Wish you were here.

I keep coming back to labels. You’ve heard me talking about this on the podcast—or will, once I get these episodes published (#soon). Gearbox Magazine was a magazine and, as such, came with certain expectations.

The other day, I was thinking about loyalty, influence, and honor.

Do those words feel as important to you as they do to me?

Doesn’t it seem strange how often we hear them used wrong? Commercially, even?

Companies like to talk about customer and employee loyalty. We’ve all got a card in our wallet or a tag on our keys or an app on our phone related to some retail loyalty program. They tell us we’re saving money by participating, but they’re really giving us a simple, yet kinda despicable when you think about it, choice—

Let us track you, personally, for advertising purposes or pay more.

It’s the usual corporate marketing spin bullshit. They know exactly how many widgets they order, how many customers frequent the store, and how many widgets they sell. They know what sells and what doesn’t. And they’ve known this for years. It ain’t rocket science.

So what do they get from offering us an almost imperceptible discount for tying our individual purchases to our phone numbers or email addresses? They get the ability to better track us and chase us around the web with low value interruption.

Of course, this all works, because woke folks or something like that, but you know what I mean.

It’s like influence. We all love the thought of being influential, right? It’s nice when you’re the one who comes up with the idea everyone else loves and copies. It’s nice to be the most popular kid in school so to speak.

And yet, today, “influence” is a commodity. It’s an extremely lazy form of marketing that says, “Don’t bother making the product better or even legitimately unique. Just throw a few bucks at someone with a lot of ‘followers’ on social media in exchange for them mentioning it to their audience.”

Because your company, your brand, can’t be bothered to produce anything relevant or meaningful or even mildly entertaining to those people you want to be your customers. Because, frankly, your company doesn’t give a flying funk about them. You don’t even want to talk to them. Press one for English, two for Spanish, three to funk off.

And you don’t care about the “influencer” either. He’s just a consumer whore eager to say and do ever-escalating things in the pursuit of a larger audience he can monetize by trampling the environment to get that perfect shot of your product.

Of course, this all happens because it works.

Which brings me to honor.

We hear a lot about whom and what we’re supposed to honor these days. Maybe I’m crazy, here, but I feel like honor is something that comes from personal responsibility, ownership, agency. Honor is something we have to earn from others.

Ironically, most people expecting or demanding honor are those least honorable and least deserving of honor in the first place. Get the funk outta here with that noise.

And so it is I find myself hesitating when using these terms within our little TGP Alliance community.

It’s hard to talk about loyalty, influence, and honor in the scope of what we’re doing. Not because we’re not talking about the real thing, but because we’ve all seen those pearls before swine in our daily lives by organizations neither interested in nor deserving of those things and it cheapens them to the point where MY saying them feels like more of the usual marketing bullshit.

There’s a loyalty to one’s community, to one’s family. Our brothers and sisters in-arms know they can count on us to show up, to be there when they need us, and to bring truly useful support.

There’s influence in being someone who carries him or herself that way. We make a difference in the lives of others and those people then go and do likewise, moving the needle.

There’s honor in holding one’s self to account, personally responsible for outcomes. When the work we do clearly matters. When others understand why we sacrifice and do it.

(Here’s looking at you, Chad.)

There’s crazy power in labels. And it’s not always a bad thing. Powerful, well-monied forces are deeply invested in maintaining the status quo—and are using every trick in the book to separate us from our time and money.

Loyalty. Influence. Honor.

These mean things to people like us.

Please don’t let them be used against you.

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