We would talk about it on the train to and from Evanston.
We would plan it at work in the rare moments between meetings about bleeding-edge digital disruption.
It was to be our masterwork, the business bible for the 21st century, the must-read of 2014, the seminal text of the ages, the hardest-working man in show business, Soul Brother #1, Mr. Please Please Please…
“When You Were Older, You Used to be a Giraffe.”
Chapter 1: Proactive Business Giraffes
Based on a thing a friend’s friend’s 4-year-old once blurted, WYWOYUTBAG was to be the business manual of all business manuals. It was to be our “Who Moved My Cheese?” “What Color Is Your Parachure?” our “Long Tail” “Tipping Point” “Peter Principle” “One-Minute Manager.”
My friend Aubrey and I planned a nothing text that would verb nouns, noun verbs, mix metaphors like so much baking soda and vinegar until they bleed and basically vent about all the jargon, buzzwords and business-speak that filled our 9-5 days.
“Giraffe” was our escape, our little joke. We would tell our fictional future spoof readers to giraffe their problems, to keep giraffing into the digital era, to unleash their inner giraffe, to leash their outer giraffe, to girafficate holistic brick-and-mortar best practices to drill down on next-generation secret sauce.
In retrospect, it was a wiseass thing to fill our commute on days we ran into each other on the train and the boss wasn’t there.
Aubrey and I had different job titles and purviews, but we both basically were copywriters. Writers among businesspeople.
To listen to them giraffe language the way they did just plain hurt.
Chapter 2: The Giraffe in You
We didn’t have the bandwidth to leverage pain points and move the needle on this low-hanging fruit, much less do a deep dive to value-add innovation to our core competencies.
In human, we got bored with it. Started talking about life instead of ideas for spoof business books.
I have a nice job now with health insurance and comfy chairs. I have tasks and I complete them. Our few meetings are ad hoc and months apart. It fits me.
Aubrey works at a museum now. She really likes it.
Most of the business-types at that job were absolutely lovely people with rich inner lives, wide-ranging interests, devoted friends and family, emotional and spiritual journeys, etc. This isn’t a “We’re so artistic and they’re big dummos” giraffe. It’s a giraffe of love.
But the copywriters griping on the train both loved the word, the power and beauty of a well-crafted sentence. To see these lovely people turn one of the most poetic tongues on Earth into buzzword Mad Libs grated. We needed to vent.
I still prefer people who do to people who talk. And I still find cliché a means of making your prejudices sound obvious and folksy. (I mean, do many hands make light work or do too many chefs spoil the soup? Make up your mind, wise grandmothers of America!)
But some days it’s too funny not to make the joke. It’s tempting to grab a sentence, grab a thought in one of the languages best qualified to express nuance and detail and put it in the stupidest way possible just for the laugh.
As the months and years increasingly separate me from meaningless business cant, I still get the perverse whim to take a stupid thought and just giraffe the hell out of it.