The best lesson Marilyn Manson can possibly teach you.

Mr T.

As Kim typed, she chanted softly under her breath. “MarilynMansonMarilynMansonMarilynManson,” like a benediction, muttered as she wrote an article she’d been putting off for thirty-eight years.

But this is too early. Let’s go back twenty-two years.

Kim on the athletic team

Kim was on the running team in high school, and she was a demon on the hurdles. One day the coach pulled her aside with a fatherly arm around the shoulders and said, “We really need to do something about your stride, Kim.”

“What’s wrong with it, coach?”

“It’s just… have you seen a video of your running? You’re… uh… wasting a lot of motion.” He sat her down in front of the TV and pressed Play.

Now Kim had watched herself run before, checking her foot placement and her spine and all sorts of technical things. But this time she unfocused her eyes and watched the overall picture.

And Kim realised she ran like a flailing buffoon. She ran like the Athletic Department of the Ministry of Silly Walks. She ran like a box full of herons falling down a flight of stairs.

“Oh. My. GOD.” The coach nodded sympathetically.

They spent six months on adjusting her stride to something less awkward-looking, but it never looked one bit less foolish. Eventually, Kim quit the team.

And now we’re back at Kim today, invoking the name of Marilyn Manson over and over.

Wait, it’s still too soon. Go back ten years.

Kim and the PowerPoint

After school and university and three months in Europe, Kim went to work in the HR department of a large mining company.

Most of her work was ordinary operational work: hirings-firings-and-paperwork stuff. But Kim kept working to bring improvements to the way the business managed its employees.

One day Kim read a book about the Results-Only Work Environment and knew that it could revolutionise her office. She put together a PowerPoint presentation introducing the idea of giving the staff fixed deliverables instead of fixed hours, and the massive advantages it would create in morale, office costs, flexibility, productivity and reputation.

She booked an hour with her manager, Steve, in the small boardroom. She went through the entire presentation to his encouraging face and then asked for his thoughts.

Steve said, “Well firstly, I’m really impressed with your initiative in putting this together, Kim. Great job. (Pause.) But I don’t think that this has any chance of flying with the senior managers. You know how stuck in their ways they are, and this is just… too revolutionary for them.”

Disappointed, Kim returned to her desk and thought hard. She could go over Steve and take this to the senior managers herself if she wanted, and Steve wouldn’t mind. But she would have to have the same talk with a number of high-ups that she only saw twice a year at the stockholder’s meeting and try to convince them to completely change how the office ran.

She would have to make a fool of herself. She could imagine the polite coughs, the hidden Blackberry-checking, and worst of all, the look on their faces as the lights came back up…

The PowerPoint was archived and never seen again.

And now we’re back to the chanting.

Actually, let’s go back just a few days first.

Kim and Marilyn Manson

Kim nicknamed her daughter Christine “Firecracker”. Christine is smart, wicked, opinionated and aggressively confident, seventeen years old in body but a thousand years old in wisdom of the serpent.

Kim made the foolish mistake of daydreaming aloud about the idea of starting her own consulting firm some day when Christine was nearby. “Jeez Mum, are you going to wait until the retirement home to give it a try? Just bung up a website, print some business cards and get started!”

Cue the slow-down-woah-there-Nellie face and the patient ah-my-daughter-you’re still-so-young tone. “I can’t do that, sweetie. I have no experience and no clients.”

“No experience? Mum, you’ve been doing this job for longer than I’ve been alive!”

“Well, yes, but that was for companies. I can’t just stride out there and say, “Okay, pay me money now!”, you know.”

“Mum, do you know Marilyn Manson?”

Kim shook her head at this complete non sequitur. “I know the rubbish music you play too loudly and that somewhat offensive poster I’m letting you keep on sufferance, yes.”

Christine rolled her eyes. “Seriously Mum, you are not too old to like it, you were like twenty-five or something when his first hit came out. Anyway. So you know how he wears makeup and sings about, you know, stuff not many people sing about and is generally pretty weird?”

Weird is definitely how I’d describe it. And I’m not old, I just have taste.”

The perfect adolescent eyeroll. “Any. Way. Right, so he started as an ordinary kid in a band in high school, right? But he still wore the freaky makeup and he still made songs about murder and stuff, but the band had like no fans and they were just playing at parties and things.”

“I’m waiting for your point.”

“Don’t be dense, Mum! It’s easy to be Marilyn Manson when there are ten thousand fans screaming your name and grooving on your weirdness. It’s really, really hard to be Marilyn Manson when there are nineteen people in the crowd and one of them is calling you a wanker.

But you can’t get to the good bit unless you suck it up and put up with that crappy first bit, where you’re doing your thing and no-one likes it. You gotta stand up and be, like totally cool on the outside even if you’re totally embarassed on the inside. So you can rock it out later.”

“How did I raise such a wise child?”

“I dunno. Alien implantation?”

Three days later, Kim was writing an article for her new website. And to muffle all the voices that lovingly wanted to save her from making a fool of herself, the voices that told her to tone it down, the voices that advised playing it safe, she spoke the words.


Are you lacking a preternaturally wise child? Then Goddamn Radiant is a good stand-in.

