I love taking cabs in New York City. I always learn something interesting when I talk to cab drivers.
Back in June 2011, I climbed into a cab driven by a 26-year-old guy named PJ. He looked like an Indian version of Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino from Jersey Shore. He had on black wrap-around glasses, a big diver watch and slicked back hair, and I could tell the dude worked out, just by looking at him from the back of the cab.
I peppered him with questions and PJ chatted up a storm. I learned that PJ’s family owned six cabs. He didn’t normally drive the cab, but one of the normal drivers was sick. He grew up in Queens, and had just finished his associate’s degree in marketing, but what he really wanted to do was pursue his DJ business. I asked him all kinds of questions about the club scene in New York City and the economics of the DJ business. And yes, I of course had to give him some advice about ignoring his parents’ concerns and following his passion. Then PJ got a call.
“Do you mind if I take this? It’s a promoter that books me a lot,” he said.
“Go for it,” I replied.
I turned on the Taxi TV and the first thing that came up was a press conference with Anthony Weiner. Remember Weiner? The congressman who tweeted lewd photos of himself to women? He got caught. He lied. Then he confessed. Then he resigned. I wondered if he would weather this controversy and make a comeback.
PJ got off the phone and I asked him, “Do you think Anthony Weiner should have resigned?”
“Who?” PJ asked.
“I don’t know him but that’s a tough last name.”
“What? You don’t know Weiner? The congressman that texted photos of his private parts? It’s been all over the news, PJ. He’s your congressman. He lives in Queens. It’s on the cover of The New York Post every day.”
“Nah, no idea what you are talking about.”
Stop worrying about what others think
It hit me like a ton of bricks. When you are in the middle of a breakdown in your life or business, you think everyone on the planet knows about it and is judging you. Yet, here was a 26-year-old born and raised in New York, and he had never heard of Weiner. In that moment, I understood why comebacks are possible: Because most people don’t know or care what you’ve done.
Your marriage fails and you think you’ll never find love again. Your business flounders and you can’t bring yourself to start a new one. You lose a big deal and you don’t go for another one. We are all so worried about what everyone thinks that we convince ourselves that everyone knows. It’s called the “spotlight effect” and I first heard it described as it relates to teenagers—that is, “adolescent egocentrism.” Teenagers think that everything they do is magnified and seen by everyone. That’s why the smallest pimple feels like a crater on your face. We do the same thing as adults.
Weiner may be an arrogant moron. He’s the butt of jokes as I write this, but by the time this article is printed, he’ll likely be a distant memory and plotting a comeback. All he needs to remember is the same thing you and I do: There are over 330 million people in the U.S. and the vast majority of them are just like PJ—they don’t have a clue what mess you just made, and frankly, they don’t care. So stop worrying about what others think.
This article was updated April 2023. Photo by eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock