Most of my posts are about researching issues, even the “relationship science” posts — I’m trying to be objective and not insert too much of my own experiences and feelings. This one will be subjective — what it’s like to be me, and to have been me in all those different careers.
When I arrived at Libertycon in Chattanooga as a freshly-minted author (three books? Is that enough to qualify?) at the age of 59+, I felt a little dissociated — no one knew me, and the few people I “knew” from online were busy with old friends they knew well. Children moving to a new school know how this feels — people may be friendly but their attention is on known others that are already part of their social systems. If you don’t have a lot of self-confidence, you will feel that sense of being judged and rejected or ignored by people.
I’m a confident old person so this feeling doesn’t bug me too much, and it soon passed. I made a few friends and connected enough to feel part of things fairly quickly. This ability to context-switch socially is especially valuable when you change careers frequently. People who tend toward narcissism will react with the “Don’t you know who I am?” response, which doesn’t endear them to anyone. Others will react by withdrawing, sufficiently dispirited to stop even trying to interact.
I have friends who knew when they were 15 exactly what they wanted to do, then did it — every step was planned, and they spent their lives climbing steadily in their chosen profession. The concentration on one field brought them job and material security quickly, and a lifetime of their achievements advanced their chosen field noticeably — they would have been missed. I’m thinking in particular of my MIT next door neighbor, who started out wanting to become — and became — a world-renowned expert in electronic and computer design. After a brief stint in industry, he ended up on the Stanford faculty and headed up the EE&CS department, was instrumental in the first MIPS processor designs, and founded a company that made him wealthy. When I would visit, he would sigh and tell me he envied my ability to try new things and take up living new lives — the things he could not do. He saw glamor in change, where others would envy his accomplishments — while not being willing to work so hard and so long in one field.
Meanwhile, I had left my first steady jobs in systems programming and dropped out of a Ph.D. program to escape Boston for British Columbia, where I did land development and outdoor activities. I dabbled in object-oriented language design, simulation and game programming, and early web development — starting work on a matchmaking website before any of the others, for example. Failing to stick with any one thing, of course, meant none of them succeeded. Undisciplined and more interested in learning I could do something than actually succeeding at any one thing, I dabbled my way through life. The one thing I was forced to stick with was the subdivision scheme I had tied up much of my savings in — I had to make myself stick with it for five years until it was settled and I could cash out. That was how I learned that the enemies of progress would tie you down with regulations and politics unless you had paid them off and supported their power — other developers had the officeholders in their pockets and could magically get action where I got the big stall. This kind of corruption has existed in urban real estate development since the advent of zoning and building regulations, which addressed some abuses of the formerly free market but ended up throttling production of new housing in the most desirable locales.
Never let the bastards win. What those who have never left their academic or career track never learn is that they may have been free to achieve in their narrow lane, but others not so lucky work in fields that have been hamstrung by regulation so that they couldn’t succeed without paying off politicians — the zoning board, the health inspectors, the city council, the FDA, the FCC, the FAA…. the PC industry thrived unregulated because it appeared to be small and unthreatening. As it has grown to be the central element of communication, politicians have taken note of its ability to reach voters and have started to threaten its freedom — so now the big companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook are spending big on lobbying and cooperating with government efforts to regulate speech and prop up the oligopoly of cable networks and content distributors.
I had been an undisciplined student for my first 30 years, a mostly failed businessman and dabbler the next ten, then landed in Silicon Valley to manage a friend’s money — the Stanford professor I mentioned before. I routed around the Establishment by studying on my own for the Series 7 exam that would allow me to charge for investment advice and started my own company to manage other people’s money. The SEC’s 1930s laws made speaking openly as an investment advisor dangerous — all communications are supposed to be vetted and hedged with warnings, and in practice it is better not to communicate at all since the law is vague enough to be abused to punish advisors for saying anything the authorities find threatening. In fact, publication of investment newsletters had to be freed of SEC regulation by a court case — but those who were licensed to manage other people’s money were still at risk of being punished for freely communicating opinions. As for many New Deal-era regulatory schemes, Constitutional rights were trampled on to give regulatory agencies more power, in service of “the greater good” (for politicians.) Which is why farmers were not allowed to grow their own feedstock, broadcasters could be punished for showing a flash of nipple, and the Federal Election Commission could try to prevent the advertising of a film that criticized a public figure who happened to be a candidate for office.
So I restrained my public comments and tended to my private affairs. When I retired and gave up my registration as an investment advisor, I was free to speak and I started blogging more. Starting over again at square one, armed with knowledge and more self-confidence and enough money to retire on safely — but still minus allies and much social support, since my friends are mostly employees of tech companies who have never once run their own business or dealt with bureaucracies without a government or corporate umbrella protecting them. It rarely occurs to them to question the conventional wisdom or wonder how those highly-regulated industries (real estate, medicine, mass communications, finance) create so much concentrated wealth for the few who have favored positions in them, or how tribute from those industries is fed back to the politicians who maintain barriers to outsiders who might otherwise compete. And so progress slows, and our politics gets dumber and dumber. More mindless promises of “100,000 new cops” (Clinton) or “No child left behind” (Bush) or “Millions of new green jobs” (Obama, Hillary Clinton) — whatever simplistic and unachievable fairy tale you want, I can give you!
I can tell you that starting over — and over and over — makes you resilient. I’m pretty tired now at 60 and don’t have the kind of energy to throw myself against a wall that I used to, but then again I’ve got guile (to use P. J. O’Rourke’s title phrase, “Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut.”) — which means choosing your battles wisely and not taking up every challenge. So I’ve retired to writing, where I’m doing okay at self-publishing — my relationship books have helped people around the world, sell steadily, and provide an income sufficient for trailer-park-level living if I actually needed it, while the fiction is well-reviewed if disappointingly low in volume.
So is it time to change again? Maybe.
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]
Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”
Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.
More reading on other topics:
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour
On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:
Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):
Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare
More reading on the military: