How To Diversify Your Life

One time I wanted to sell my company to HBO. The CFO was looking at the numbers. They were willing to buy it for a tiny amount but it was an amount that would’ve taken me about one billion years to save because that’s just the way I roll. I figured I would quit after a decent amount of time and spend a year doing nothing but writing a novel.

They said no.

All I had been thinking about for months was whether or not they would buy the company. And it took only one or two decision makers to say no. To ruin my life, I thought then.

One time I had an idea for a TV show for HBO. I wired up a restaurant with video and audio. A good friend of mine who was very pretty and funny put an ad in the Village Voice looking for a blind date. She would then go on the dates being fully aware they were being videotaped but the guy wouldn’t know. We did two dates. On the first one the guy told her he wasn’t sure if he was gay or straight and was debating the pros and cons of both right in the middle of the date. On the second date the guy received a phone call. From his wife. He then refused to sign the release form unless my friend would sleep with him. Which she didn’t (I assume).

As they say, it was good TV.

I showed it to HBO Independent Productions. They “Loved it!!” I had all sorts of fantasies about how I was going to spend the money. I was definitely living in the future. I was going to be a big TV guy. BIG.

And then suddenly I couldn’t get in touch with them. The guy in charge, Dave B., wouldn’t return my calls. He was always in a meeting. He would “call me right back”. I couldn’t get in touch with him. Not knowing this meant “no”, I called him 15 times a day until finally he confessed, “you know, you have another project going with [he named another division within HBO] so they got upset at me for looking at this project. So I can’t touch it.”

I eventually had lunch with the head of the other division. She said, “your idea seems a bit mean to me.” Her division had just aired “Hookers at Hunts Point” and other family-oriented features so I sort of understood.

Another time I started another company. I wanted Google to buy it. I mean, I really wanted Google to buy it. Google was like some sort of Internet Disneyworld to me. People were riding around in skateboards (technically I signed a contract saying I couldn’t say what I saw in the building. They accidentally had me sign the wrong document  so I actually had to GO BACK a day later and sign the right one. But, fuck it, everyone was skateboarding in there while eating fusion lasagna). Everyone was smiling. Everyone was SMART. We all sat around this big conference table and when I say “we all sat around” half of us were in NYC and the other half was web-exed or whatever in from SF. Everyone asked smart questions. I felt like I was in graduate school again.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. I literally felt like I wanted to call Google at 2 in the morning and asked her if she still loved me. And  then say, “but are you SURE you love me?” I wanted them to love me. I wanted to buy a skateboard. I wanted to say “Google bought my company”. I wanted to sexually harass the other employees there. I couldn’t help myself. I was in Google Fever.

They said “no”.

I’m permanently sick of it!

I got sick of one person, or one company, or one decision-maker having any power over me. It’s an internal choice, of course, but also an external one. You can set up your entire life to be diversified in every way so a “no” turns from shit to fertilizer.

Everyone knows this in investing. One time, with my last dollars left, I bought a bazillion shares of Sonus Networks only to watch it go from $7 to 18 cents before it rebounded (long after I sold it for a mega-loss). I got crushed and left on the floor. My 3 year old wanted to play with me. There was zero chance I was getting up off that floor to take her to the park. She had to bounce a ball up and down right next to me. It was annoying me so I picked her up and put her on the pool table so she could’t get off until someone came and got her.

The only way to survive, to get off the floor, to build, to have ideas, to create businesses, to have flourishing relationships, is with diversification. And with the greatest invention since the wheel, the Internet, it’s easier to do it now than ever before.

9 Ways To Diversify Your Life

– Start more than one business. Start many businesses. Or jobs. Or careers. Start them at the same time. Eventually one will stand out as the one flourishing. I’m watching this happen to a good friend of mine right now. He has his hand in ten different businesses. He also has at least one fulltime job. One is bursting through and he’s able to make his decision as to where to go – the one that will make him fabulously wealthy while having fun.

Well, what if you have a job? Get two jobs. Apply for more jobs. Always figure out what your value is on the job marketplace. I just went on the board of a temp-staffing company called “Corporate Resource Services”. I don’t know what I can legally say about it (it’s a public company). All I can say is: it fits my idea that the 21st century is moving towards an “employee-less economy” because of all the regulatory and economic uncertainty. Companies are not hiring permanent employees. So you’re going to need to diversify your sources of income starting right now.

– Diversify the way you meet people. We are no longer limited to just our coworkers and neighbors. Life is global. We can meet people through the Internet, through travel, through classes on every topic possible. Pick the people who will be the most positive in your life. People who you can look up to, who can look up to you. Eliminate everyone else. Not in a cold or cruel way. But in a way that makes sure you put the importance back on yourself. Make sure you are your own center of gravity. Anyone whose gravitational pull becomes too great needs to be put on “Halley’s Comet” status  – once every 76 years and that’s it.

