook or Twitter or other networks to share that content, then that becomes particularly valuable. And therefore I think that the rise of social networks and the rise of content marketing are kind of interrelated.

LF – On that topic, many new and usually small companies are using social media and content to get their businesses out there and to attract new clients. For people who don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience in this specific area, what traps or strategies should they avoid so they don’t scare away consumers or so that they don’t look phony?

DMS – The biggest thing, the most important thing, is that you should not create content about your company’s products and services. The reason I say that is because you actually need to think about who are the people that you’re trying to reach. Who are the people that you want to contact. And then you need to understand what problems those people have that you can help to solve. And you need to understand how they think. Then you need to create the content with them in mind.

So it’s very much like journalism. I actually call it brand journalism because when you’re creating content marketing you’re actually thinking like a journalist and creating content like a journalist. And it needs to be valuable for the readers. But most marketing people are very bad at that. What marketing people are skilled at is creating content about their products and about their services. But again, that’s not what people are looking for and that’s not going to be successful – if you’re only creating content about your products and services.

LF – There are many tools and platforms that help professionals organize and schedule content for social networks, blogs and websites, such as Hootsuite. Something that I have noticed here in Brazil is that professionals tend to schedule most of the content. Sometimes a week in advance, two weeks in advance, a month. Do you think this is a proper way to work? And do people notice when there are many programmed posts and tweets? Can they pick it up, that the content wasn’t created at that specific moment?

DMS – I think people do pick it up. If you send a scheduled tweet you have to be willing to react if somebody comments back to you. I think it’s OK sometimes to use a scheduled piece of content. I sometimes do a scheduled blog post, if I want to release a blog post at a particular time. I might do it myself. But it’s a good idea to make sure that if you do that, that you’re prepared if somebody comments that you can comment back, if they tweet back to you that you tweet back to them.

However, I think what’s really important is that every day, every hour, every minute there is something happening in social networks that you can comment on. So if your only strategy is to think two weeks ahead of time, you’re not living in the moment, you’re not living in “right now”. It’s right now when things are happening. So I think that companies who are only focused on long-term planning are much less successful than the companies that create content and use social networks to create information that’s going to be valuable right now.

LF – In that perspective, what kind of professionals do you think should be doing social media and content. Should the companies do it themselves? Should they hire someone specifically for that job? Should they hire a web company, an agency? It’s so new that people don’t know yet how to organize that part of their strategy.

DMS – I think that the most valuable person you can hire for your company is a journalist. I think that companies should all have journalists on staff. I actually think having a journalist is more important than having a marketer. So what I recommend to companies is that they hire either a former newspaper reporter or a former magazine reporter or even a former broadcaster or somebody who does television.That should be the person who creates the content. I’m not saying that should be the person who is active in social media. Maybe you could have somebody else active in social media. But a journalist is the one who should be creating your blog posts. A journalist is the one who should be creating your research reports.

Again, like I mentioned earlier, the most important thing in content marketing is you need to create content that is valuable for your audience. You need to be a storyteller. And a journalist is a professional storyteller. So I think companies should have journalists on staff. Either full time, if you’re a larger organization, or you if you’re a really big organization you can have many journalists. If you’re a smaller company, you can have a part-time journalist that you pay on an hourly basis or once a week. But that’s the right person to create content.

LF – Something that I notice here in Brazil is that people tend to focus on social media as the solution. In the past year and a half we have had social media courses, specialization courses and MBAs in Social Media. We have social media professionals and social media agencies. It seems like the use of social media is more important than the content that is created. Brazilian companies hire what we call coolhunters or trendhunters more often than journalists, writers and copywriters. Have you observed this in other countries? Is it because both things: content and social media, are so new?

DMS – Yes. I think it happens because it’s so new. And I think that companies that really dig into it realize that hiring people who aren’t skilled at creating content is not going to work effectively. By the way, you mentioned copywriters. Copywriters are the worst people to be creating content. Because they are people who are good at talking about products and services. And products and services are not the right thing you should be talking about when you’re creating content marketing. So the right people to hire are journalists.

You do need to have somebody to help create your social media strategy and execute with social media. But like I said earlier, there’s a combination of creating great original content and then sharing it through social media and that’s incredibly effective. Much more effective than just social media by itself without the content creation.

LF – In a perfect world all companies will try to communicate with their clients the best way possible through the internet. How do you think companies and public figures can stand out, when you’re competitors are already doing a great job at communicating with their clients?

DMS – I don’t think every company is going to do this. Just like every company doesn’t do television advertisement, every company doesn’t do other forms of marketing. I think that for a very long period of time going forward, everybody who creates great content will be rewarded because there are so many different marketplaces out there.

Anyone of us is in a niche market. We create some particular product, and we may have some competitors, but  when people are looking for our type of product the goal should be to just be the best content marketers to create the best information in our particular marketplace. You don’t have to create the best information in Brazil, you just need to create the best information about automobile tires – if you’re in that business – and that’s a lot easier than trying to compete with everybody. I think there’s room for great content, just like there’s room for many newspapers and television stations. I think there’s room for many companies to create great content.

The perks of dreams

What do I want?

Some people dream of building a balloon. They want to travel the world or maybe just next door. Some want to cure cancer or AIDS and some just want to get rid of myopia. There are a few who dream of playing at the World Cup and others wish they can be healthy enough to play ball with their friends next Saturday. Some people dream of dancing like Michael Jackson and others just wish they could loosen up at a party. Some people want to pilot planes or run for Formula 1, others just want to be able to pay for this year’s family vacation or trade their old noisy car for a newer one.

Some people dream of having 5 kids, some are happy and fulfilled with a few nephews. Some people want to be rich, others just want enough. Some people want to swim at the Olympics, others wish they could see the sea for the first time. There are some who want to live to be 100, others wish their loved ones could live forever. Some people dream of having a million friends, others prefer as many as they can call every week. Some people don’t want anything and there’s all kind of people out there.

Some people wish to be loved, others are afraid to be touched. Some people dream of hearing their first I love you, some wish they hadn’t waited so long to say it. Some people dream of having the wedding of the century, others are happy living their entire lives just having that one person to talk to every day. Some people want to be big, some dream small. Some people want to grow up, some wish it hadn’t happened.

What do you want?

What I want, I will.