Mouth To Mouth

I couldn’t wait to tell you about this book until I figured out where it was going. I was so disappointed.

And then…

“Mouth to Mouth” is not a big commitment, it’s only 188 pages long, and the chapters are short. This is a book for everybody, especially those who never read.

I don’t know if you’re following the Sam Bankman-Fried controversy. I’m not talking about the crash itself, but the man, he recently said:

“‘I’m very skeptical of books. I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that,’ explains SBF. ‘I think, if you wrote a book, you f..ked up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.'”

SBF is exactly the kind of guy who should read “Mouth to Mouth.” As for brevity… Explain it to me when people binge streaming TV shows for days. That and the short attention span, another baked-into our culture concept that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that people have no tolerance for mediocre anymore, not even good, when great is readily available at their fingertips. But finding it is harder than ever, ergo the constant surfing of sites. As for conversations… I only wish I could cut off most of them I have. Either someone is not forthcoming about the truth, or they’re boring you silly with something that you’re completely uninterested in. You know, they say it’s important, you’re focused, and as it goes on endlessly you realize this is a minor matter that only affects the speaker, and even they won’t remember it!

But, “Mouth on Mouth” is all about a story.

“He leaned back like someone who was used to being listened to.”

There are power dynamics at play, especially with guys. If you’ve got money, a big title, people will give you time they won’t give to anybody else, even their close friends. They’re afraid of insulting you because…exactly why? They feel that this person will drip opportunities, when almost always this is not the case. However, some people are natural raconteurs, they tell a good story, like the guy in this book.

Jeff’s telling his life story.

And all the hype is that you don’t know where the book is going…until you do.

But it’s not only plot. Just when you think you’re reading a book sans calories, there’s a rumination on working, on power, on success.

“They’ve gotten where they are by applying themselves patiently to a system, they’ve made their way up the ladder by being careful, being diligent, working hard. It’s fine for them, but it’s also sad. Because they think it will eventually lead them to the top.”

I marvel at this, people who drink the kool-aid, not realizing they’re a cog in the machine, and are completely expendable. I read about these people who make it to the top, working for one company… Let me tell you, that’s the exception. If you’re working for the man gain knowledge and go out on your own.

I heard this from an old ski buddy who worked at what was then one of the Big Six accounting firms. The world has shrunk since then, there’s been consolidation, just like in the record business, and the moniker of the firm that employed him still exists, but this guy told me being a CPA is just a launch pad, to be entrepreneurial. He looked down on those that never left the firm.

This is what is said by the big boss in “Mouth to Mouth”:

“‘The way I see it either you’ve got it or you don’t. True for artists, collectors, dealers, everyone.'”

And then he says:

“‘These schmucks out there,’—he pointed toward the hallway—’do not have it. Aren’t about to get it, either. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em, I mean they keep the lights on around here, but they are the products of a very specific genus of bureaucracy. They’ve gotten where they are by applying themselves patiently to a system, they’ve made their way up the ladder by being careful, being diligent, working hard. It’s fine for them, but it’s also sad. Because they think it will eventually lead them to the top.'”

And then the boss twists the knife: 

“‘but in my view it also represents the American tendency—the human tendency—to turn everything into f..king ladders, to take the wild, untethered world, always a blink away from chaos, with death staring us down, and instead focus on and put faith in a so-called career path, you know, résumé building, that garbage.'” 

And then the piece-de-resistance:

“‘They tell each other to keep the faith. What faith? We do what we want, Jeff, or we’re nothing.'”

Ain’t that America, school programs you to be a subservient worker bee when there’s a ruling class that doesn’t buy all of this hogwash. In my day, these people rarely graduated from college. Those who jumped through the hoops became doctors or lawyers, played it safe.

And it is different now. If for no other reason than you need a college degree to become a receptionist. But for every Mark Zuckerberg who drops out of Harvard and becomes a billionaire, there are many Elizabeth Holmeses, maybe sans the law-breaking, but whose endeavors end up in failure.

But people don’t want to hear all this, it disillusions them.

It comes down to your upbringing. And you don’t need to be rich to have all this drilled into you, oftentimes you just need a parent who was screwed by the system and then decided to go their own way.

But maybe that’s all b.s. Maybe being a nice, moral, human being is the route to happiness. That’s the question the book raises, and despite the words above it’s not absolutely clear which side the author is on, different people could read “Mouth to Mouth” and arrive at completely different conclusions.

Just to lay out a bit more wisdom…

This one stopped me in my tracks. Because I encountered it every day when I still responded to e-mail from unknowns:

“Or was she one of those people who had no capacity for self-awareness, someone so sure of her own success that a no was an affront, if only because it ran counter to what should have been obvious to anyone with a functioning pair of eyes, which was that her work was brilliant?”

People say they want an honest response, a critique of their music. But beware, if you say anything negative, they go BERSERK! Not only do they say they disagree, they start to trash you personally. They bring out the big knives and go for it. I mean you’re great at something, maybe it isn’t music, no matter how hard you’re trying. Sure, history is littered with late term successes who would never give up, but those are the rare exceptions. As Bonnie Raitt told me, she stopped listening to unsolicited cassettes, because she never found a good song. And nobody who ever e-mailed me for a critique, who I responded negatively to, HAS EVER broken through. Oh, I don’t want to get into a definition of success. If they’re happy where they are, fine, I don’t care, but they never are.

And then there are those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth:

“‘Chloe was one of those people who go after everything they want, without hesitation and without calculating the potential challenges. Because that wasn’t something I did readily, I saw it as a sign of maturity rather than what it was, which was the result of a lifetime of entitlement.'”

My parents always told me what a s..thead I was. How there was always someone better. Yeah, those who believed they were entitled to success and went for it.

And don’t tell me I’m being contradictory here, who cares, that’s the point of the book, to raise the questions.

So what you’ve got here is two guys. Kind of like “My Dinner With Andre,” but in this case only one speaks.

Jeff sits down and starts telling a story, he’s unburdening himself, and the tale is so interesting that the other guy rarely interjects.

How’s it all gonna play out?

Not exactly the way you think it is.

And that’s why you should read “Mouth to Mouth.”

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