Any marketer that doesn’t think they’re partially full of sh*t is completely full of sh*t.

Most of marketing and advertising is hoopla and horse shit.

And, if anyone in the business ever tries to tell you anything different, then I’d stick my bare ass in a piranha pond before ever considering cutting them a check. 

The internet –– especially LinkedIn and Twitter –– is filled with marketers, advertisers, copywriters, designers and growth hackers that are handsomely rewarded for pretending to have all the answers you’re looking for.

But bad things happen when we follow “gurus”.

There was once a spiritual guru by the name of Yogi Bhajan who a lot of folks believed had all the answers… until it got out that his pupils were kneeling before him in more ways than one. 

And, don’t get me started on the religious guru Jim Jones who made “don’t drink the kool-aid” a household idiom after he laced a fruit drink with cyanide and murdered 900 of his most devoted followers.

No, marketers and admen aren’t nearly as devious as Yogi and Jimmy but I’d argue they’re just as self-righteous.

Sex in the name of spirituality and murder in the name of God aside, most folks trying to be your marketing and advertising guru, belong to one of the following “schools of thought”.

*in walks the data wizard*

The nerds of marketing –– or the data wizards –– will try and tell you that all you have to do is follow the data.

The problem is that it’s impossible to do anything truly groundbreaking with your nose shoved so far up data’s ass that you might as well be a German Shepard sniffing out drugs at an airport.

Imagine Michelangelo trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with an Excel spreadsheet sprawled out in front of him.

Not to mention, if every painter that came after Michelangelo tried to beat the data that was the Sistine Chapel by making a slightly better version of the Sistine Chapel, they would have been fucked before they started.

It doesn’t matter if someone paints the Sistine Chapel 1%, 10% or even 1,000% better than the original Sistine Chapel.

There will forever only be one Sistine Chapel.

So, while the nerds might sound convincing with their data and they might be able to help you move some product, I do think data is violent towards creativity, originality and the pursuit of doing something truly groundbreaking.

Data focuses on what has already been done but masterpieces only happen when brave folks do something that hasn’t been done.

*in walks the branding strategists*

After the nerds, you have the branding strategists who have their clients form a semi-circle, cross their legs, pass around a couple hundred magazine cut-outs, brood and get pretentiously intellectual about what feels most “on-brand”.

My criticism against this school of marketing is that you’re not a cross between James Dean and Marlon Brando.

You’re selling Teflon pans for godsakes.

Stop taking yourself so damn seriously and just come up with a funny, creative way to move more pans.

Branding –– at least too much of it –– can quickly feel to me like an excuse not to do the work.

Companies discover their brand by existing and slowly embodying the shape that is “them”.

It’s not unlike a middle schooler that has to try a week of being a skateboarder and then a week of being a rapper and then a week of being a lacrosse player before he finally realizes who he is. 

There’s no use discussing brand until you’ve rolled out a few campaigns, spoken in a few voices and felt out a few personalities.

*in walks the creatives*

After the nerds and the branding gurus, you have the creatives like me who are wanna-be poets and painters and artists and musicians who, unfortunately, had to settle on advertising because of lack of talent.

Most creatives are so full of shit that you’d rather bath in the Mississippi than share a bath with them.

But, there are a few of us that, every now and again, can come up with a creative idea so goddamn brilliant you can’t help but wonder if we stole it from God.

We did.

If you find a creative like this, you’ve got to hold onto them and keep them close. But, not so close that you clip their wings.

You’ve got to give them a long leash but be prepared to gently yank the leash when they go down a rabbit hole.

But, most importantly, you’ve got to have the nuts and guts and ovaries to fire up the grill when they come back from the woods with a mallard in their mouth. 

The answer is not one but all.

If I were running a brand, I’d fire every person on the data team save for the handful that are just as obsessed with data as they are with becoming the data that other brands try to beat.

I’d then give all of these folks a raise.

I wouldn’t talk about the brand until I’ve had the chance to roll out a dozen or so ads and test multiple voices; and I’d hire someone like Christopher Lochead or Dave Peterson to build me a category.

I would then hire a CMO like Matt Jung that’s the best in the world at taking a creative idea to the finish line.

