January 25, 2013
[The “Hughtrain” cartoon, 2004]
I’ve been seeing a pattern emerging. Here are some of the main ingredients:
1. That Marfa, Texas, one of the great Minimalist shrines in America is now a popular hipster destination spot.
2. One of my my favorite movies of recent years, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which I’ve been raving about for months, is a big hit in the documentary world. It’s also a filmic love poem to Minimalism (Hey, the director used Philip Glass and Max Richter for the film score, I rest my case).
3. Blogs about simple living and Minimalism seem to be really trendy these days, minimalist bloggers like Zen Habits conquering the world.
4. “The Minimalist” is one of the most popular themes on Tumblr.
5. The continuing rise of Westernized Eastern thought: Buddhism, meditation, Yoga, Zen etc (I’m a big Alan Watts fan, but that’s another story).
6. The other thing I’ve noticed is “Personal Coaches” and “Motivational Speakers” seem to be everywhere. Whether we’re talking Anthony Robbins or Brendon Burchard… or the new job title out there, “speakerauthor” (People known mostly for writing books, but make most of their money doing public speaking: Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell etc.) Then you also need all the more technocratic, businessspeak consultant mandarin types out there as well… Like I said, they’re everywhere, it seems to be an increasingly booming industry.
7. That there seem to be more TED speakers talking about how wonderful Atheism is, than there are TED speakers telling people how wonderful Christianity or Judaism or Islam is.
8. The growing idea that the Internet is now a religion.
9. The growing idea that “Jedi” is now a religion.
10. The growing idea that Apple is a religion.
11. The financial and political implosion/impasse/dog’s dinner that is Western Europe/The Euro/The E.U..
12. U.S. Fiscal Cliffs.
13. Environmental and animal rights activists.
14. Burning Man.
16. Charity Water.
I could go on.…
What does this tell me?
That we’re looking for new stuff to believe in.
That though the world is getting more and more complex, the old answers (Do what you’re told, buy a lot of stuff, obsess about THESE celebrities, worship THESE gods/THIS God, watch this trashy Reality TV, watch these crappy movies, read these crappy bestsellers, listen to this crappy music, believe these politicians etc.) aren’t working for us as well as they used to.
So we’re simplifying. We’re renewing. We’re clearing the decks. We’re doing a bit of spiritual Spring cleaning. We’re looking for new stuff to believe in. We’re looking for NEW CERTAINTIES.
Just like the “Hughtrain” cartoon above implies, we have an infinite need for it.
Sure, we like our old certainties (Mom’s cooking, a favorite pair of old jeans, small-town folksy ways, old school good manners, Ronald Reagan, old Jimmy Stewart movies at Christmas time etc), we are genetically programmed to seek out not only the new, but the NEW CERTAINTIES.
So I guess the next the question is, what “New Certainties” is your work bringing to the world?
If you don’t know, maybe best to find out… it’s where the real fun and action is to be found these days.
August 13, 2009
1. Ten Thousand Hours.
Ten Thousand is a number that has been in vogue among the online intelligencia lately, thanks to “Outliers”, the bestselling book by The New Yorker writer, Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell didn’t invent the idea, but he popularized “The Ten Thousand Hours Rule” [I believe it first came out of a study from Florida State University yada yada…].
In short, evidence suggests that if you want to be really good at something, really successful at something, you need to put about ten thousand hours of work into it, before your efforts bear real fruit. This seems to be true whether we’re talking about computers (He cites Bill Gates being one of the first high school kids EVER to have put in ten thousand hours of computer time before going to college), or making art, fixing cars, laying tile, or getting a black belt in Karate.
Gladwell certainly made a good case for it, and from my own personal experience, ten thousand hours sounds about right. I actually came across the Ten Thousand Hour Rule before Gladwell’s book came out, via my buddy, Stowe Boyd, who wrote a great blog post about it [using me as a case study, *cough*] a few years ago. But I digress…
2. Ten Thousand People.
Ten Thousand is a number that has special meaning to me, as well:
The first few years of this century were tough ones for me. My career in advertising pretty much tanked around the same time as the dotcom crash, and I found myself unemployed, broke, living in the boonies, scraping a meagre living writing freelance brochure copy. Then 9 – 11 came along and made it even worse. Not fun or nice.
Up until that point, I had spent my entire working career “chasing gigs”. Whether we’re talking full-time salaried positions, or three-day freelance opportunities, I had spent well over a decade chasing that ever-elusive island of security in a swelling ocean of advertising-industry chaos. And these gigs would never last, they would always end eventually, for whatever reason. Recessions, layoffs, downsizing, incompetence on my part, incompetence on the boss’ part, whatever. And usually the timing was bad, of course it was.
Chase, chase, chase…. And I was sick of it. Really, REALLY sick of it. Over a decade of working my butt off, and those islands of security were no less elusive than before. And I wasn’t as young as I used to be. The hamster wheel was starting to do me in.
Then, in these darkest of days, I had a sudden flash of life-changing insight. Like I told my fellow burnout-advertising drinking buddy that evening, as we commiserated at the bar about our sad lot in life:
“I don’t want to be chasing gigs anymore.”
“What do you want, then?” asked my buddy.
“I just want ten thousand people giving me money every year.”
“Where are you going to find these people?” he asked.
“The Internet,” I replied.
“What do you plan on doing there?”
“I think I’ll start by publishing my cartoons online… on a blog.”
“What’s a ‘blog’?”
The rest, as they say, is history…
There was nothing magical about the ten thousand number. I just reckoned that, as a cartoonist, if I was making t-shirts, books, whatever– and ten thousand people were buying product every year, with me making a few bucks profit off each unit, well, it wouldn’t make me a billionaire, but at least I’d be able to feed myself.
Also, ten thousand people supporting me seemed like a good way of spreading my bets economically. If one person drops out, and all you lose is a t-shirt sale, with 9,999 other people still on board you can easily recover. But in the world of chasing advertising gigs, if the one person you lose happens to be your jackass boss, you’re dead meat.
Then a wee while ago I came across the great “One Thousand True Fans” blog post. A similar idea to my own, except his magic number was one-tenth the size of mine. It doesn’t matter. It all depends on what you’re selling. The famous English tailor, Thomas Mahon, has his magic number set at one hundred, because that’s basically how many handmade suits he is physically capable of making in a twelve month period. Good thing his suits are very expensive– One hundred “True Fans” wouldn’t get him very far if all he was selling were ten-dollar tee shirts.
Whatever your own, personal magic number may be, I hope you find it one day; I hope you find THOSE PEOPLE one day.
Beats chasing gigs for a living….
[Update: Just added this post to EVIL PLANS.]
[Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]