Does your circumstance in life–the family you were born into, the color of your skin, your economic class, sexual orientation–determine the conversations you're allowed to participate in? Is navigating vulnerability a trait that has lead to Tiffany Haddish’s success? I dig into her interview on “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” on Netflix and come away impressed by her candid nature.
Tiffany’s ability to be genuine and share the things that most of us would gloss over in an effort to protect our ego serves as a model of what I’d like to become. It’s an example of what I want this podcast to be about–a place where I’m brave enough to share thoughts and views of the world that I generally keep to myself.
Episode 1 of User Illusion is an introduction. It gives you a little idea of who I am and what this show is going to be about. My article, “Hammond and the Soul: Realization by Advancing Perspective”, is a look into the principles and philosophies that are guiding my life and shaping my writing.
This is a new show and your feedback is encouraged! Help me make it better.
I’ve been watching My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman on Netflix. The one that keeps popping up in my mind is the episode with Tiffany Haddish. I am alive on this planet—so naturally I know of her. Over the last year or two she’s become a pop culture icon and the Hollywood “it girl”. I love standup and have seen a few of her clips, but I really didn’t know anything about her. I had vague idea but ultimately knew very little of her background, the way she grew up, and where she came from.
Now that I’m aware, she has a tremendous story—no doubt. I can’t begin to speak on what she’s gone through. I do, however, admire her for what she accomplished. I’m proud of her. Not that my approval means anything to her to anyone else, but I truly do swell with happiness for her.
It was interesting learning of her story on Letterman’s show—it was well constructed, earnest, and poignant—however, the thing that has really stuck with me about Tiffany was her willingness to be vulnerable. Her profound level of authenticity by owning who she is—her past, and her ignorance of the world.
In a perfect world, why shouldn’t she? She has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. No one plans the circumstances they were born into or the terrible events that can happen throughout life, but she has an ability to talk about hardship with empathetic honesty.
Meaning, she possesses a certain confidence—not an arrogance, but some level of deep self-assured warmth—and this confidence allows her to reveal intimate and powerful moments of her life in a way that many of us gloss over in an effort to preserve our own ego. Perhaps it was a childhood filled with feelings of helplessness, defenselessness, and powerlessness that developed an effortless repose within moments of vulnerability, but her composure to navigate a conversation while overly exposed, and do it with millions of people, has really stuck with me.
Now I’m going to turn this back upon myself, because she taught me something. We continue to live in an age where just being born into your circumstance dictates the conversations you’re allowed to participate in. When she was born, Tiffany was no exception to this rule—in fact, she was exploited by it. Being a poor, minority female—not to mention a child within a broken system—she had no voice. She had very little choice or control over her circumstances. Now, as an accomplished celebrity, she is applauded for her voice and is encouraged to speak upon any topic she chooses.
Being an educated, middle class, straight white male, externally I really have no hardships to speak of. If I did, no one would want to hear about them. Again, being born into circumstance dictates what conversations I’m allowed to participate in. This is an observation, not necessarily a complaint—but a side effect of this is a loss of vulnerability.
Because of my privilege, if my outlook or voice deviates from the mantra of “everything is good in my life” then I am highly criticized. If things are really bad, the world views me as I don’t know “true” hardship, so therefore anything I find troubling is dismissed. If things are really good, the world rolls their eyes—well of course they are, look at the hand you got dealt. To oversimplify, the straight white male voice has been heard all throughout human history and everyone is tired it—I have “no right” to speak of problems because I don’t know what real problems are, and anything good that comes my way is purely a product of my surroundings, and not my talent or effort.
Because of this attitude, I, and I believe a lot of other dudes, have become accustomed to agreeing that everything is good in our lives whether we really feel that way or not. We have been conditioned to lightly skim over any hardships or bad things that have happened to us, we have also been conditioned to skim over the good things as well.
When personally asked how I’m doing or what’s going on in my life, I sound like a professional athlete being interview after a big game; “I’m just so blessed. Hats off to the other team, they really played a heck of a game. I can’t thank my defense enough, without them we won’t be here. Oh, that amazing performance and record number of points I scored? I just got really lucky. I couldn’t be more thankful to be surrounded by such a great group of people.”
In these interviews, along with my causal conversations, there isn’t one ounce of genuine expression being uttered. By modestly skimming over details or shying away from meaningful conversations—taking pride in achievements or sorrow in hardships—I have an extremely underdeveloped sense of vulnerability.
Moving away from society, gender types, and stereotypical male norms—honestly, on a personal level I am bad about talking about my shortcomings, my successes, explaining why certain memories or moments in life were impactful to me, or simply explaining and expressing emotions. All of these aspects live within vulnerability, and it is so rare that I feel comfortable enough, or that it’s acceptable to share anything of meaning with someone else, especially publicly. Everything I say is a reflection of what you see of me externally—and externally I’m someone who should have no vulnerabilities because I was given everything in life.
