When Neil Strauss's son is old enough to read The Game, he will likely chastise his father for having an antiquated outlook toward women in the early 2000s.
And, when that day comes, Neil will nod his head and agree.
Neil's ability to immerse himself in the lives of those he writes about has given readers a rare perspective into the minds of rock and roll icons, newsmakers and international influencers. He's embedded himself in the worlds of pickup artists, mafia dons, doomsday cults, and stand-up comics.
Along that journey to deliver unique angles, the seven-time New York Times best-selling author has experienced many things most of us never will.
He's not proud of all of those experiences. But he wouldn't change a thing.
Today's 20 questions digs into Neil's shapeshifting ability to understand those he writes about. He speaks about his most memorable interview, his opinion on the current state of journalism, and hints at future content he may be contributing to the Steem Blockchain.
20 questions with Neil Strauss
1 - Recently, on several platforms, you've mentioned "the outcome is not the outcome," which suggests — in a goal-oriented society — outcomes or results aren't endpoints; rather, they are events that open a door to the next chapter. What personal goal in your life surprised you the most in terms of the emotions you felt when you reached that outcome compared to the emotions you expected you would feel?
@neilstrauss - I'm sure that when Jimi Heselden bought Segway, he celebrated a great victory. When he fell off a cliff and died a few months later while riding a Segway, he probably wished he'd never heard of the thing. So any emotions I've felt from an outcome, whether expected or unexpected, have just been motivation to continue on to the next project. As a legendary gambler once told me, it's important to be as emotionally unattached to the losses as well as to the wins. Just be attached to learning from them.
2 - On The Truth Barrel, you discovered — with the help of Jaiya Ma — you are a shapeshifter in the bedroom. Considering your ability to enter the world of a wide range of celebrities and icons, would you consider yourself a shapeshifter interviewer as well?
@neilstrauss - That's an interesting parallel, and likely true. I've co-authored books with everyone from Kevin Hart to Jenna Jameson to Marilyn Manson, writing in their voice, so I guess I am a shapeshifter. And I've embedded myself in the worlds of pickup artists, mafia dons, doomsday cults, and stand-up comics. Perhaps the formula to shapeshifting is empathy plus open-mindedness plus curiosity minus arrogance and judgment.
3 - On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does Almost Famous resemble your formative years as a rock journalist?
@neilstrauss - 10, except with better fact-checking.
4 - You’ve tucked Christina Aguilera into bed, brought Lady Gaga to tears and had Britney Spears request to exchange phone numbers. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced while observing celebrities?
@neilstrauss - It was definitely meeting one of the inventors of rock and roll, Chuck Berry. I was told he was very difficult with journalists, and may just leave the room after a couple of minutes. We ended up talking for hours and hours over the course of several days. It was the longest interview he'd done in decades. And along the way, I laughed a lot, learned that Berry actually dreamed of being a comedian, and found out how rock and roll was really invented. Like most icons I've interviewed, he's been widely misunderstood and mischaracterized. One of my favorite people I've ever met. RIP.
5 - Hypothetical situation: You’re out for dinner when you overhear a 20-something running the jealous girlfriend opener on a table of girls who are sitting behind you. What is the emotion you feel and why?
@neilstrauss - It's happened before, so I can answer factually rather than hypothetically: Bemusement.
6 - What do you anticipate the conversation with your son will be like after he reads The Game?
@neilstrauss - The conversation will be my son chastising me for my antiquated early 2000s outlook, and me agreeing with him.
7 - Considering the enmeshment you experienced growing up, what is your biggest priority as a father?
@neilstrauss - Before my son was born, I wrote a letter to him, letting him know how much he was wanted. And that he was conceived with the strongest, purest love we have for each other and for the dream of him. Then I stamped it and mailed it to him, and am keeping it in a safe deposit box for him when he's older. Because my biggest priority as a father is to give my son a foundation of being loved, wanted, and accepted to stand on as he makes his way through the ups and downs of life.
8 - What are your thoughts on the current state of journalism?
@neilstrauss - What if I share instead my current thoughts on the state of grocery stores? If you look through the aisles, you'll see that almost everything being sold is unhealthy. And it makes you wonder why grocery stores are practically poisoning the bodies of millions of people. The answer, a grocery store manager once told me, is because they are selling what people want and making it as cheap as possible. Their job isn't to give people good health information or nutrition, but to maximize the profits of the company. Same goes for journalism.
