I've got 99 problems but a sign ain't one

Photo courtesy of SirMitchell

I should be occupying my bed right now instead of writing this post.

Over these last few weeks, I’ve been paying close attention to the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and personally I’m rather torn on the issue. I’ve stayed out of the various online debates I’ve seen, mainly because 140 characters isn’t the place to articulate something as nuanced as this. But more importantly, I really don’t have a solid opinion on the matter. I’m certainly not part of the 1%, but am I really in the 99% either? Or the 53%?

As I said, I’m torn. First off, I’m on pace to make more money (legally) this year than I ever have in my entire life. Have I worked my ass off? Damn right I have. I was putting in 100+ hour weeks for most of this year. But is my hard work the only reason I’ve been successful? Hardly. To start, I was fortunate to have parents that thought that education and technology was important, and made sure we (my brother, sister, and myself) had access to it, even though we weren’t wealthy. Also, I was lucky enough to have fallen into a field that is in very high demand right now, with no signs of slowing down. And, to top it off, I seem to have a gift for this nerd stuff. I actually enjoy doing it, and it didn’t take me $50,000 or more in college debt to prove I could do it. And I simply cannot ignore the fact that I am a middle class white male, born and raised in the US. I’ve got opportunities afforded to me that other people simply do not get, and I’m allowed to make mistakes without penalty that others simply cannot. If you don’t believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing. No money down!

With all that said, I know first hand the damage student loan debt can cause a person. I’m fully convinced that my ex-wife’s massive law school debt (upwards of $170,000) was a large contributing factor to the breakdown of our relationship and eventual divorce. While not the only cause, it didn’t make matters any easier. That debt is something she is going to have to deal with for the next 15-20 years. It was recently reported that the total student loan debt in this country has now passed credit card debt. That’s fucked up, esp since there aren’t many jobs to be had.

But overall, the biggest thing that I keep coming back to is watching folks demonize those who are involved. Not just calling them names, but marginalizing their sheer existence as though they are an overwhelming burden on our society. Sorry folks, but like it or not we made this shitpile and we’ve gotta sit in it. Doesn’t matter what side of the street you’re on, its all our problem now. We’ve allowed ourselves to be run into the ground, and no soapbox rants about “My taxes pay for that!” or “I worked my way through school, so can you!” is gonna change that.I think it would be helpful if we would all acknowledge that even when we work hard, we don’t do it in a vacuum and that we have all benefited from a variety of public policies. This is not to say that these policies are always ideal or efficient, but we can’t have a debate about things like taxes, spending, and regulation unless we start from a place of reality (and that applies to the pie in the sky claims of many of the 99% types as well). No man is an island.

But really. I should probably get some sleep.

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I’ve always considered death to be the great equalizer. Regardless of who you are, your background, income, social status, etc. you will eventually die. This morning, one of those people was my grandfather Norman. While I usually use this blog as a forum to piss and rant about things that, while interesting, aren’t really relevant in the grand scheme of things. So bear with me.

Gramps and LittlemanDeath is a funny thing. Just about everyone will handle it slightly different, especially when it is someone close to them. Some shut down, others get highly emotional, and still others detach. Many drink, most cry, and all feel something. I’ve never been one to mourn death. And although my grandfather and I were very close, I am not mourning this either. I’ve always chosen to celebrate life, look back on the positive things, and move on with life knowing that’s what the person would want. And Gramps was no different.

Sarcasm runs deep in the Norcross DNA, and he was a shining example of that. A few years ago, when purchasing a new mattress, the salesman included a pitch about the lifetime warranty. His response? “Who’s lifetime? Mine or yours? Because I’ll be honest, my remaining lifetime isn’t a selling point.” In the first day he was in Hospice care, when they asked him if he wanted something to drink, without thinking he replied, “double bourbon with ice.”  That’s just the kind of guy he was.

Gramps and familyGramps was one hell of a fighter. A WWII vet, he raised 6 kids while managing to keep his sanity and sense of humor. At the age of 50, he had a grapefruit sized tumor in his stomach that was removed. He was “forced” to retire, so he and my grandmother moved down to Florida. When we arrived in 1986, they were here to greet us. I spent a lot of time with him growing up, since we were fortunate to live 15 minutes away. We built furniture to stay active. A few weeks after I quit drinking back in 2003, he had half of a lung removed due to cancer. After that he cut his daily beach walking down to 3 miles a day from his usual 7. He had to take it easy, of course. He still managed to build me a kitchen table for my first house, and other pieces of furniture. I’ve still got the desk he built when I was a teenager, and that will be my son’s desk.