– Diversify ideas. Many people ask me, “when I’m working on my list of ten ideas for the day so as to build the idea muscle, should they all be business ideas, or ideas around one sector?” No! Write ideas about anything you can. Then mate them. Here’s an exercise right now. Make  two columns. At the top of each column, write an interest.  Then write down five ideas for each that has to do with each idea. Now cross-fertilize them. Come up with many ideas combining the two columns as possible. You will never be the best in the world at anything (unless you are, then ignore this), but you can be good at many things. The beauty of that is that you then become the best in the world at the intersection of all these things. It’s at that intersection that you can completely direct traffic and change the world.

– Creative output. Everyone wants to create their “masterpiece” whether it’s a business, an article, a book, a speech, whatever. Here’s the problem: you can’t do it. It”s not going to happen. The only way you have any control over it is by sheer output. You have to crank it out. Woody Allen has written over 46 movies. A good chunk of them I’m sure he would never want to look at again. Isaac Asimov has written over 500 books, some of them outright boring and yet he created The Foundation series and I,Robot.  Thomas Edison has 1093 patents but we remember him today for just one of them. Einstein wrote 245 papers but we remember  him for one equation. Buddha taught every day for almost 60 years and we remember him for his “eightfold path”. Bukowski wrote 71 books and probably only three or four of them stand out as truly stunning. I can go on and on. The list is endless. being prolific means you diversify your creativity, means you create the platform by which people can find you. Gives you more stop signs you can put up  in front of people’s lives to direct them back to the home  where you live.

THIS MEANS  YOU WILL FAIL A LOT. Failure is an acquired taste. You have to really experience it quite a bit to savor it. And then your roll with it without the extra burden of disappointment. When you are disappointed in a failure it’s as if you’ve not only paid the price but you got nothing for it. Eventually you learn to get something for it.

One more note: reading this one makes me feel stressed out. You don’t have to do it all in a single day. Isaac Asimov took 40 years to write his 500 books. So did Bukowski and others. Take your time. But mark the “X” each day that says “I did it”, even if it was only a little.

–  Diversify your platform. If you are trying to build a presence in social media, then you can’t just blog. You can’t just be on Facebook or Twitter. You have to self-publish on Amazon, you have to blog, you have to tweet, you have to be on Facebook and have a fan page there, you have be on Quora, Pinterest, LinkedIn. And you have to be there repeatedly. If you self-publish once, do it twice. There’s two schools of thought: wait until you have your masterpiece, or just do it. In this world, “just do it” works best. Because what you do will be forgotten ten seconds later so you’re going to need to do it again. Hopefully better.

I did this because I got sick of waiting around for mainstream media (or mainstream anything) to “pick me”. I wanted to choose myself and not  wait for some unhappy college graduate to say no to me.

– Diversify the people you meet and the people who inspire you. I’m shy. And I like to sit at home and not answer the phone or return emails. So here’s what I do.  I try to meet three or four people a week to see what I can learn from them. I usually schedule it Monday-Tuesdays so I stay overnight in the city and schedule the meetings back to back in the same place. This is a little different than “Diversify the way you meet people”. That above  one applies to going places and just throwing yourself in situations where you are bound to meet new people in your life.

– Diversify what you read. Or learn. When you go out today for a cafe take four books with you: one about your top career, one about your top interest or hobby (unrelated to your career), one thriller, and one book about spirituality or history. Read a little from each. Is there a reason to do this? I have no idea! But I know after about twenty years of doing this trick every day it’s helped me to come up with better ideas (and also some pretty bad ones).

– Diversify your health. Just because you eat well, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. You need to be honest with yourself here. List the things you do that you KNOW are not the healthiest for yourself. You don’t need to cut everything at once. But figure it out. It’s got to be painful to be 90 years old and know that if you had done just a few things differently it wouldn’t hurt so much every time you went to the bathroom.

– Diversify your thoughts. I spent too much of my life thinking about money. And then thinking about women. And sometimes thinking about money and women at the same time. I don’t know how they counted this but someone once told me we think 60,000 thoughts a day. All 60,000 of mine would sometimes be about money and women, with a little about food and defecation. Meanwhile, there’s 100 billion other fun things to think about each day. I live 100 feet from the Hudson River. Across from me on the river is West Point. Mountains and leaves surround all of it. It would be so easy for me to diversify into pleasant things but too often I’m obsessed down one category. Obsession and Anxiety is equivalent to Subtraction of thoughts. It makes you a counterfeit person instead of an authentic person. 

Diversification of thoughts is the only way to slow life down, to let the thoughts simmer instead of boil, to marinate instead of just lightly spice the insides of our spirit.

When properly diversfied, nobody can say “no” to you anymore. Disappointments and failures become a natural part of life that you learn from, in the same way you learn from success and opportunity. Intelligence springs forward from the additional creativity. Love comes from the most blossoming part of the social tree you build for yourself.

Your center becomes a powerful gravitational force, drawing people, success, and presence you haven’t felt before. Nobody can hold you prisoner. You don’t need “fuck you” money to fly away. You just to spread your wings.

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