How It All Started


I was an ordinary young oldster appearing to be forced into retirement by pissing off one too many software managers. Could I help it if a job that was heading to amazingly high hourly dollar levels before Y2K had plunged into a wasteland of cheap programmers?

The big boys in the industry found people who would work for peanuts and the price was so attractive that strategies to keep quality high as newbies were trained became all the rage. Create a hierarchy of developers and testers that could work toward developing something that you only needed one “master programmer” to create before.

Being the the guy you hired if you had to start from scratch and you needed a “real” programmer turned into patterns that you picked from a book since software folks had seen it all and taught it to everybody online.

So, priced out of the market, overweight and underemployed and wondering where the hell my next dollar was coming from, I did what every programmer with an inflated sense of self does, I started believing that I could create a program to make me rich on the stock market.

Half way through I found out that the simple database I had chosen did not do multi-threading worth a damn and then I got a temp job, but for not much money. However, it did stop the bleeding, but by the time I was done, I had given up on the software that was going to make me rich.

If you form the habit of being a follower, then you just naturally follow and one part of the habit is to await instructions. I have decided to give in to my tendencies and to listen to my inner lazy bum and sit on the couch with my laptop and surf for things to help me climb out of the undirected ebb and flow that my life was becoming. You might say do what you are good at doing, but an ego ridden older man thinks he is good at everything. However, some hints are coming in from odd quarters:

  • The comic strip “Luann” has Gunther admitting that he is not a strong person and that he always follows a partner.
  • Walsch’s “Conversations with God” is a similar model where power is given to the “other” to make things work. In this case providing material for a book.
  • Jerad in the Subway commercial got his gig from “eating too much junk food” and making a recovery that involved eating at Subway instead and “lots of walking”. In this model you get credit for caving in to human nature and making your recovery, as long as you find a way to be public about it and have a commercial partner. This model is fine, but I would assume that there are hundreds of folks that did not get the paycheck for losing their weight or they just stayed heavy. After all the doctor who told me to lose weight is rounder than me.

I can’t help feeling like this caving in to my nature can be done in a way that makes it work, as long as I have the right partner. However, it is very unlikely that an actual person is going to emerge that has the same agenda as me. Also, the advantage of this way is that I don’t really have to change since changing is an admission of failure and who wants to be wrong all the time? So who is this personality that is going to kick my butt and get me rolling down the right path? Please be gentle.

A Meeting

It was a dark and stormy night. Questions were swirling through my head like “Of the fifty or so things I have started and not finished, which one do I work on now?” Worry, which is eschewed by Alfred E. Neumann with “What me worry?” as a motto, was creeping in like the temptation to eat an ice cream cone on a hot afternoon.

I was just about to start a game of FreeCell and turn on the TV when the couch started moving out from under me. I either had to stand up or fall on my butt. All I could hear was: “If you keep doing the same things, you will have the same result”.

While I was jumping up to save bruises, I stifled the impulse to yell back “What the heck?” or some such since my wife was sitting on a separate part of the sectional and obviously did not hear the voice or feel the couch kicking me. “I think I’ll go get the mail” I said walking toward the door, looking for a way to get control and calm down.

I wasn’t expecting a message but now I was starting to think I was about to get one. “You want my help, but you act like I am not even with you” was in my ears as plain as day. Realizing that things were about to depart from hum-drum existence I had started to accept as “semi-retirement”, I tried to think just what help I may have asked for without realizing and if I had any idea who I might have asked for it.

I had been spending a lot of time wondering how I was going to lose 50 pounds without some diet and joining a gym. I also was getting a little desperate to figure out my job situation and, basically, if I was ever going to make another dollar. I decided to take a walk and see if any help was actually coming my way. “Okay, yes I do want help and I apologize, I did not know you were with me.” I mouthed quietly, figuring that I needed all the help I could get.

“It should not surprise you that I have exactly what you want and that I have been with you since you first realized that things were going to change. Just because you give up does not mean the rest of us have to. I can not make you change, that is up to you, but I can bring you along if you go along.”

Well, I am a bit of a follower, so that could work. I am great at thinking for myself once I start on a topic, but I fumble around and fall in love with so many topics, that I am spread pretty thin. “Okay” I say with my voice low so somebody on the sidewalk won’t really hear me, “what can I do to go along?” “You are already doing it. Getting on your feet will work wonders” I hear as clearly as if somebody was standing right next to me. “You will want to do this a lot”.

