You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near '(title IS NOT NULL) AND (category <> 'beer') AND (category <> 'chocolate') AND (' at line 1
Back when I was three, I saw a cartoon movie on TV called The
Point. All the people in this little village had pointed
heads. One little boy, Obiyo, is born without a point and is
therefore banished to the Pointed Forest. There, on his
short journey, he encounters a variety of characters who
convince him that everyone and everything does, indeed, have
a point. Back to his native village Obiyo goes and announces
this news to everyone, and as he realizes this, his own
previously normal-shaped head sprouts a point. Point made,
happy ending delivered.
But does this really apply in the life most of us must lead? Does
everything have a point, and if everything does, is the
point sharp enough and meaningful enough that we can
motivate ourselves enough to get out of bed each morning?
Let me illustrate with a real example. At this moment in my life, I
am attempting to sell a detoxification regimen to spas and
health clinics around the world. For me to sell to these
prospects, I must first locate them, which isn't all that
difficult by using the internet, although it's still a long
and laborious process manually databasing them and keeping
track of the last time they were contacted.
The other day, as I was entering in yet more names to my database
and sending out fresh marketing letters to others, I asked
myself what felt like a very reasonable question: what was
the point? Whenever you introduce a new product to a new
audience, the initial reaction is commonly negative. Few
people want to try anything new. To overcome this barrier,
you have to repeatedly approach your audience, highlighting
different aspects of the product, until some, then
eventually more, try the product.
But let's get back to the point of what's the point. In the short
run, the point is always the same: money. A wants to sell to
B in order to earn money. In most cases, A needs the money
to survive. Sometimes, A doesn't need the money, but is
still focused on the making of it because how much one sells
determines how successful the business is, and no one wants
to be in business to not be successful. Witness Silicon
Valley's serial entrepreneurs. These fellows aren't short of
cash, but no one starts a new venture so as to not,
eventually, make money.
It doesn't matter what business you're in. If you're an actor, your
business is selling your acting services. You may love
acting and be willing to do it for free, but you realize if
you can't get paid for it, then you're going to have to
procure a job in another field selling something else so as
to continue doing what you love. If you're a chef, you're
selling your culinary skills. If you're an entrepreneur,
you're selling your company's hopefully unique products and
Now let's try to see the forest for the trees. Ask yourself, as
dispassionately as you can, "If I fail to sell my product or
service, is the world worse off?" Let me take a guess as to
the answer: the world wouldn't bat an eyelid.
Take my own situation. If I fail to sell a lot of bottles of my
detoxification formula, life expectancies worldwide aren't
going to fall through the floor. A lot of people who stayed
toxic might wind up, down the line, with some debilitating
disease which they'll ascribe to other factors. Then again,
if they took my detoxification formula and cleaned
themselves out of heavy metal toxins, they'd still die of
something else eventually. In the end, I'd never really know
how many people truly benefited over decades with the
product's use or who suffered over decades because they
failed to ever use it. Life would go on or end as usual, and
someone else would finally get around to selling some of
these people a life insurance policy.
Look at Harrison Ford. Ford had done some minor stints in acting up
till he was cast in Star Wars in 1977, but nothing
major. When New Year's 1977 arrived, Ford's most famous
movie was American Graffiti. Ford still earned most
of his bread and butter from carpentry work. Let's say Ford
had failed to sell his acting services to George Lucas'
Star Wars casting director and some other actor
had gotten the part. With no blockbuster highlighting Ford's
talents, another actor probably would have scored the part
of Indiana Jones in 1981. Would the world be that much worse
Better off and worse off really only apply, in most instances, to
the individual case. I am worse off, financially, if
I fail to sell my detoxification formula, and as a result of
being worse off financially, I may wind up worse off
psychologically. The rest of humanity would not be worse off
because they never would've been acquainted with my product
to buy it or refuse to buy it. Harrison Ford is the one who
would have been worse off, financially, had another decent
actor been cast in Star Wars. He might well have
never made it in acting. The movie-going public wouldn't
have been worse off. We would've instead been entertained by
another actor and not able to imagine anyone else but that
actor in the part of Han Solo.
There are only a smattering of circumstances where better off and
worse off can truly be measured. The first polio vaccine,
for example, was introduced to the American public in 1952.
From 1988 to 2007, the number of annually diagnosed polio
cases dropped from 350,000 to 1,310. By 1994, the region of
the Americas was declared polio-free. Compare that to 1952,
when 58,000 people in the United States (0.04% of the
American population then) were diagnosed with polio in one
of America's worst ever outbreaks. It's hard to make firm
guesses about how many Americans the vaccinations have
ultimately spared, but if we make ultra-conservative
assumptions like 0.01% of the population would've been newly
diagnosed with polio each year without the introduction of a
vaccine, then over 1.2m people have avoided the disease.
It's not often that someone or something comes along which alters
the course of humanity. Few of us are that important. Sorry,
Obama lovers. Even your JFK-reincarnated savior isn't all
that important. If you think my detoxification formula and
Harrison Ford's career aren't important, you can be triply
certain that humanity wouldn't miss most politicians,
As depressing as this realization of meaningless is, it's also
quite empowering. Throughout my life, I've been a failure,
by my standards, at most of the things I've endeavored to
do. I judged myself harshly for it, too. But when I consider
that the world wouldn't be all that different had I
succeeded instead of failed, it makes me comprehend that all
the battles I put before myself to win were just there for
my own ego. Few others cared about the outcome, and now that
all makes sense. Few others in the scheme of things would
have been better off with my successes as few have been made
worse off by my failures.
