Waiting For Uncle Ernie

The Vast Nothingness
The Vast Nothingness

I think this post is more fun if you click here first and then listen to the music while you read.  But that’s just me.

The Speech.  The My Life Had No Purpose speech.  You’ve heard it before.  I got to hear it again Monday evening.

Like all classics, the Speech has a time honored format.  The earnest young presenter (always earnest, usually male) tells his audience about his failures.  Sure he once made more money than most of his audience has ever made.  And of course he once had a nice home and better stuff that any of them have a reasonable expectation of owning.  But he was in debt and he wasn’t HAPPY.  His momma died.  His wife left him.  His dog snapped at him.  He wasn’t Fulfilled.  And then he found __________.

What did he find?  What turned his life around?  Jesus?  Yoga?  A new toothpaste?  It really doesn’t matter.  The only constant is that now that he and his life have been salvaged, he is ready to help you.  The price tag is somewhere between $16.99 and 10% of your income.

I turned to Heidi Cool who was sitting next to me at the Barking Spider and told her that I could give the next line of the Speech.  Two guys on a book selling tour were at the Spider to read a little from their latest tome on Minimalism, Everything That Remains.  In a little over three years Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have co-authored five books and have spoken at SXSW, World Domination Summit, TEDx, and numerous schools, organizations and meetings.  In other words, they have built an impressive empire out of eliminating excess.

I couldn’t tell which I found more depressing, the predictability of the Speech or the audience in attendance.  I studied the faces of the people listening to the authors.  I was looking for that sense of déjà vu, that acknowledgement that they had heard this before.  Because some of them had.  They were seekers, wanderers in search of some path to ease the dull throb that wouldn’t go away.  Even though these unhappies had heard much, if not all, of this before, it was all new to them.  The oldest of the group smiled knowingly as one of the authors described in exaggerated detail his IKEA shopping experience.  The youngest, unemployed or underemployed, were looking for validation for the choices life had made for them.

And all they needed to do was buy the book.  Really, you will be happy with less stuff.  Eliminate what you don’t need so that you can fully appreciate what you will have left.  And one of the things you don’t need is the money in your pocket that would pay for this book.  I didn’t stay around till the end.  I couldn’t.  But I wanted to just to see if they would accept credit cards.

The purpose of this post isn’t to knock these guys or anyone else who makes a living leading people out of deserts.  What’s great is that every once in a while someone may actually benefit from a speaker evangelizing a particular religion, lifestyle, or hair care product.  But if you cut through the BS what you will find is that someone hated their crappy job and what they had to do to make a living.  So they drank.  Or they gambled.  Or they cheated on their spouse.  Or they spent money foolishly.  And one day, they got a new job.  And now they feel good about themselves.  As is so often the case, the new job is to stand in front of a group of people and share with them how happy they now are.

Will playing pinball all day make YOU happy?  Neither will some book.

3 thoughts on “Waiting For Uncle Ernie

  1. I’m not sure which is truer, that crowds at the Spider are open-minded to a fault or polite to a fault. But they are definitely seekers.

    Thoreau said, “simplify, simplify, simplify”, but if he’d really meant it, he would only have said it once.

  2. The place was packed, but not with Spider regulars. These people had printed out their tickets to this event. Prior to the scheduled start, several were on their phones providing directions to parking and the bar.

    You would have been amused, amused, amused. Wish you had been here.

  3. Dave, I almost wish I had waded through that crowd to find you and Heidi, rather than turning around and going home Monday evening. Who knows, I might have picked up an idea of two. Rest assured, I would have no expectation of hearing THE answer that would transform my life, regardless of the speaker(s) or topic. I do find it disheartening to see the “yes, YES, I can relate to that” expressions on listeners faces at presentations like this, largely because they usually come at the beginning, when the speaker is describing the life he left behind. While empathy is good, the real learning comes from doing the work of moving from the life before to the life after insight is gained. For a person and his program to have any relevance for me, the person must acknowledge that there was work involved in getting from “before” to “now”, and that it takes work to keep moving forward.

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