Mmm, are you sure?

“This is all about what you want and what you actually do. You want to make some changes. Now you are doing something different from sitting on the couch. But this is the first of many steps in the right direction. Now that we have a little time together, I suggest you think about what you have to offer that is of value” he said.

What I used to offer was that programming computers is hard and I know how to do it. I got paid by the hour to make things work. But, the easier it gets, the less people care.
“Are you waiting for people to care? Do you really have so much time that you can trade it away?”

They used to care and there was no waiting involved. It was nice to get paid and feel needed. I admit that in retrospect it seems a bit passive to hang around solving problems when they come up. I always was a little concerned that I was considered “overhead” in an accounting sense. My efforts were not “product”.

“That is on the list of things I suggest you change” my disembodied voice said.

Okay, that would be different. So I have to say that this thing of listening to some voice that seems to be coming from somewhere else is new for me. “You have been asking me questions that are a little hard for me”, I said quietly, “I assume to challenge me, but I have a question for you. Who are you?”

“I am the Skinny Rich Guy and you are my project.”

Channeling the Skinny Rich Guy

Channeling the Skinny Rich Guy has started to be a bit of a preoccupation with me. When words type themselves on your keyboard without you thinking them and streaming out of your mouth without you knowing what the subject at hand might be, it can get weird. Of course, after it all pops out, I start trying to understand what its about and what it has to do with me.

Recently, the topic of ownership started flooding out and I was trying to get a grasp on it. After a while, it started to sink in that there might be something that I owned and the Skinny Rich Guy said “pull that out and use it. You own it but you are not using it. That is the definition of waste.”

So I started from there. Why ownership? What is the deal there?

“All Wealth is built on Ownership.” pops out. Wait, I own tons of stuff and it doesn’t seem to make me wealthy. As a matter of fact it seems like a waste of money. It seems to make me poorer, not richer! He went on to tell me that there is more to it. (why is there always more to it?)

“What purpose does it serve, this stuff?” Well, I get to haul it around if I move and search through it endlessly to see what I have. If I can’t find the thing I own when I need it, half the time, I end up buying it again.

“Organization is the key to making ownership pay.” All I could do was write it down, but I could feel my frustration building. I was inches from wondering how the pile of abandoned projects and carelessly purchased fascinations that surround me could possibility make me any money and it started sinking in. I guess I have not been organized.

So just as I started wondering what organization looked like I hear: “Organization means order, focus, planning and value.” Okay, butt kicked, I have not been thinking along these lines. I was just doing things because I could, hoping they would work. I guess I shouldn’t complain, I had gotten myself educated and some of the time, I was working for good money.

But working for good money only lasts so long and gets you so far. If you spend it the money is gone and if you work for somebody, chances are that it won’t be forever. But how does that have anything to do with ownership? “Did it leave you wealthy?” Hmmm. No, actually it didn’t. But wait a minute. Didn’t I own my time. “You sold your time.” I sold it, so I didn’t own it. Okay, so I sold my time and bought a bunch of junk.
What about investments? I bravely lifted my head up thinking that 401K would make me seem a little smarter. “Do they build wealth or just contain it?” A little of both, I guess, unless their value goes down.

“Your wealth is the value of that which you own.” It sounded really simple, but I was starting to learn that the Skinny Rich Guy doesn’t seem to care if I understand, he just wants me to get it down. I had already admitted that I did not think the things I owned were very valuable.

Occasionally, I think for myself. This was one of those times. I was starting to piece it all together. I decided to backtrack. What had we just gone over? I decided to list it to get it all into my head at once:

  1. All wealth is built on ownership.
  2. Organization is the key to making ownership pay.
  3. Organization means order, focus, planning and value.
  4. Your wealth is the value of that which you own.

So I puzzled on that for a while. Okay, I admit it. I was starting to consider taking a nap, but no. Nothing that easy. I started feeling ambitious. A question started forming in my head. Organization came up twice in this list…Okay, it is starting to seem a little circular. Ownership, Organization, Value. So the Order, Focus and Planning…Does that create Value? “YES!!!” he practically screamed!


Getting Ownership