Fuck You Money

I think most of us have the far off dream of somehow obtaining enough money to last us the rest of our lives, without ever having to work for “The Man” again. Some people like to refer to this kind of windfall as “fuck you money.” Usually it’s the lottery scenario where you win a $100 million Powerball jackpot. That’s the easiest scenario to imagine because it literally could happen to anyone – no skill, no work, no talent involved. You simply pluck down $2 at a convenience store and suddenly have more money than 99.9% of people in the world. Other scenarios include writing a best selling novel, forming a business that takes off, or inheriting millions from a long lost rich uncle. These all float through our minds at random points while we wonder if our lives are being wasted sitting at a desk at 2 PM on a Wednesday afternoon on a warm summer day.

I’ll freely admit I want this fuck you money. I’d love to never have to work a 40 hour a week job again. I could travel the world, meet interesting people, do things that I could never contemplate doing in my current life. Suddenly my life would gain those 40 hours back and I could use them to expand my mind and live my life to its limits. The money would be freedom to me, not simply a means to obtain gold plated silverware or a garage full of Italian sports cars. Material possessions are of course alluring, but really I crave the freedom to live my life as I would want to live.

Yet, as I write this, I can imagine a starving person in a third world country and how if they ever somehow read this they’d think I was an ungrateful, privileged American. They’d be right too. I already have a good job and make enough money to live comfortably. Yet I want even more? And not just a little more, but millions and millions more. I want enough to never work again. Isn’t that just laziness? Am I deluding myself into thinking having this money would change my life, or really do I just want to be a glutton who never has to contribute to society ever again and can live off my money until I die fat and happy?

I don’t know, and really I’ll never need to know or have to make any decisions in regards to having millions upon millions of dollars. The chances I’d ever have fuck you money are astronomically small, and it really is just a pipe dream. Even if I somehow won the lottery and got the money, would I even look back to this article and contemplate things, or just go wild and forget all about my past self? I think most adjust so quickly to having this kind of money that they literally become different people, removed from their former lives. Usually they don’t become happy, but are just faced with an entirely new set of problems to deal with.

In a lot of ways we shouldn’t wish this kind of money on ourselves. Yet, it’s almost impossible not to always want it, even if it’s secretly hidden deep in our psyches. It’s always that lingering yearning for something different than what you currently have, the dream in the distance.

I’m reminded of the story of Ronald Wayne. He was one of the original co-founders of Apple, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak back in 1976. However, after a few months he worried about the liability he could have by being associated with the company and sold his 10% share for $800. Yes, you read that right – eight hundred dollars. In the years after he left, Apple skyrocketed and eventually that 10% share would have been worth literally billions of dollars.

Where is Wayne now?

He’s living in a mobile home in Nevada, where he sometimes goes to the casino or tinkers with his stamp and coin collection. He claims he is happy and doesn’t regret giving up on billions of dollars, but you wonder if secretly the dream of what could have been eats away at him. What would his life had been like? Would he have lived it more fully, explored more of the human existence, not have ended up in the a mobile home in the desert, waiting for his time to come?

That’s the gnawing thought that eats away at most of us as we go about our days. We get up early, go to work, come home tired, do chores, watch TV, and sleep. Are we really living, or merely going through the motions? Will we end up that old man in the desert some day, sitting on our porch and regretting the missed opportunities of our younger days? While it’s unlikely we could obtain billions (or even millions) of dollars, maybe there is more we could be doing. That’s what the question of fuck you money should inspire, what do you really want to be doing with your life?


I’m Bored…

Sometimes I get incredibly bored with things.. and that’s a good thing.

I’m not the first person to have this idea, but boredom is an essential aspect of creativity. If no one got bored with the way things were done, we’d all still be doing things the same way for generations. Most unique and groundbreaking art is the result of people becoming horribly bored with how things were being done and deciding they could do it differently. Look at someone like Pablo Picasso or James Joyce or The Beatles. They all started out being more traditional in their art but quickly evolved to doing more and more experimental works. I think a big part of that was they simply became bored with what they were previously doing.