Then, I’d hire three of the most creative, original thinkers I know, give them enough cold brew to make a horse sprout another pair of legs and I’d tell them to push things just before the line of getting canceled. 

But, take all that with a grain of salt, because I’m just a creative.

By Cole Schafer.

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How Ernest Hemingway could tell the difference between good and bad writers.

Back in 1954, George Plimpton –– the first and only editor of the Paris Review –– interviewed Ernest Hemingway at a café in Madrid.

(You can read the conversation in its entirety here…)

Hemingway came across as a jaded asshole for most of the discussion.

So much so, that reading the interview left me with the overwhelming urge to cold-cock his ghost.

At one point, Hemingway was so fed up with Plimpton’s questions he asked him why he was taking time away from writing to answer them.

Despite this, there were quite a few gems.

Midway through the interview, Plimpton mentioned that the day prior Hemingway had said James Joyce couldn’t bear to talk about writing.

To which Hemingway responded…

“The better the writers the less they will speak about what they have written themselves.“

Isn’t this true for anything?

Generally, we know who the most impressive individual in a room is, without them ever having to speak a word.

By Cole Schafer.

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How to reinvent yourself, over and over again.

Early on in your career, before you’ve had the chance to make any sort of name for yourself, it’s worthwhile to be hyper-focused in what it is that you do.

Nobody knows who the hell you are and you have yet to prove yourself and so to stay top of mind, you need to become known as “the _____ guy” or “the _____ gal”.

When my grandfather was growing up in the small town of Francisco, Indiana there was one of everything.

There was one gravedigger.

There was one blacksmith.

There was one carpenter.

There was one milkman.

There was one roofer.

When you needed something done, you knew exactly who to call. And, if you didn’t know exactly who to call, you called someone that did.

This is still mostly how folks make decisions nowadays. When we need something done, we thumb through the Rolodex in our minds and if we come up short, we ask those around us if they “know a guy”.

Decision-makers with deep pockets at big companies operate in much the same way.

When Nike needs a kick-ass graphic designer to take on a special project for them, they’re not Googling “best graphic designers”. They’re calling their friends over at Apple and asking them if they’ve recently worked with a graphic designer that blew their fucking socks off.

Where young guns get themselves in trouble, is they drop their trousers, pump themselves full of Viagra and attempt to fuck the world. They attempt to be everything to everyone.

You don’t build a career this way, at least not early on; you build a career by choosing a specific skill and then becoming one of the best in the world at that specific skill.

Some examples of folks who’ve done this incredibly well are Aaron Draplin over at Draplin Design Co., Colson Whitehead who writes novels like The Nickel Boys, Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings (now The Marginalian) and, of course, stars we all recognize who’ve made careers singing, making art and playing in movies.

However, as you get further along in your craft and you become known as “the _____ guy” or “the _____ gal” and you make a metric fuck ton of money being known as “the _____ guy” or “the _____ gal”… you risk becoming a Caricature of yourself.

The three-part Netflix documentary, Jeen-Yuhs, shows an up-close and personal look at the risks of becoming your own Caricature.

There are artists like Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z and Kanye West who are still setting the world on fire decades after the footage for the documentary was originally captured… then there are artists like Scarface who are now on Cameo.

The difference between lifelong success and ending up on Cameo is reinvention.

Jamie Foxx isn’t just an artist, he’s an actor who has played astounding roles in Baby Driver, Django and Ray.

Jay-Z isn’t just an artist, he’s a renowned businessman and investor, who has made a fortune in Uber, Oatley, SpaceX, JetSmart (Uber for private jets) and countless other enterprises.

Then, of course, there’s Kanye West who isn’t just an artist (constantly pushing the boundaries in music) but who has become one of the most influential minds in fashion alive today.

(Though, his antics off the stage and runway may eventually lead to his fall…)

The reason so few people reinvent themselves is because once you become known for a specific thing and become loved for a specific thing and become paid handsomely to do that specific thing over and over again, reinventing yourself risks you losing… everything.

But, not reinventing yourself might mean you one day looking up to an empty arena, as folks have grown tired of the same joke.

By Cole Schafer.

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“This isn’t boxing. This is life.”