Creative Commons License photo credit: spacedustdesign

68 thoughts on “The best lesson Marilyn Manson can possibly teach you.

  1. Alright, Catherine, your marketing blog has made me teary.

    Seriously, this is just so fitting and perfect and I really love that we can be as weird as we are and get our points across because of it.

  2. I love that you used Marilyn Manson as an example. People either hate him deeply or are huge fans (I’m a fan). People need to realize it is their “weirdness” that will help make them a huge success and not keep them from success.

  3. Wow. I just…wow. I’ve heard (and read) a lot of people lately telling me to step out of my box, but this…this is getting printed out and hung up right beside my desk. Thank you, Catherine!

  4. Yes, oh my yes. Indeed.
    “…nineteen people in the crowd and one of them is calling you a wanker.”

    – or silence so deafening you can hear the crickets chirping, and your face starts to burn like you stuck your head in an oven. Been there.

  5. I’d say ‘out on the mouths of babes’ only I suspect Christine would appear out of nowhere and smack the crap out of me for it, and she’d be right to do so.

    That said? I wish I’d been as wise at her age. I’m finally learning this one. Slowly. Finally.

    1. Rackin frackin kids with their smarts, I don’t know what the world is coming to…

      And juding by “Crap Free. Guaranteed.” you’re learning very well. Keep it up! πŸ™‚

  6. Going against the trend: no tears. This article made me chuckle with glee! Good work (as usual!), Catherine. πŸ˜€ I’m not a huge fan of MM’s music, but he’s one of the most fascinating people around. I love his goofy/intellectual cameo roles in films. πŸ™‚

    1. I lost count of the number of people who watched Bowling for Columbine and told me, “Wow, that Marilyn Manson is actually really smart and articulate!” and I was all, “Duh.” πŸ™‚

      I should write some time about the value of being the outsider. Because you see much more of the game on the sidelines…

  7. What would have been even cooler is if Kim had nicked one of Christine’s CD’s (sorry, MP3…I forget the age we’re all living in sometimes…and I’m only 27!) and cranked MM to drown out the voices.

    Seriously though, this is pure awesome. If reading your blog does this to our brains, I can’t imagine the pure awesome that must come out of your mouth!

  8. Amazing Catherine. Amazing. I may be chanting MaryilynManson in the next few days. I have absolutely decided I will no longer be playing small. Stepping into BIG (scared a bit) but doing it anyway. Ready to be a fool. Thanks for all you do.

  9. *hugs*
    Wow- this plays right into the rage theme I was blathering about on twitter. Rage about bad decisions and waiting too long and not following passion and doing things for crappy reasons. I think Marilyn Manson IS a wanker, but I’m cheering for every Kim out there. And you as well my dear.

      1. I’m playing a little smaller in who I’m looking up to. The beauty being I can skype my heroes.

        The triumph here is that today I *finally* got mad enough to reclaim my voice. I can stop playing Kim and go be Marilyn the way I was meant to.

  10. It’s really, really hard to be Marilyn Manson when there are nineteen people in the crowd and one of them is calling you a wanker.

    This doesn’t get said enough. And it’s so so important.

    So big ups to you for saying it.

    1. Thank you, darlingheart. I still struggle with it sometimes, when my arty-ass soul gets all, “Whee! Greatness! Weirdness, leadership, magnificence and boldness!” and I think “ARGH I would have to do those things.”

      But it gets easier every time.

  11. Thi is just awesome. Go you. Since I’m currently struggling with it, too, I love any story of someone who finds the courage to just go for it. You’re so inspiring. Thanks.

    1. Thanks and welcome Andrew. Considering the topic you’ve chosen for your website, I cannot recommend enough the wisdom of putting a hefty dose of *you* in it.

      Like marketing, of course!

  12. Cool! am as old as Kim if not older… love being out there though and love this post – ROCK ON dudette! step out step up.. and dance your own dance of life!! Great post!

  13. Okay, I didn’t cry. But damn if your Twitter didn’t get me over here to read this awesome post. Damn, you just keep getting better and better.

  14. Oooooohhhhhhhhhhh… This made me realize how often I have stifled myself and held myself back for fear of looking like a fool. No more! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for this reminder, Catherine! πŸ˜€

  15. I saw Marilyn Manson once. It was a Big Day Out Event at the Gold Coast. I made sure I was at his stage at the right time. I was there to see the freak. I got the impression a lot of other people where for the same reason. I remember him wearing a blue sequined g-string. Now I don’t have his cd or his poster, but I do love the freak. He is entertainment plus! He is a good reminder to be yourself, even if some think you a fool.

  16. You gotta make the ask, every single time. If invoking the image of Marilyn Manson is what does it (love the music, but the imagery makes me cringe), then bring it!
    THANK YOU for this post!

  17. Hiya! I’ve been lurking your site for a while but now that I’ve seen gothy metal references on it I need to comment on how awesome you are! πŸ˜€ This has worked amazing for me…the moment I dropped my ‘professional photographer’ thing and injected my dark humor and geekiness into my stuff people started signing up for my newsletter and engaging a lot more. My issue is how to get people from liking my art to actually making purchases… eh. =/

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