1. Billionaires should pay their people more; but here’s what I’ve learned from them regardless of their butt-headed-ness
I think about losing everything.
For a very long time, I didn’t have anything worth preserving. That was its own kind of hell.
For a while now, I’ve had a good enough life, something I mostly look forward to. There are challenges, and results are slowgoing, but I can feel the equilibrium between me and my life. I don’t want to lose it.
Now that I have something to lose, I am afraid of losing it.
Henry Ford talked one time about if he were to lose a billion dollars he’d have it back in less than five years.
Because once you have a machine that works, it is likely to continue to work. Jef Bezos said that he doesn’t know what will be different in 10 or 20 years, but he’s sure that people will want a variety of goods they can choose from, at cheap prices, and with low hassle to getting the item home, so that’s what his business model is built around. I’m also aware that both men’s business models are based on taking a huge cut of the profits instead of sharing the company’s profits with the employees who make the company possible. But they both are men who built systems, great machines that produced.
In my youth, I could feel the bigness of the life that was calling out to me, I could tell that I had something important to go do, but because I had no mentorship, I floundered trying to find someplace outside of me that could trigger my montage-style transformation from simpleton to force of nature.
I went to a variety of places trying to find the single thing that would make all the difference.
I know now, that happiness is, as Eban Pagan calls it, “an emergent.”
It’s not something that you can make happen, it’s something that happens in response to a variety of different reinforcing systems in your life working in concert to help one another.
Your relationships help your business.
Your business helps your mind.
Your business expands your relationships.
Your relationships help your mind expand its ideas.
It’s a system.
Of course you can make another billion if you have a system designed to extract billions.
If I lost everything, which parts of my own system would I keep?
If I lost my relationships, that would be devastating.
If I was unable to produce the things I make, that would be stifling.
When I was in my twenties, I was sure I just needed one thing, to make everything in my life work.
If I somehow lost everything, I’d have to go about rebuilding not just one thing, but many different things that make life valuable.
I’d have to rebuild relationships, both professional and with family. I’d have to rebuild content and create from a blank canvas again. I’d have to build or rebuild a reputation.
The overwhelm of all of that would be even more hectic than life is right now, where I still need to improve upon all of those different things, but I at least know what those things are.
2. Self-Hatred Portrayed by Bill Murray
Phil Connors, the central character of Groundhog Day, is stuck reliving a banal and forgettable day, for so long a time, for so many repeated cycles, that he eventual gets bored of being bored, and makes that day extraordinary.
On the way though, he laments.
He thinks of some great day where everything had clicked into place, and life felt like heaven on earth for a moment.
“Why couldn’t I relive that day?” He implores whatever power that traps him in boring ol’ Punxsutawney.
Eventually, Phil learns how to drop all of the attitudes and plans he had for his life, and he steps into a version of himself that he doesn’t hate. The character is played by Bill Murray, and the actor was not known for happy-go-lucky personas.
Phil drops the strategy of hating himself, and is left with the mundane, but valuable self he could have been all along, but he had never been forced to become.
If Phil could have sent a snapshot of that final day in Punxsutawney, if he could have collected the essence of everything he became and everything he let go of, he could have done his life over. The best time to plant an olive tree is a hundred years ago, and the second best time is today, and he figured his life out, better late than never, as we all do in our real world without such shortcut or magic.
I never relived the same day over and over again until I found my center, but I worked for years to find my center, to identify the parts of myself that were un-detestable and that I could build my life around.
I didn’t have one really great day that crystalized everything, but there have been good days, solid days that contained enough of the content of why my life is working, that if I could have sent that day back in time, it would have been a map to my younger self, to know which things to go after. It still would have taken more time then Henry Ford’s 5 years, but I might have been able to go about my journey in a more healthy, and less bombastic way.
Alan Watts said, “You cannot have a figure without a background,” in a talk about the illusion of the duality of things.
To talk about fish, you’re going to need to talk about water. Or maybe lemon sauce vs cream. Or perhaps calories.
Each subject branches out into surrounding subjects, and before too long, in order to explain any individual thing, you have implied many if not most of the rest of the universe just by the virtue of how those systems interact.
Send one very good day back in time, and I’d become like Myles Dyson in Terminator 2. I find a piece of the technology from the future, and my recreation is clunky and derivative, but it’s far far advanced from the likes of anything we’ve ever seen.
The largest invention of my modern day, is how much less pain I am in than when I was 20, searching for my salvation outside of myself, in so many different cities and persons and dramas.
3. Music in the games you’re not playing
This year, largely by accident, one of my two music-professional sisters, saw a game I had made that changes the music when you pick up different pieces from the game world.
