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Calculated Failure

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When I was 11 years old, I was a lot less brilliant than I thought I was as my brother Jason, at 7 years old would do a shoddy job on washing the dishes, never getting the grease off, which invariably would leave me responsible for the dishes.

My mom would complain about his work ethic.

And I would get kudos for such a great job.

I couldn’t help but think. What was wrong with him?

I spent much of my life underestimating the Jason’s of my life, attributing their haphazard and partially engaged commitment to doing good work to their lack – whether it was lack of skill, experience, intelligence, or simple common sense, I had assumed they were inferior in something that I myself held superiority over them for.

In 1993, I volunteered for a layoff at Orbital.

I enjoyed working there, and my manager Tod Bjerke was easily one of my favorite people I had the honor to meet, but after five years working at this wonderful company, I wanted a new experience. That and I wanted to make up for some of my youth missed getting married too early.

Tod protested. Strongly. Although I was a junior programmer, I knew I was worth ten times my salary and he did as well, and there were a dozen people he’d prefer to let go of first and he minced no words when he said this. But I insisted.

I told no one why I had insisted on the layoff, but it was simple:

Orbital offered a lucrative severance package which included six months worth of salary and a bonus. And on top of that Arizona state had a plan for defense contractor layoffs which included ‘retraining costs’ – which included a subsidy for education costs and fuel costs.

It was too much to resist. ASU was known as the party school, so I took advantage of the strong fraternity system and rushed Pi Kappa Alpha, and was accepted. For a year I partied with the people in my fraternity like a madman and occasionally went to Arizona State University as a Computer Science major until I was suspended for bad grades. Good times, good times.

Being drunk or hungover and attending Physics and Calculus first thing in the morning, let me see if you can do better with that combination!

All paid for on someone else’s tab.

I suppose that is about when I learned the beauty behind Jason’s moves. Whether he’d done it intentionally or not, whether he’s more brilliant than any of the scientists and engineers I’ve met thus far or not, he inspired me in the art of taking it easy.

Thanks, Bro!

It wasn’t long after this, somewhere around 1995. I had gotten to the point of being sick and tired of a contract I was working at – when a man by the name of Don Houser – what a dick he was at Excell Agent Services – confronted me to work more than the 60 hours a week I’d been pulling to get his reports done. He loved his asinine reports.

I’d had a special weekend planned with the then girlfriend in Sedona, a non-refundable hotel reservation at a 4 star resort there, when Mr Houser pulled this shit on me at noon on a Friday, to which I said no to and walked out of the office and had planned on calling my contracting company to tell them to pass on the word that Mr Houser can take this job and shove it up his ass.

As luck would have it. My contracting company called me before I called them. He had fired me when I told him no.

For three months, I pulled in unemployment – which for Arizona wasn’t much, a stipend basically at $205 a week at the time, but for three months I relaxed, caught up on my games and movies and just relaxed. I’d had enough personal reserve tucked away and this additional state money augmented my funds to stretch farther.

Now here’s what I learned: HAD I told the state I walked out of the job, I’d be invalid for receiving any unemployment.

I learned a lesson that day.

I’ve gotten fired twice in my life. One was when I was 16, where I was working for a movie theaters and gave my girlfriend and friend a free pass to see a movie, when the brown nosing staff supervisor told the GM when there was a moratorium on free passes which promptly saw me fired.

The other time was with Mr Houser.

So what I learned was – always – always – always – report to the state that I was fired or laid off.

Otherwise, no unemployment.

80% of the jobs I have held in my life I walked away from when I got bored or fed up with management. When there was the potential for severance involved, I would simply quit working for a couple months until I got laid off. If severance wasn’t part of the package, then I’d just walk away with a two week notice and report to the state they’d let me go.

$900 bucks a month as unemployment, untaxed, pays for quite a few things – such as vacations, or a few nice meals or video games.

And no taxed budget for taking a couple extra months off between consulting jobs.

I’d come into every job alive, awake, and 100% ready to work.

I guess you can say that’s why I am homeless.

I look at the job requirements that come across, and it’s like watching paint dry.

I deserve better.

And money just is not that worth it to me to go into a job I have no desire doing.

I WOULD rather sleep in a tent, as this lifestyle also lets me work on my own skills as a writer, a virtual reality and artificial intelligence architect, helps me work on my social skills here at Starbuck’s, and most certainly provides entertainment with the oddball shit that happens here.

I can play games during the day. Watch movies.

And on days like today, where I’m not feelin 100% – I can take off early and have no one to answer to.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I call this a transition for a reason. I’m not interested in staying like this forever.

But as I went through a session in the intellectual property class I am taking from Penn State, I realized how easily the calculated failure mindset can be leveraged with businesses and patents.

I have a product that I want to see the world produce.

But don’t have the money for it.

It’s a wonderful product idea.

Which is the beauty of the Patent system.

I can create a patent with absolutely no goal of commercializing it myself.

Provide a great deal of detail about the product in the patent.

And then wait.

I have absolutely no doubt I will see others bring this to market and perfect it before long.

What do I get out of it?

At very little cost, I can have an entire world of geeks do the R&D for a wonderful new invention I thought of, and I reap the benefits by being able to select between competitors who incurred the costs of R&D themselves and intentionally created something much like what I introduced as a patent but somewhat differently for fear of having a patent infringement lawsuit thrown against them.

It’s a magnificent little system.

The trick is, introducing the patent as a flawed invention, that way someone else fixes the problems I intentionally introduced and creates precisely what I am looking for anyways as they pat themselves on the back for thinking of something they assume I did not.

When I get bored of Hollywood, I’ll head to Washington DC next.

Maybe work for the patent office.

And follow in the footsteps of another great man.

Albert Einstein.

Who knows.

Maybe I am him in a causal time loop.


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