He’s been in failing health the last few years, although you’d never know it. Another Norcross male trait is to minimize the appearance of any pain, either physical or emotional. His concern was for his family, and in specific my grandmother with whom he recently celebrated 65 years of marriage. Even in the end, his concern was to make sure she was going to be OK, since he’s in the early stages of dementia. They had just sold their house and was preparing to move into an ALF. He wanted to make sure she would be taken care of. His body must have known, since he went into the hospital the day after they signed the paperwork.

Gramps, I’m going to miss you. No two ways about it. But here’s to a great life. May you finally be at peace, and hopefully I can become half the man you always were.

 

You’ll notice I’ve closed comments on this post. While I do appreciate everyone’s well wishes, instead of a comment I am asking that you make a donation to the Suncoast Hospice Foundation. They took care of him at the final stages, and for that I am extremely grateful.

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You know damn right I'm a classy motherfucker. I got these threads overseas man, you should totally check it out.To many people, the whole idea of ‘lifestyle design’ seems absurd. And not for the reason many people in that community think. It’s not because of the ideas behind it, rather, it’s many of the people promoting it. Now, not all of them are bad. I’ve personally worked with, met and spent time with a few folks, and they all seemed (at least to me) to be genuine people who truly believed in what they were doing. But it’s a trend (and let’s face it, LD is a trend. Whether or not it’ll sustain is another story). And a few folks like Adam Baker I really respect for detailing what he did, bringing his wife and young child along. To me, that’s a hell of a lot more valid than a 22 year old guy living on the beach. I’ve done that. It was called “homeless”.

I get the appeal (to some). You’ve got a shitty job you hate, bored as hell with life and have no clue what you’re doing next. Then you read a few blog posts and maybe an ebook (shit, does EVERYONE have an ebook now?) and wonder why YOU aren’t living that life. You get sad. Then you rush out and start blogging, connecting all over the social media sphere, and even selling your shit to hit the road. And maybe that works for you. Or, maybe you end up spending money to match the lifestyle they have only to be in the same spot you were.

Here’s where I see the problem:

  • Your gurus are assholes: Let’s face it, Tim Ferris walks and talks like a complete tool. He brags about cheating to win a kickboxing title. He doesn’t refer to anything he enjoys doing “work” (hence the 4 Hour Work Week title). And let’s not forget the fact that his previous company was suspected of fraud. While he isn’t the only one, he’s certainly the most well known offender.
  • Your (over)use of buzzwords: I’m sorry, but if no one is getting shot at, it isn’t a revolution. Not everything is epic, thrilling, or awesome.
  • A “one size fits all” mentality: This is a big one. Nick Reese and I had a good conversation the other day about this. The conclusion he and I came up with (and he wrote up here) is that the ‘sell your shit, travel the world’ dream isn’t for everyone. But looking at a lot of folks in the LD community, you’d think that was all there was to it. News flash: a lot of folks are HAPPY with their desk jobs living in suburbia. And there is nothing wrong with that.
  • The appearance of arrogance: Looking down on people who don’t share your dream is…well…being a dick. Just because I enjoy living in the same place every month  and owning more than 3 shirts doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me, that I’m less ambitious, or that I don’t have “guts”. It means that I am content with where my life is, and that my priorities are different than yours.

One of the reasons I’ve even connected with any of these folks is because I work with WordPress. They use WordPress. It’s a natural fit. So yes, I make money from the house I leave perhaps once a day (twice if need be) fixing the venue they use to promote living / doing anywhere (yes, it’s ironic. And yes, I think it’s fucking hilarious). So not one to simply be an asshole, here’s a few things (in my opinion) that could be done to help the perception:

  • Stop the endless (and at times shameless) self promotion: We all need to make a buck, whether it’s globetrotting or in your office. But quit telling me my life is shit because I am not doing what you’re doing. That’s what sleazy salespeople and infomercials do.
  • Own your failures: If you read over some (again, not all) of the major sites, you’d think these folks never failed, that every product they launched was a success, and they swim in a minimalist pool of money. Face it, they don’t. TELL ME how you’ve failed, what when wrong, and what you’ve learned. Show some fucking growth.
  • Use regular English: drop the buzzwords and speak to me like a regular human being. If every 3rd sentence is telling me how EPIC THIS IS then you’re missing the point.
  • Connect outside your bubble: Many of them simply don’t talk to people who aren’t in the same LD world. Why? What is there to be gained by living in an echo chamber? I work with the tech world, but connect with more people outside of it than within. Maybe it’s my personality, but I want friends / connections that do something I don’t do, not something I am doing.

So what say you? Am I just a cranky old fuck, Am I jealous?

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