the blog of dan pontefract | A Review of “How To Be Interesting” While Sitting Beside a Drunk on an Airplane
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A Review of “How To Be Interesting” While Sitting Beside a Drunk on an Airplane

It wasn’t long into a trip from Vancouver to Washington, DC when my female seatmate asked the flight attendant for a glass of white wine.

Departure time was 9:00am.

AM = ante meridian or as I like to say, “aromatic meritage”.

By 10:00am she was on her third glass and by half past the hour the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc bottle was no more. I asked myself if airlines recycle.

I also wondered if I might have to perform CPR or at least donate my ‘sickness bag’.

But where would I spit out my gum?

Aghast, I ironically suggested to her — after removing my earbuds and pausing Arcade Fire’s Reflektor (“it’s a reflection, of a reflection, of a reflection”, etc.) — that she should try the Italian Pinot Grigio next.

So she did.20131108-223833.jpg

I can’t make this stuff up.

It was at this precise moment that I sought out some inspiration. At least a distraction from the Rob Ford cousin next to me. (Surely, you’ve heard) Perhaps I needed a little break from the constant waving interruption of a bottle being poured. I needed to divert my attention from the saucy tornado guzzling vino lady beside me drinking as if the apocalypse was upon us.

I flipped open the Kobo app on my iPad. There it was. A book I forgot about but knew I had to read. I mean c’mon, if Dave Gray says “she’s funny as hell” I’m in. Besides, there were no empty seats in business class so I was stuck with what’s her name.

Fellow Northwest resident Jessica Hagy and I — she’s in Seattle and I’m in Vancouver, and no she’s not the drunk beside me — have never met, but I’ve always enjoyed lurking around her work, be it Forbes, New York Times or even her blog. She’s quirky, insightful and can tell it like it is in cartoons, pictures, doodles or charts. (Yes, she uses words too …. sometimes)

The prose I’m referring to is “How To Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps)” and it’s unlike any book I’ve read before. (Editor’s note: Dan has only read two books – Flat Army and The Giving Tree)

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©Jessica Hagy | Workman Publishing Company

First off, it’s light. No, not because I read it as a weightless digital file but because it’s her thoughts and only her thoughts. There are no references whatsoever — no research papers to attribute and nary a single statistic to surface — and there are no stories, quotes or interviews. She wants you to be interesting but if you’re interested in being interesting — see what I did there? — you’ll have to keep interested in her own personal interests of being interesting. (I’ll stop now, but forgive me … the lady beside was a wino whacko)

It is written counter to Flat Army. I have a lot of stats, research bits and stories. I was confused at first, but then I got it.

It’s Jessica. It’s all Jessica.

Her tact is to mix short, specific sentences — often witty, always pertinent, sometimes provocative — with touching, comedic and thoughtful graphics, alongside some larger size bumper sticker-esque slogans in an attempt to persuade you to be — wait for it — more interesting.

It’s doodling life lessons.

She never once used, “don’t worry, be happy” either.

That got points from the Bobby McFerrin hate club. (Editor’s note: Dan loves  a cappella)

Her plotline focused on ten simple steps. They are:

20131109-091830.jpg

©Jessica Hagy | Workman Publishing Company

1) Go Exploring
2) Share What You Discover
3) Do Something, Anything
4) Embrace Your Weirdness (Editor’s note: she had Dan at embrace)
5) Have a Cause
6) Minimize The Swagger (Editor’s note: I think she hates the Fonz)
7) Give It a Shot
8) Hop Off the Bandwagon
9) Grow a Pair (Editor’s note: ummm …)
10) Ignore the Scolds

I read her book in about 45 minutes. It was the same amount of time it took my seatmate to ingest the rest of the Pinot Grigio bottle, but hey, who’s counting? (Editor’s note: that’s two bottles in 135 minutes)

Truthfully and in all seriousness, I loved “How To Be Interesting“. It was full not only of sage advice but of a-ha moments. I thought I might already be performing many of her suggestions so perhaps it was more of a needed affirmation — not because of my now highly intoxicated seatmate but due to the past few years of tough change management actions I’ve encountered and initiated both personally and professionally.

Her book spoke to me. (Editor’s note: can books speak?)

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©Jessica Hagy | Workman Publishing Company

It’s not only a wise piece of prose, it’s got gumption. It’s got punch. It makes you think. It inspires you to think differently. It ensures you contemplate singing out loud and not simply by yourself in the shower. (Editors note: don’t sing out loud if you shower with your wife)

That’s what a good book should deliver. It needs to make you do things differently. It at least needs to be contemplative.

Some will scoff. A few will coin it fridge magnet material.

I disagree.

Buy it. At least gift it to someone. (Editor’s note: not Dan, he bought it already)

Nice writing and doodling Jessica. Thank you for putting yourself out there. It was very ‘interesting’. (Editor’s note: just stop)

Is there white wine in the fridge honey? I’ve developed a wine pang for some odd reason.

3Comments

  • Marie-Louise Collard / 12 November 2013 7:14

    She had a fear of flying Dan – no, not made up! But difficult to sit next to. Fear is not always in the eye of the beholder!

    This was very amusing and I’m sure Jessica was delighted that your frightened boozy neighbour led to you to “putting yourself out there” – by reading and describing what sounds like a fascinating book – drawings and all!

    Thanks for sharing and making me smile so much!

  • Dan Pontefract / 12 November 2013 7:46

    Thanks Marie-Louise. I probably should have mentioned we had a short conversation prior to take-off where she proceeded to tell me she had reached Super Elite status in July. I got the distinct hunch she was a flying pro … for what it’s worth. Thanks for your comments and for dropping by.

  • Gail Severini / 12 November 2013 8:17

    Dan, I find it fascinating how we humans relate to the world around us and to each other – more specifically, how our own frames of reference (which we are usually unconscious of) colours the world.

    When I clicked the link and read “How to be more interesting” it struck me that I have an insecurity about this – I do feel a need to be more interesting to others (I have a sneaky feeling that it is universal or Forbes would not use it as a title). What struck about the advice was even more profound and a bit contradictory to the title, i.e. be your full, weird and wonderful self, stop trying to BE interesting and just fully BE yourself (i.e. when you are thriving you are interesting). This is pretty much what I tell my teenagers (and I will be forwarding this article). It’s hard to take that advice – society has trained our inner critics well.

    It also strikes me that this is a license we have to not just take but also give – imagine if we allowed, appreciated and even fostered the weirdness of others.

    What it comes down to, for me, is that we are each on a journey of personal exploration – sometimes, easy, sometimes hard – it can be as big as we are imaginative and brave – and in that journey we ‘bounce’ around and off of each other. That goes for your seat mate as well.

    Thanks for providing something worthy to reflect on.

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