I think this is a big reason of why I’m a writer. I use the facade of fiction pour my heart out. It’s the one place where I can be free with my words—if I’m ever questioned or criticized about it, I can just brush it off as “well, it’s not really me—it’s just a made-up story.”
When Tiffany told the story of seeing Richard Pryor in the the wheel chair and thought, “wow, this dude must be really rich—he just sits in a chair and someone pushes him around…” I busted up laughing. She was able to admit to an entire audience that she didn’t know any better—something the audience takes for granted as common sense—and the joke was successful because of her vulnerability and the authenticity carried with it.
The admission of making mistakes, being unaware, feeling scared or alone—being human—along with all of the love and positive things that happen in life are the things I want the courage to be able to share with people. With anyone. Tiffany is a tremendous talent, but to me her ability to connect with people through vulnerability is what makes us care about her. You want to her to succeed and you feel good when she does, because she’s not afraid to share it with you.
So yeah, check out My Next Guest with David Letter on Netflix, and watch Tiffany Haddish episode. I learned a lot—about her and myself—which leads me to part 2 of the podcast—Realization by Advancing Perspective.
—I wrote this article part of series. Basically I took a handful of great philosophers and researched their ideas and theories on the soul—what it is, if it even exists, and how it affects us individuals and as a society. I really enjoy the series and plan on sprinkling in a few of these articles in future episodes.
I felt this particular article was the best way to kick off the podcast because it exposes who I am. It’s sets the foundation of where I’m coming. It introduces idea of User Illusion, and while there’s a bunch of 10 dollar words and “inside joke” references to things that only philosophers talk and think about, all of that is basically just used as a coverup to protect my vulnerability.
This article is a map of the ideas I find important. These are the theories and thinkers that are influencing me at this moment in my life. These are the thoughts I’m twisting into my novels, the way I’m trying to live my daily life.
—So, what is the User Illusion podcast?
—It is a long process being an author. I see my job as experiencing as much of life as I can, learning and being exposed to wild ideas, corralling all of this and bringing it back to you within my novels. However, I’ve found that there’s so much that I have come across, things that inspire and provoke me, end up getting cut from these pages. This podcast is my opportunity to get lost in the details and share things with you that I wouldn’t have been able to before.
—That’s the reason I’m creating User Illusion—it’s a natural evolution from all of the articles I’ve been writing across the last couple of decades over on my website, and I hope it reaches more people as audio and video is a much easier medium to consume.
—So, Kick back and enjoy the evolution of the show—listen in your car, or while you’re pounding out spreadsheets. I often listen to podcasts when I’m working with my hands—doing one of my many builds
—On day 1, what are my hopes and dreams for this podcast? First off, I’m not completely naive and this isn’t my first podcast—please don’t scour the deep web looking for the old ones, they’re terrible—but these first few episodes will be finding the formula. I’ll be tinkering with things until the show finds its groove. That’s the beauty of podcasting--creative freedom! I really want to get other people involved as the show grows—I love the idea of doing a few interviews and inviting guests on the show. I’m not sure how it will work yet, but I know that’s a direction I’d like to go.
—A big part of this podcast is that I hope to reach more people. I believe in my novels with all of my heart, I think there’s true value and entertainment within in them and I really want you to read them. I want to have people I can talk with about them. I hold onto the hope that if you find this podcast and enjoy it, you’ll take a chance and also enjoy my novels. I put so much effort into them—those are the pieces of my work that I’m truly proud of and what to share with you.
—In the mean time, I’ll be sharing articles with you, talking about life and pop culture, and diving into what it’s like and process of being an author here on this show.
—Right now, I am 5 or 6 chapters away from finishing my third book and second novel titled, The Ballad of Stevie Pearl. I am so so so so in love with this story! It’s really the characters, I wish these people were real. It breaks my heart over and over again, and I’ve cried so many times while writing and thinking about this story—I think knowing what’s going to happen makes it even worse!
The plan is to set a few moments aside at the end of each episode to talk about my writing, the process, how it all works, the travel and comic cons, and what I’m currently struggling with or working on. Think of it as a “behind the scenes” and maybe I’ll even start throwing in a few things I’ve learned in case you’re interested—if you’ve ever considered starting writing your own stories.
—So yeah, this is the User Illusion podcast! It will be random, there will be a variety of topics, and I hope you always find a couple of things interesting and that you join me on this process.
Please get involved with the show—ask questions, leave comments. If there’s an episode you particularly enjoyed, please share on your social media—send it to your friends and family.
And of course, if you like this—please, please please check out my books! You can find them on all major distributors online—there’s digital versions, hardcovers, paperbacks, and in between working on these User Illusion episodes, I’m also recording audio versions of all of my books, so look forward to those in the future.
—Until next time, I am Sean “SW” Hammond and thank you for listening to the first ever episode of User Illusion!