9 - It’s clear you attribute much of your success as a writer to the editors who proof your copy. What is the most crucial discovery an editor has corrected in your writing before the piece went to print?
@neilstrauss - I still remember the first small pieces of advice that shaped how I wrote. My editor at EAR Magazine, David L. Laskin (welcome to the blockchain David), called my writing too "list-y," because I would just list everything that happened at a concert in a review. And my editor at The Village Voice, Joe Levy, told me I needed to "brush the academic dust" off my writing, because I was trying too hard to write postmodernist essays on pop culture. The takeaway for those reading this is not to let a critique ruin your day. It should make your day. The only reason I'm a halfway decent writer is because my writing was critiqued, and I incorporated the notes instantly and without any defenses of what I was doing. Defending a mistake is like swimming against a riptide. Go with the flow of the right course of action.
10 - Two years ago, when you joined Steemit, your first post indicated you would likely use the platform to share items such as the hate mail you received from Phil Collins. Your focus then shifted to the Steemit Book Club and you never posted more of those previously unshared items. Any chance we’ll see more hate mail (or similar items you referenced) in the future?
@neilstrauss - Thanks for the reminder!
11 - In your opinion, what will it take for Steemit to reach mass adoption?
@neilstrauss - My role is just to write great posts and be a positive community member. Mass adoption is someone else's job - and isn't always a good thing.
12 - What was your most interesting moment or conversation during your time at the inaugural SteemFest in Amsterdam?
@neilstrauss - The most interesting part about the first SteemFest was simply that it happened. It's a testament to the degree to which we all believe in this community and this model. When I wrote about Steemit in Rolling Stone, I posted about the article on Steemit. When the Steemit post earned more than the Rolling Stone assignment, I knew for a fact that this was the future.
13 - You’ve mentioned you will be utilizing DTube to distribute original content. What else do you have planned for future content you may publish on the blockchain?
@neilstrauss - Working on a project based on self-improvement accountability. Excited to unveil it if we can hammer out some of the fine details.
14 - Regardless of whether it’s social media or your blog, you are fairly active in the comments section. Why is this important to you?
@neilstrauss - Because this is a community. You interact with and support others, not announce from on high.
15 - If you had to make a bold prediction about the future of blockchain technology and/or cryptocurrencies, what would it be?
@neilstrauss - It would be to never make bold predictions. People predicted that the Internet would help musicians earn the 50 percent royalty rate that they deserve for their music. Now, with streaming, they're making even less money from their recordings than before the Internet. So rather than passively predicting the future, it's important to work effectively and tirelessly to ensure the future that we want and believe in. Especially considering that those who have the most to lose in the future also happen to be those with the most power in the present.
16 - If you had to get song lyrics tattooed somewhere on your body, what would they be and where would they go?
@neilstrauss - I'd get the lyrics to "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" tattooed on my entire body.
17 - Other than “lit” or “on fleek,” what is your favourite age-inappropriate word to use?
@neilstrauss - Sus.
18 - You get to have dinner with three people, living or dead. Who are you eating with?
@neilstrauss - I'd have four different dinner parties.
One with Muhammad, Jesus Christ, and Moses.
One with Seneca, Nostradamus, and James Joyce
One with Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Blackbeard
One with Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, and Sean Spicer.
19 - Through your articles, books and social media posts, you’ve exposed a lot of yourself. What's one thing most of your fans/followers/readers still don’t know about you?
@neilstrauss - They don't know what happens next.
20 - You’ve been named “Rock’s Greatest Interviewer” due to your exhaustive research, thought-provoking questions and the amount of time you spend with your subjects. These 20 questions were asked in written form, and you had as much time as you needed to respond. Do you believe you’re a stronger interviewee when placed in a live, face-to-face interview, or through written responses you have time to think about?
@neilstrauss - If you want to get to know someone, speak to them face-to-face.
It was an honour to be able to ask one of the world's greatest interviewers 20 questions. Thanks, Neil.
As always, thanks to all of you for taking the time to read.
Who would you like to see me throw 20 questions at? Drop me a comment below and I'll work on setting up the interview.
If you like what you read, be sure to follow my blog!
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