Over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed my body change and with it, my mind, as I’ve thrown myself headfirst into the bold, beautiful and brutal world of boxing, Muay Thai and Krav Maga.

I can see these changes in the floor-to-ceiling mirror that runs the length of the gym where I train.

Arriving in the evenings, when the sun is just beginning to make its descent, I begin by wrapping my hands to protect their knuckles and their wrists from the punches I will soon throw and jab and thrust.

I catch myself taking my time, getting lost in the wrapping as if it’s a meditation, recognizing that it will be my last moment of solace for some time.

Once the wrapping is complete, I squeeze my hands into fists, two, maybe three times to make sure I haven’t wrapped them too tightly, knowing from experience that if I’m overzealous, I will cut off the circulation and my hands will begin to cramp just a dozen punches in.

From here, I grab a jump rope, shake out my legs and arms like a bird fresh out of water and then I swing the rope over my head and under my feet, again and again, building momentum.

As the jump rope kisses the ground and kicks up tiny gusts of air, it makes the sound of a snake whispering beneath my feet.






I make sure not to step on it as I scan my body in the mirror in front of me.

My forearms have become denser with the constant clutching of my gloves and my shoulders and my biceps a bit more defined. I can see the muscles in my neck, some. Having never seen them before, I am surprised.

I’ve been a voracious runner for the past three or four years but my voracious eating has always left me with some excess fat caked to my bones.

But, now, as I watch my legs in the mirror, it appears the fat has begun to melt off of them some. It’s very likely just a very forgiving mirror.

The buzzer sounds. I drop the rope. Coach Tramaine helps me slip on my gloves and motions me to follow him to a water bag that hangs from the ceiling like an upsidedown party ballon.

He starts the clock for 3-minutes and immediately lists off combinations.

“One. Three. Six.”

“Two. Six. Three.”

“Five. Six. Two.”

When I fuck up a combination, confusing one punch with another, he quickly lists the same combination again, so I can right my wrong.

“Five. Six. Two.”

In boxing, if you’re right-handed, a “one” is your left jab, a “two” is your right cross, a “three” is your left hook, a “four” is your right hook, a “five” is your left uppercut and a “six” is your right uppercut.

So, when coach Tramaine is telling me he wants a “One. Two. Three. Four. Six.” he’s, in not so many words, telling me he wants me to jab with my left hand, rifle a hard cross with my right hand, throw a hook with my left, another hook with my right hand and, finally, an uppercut with this same right hand.

This final same-arm hook/uppercut combination is how Mike Tyson would knock so many people out back in the day.

He would smash a violent right hook into their ribcage, this would cause them to drop their left elbow in pain and this dropping of their elbow would expose a wide-open highway to their chin.

Tyson would then travel the length of this highway at an alarming speed and force with his right hand, and he’d send his opponent’s chin through the ceiling, knocking him to the floor.

Throughout our session, I throw hundreds and hundreds of punches and at the end of it, my shoulders and my biceps ache as if I have gone twelve rounds with Tyson or Ali.

(I recall having read somewhere that even when someone had won a fight against Ali, they woke the following day so badly hurt they couldn’t lift their arms in celebration; that he hit so goddamn hard that while in their minds they may have won, their bodies kept a different score…)

At the end of our session, Coach Tramaine and I flirt with the idea of me fighting in an actual match. He taps his head with his hands…

You don’t need to fight. You need to protect that brain of yours.”

He smiles. I nod in agreement. He continues…

“In fact, just write about it instead. Start talking to us fighters. We all have stories. In between these stories write about what you’re learning in here. This isn’t boxing. This is life. There’s plenty to write about.”

On my way home from yesterday’s lesson, a guy in a hurry, frustrated at me for driving too slow, pulled up beside me in a souped-up Supra, flashing me a terrible glare. He then sped up ahead of me and cut me off at the light.

I remember continuing my drive completely unphased, refusing to allow his momentary act of rage to penetrate through the window of my car and into the sanctuary of my mind.

I had nothing to prove. I had nothing to answer him with. I had no interest in sharing in his rage. I was at peace. Or, something close to it.

Perhaps, because I had gotten all of my anger out on the bag.

