Thursday, July 14, 2016

You Will Never Become an Astronaut: A Motivational Speech

As I embark on my new career as a motivational speaker, I have decided to unleash a preview motivational speech upon the planet free of charge. I am going to motivate the metaphorical pants off of you, and all I ask is that you keep all non-metaphorical pants firmly cinched and that you consider hiring me for your next corporate function or just your next personal bout of soul-crushing lethargy. I will also make house calls for overwhelming malaise, paralyzing self-doubt, debilitating inertia, and hemorrhoids.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Why should I listen to a motivational speaker who started writing this blog post 6 weeks ago and then gave up? That's an excellent and clairvoyant question! Because the greatest generals will tell you that sometimes the best strategy comes from those in the trenches. And I’ve dug a trench in those trenches.

Now, I am going to start out my first motivational speech with a tried and true platitude. Ahem.


Let me clarify that I mean that only as a statement of fact. The word “can” denotes that it is a possibility, which it is. However, statistically speaking you are much more likely to pass out alone in your apartment only to be discovered by your disinterested cats than to accomplish whatever far-flung dream you’ve assigned as “it”. For every astronaut that has walked on the moon there are 10,000,000 average joes who have ordered a pizza in their underwear, but then fallen asleep on their living room floor before it was delivered. So, let’s focus on things you can definitely accomplish.

Getting out of bed. You can do that! Showering. You’re a natural! Becoming an astronaut. Not in a million years! 

I want to be clear. You’re a pretty okay person with several positive things to share with other humans. You are an adequate tipper at restaurants. You obey traffic laws when other people are watching. Except for a couple of goldfish, you’ve kept pets alive for their average lifespans. But, unlike urethane-coated synthetic polymers, you just aren't astronaut material. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful, though.

There are three ways for you to achieve success in life – 1)Become a completely different person, 2)Redefine your personal meaning of success so that any mouth-breathing toddler can be successful, or 3)Some combination of the previous two. The trick is finding the right equilibrium, and that’s what I’m here to help you find.

To begin your journey of self-transformation you've got to have some self-esteem. Let’s try an exercise I either read in a psychology textbook or dreamed I read in a psychology textbook once. First, prepare a bowl of mashed potatoes.  As has been previously discussed, I'm not exactly a chef, but I'm pretty sure you just get a bag of potatoes and beat them with a hammer until your downstairs neighbor threatens to call the police. Next, look intently at those mashed potatoes and shout insults at it. Maybe something like, “YOU ARE LUMPY AND PALE!” or “NOBODY LIKES YOU UNLESS YOU’RE COVERED IN GRAVY!” This is called projection, because deep in your heart you feel these things are true about yourself.

"So, uhh…are we friends now?"

Here comes the therapeutic part. Devour those delicious insults by shoveling the mashed potatoes down your grease-lined gullet. When you are done, look down at your clean plate and reflect on your accomplishment. You ate those insults like a champ! Those negative feelings about yourself can no longer hurt you, unless you have tender bowels unequipped for starch.

Now that you have a more positive self-image, it's time to slightly adjust who you are by broadening the limits of your comfort zone. Travel more. Face your fears. Try new things. 

If you're afraid of large bodies of water, rent a deep-sea fishing boat and use yourself as chum. If you've never lived abroad, commit a federal crime that will require you to flee to a country without an extradition treaty. If you've never fallen in love, rent the movie "You've Got Mail" and experience a whirlwind of emotions vicariously through its likable and relatable protagonists. But, if you’ve never been to the moon, do not search Craigslist for a spacesuit.

Remember as you stretch yourself in new directions that you will never be able to change into an entirely different person, like Buzz Aldrin or retired naval officer and NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan. But, you can molt your old outer skin and show off your fresh new dermis. Sure, you'll be pink and sensitive and will horrify children at the grocery store for a while, but before long that 'new you' will just become 'you'. There's no going back now. You're ready for the final step in your motivation transformation - redefining success.

Why did you want to become an astronaut in the first place? Was it fame? Any goober with a YouTube account can become famous. Was it to explore uncharted territory? You don't even know what's between your own couch cushions. Was it to earn the respect of your peers and gain self-worth in a lifelong struggle for happiness?

The ultimate success is happiness, and there is no defined course to obtain it. You don’t have to settle, but you do have to be realistic. You are perfectly capable of being a good person, finding friends who enjoy your company, being a devoted family member, and reaching goals you set for yourself to become a better person and contribute more to society. You are capable of being happy.

