Really, be careful what you wish for. It may come true.
Look Mum, Scott Greenfield Mentioned Me
I woke up this morning, and as part of my morning ritual, I checked my twitter feed. I don’t follow too many Twitter profiles, but one that I will literally navigate to is Scott H Greenfields.
Scott is a criminal defense attorney in NYC and one of the more interesting people I have encountered on or off line, in my 46 years on planet earth.
This morning I notice this tweet from Scott.
For Whom This Post Tolls https://t.co/MtQi3Bdoif
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) November 3, 2015
There it was. My name. Scott Greenfield, who probably has one of the most popular blogs on the planet, mentioned my name, Vin Messina, in one of his articles. He even got my name, Vin, right. (most people want to call me Vince)
This is awesome right? I mean, here I am, being linked to on one of the most popular legal blogs on the internet. I should be filled with joy and warm feelings of having “arrived”.
Not so fast.
I know, generally speaking, what Scott thinks of me, so I was pretty certain the article wasn’t flattering. And I wasn’t totally wrong, but I also wasn’t totally right. Scott has a fairly unique way of handing you a cookie while punching you in the face.
Put that aside for the moment. I think, at this point in the evolution of this “relationship”, it is important to clarify a few things.
In the beginning of the article, Scott writes…
“For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, a CPA turned marketer, Vin Messina, has taken a shine to the criminal blawgosphere. He sends me emails asking questions or making observations about how I run this blawg or about criminal law issues.”
For starters, I am not just a CPA who woke up one day and said, “hey, I think I want to go into marketing.” While I am a CPA, I do not practice anymore as I changed careers 15 years ago. So, while I am not entirely certain of Scott’s intent, or the relevance of the revelation, I do want to be clear that most of my career has been on the sales, marketing and business development front.
Additionally, I do not send Scott emails about how he should run his blog. In fact, I not only take notes about how he runs his blog, I use his blog as the model of how anyone who wants to start a blog should do it.
As to the criminal law issues, yes, I do email Scott about criminal law issues because, well, he is a criminal lawyer of the highest magnitude. And, I am not. Duh.
At this point though, it might help anyone who cares to understand why the hell I give Scott so much of my attention, at the expense of his own time sheet.
Here is the story of how I came to follow and,apparently annoy the crap out of Scott H Greenfield.
February 9th, 2014 at 2:57 PM EST
I don’t really remember how it was that I found Scott’s blog Simple Justice. All I know is that the first encounter I had with it was an article Scott wrote about an attorney named Gary Ostrow.
After reading the blog, I decided to make a comment and thus begin the Scott H Greenfield period in my life.
And so, with one comment on what I believed to be a truly hilarious article, I started down a path of horror, the likes of which, up until I met Scott H Greenfield, I had only experienced in my nightmares.
The truth is, that comment was the beginning of an education of sorts. An education about myself. An education about how things in the world work. An education about how some lawyers view the world including but not limited to business development.
Ultimately, it was an education about things I knew little about that not only drew me to Scott Greenfield, but kept me hanging on, even when my self esteem looked like Chuck Webner after the Ali fight.
My Quest to Overcome Cognitive Bias
I am neither the smartest person on the planet or the dumbest. My intelligence was measured when I was a child via that IQ test. I was told back then that I was somewhere between 120 and 130, though I can’t confirm that. Could just be that my mother wanted me to believe I was smart. Who knows? She passed away so I can’t ask her.
What I can confirm is, for whatever reason, I have always been acutely aware of the fact that the way I see the world is tainted by, well, me. It wasn’t until later on in life that I put a name to what I always knew to be true: Cognitive Bias.
Like everyone else in the world, I have biases. Some of these are based on my experiences, some of these are based on genetics. In either case, because I am aware of my proclivity to draw conclusions about the world that are not accurate, I seek to become informed about that which I know little about, or that which I see incorrectly due to unchecked cognitive biases.
