Nassim Taleb told me the other day the best job you can get is “night watchman”. You don’t really have to do anything, nobody is watching you, and you get income. “So you can work all night on what you really love.”
I thought about it. If you’re in the middle of a job hierarchy, then a promotion is really bad for you. You get a small amount more money, you get a lot more responsibilities, you get more opportunities to fail (the bigger they are…) and you get more people you have to kiss up to.
And if you’re in the middle you constantly have to worry about demotion.
In life, what you actually have is not that important. The direction you are going is what makes you happy or sad. Motion forward.
Jerry Seinfeld was talking to David Letterman about his Internet show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”.
Letterman asked, “why cars?” Why not just “comedians getting coffee?” Or “comedians playing cards and drinking coffee?”
Seinfeld loves cars. So obviously he is simply combining his interests (cars and comedy) and making a show that dominates the intersection to make something that is better than a show just about cars or a show just about comedians. The PERFECT example of idea sex in action.
What would be your version of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee?”
But what he said was more interesting.
“I wanted motion. I always want there to be motion in everything that is happening.” Not just two talking heads. But someone going from here to there. In a world where the viewer can constantly be distracted, we keep focused when we see people going somewhere.
Victor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning” after he survived Auschwitz, while everyone in his family, including his wife, were killed. What got him through?
The idea that he wanted to write about his experiences. He had meaning in life. He helped others survive the concentration camps by helping them find meaning in their lives.
It was against the rules in a concentration camp to prevent a prisoner for committing suicide. But often he would whisper in the ears of those thinking of suicide. What would he whisper? I don’t know. But presumably the fewest words possible, condensed into some form that would give them enough meaning in their lives to last one more hour, one more day.
Can you write ten lines a day that define your meaning in life? Beyond your job. Beyond your family.
The night after I spoke to Nassim I took a walk. I imagined my job was “night watchman.”
My task: to watch the night unfold. Each star pop up so I could take attendance. Couples holding hands walking by me while they find meaning in the touch of each other.
Soon it would be pitch black and the streets would be empty. The night watchman protects the emptiness from being soiled by the pressures of the day.
It’s in the silences that we can explore our meaning. That we can create without the pressures of a command: the to-do list that that staple us to rules we must follow once the sun comes out.
My favorite part of the day is about 4:45 am. The sky is dark but light is beginning to creep into the margins. The trains start to fire up their engines as sleepy commuters carry coffee and paper into the city, slumped against their windows staring out at me, and past me to the river, to the mountain, to the dark bruise of purple and orange announcing the day. It’s like the entire world takes a deep breath or sigh.
I have my notebook. There’s no need for a “to-do” list. Nothing to do at 4:45am. I write down ideas. I write down what I want to create. I have fun. I define the meaning for my life in the notes that I jot down. I daydream about my forward motion. I come up with 10 new ideas.
Motion and meaning. Those things will bring in money later in the day almost by brute force.
I was telling Claudia last night: if you just do 1% a day (just 1%!) more than everyone else then you will do 3800% more than everyone in a year’s time.
What about six years’s time? 6 years ago I was a broke, single, drug-addict, 30 lbs overweight loser that lost everything.
Last night I was the night watchman.