You just aren’t capable of being an astronaut.

Motivation complete! You are now ready to tackle the world with your magnificent mediocrity! Remember, nothing can stop you from achieving pretty good things. And if you ever lose sight of what will really make you happy and successful, give me a call. I’ll be there to bring you back down to Earth.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Solutions to All of America's Problems - abridged version

It is with great reluctance and even greater fanfare that I announce my candidacy for the president of the United States of America in 2016. Not because I need the attention my inevitable scandal will give me (WaterNate), but because America needs me. I am a majestic mama eagle who will gather broken America into my nest and nurse you stupid eaglets back to health by regurgitating liberty and patriotism down your throats. With my help, America, you will soar again. End of metaphor.

Some of you may remember my failed 2012 campaign, but I would like to emphasize that I polled the highest among the key demographics of both the recently deceased and the recently born. Any allegations of voter fraud are patently false, and I can have 5,000 signatures within ten minutes calling you a liar.

As the nation’s first 30 year old president, my first official act will be to retroactively lower the minimum age to be president from 35 to 30, creating a circular timeline I have neither the brainpower nor attention span to figure out. But after that I’ll be ready to tackle all of America’s problems! Below are excerpts from my 487-page manifesto to turn this good country around. Nay, great country.

My opponent Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, but that won’t solve the real problem. I’ve never had an immigrant bother me personally, but I do find myself wanting to build a wall around people who are constantly complaining about immigrants. It may be a social wall, or a physical wall made out of popsicle sticks. Either way, it will probably not be enough to drown out their rhetoric. Thus I propose the immediate exile of all Americans, and then on my mark the first 320 million people from around the globe to make it onto American soil get to stay here and gain citizenship. Bam! Everyone’s an immigrant! Sure, my solution will initially create the world’s biggest refugee crisis, but it will also create a pretty interesting version of Amazing Race, so I think the trade-off is worth it. And when it’s all over, anyone left still complaining about immigrants will only be revealing their deep insecurity, self-loathing, and inability to steal their own job.

This one is tough. How do we keep America safe when so many bullies on the playground don’t like us? Do we increase security and monitoring? The security ritual to take a routine flight has already reached a level of invasiveness that is considered weird when cousins do it, and if the TSA get any friendlier they are going to have to register for curtains with me at Target.

Do we start more wars? My knowledge of military strategy is limited to games of Risk, therefore I am tempted to invade Australia first. That might be unpopular with the United Nations, so that’s out too. That only leaves me with a radical solution to keep America safe from terrorists – kill them!…with kindness.

All airport security screenings will be replaced with 5 seconds of eye contact while a TSA agent uses a bullhorn to say “I CHERISH YOU AS A PERSON AND VALIDATE YOUR IDEOLOGY.” Any suspicious looking individuals (people wearing sandals, the bearded, anyone wearing a digital watch) will be escorted out of line to a special room to eat ice cream and play the Sweet Valley High board game until their desire to end our culture has abated. And as for warfare – all bombs will be replaced with Uncle Sam Pillow Pets.

My eventual predecessor, Barack “The Rock” Obama’s healthcare initiative was quite divisive, but I’m prepared to take it one step further. Not only will healthcare insurance be mandatory, healthcare will be mandatory. A spleen exam for every man! A thyroid cleansing for every woman! A colonoscopy for every butt!

The fact that racism still exists in the 21st century is ridiculous. The solution to this problem is simple: realizing that our differences aren’t weaknesses by practicing greater empathy and understanding. But we’ve tried that for 250 years as a country and failed miserably, so now it’s on to plan B -  mandatory homogeny. As your president I will spearhead the development of a pill capable of turning skin a chosen color. Since I believe in freedom, each household will be mailed color swatches from Sherwin Williams and a vote will take place as to our new national hue. I don’t want to sway the voters, but I look great in purple.

After we become unified by color, we will have to find more subtle thing things to hate about each other, like whether or not your earlobes dangle and the diameter of your nostrils.


So there you have it, the solutions to your problems. A vote for me is a vote for a better nation – one filled with purple immigrants with high self-esteem, particularly healthy spleens, and personal surface-to-air missile launchers (the section on gun control was cut for brevity, but mostly obscenity).

You’re welcome, America. You’re welcome.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Honest Application

Dear Sir and/or Madam (I'm not here to judge),

I am very interested in the opportunity you have available at your company, namely the opportunity to work there five days a week and receive money for doing so. I'm sure you've read a thousand applications by now, so I won't bore you with trite verbiage and cliche lines about how I'd be an excellent fit for this role or how I could maximize synergy through cross-pollinating business units. No, I'll just be up front and completely honest - I am your average, run-of-the-mill goober.

