Creating more than you consume

I’ve hammered on financial radio host Dave Ramsey before, but I’m impressed with his mastery of his show. I don’t listen to it, but I have in the past, and I know a lot of people who do listen to it. The gist is:

  1. Don’t ever go into debt.
  2. Pay off any debts you do have.
  3. Invest in mutual funds.

There’s more detail to it, like the percentage of money you should invest and so forth. But the simplicity of his message distills to “Don’t spend money you don’t have and earn more money”. It makes for entertaining radio.

I was thinking about his format this weekend because the “earn more” bit is grating. A person with $150,000 in debt and a $35,000 a year income will call in and he’ll tell them they have an income problem. They do, but the way to get into a better job never comes up much. That’s for the caller to just figure out.

It’s always about finding a better job though. Ramsey rarely encourages people to go into business themselves. That could be self-selecting because callers looking to go into business often have a bunch of other financial or personal problems.

Here’s the funny thing about all this, though: his advice to grow wealth is tied to the stock market. “Invest in good growth-stock mutual funds” …and wait 60 years. I get that for a lot of people that’s the safe, tried-and-true way. But did Dave Ramsey make his millions investing entirely in the stock market?

No, he did not.

Dave Ramsey made a business out of selling other people advice he wouldn’t settle for. If he called his own show 20 or 30 years ago he would have told himself to “Find a better job, chip away at debt, and invest.”

That’s not bad advice. But what did Ramsey actually do?

  • He wrote a book that simplifies a complex problem on an issue that impacts millions of people.
  • Started a series of talks and classes in churches (soft targets for people to speak about anything to a captive audience) to push that book and his name.
  • Published that book and worked into the syndicated radio show business to finally expand his reach to millions of people.

That’s all very impressive. I’m genuinely impressed at his ability to grow that and keep reinventing the wheel to expand into all kinds of different markets. He’s in the business of lecturing at middle and high schools, writing children’s books and faith-based books, plus podcasts, web series, and designing financial planning services that compete against Mint.

You have to do something else

If I hosted a competing radio show, I’d be telling callers another hard truth on how to achieve wealth: you must create more than you consume.

What you create must be able to scale up and reach millions of people (this is the fundamental flaw with my business).

My three steps would be:

  1. Turn off the TV and video games and spend that time building, writing, drawing, cooking, or creating something.
  2. Ensure what you’re creating can be reproduced or consumed by 10 people or 10,000 people.
  3. What you do consume should be related to your craft (like books on the subject).

This is somewhat antithetical to the notion of getting a job. People who grind at a job all day don’t have much mojo left at the end of the day to work on a book or a wood lathe. It can be done, but realistically most people just don’t have that ability. There’s also something to be said for “all work and no play” making people into dullards or worse.

Ramsey’s advice is an indication of another uncomfortable truth: the path to wealth in American is less and less through a job unless you’re in a highly credentialed field (law, medicine, etc.). It’s more through creation of your own business where you own the means of production.

In a capitalist society the whole thing would fall apart if everyone was a company owner. Eventually you require laborers. Creating a business is always a huge risk for people, too.

Just as Ramsey’s advice is to never go into debt and “make more money”, mine would go above that: “consume less and create more world-class stuff.”

The silent designer and the quest for fame

Sometimes I get the impression that web designers (and I use that term to include our programmatically minded developer friends, who design code) are out there working for fame. It’s like we’re working for the same kind of fame that Steve Jobs enjoyed, or that Mark Zuckerberg enjoys today: respected for their savviness, technical chops, and admired on a large scale for inventing new industries.

Except, we can’t all be like that, and yet we all still strive for it. Maybe I’m just lazy, or honestly realistic, but I don’t see much of a point. I will not ever be admired or famous or as innovative as those people. Like most people, I’m just sorta here, doing work that more often than not I can’t even really share because it’s for a private or personal audience. I do work I’ve never told anyone about, and I’ve done good work in these cases, too. I, like most people, could do the most amazing thing ever, and the likelihood of it being noticed is almost nil. The Internet has made the world smaller, but it also made the world smaller.
Virtually everyone in a corporate environment is like this. Those people, who arguably make the world turn, will never get much recognition. Even at companies like Google and Apple, we never hear much beyond what “the company” did. Someone at Apple made inertial scrolling a thing. Someone at Google made the servers hum at insane speeds. And then there are people who enjoy the luxury of being able to write all day and they can get up and scream at people and make tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for having produced what is of little value. Even this post you’re reading now, that I’m writing for myself to organize some thoughts, is of no value. I don’t even know why you’re still reading this.
So given that you and I are never going to amount to much, it begs the question: “Why even try?” Why should I even try to break some new paradigm, or shift the way people think about things, or produce something awesome for a bunch of useless likes or comments or views? Even if this post hit every major blog and media outlet in the country, it’ll get me no where. I will gain nothing from it, and that’s both depressing and very real.
I’m just a guy that works as the silent designer. I do things for people and businesses that support other people just so I can eat real food. It doesn’t allow me to take vacations or save much for retirement or see much enjoyment in things. And you’re just the same, and regardless of what empty promise you’ve been told that “you can do whatever you want”, “you can be anything you want to be”, or “you control your future”, no, you don’t. Because if we did, we’d all be doing that right now.
And you’re still reading this, and I don’t know why.