I feel personally that boredom spurs me on to doing things differently. It’s always easier to do things the traditional way, but I feel like I want to scratch my eyes out after awhile if I don’t add something different, something unique. It’s led me to write some of my more experimental posts (this and this and this) and to always search for different ways to do things. I realize I’m probably still not reaching outside the box enough most of the time, but at least I’m cognizant of that fact and striving to do better.

I think many people feel this boredom and react by complaining; this is the wrong thing to do. Don’t just complain that tech podcasts are boring, create your own tech podcast that you don’t find boring. Don’t just complain that most blogs are posting such boring echo chamber posts, post more interesting posts that explore new topics. That is what the great visionaries in history have done, fought the boredom and let it push them into areas that they didn’t find boring. That’s creativity, pushing the boundaries of what came before and creating new and interesting things.

So, embrace your boredom, don’t merely see it as a nuisance and something that needs to be immediately alleviated. Sit inside that boredom and question things. Why are you bored? What is boring about what you are doing? What can change? What can make things more interesting? That is the key to pushing things forward and making an impact on the world.

On Creating

There are many stages of the creative process, but I think the most enjoyable is that initial stage where you are hit by an idea and explore all of its various facets. That’s when the fun happens – as everything is new and shiny and free of compromise. You can imagine all the endless possibilities that the idea opens up, and your mind is on that high of fantasizing about what the future might bring. The idea is this shining globe of light that is leading you towards some amazing end point, unobstructed by the cold, harshness of reality.

Yet, an idea is simply that, an idea. It rests amongst a thousand other ideas, 99% of which never go anywhere beyond the initial fantasizing stages. That is the problem I seem to have – so many ideas floating around in my brain and not being able to focus on a single one and bring it to life. I get stuck in that high of thinking about ideas, but that kind of thinking simply leads to inaction. An idea that is never acted upon is of no use to anyone.

However, even when I manage to dive in and bring an idea to life, the reality of the situation in no way mirrors the high I had imagining the idea. Instead of this beautiful picture in my head, it becomes a grueling slog of work, and compromises always creep in. The process of creating things is not for the faint of heart, and to actually achieve greatness in what you create, you must endure an immense amount of sacrifice.

Yet, despite all the hardships and chaos the creative process brings, I still am intensely drawn towards its rewards. The dream of the perfect turn of a phrase, the most heart wrenching mixture of color, the flawless balance of sound. It’s in these moments of grace that everything else fades away. All the pain and struggle disappears into the shadows and all that is left is the glowing light of creation.

An Apocalypse For Your Thoughts

On April 6, 2014 the world will end.

Well, maybe not. But that’s an intriguing idea, isn’t it? A specific date that all life on this planet will forever be altered in a dramatic fashion. Doomsday, End Times, Revelation… an Apocalypse. We’re all drawn to that idea in some way, intrigued at knowing the eventual fate of all things. It’s embedded into our DNA and every generation believes they are the ones on the brink, ready to finally witness “The End.”

Yet, it has never happened. For millennia we’ve been obsessed with this idea of an apocalypse, and it has yet to occur. The Book of Revelation was written almost two thousand years ago, and people believed it to be something that was close at hand. Other religions have foretold apocalypses in the near future and none have occurred. There are countless examples of apocalyptic cults that have specific dates that never came to be. October 22, 1844; December 21, 1954; January 1, 2000; May 27, 2012; and December 21, 2012 were all supposed to be Judgement Days, but the earth continued uninterrupted.

However, people are not deterred, and the notion of an apocalypse remains popular. The apocalypse genre in movies and TV shows is so big it has numerous sub-genres. There are zombie apocalypses (Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead), alien apocalypses (Independence Day, Falling Skies), robot apocalypses (Terminator, The Matrix), comedy apocalypses (This is the End, The World’s End), indie-drama apocalypses (Last Night, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), global warming apocalypses (The Day After Tomorrow), and even lack of power apocalypses (Revolution). There are also actual reality shows about people prepping for the apocalypse, including Doomsday Preppers, Surviving Zombies, and Livin’ for the Apocalypse.