I'm the twelfth row, third from the center

Sure, I have a degree in marketing. But you and I both know you could throw a rock out your office window and it would ricochet off no less than a dozen marketing majors. Charmin might as well print "Bachelors of Science in Marketing" across their comfortably absorbent two-ply double rolls. My marketing degree qualifies me for this job the same way a belly button qualifies me to be President of the United States - it's technically necessary but offers no competitive advantage. What I'm trying to say is that my marketing degree is worthless, unless you have a marketing degree that you're proud of, in which case I am willing to forget I ever wrote this paragraph. Somebody's got to be the bigger man here.

And yes, I do have 8 years of progressive marketing experience in leadership roles. But coming out of the worst economic downturn in modern memory, there are still people out there with 50 years of marketing experience who would mow your grass for a cheese stick. And they would take that cheese stick, eat it like a rabid squirrel, and then viciously attack me with a tire iron for being younger and more likely to be hired. It's cutthroat out there.

"I was marketing cigarettes to children when your daddy was still in diapers, you Twitter-loving hippie!"

I possess the same schooling, knowledge, software skills, and hairstyle as just about every other applicant whose email is in your Outlook folder labeled "Crap, do I have to pick one?" But I'm not writing to get those goobers hired, I'm writing to get me hired. So let me appeal to your sense of reason - statistically speaking, I am one of the applicants. Why not hire me?

If that line of reasoning didn't work, and really it shouldn't have, let me tell you what I do offer that others won't promise:

  • I will share my perspective without reservation, and I will passionately stick up for ideas I think best serve the company. Conversely, I will shut my face when I am proven wrong and accept when one of my ideas is bad. It's like my grandfather always told me when I was little, "Henry, even the golden goose still laid turds". Though looking back he always got my name wrong, so maybe that idiom never made any sense...
  • I am a bastion of workplace etiquette. I will not force pictures of my ugly kids on you while you are trying to work on reports. I will not clip my toenails at my desk. My laugh is an appropriate volume and cadence, and it is devoid of snorts.

"...and this is Susan. She's starting 3rd grade next year..."

  • If some workplace violence breaks out, I will be your biggest asset. Not because of my bravado or karate skills, but because I'm told my shrill, panicked wail is louder than any alarm. This might also happen if there's a spider in the office.
  • I will never write you an email this long or this stupid again. You have to admit though, you're still reading it.
  • Have I mentioned that new tie and/or dress looks great on you? (Again, not here to judge.)

Normally this is where I'd say that I'm eagerly awaiting a response and reiterate that my goal in life is to work for you until I die and then have my ashes spread on my cubicle. However, in keeping with this cover letter's theme of unabashed honesty I feel compelled to tell you that I do genuinely want to work for your company, but I've also applied to dozens of other companies and will forget all about you until I either receive a rejection letter or a job offer.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I'm going to finish eating this sandwich now.

-Nathan Lee
Resumé attached

Thursday, March 5, 2015


You couldn't tell it from the frequency of my updates, but I do enjoy writing these blogs. But, I occasionally try my hand at writing for other websites who have an editorial process much more rigorous than Where it Gets Awkward (I am, after all, sharing a bed with the editor). These websites have readerships in the millions, have launched careers, and have editors who all agree that I should convert to the Amish.

Which is fine, because I'd look great with a beard, and they are looking for a very specific and pre-established style which I have yet to master. But what to do with all these rejected submissions?

Behold, my failures!


excerpt from Bizarre Festivals (for the Pain Enthusiast)

Skewer Yourself at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

What could possibly be dangerous at a festival with celery-eaters and pacifists, you ask? Plenty, if you're from the Thai city of Phuket (disappointingly pronounced “poo-ket”). Mainly celebrated by the resident Chinese community, participants eat a vegetarian diet during the ten days of festivities to honor the Nine Emperor Gods who saved a group of traveling opera performers from an epidemic of malaria, thus unleashing a new but slightly less painful epidemic upon Phuket of opera. Modern day worshippers aren't content to just do some praying, grill some cucumber kabobs, and call it a festival, however. They make face kabobs. Out of their own faces.

