You don't have to burn it all down (and why TOO MUCH should be SO MUCH)

Growing up, I went on a lot of road trips with Jeff Foxworthy.

If you’ve ever been squished into a minivan that looks like a lunar landing vehicle with four of your siblings, listening to your mom’s favorite right-leaning “clean” comic, on the way to see some problematic historical figures carved into Stone Mountain, then congratulations — you’re in therapy now!

White Pontiac Trans Sport

If not, congratulations! You don’t relate to this joke at all. Stick with me! I’m bringing it back for ya. Promise.

Foxworthy’s claim to fame is his “You might be a redneck if…” lists, which are almost as problematic as a mountain “attraction” that boasts laser light shows atop famous faces of the confederacy.

(My favorite line growing up was, “If you've ever had to haul a can of paint to the top of a water tower to defend your sister's honor, you might be a redneck” — though, admittedly, I had absolutely no clue what that meant at the time. It just sounded funny. You’ll take what you can get when you’re 11 years old and would rather be listening to show tunes than a cassette tape of one liners from the future host of the American Bible Challenge.)

I was thinking about Jeff today as I sat down to write this to you because, while I don’t recommend Foxworthy’s questionable listicles, the format of “You might be _______ if…” can be a handy container for describing cultural phenomena.

For our purposes, I’d like to propose a swap:

You might be SO MUCH if…

Before I move onto the listicle segment of the post, allow me to explain.

We often hear people, especially women, described as “TOO MUCH” when committing the seemingly grievous error of holding an opinion (or simply refraining from apologizing before making said opinion known).

A couple years ago, I decided to tweak this language a touch. During FREE SCHOOL, I tweeted:

Rebrand TOO MUCH to SO MUCH. Instead of saying “She’s TOO MUCH,” say, “She’s SO MUCH.” You’re welcome.

Rebrand TOO MUCH to SO MUCH. Instead of saying, "She's TOO MUCH," say, "She's SO MUCH." You're welcome - Rachael Kay Albers

I submitted this proposed rebrand to the Twitter authorities using restaurant logic.

If you’re at a restaurant and you order a basket of pretzel nuggets and cheese (my go-to appetizer, if you ever want to delight me by ordering ahead) and they bring you a dozen buttery nuggs instead of the expected six — I doubt your reaction is “Ugh! This is TOO MUCH!” Instead, you probably say, “OH MY GAWD, THIS IS SOOOO MUCH! YAY! PRETZELS FOR ALL!”

SO MUCH is a compliment.

SO MUCH is a delight.

SO MUCH is an unexpected, but much appreciated treat.

TOO MUCH is an insult — and a lazy one, at that.

TOO MUCH is what you say when you want to invalidate someone but you’re in too much of a hurry to figure out why.

TOO MUCH is for people who like Jeff Foxworthy cassettes and think the Pontiac Trans Sport represents the pinnacle of vehicle design.

SO MUCH is the future. TOO MUCH is a has-been.

You might be SO MUCH…

  • If you’ve ever been called “assertive,” “bossy,” “opinionated,” or “intense,” when what you really are is RIGHTyou might be SO MUCH.
  • If you’ve ever said something truthful and authentic and then been lauded for your “bravery” in sharing what, to you, felt painfully obvious…you might be SO MUCH.
  • If you’ve ever refused to give up on a goal, even though everyone and everything around you signals how you’d be better off trying something more “realistic”… you might be SO MUCH.
  • If you’ve ever struggled to choose a “niche” or swap your bag of tricks for specializing in one single thing because that sounds as boring as a summer vacation at Stone Mountain…you might be SO MUCH.
  • If you’ve ever arrived at a party and your friend, hiding in the corner, pretending to have a conversation with the swizzle stick in their mocktail rather than “network,” turns to you and says, “THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE, I WAS ABOUT TO LEAVE!” … you might be SO MUCH.
  • If you’ve ever watched the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and over-identified with everyone on the Island of Misfit Toys…you might be SO MUCH.

(Tag yourself, I’m the cowboy riding an ostrich.)

It doesn’t actually take a whole lot to be deemed TOO MUCH in our world today.

But it does take a whole lotta guts, fortitude, and inner fire to allow yourself to see TOO MUCH as SO MUCH.

Island of Misfit Toys - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

It takes a lot to lean in to your buttery pretzel nugg of a personality, instead of allowing yourself to be shaped into the likeness of someone who’s easier for Pontiac Trans Sport people to “like,” but easy to forget. (And harder to live with, when it’s yourself we’re talking about…)

The key is inner fire.

