I know this isn’t the “best” way to deal with the modern short media cycle, but when something big happens, I usually like to let it simmer and settle before I comment on it. There are a lot of reasons for this, the main one is that the implications of something often take a long time to work out, and immediate commentary is usually nothing more than worthless chattering or visceral reaction. There’s enough of that, and not enough deep reflection.
Well, it’s been 4 months since the huge profile on me in Forbes was published, and I wanted to give my thoughts on the piece:
-First off, yes, I loved the piece. I thought it did something that pretty much no profile ever does: It gave me a fair treatment and painted a very realistic picture, both the good and the bad. That never happens in media, and I loved it.
–Michael Ellsberg deserves a ton of credit. He pulled off something incredibly difficult; he did an accurate and interesting profile of a celebrity (me asshole, fuck off!) that was neither a hit piece nor a fluff piece. Not only that; he made it look easy. That’s the hallmark of a skilled writer, making the difficult look simple, and he did it. Not enough people recognized this about the piece.
-I especially loved how he took extended pull quotes from me, instead of “interpreting” me for the reader. He got out of the way and presented me as I am to the reader, and let them decide. This is so rare in profiles; what normally happens is the writer “interprets” the profile subject’s behavior or quotes for the reader, taking things out of context and presenting them as evidence to support a narrative the writer created, and so guides the readers opinion without explicitly stating it. Ellsberg instead came right out and admitted all his thoughts about me, both good and bad, but let what I said stand by itself.
-One thing I think needs to be mentioned: This style of profile he did is, to my knowledge, a new way to do profile pieces (and incredibly awesome). He took criticism for including a lot of information about himself and his opinions of me, but I actually liked that a lot. Instead of pretending that he’s objective and has no opinion–which is IMPOSSIBLE for a human–he admitted his biases so the reader could account for them in his writing. This style–presenting not only my life, but his opinion of me and the relevant parts of his life that form his opinion of me–is much more intellectually honest than most writers do, and I hope writers start doing profiles like this.
-To understand what I mean, contrast this to a standard New Yorker profile. They do the opposite; they pretend that the writer doesn’t even really exist, that the writer doesn’t have an opinion, and that they are just doing objective “reporting.” That’s complete bullshit. Every person has a subjective bias, and if you act like you don’t, it makes your subjective seem like objectivity, which is how the New Yorker takes positions on profile subjects, but indirectly. Its an insidious and bullshit way that media forms opinions. The Last Psychiatrist blog writes extremely well about this media trick. Ellsberg deserves a ton of credit for, at the very least, being honest about his biases (and he may deserve credit for inventing a new way to do major profiles).
-If you are a celebrity, major media personality, or just someone famous that wants to have a big profile done about them, but doesn’t trust the bullshit mainstream media to get your story right, I would highly recommend you talk to Michael Ellsberg. He and I talked beforehand a lot about what this profile would be like and how this would go down, and what our goals were with this piece. He made me a lot of promises about what he would do…and he kept them all (if you’re famous enough to have dealt with a lot of media, you just gasped). I took a risk letting him in and trusting him with them material I did–he could have easily twisted it to make me look any number of ways–but he treated it and me with the utmost respect. He has integrity, and that is not something you often find in media.
-That being said, this is not the guy to go to if you want a puff piece written about you. He was willing to tell my story fairly and accurately, but he wasn’t interested in any bullshit or promotion or the standard lies. I had to open the curtain to him, and really be honest and open up. And during the interview, he pushed me to be more and more honest and frank, and go into some hard places for me. He spent almost three full days hanging out with me. If you want to work with him, you had better be willing to really give him true, honest answers. That’s the trade-off. If you aren’t ready to be emotionally honest with yourself and the world, he’s the wrong guy to do a profile. I did not intend to reveal as much as I did, but a combination of me trusting him and his excellent interview style created something really honest and raw and good.
-This piece has already done 300k uniques, which makes it one of the most read profiles ever on Forbes. That is proof of what I tell people all the time: If you are open and honest and authentic, people will stop and pay attention. No one tells the truth in our society, and when you do, people will respond.
-What did I not like about the piece? I mean, there’s always some quibble to find about everything. Even The Godfather had its (minor) flaws, but I don’t want to go over the small, inconsequential things. I guess if I had to pick something, I did get a little pissed at this thing he wrote:
(To get a true feeling for how Tucker Max talks in the following profile, mix-and-match the words “like,” “dude,” “man,” “you know,” “shit” and “f***”, at least two or three per sentence. I edited most of that out, because keeping those words in would have increased the length of the interview text by 50%.)
It’s not even that he’s wrong, I do have a lot of that shit in my speech, but everyone does. Record a conversation with yourself and another person, and then try to transcribe it; you’ll see how much of speech is like this. But whatever, like I said, totally minor quibble.
-Some of the media reaction was hilarious. Some people thought this was me trying to sell something new? What exactly? And so many people focused on the fact that I was trying yoga, which seemed weird to me. Do people not try new things? Of the hundreds of media commentary pieces I saw on this profile, very few got it. But that’s standard I guess.
-The cool thing is that the media that did get it, really got it. This piece ended up getting me a New Yorker talk of the town done on me (with a sweet cartoon of my big forehead), and Dr. Drew loved it so much he’s had me as a regular guest on his show since. But most importantly, I couldn’t believe the business opportunities that have come from that piece, which is something I never expected. Being honest, even when it hurts, works.
-Yes, I am still in psychoanalysis, and yes, it’s still great, and yes, I am still progressing. The process I’m in will probably take three years or so. Psychoanalysis not just about getting fixed, it’s about learning how to handle these issues yourself in the future when things go wrong. Getting fish versus learning to fish.
-I’m kinda in shock about how many people have come to me because of this profile and asked for recommendations for therapists, or told me that they’ve started therapy because of me. Some things to think about if this is you, or if this piece made you think about getting help for your issues: Just like any profession, not all psychologists are good. I had to go to several to find a good one. If you’re serious about addressing your issues, I’d recommend going to several psychologists, at least 5, until you find one that you feel is smart, gets you, and you enjoy talking to. Trust your gut on this stuff.
-But yes, if you feel like it might be for you, I fully recommend getting help (from the right person). There is no shame in admitting you are flawed and/or in pain, and need help to get better. The shame should come in ignoring it or letting yourself suffer because you are too prideful to admit you have issues and need help.
-I will write a lot more about getting therapy/going into psychoanalysis in a few years, when I’m further along the process and have more understanding of myself and this process. At this point, I’m only far enough along to know two things: 1. this is helping me immensely, and 2. I am going to continue to the end.