Author Archive

Do not despair

Friday, May 19th, 2006

I thought I’d end my “guest” days with an encouraging word or two. And I’ll do so by responding to the most common question that’s been in my inbox over the past few months, which goes something like “does everything just suck? Are we doomed to stupidity and fundamentalism and fascism?” And my answer - Smithly speaking - is no.

Fascism and fundamentalism depend on people surrendering their perspectives - the narratives they’ve developed - and letting someone *else* write the story for them. Whether it’s churchgoers surrendering their understanding of God to the minister, or voters surrendering their understanding of civics to Karl Rove, the loss of access to one’s own storytelling ability is akin to losing one’s grip on reality.

That’s right: maintaining authority over the story *is* maintaining a connection to the very engines of creation. Everyone has a story, as Larry likes to say - that doesn’t mean every person’s story is interesting to every other person. But it does mean that every person has a right to his or her own story - one’s own way of connecting the dots, understanding the passage of time, and recognizing the patterns that emerge.

Too many of us are willing to deny ourselves the right to that narrative, or too ready to believe our own version of the story is just not as important, accurate, or relevant as those of some external authority. (Just because people pay to watch some story, or vote for its hero, doesn’t mean it’s any more true than yours.)

So my word of hope is this: as long as you can tell your own story, it means *their* story hasn’t yet been locked down. It means there’s still hope, still possibility, and still life.

Enough of me. Here’s to your stories.

Everybody I Meet in Real Estate is Crooked

Friday, May 19th, 2006

I can’t go into the details.

Pissing in the wind

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Does anybody read this site, yet? Or is this some kind of Beta test?

It’s reminding me of something that used to happen a long time ago. See, I was early on the cyber-scene, so I used to get interviewed for the first editions of lots of cyber-culture magazines. This was back in the early 90’s, when Wired and all the other fledgling cyberculture mags were just popping up. I’d even get on the cover of some of these, but since it was their first issue, they didn’t yet have enough of an audience for anyone to notice my mug.

This is starting to feel a bit like that.


Friday, May 19th, 2006

Still no word from the young person who stood me up for a meeting, yesterday. Maybe she *did* get mugged or something.

Again, I know this is just another sign of my age. Worrying about someone who doesn’t show up for a meeting? I mean, get real. This is 2006 - the era of multitasking and overlapping allegiances. Things come up. Hell, in Africa, if someone says “I’ll be right over” it could mean next week.

Why am *I* so hung up on time? I mean, is it some capitalist thing? Thinking that my time is *worth* something?

But my thoughts keep going back to whether something bad might have actually happened to this person. Because that’s what it meant in the old days when someone didn’t show up.


Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Something that makes me realize I’m from an “older” generation than many of my friends and associates is the fact that I spend a lot of my time waiting for them.

At bars, coffee shops, home, office, wherever. Back in the early 90’s, our relationship to time was more exact than it is today. We were occasionally late to a meeting or something, but we’d be sure to at least *pretend* to be out of breath by the time we got there.

These days, it seems customary for people to walk in 15 minutes or 30 minutes late. Making the cell phone call or sms is reserved for anything beyond that. (As if being sent an sms really does much more than give you permission to leave.)

It could be technology that has led to this change in behavior, which would explain the apparent generational link. But I suspect it’s something else. I just don’t yet know what.

Personal narrative style: I got stood up for a meeting today. I waited 45 minutes, then left. Still no email explanation or anything.

I’ll tell you tomorrow if it’s, like, she got mugged or something. But I’ve been through this enough to know it probably isn’t. So much, in fact, that I don’t even have a lump of fear that she could be in any trouble. And that’s not a way I like to feel about someone who, for all I know, could actually have gotten run over or something.

Market Crash

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

It’s not (just) my lingering distaste for rich people thats lead me to relish in the crash in the market. It’s my increasing intolerance for pretty much everything market-oriented.

I just wrote a business book whose main message could be reduced to: “selling out sucks.” And it’s not just good personal advice; it’s actually good business advice. Once a company goes public, it is no longer doing whatever it set out to do. It has sold itself, quite literally, to another group of people with very different interests. Where Joe might have made shoes because he wanted people to have healthy feet, Joe’s new shareholders really just want their stock to go up. Sure, if they were in it for the long term, they’d understand that their stock will go up if Joe continues to make good shoes. But theyr’e not in it for the long term which is why they’d rather Joe outsource his shoe manufacturing to China, show a better balance sheet, and sell their shares for a quick profit the next quarter.

And then this approach, in turn, creates economic conditions that put the nation in debt, devalue the dollar, and perpetuate speculation.

Wall Street likes to pretend we’re in a bull market all the time. Fact is, we’ve been in a bear market for a couple of years - a stealth bear market, if you will - as smart money shifts into things other than stocks. The smartest money guys I know - chiefs of some big brokerage houses - have admitted to me that the majority of their money is in CASH (well, high-interest short-term one-week bond-things I wouldn’t know where to get).

The reason the collapse of the speculative marketplace is a good thing is that, like the felling of any idol, it will shift focus to the real. And when our focus shifts to the real - to the shoes we like making for feet we love protecting - the whole world becomes a better place.

The “personal” way of saying this? I was speaking to a literary agent last night, telling him about a book idea I had. And he said, “Sounds too lightweight for you, Doug. A book that any number of writers could do.” No - he wasn’t poo pooing the idea, as much as trying to get me to think harder. “Go deeper,” he said. “You’re an intellectual. *Be* an intellectual.”

And that was him really just telling me the lesson that I’ve been telling everyone else: rise to your own occasion.

Hello, My Name is Douglas Rushkoff (Guest Blogger)

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

I’m not used to writing about myself. At least not directly.

I mean, sure, everything I write is about me because, like every writer, I’m sharing my own experience and perceptions. There’s no way out. But at least I’ve avoided the trap of getting stuck in that boring my-story-matters trap that’s led to countless badly written memoirs from college writers who either suffered schizophrenia, worked as hookers, took lots of drugs, or found some other compellingly pathological lifestyle to justify a fat book contract and movie option.

The trouble with writing about oneself, professionally, is that it usually amounts to a striptease of one kind or another. And once you’ve shown the goods, the reading public figures you’ve shown pretty much everything you’ve got to offer.

That’s why I’ve always believed I would be more valuable - and contributive - if I wrote about things and people other than myself. Even in interviews, I try to get off the personal story part as quickly as possible, in order to share insights and information that aren’t encumbered by my personality and individual narrative. Still, however deftly I maneuver away, interviewers and audiences like to come back to the personal. And what they’re really asking, deep down, is “what qualifies you to say this?”

And eventually I surrender. No, I don’t list my qualifications in bullet points, but I tell them my story. My path through the mire. And for some reason, knowing where I’ve come from and how I got here makes people more open to listening to what I’ve got to say.

However much I loathe delving into the personal - particularly in a public space - I have to admit to Larry that all this personal narrative does have a purpose. It may be more of a means than an ends, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

So, over the next couple of days, I’ll share something personal. Rather than my life story - which you can find on my website - I’m going to share where I’m actually at. Moment to moment, in the next two days.

I’ve been doing some major housecleaning, personally and professionally, in order to make room for the next phase in my life. I’m saying “no” to stuff for the first time, and I’m even letting a couple of hundred emails slip through the cracks each week. This is uncharacteristic.

So it must be one of those “hinge” periods. And, for Larry, for the hell of it, and for your amusement, I’ll turn this corner in public.