Because as I wrote in the title of this post...

You don’t have to burn it all down to be SO MUCH in the best way.

You don’t have to burn it all down to make change.

You don’t have to burn it all down to stand up for what you believe in.

You don’t have to burn anything down if that’s not how your SO MUCH-ness shows itself.

But you do need some inner fire. (That’s what will keep you warm when someone with a secret Foxworthy cassette in their Pontiac tape deck coldly tells you that you’re “TOO MUCH” just for being your bold, beautiful, brilliant ass self.)

Last week, I told you my story of what life looks like for me two and a half years after burning it all down. (“I did it and you can, too!” But I don’t necessarily recommend it.) You can read that here.

My tale might have inspired you. Or it might have terrified you. (Or both! I’m fun like that!)

I know this, because, I’ve got nearly four decades of experience being SO MUCH.

I’m an “assertive, bossy, opinionated, intense” woman who shares fiery truths, doesn’t give up, refuses to niche, and will gladly rescue you from a cocktail party from Hell by laughing loudly at your jokes, even if everybody’s looking. (They’re just jealous. We’re the only ones laughing here while everyone else just whines about the weather!!! We get it, Sharon! YOU CAN’T WAIT FOR PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE SEASON. YOU SAY THIS EVERY AUGUST. IT AIN’T HEADLINE NEWS!!!)

But just because I was born with a box of matches strapped to my umbilical cord, doesn’t mean that you have to light shit on fire to embrace your SO MUCH-ness.

In Part 4 of the Online Business Family Tree series — yeah, I told you last week we’d talk about that later and now is the time! — Lisa Robbin Young and I finally get to the hope portion of the show.

Allow me to spoil it a bit for you.

Once you realize all the ways our system is broken and how that brokenness manifests in the business space, you aren’t legally obligated to buy a blowtorch and raze the earth in the name of forging a new path forward.

In fact, I strongly encourage you to step away from the blowtorch unless you’re a fire starter like me. Burning shit down is what I do best.

I’m a cultural critic. I’m a radical anti-capitalist. I’m a rainbow-donning shit stirrer. I’m a cowgirl riding an ostrich. (And I’m a helluva good time.)

But if the world were full of fire starters like me, how would we ever build anything new?

In Part 4, Lisa and I discuss the way forward and how there is SO MUCH to be done until we all can live in a world where everyone can realistically achieve their enoughness, free of exploitation.

SO MUCH, in fact, that it can often feel like TOO MUCH, am I right?

TOO MUCH for any one of us to do on our own, that’s for sure.

And in this episode, we talk about how we need all different types of changemakers to create this better world.

Fire starters are just one shade of change in the greater collective spectrum.

So, if you read last week’s post or you listen to Marketing Muckraking and there’s a part of you that feels like the RKA way is TOO MUCH for you — that your shade of changemaking is dramatically different from mine — good! Phew! Thank Gawd you’re here. We need you at this party.

You don’t have to burn it all down if you don’t want to.

On the flip side, you also don’t have to focus on reforming or fixing broken things if you don’t want to, either. (This is why I quit law school. Reform was hard on my spirit. For others, it’s what makes their soul sing. I’m so glad reformers exist. They are greatly needed.)

You don’t have to feel responsible for designing the blueprint for a better world all by yourself.

You don’t have to build bridges if that process leaves you weary.

You don’t have to take your SO MUCH-ness and squeeze it into the metaphorical Pontiac Trans Sport of life just to get along, anymore. Because we’ll never get to our next destination if you do.

You simply must be willing to see that what often appears like “TOO MUCH” work to change is actually because we need you SO MUCH. We need everyone SO MUCH.

All the shades and stripes and spots and opinions and visions and bridges — and campfires, too.

Making things better is a road trip, alright. And it’s long.

And after listening to the same Jeff Foxworthy cassette for what seems like forever, I know a whole lotta people who would love to hear what’s on your playlist.

Or maybe, you prefer to turn the noise off and just talk.

Maybe your favorite sound is the comfortable silence of sitting next to someone without always needing to say something.

Whatever it is, I hope you know that someone, somewhere, is longing to hear it.


Rachael Kay Albers

Rachael Kay Albers is a creative director, business comedian, and brand strategist gone wild. She writes and performs about branding, pop culture, tech, and identity. When she’s not muckraking about marketing, Rachael runs RKA ink, a reinvention studio and branding agency for businesses that burn the rulebook. She's also on Instagram a lot.

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