Perhaps, because I knew if it came down to it and this troubled soul meant me harm, I knew I had a right leg being constructed by a 3x World Champion Kickboxer on Wednesdays… fists being forged by a professional boxer on Tuesdays and Thursdays… and elbows and knees being sharpened by a 16-year Krav Maga practitioner on Saturdays and Sundays.

And, I suppose this is where the life aspect of fighting that Coach Tramaine was talking about comes in: as I’m realizing I can hurt someone, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anything.

Yesterday, I helped a stink bug that had found its way into my car outside of it and I let the pissed-off Supra drive on by.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. You might also like this piece I wrote… I’m living my own f***** version of Fight Club.

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What John Steinbeck can teach us about character, both in literature and in ourselves.

When John Steinbeck was still alive and read, he liked his books to possess a lot of dialogue.

In his own words…

I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks… figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that…

In this way, a character (at least in literature) can’t be defined by handfuls of adjectives but rather through the character’s actions.

In other words, a character is built with the words that come out of his mouth and the decisions he makes in tight situations.

The character within ourselves isn’t all that different.

It’s less about how we would define ourselves and more about what we say and what we do and whether or not what we do aligns with what we say.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. I’ve written more on John Steinbeck here, here, here and here.

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I’m living my own f***** up version of Fight Club.

I had a gun pulled on me last Sunday.

I’ll get to that, here in a moment. But, first, let’s rewind…

A month ago, I was in Dallas with my girl. It was a Tuesday night. It was late. We were at a sports bar grabbing a drink with her sister.

Behind us, there were four guys clutching their beers as if their bottles contained the blood of Christ.

I don’t know if they recognized her. But, as I kept a close watch on them out of the corner of my eye, they appeared to be jockeying closer to the three of us.

They were talking loudly, as drunk men do. They were being rather obnoxious, as drunk men are. They seemed to be trying to get her and her sister’s attention.

When I’m out with my girl, I’m hyper-aware (and admittedly very cautious). But, I didn’t like the situation.

So much so, that I closed out the tab and suggested we head to another bar.

We left.

We walked a couple hundred feet down the street and be it my paranoia, my subconscious hearing trailing footsteps behind us or a strange sixth sense, I felt we were being followed.

I nonchalantly turned around, feeling up my legs for my wallet, feinting as if I had forgotten it at the previous sport’s bar and found that my suspicions were correct: two of the four men that were behind us, were still behind us, about a half a block back.

I became increasingly more concerned. But, I didn’t vocalize this concern to my girl and her sister.

I knew I needed to get us off the street and into a crowded place. Up ahead, there appeared to be a fairly packed bar. I suggested we check it out.

The two men behind us, coincidentally decided to check it out too. A couple minutes after we entered, they sat down near the front of the bar at a window-side table.

We stayed in this bar for about 10-minutes and then saw ourselves out.

On the way to do the door, I made hard and very direct eye contact with the two men that had followed us in, making them aware that I saw them and recognized them.

After we left, they decided to stay put.

Chances are, these men meant no harm. Perhaps they were just fans that didn’t realize how creepy they were being.

But, this occurrence, along with a few other sketchy occurrences I’ve experienced with my girl, made me promise to myself on this very night that I was going to become so well-versed in hand-to-hand combat that besides going head-to-head with a goddamn Navy Seal, there wouldn’t be a situation I couldn’t handle.

As soon as I got back to Nashville, I budgeted $10,000 for my training and began hounding boxing coaches, Muay Thai coaches and Krav Maga coaches all around the city.

I eventually found three different coaches with a combined fighting experience of nearly a century to teach me boxing, Muay Thai and Krav Maga.

(Krav Maga is a military self-defense and fighting system developed for and by the Israeli Defense Forces…)

Yesterday was boxing.

Wednesday was Muay Thai.

Tuesday was boxing.

Sunday was Krav Maga.

Which, is where I began this piece…

I had a gun pulled on me last Sunday.

Fortunately, it was made of plastic, it wasn’t capable of firing projectiles and it was held by my Krav Maga coach.