“I momentarily mistook myself for a zucchini”

It is said the mutilation is done in a trance-like state to invoke the gods, who will protect them from pain or severe scarring. It is also said, “AAAAHHHH THAT MAN HAS BEEN IMPALED BY A SWORD! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY CALL AN AMBULANCE!”, but that is usually just by foreigners. The festival goers like to get creative with what they put through their face, and we'd like to think prizes are given out at the end like at a Halloween costume contest. Some of the more interesting facial ornaments include an AK47, a wine glass, hedge clippers, and an umbrella. 

“Does this dress make me look like I have a pirate ship sticking out of my face?”

For the faint of heart who are too cowardly to have their heads turned into giant pin cushions, there are other festival activities to engage in, like walking over burning hot coals and climbing 25-foot ladders made out of blades. If the festival organizers were really sadists they'd make you swan dive off the top of that ladder into a vat of alcohol, so there's at least some proof the Phuketians (Phuketites? Phuketonians?) have sympathy. Oh, and speaking of alcohol, in addition to avoiding meat during the festival participants commit to abstaining from drinking or having sex.

“I wish there was a pool of alcohol at the bottom of this thing”


A Memo to All Explosion Burger® Employees

To:  All Explosion Burger® employees
From:  Corporate Headquarters
Re: Employee Happiness


The corporate office has re-evaluated the longstanding policy that all Explosion Burger® employees smile while within the blast radius (defined as all Explosion Burger® property, up to and including the parking lot, dining area, and bathrooms - see Section 117c of your Employee Lawbook). Although no formal or informal customer complaints were ever filed, the policy was enacted to mitigate possible issues with customers encountering less-than-perky attitudes while being provided timely service and delicious hamburgers. However, our marketing research reveals that coerced smiles can be detected by consumers 97% of the time, and of the 97% who will correctly identify your fraudulence, only 93% will Atomicize™ their Missile Meals™ when offered. In light of this recent data, we have no choice but to change this policy.

Therefore, effective immediately, all mandatory smiles and other expressions of happiness are required to be genuine. This includes laughing, fist pumps, heel clicks, squealing, and hugging (reminder: no employee is allowed to hug another employee, customer, or bystander within the blast radius unless the huggee is an immediate family member over the age of 18 – see Section 321g of your Employee Lawbook). In order to determine the genuineness of your smiles a retired FBI body language expert will be added to each franchise location. The agents will analyze facial expressions, gait, blinking frequency, and stool samples to assess your level of happiness. They may also serve as backup fry cook.

Anyone caught faking a smile will be punished. The first infraction earns a verbal warning to be administered via megaphone. Anyone caught the second time will be issued a written warning and sent home to write an essay titled “Ten Reasons Why Working at Explosion Burger® Makes Me Happy”.  Anyone caught the third time will be expelled from employment immediately and will not be eligible to receive their deposit back.

Explosion Burger, Inc. has always striven to provide a relaxing and inoffensive dining experience for families by offering explosive themed hamburgers and t-shirts at blowout prices by exuberant employees. We WILL continue to do so.

Thank you for your deference.


Harold Q. Oppenheimer
Vice President of Human Resources


A Time Traveler from the Present in Love in the Past

Dear Clara Beth,

These past few days without you have been agonizing. I often stare at my iPhone, as dead as your neighbor with tuberculosis, and wish I could see your beautiful face on my lock screen. “Slide to unlock” it would say if electrical sockets had been invented yet. “Slide to unlock our hearts.” Oh, sweet, sweet Clara Beth, how I miss your piercing blue eyes! They would have looked so good in HDR or sepia scrolling through my Instagram feed. I would have liked every photo, and I don’t mean in the passive way with feelings. You deserve better than that.

At night when I rest my weary head and close my eyes I have dreams of all the great times we’ve had together. They are random and disjointed memories that last about 6 seconds each and loop endlessly. Oh, how those wonderful, tangled Vines blossomed into our love!

Clara Beth, I want to make us Facebook official. I want to shout our love from the top of Old Man Sanders’ mill and then see if your ex-boyfriend Clyde comments with a frownie emoticon. I will private message him if he does. I will private message him fisticuffs in the pasture behind your barn.

But alas, all I have is this slender black screen in my hand. There is no color, no animation, no life. Just a dark reflection of my lonely face while I wait for your return, darling Clara Beth. When that train finally brings you back from the big city and we embrace, I will turn on my location services and tag you in my heart.

I mean that figuratively, of course, because my iPhone is still regrettably and irreversibly dead. I probably should have thought of this before installing that time traveling app.

Yours forever,