I have a secret…
For a few fleeting hours, I was jealous as hell of Hugh MacLeod. Followed closely by an unrelenting wish that it was me and not him who’d written the book I held in my hands.
Ignore Everybody came out in June to a thunderous reception. Rightly so.
This reworking of the manifesto that Hugh released into the world on his blog back in 2004 is the perfect blend of wisdom, snark, rapture and revolution. Though, if you’re easily offended, skip the cartoons. Actually, forget that, get over it and read them. They’re crude, but the message is so worth the affront (actually, as New Yorker, they’re downright tame to me).
I found my head nodding happily along…until I hit Hugh’s Sex & Cash Theory.
Here it is:
The creative person besically has two kinds of jobs: one is the sexy creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. it will never be transcended.
And, here’s where I go, um…no. Why?
Because it forestalls or forecloses the opportunity to create magic in the name of protecting against pain.
A lot people might say that’s a good thing. “Hey, I’m okay giving up my shot at a miraculous life in the name of avoiding the pain of failure.” Or, “look, you’ve gotta be realistic, you’re not Ansel Adams. Hell, you shoot with an iPhone!”
Here’s the thing, I’ve spent the last handful of years connecting with, interviewing, writing about and befriending a growing army of folks who’ve “transcended the tense duality” that is supposedly untranscendable (is that a word?!).
People from all walks of life who”ve said, “screw it, the trappings of convention don’t apply to me.”
Artists who’ve taken a renegade approach to art, yoga, baking and more. And gone about it completely differently and figured out how to generate their Cash as a byproduct of their Sex. Business women and men who’ve repurposed their hypercreative joneses into passion-driven livings. Writers who’ve found an outlet, a tribe and an income in ways most people write off as “larks.”
Are they all millionaires? Occasionally, but more often than not, they earn enough to live well in the world, however they define that. And, I’m betting, right around now, with over a millions hits a month at his blog, a killer book and merchandising options opening up, Hugh himself is in the very process of transcendance (Hugh, call me).
Are these folks exceptions or as Malcom Gladwell puts it “outliers?” Hardly.
The coolest thing is that most of them weren’t the most talented but, rather, the most driven to succeed at what everyone around them said was their “untranscendable” fate.
Was it easy? Rarely. Was it possible? Often.
Okay, now what about the link between Sex, Cash, Convention and Pain…
What I’m talking about here is the pain of crashing and burning should you buck convention, pursue Sex and Cash together and end up a miserable failure. Truth is, rare is the failure that unrecoverable. And, even more important, the thought of elevating fear and convention to the level of guiding philosophies freaks me out a bit.
Look, I understand the need to be a realist. I have a family to support in NYC. I can’t live hand to mouth. Nor do I want to. So, like so many people I’ve met, my transitions (law to entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship to writing, writing to, um, 5 different things) need to be done in a way that keeps the peace.
But, that doesn’t mean giving up on the dream. That doesn’t mean accepting as gospel that the “tense duality” between Sex and Cash can never be transcended. I can accept that it might take years. But, never? No.
And, there’s one other thing that bugs me about the theory…
It goes back to the research Gladwell cited in Outliers. There’s a quite compelling argument that to become kick-ass great at anything takes a bare minimum of 10,000 hours of what greatness researchers called “deliberate practice.” That’s not just painting, putting or potting for 10,000 hours, it’s something much more. It’s hitting 5 buckets of balls and with every shot having a goal, analysing the result and aiming to correct and improve with the next shot.
It usually takes someone who’s engaged in this level of practice at least 10 years to rack up the 10,000 hours needed to become world class. And, that’s the fast track. So, if you do your Sex on the side while you’re earning your Cash, instead of making it more of a featured element of your life, it’ll take you years or decades longer to rack up the hours of practice needed to be great.
Sure, you may end up good enough to earn some nice jack on the side. But, we’re talking about transcendantly good here. And, in this, Hugh was right. Sometimes, you can be “really good” and also be smart and creative enough to figure out your own renegade path that’ll give you enough Sex and Cash to be cool. But, other times, you NEED to become world class great. And, that rarely happens when you’re having Sex as a side dish.
At some point, Sex has gotta become your main course.
Truth is, all to often it’s the final 1% that pushes you into the league of magic. Dilute that effort by placing Sex on the side and it may take a lifetime, if ever, to tap your potential. So, build your quest for Sex and Cash on the side, if the reality of your life now requires that. But not as your permanent plan. There will come a time, nearly always does, where to do transcend the tense duality between Sex and Cash, you need to pursue both as one.
As W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951 (often misattributed to Goethe) said:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
As always, just thinking out loud.
My guess is Hugh is way smarter than I (as are many of you).
So, what do you think?
Can you transcend the tense duality between Sex and Cash?
Or, will it “always play center stage?”
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