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January 2011

Post image for How to Make Trillions of Dollars

Before I get into it, I must say that I don’t recommend that you do this. I’m sharing this strategy for information purposes only, so that you can understand the playing field you’re working with, and can make better personal choices for how you make and manage your money.

I do encourage you to become a millionaire, if that’s something that interests you. If it’s billions you’re after, I’m a bit suspicious but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Aspiring to trillions, though, is the domain of the wicked alone and we won’t be able to be friends any more.

The big money isn’t in creating products, it’s in creating customers. A single, lifelong customer who lives his life spending the way you want him to is worth six or seven figures. A single one. Creating millions of these is the only way to make trillions.

You can make millions by selling a great product to people who need it, but you make billions and trillions by conditioning an entire nation of people to react to every inconvenience, every whim, and every passing desire or fear by buying something. Read More

Post image for I Don’t Want Stuff Any More, Only Things

I have been a bad parent. I only did what I knew, but I can no longer deny it: I never gave them a good home. I never made them feel useful or showed them any respect.

Today I dropped off hundreds of former possessions at the Goodwill shop. Maybe they’ll find adoptive parents who will be better than I have. I don’t even remember ever deciding to take them on as my dependents. They just happened. But somewhere along the line, all those things became stuff, and lost my respect.

Most of us live amidst stuff. We do have a few things too — well-used, well-enjoyed, and well-respected items that have an established place in our lives. But most of it is stuff.

Stuff makes us feel bad. It fills the mind with fading hopes about what we might one day do with it, taunts us with our obvious inability to manage it, and gives us the ominous sense that we’re losing track of something crucial, either in the physical mess of stuff itself, or in the mental mess it creates in our heads.

I don’t want stuff anymore, only things.

My black, square coffee table in the center of my living room is a thing.

My set of puke-green plates, which sit on the shelf above the nice white plates I actually use, are stuff.

My stainless steel water bottle, only four weeks old but already a close companion, is a thing.

My Beatles Jigsaw puzzle, which I got as a gift and immediately loved the idea of — but never assembled — is stuff.

I donated about a hundred pounds of stuff today. Sometimes it’s sad to get rid of some items, particularly if you had high hopes for them, if they were a gift, or if you associate them with someone you miss.

But how much sadder is it to hoard something in your home for years for some inane psychological reason, without actually putting it to use or giving it a proper place?

If I’m going to own an item, the least I could do is be a good parent to it. And the most fundamental responsibility of a parent is to give your children a decent home.

Stuff doesn’t usually have a home. Items of stuff are transients, surviving day-by-day in a temporary stack somewhere, leaning sadly against a garage wall, or sleeping in the darkness of a junk drawer, never sure of their fate or purpose. A particularly fortunate piece might get a chance to hibernate in a half-full cardboard box in the storage room, with some other hard-luck outcasts.

Nor do they have jobs. Just ask my broken acoustic guitar. Sorry, pal, but as a chronically disabled possession I just can’t keep you busy here. But feel free to mill about the closet behind the well-employed shirts and pants. I’m too insecure and sentimental to boot you out, but maybe one day, by some unlikely turn of events, you’ll become relevant again. Read More

Post image for A Day in the Future

I awake in bed. I’m warm and safe, like every morning. Outside it is twenty below zero, but from inside my home winter seems far away.

As I rise and stretch, I notice I’m sore. Not from tending the fields though. I have no fields. Some unseen person does all the field-tending for me. Sometimes I forget that there’s any field-tending going on at all.

I buy all my food — I wouldn’t know how to grow it or hunt it. Three or four hours’ pay gets me a week’s worth. It’s a pretty good arrangement. I’m thirty years old and I’ve never gone a day without food.

My soreness is actually from my leisure time, not work. I spent yesterday sliding down a snow-covered slope with a board attached to my feet. After that I was pretty worn out, so I went to a friend’s house, drank beer that was wheeled in from Mexico by another person I never met, and watched a sporting event as it unfolded in Philadelphia.

I don’t live in Philadelphia, but my friend has a machine that lets us see what’s happening there. I have one too. Almost everyone does.

The sun won’t rise for another hour, but I don’t need to light a fire or candles. I have artificial ones, mounted on the ceiling. Hit a tiny switch and I can see everything, any time of day.

I bathe while standing. The water comes out whatever temperature I like.

I use a few machines in my kitchen to get my breakfast ready. It takes about five minutes. Toasted buckwheat groats with raisins, almonds, dates and sunflower seeds. I don’t know where it came from but I’d be surprised if it was from anywhere near here. Read More

Post image for If The World Was Populated by Six Billion of Me, I’d Totally Be Gay

Even now, I do it. After ten-plus years of struggling to be less stupid with my thought processes, when someone else’s bad behavior gets to me, I still catch myself thinking “Now, if everyone thought like me, the world would be a much better place.”

People wouldn’t stop and chat in doorways. Nobody would enter a quiet room loudly. Nobody would drive 49 in a 60, or 79 in a 60. There would be no littering, and definitely no chewing with your mouth open.

I do remember coming to that exact conclusion one day: that everyone should be like me, and then the world’s problems would be solved. I was maybe eleven.

I don’t remember what triggered it exactly but I had certainly just been wronged somehow, maybe by some kid who had chained his bike across the whole bike rack, leaving me no choice but to lock mine to a stop sign (which everyone knows you can just lift out of the ground).

Why didn’t he think about all the other kids with bikes when he did that? I knew I would have recognized the critical importance of leaving as much space for others as possible. It should have been the first thing on his mind, no matter who he was.

Whatever the offending act was, at that moment in my life I was fervently convinced that my thinking and behavior was damn near perfect, and that the world was imperfect exactly insofar as other people were unlike me. It seemed so obvious.

Seeing as how at the time I had about as much insight into my behavior as, say, George Costanza — who, in a short-sighted moment of his own, almost certainly would have elected to have the world populated with six billion of himself — in my fit of righteous indignation I was unable to see that a world populated with six billion of me would be a freakish and frightening place. Read More

2010 was my best year ever, but I plan to say that about every year from here on in. It was also Raptitude’s best year ever, with over 1,000,000 unique visits during the calendar year. This is all thanks to you, the reader, because I did virtually nothing except write content. Thanks for sharing.

Here are the top 10 posts of the year:

10. 3 Pieces of Advice I’d Give My 18-year-old Self If I Could

I tried something a bit new here by framing the post with a fictional narrative, and it paid off. It was fun to write and many longtime readers told me it was their favorite post of mine. Everyone had different ideas about what they’d have liked their teenage self to have known about life.

9. Die on Purpose

At first glance it’s a quick way to get an objective look at the moment, but it’s bigger than that. It’s actually a shortcut to a liberating insight about who we are and what the human condition really is. Some readers really understood the enormous implications of this simple technique, and I received a lot of glowing emails about it. An unusually short post, for me. Read More

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