How to Be More Interesting in a Simple Step

 

One of the most popular items on Forbes, it seems, is this article by one Jessica Hagy: How to be more interesting in ten simple steps. The most interesting thing about it is that the article itself is astonishingly boring. Read it, you’ll see what you mean. It’s like contemplating a pile of UNICEF holiday greeting cards. 

The popularity of the article suggests, however, a great public hunger for advice about how to be more interesting. Fortunately, Ricochet is here to advise you properly. You can become more interesting in one step. All you have to do is read Boswell’s Life of Johnson, and commit the best lines to memory. 

Let’s test this advice. This thread is now open for everyone either to share a line from Dr. Johnson, or to follow one of the steps advised by Forbes, such as “do something. Anything.”

First, Dr. Johnson:

I described to him an impudent fellow from Scotland, who affected to be a savage, and railed at all established systems. JOHNSON. ‘There is nothing surprizing in this, Sir. He wants to make himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you looked at him and called to him to come out. But let him alone, never mind him, and he’ll soon give it over.’

I added, that the same person maintained that there was no distinction between virtue and vice. JOHNSON. ‘Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a lyar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.’

IMAGE0004.jpgNow I’m off to do “something. Anything.” Then I’ll “embrace my innate weirdness.” Then I’ll illustrate the results with a meaningless graph, like the one on the right. 

At the end we can all decide with whom we’d prefer to have dinner, Dr. Johnson or the disciples of Jessica Hagy. 

There are 29 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Jackal

    Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. … were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, “Follow me, and hear a lecture on philosophy;” and Charles, laying his hand on his sword, to say, “Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;” a man would be ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal; yet it is strange.

    It’s worth pondering whether that’s still a universal sentiment, especially in Europe and America. Military-aged males in the Middle East, on the other hand–definitely still true.

    Minimize the swagger.Egos get in the way of ideas. If your arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.

    The inane Forbes advice goes against Johnson on that one, to its discredit. Even if he wasn’t sure of himself, he certainly spoke and wrote as if he was.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Instugator

    It is very simple – When confronted with indescribable weirdness, I first look into the wisdom that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    for example:

    The Universe, Some tips to help you live in it.

    4. Population: none. It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

    You should read the entry on Galactic currency.

    The inscription on my class ring is “Don’t Panic”

    The phrase in my yearbook is: “any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

    Yeah Claire – I don’t know what you are really asking for…

    Peace

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Jackal

    Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. …

    I think it’s ultimately still very true.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @user_211930

    Take that graph to HHS and it’s probably worth a year in Tahiti.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @

    I can’t think of anything more tedious than time spent with someone trying to be interesting.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    John Russell: Take that graph to HHS and it’s probably worth a year in Tahiti. · Jan 16 at 3:54am

    Why, Sir, that is true.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    mesquito: I can’t think of anything more tedious than time spent with someone trying to be interesting. · Jan 16 at 4:02am

    Don’t Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. It would NOT be TERRIBLE.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe

    Benjamin Franklin to Dr. Johnson: “Man is by nature a tool-making animal” — quoted by Karl Marx in a footnote to Das Kapital.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @genferei
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Jackal

    Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. …

    I think it’s ultimately still very true. · Jan 16 at 3:39am

    And yet:

    No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KarlUB

    I have always taken “Man more often needs to be reminded than taught” as key advice when it comes to interacting with others. While this is not explicitly advice on being interesting, I suspect it helps.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival
    Jackal

    Minimize the swagger.Egos get in the way of ideas. If your arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.

    I don’t know. Jessica Hagy had at least one good point in that essay.Arrogant-Obama-e1312036400292.jpg

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival

    My own personal favorite Johnson, which comes to mind every time I have a deadline: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Percival

    Jackal

    Minimize the swagger.Egos get in the way of ideas. If your arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.
    I don’t know. Jessica Hagy had at least one good point in that essay. · Jan 16 at 4:47am

    His popularity, Sir, is chiefly owing to the peculiarity of his manner. He would be followed by crowds were he to wear a night-cap in the pulpit, or were he to preach from a tree.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @SeverelyLtd
    KarlUB: I have always taken “Man more often needs to be reminded than taught” as key advice when it comes to interacting with others. While this is not explicitly advice on being interesting, I suspect it helps. · Jan 16 at 4:36am

    You beat me to it, Karl. This advice occurs to me regularly.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Percival

    Jackal

    Minimize the swagger.Egos get in the way of ideas. If your arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.
    I don’t know. Jessica Hagy had at least one good point in that essay. · Jan 16 at 4:47am
    His popularity, Sir, is chiefly owing to the peculiarity of his manner. He would be followed by crowds were he to wear a night-cap in the pulpit, or were he to preach from a tree. · Jan 16 at 5:22am

    Of the decline of reputation many cause may be assigned. It is commonly lost because it never was deserved; and was conferred at first, not by the suffrages of criticism, but by the fondness of friendship, or servility of flattery. The great and popular are very freely applauded; but all soon grow weary of echoing to each other a name which has no other claim to notice, but that many mouths are pronouncing it at once.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Her online bio: “Jessica Hagy is an artist and writer best known for her award-winning blog, Indexed. A fixture in the creative online space, Jessica has been illustrating, consulting, and speaking since 2006.”

    So let’s cut to the chase: If Ms. Hagy is such an expert in being interesting, how come I’ve never heard of her or her “award-winning blog”?

