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Trey Willis

Featured Title

bioThe Snowflake Effect – Trey Willis

In 1989, American culture became obsessed with self-esteem, so much so that it has been named the Self-Esteem Movement. A torrential downpour of praise and validation rained down upon the heads of each and every child. Ribbons, trophies, and awards were heaved upon us so vigorously that some children were crushed under their weight. Nobody lost. Everyone was a winner. Success was no longer a reward for hard work, but an expectation.

Predictably, my entire generation has been ruined by this idea. Society at large considers us entitled, lazy, shallow, and self-centered. Unfortunately, we do more to reinforce this stereotype than change it. We have little interest in working toward our goals, and even less interest in paying our dues, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Watch as a millennial who rejects the label dissects and eviscerates the very movement that molded his generation. Relying heavily on pop culture, The Snowflake Effect looks at the detrimental and lingering impacts of the Self-Esteem Movement through topics including television, social media, pornography, region, education, mental illness, hipsters, and a number of other things that are at least semi-relevant.

The sooner we all decide to stop acting like a unique and special snowflake, the better off we will all be.

About the Author

bioTrey Willis isn’t his name at all, but not in that fancy pen name sort of way. His given name is Lionel Elbert Willis III, but he has never been called that by anyone who actually knew him. He was born and raised in rural North Carolina and unapologetically loves his home state. He has been in an embarrassing number of arguments with Ohioans about the Wright Brothers, at least one of which took place in The Smithsonian.

Trey earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His education in sarcasm hails from Parts Unknown, much like The Ultimate Warrior. His rampant cynicism is entirely self-inflicted. He is a practicing therapist and occasionally an adjunct psychology professor. Now he fancies himself an author.

Trey lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. He enjoys living at the beach even though he rarely takes advantage of it. He also has two dogs and a cat, but finds that he is much less fond of them now that he has a child.

In the Dog Pound with Trey Willis

bioWelcome to the Pound before we get started I have to ask… Do you REALLY believe North Carolina is the “Birthplace of Aviation”?

Only with every fiber of my being. My wife is from Ohio, so the ferocity with which I defend North Carolina’s ownership of flight has exponentially increased since we met. Full disclosure: the argument about the Wright Brothers that happened in the Smithsonian was actually with my wife. North Carolina, specifically Eastern North Carolina, is also home to the finest barbeque in the world. I sometimes wish I was kidding about how much I love my state.


bioOk, now that that’s settled let’s talk about the real reason you’re here. The Snowflake Effect is an insightful look into today’s culture of entitlement and the causes behind it. How did the concept come to be?

The idea for The Snowflake Effect is something that has been with me for quite a while. I began threatening to write a book about how culturally shallow we had become when I was in graduate school. In my early twenties I started to notice people having an enormous sense of entitlement about what they deserved and what was ‘fair.’ You would hear stories about kids getting new cars for their sixteenth birthday, and getting mad at their parents because it wasn’t the one they wanted. Students were blaming teachers for their poor grades. Everyone seemed to have this tremendous self-importance that didn’t really make sense to me.

The beginnings of the idea were from my adolescence, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Every time we bothered to show up we at least got a participation ribbon. I guess these were important to some people, but to me they seemed meaningless at best, or at worst, they were a pandering physical reminder that I didn’t do something well.

I suppose the most accurate answer is that the norms of society were no longer congruent with my individual values. After years of making remarks about it and seeing the growing dissent about how unique and special all of us snowflakes think we are, I decided to seize the opportunity to write about it while it was still a relevant topic of discussion.


bioI’d say the book is a winner but that might be a bit counter-productive. What do you see as the key cultural changes needed to help correct this situation not only for our generation but for future generations as well?

I can’t honestly deny that I also think it’s a winner, or even special (gasp!). Assuming that it’s worthwhile and relevant just because I wrote it is undeniable evidence of how the Self-Esteem Movement has impacted me as well. I try to be aware of this to the best of my ability, and to be realistic about my opinions, actions, and expectations. Which, pretty nicely brings me to one of the key changes that can help alleviate this problem – self-awareness. If we all develop a more realistic self-concept, we will probably behave in more empathic, less entitled ways.

Responsibility and realism go along with this, but are worth mentioning independently. Taking responsibility for success as well as failure will help to foster rational expectations and self-esteem. Being realistic with ourselves about our own abilities helps us to establish realistic goals. Goals that are realistic are easier to achieve, which fosters genuine feelings of self-esteem instead of the baseless arrogance that seems to be the norm.


bioIt’s obvious that your background in psychology and counseling were key influences in the book, what other sources of inspiration did you pull from as you went through the process?

For the initial idea, I think I drew heavily upon my own experiences growing up in a really rural area with very pragmatic parents. They heavily reinforced the value of hard work and taking responsibility for my own actions, which helped me to develop into the person I am today.

Another big factor was how excited people would get when I would share the topic with them. Most people wanted to sit down and have a discussion about their observations of self-esteem, or hear how I was approaching the topic. That enthusiasm helped keep me motivated.

Aside from that, I’m a big fan of Chuck Klosterman. He uses pop culture to analyze different aspects of behavior and culture in a way that makes sense to me. Most recently, he looked at the modern perception of villainy through a number of different topics. Taking an idea, like villainy, or self-esteem, or anything else and briefly exploring it from numerous angles seemed much more interesting than attempting to write a very serious, straight-forward book about self-esteem. I feel like it’s pretty easy to see his influence on my writing and style.


bioWhat did you find the most rewarding part of the process?

Writing a book was a big adventure into uncharted territory for me. I’ve never written anything aside from papers in college and graduate school, so even making the decision to write a book was a daunting thing.

I love to learn and to challenge myself, and writing was a good way to do both simultaneously. The added benefit is that I now have this tangible thing that I created and put out into the world. I’ve always been a creative person, and had dreams of making art of music for others. Neither of those things really panned out for me, but writing has, and it has been really rewarding to create something on this scale.


bioYou chose to self-publish the book, what was the reason you decided to move forward and put this on the market yourself?

As I was finishing up my manuscript, and realized that I wanted to publish, I did some research on how exactly a person becomes a published author. I sought out advice from a couple of authors I’ve come into contact with, and all of them suggested taking a look at self-publishing for a book like mine.

Self-publishing became appealing for a few different reasons. Impulsivity took hold immediately upon realizing just how quickly I could see The Snowflake Effect in print. There was an element of challenging myself as well – I would need to learn about formatting, design, marketing, and a number of other things to do this ‘properly.’ Finally, a big part of me (the musician) really identified with the DIY aspect of self-publishing, and the ability to have a large degree of control over the entire project.


bioWhat advice would you give authors looking to follow your path to publication?

Go for it. The worst possible outcome is that nobody buys your book, but you still get to have the experience of writing and publishing, which is very fulfilling outside of any other factors. There really isn’t a downside to creating something that you are passionate about and self-publishing it just for the experience – getting positive feedback, sales numbers, author interviews, and having people enjoy your work is just the icing on the cake.


bioThanks for joining us, Trey, any parting words for the readers?

I sincerely appreciate every person that has given me and/or The Snowflake Effect a single second of their time by liking The Snowflake Effect on Facebook (which everyone should totally do), reading interviews, interviewing me, encouraging me, giving advice, writing reviews, spreading the word, and, of course, reading the book.

I’m working on getting participation ribbons made up for everyone, but until then, my thanks will have to suffice.



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