There’s something I don’t talk about very often but is well worth mentioning right now: I am a fan of Shark Tank. Yes, for some weird ass reason I really like watching startups and entrepreneurs try to get money. It started during one of my trips to Canada when I realized how amused I was by their version, Dragon’s Den, and I’ve been watching it ever since. And it’s not just Shark Tank, I’m into similar shows about getting an investor on board too because I like to see people come up with ideas, business models, and strategies and see if they can get someone to buy in. I’ve long mentally registered it as a form of research because someday, theoretically, I hope to leverage my work into a more complex business and, as an independent, I’m basically a business unto myself. But the reason why I bring it up is because of one of the things that often gets cited as a reason why this guy decides not to invest in certain businesses.
Keven O’Leary is the designated asshole of the series in two countries, both as a Shark and as a Dragon. And generally the reason why is because he’s the most brass tax of anyone in the show. It doesn’t matter how good your life story is, it doesn’t matter if you cry, it doesn’t matter if you’re helping hungry children in a third world country – Kevin wants money, Kevin is going to get money, and Kevin will shit on you if he doesn’t think you can make money. It’s really kind of ironic that he’s basically the public representative of a mentality that drives most financial markets and yet we only hate him because they set up a production and cameras. Mitt Romney basically did the same thing through most of his life and he was a successful politician right up until he got caught calling half the country worthless. But one thing that Kevin has said about certain businesses really rings in my head today.
You see, Kevin doesn’t invest in things that center on a single person’s talent. He doesn’t put money behind the efforts of one person. If it’s not something that can be replicated without that person, he doesn’t give a shit. And, he explains it in the typical fashion of a reality TV villain: “You could be hit by a bus tomorrow and I would lose my investment.”
And, frankly, today I realize that Kevin would never invest in me – and that I should avoid traffic…
It was funny, in a way, when I found that I was suddenly shelved last month with an injury out of nowhere. It’s not like the injury itself was all that funny, what with the fact it hurt to even move, but to find out that you could actually tweak your arm from simply sitting at a desk all day? If you can’t laugh at yourself then someone else is going to laugh for you. So I was more than happy to share my pain with the rest of the world and talk about how stupid I must have looked trying to carry on by yelling into a cellphone for a voice recognition program that could barely hear me over the sound of my attempts to keep cool.
But to my surprise, after coming off of that injury I found myself having strange new adventures that no one would have expected. First of all, someone walked into my house uninvited, someone who we eventually found to be wanted by the local police for a series of thefts, who happened to be scared shitless of the fact that he encountered someone who was a good deal bigger than he was and easily outweighed him by a hundred pounds. Now, he didn’t know that my right arm was still basically not ready to throw down, but I wasn’t about to tell him and after some awkward conversation where he quickly talked his way out of a beating, we went our separate ways. I noted some peculiarities about the man at first, but nothing that seemed terribly important at the time. His voice was scratchy, he looked a little sickly, but I chalked these up to simply being a crackhead or something similar and went on with my day. At first we were concerned he might have grabbed something while he was here but we didn’t have anything particularly valuable and he didn’t have time to steal anything that could be used for fraud or identity theft.
No, that was up to Equifax to do instead.
Getting ready to go back into full swing now that my arm was working and confirming the man who broke in wasn’t actually successful at stealing anything, I found the next day that one of my family members was caught in the great data breach that Equifax just conveniently forgot to deal with. At the time I thought to myself, “well, can’t do anything immediately, we’ll get that sorted out, I have some blogs to update” and so, I did. Confident that the only way to get beyond the recent bad luck was to just get up and keep moving, I posted twice with some renewed vigor since I’d had an involuntary vacation shoved on me through the month of August. And I thought they were good, I was amused with myself at the very least, but then the day after my last update, I realized why the sickly looking man had a scratchy voice… because it’s the only explanation for how the hell I caught strep throat.
So there I was, having just gotten off of nearly a month of involuntary downtime due to an arm injury and a couple days of making sure we weren’t about to be swindled, when I got to be quarantined with a bacterial infection that essentially made it necessary to hide in my bedroom. Strep isn’t necessarily dangerous, mind you, unless you have complications, but members of my family work close with the disabled and elderly so it was a bad idea for me to spread it around to anyone I knew personally. The majority of the symptoms were gone within 5 days, but suddenly I had a killer headache that would just not go away. For the rest of the week, suffering the headache, I thought maybe I’d encountered one of those fabled complications. But on what would be considered day 8 of my torment, someone walked into my room with news that put everything into perspective.
“The walnut shakers are in town.”
Turned out that the killer headache was actually my old nemesis the walnuts – who long time readers will recognize to be my mortal enemy to be dealt with on the fields of battle in Ragnarok as I burn the last walnut tree to the ground. Regardless, an allergy to the dust and mold kicked up during walnut harvest season, through simple timing alone, had tricked me into thinking my strep throat was about to turn into scarlet fever or something similar. Yes, for at least 3 of the days I suffered, the solution was actually a couple allergy pills, and I was none the wiser. But this did mean that there was a solution to my suffering – riding the pink wave into Narnia as my knockoff Benadryl reduced me to a drooling moron who lived only for midnight snacks and nap-time.
One of the things about being an independent that we often don’t think about is just how much of our operations depend on us being able to function all the way. Sure, on a personal level, we’re all aware that being unable to stay up and about in the gig economy is tantamount to a financial meltdown. But on a business level it’s also realizing just how little of a safety net you really have. Kevin O’Leary, professional asshole that he is, is actually kind of right for a lot of these businesses that live and die on the efforts of a single person. A bigger name, someone with a team around them, can suffer such events and not fall off the face of the Earth, but for a short time this year I totally did fall off the face of the Earth and came to realize just how much I actually do to keep myself afloat. There was no one to run my social media accounts. There was no one waiting in the wings to produce content for this blog as my backup. There was no one around to do my editing or to reschedule things for me. O’Leary, villain he is, had a point about just how much damage to my “business” a single accident could have.
And I don’t particularly like that.
It’s not so much that I regret the independent route (well, usually), but I don’t like the idea that I actually let myself get caught with my pants down…twice. Having so much time to think about my own fragility, I’ve realized I need to make a few projects accident proof. After all, had I been better prepared, maybe even braced for such emergencies, there’s a good chance no one would have even noticed (provided I was prepared well enough). So, in looking at my plans for 2018, it comes to my attention that I’d like to make sure that something like this couldn’t ever happen again, and that means doubling down my efforts while I’m well so that my downtime when I’m not isn’t quite as noticeable. Will I succeed? Completely unsure, after all, I’m still going to be playing catch-up for August and September. But, at the very least, if I can manage to have 6 blog posts waiting in the wings, maybe I could afford to catch strep from a crackhead from time to time. And, should I get all of my projects done a little bit earlier…
Maybe I’ll be ready for that bus.
(I write novels and dabble in screenplays. I don’t think I’m going to die anytime soon, but if my twitter goes dark for a while, poke me to make sure I’m breathing. It’d be much appreciated.)