I am actually driven by it, to a point that I will subject myself to ridicule, either private or public, in order to rise above my own level of ignorance. Often times this means that I will seek out the experts on matters of importance and hope they make some time to answer my questions.
Curiosity: I Have Questions
I am intellectually curious about a lot of things. I read a lot now but didn’t at all when I was growing up. The more you read the more you realize how little you know.
I feel like I am behind. I feel like everyone has read the Library of Congress and stored every data point in their heads, while I can’t barely remember what day of the week it is.
Every new piece of information I stumble across typically comes with it a whole list of questions I never even thought to ask. In many cases, because I have had such a limited amount of experience with a subject area, I don’t even know what the stupid questions are. In fact, I lose the ability to accurately assess what is or isn’t stupid whether it is a question or an assertion.
This was exactly the case when I first read Simple Justice. It was like walking into a world not yet explored. It must have been something like what Lewis and Clark experienced as they traveled across the country in search of defining the unknown.
There I was, reading a blog, written by a man who articulated his thoughts better than most I had ever seen, but thoughts I knew nothing about. So what do I do? I dive head long in hoping to learn something.
The Risk of Admitting You Have no Clue
To admit you don’t know something, to someone who does know something, is risky in that you are basically admitting you are clueless about a given topic. Unfortunately for me, I have no inhibitions about admitting when I am clueless because to me, it is the only way to at some point have a clue.
The bad part is, most people don’t meet you half way. You either know what they know, meaning you are smart, or you don’t, meaning you are dense.
For me though, it is an uncontrollable urge to ask questions of those you hold in high regard, because they have demonstrated that they have a clue, and are the most likely to have the answers.
It is like heroin to me. It is an addiction. I love to find answers to my questions because, like I said, I hate to be misinformed. I hate not knowing.
Unfortunately for Scott Greenfield, he showed himself to be a great source of expertise in a few areas that I had a driving need to become more informed about. He also, contrary to popular opinion, is gracious enough to actually answer, most, not all of the questions I throw his way.
Legal Marketing: Knowing My Audience
Lawyers represent a market that I hope to serve some day. As a result, I want to understand how lawyers think, what they need, how they function. Generally, what makes them tick. Scott and a few of his peers represent not a prospective audience for me, but a group of “thought leaders” who represent the collective mindset of at least a portion of the audience I am targeting.
These things that I want to understand drew me to Scott because he is fairly vocal about the legal marketing industry.
But the business side of my life is really only a fraction of my interest in Scott. The majority of my interest in folks like Scott, people he mentioned in his article that include Mark W Bennett and Brian Tannebaum, is that they are lawyers who see the world like lawyers. Frankly, it is a view of the world that eludes most non lawyers, but one that we should all make an attempt to accommodate.
Well, what is society if it isn’t partially held together by a system of justice defined by the laws we create and the people we use to enforce them?
The Law: A Different Way to Think
Aside from contract law, or the basics of business law in general, and the information I had to learn to pass the law section of the CPA exam, I know nothing of the law, how to think like a lawyer or how to interpret the world around me from the perspective of a highly trained legal expert.
What Scott says about me is almost true…
“He’s a nice enough guy, but he often doesn’t “get” the posts here. When he emails me a question, I sometimes respond that he’s “dense.” He replies that he’s not dense, but simply lacks the background necessary to appreciate why something (puppycide, most recently) is a problem. He informs me that I ought to explain it better for guys like him, provide them with the background they need to understand it fully. That’s what I should do.”
Thanks Scott. I really appreciate that you think I am a nice “enough” guy, but seriously, my emails to you represent my desire to not be that which you despise: an uniformed, dense, member of the human race.
I don’t think Scott should write his blog for me, or in a way that makes what he is saying clear to me. In fact, I wouldn’t find his blog as valuable if he did cater to me.
No. Scott’s blog is a blog for lawyers and people who are curious enough to want to know how lawyers think. I am that dude. I am curious to know how lawyers see the world, how they interpret events of the day, how they make sense of it all.
