The picture above is of Amsterdam Vallon and Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York--which, is an excellent film. It's also a film about a kid becoming an adult and having to talk to a crazy man about adult shit, like white collar crime.
For a time, Leo's character does this incredibly well. Then that old pal of Liam Neeson's who represents Morality! intervenes and makes him ponder shit...tells Leo he's either too clever (clehv-URRR) or too dumb. A lot of themes resonate here, especially when attempting to talk about hot new rages like life insurance policies. So just like Leo, here's how to fake your way into gaining acceptance into the stuff that's increasingly dominating your new demographic--adulthood.
As anyone with a Netflix account and a mediocre Kevin Spacey impression may tell you, politics is all about empowerment--it’s about giving the other person the illusion of having the upper-hand. This takes practice and skill, and is something that you’ll have to manage like a properly disciplined EDM DJ. You have to let them build (this country is going to shit) and build (my taxes are too high) and buuuuuild (we’re working more hours getting less benefits and having our zest for human idealism swallowed by the gallows of big business and bureaucratic red tape):
And then politely interrupt them for your superior drop.
Or, you could always just nod your head and insert the occasional “yeah!”. The thing about political conversations, is that the person who is talking has never thought an incorrect opinion in his or her life. It is generally your job to further confirm that.
B. The Economy
Rule number one here is that talking about the economy is very much like talking about your girlfriend with your dude friends--if things are going well, there is nothing to talk about. If things are going poorly, it’s essential to roll your eyes as much as possible and continuously make empty threats about quitting. (No, I'm serious this time.)
Believe it or not, uttering things like “scarcity,” “is ever gonna get better?”, and “the tragedy of capitalism/socialism” (dependent on your leanings) is all you need to survive here. Don’t try and flash ‘em with a GDP stat or a pre-rehearsed bit about the Federal Reserve. It’s a high risk move, and there’s little payoff. Some might even say progressively detailed knowledge might give you diminishing returns.
C. Finance Stuff
This is definitely the toughest. As very funny human John Mulaney notes, you either sort of know what the Dow Jones does, or you don’t.
I’d argue that this is one of the very few instances that if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, it’s best to go full retard--this method implies that despite the fact that you're a complete idiot, you’re also enough of a genius in other areas to more than make up for that.
This is basically how I’ve lived my life for the past decade, and I’ve got to say it’s been quite rewarding. For example--I was smart back in high school, so I took all the AP classes to trick colleges into thinking I was smart. (Again, this what actual intelligence is.) But I was god awful at chemistry--so bad in fact, that I recieved the always elusive "1" on the AP exam. Had I studied a bunch more and gotten a 2 (extremely do-able), it’d arguably be a less impressive feat, especially considering I ended up going to a good college that I don’t think anyone else in that class even got into.
Am I bragging? Of course I am. Shit like this adds to your legend. In certain areas, it’s important to wear your embarrassing lack of knowledge as a badge of pride. If your job has nothing to do with finance, it's almost insulting to even try and run with those who do know their stuff.
D. Adult Documents and the Like (taxes, mortgage payments, etc.):
Similar to the last item, it’s important to sometimes not know what things are--for instance, I’m really proud of myself for not knowing what a lipper average is. That said, you definitely have to pick your spots. Too much incompetent bragging is attention-seeking at worst, and I think we can all agree that there’s enough self-deprecation in the world to offset all the innumerable amount of poor decisions I’ve ever made.
(This where we put the excruciating pause, so you can fully soak in that last joke.)
Anyway, let's treat this category as means to discuss Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory. Or as I like to call it, “if you do something, you’ll figure out how to do it.” Meaning if you don’t know anything about your taxes, fill ‘em out next year. You’ll be astounded how much you’ll learn. You’ll be on top of your W-4 and I-9 game, and lack of knowledge will no longer be a problem. And you'll be able to actually hold a conversation.
E. Pertinent News Stories
Oftentimes, people will be all like “yo, did you hear about this huge news story that I’m gonna ask you about because it’s sort of exciting, and the truth is that we’re both two pretty boring people?” To which your natural inclination is probably to say no--especially given that in this instance, we’re assuming this is your friend who feels the need to exert his superiority over you by being more in the know about information deemed valuable to society.
About 5 years ago, getting out of this was damn near impossible. Now, all you’ve gotta do is pretend like you got a text, abruptly excuse yourself to another room, and hit up your good friend google. Return promptly, and spontaneously continue the conversation.
You: “Yo, yea I did hear about that...Crazy, right?”
Him (suddenly ashen-faced): Yeah.