I don’t, now, even remember why I was showing it to her, but I know that it was parenthetical, and that I was in the middle of making some other point for a conversation we were having that is now lost to time.
I don’t remember what we were talking about, because the next five hours were spent with her dissecting my game and the music I’d made, and trying to understand how I had been able to create this musical interaction, unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
If you have skipped over games as a medium, then -like someone who skips over books as a medium, you will never know the contemporary relevant cattiness of Tolstoy as he narrates the limitations and laughability of each character in his stories- you may similarly have missed out entirely on the ways that music in games has become increasingly dynamic and influenced by the player’s control.
Run around a game world, and head inside a building, and the background music might change to a muffled, subdued version of the soundtrack you had been listening to.
Get into a fight? The music picks up.
What used to be separate tracks (and if you care about music but have never simply played a game where the music changes based on where you are, maybe even that experience will be worth having) is becoming a responsive musical cue, to let the player know some change in the game has happened.
And when a player experiences the change and connects their actions to their results, then by the choices they are making, the game makes music with them.
My game was not that sophisticated.
It stemmed from a lack of sound-effects that I could supply my games with, and rather than have my games be silent, I had planned to use a technique I had seen in a phone-game called Godus.
Godus is now largely forgotten and possibly defunct (I don’t know if it will still be playable on your device) but it used a system for highlighting your selection that I always felt was a charming addition to the game and could be used readily elsewhere.
Basically, they would breakdown the melody of a song, and each moment you picked up a new item to your selection, it would play the next note in that song.
Because the notes were not scattered, it would never sound bad. The only thing the player was controlling was the tempo of the music, based on how quickly they could wrangle up all the items they were selecting.
I knew then, that music could be used as a sound cue in a game, instead of a sound effect, and sometimes to greater value. Great sound design is wonderful when it works.
But I am not a great sound designer. I don’t know what makes a good sound effect in a game or app. I’ve still never found a good teacher who can teach me the strategies that would make me reliable at this skill.
So I forego sound effects when I can, and fill with music.
Time Happiness Capsule
I intentionally had never shown my musical game, Mend, to either of my music-professional sisters. One is a musician, the other is a singer.
I have found, in the past, that my approach to music, using software to produce my result, was seen as abhorrent when I shared a bit in the past with my musician sister, so I didn’t show my game to either of them.
It was my singer sister who saw my game and grilled me for explanation.
My sisters largely don’t take an interest in what I do. My work is not self-explanatory, and it can be a barrier to entry to try and figure out what’s making me tick and what I am aiming at with my life.
I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and in so doing I became the family fuckup, on the surface of things.
To have my work taken seriously, was a validating moment for me.
That’s the day I would send back in time.
I wish me-at-20 could have seen the rapport and genuine curiosity building between me and my family member. My family was scattered and had no ability to support one another when I was 20. We weren’t there yet. We had a lot of systems to build.
If I could have sent that day back in time, I could have seen how my creativity would expand the world of even other creatives. I would have seen that my family could get along, even among previously contentious subjects. I would have seen that the slow work we were all doing to hate-ourselves-less was going to eventually break through enough that we could enjoy one another’s company.
I wish then, I could have known how genuine life could be. I went on my journey on a wing and a prayer, reckless, and assuming there would be something worth arriving at, but never quite seeing the evidence that sanity would prevail. I lived in insanity for a very long time, building the antidotes we needed to get ourselves to safety. And we’re not done. Much as I feel for me-at-20 and how much persistence he would need, I’d sure love the future to crack open and tell me that things are going to be even more okay as time goes on.
5. Friends with tired people
The last party I attended before the Pandemic, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in half a decade. And in that time, life had taken ahold of him, and he’d grown into someone you could have a real moment with. When I knew him, we were too inexperienced at chill, and were all of us birds-of-a-feather tightly wound.
It was astounding, to see how life had made us so happy to see one another, now that we’d been forced by life into a better understand of what life is.
Culturally, we are not yet at the Phil Connors last day in Punxsutawney level.
The prevailing attitude in the culture is clash. We find someone who is the reason we cannot have nice things and we try to get them deported from the planet so we can live in peace.
My hope for the future is that even though these years have been hard on all of us, that the result will be that more and more people will have a genuine love for one another when they see a weathered friend.
If I lost everything, but I had that memory of being seen by my family, and the memory of the work itself that I’d done, I think I would be able to put it all back together. I don’t know if it would take five years or if it would take more, but so long as the strong memories of maturity, and enjoying one another’s company, are still alive within me, I think I can find my way.