One time my neighbor said, “You have to come in and meet my boss. He can put up to a hundred million dollars into your fund.”
So we went into town and met his boss. We spoke for quite a bit. I felt like I was impressing the boss. Maybe this would be a new mentor for me. I felt happy.
He was the largest hedge fund manager in the world.
Then the boss said, “James, I like you. If you ever want to work here, we’d hire you. But we can’t put money into your fund.”
“OK,” I said because I never disagreed with anyone about anything.
But I felt disappointed. Why can’t I do anything right? Why didn’t he like me?
“For us everything is reputation,” my friend’s boss continued.
“I have no idea where you are actually putting that money,” he said. “And the last thing this business needs,” said the owner of the business, “is for Bernard Madoff Securities to appear on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.”
After I left, other people called me. “Did you meet him?” one random friend asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “very nice guy.”
“He’s the best fund manager ever.”
I said I didn’t know. I felt crushed.
Much later, that very same friend, who now manages over a billion, said to me, “we always knew he was a fraud.”
Another time I started a business called “Junglesmash.”The idea was that I pick a product, like Crest toothpaste and people would submit 2 minute ads they would make for Crest Toothpaste and I would give $2,000 to whatever ad I judged to be the best ad.
A lot of people submitted ads. What’s funny is that Procter & Gamble actually submitted about ten ads for Crest. I felt like this could be a real business. It could take off and would disrupt the entire ad business. Crowdsourcing ads!
Once it took off I would set up an exchange where companies could put up products and sponsor contests and I would take a cut.
I would be like Don Draper 2.0.
But it rained a lot that quarter. And I was getting a divorce. Divorce is always good but right in the middle of it there are parts that are unbelievably painful.
So I’d sit in a hammock and try to read a book and fall asleep and then it would rain and I would wake up soaked.
I’d forget about Junglesmash and eventually the site, the company, the idea of disrupting the ad business washed away with the rain and my depression. You can still see some of the ads submitted at junglesmash dot blogspot dot com.
One ad was very funny. Set to Star Wars music, two kids fought with their toothbrush lightsabers. Crest versus Colgate. Crest won. I sent them two thousand dollars for winning that month.
I still think this is a good idea. Someone should do it. For me, when I think about it I just think of all that rain. I think of sitting in the bookstore by the local museum, eating a scone and trying to will myself to death. It didn’t work.
The business idea wasn’t a hoax. Me thinking I could function like a normal human being then was beyond funny.
Being born was the only serious thing I ever did. After that, we’re on our own, trying to survive. Trying to get the joke.
I try new things all the time. I want to get the joke. I want to find the humor in everything.
My daughter one time told me she wanted to be a clown when she grew up because “then I would make people laugh while I made money.”
I hope she does this.
Some people list the things they are grateful for. This is a good list to do.
But I try to also list the things around me that are funny. The things that are more than funny. The things that are ludicrous.
This is a more fun list. This is the list that lights my brain on fire. It takes practice but it’s worth it.
Because if you can’t find the humor in everything around you, then eventually you find out too late that the joke is on you.