Modern vs traditional business climate (RL153)

Our society is very siloed and worships the cult of expertise a lot! Of course, some jobs absolutely require expertise, like paediatric brain surgery, adjusting the Rochester quadrojet carburetor in John's truck, or restoring a Stradivarius, but there are lots of other jobs, like being CEO of a 25 person company, that almost anybody could do. Every single one of John's friend could be the CEO of a 25 person company, because all it it takes is to figure out what the company makes and where they sit in the landscape. Then you need to figure out how the company could do better. That stuff should not be too difficult for a normal intelligent person to figure out! If the company needs to grow to get better, then that is one direction, but if the company does not need to grow to get better, that's another solution. Being the CEO of a 40.000 person company on the other hand needs many complementary skills and know-how for hiring good people to manage your divisions. Merlin interjects that even with only 25 people, you would need to maintain the confidence of people who could easily get a job anywhere else. Nowadays the business climate does require those skills, because it is a game, it is all about growing quickly, filling a niche, keeping it nimble, selling high, and everybody will get rich. Everybody is motivated by the real possibility that they will be astoundingly rich at 27 years old, which is very different from actual business.

The person who starts a company that makes bicycles is not working towards selling their company to Schwinn and make a million dollars, but they are legitimately wanting to manufacture bicycles. Making a sustainable business based on something that you care a lot about and are good at is going to be their peace of mind and will provide them their quality of life. It is the old fashioned way of making business, where the product is the entire story and everything else is designed toward the product. Increasingly companies don't even know what their product is and yet, they have 7 layers of C-level management and they are already getting looked at by those who want to flush them with cash and maybe they will make an app that will make a bong when it turns off, maybe we will make a speaker that you could suction-cup to your chest. There are a lot of things we could be building, we just haven't figured it out yet.

That style of business is like Bitcoin-mining: It is something that may make you rich, takes up a lot of your day, maybe requires you to be charismatic and convince people, but it isn't about making anything that helps anybody. The motivation is "I want all the money as fast as possible" and the VC:s with their 90% failure rates are not giving you money because they like you, but they are doing it because they are going to make a lot of money from you. That is why the political realm for these people is libertarianism: When they do hit the numbers, they really do believe that they made it out of thin air, that they do not owe anybody, that they are not part of any community, but they are part of this genius level tier of bitcoin farmers. Jeff Bezos in Seattle really does believe that the money he is making is because he is a genius.

Money isn't real! (RW64, RL183, RW80)

The highest moral good for John has always been saving money. The benefit of money in the bank has always outweighed the benefit of almost any material good, but that attitude became a tyranny over him in the long run. He shook his head on his friends who were buying motorcycles and guitars and trips, blowing their money and complaining how poor they were, while he had this virtue he had saved. Eventually, John acknowledged what he always knew: Money is fake, collecting it has no virtue, spending it has no virtue, it is false. He wanted leisure and wanted the money as a security of being able to just take the day off or take the week off. Other people wanted material things and money was a way of accomplishing those things, but the money itself is just imaginary. John started to allow himself to spend his money. It comes and goes, don't Scrooge McDuck it, or Smaug it. Don't smock your gold! Money is false enough that he has to constantly remind himself to spend it, because: Fuck it! You'll make more and it turns out: leisure is not a very good goal. John had spent several years with enough money to take the month off and it didn't produce mental health and it didn't produce happiness. Somewhere in the last few years John started to say "let's live a little". (RL183)

The liberation when John realized that money isn't real allowed him to become a good tipper and to be free of this haggle-monster. John always budgets an extra 100 dollars, just for bullshit: the extra fee that Hertz adds to your car rental because you are an hour late, or for Verizon deciding that you violated the terms of their contract. The way that the corporate world or the airlines have decided to profit and become multi-million dollar companies are these tiny shitty dollar-transactions, a way that makes everybody feel awful. We have arrived at a place where the sickness of capitalism is at a high level. It is in our bones right now and not only in capitalists. Marxists are just as shitty at negotiating. (RW64)

People who are in a similar place in their life like John also realize that money isn't real. It is not just about the privilege of being able to say that! Of course we need to come up with a way to provide for ourselves, keep the power on, and put food in our kids' mouths, but you see people finding a way all the time. (RW64) John doesn't have a ton of money and is therefore not able to do all the things he wants to do or even in most cases any of the things he wants to do. Still, he tries to live as though money was not real. Not in a way that will cause him to be bankrupt. He has no plan to live like somebody who got his first credit card after they joined the US Army and they immediately bought a Dodge Challenger. Instead: ”Money is not real, so don't get freaked out about it, don't sit around sweating and panicking about it, just don't buy anything that you don't have the money to buy, but also keep working on figuring out ways to get money, but also don't get weirded out about it!” (RW80)