Sweat beading on my forehead, out of breath, I try to remember what he has just taught me…

I lash out with my right hand, swat the gun away and get out of the line of fire. Mid-swat, I grab the barrel with my right hand and his wrist with my left hand, all while keeping the muzzle pointed at the wall and not at me.

I then drive him back, hard, burying the handle of the gun into his crotch and ripping the barrel towards his thumb.

He releases the gun. It’s now in my possession. I “hit” him twice in the temple with the mouth of the gun and speedily back peddle away, creating distance between he and I.

The gun is now pointed at him.

There was nothing smooth about it. I have so much to learn. Sometimes I fumble. Other times, I don’t get the gun away from him in time. Other times, I don’t get the gun away from him at all.

When he corrects my technique, doing the moves himself, it’s as if I’m being mauled by a jaguar. He strikes at me with such a ferocity that I have to remind myself that he’s not trying to kill me.

The next day, boxing.



“Left hook.”


“Left upp –– good.”

“Right hoo –– good. Again.”

By the end of Coach T and I’s session, my arms hurt so badly that I have trouble tying my shoes.

Coach T tells me for our next session I better “pick up the phone” while we box otherwise I’ll get knocked out.

“Picking up the phone” is boxing lingo for keeping your opposing glove glued to your face when you throw a punch. You get tired, ou start dropping your gloves. You start dropping your gloves, your opponent has a clear shot at your head.


You wake up on the ground.

Two days later, Muay Thai.

My coach is a a 3x World Champion Kickboxer by the name of Bernard “Swiftkick” Robinson.

He ended his career 68-8.

He’s as scarred up as a fighting cock.

After he whipped a fighter’s ass in Tokyo in front of 50,000 people, the fighter left him with a gash on his right eyebrow that’s still so deep you could stick the rim of a quarter in it.

The fighter also gave Swiftkick his fighting shorts to honor him. They’re on the wall in a glass frame, behind us, along with a hundred other trophies and mementos from his two-decade-long career.

Mauy Thai is like nothing I’ve ever done before.

I throw close to three-hundred kicks throughout our session and, by the end of it, my shins and feet are the colors of plums.

It hurts to walk.

Before I leave, Swiftkick tell me my right kick could be something… if I remember to turn my hips.

In kickboxing, your power doesn’t come from your knee but your hips. Your hip is the rifle and your leg is the bullet. You properly fire your hip and you can increase the force of your blow by 200%.

I know I’ve done it right when I lay into the pad Swiftkick is holding and it knocks him off balance.

I do it right only a handful of times out of the hundreds of kicks I throw.

For my entire life…

I’ve been scared to fight because I’ve been scared it could attract violence or, worst yet, turn me into a violent person.

But, what I’ve found (and keep in mind I’m still very early on in my training) is that fighting has made me a calmer, gentler, more collected person.

I think violence is oftentimes a side-effect of fear. Tigers are dangerous. But, tigers are especially dangerous when they’re cornered; when they’re scared.

As I’ve embarked on my training, I’ve realized that much of my anger, anxiety and quick-temperateness has stemmed from fear; fear of not knowing if I could protect myself and the people I love if, God forbid, we ever found ourselves in danger.

I still have that fear. I think I will for some time. But, with each passing jab, kick, knee, elbow and hook, I feel that fear fading, little by little.

Yesterday, I began my second lesson with Coach T.

He throws on a girdle that sits around his waist and torso and chest.

It’s about 6-inches thick and it’s designed to absorb everything but machine gun fire. He throws three-minutes on the clock and tells me to hit him as hard as I can. By the end of the round, I want to die I’m so tired.

I pull off my gloves and hose water down my throat. I can’t get enough.

Coach T. is silent for a moment.

Then he speaks up, paying me my first compliment of the week, “I can feel those through this thing”.

He smacks his girdle twice with his fist.

“You’ve got some power. You hit someone with one of those on the street… you’d knock ’em out.”

I hope I never have to.

By Cole Schafer.

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Hunter S. Thompson on being so loud they stop complaining about the noise.

Hunter S. Thompson invented Gonzo Journalism, which he described as “first draft journalism” –– a rather oversimplified definition of a mode of writing that flipped journalism on its head.

Before Hunter S. Thompson, journalists didn’t have opinions, they were never, under any circumstance, part of the story and they always presented their stories as a set of facts rather than feelings.