In past decades the nuclear war apocalypse genre was big (Dr. Strangelove, The Day After, Testament). This apocalypse obsession was understandable, since the world probably was at its closest point to actually being destroyed during the later half of the twentieth century. There were numerous points during the sixties, seventies, and eighties that if a few different decisions were made, none of us would be here right now. Yet, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the fear of a nuclear apocalypse has waned. However, our obsession with apocalypses has simply changed to other ways we can destroy ourselves.

But why are we so drawn to this idea of the world ending?

I think a big part of it is humanity’s search for meaning. We are all thrown into existence and have no idea why we are here or where we are going. Yet, seeing the end might reveal things to us. While the word apocalypse now usually refers to a cataclysmic event that destroys the world, its original meaning was “disclosure of knowledge.” The apocalypse lifts the veil and reveals to us what everything truly means.

To the religious minded, this would mean God orchestrating the final plan for humanity and the earth… usually some type of battle of good and evil. To those that eschew religion, the apocalypse works just as well for revealing truth, as the total, meaningless destruction of the earth plays very well into an absurdist view of existence. Everyone can read their view of the universe in a potential apocalypse, that is until one actually occurs.

I also think there might be some sense of boredom that inspires us to imagine grand events. We all live fairly hum drum lives most of the time, existing in our small moment in history. Yet, what if our lives weren’t just a random point on a long timeline, but overlapping with the biggest event to ever occur. Just by experiencing the apocalypse we would truly be part of history. As the saying goes, may you live in interesting times.

Going back to April 6, 2014, what if that is the apocalypse? What if the forces of the universe somehow chose a lowly blogger to be the prophet of the end times? Ummm… yeah, I’m laughing right there with you, especially anyone reading this after that date. But, while April 6th most likely will not be “The End,” given a long enough timeline, the apocalypse will happen in some shape or form. We’d like to think humanity will go on forever, but our end in inevitable. Everything that we have built and accomplished as a species will one day be dust, forgotten into the recesses of time.

Exploring the Profound

I was recently reading the famous “Days of Future Past” storyline from X-Men,1 which deals with time travel and alternate futures. It’s a very good storyline, although suffers from some of the superficial, one-dimensional writing that most older comics contain. That is why this one snippet of dialogue I found rather fascinating. Moira MacTaggert has just found out time travel is possible and starts talking to Professor X.

Miora: Charles, if you’re right – if time travel is possible, if as a result history is… mutable – we’ll have to redefine our concept of reality itself. We’ll never be completely sure what … is… from moment to the next, that’s… frightening!

Professor X: Perhaps.

It’s a rather profound insight she is giving about humanity’s relationship with time and history, and how changing that could have immense impact on how we view reality. Unfortunately Professor X basically dismisses her idea and it is never mentioned again the rest of the issue. Yet, I was impressed it was even mentioned in the first place, as stories with these elements that challenge our conception of reality, such as time travel, never seem to really examine their actual consequences. They are merely used as plot devices and characters seem to accept things immediately without question.

I wish there were more stories that would dig deep into these issues and show characters questioning what is happening and what it means. Why don’t we have time travel movies where the characters actually discuss the nature of time and the broad consequences of what changing history could mean, apart from specific plot points. I have the same pet peeve about movies with supernatural elements. When characters witness these supernatural things occurring, such as ghosts, none seem to question them. No one discusses that if ghosts exist, that definitively proves the fact there is an afterlife. That is a hugely profound insight that never is explored in these stories.

I don’t mind some movies using these elements as merely plot devices, but you’d think it wouldn’t be so universal. Even putting in a line showing the characters at least acknowledge something bigger is occurring, like in X-Men, would satisfy me to some degree. These are deep issues about the nature of existence, and people confronted with these things would have questions and thoughts about what is happening. It’s incredibly fertile ground to explore in fiction, yet writers are dropping the ball and skipping over the interesting parts. If you are going to introduce these profound elements into a story, explore it all the way, it will only make your story better.

