Posts Tagged ‘work’


July 16th, 2009

Crazy Horse MonumentIf you’re not from the Mid-West, chances are that you have never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial.  This massive monument is dedicated to Crazy Horse, a doughty warrior of the Oglala Lakota tribe.  It is carved from the Thunderhead Mountain, a seventeen mile drive from Mount Rushmore.  It is of epic proportions – when finished, it will become the world’s largest statue at 563 feet high and 641 feet long.  To put this in perspective, the statue will be taller than the Giza Pyramids and the head of Crazy Horse will encompass an area greater than all of Mount Rushmore.

dsc_0725But the truly amazing thing here is not how massive the monument is, but how sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski dedicated 34 years of his life from 1948 to his death in 1982 to this project.  In 1947, he moved to South Dakota, built a log cabin at the the present Thunderhead Mountain site, and started blasting away millions of tons of rock.  Along the way, he married, fathered ten children, and grew a beard reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle.  He endured four spinal operations, heart bypass surgery, and countless broken bones but nonetheless, stayed course and continued working on the memorial.  Because he had the foresight to know that it would never be finished within his lifetime, he incorporated his children to help him. Today, Korczak is buried at the base of the mountain and his surviving wife, Ruth Ziolkowski, manages the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation while seven of his ten children continue working on this project.

Korczak had one thing in common with the great movers and shakers in history: dedication. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilburforce knew that the causes they campaigned for were bigger than themselves and would continue beyond their lifetimes, so they dedicated their lives to the cause.

I am reminded of what Glen Lewis told me in Washington D.C.:

If you’re not ready to die for what you believe in, you’re wasting your time.

In other words, in whatever you do, if you aren’t willing to expend significant time and energy, your attempts will be feckless and your dreams will never be realized. A TV producer I met in New Hampshire told me that he wanted to make a difference, to change the world and impact others.  The only way to do this is to dedicate yourself to the cause.  Anything less will be a mediocre effort that will yield mediocre results.

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Beating the system, NYC style

June 26th, 2009
Location I used for pictures.

Location I used for pictures.

Conventional wisdom states that not having a college education is the end of one’s earning potential. To test the validity of this paradigm, I used a digital camera, a portable printer, a portable battery, and a power inverter to take pictures of people and print photos on location. I was a walking print shop, charging $5 per photo. The results were beyond my expectations.

Days before, I scoped out a spot I thought was perfect: The Raging Bull in New York’s Bowling Green Park. It turned out to be a terrible location. I only sold one print. After 45 minutes of trying, I gave up, packed my bags, and went to Times Square.

When I arrived, something miraculous happened. My sales skyrocketed 950%. Within 40 minutes, I managed to sell 10 prints worth $50 before my battery died. How much is that in terms of one year’s salary, assuming 40 hour work weeks? $150,000. According to, this is on par with the average salary that a doctor of internal medicine makes.

It is hard to extrapolate how much I can make in an average days work, as different hours of the day and different days of the week can affect business. It would be better if I averaged the earnings over several weeks. Some things to note:

  • I had a slow printer that took over a minute to print a picture.
  • The printer broke down once, costing me five minutes to fix. By the time it was fixed, a potential customer had left.
  • This was my first time. A seasoned professional on the streets would identify potential customers much faster.
  • I only had a hat with paper taped on that stated my intentions. A bigger advertisement would be more effective.
  • Times Square may not be the best location to shoot
  • I was not dressed too professionally

Although there is not sufficient evidence to warrant a firm conclusion, I imagine that with faster equipment, more experience, and a better location that I can be making much more. This simple test suggests that some aphorisms may not be true; it is definitely possible to beat the norm. Innovation and timing – two things that aren’t taught in school – are more important to financial success than going through an educational system that may even be hazardous to the mental health. We need to reform our paradigms and ken of education.


The dream

April 13th, 2009

I have met a handful of vagabonds on my journey and all of them share the same story – they have chosen this path.  Indeed, they have chosen wisely.  In the words of Georgia O’Keefe:

I always felt as though I walked the edge of a knife, afraid to fall off. So what? What if you do fall? I would rather be doing something I really wanted to do.

In the high pressures of Silicon Valley and beyond, one chooses his own vocation, whether that is one with the highest pay, one with the most prestige, or one that supports the family.  It is unfortunate when one works at a job that he loathes merely to maintain a high standard of living.  It is equally unfortunate, where, when one hears of a colleague or neighbor who makes more, desires himself to be at least on equal footing so that he can “get ahead” of the game only to sadly find out that the cycle repeats itself in a more furious fashion.  By then, the person is headstrong in his ways and finds it extremely hard to let go of his grandiloquent lifestyle and even continues on the unsatisfactory job that has left him in a state of inanition, convincing himself that one day, the problem will solve itself and that in the interim, the weekend will dissolve all worries.  For him, the work week is too long, the weekend is too short, and Monday seems to always come too quickly, but all is okay because better linens can be afforded, faster cars can be driven, and finer foods can be consumed.  Why should one submit to the feet of societal pressures only to be chewed, mangled, and spit out?  Thoreau elucidates this well:

… but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system – and so it was broad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for he was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain; and yet he had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and coffee, and meat every day.  But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and where the state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the use of such things.

There’s a commonly used ice breaker called “The dream job”.  In the past four years that I have played this game, I have met only one who is living his dream.  All others mention of jobs that they wish they could be doing, and I suspect that four years down the line, few will have taken steps to make this dream job a reality.  The majority of the conscious weekday hours are spent working.  Don’t succumb to a mediocre existence and lull in misery over a paycheck.  Follow your dreams.

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April 10th, 2009

I met a gentleman named Dennis in Nebraska that said this to me:

You from Cali?  What are you doing out here?  All there is here are cows, corn, wheat, and a bunch of alcoholics.  I no longer drink, so I’m moving outta here (sic).

To experience what the Great Plains and surrounding areas had to offer, I spent several days during the week working at a horse ranch and farm.  I shoveled manure, fed livestock, drove a tractor and Bobcat, and learned the intricacies of grain as well as the upsides of farming.  I am wont to think that the man fits the job and not vice versa, but the job beckoned me and drew me in with its simplicity.  It was dirty.  It was foul.  It was serendipity.

Though I have physically labored in previous jobs, working on a farm was different.  It was therapeutic – I received a great sense of gratification knowing that my body was aching after work, and, though hectic at times, found it to be quite soothing and tranquil.  Doctors should recommend a couple days working on a farm instead of a weekend getaway at the spa to destress.