Most things just don't matter all that much. If they seem to
matter, they only matter around the time they happen,
causing but a slight ripple in the tide of events that
people shortly up the timeline will scarcely notice. Think
of the JFK assassination of 1963. That was a humongous event
at the time and to this day, people who were alive then
remember where they were and what they were doing when they
heard the tragic news. Were most people's lives immensely
affected? Not really, and almost five decades on, everyone
is that much less affected because JFK, had he survived
1963, would be dead now from other causes anyway, the end
result being the same.
Is it a tremendous deal when a
landmark TV series gets canceled? Only within a short span
of time before and after the cancellation. The season finale
of M*A*S*H in 1983 drew 106 million American viewers
and remains, more than a quarter of a century later, the
single most watched TV-series broadcast in American history.
How many people know that (or care) today? In fact, how many
people under aged 25 have ever watched an episode of
M*A*S*H or ever heard of the show?
Have you ever been to a party and introduced yourself to strangers,
and they don't listen to a word you're saying? Well, that's
how most of humanity views you. Don't get too upset. We're
all virtually in the same boat. The key distinction between
the famous and the ordinary is that the masses pay attention
to famous people and things while they're famous and
never pay much or any heed to the unknown.
But in the long run, there is no difference. A once
famous person or product no longer known by the current
generation will be paid no more attention to than someone or
something that was never famous.
Twenty years from now, no one will give a hoot whether I sold five
million bottles of my detox formula or five hundred -- no one
but me and the people close to me. Clearly, I give a hoot
how many I sell; my life stands to be dramatically different
if I sell more rather than less. And JFK's family, his
cabinet, his associates and, to a lesser degree, the general
public of 1963 all greatly cared that JFK got snuffed out at
age 46, as their lives were affected by the turn of events
caused by his assassination. But does someone born 20 years
after the assassination really care?
Let me extend the time
scale and ask you this question: do you sincerely care that
President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 and
President William McKinley in 1901? Of course you don't. On
some level, you probably feel pity that these men died
before their time, the same way you would feel about anyone
who met a tragic premature end. No one rejoices when they
read about someone in a far off locale dying in a plane
crash or fire. But do you really care, as you would if it
were your parent, spouse, or child who was assassinated? How
could you? Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley died long
before your birth. They had no direct impact on your life.
And if a great man like Honest Abe Lincoln doesn't matter
much, my detox solution matters a helluva lot less.
I've found focusing on the long, long term -- the macro scale -- can
be frightfully depressing. In the long run, we'll be nothing
but a line on someone's family tree chart, if that. It's not
the most inspiring attitude to get ourselves out of bed.
It's more productive to focus on the micro scale: what will
the impact of our actions have on us and the people closest
to us? Personally, that's something which can motivate me.
It's already been established that what I do (or what most
anyone does) will equate to near zero impact in the long
term horizon, even if what I do is a major accomplishment,
like write a bestselling novel or sell cartloads of detox
formula. But in a few decades' time, it's doubtful my
current bestselling book would still be in print or my detox
formula still on store shelves. So why even think about it?
Instead, it's more useful to channel my energies into making
a short term impact, enough to better the lives of those in
my personal sphere of influence. If, for instance, I can
manage to sell large shipments of detox, I can afford to
take my girlfriend and her son on a nice skiing holiday to
Japan or purchase the fancy electric piano she wants.
This realization may be elementary to you. It wasn't to me. For
years, I was obsessed about doing my best. I wouldn't embark
on a project unless I could devote solid effort and energy
to it. I spent 3 years writing a trilogy I'm very proud of,
over a thousand single-spaced typewritten pages, but which
only one person read and 49 agents rejected. Had I spent a
quarter of the time writing the books and the result been an
eighth as good, but secured an agent in the process, I could
have made a more effective impact on the micro scale. When
I'd write a song, I'd sometimes spend days crafting just two
stanzas until they sounded right. For what?
Few people ever heard
the music. It wasn't like I was being enlisted to compose the
music or lyrics to a West End or Broadway show, places where
a larger impact could be made.
Doug's Republic is yet another example. I concocted the idea of
Doug's Republic way back in September 2008 and registered
the domain a month later. Then, I proceeded to do nothing
with it. I didn't have the time, and in the back of my mind,
I didn't think anyone would ever make the time to seriously
visit it -- including people I already knew. The idea kept
gnawing at me until I committed myself toward writing
content for the site, and even then, I forced myself to not
go public with the site until I'd already uploaded a ream of
content which took me a year-and-a-half to create.
took myself far more seriously than most of my potential
visitors probably ever would.
In the short run, the point is always to sell your product or
service to someone else. We're told at a young age to do
what makes us happy. With the point of it all under
consideration, what we are actually asked to do is choose
among the activities which make us happiest that which has
the best chance of us being able to profit from financially.
Plenty of actors and writers and athletes have foregone
their first loves because of the obstacles involved in being
able to get paid adequately for their services. Because many
of us can't reconcile what we're doing with the programmed
idea of us supposedly doing what makes us happiest, we look
for 'the point' in the long run but find that looking so far
ahead yields nothing.
The other day I was telling a story to a friend about something
unusual that had just happened to me, and several times he
prompted me with "And the point of this is?" The story about
myself I was telling, just like most of our lives, had no
deep-seated truths or morals -- no point as it were. It was
just a story, but everybody's been brought up to think there
should always be a point.
Life has no meaning apart from what we make of it. When we and our
loved ones are no longer around to manufacture that meaning,
our lives, seen by those from the distant future, appear
I hope that's a point well taken.