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September 2013

Post image for A tweet in time saves nineteen thousand dollars

The other day in the office I prepared an email for an outspoken co-worker who sits a few cubicles over. I knew that he’d have follow-up questions for me immediately, and that he wouldn’t bother emailing them — he’d just summon me by calling my name over the cubicles.

I knew he would do this the moment I clicked the send button, because he would see the subject line pop up in a little box on his screen. This sequence was so predictable, so inevitable, that it struck me that the button I was about to push on my mouse might as well have been a button on his brain. Our minds respond so immediately to signals from electronic devices that we’re almost cyborgs already. In the 1980s William Gibson wrote nightmarish books speculating about a future rife with these alarming powers, and now they’re so normal they’re boring.

This hyperconnectedness excites me at least as much as it scares me, though, because it can create amazing turns of fortune. In a similar miracle of brain-to-brain electricity, a single tweet in January caused my whole life to pivot overnight and leave me on a much more empowered course.

Somewhere out in the vast folds of the internet, a blogger I had never heard of discovered a blog I had heard of (because it was my own) and said so on Twitter. This led me to his blog, which proceeded to make my life explode with possibilities and optimism.

The blogger was Mr Money Mustache, who I mention often, and his tweet sparked a neurological renaissance inside me as my brain made new connections between the causes and effects of happiness, money and work. Those landscapes all look very different now because of that tweet. I learned money has more power to create happiness than I suspected, but only if you use it in a completely different way than the typical consumer does.

After that night, instead of buying more needless objects, I put my money in a big, unspent pile, and will now use some of that pile to buy time with which to earn a living outside the jurisdiction of The Man. I gave my notice last week, and as of October 11th I will be working for myself full time.

This means I’ll be making much less for a little while, but I don’t mind that at all, because I become immediately freed from paying the dozens of insidious costs of a steady corporate paycheck — the anti-creative cubicular environment, the dark and fearful mood that descends every Sunday evening, the treadmill of forgettable tasks that have nothing to do with my values, and the attitude of total subordination that’s required to stay employed, to name only a few.

And although they’re not strictly forbidden by living as a fifty-hour-a-week employee, certain pursuits had become a lot more difficult. Since I’m already using my evenings and weekends to run a blog, maintain a few friendships, and keep my home and clothing clean, “electives” like exercising, reading, and conducting creative experiments never find a consistent space to flourish as habits.

With only two weeks of these kinds of constraints left, I’m already feeling some of the fresh breeze from outside the tunnel, and I’m eager to air out some long-suppressed interests. In the spirit of effort-multiplying efficiency advocated by MMM and his frugal cohorts, my first order of business is to use my new-found autonomy to read a hell of a lot more books.

During my years of being an overworked spendthrift, I acquired books at a much higher rate than I actually read them. So I have a surplus of books I’ve been meaning to get around to, and I’m actually making a point of getting around to them.

As much as I loved reading when I found myself doing it, I’ve allowed long stretches of my life to go by without finishing a book. If I’m now going to be answering the question, “What do you do?” with “Writer,” then I ought to be immersing myself in examples of the craft.

For a writer, reading pays triple-time, serving simultaneously as entertainment, self-education, and the refinement of writerly sensibilities, so reading an hour or two a day is now both doable and justifiable. A book a week seems like a good benchmark. It’s ambitious given my track record, but totally achievable — even George W. Bush claimed in his memoir to have read 95 books in a year. So according to my math, if I’m half as smart as the second worst president of all time then I’m almost there.  Read More

Post image for This Will Never Happen Again (but it happened)

Sometime between the day I first photographed Manhattan and the day I wrote about my first uptown naked party, a New York based website called Thought Catalog approached me about reposting some of my articles.

I said yes, and I’ve been contributing material occasionally ever since. TC has a much bigger audience — most of the Eastern Seaboard’s twenty-somethings, I think — and I know many of you found Raptitude by reading Thought Catalog. Some of my pieces hit it bigger there than they ever did here — How to Make Trillions of Dollars made the front page of Reddit, which would have crashed my site if it had linked directly here.

Thought Catalog has an ebook division, and over the last few months I’ve worked with them to assemble a collection of Raptitude articles into a book, called This Will Never Happen Again.

Since very early in this blog’s life, fans have been bugging me to both release a Best-Of compilation and give them a way to read Raptitude articles on their Kindle. The time has come. The book is available now, through both Amazon and Apple iTunes.

This Will Never Happen Again contains revised and repolished versions of classic Raptitude articles, including A Day in the Future, Die on Purpose, and What Love is Not, along with an opening essay and a previously unreleased article called The Bedtime Ritual.

I want to clarify that you do not need a Kindle or e-reader to read it. You can download Amazon’s free Kindle app for your computer or mobile device here. It takes two seconds.

Also, if you like it, please leave a favorable review on Amazon or iTunes.

Thank you, I love you people.

Get the book now. Be reading in less than a minute.


Photo by David Cain


Post image for When did goods get so bad?

The city was behaving very strangely while I was out walking Saturday morning. Cars went by too slowly, as if they were stalking me, or someone. Every pedestrian but me seemed to be have a backpack or a large shopping bag, and I knew most of them didn’t live in my neighborhood.

