Layne Staley, 14 Years Later

by Bill Brenner April 5, 2016 Addiction

“What’s my drug of choice? Well, what have you got?” —Layne Staley, Alice in Chains This week marks 14 years since Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley was found dead. Mood music: Like Kurt Cobain, Staley had a big impact on me in the early 1990s. But while I identified with Cobain’s depression, I identified with Staley for his inability to keep his addictive demons at bay. I can’t tell you how many times I listened…  [Read More]

22 Years Ago: The Day Kurt Cobain Died

by Bill Brenner April 4, 2016 Addiction

I remember exactly where I was 22 years ago this week, when I saw the news flash about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. I was lying in bed, depressed and reclusive because of frequent fear. Mood music:  I was living in Lynnfield, Mass., at the time. I had a room in the basement, just like I had in Revere. But this space was much smaller — a jail cell with a nice blue carpet. But I did have…  [Read More]

Dealing With People: A Business Survival Guide

by Bill Brenner March 23, 2016 Communication skills for the crazy

From my perch in the information security industry, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. The best rise to the top of their companies. The worst are crushed beneath the boots of others in what can be a high-stakes, high-pressure field. Many fall in the middle: They have had soaring success and painful setbacks. Those who manage to bounce back do so because they have learned a thing or two about dealing with…  [Read More]

When Listening Is Better Than Giving Advice

by Bill Brenner March 15, 2016 Communication skills for the crazy

Sometimes when I’m going through a rough patch or just having a ridiculously annoying day, I need to vent. To do so productively and thus feel better, I need a good listener around. Unfortunately, people these days don’t want to listen. They have a big megaphone that is the Internet, and they can’t bear not to use it. So they take to social media and give advice. Mood music: In saying that, I realize two…  [Read More]

Patience: A Virtue I Don’t Have (But Should)

by Bill Brenner March 12, 2016 OCD

I’ve done some soul searching this week and have realized something unpleasant about myself: I have absolutely no patience, and it makes me an asshole sometimes. Mood music: That lack of patience tends to present itself a few times each year. Usually, it’s because I’m waiting for an important event to happen — travel to a security conference, for example. Other times, it’s when a career opportunity presents itself and the waiting process feels like…  [Read More]

When Sarcasm Is Mistaken as a Cry for Help

by Bill Brenner March 7, 2016 Communication skills for the crazy

A couple weeks back I caused a bit of a stir on Facebook with this comment: Many times this past year, I’ve questioned how the hell it is that I’m still sober, given all the dramatic challenges I’ve faced. Today is one of those days. I got a ton of comments from people offering advice, sympathy and everything in between. I was partly grateful because it showed a lot of people give a shit about…  [Read More]

It’s a Long Road Through Self-Hatred

by Bill Brenner March 4, 2016 The stormy past

Given the size of my ego and my normally upbeat persona, this might surprise you: Once upon a time, I hated myself. I hated a lot of people, but none more so than myself. The worst of that hatred came after I started facing my demons. Mood Music: I disliked myself before I started to tackle the demons with therapy. A couple years into that therapy, the self-loathing deepened. I had learned much about who I…  [Read More]

Packing for #RSAC 2016: An OCD Case Study

by Bill Brenner February 22, 2016 OCD

At the end of the week, I’ll be packing for five days in San Francisco, where I’ll write about the goings-on at RSA Conference 2016. When you have OCD, packing a suitcase is as ritualistic as the compulsive hand washing you’ve heard about. Mood music: Before I had the OCD under control, packing was an all-day affair. I’d line up all my clothes and accessories in order of the days I planned to wear them….  [Read More]

What Shutting People Down Says About You

by Bill Brenner February 18, 2016 Communication skills for the crazy

I’m someone who believes in full, frank communication. It’s essential for plans running smoothly and people not misunderstanding each other. There’s a certain personality type that gets in the way of that every time. And it makes my blood boil. Mood music: It’s the person who shuts you down when you broach a subject they don’t want to talk about. They put up their hand and start rattling off a litany of reasons they’re brushing…  [Read More]

4 Tips to Beat Fear and Anxiety at #RSAC2016

by Bill Brenner February 3, 2016 Infosec

The first time I attended RSA in 2005, fear and anxiety threatened to consume me. I feared the flights, the crowds and the prospect of failing professionally. Fast-forward to 2016: I’m a veteran infosec journalist who has been to too many conferences to count. I can’t say that I’m done with fear and anxiety, but I’ve brought it largely under control. I’ve met a lot of people who suffer the same debilitating anxiety I used to experience over…  [Read More]