When Hunter S. Thompson came into the picture, he was as much a part of the story as the subject of the story.

He was just as easily hated as he was loved.

He was just as much the villain as he was the hero.

But, even those who hated him, even those who thought him to be the villain, couldn’t argue that he wasn’t superbly brilliant.

This superb brilliance came as a side-effect of his ability to “use the English language as both a musical instrument and a political weapon” –– his own words.

But, also, his tenacity.

Hunter S. Thompson refused to be ignored.

Rolling Stone writer David Felton describes a time where he visited Hunter at a California Hotel, to find him slamming his hotel door, over and over again, as hard as he possibly could; so hard it was almost falling off the hinges.

Apparently, a guy staying above him had complained about the noise and so Thompson made the noise louder.

Thompson lived and worked with the belief that when someone bitched about the noise, you didn’t turn it down, you turned it up.

This was Thompson.

This is still Thompson, long after his death.

His life and legacy show all of us just how far we can go before we’ve gone too far.

Something he sums up poetically in his rant “Life isn’t a journey to the grove…

But, That’s a story for another day.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. This piece was inspired by David Streitfeld’s book on Hunter S. Thompson, The Last Interview

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You’ll get drunk, stoned and high out of your mind just by reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Daily Routine.

Hunter S. Thompson is to journalism what Ernest Hemingway is to the written novel: there is journalism before Hunter S. Thompson and then, there is journalism after him.

And, like Hemingway, Thompson’s reputation proceeded himself. This was in part because he himself was a larger-than-life character. But, also, because he had great difficulty separating himself from the larger-than-life character he portrayed in his writing.

You can see a glimpse of this character in a memoir that E. Jean Carroll wrote of the writer back in 1993.

Carroll outlines Thompson’s daily routine; a daily routine that’s so bizarre you’d think it’s fiction.

It just might be.

3:00 p.m. Rise

3:05 p.m. Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills (these are a brand of cigarette).

3:45 p.m. Cocaine

3:50 p.m. Another glass of Chivas, Dunhills

4:05 p.m. First cup of coffee, Dunhills

4:15 p.m. Cocaine

4:16 p.m. Orange juice, Dunhills

4:30 p.m. Cocaine

4:54 p.m. Cocaine

5:05 p.m. Cocaine

5:11 p.m. Coffee, Dunhills

5:30 p.m. More ice in the Chivas

5:45 p.m. Cocaine, etc., etc.

6:00 p.m. Grass to take the edge off the day

7:05 p.m. Woody Creek Tavern for lunch-Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, Cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jig­gers of Chivas.)

9:00 p.m. Starts snorting cocaine seriously

10:00 p.m. Drops acid

11:00 p.m. Chartreuse (French herbal liquor), cocaine, grass

11:30 pm. Cocaine, etc, etc.

12:00 a.m. Midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write

12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.

6:00 a.m. The hot tub-champagne, Dove Bars, fettuccine Alfredo

8:00 a.m. Halcyon (sedative used to sleep)

8:20 a.m. Sleep


In introducing the above catastrophe, E. Jean Carroll writes what you’re thinking now…

I have heard the biographers of Harry S. Truman, Catherine the Great, etc., etc., say they would give anything if their subjects were alive so they could ask them some questions. I, on the other hand, would give anything if my subject were dead. He should be. Look at his daily routine.

Carroll would get his wish about twelve years later and, to her surprise, it wouldn’t be at the hands of drugs and alcohol but at the hands of Thompson himself.

By Cole Schafer (but most E. Jean Carroll).

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God hates cowards. And, the cowards can suck my d***.

Late last night, around 11 p.m., I found myself staring at a glowing screen, red-eyed, warring with hot tears fogging up the corners of my vision, dulling the feeling of razor blades collecting in my throat, as I thumbed through a sixty-comment Reddit thread where a sea of strangers had meticulously and rather violently tore me apart.

Here’s how I ended up in this hell…

At 10:59, I was as happy as a lark, curled up in bed, nipping away at a glass of red wine whilst reading through a collection of transcribed interviews with the late writer, Hunter S. Thompson.