John's budgeting strategy (RW80)

Every time John receives money, he puts it into the money hole, which is a secret hole at a financial institution, because the FDIC makes it almost impossible to keep your money anywhere but in a bank unless you have soooo much of it. John tries to budget things and he is always operating under budget, which is pretty easy to do, because you just look at how much you make and you look at how much you spend and you spend less than you make. It requires that you know both of those things and it also requires that you don't have any unexpected expenditures or income drops. If you do that long enough, you can even weather some storms because you do have money in your money hole. If you are like John's dad and spend your money immediately when you get it, then there is no money to protect you against the storms. It is the concept of self-insurance: You have to have insurance against crazy things, but self-insurance is just the principle of: "Just because money isn't real doesn't mean you have to spend it, but it is this thing that you keep to tie to you". A lot of people struggle with money and for them it feels very real and very awful all the time. There is always a way to make it without drama, even when life's unexpected twists and turns come and throw you for a loop! There are awful situations that happen to people and all of a sudden they are completely under water. Their money situation seems bananas and they are going to go bankrupt or they are living in their cars because they couldn't stay on top of the money wave they needed to stay on top of.

John's income is completely random. There is no way to know at the beginning of the year if he is going to make any money at all, but he does have a set of skills that is fairly diverse and in the course of a year he is trying to employ those skills in different directions in order to make enough money so that he does not run out of it by the end of the year, or that he isn’t out of money for half the year, which has happened! One of the nice things about the American Express card is that you have to pay it off every month, it is not a credit card, you don't get to just load it up and use it. That keeps you honest, which is a big part of it!

At John house there is a lot that needs to be done and if John needs a new trailer hitch that costs $27, he is in a financial position to get a trailer hitch when he needs one, but he is not in a situation where he can hire 15 dump trucks and a backhoe to tear his swimming pool down and turn it into a Croquet lawn, which is why even though it seems doable and even though he should have a system that will send his bath water out to his garden, none of these things have happened. John makes it sound like the only reason for that is because he didn’t make the phone calls, but in reality he can't afford it either. The last thing you want is a cheaply done valve in your wall that sends your bathwater into your basement or into your kitchen. It is difficult to give financial advise to an audience that is presumable across the entire spectrum of financial liquidity. There are people listening who are mowing lawns for a living all the way up to the wealthiest stockbrokers, [ lawyers, and doctors.

Day laborers (RW64)

Day laborers treat money more like a game than something real. They see the value in that rusty thing at the side of the road which is garbage to other people! Day laborers form a whole sub-economy beneath the normal economy. John and his mom use them all the time, but she will always text John a picture of them first to make sure she is safe.

Whenever John hires a day laborer for a job he doesn't want to do himself, the last thing he is gonna do is trying to best that person. They are working some job for him, and John is not going to put his foot on them one last time, making them feel ashamed by trying to figure out what their lowest possible price would be. If they say $75 and that seems worth it, he'll pay it. He doesn't care if he would have gotten them down to $60. If they say $150 and it is only worth $75, then he will go to the next guy who will do it for $75. They are doing real work, but they are not getting rich doing it, because how many jobs are they going to get a day? Those people are making a living on the edge of the economy and they are very resourceful and know how to turn an old lawnmower into scrap metal. Dan suggests that maybe their price is the haggling price and they expect John to push it down, but John is not a haggler and it is not interesting for him. Life is too short to sweat those kind of details, and it is a moral imperative for your own mental health. To sit and negotiate with somebody on that level is to be focused on the wrong things in life and means you are gratifying yourself on the expense of other people.

The appeal of discounts in pricing (RW64)

Haggling is a big part of a lot of cultures, but it is much more important to John to have a basic idea of what the value of a thing is. Maybe he will split the difference in a discussion about the price of a used guitar, but he will not just sport-haggle back and forth. In the history of pricing, the firm price did not exist before the 19th century. A merchant was potentially going to lose his profit with one customer and was afterwards going to ripping off a rich person. Although people like a fixed price, they like even more getting a better deal than other people. There are the manipulators, like car salesmen who talk about a list price and always give you deals. There is something innate in us that makes it feel like a competition you need to win. You not only want to beat the merchant, but also the other guy that is trying to get that same thing. The drive to beat the other guy and getting a better discount is in a way the pathology of our age. It is a bitterness and obsession that soaks us.