1. The Uncanny X-Men #141-142.

The Deathbed Time Traveler

Imagine you are 100 years old and lying on your deathbed. Think about it in great detail – the feel of the sheets, the sunlight bending through your window, the tiredness of your fading body. A kind looking man walks in and starts speaking to you. He greets you warmly, smiles, and hands you a small box with a large button on it. He tells you that if you press the button, you will be transported back in time and become your younger self again. You will get to relive your life again from that point. He says this is a great gift and walks away.

You hold the box in your hands as you think back to your youth. A flood of memories comes back to you – all your experiences, all your triumphs, all your regrets. You think about your friends and family, many of whom are gone now. But you could see them again. You could savor the time you had with them. You could savor it all, and live your life to its fullest. You press the button.

You are here. You are your younger self again, transported from your deathbed to this very moment. You have your life in front of you. You can see your loved ones again, you can experience your youth again, you can live in the moment. The gift has already been given to you, go out and live your life.

True Fans

Back in 2008 Kevin Kelly wrote an influential essay entitled “1,000 True Fans.” The basic premise is that an artist or creator only needs 1,000 true fans who are willing to spend $100 or less a year on their content to make a decent living, independent of studios or publishers or corporations. It’s a fascinating concept because it makes the dream of being a self sufficient artist more attainable.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It’s a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

However, Kelly later wrote a follow up to his article entitled “The Case Against 1,000 True Fans.” In that article he actually did some research into his theory and found it might not be as readily attainable as it might have seemed.

What my research tells me: there are very few artists making their entire living selling directly to True Fans. The few that are, are selling high-priced goods, like paintings, rather than low-priced goods like CDs. But there are many that partially fund their livelihood with direct True Fans. However, most of these artists make it very clear in their notes to me: It takes a lot of time to find, nurture, manage, and service True Fans yourself. And, many artists don’t have the skills or inclination to do so. The fact that very few creators wholly sustain themselves with direct True Fans may be because it is a job few want to do for very long.

Since those articles were published Kickstarter has sprung up and seems to take cues from the True Fan idea. If you can get 1,000 true fans to support your Kickstarter project, you can have it completely funded. However, as Kelly’s research has proven, it can be hard to build up those 1,000 fans. I’ve noticed some of the most popular Kickstarter campaigns come from creators with well established fan bases. The Veronica Mars film made headlines as showing you can fund an entire movie on Kickstarter, however, Veronica Mars already had built a large following by airing for three seasons on a major broadcast network. I highly doubt the Veronica Mars film would have had any funding had it been an unknown quantity.

Glenn Fleishman recently wrote a post discussing both the 1,000 true fan idea and Kickstarter. He posits the beauty of Kickstarter isn’t that you need 1,000 fans or 10,000 fans to create something, only that Kickstarter allows you to tailor your project to how many fans you actually have.

My contention about Kickstarter since I started writing about it in 2010 is that it allows a single creator or group to decide on funding levels for projects based on their understanding of how many true fans they have. A dance troupe that needs $1,500 to rent a space to stage a production and has a mailing list of 500 people could get 50 people to contribute an average of $30 to make it happen. The much-cited Amanda Palmer project raised $1.2 million for a new album and tour, but only from 25,000 or so backers, 11,000 of whom gave $1 or $5. My friend Matt Bors had a quite successful campaign to fund a book (which he just delivered on schedule) with a total of 725 backers.

I think Fleishman has the right idea. While gaining 1,000 true fans that will actually support your income is extremely hard as an independent artist, gaining enough fans (maybe only a few hundred) that are willing to support an actual creation is much easier. However, that then limits the types of creations someone can make through this method. An unknown independent filmmaker will probably not be able to fund any film over a million dollars, and even getting tens of thousands of dollars will be very difficult. However, someone who only needs a few thousand dollars to fund a book might stand a much better chance.

I think this shows that these new methods of independently funding creativity through the internet are revolutionary and should be fully supported. However, they are not always the holy grail that creators might think, and building followings and making a living through your creations is still very difficult and takes a tremendous amount of work.

If you have any thoughts please comment below, email me, or catch me on twitter.