The Vanilla Virus is rampant. It’s already infected millions, and it may be getting worse.
It’s hit the event planners ordering T-shirts. “How many of each size should we get?” they ask. “I don’t know, just get a ton of Larges and XLs, that way everyone can fit and no one will get offended.”
It’s hit the guys ordering pizza. “What toppings should we get?” they ask. “Just get 20 cheese and 20 pepperoni. That way, everyone will be happy.” “What about soda?” “Coke, and Sprite. Those are always safe bets.”
It’s hit actors and athletes and coaches and politicians. “So, how’d you win the game?” the reporter asks. “Well, we worked hard and played together and fought and (insert the same safe speech you’ve heard a million times).” “How will you help lead us?” they ask the politician. “Well, I (insert politically-correct, watered down and essentially useless response).”
It’s hit the mom or dad at the grocery store, sent to pick up ice cream for the kids. There are hundreds of tasty flavors on the shelf. Flavors that they never even knew existed. Combinations and permutations of chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, candy bars, fruits, nougats, and even bubblegum. But 9 times out of 10, you’re taking vanilla to the checkout line. At least you know all the kids at home won’t whine about it.
It’s even infected me a bit. “What kind of post should I write today?” I asked myself. “Well, Travis, you wouldn’t want to offend anyone or do something too ‘niche’ or ‘not funny’, why don’t you just write a nice article about Vanilla Ice Cream.” And so, I did. You know what I had originally planned to write about today? Death. Not kidding 🙂
It’s hit the painters turning everything white, the pot-luck goers bringing rolls since they “didn’t know what everyone would want”, and the bland advertisements that pepper our computer screens daily. Vanilla vanilla vanilla!
And those on the receiving end of the Vanilla aren’t providing raving reviews.
Strangely, all those extra large t-shirts are now in the thrift store, or the dumpster. The majority of event-attendees wear Mediums and Smalls (trust me, I worked on the BYU events team for 2 years and ordered thousands of shirts, always tossing the dozens of larges that went unclaimed.)
The “safe” speeches and statements and conversations: completely forgotten. I can remember the genuine, heart-felt, extreme ones- but that’s it. Being genuine turned Richard Sherman into a household name. Any idea why Jennifer Lawrence is so popular? She’s refreshingly unfiltered. And you don’t even have to be exciting to be appreciated. Greg Popovich’s interviews are some of the best, and all he’s doing is being real.
The mounds of pepperoni pizzas and sprites: un-craved and un-worth the extra pounds. Why waste your belly on the “white bread” of pizza when you could instead fill your belly with deluxe thin-crust chicken and artichoke pizza?
The ads that look just like the last safe one you saw: invisible. And, wasting your company’s money.
I’m not exactly sure what leads to the Vanilla Virus. It’s probably part laziness, part fear of the fictional repercussions of taking a risk, and part confrontation-avoidance. Anything to make peace. Anything to make everyone happy. Anything to make my decision easier.
I’m not saying to walk over other people and disregard other’s opinions and values. There is something to be said of respect for others. But respecting others can still happen without mincing words and actions for the sake of confrontation-avoidance. Straying from vanilla risks the occasional nasty flavor, but even that creates a better story and a better learning experience than blandness.
Vanilla’s fine. But that’s just it. It’s fine. Do you want to continue to dish out fine? Of the thousands of flavors out there, we have had a disproportionate amount of vanilla in our lives. Vanilla doesn’t deserve to have this big of a place in our life! Use some innovation. Be genuine. Be fearless. You may just end up a millionaire because of it.
It’s time to shun the default, and to finally embrace, and more importantly, to serve, a different flavor.