People are getting furious over insignificant amounts of money and obsessed with insignificant layers of a deal. When some people go into a store and there is nothing on sale, they feel that the owner got a foot on their neck. Where's the sale table? We are doing damage to ourselves by having built a culture where all the things we need the most are being purveyed to us. It is the 50%-off-sale that is now appealing to our basic instincts and tickling the worst part of us. It makes us structure our own lives and our relationships to the world in a small way. There are situations where everything is always 50% off and then you realize the item just costs 14 cents to produce in China.

Not only has John given up haggling, but he has given up buying stuff. At the grocery store, he goes in, gets his five things and goes out. He is not bamboozled by the signs that say that you get an incredible deal about a thing that costs 3 dollars. Save the deal for the next guy! John doesn't like to being emotionally manipulated in thinking that what he was looking for is a good price. He is not looking for a good price, he is looking for milk! In the past John used to walk around the grocery store for 2,5 hours and would walk out not having bought anything, because he was so consumed by comparison shopping, like comparing 15 kinds of toilet paper, and that makes you buy Scott toilet paper which is like wiping your butt with a shitty prison newspaper. The people buying Scott toilet paper are making a decision based on one thing: "This is the good deal toilet paper", but it is not a good deal! It is the worst deal in the world because you walk around thinking that the next time you poop it is going to be a miserable experience just like it was the last time, because I'm wiping my bottom with prison newspaper. So where's the deal there?

John used to be very money-fixated when he was a kid or in his 20:s. He was afraid of getting ripped off, denying himself things when he felt it was a dollar more. John tried to haggle with people and almost always stormed out without buying the thing because he wanted the merchant to accept his last bid from 1,30 down to 1,25. The initial appeal of the Internet was the possibility of getting stuff cheaper than in the store. Depending on your shopping history and where you are logging in from, you increasingly see different prices for the same article online.

Accepting money from other people (RW59, RL183)

John does not like to ask other people for money, even if they would gladly give it to him. He even had bad feelings about being sponsored by Filson and by Gibson at one time, because he did not like the obligations that came with it. (RW59)

In 2010, he was making Internet videos replying to viewer mail for REI. Customers however did not want an indy rocker to tell them about outdoor products, so this was only a short endeavor. John used this as an example for not having a problem being a pitch guy, but he didn't want to sell out and just do it for the money as a faceless character, but rather speak as himself. (RW59)

John and Merlin had talked about crowdfunding for the program, especially in January of 2016 when John had to make a decision about repairing his RV, and they continue to argue about it. People make an argument that the enjoyment they get watching John on Instagram driving this RV around is worth some small donation to the cause. John understands that, but it feels like a little bit less honest. It doesn't feel wrong, but it doesn't feel right, there is not a good word for it. Yes, Merlin and John are giving people something, but the service he would be providing by continuing to live in this RV and driving it around the country like a crazy person is less tangible to John. (RL183)

John is not opposed to having the RV be owned in part by all of our friends and fans in common, who are excitedly and vicariously enjoying this insanity, partly fueled by his bipolar medicine. He has previously done similar things like buying old decrepit cars, but in $8000 1991-dollars. Back then he didn't have a child that he was sitting at the side of the road with, going "Please let this not be the day I get the world's worst parent award". John does not have additional $8000 to monkey around and repair the RV. He was ready to pay $14000 for it under the prerequisite to take out a loan, but since it was only $8000 in total, he just bought it in cash. He can conceivably get a loan and listeners will ask him to do a Kickstarter or a Patreon, but he has a certain amount of adult human pride. This is his folly. He needs to own it, and not turn to the internet like "Help me Obi Wan! You are my only hope!" (RL183)

It is like making records: It used to be hard and you had to scrimp and save and get together enough money to rent some amount of studio time, but now you just sign up to "Go fund me" and make a record and put it on the Internet.

In the beginning of 2017 Dan Benjamin created a Patreon for him in secret because he knew John would not like the idea until presented with the facts. John didn't even put a PayPal button on his website because he didn't like the vibe in the room it created. He realizes that he is overthinking the matter greatly, but sees it as kind of a dignity. (RW59), (RW60)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License