A young woman walked by pushing an empty stroller and the paranoia really started to creep into my muscles. I suddenly became convinced that I was being filmed. A passing Cavalier came to a stop in the middle of the street and sat there for a moment. Whatever was going to happen was about to happen now. Two Middle Eastern men got out, leaving the doors open and the engine running. They trotted into a back alley, and emerged carrying a coffee table.

I had forgotten that it’s Winnipeg’s giveaway weekend, where citizens are encouraged to leave their unwanted home furnishings on the boulevard in front of their houses, for others to pick up if they like. Thrift-minded Winnipeggers hit the streets early Saturday, usually in pairs, to skulk through other people’s neighborhoods at creepy-slow speeds, hoping to find anything that may possibly be useful: worn-out golf bags, folding chairs, tarpaulins, drawerless dressers, dresserless drawers, sander belts, axe handles, maybe even a pair of Shake-Weights or a Jolly Jumper.

I’d intended to put out my items before the foragers left home: a tiny computer desk, a box of low-quality paintball gear, and a particle-board bookshelf. I forgot but knew it would be no problem finding a taker later on. The most important thing not to forget on giveaway weekend is to keep everything you do wish to keep as far as possible from the front boulevard. It’s even dangerous to leave something anywhere in the front yard. Every year careless people lose bikes, lawnmowers and garden gnomes, because anybody could haul it off and, if stopped in the act, make a case that they thought it was free.

Quirks aside, I love that we have giveaway weekends. There’s something beautiful about how it allows an object to regain its lost worthiness, by gaining a new owner. When I did put my items out later in the morning, they were gone before I could return to my desk with my coffee — I had hoped to see their new owners through the window.

The value of everyday household stuff has dwindled noticeably in my lifetime. I remember accompanying my dad, one Summer weekday when I was ten, to a little shop to get the family VCR repaired. Repaired! Can you imagine that? There were people running a profitable business fixing small appliances — toasters, coffee makers and Video Cassette Recorders — because even a few decades ago there was an expectation of lasting value in these things. Today we typically bury malfunctioning electronic devices in the ground and buy new ones. It’s possible that there will be a time when children are surprised to hear their parents used to have their cars fixed too.  Read More

Post image for An interview with The Man

Last Tuesday, between my late dinner and early bedtime, I was able to catch up with The Man, best known for being the head of The Establishment, and the developed world’s biggest employer. Millions of people work for The Man, and many complain about his managerial practices and his indifference to the plight of workers. I sat down with him to get his side of the story, and he was very candid.

David: You are an authority figure in all sorts of spheres: government, religion, culture, politics — but today we’re focusing specifically on business and work. A lot of people work for you, and you don’t have the best reputation. The thing people say most about you is that you “Keep them down.” Is that how you see it?

The Man: No, not at all. Nobody provides more jobs than I do. I think what they mean is that there are things about working for me that they don’t like. Working for me is voluntary.

DC: If it is ultimately voluntary for people to work for you, why do they do it?

TM: Well it’s the normal thing to do, and I give them money to do it. All of their friends work for me, their parents almost certainly did. Obviously if it was so horrible it wouldn’t be so popular. I guess when you begin to believe someone else controls your life you can stop worrying about it so much.

DC: You don’t take any responsibility for the condition of your employee’s lives? Work is a huge part of life.

TM: You’re touching a nerve here. Listen, I run a solid business, and I don’t think I’m going to run out of employees or customers any time soon, so I’ll spare you the company-spokesman runaround — no, I don’t take responsibility for the state of their lives and I don’t see why I should. Particularly when they don’t take much responsibility for their lives themselves.

Do you know how people with hoards of money get to have those hoards of money? They make some money, and then they don’t spend it all. They keep some each time it comes in, and they use it to make more come in next time. That’s how power is accumulated. Instead of accumulating power, most of my employees accumulate objects in their homes, or they just burn the money as it comes in, on booze and expensive sandwiches. What I see is people setting up their lives such that they become dependent on powerful people like me, which is exactly the opposite of how one ought to build wealth. That’s why I’m The Man and they work for The Man.

They’re free to do this. I pay a fair wage, in thousands of different areas of work, each of which they can take or leave. I find they don’t pick very good ones for themselves, but they just stay with it rather than starting over somewhere else. Then they get grumpy, and instead of finding a more personally appropriate way to earn a living, they stay on the payroll and go through the motions and try to “stick it to me” by stealing pens and playing rock music.

DC: Is rock music still subversive?

TM: Well no, not like it was in the fifties and sixties. Not because the music is tamer these days, it’s really not, but because the mainstream was just so perfect and obedient back then. One night of unchaperoned jukebox dancing and I could lose a young person’s earnestness and naivete forever. They start writing poetry and looking for meaning. It’s a businessman’s worst nightmare. Don’t even get me started on LSD.

DC: By the eighties the counterculture was definitely pretty tame. How did you eventually deal with rock and roll’s threat to The Establishment?

TM: I killed John Lennon. I bought MTV. And, thank God, Bob Dylan went and found Jesus.  Read More

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