Let’s Be Zombies

If you partake in cocktail blogs, then you may have seen Darcy O’Neil’s declaration that cocktail blogging is dead. If not, then I’ll sum it up for you by saying he makes a compelling case via declining traffic, re-ranked Google search results and the disappearance of low-hanging fruit. I enjoy Darcy’s writing and sympathize with his struggles, but if cocktail blogging is dead, then I’m a zombie because, well, I’m still here.

The problem I have with Darcy’s argument — and with the argument of anyone who’s ever claimed such-and-such is dead — is that what’s really being said is “such-and-such, as we know it today, cannot continue unchanged.” To some this might just come across as some hand-waving semantics BS, but the distinction is not trivial. All things change, and self-expression is no different.

So while I agree with his that the traditional cocktail blog, with its Manhattan recipes and Top 10 lists, will get less and less traffic, I don’t believe cocktail blogging is dead just because “as topics get more indepth, we hit a threshold where people can’t justify the amount of time required to research and write a post.”

People will experiment and make mistakes, bringing forward their own interests and jibunrashisa (as the Japanese say). They will express themselves in weird, alien ways and some people will absolutely hate it. There will be no going back to how things were, but going forward will remain an option, as it always has. I’m simply saying that, uh, innovation finds a way.

Ian Malcolm gets it.

Darcy aside, I’ve been frustrated by a general Catch-22 attitude I’ve encountered lately that goes something like this:

Consumer: Here is my opinion, it’s different from the mainstream and still rough around the edges.
Subject Matter Experts: Your opinion is different from ours and thus holds no water.
Consumer: Can I try to prove its worth?
Subject Matter Experts: Only an expert could prove such a thing.
Consumer: But how did you become an expert?
Subject Matter Experts: We broke away from the pack and did our own thing.

Listen, I get it — people like comfort, dislike feeling threatened and are generally suspicious of newcomers who want to contribute more than brute labor at the bottom of the totem pole. But that very human and very understandable reaction doesn’t spur innovation. In fact the opposite tends to occur — innovation comes from outside, through the viewpoints of people who are not acting under industry-wide assumptions. Sure, an outside viewpoint does not guarantee innovation, but a lack of them tends to result in extinction (just ask the cable companies!).

Since I’m speaking in such generalities, let me just say these kinds of conversations and attitudes have dominated my cocktail experiences with the majority* of professionals. Especially since the dialogue above often continues as follows:

Consumer: O… kay. So how can I be involved?
Subject Matter Experts, smiling: You can give us your money.

Hmm. At this point I tend to excuse myself from the conversation. Funny thing is, only very rarely does someone ask me why I might have a particular opinion or idea. If they did, they might realize that my thinking is the culmination of years of Inventory, Yield and Revenue Management for one of the most successful companies of all time; of my work in that most grueling of service professions, Education; and of all those nights I’ve spent at home, exhausted from creating/leading a global team of analysts, just to pour even more of myself into passions like writing, photography and spirits.

In this day and age, the term “amateur” is a bit of an insult. But the word comes from the French for “lover of”. So I ask, what’s more admirable? A close-minded professional being paid for their work or an amateur who does the same work despite a lack of any monetary incentive?

As I said up top: I’m a zombie. Cause I’m still here and still doing what I love to do, despite whether or not anyone gives enough of a crap to pay me or shower me with incentives for it.

And I hope the rest of humanity has the guts to be zombies too.

*Obligatory clarification: There are many wonderful spirits professionals out there, and I’m not just saying that to cover my ass. Hopefully you’re confident enough to know who you are and don’t need me to coddle your e-ego.

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