Wet, drippy morning here in Eugene. Perfect for reflection on the boring dystopia we live in. No, don’t worry: I’m not going to rehash the current events. You came here to escape all that, right? No, I want to talk for a moment about being a broke author. Sometimes I feel like a tightwire artist without a net. Where some people have a safety net to fall back on, Jackson is all story, no parachute.
Here’s what got me started thinking about this. I ran across the following Reddit post about, among other things, Bill Gates. I confess, his life story as far as I know was Microsoft, Microsoft, and Microsoft. How does a skinny Washington nerd become one of the iconic characters of our techno-Industrial revolution? Turns out, it’s not just about luck or being in the right place at the right time:
It’s super easy to do those things when you have options. Being born to a rich family with many connections means there is literally no way you can screw up unless you just start doing hard drugs. When your life is “don’t worry about failure, you have a parachute” then you can take way greater risks than normal people. If Bill Gates failed at his endeavors he would still be a millionaire today because his parents were millionaires.
Poor people can’t take big risks, big risks mean big failures and big failures mean a lifetime of poverty. Rich people, when they fail they are still millionaires, they just have to ask their family or friends for more money or wait for them to die and they get more chances to be successful. Big risks also mean big rewards, rich people can freely take big risks because failure is impossible in the sense that it will ruin their life, they can just go back to being the son or daughter of a rich family. Poor people have to make safer bets, safer bets don’t pay out as much but they are ones you can recover from. You won’t be a billionaire with safe bets unless you were already a millionaire the day you were born and are able to make 1000 safe bets with the virtually unlimited resources you have.
No one’s saying it isn’t hard work but hard work is a lot easier when at the end of the day, you know worst case scenario is you bankrupt all your companies and your parents die and leave you a $2.3 million house and a $600,000 vacation house along with their $6 million investment portfolio the day they die. Really super easy to work 14 hours a day knowing your life is made no matter what and you can either make a Billion dollars or retire a millionaire. Really hard to work 14 hours a day knowing that if you screw up you will have bankrupted your entire future and will live in abject poverty for the rest of your life.
In a way, this person is talking about the difference between ‘wartime and peacetime scifi,‘ which is something I talked about a couple of years ago. Peacetime Scifi, like Peacetime CEOs, knows how to leverage advantage while Wartime Scifi is simply concerned about survival. I’m not an advocate of wartime scifi because it potentially puts me in bad company, but I can’t ignore that I’m lightyears away from the success that allows me to take big risks.
I’m sure you are, too. We’re in an ‘all story, no parachute’ world together. So let’s remember what they tell every highwire artist whether they have a net or not: Don’t look down. Focus on where you want to go. Trust that you’ll make it, and you will.