I’m afraid to send this. I’m afraid of overloading my 700 new subscribers.
“From: Peter Wheeler
Subject: My God
Mauldin is sending out one of your pieces….”
I get e-mail like this on a regular basis. Someone referring to those I do not know doing that which I do not care about which will not impact me. The internet is a vast place where you’re fighting for impact and finding out that your message is getting drowned out in the effluent. You’re trying to engineer your one big break, but the truth is the railroad is broke down and busted and nothing works. You can spam those you do not know, pay a PR person to get your story in every publication known to man, and still, nothing happens. It’s enough to make you give up, but then what path would you follow?
I had no idea who Mauldin was. But based on the above e-mail I figured he was some rock critic making fun of me. Because if you get any traction the haters come out in force, trying to get you down into the hole that they’re in.
So I set about researching. Googling. Checking my Twitter feed.
And there I found it. In Echofon, my Twitter app of choice:
@John FMauldin, John Mauldin, Dallas, Texas, MauldinEconomics.com, Financial NY Times best-selling author, pioneering online commentator. Over 1 million readers turn to Mauldin for his view on Wall Street, markets, and history
But he only had 25,000 Twitter followers. Which meant it was just a blip on the radar screen.
But this proved to be untrue. This gentleman has reach. Which I could base not only on the resulting signups, but the retweets. I guess the point is it’s only worth playing if people care about what you have to say, and people care about what Mr. Mauldin has to say.
And what did he say?
He wrote about my piece on attention:
Now I wrote that eons ago, February 28th to be exact. I thought it was pretty good, but reaction was limited.
Then John Oates referenced it when he sent me a note re my article on his book.
And now this, on April 5th.
Used to be I wrote something and the effect was over in two and a half hours. E-mail came in fast and furious and then it stopped. Now reaction is muted but there might be a long tail. Which is confusing and confounding. I got into the instant gratification, now it’s all about the delay. Can you wait for the response?
I’m learning to.
That’s how hard it is to cut through the detritus, to get heard.
Last week Paul O’Neill died, the creator of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Whose career was orchestrated by management majordomo David Krebs, whom I just had lunch with. He said when the album came out there were crickets, nothing was happening, and then nearly a year later a deejay in Florida played “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” and the juggernaut began. The product didn’t change, it just took a while for the word to spread, for the public to pick up on it.
Kinda like Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human.” It’s the same track I wrote about back in December, which went to number one in two dozen countries, but it’s only now starting its climb in the United States. Sometimes the problem is not you.
Kinda like the Beatles. Ralph Simon sent me an obituary on the band’s first manager, Sam Leach. He’d promoted shows in Liverpool that garnered four digits of attendees. But when he booked a gig in London and there was a snafu and the ad didn’t run, only six people showed up. Same band, same songs. Leach got fired shortly thereafter.
So what is the lesson here?
You may not know the status of your career. But if you’re in the marketplace, you can get lucky, it can happen for you.
So now I’ve got all these new subscribers and I’m paralyzed. I feel I’ve got to give them what Mauldin wrote about, but they don’t know that I cover a cornucopia of topics, from business analysis to love and sex and my personal travails, with a healthy dose of rock history and trivia baked in in between.
But if you give people what you think they want not only do you die inside…
You’ve really got no idea what people really want.
Do they want book reviews?
I read Peter Heller’s “Celine,” over the weekend. The scenes in Vermont and Wyoming brought me right back to my youth, made me not only want to go there, but write about them.
And now I’m in the midst of Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot,” which cuts like butter until you get deep into the literature references that you won’t catch unless you’ve got a Ph.D., but the conversations, the classes, remind me of Middlebury. Are we all different tribes or are we all in this together? Will you get “The Idiot” or think I’m an idiot for recommending it?
Then there was that movie “Captain Fantastic,” I saw it on Amazon and watched it, after catching up on “Girls.” I thought Lena Dunham was overrated, thought “Tiny Furniture” was substandard, didn’t cotton to the initial seasons of the HBO series but after the buzz died down, I got hooked. I’m sad it’s ending. These are people I can understand, narcissists who are looking for friends. But “Captain Fantastic”…Viggo Mortensen’s character, imploring his children to not just recite the facts, but analyze them, was a beacon into my soul, but he was a man out of time, but if Matt Ross could write and direct this movie with these attitudes, does that mean there are a lot more people out there like me as opposed to the social media nitwits paraded in the media?
It’s a maelstrom out there, a veritable tsunami of b.s., you don’t know who you are and where you’re going, there’s no direction home, the only choice is to keep on keepin’ on, waiting to get lucky.
That’s the modern paradigm. Marketing and advertising are out the window, all the precepts are history, everything you know is wrong. But the people, who rule this nation, are eager and ready for your offerings if they resonate. The same people who decimated the music industry with Napster, the same people who built and discarded MySpace and now embrace Snapchat and Instagram, they’re hungry. And if you deliver something they love, they’ll tell everybody they know.
And those people will check out your wares and then…
Many will abandon you, a number will stick, some will become evangelists too.
What a long strange trip it’s been.
But one thing’s for sure, we’ve all got the means of production at our fingertips, there’s been no better age to be a creator, the old bottleneck of distribution is history, it’s just that you’re competing with everybody on the planet for attention, and everybody’s interested in something different.
But the world will surprise you. If you dig down deep into yourself and worry not at all about the consumer.
But you’re dependent upon the consumer for emotional and financial sustenance.
So there’s the conundrum.
And when no one’s listening you feel free.
And when everybody’s listening you’re inhibited.
And the longer you live you realize how insignificant you and your musings are.
But we’re here now, we rule now, we’re trying to figure it out now.
I’m lost and found at the same time.