The 90s and 2000s were high tide for offbeat beer ads. Many did not age well. Some were fairly funny. Some that weren’t particularly funny but were RIFE were Foster’s commercials.

The setup was simple. A weird video clip, like this one, followed by a word and then the slogan “Fosters: Australian for Beer”.

I have never seen a can of Fosters in the United States. Let alone someone drinking it. (Though weirdly, in the UK, from 2009-2012, I drank plenty). Although the ad campaign was a practical failure, and that I did not drink as a 16 year old, it culturally held a HUGE relative space in the minds of myself and my classmates. The ad was on ALL the time.

Two of those classmates had a secret. They openly broadcasted it. They had an idea. A powerful idea. For a new “Australian for Beer” commercial. But they would never share it. They knew when they had the opportunity to share this hilarious idea with the execs in Hollywood, they would make their millions. No way were they going to share it with others. Too risky.

I never heard what that funny idea was. But there was a kind of like envy. “Man, lucky guys, it’s probably a great idea”

Sounds stupid now, right?

Take this critical view and now point it firmly in your own life. Your own circles. Your own social scenarios. Your own social newsfeeds. What you’re consuming all the time.

What “thing” are you overexposed to that has disproportionate gravity in your life? Something that in the grand scheme of the universe is inconsequential? Something that you measure yourself by, and compare yourself to, and feels so important?

This reminds me tangentially of Paul Graham’s 2009 writings on identity. Tying your identity to something is limiting. You are precluded to new free thoughts and growth that would violate that identity.

Having narrow exposure to “what you see” is also limiting. In 2005 we thought Fosters was a big deal as a company as we spent a lot of our time consuming those television commercials.

For me in 2024, I see Ruby. Ruby on Rails. The frameworks, the lovely people, the community, the conferences, the companies, the challenges, the banter. I size myself up against people in this community. I challenge my views and cut my teeth in the realm of this community. It’s what I see. The blogs I read, the websites I go to, who I follow on Twitter and other social media.

But I need to accept that that’s a narrowing exposure of “what I see”.

I can still think of this community as “home”. But it does me no harm to start widening my goggles to see what’s happening in the other technical and social communities in the universe.

Or even wider.

I’ve been on paternity leave, and a miraculous thing has happened. You realize how many important people, conversations and interactions are locked “in your laptop” or “in your phone”. If you don’t open the device on your desk or fire up the black square in your pocket, in a way they don’t exist. Especially with remote teams, which is all I’ve ever had.

However, there’s my 95-year-old neighbour who wants to stop and talk about the weather and lend me a book. My newborn son, who often seems happy to just sit there and look me directly in the eyes. There are my in-laws, who are coming around to try my new barbeque experiment in the smoker. It’s nice.

You are what you see.