Scott is correct though when he asserts that I often don’t get his posts. There was a time that I thought it was because I might not be that bright. Over time however it has occurred to me that I am not suppose to know what the hell he is talking about. I am a. not him, and b. not a lawyer. In fact, it isn’t just a lawyer who get’s him. It is a particular kind of lawyer, a lawyer who has a clue.
So sure, I am a bit dense when it comes to things related to the law, or law enforcement. I am supposed to be, up and until the point I am not.
Unfortunately for Scott, there are not many lawyers who write blogs that are interesting enough for me to follow. I don’t care much about the actual law. I care more about how the law impacts the things we see happening in the world every day, and that is exactly the kind of articles Scott writes.
In many of my emails to Scott I did assert that I would prefer he explain his POV before assessing my level of intelligence. I don’t however believe it is his obligation to do so, only my preference. He has given me quite a bit of his time and for that I am truly grateful as it is not something I feel entitled to.
My demand was only as it pertains to him assessing me, generally, prior to allowing me the courtesy of his perspective, and why he sees it that way. It is in the understanding of his perspective and the origins of it that I can then assess my own by way of comparison and see, really, where I am mistaken.
I’d Like to Not Be Dense
Am I dense?
The short answer is, no, I am not dense.
The long, maybe more complicated answer is, there are times when I appear to be. There may even be times when absolutely, yes, I am completely clueless and not seeing any of it for what it actually is.
The more general truth is, I often give the appearance of being dense because I am really not afraid to express my confusion on things. Mostly though, it is important to note, my confusion is not because I don’t get it. It is because I see things from certain angles and want to be sure I am not missing out on other angles.
Scott references my inquiry into the issue of “puppycide”. I inquired because it was via a tweet from Scott about the cop who shot a dog in Florida that I was made aware of the video of the cop who shot the dog in Florida.
I had an initial response that I will not get into here. Suffice it to say, my response was not the same as Scott’s or a lot of other really smart people.
So, I asked him what his point of view was, and was very clear as to the purpose of my inquiry. Sure, because I don’t have a history of dealing with the cops, nor was I aware of the epidemic of dog killing cops in the US, I came across as a dope who couldn’t see what was happening.
Well, my view is, it is far more dopey to walk away from the tweet thinking Scott is biased against cops and no matter what they do, cops suck ass. I don’t like to walk away being misinformed if being misinformed is the cause of my erroneous conclusion.
To me, that is the opposite of dense. Maybe Scott thinks I am dense because I don’t see the world the way he does, or the way he would like me to, but to his point, that he makes at least a million times a year, if you are not a lawyer who has practiced the law, in an actual court of law, up against the people who write the laws, you really have no clue.
I am none of those things, so it is impossible for me to see the world as if I am any of those things. Ergo, I ask questions of the people who are all of those things.
“I mostly ignore Vin. He can be a bit much, and the relationship is more than a bit one-sided. I get nothing out of it, except the loss of time I’ll never get back. He uses “lol” a lot. Apparently, I amuse him.”
He does mostly ignore me. Some of his peers actually completely ignore me, so I am grateful for what little attention Scott actually gives me.
It is one sided. I am not going to pretend that I have much to offer the man. His blog has been archived by the Library of Congress. My blog, well, let’s move on…
He does indeed amuse me for many reasons, on many fronts. I think he is a prick at times but one of the more intelligent and hilarious pricks I have encountered online.
The fact is, I am sorry I have wasted Scott’s time, and to be clear, I have never fooled myself into believing I wasn’t. Yes, from this angle, I was being very selfish.
Scott, and people like him, because of who they are and what they do, are uniquely qualified to answer certain types of questions. As I explained, I have questions. When I see the source for answers, it is nearly impossible for me to ignore it.
Vin thinks it should be about him. I don’t say this to hurt his feelings, but it’s not about him. It’s not about the guy who just showed up here today for the first time, reads one post, and feels compelled to enlighten me (or you, the other readers who might benefit from his insight) on a subject about which he knows nothing but has opinions.
Nonsense. Scott is projecting this on me.
I don’t think any of what Scott does is about me aside from my craving to have my questions answered. That isn’t the same as me thinking he should write his blog for me or that I think he owes me anything. No. Not even close.
He is also correct in that his blog is hard to digest if you show up in a day and expect to get it, or him. The problem for me in what Scott said about me is, I never had that delusion. I was aware from go that his blog was something you needed to work hard to understand if you came at it from my position in life. The challenge is that to truly grasp much of it, to Scott’s point, you need to go to law school, practice law for 40 years and then read all 3 million of his posts.
Well, I just don’t have that kind of time, so, I tried to cheat a bit by seeing if the old man would throw me a bone or two. And he did, every once in a while, and it was worth it.
For the ones who don’t give a damn whether SJ is around tomorrow or not, carry on. You are the lowest common denominator, and there is nothing to be done about you. For the ones who want to see another post here tomorrow, try not to make this as unpleasant for me as possible.
And for those who just showed up today, get a feel for the place before deciding to leap in blindly or inform me what I can to do make your world better. As for Vin, keep on trucking, dude.
I am not, nor have I ever been, someone who doesn’t care if SJ is around. I do. I read it every day. If I made it unpleasant, it was not intentional.
If I gave Scott the sense that I wanted him to make my world better, that also was not my intent. I think Scott jumped the gun on that as it pertains to me. I have always made it clear that I admired him. If I asked for a bit of understanding it was only to clarify my intent.
Clearly, I never got my point across.
Scott H Greenfield is a Life Changer
Not going to sugar coat it. Scott and a few of his lawyer friends irritate the crap out of me. No one likes to be dismissed or mocked or ridiculed.
But I know, deep down, my angst is directed at me. I didn’t handle the interactions well and as a result, didn’t earn the respect of some pretty smart people.
I am not going to stop following Scott or his blog. It is too damn interesting for me to even consider it.
I will however stop sending him emails because really, it is not his job to teach me how to think. And, interestingly enough, it pains me to think I robbed him of his time without him gaining anything in return.
That said, one way or another, there are a few things you should expect to get out of being in Scott’s ecosystem, even if only on the outside looking in.
- You will learn either how to think, or a totally different way to think than you have been used to.
- You will have a new perspective on current events as seen through the eyes of someone who battles for the lives of his clients every day.
- You will likely develop a thick skin, or increase your dosage of meds.
- You will encounter some of the brightest minds in the world as they are the ones who tend to hang with Scott.
- You may literally get kicked to the curb by those same brilliant people because you acted like a jackass.
- You may get kicked to curb because they acted like a jackass.
- If you are lucky, you may get a chance to email with Scott, or even, as I once did, talk to him on the phone.
- You may learn how to use reason to think through issues, form arguments based on logic not emotion.
- You will learn how to write if by only observing how he writes.
- You will learn how to develop a blog, because he has one of the best on the internet.
- You will, if you are paying attention, learn that sometimes the best marketing is unmarketing.
- You will learn that Mark W Bennett has a 1 strike and your out protocol for engaging with him on Twitter.
- You will learn that Brian Tannebaum doesn’t spell his name with 3 n’s…and will ignore you no matter how many times you tweet that his book is awesome.
- You will never convince any of them that marketing is a profession, so don’t waste your time.
In the end, the best part about Scott H Greenfield, and the people who he holds in high regard, if you are open to the possibilities, is that you will walk away being a better version of yourself.
For that, all the mocking, all the double face palming, all the ignoring, all the emails telling you to go away will be worth it.
It was all worth it to me.
Thanks man. I don’t care what anyone says. You are a keeper.
(Note: my last email to Scott H Greenfield will be to send him the link to this article. I want him to know how much I appreciated the time he did give to me.)