Dear Comcast…

I recently received a letter in the mail from Comcast, now known as Xfucutity, or something like that. The letter went something like this:

“Dear Comcast Customer, our records indicate that you do not currently have a digital cable TV box in your home. We are informing you that after March 16, we will be discontinuing our service of our basic digital cable package and homes will now be required to use a digital cable TV box.”

This makes me mad because I hate boxes and remotes. I loathe the fact that they actually call their piece of shit box “a cable TV box”. Seriously?

Because I’m a sentient human being with a desire to eat and live in shelter, I decided nearly 5 years ago that I would not be fleeced by Insight, (now Comcast) in Noblesville because I thought, “what if I move?” Sure enough, I moved. I moved to Fishers, where I still had Insight, but I thought, “what if I move?” Sure enough, I moved. All the while, thinking it silly to pay money for a box I’m likely not going to need for long. So, years ago I went to BestBuy and bought a $400 cable tuner and DVR combo – sorta like a Tivo, but with no subscription fees because I hate monthly fees. With a passion.

I figured that Comcast would charge me $156 a year to “rent” their digital TV box. After 2.5 years, I’d be saving money. Sure enough, I’ve saved $390 over the last 2.5 years because I don’t rent a “box”.

Now, Comcast is forcing me to rent the box. Or, they’ll give me one for free if I want to take their basic local channel package with the locals instead of the basic package I have now which has the standard cable lineup.

But, I don’t want the extra boxes because I don’t want more things to plug in, more things to look at and more remotes laying around. I want 1 remote called “the TV remote”. To watch TV Land should not require the startup of cathode rays, descramblers, LCDs, infrared and radiators. I want to watch Andy Griffith in my living room, not on the Starship Enterprise. Plus, Andy Griffith is 40 freaking years old. People used to watch it with a metal stick in the ground and a screen with two knobs. Somehow, we’ve lost our way.

Do not be surprised if I drop them entirely and stick with just the Internet, which I can still plug into the wall like God intended. And, Andy Griffith streams beautifully from a multitude of sites.

Apple Has Solved the Digital Divide

Who knew companies like Apple fixed something in a couple years that the federal government has been attempting to fix for 20. And all it took was cheaper devices! Shocking!

My conservative friends can insert their own “leave it to the private sector” phrase here. My liberal friends can insert their own “but this doesn’t address X” story here, too.

Vaughn, who is African-American and lives on the Near Westside, is just as much of an Internet user as the suburbanites who own multiple computers and pay $50 a month for home broadband service.

What it means to be an Internet user, at least according to researchers, is changing rapidly as gadget makers continue to flood the market with Web-capable mobile devices such as smartphones, netbooks and tablets such as the Apple iPad.

And when those mobile devices are taken into account, national statistics show that African-Americans access the Internet almost as much as whites do — narrowing, at least from a technology standpoint, a digital divide that for years fell along racial lines.

Today, the division of who has ready access to broadband is more about socioeconomic status than race.

“Since the first survey in 2000, race and ethnicity have become increasingly less important predictors of Internet use,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which studies how the Web affects society. “In 2000, race alone was a predictor.”

African-Americans are now the nation’s most active users of the mobile Web, according to recent studies by Pew.

Most Facebook Users are Idiots

If you’re reading this, you’re not on Facebook. Perhaps you just came from there,  but you’re certainly not on Facebook. Confused? So are these people (h/t to Neven).

Evidently, people who want to login to Facebook google “Facebook Login” and come across a the top result which is a story from ReadWriteWeb that talks about Facebook’s login. It’s not, however, affiliated with Facebook in any way.

The idiotic part? “Facebook Login” Googlers end up at ReadWriteWeb and scroll to the bottom looking for the login prompt and end up leaving comments that really make their intelligence shine. ReadWriteWeb even has this at the top of their page:

Dear visitors from Google. This site is not Facebook. This is a website called ReadWriteWeb that reports on news about Facebook and other Internet services. You can however click here and become a Fan of ReadWriteWeb on Facebook, to receive our updates and learn more about the Internet. To access Facebook right now, click here. For future reference, type “facebook.com” into your browser address bar or enter “facebook” into Google and click on the first result. We recommend that you then save Facebook as a bookmark in your browser.

Just look at some of these comments:

I truly love Faceback.I am able to talk to more then one person.

when can we log in?

The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.

please give me back the old facebook login this is crazy……………..

IAM NEW AT FACEBOOK NOW WITH CHANGES IAM LOSSSSSSSSST!

It’s a brave new world.