About an hour or so into this leisurely bliss, I felt my brain beg for a hit of dopamine. So, I sat my book down. I opened up Instagram. And, shortly after this opening, I stumbled upon a comment on my most recent post, warning of a Reddit thread that would soon break my heart.

For context, this is the Instagram piece I’m referring to. It’s a poem of sorts inspired by a song written by John Prine called, “Summer’s End”.

It feels wrong to write about the writing. I don’t think writers should ever be expected to write about their writing. I think it’s the reader’s job to make sense of it, to figure out their own meaning, to come to their own conclusions, to decide whether it’s good for them or bad for them or somewhere in-between these two extremes… for them.

Unfortunately, I must go against this belief that writers should not be expected to describe their work, so you can gain some context about this whole affair.

The piece, not unlike all of my pieces, is equal parts autobiographical and fictitious. In it, I’m wrestling with an internal struggle I’ve been having…

Striking the balance between a stunning relationship with someone that means the world to me and not leaving anything on the table where my vocation as a writer is concerned (nor pulling punches on my pursuit of being the very best writer I can be).

The piece was meant to open up a broader question to the reader, “Will the achievements we so desperately desire matter if they cost us love, happiness and, perhaps, ourselves?”

Someone, somewhere, read the piece, took the piece completely and entirely out of context and fired up a Reddit thread that turned into a public stoning.

To tell you the truth, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I should share the Reddit thread with you. It paints me in a terrible light.

Ultimately, I’ve decided not to share it here for the following reasons:

1. You can find it with a bit of Googling.
2. It doesn’t deserve the eyes of my readers.
3. My parents & brothers subscribe to my newsletter.

All that to say, below you will find a long, meandering write-up of me making sense of it all…

At first, I felt defensive.

I wanted to argue that the piece was taken completely out of context, that it wasn’t about my girl coming home but rather letting go of my work-obsessive nature to be a better lover, friend and person; it was about me coming home to her.

I wanted to argue that while I pull a lot of stylistic inspiration from Bukowski, Hemingway and Thompson, I’ve written about and read writers of all genders and colors and that I, myself, am a writer that is just as much Japanese and Syrian as I am white, that I grew up in a school system that was just as much white as it was black and that I existed somewhere in between these two contrasting shades.

I wanted to argue that “baby” was intended to be used as a stylistic metronome throughout the piece and not a crutch and that I reach for simpler language not because I lack ability but because I want people of all educational backgrounds to be able to read and understand.

I wanted to argue that despite the very hurtful rumors and comments about my girl being pregnant, that it’s very natural and healthy for both men and women to fluctuate in weight and that women shouldn’t be assumed pregnant if they can’t fit into a size 2 at every waking moment of their life.

I wanted to argue that it’s far easier to throw jabs in a Reddit thread in sweatpants than it is to climb on stage in front of tens of thousands of people and sing your heart out in front of dozens of cameras that blow up every square inch of your body onto a 50-foot wide big screen.

I wanted to argue that she looks like a goddess, even on her worst days, and that if I ever catch someone on the street commenting about my girl’s physique, my Red Wings will be the last thing they see before they wake up in the hospital with their jaw wired shut.

I wanted to argue that while I appreciate the recommendation that I should go to therapy to better handle my emotions, I have been in and out of therapy for the past decade dealing with sexual abuse I sustained as a child; and that if they’d like to foot the bill for the next decade, to feel free to send me their Venmo.

I wanted to argue that while from the outside my dark aesthetic and visceral language might come across as creepy or suspicious or cringe, my intentions are to bring light to demons and insecurities that a lot of people are feeling but are too scared to talk about.

I wanted to argue that I have known what it feels like to want to jam a 9mm in my mouth and that my writing is intentionally dark so that people can feel less alone in their own darkness.

I wanted to argue that I’m not opportunistic, that I didn’t choose to be in the public eye, that I try to stay away from the spotlight as much as I can when I’m with her, that I’ve worked my ass off for the past six years, tearing out carpet, working construction, working odd jobs, writing by night, finally getting to a place where the writing can support itself, eventually finding a bit of traction with my writing and then suddenly, overnight, the world knows me more as someone’s lover than my own man.