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @DrewInWisconsin

    “How to Be More Interesting” is pretty much the flip-side of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, the jist of which is “be interested in others.”

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @dogsbody

    My favorite quote from Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson is from Boswell himself:

    BOSWELL: Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @dogsbody
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    I described to him an impudent fellow from Scotland, who affected to be a savage, and railed at all established systems. JOHNSON. ‘There is nothing surprizing in this, Sir. He wants to make himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you looked at him and called to him to come out. But let him alone, never mind him, and he’ll soon give it over.’

    A more perfect description of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd cannot be found. If everyone had ignored them, they would soon have given it over; but the press loved them, of course, so they stayed for months.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Valiuth
    DrewInWisconsin: Her online bio: “Jessica Hagy is an artist and writer best known for her award-winning blog, Indexed. A fixture in the creative online space, Jessica has been illustrating, consulting, and speaking since 2006.”

    So let’s cut to the chase: If Ms. Hagy is such an expert in being interesting, how come I’ve never heard of her or her “award-winning blog”? · Jan 16 at 6:39am

    Because you are not Hip enough…shes can’t you guys smell the pungent odder of hipster emanating from that article. I bet it was written in a coffee, huka bar on an iPad that’s how hipster it is.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Member
    @Misthiocracy
    Instugator: It is very simple – When confronted with indescribable weirdness, I first look into the wisdom that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    Douglas Adams does, indeed, rival Dr. Johnson on quotability.

    Since I was a child, by personal motto has been, “If Earthlings don’t constantly exercise their jaws, their brains start to work.”

    It has served me well.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @DavidFoster

    Dr Johnson is alway interesting & fun. One can often find maxims that almost, if not quite, contradict each others, as in:

    “A man of sense and education should meet a suitable companion in a wife. It is a miserable thing when the conversation can only be such as whether the mutton should be boiled or roasted, and probably a dispute about that.”

    and

    “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.”

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RobertBarraudTaylor

    Sirs, of the advice offered by Jessica Hagy, why, it is very like watching a dog walking on its hind legs; it is not that it is done well, it is that it is done at all.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Inactive
    @NobodysPerfect

    The tattoo parlor a few blocks away from my house seems to be doing brisk business. That’s a much easier way of “being interesting” than reading some old dead-tree book by some old dead white guy.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Kermadec

    The ‘interesting’ is a mistaken ideal of style and self-fashioning and has done much harm to the culture. No-one understood this better than Soren Kierkegaard:

    Anyone who has had an opportunity to observe young girls, to lurethem into conversation, will often have heard this sort of statement:‘N.N. is a good person, but he is boring; on the other hand F.F. isso exciting and interesting.’ Every time I hear these words in a littlemiss’s mouth, I think: you should be ashamed of yourself. It is sadto hear a young girl say such a thing. If a young man lost himself inthe realm of the interesting, who, other than a young girl, could savehim. Is she not also guilty? Either the one concerned is unable to doit, and then it is indelicate to demand it, or he can do it and so…A young girl should always be careful never to coax forth the interesting.The girl who does this always loses from the perspective ofthe idea, because the interesting can never be repeated. The girl whodoes not do this is always victorious.

    Kierkegaard, “Repetition”.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Never have you been so right. I of course am far Right but that’s just me.

    Enjoy all wonderful girl. You deserve it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Jackal

    Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea. …

    I think it’s ultimately still very true. · Jan 16 at 3:39am

    As an example of its modern currency, I was told in the live chat tonight that I did not know what was good for America regarding social security’s impact on the deficit, because, inter alia, I had not served. Having worked in Iraq for a couple of years did not suffice. I don’t think that if my interlocutor thought about it much longer he’d support the statement, but the instinct seemed worth noting here as a part of the motivation for serving; the sense that by doing so one becomes a first class citizen.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @Grendel

    One of my favorite Boswellian stories, altho the way I remember it (“she’s a woman of good bottom”, et al.) is funnier.

    Talking of a very respectable authour, he told us a curious circumstancein his life, which was, that he had married a printer’s devil. REYNOLDS.’A printer’s devil, Sir! Why, I thought a printer’s devil was a creature with a black face and in rags.’ JOHNSON. ‘Yes, Sir. But I suppose, he had her face washed, and put clean clothes on her. (Then looking very serious, and very earnest.) And she did not disgrace him; the woman had a bottom of good sense.’

    The word bottom thus introduced, was so ludicrous when contrasted with his gravity, that most of us could not forbear tittering and laughing; … His pride could not bear that any expression of his should excite ridicule, when he did not intend it; he therefore resolved to assume and exercise despotick power, glanced sternly around, and called out in a strong tone, ‘Where’s the merriment?’

    Then collecting himself, and looking aweful, to make us feel how he could impose restraint, and as it were searching his mind for a still more ludicrous word, he slowly pronounced, ‘I say the WOMAN was FUNDAMENTALLY sensible;’ as if he had said, hear this now, and laugh if you dare. We all sat composed as at a funeral.

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @Grendel
    [When Johnson first came to London and was very poor,] there was one brilliant circumstance tocheer him; he was well acquainted with Mr. Henry Hervey, one of the branches of the noble family of that name, who had been quartered at Lichfield [Johnson’s home town] as an officer of the army, and had at this time a house in London, where Johnson was frequently entertained, and had an opportunity of meeting genteel company. . . . he described this early friend, ‘Harry Hervey,’ thus: ‘He was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog HERVEY, I shall love him.’
    • #29

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