I wanted to argue that while my public image has been amplified, my career in a lot of ways has been swallowed up by the vastness of hers. And, while I wouldn’t change a single thing, before her I never had to worry about Reddit threads slicing me to pieces. I was known by a tiny piece of land on the internet where my readers and I got to know each other and respect each other one piece at a time.

I wanted to argue all of these things but instead, I just let the defensiveness subside and give way to hurt.

And, it hurt. Reading that thread hurt me more than anything has hurt me in a very long time. It left me feeling alone, questioning myself as a writer, questioning myself as a person, questioning everything.

I give off this image that I’m edgy, that I’m tough, that I’m a mean sonofabitch that can take criticism like a tank can take machinegun fire.

And, I can. I can most of the time. But, this one left me bleeding like some dying alley cat that ventured too close to the road.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote that You don’t become a writer to be well-liked. You become a writer to tell the truth; your truth.”

It’s brutally hilarious how ridiculous rereading this sounds in my mind, as I’m actually living and experiencing not being well-liked, in real-time.

Eventually, after sitting with this hurt for a long while, the hurt eventually gave way to a sense of pride in who I am and what I do and how I choose to do it.

I was born into a pre-social media world, where when you had something to say, you raised your hand so the room knew whose mouth it was coming from.

I was born into a pre-social media world, where if you talked shit to someone on the basketball court, your game had better back that shit-talking up or when you lost, your ass was kissing the bench for a game or two until you had the chance to regain your glory.

I was born into a pre-social media less world, where when you taunted or berated or tormented a fellow human being, you had to suffer the repercussions: a smack across your mouth from your momma, a tongue lashing from your teacher, a series of gut-wrenching, lung-collapsing sprints at the hands of your basketball coach, a fist to the mouth from one your classmates, etc.

Today, I live in a world where “UnicornBurger67” can tell me I need to go to therapy, without ever having to suffer the consequences of his criticism as he sits safely, behind a glowing screen with his identity fully and totally protected, somewhere across the world.

Today, I live in a world where despite the fact that it is so easy to hide behind a glowing screen in a cozy apartment behind a veiled username, I use my real name, my real face and my real signature on everything I write. I raise my hand when I have something to say and I take it on the chin when I say something stupid.

And this world is going to keep breaking me, Reddit threads are going to keep stoning me, strangers on the internet are going to keep slicing me to pieces and they should take solace in the fact that I will bleed.

I will bleed.

I will bleed.

I will bleed.

But, at the end of it, when I’m looking at all of them, smiling, mouth bloody from being stomped out yet again, it will be my face that is bloody and it will be my name that is bloody and it will be my writing that is bloody.

It will be Cole Schafer who is bloody.

And, believe it or not, this is the first time I’m not going to digress. I know exactly where I’ve landed on all of this.

God hates cowards.

And the cowards can suck my fucking dick.

By Cole Schafer.

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The giant looks in the mirror and sees nothing: Donda West on finding confidence without sacrificing humility.

I loathed Kanye West.

Then, I watched Jeen-Yuhs.

The documentary showed me another side of Kanye, a younger, gentler side that was just as ambitious as the artist is today but without all the rage and the hatred and the vindictiveness.

Early on in his career, while Kanye still struggled with bouts of mania and narcissism, he was incredibly grounded; a groundedness that was in no small part due to his mother, Donda West.

*in walks Donda*

Towards the end of the first part of what will soon be a three-part documentary, Kanye is sitting with his mother in her kitchen in Chicago, reminiscing on old times when she suddenly says…

“I was thinking about something I was gonna say to you, Kanye, that I thought was important…”

Kanye stops smiling and takes on a straight face as he listens to what his mother has to say.

… you got a lot of confidence that come off a little arrogant even though you’re humble and everything –– but it be important to remember that the giant looks himself in the mirror and sees nothing…

Donda goes on to explain to her son that you can’t be a star and not act like one, that you have to have some oomph.

But, that you can have this oomph while maintaining your humility.

In her own words, she describes this as…

“[You] can stay on the ground and you can be in the air at the same time…”

Be a man in your head and your reflection in the mirror, but a giant in the world that you embody.

By Cole Schafer.

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