Skin In The Game

Last week I posted about how one of the best investments I have ever made was spending $150 on a comedy class. That modest investment combined with a few hours a week opened the doors to a whole world that I knew was out there, but had no clue how deep the iceberg went. I had wanted to enter that world for a while. I knew that there were weekly open mics at Nectars, I had spent a decade making up bits while on long drives, and I wanted to feel the rush that I knew came with performing. But I never made it happen, until I invested some time and money into making things happen, and the rest is history.

At the end of the post I challenged people to invest some time and money into something that they have wanted to do. I knew that having a bit of skin in the game is the greatest motivator out there. Science has proven that people value the things that they own far more than they value what they can get. They will work harder to avoid losing $5 than they will work to earn $25. In some ways this is a bug rather than a feature, I find it hilarious to look at listings on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace where people are listing junk that means something to them at prices that I can almost guarantee will never be paid. I sometimes even want to email and say “Look Martha I understand that you got that wooden toucan in Costa Rica back in 1992, but nobody wants to pay $37 for it, get realistic.” It is easy for me to dismiss Martha’s tchotchke because it is not something that I want (even though it would really bring the room together) at that price point, I may think that it would be a worthwhile investment at $7. That 30 dollar gap between her value and mine will keep us from ever finding middle ground simply because our minds are programmed to protect our (her) investment and minimize our (my) expendatures.

The idea of financial preservation is also one of the biggest flaws with financial planning. All those FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) assholes are touting how they can retire early by cutting all the fun things out of their lives and eating dented cans of beans. While this may work for some people the fact that it is being touted as the solution to all of America’s financial woes is bull. While I agree that you need to live within your means and act responsibly, I also know that loss aversion is not the same thing as growth. At most you can save a fraction of your income, and if you are spending a large portion of you time and energy on saving you could easily flip the script and try to find ways to grow your income while maintaining your lifestyle and get better return on your time. Not to mention that if you are spending all your time trying to avoid spending money you are going to miss out on the benefits of the world around you right now, and who wants to live like that? That may be a rhetorical question for most of us, but it is gospel to those FIRE people.

I thought that writing that post would make me feel good. It established my bonafides as someone who has been performing for 6 years (minus the past 6 months). It acknowledged everything that I had gained from stepping outside my comfort zone while also in a way nodding my head to the experiences that I have had, and the people who I have met along this journey. And it ended in a call to action for people to take their own steps in order to find something that they have wanted to do and check it off their bucket lists. It was supposed to be a feel good experience. So why did I spend half the night awake and thinking about it? Probably because I am a hypocrite.

The past few months have been rough for everyone. I have been lucky in many ways. I am safe, my family is all save, my job hasn’t been effected, if anything between working all the time and buying a house my life is more financially secure than it has been in years. On the downside I work a ton, and even when I am not working I am either attached to my phone fielding work texts from my boss or from my staff or sitting in dread of what the next shift will bring. For some reason my attention span has completely dropped off. I can’t read more than a few chapters of a book at a time and currently have 7-8 books that I have started and stopped again and again. I can’t even watch a movie in one sitting, even Denzel Washington movies, and those are some of the best ones out there. Instead I have just been sloughing through 20 minute sitcom episodes and 10-15 minute Masterclass courses. It has been miserable.

Part of this has to be due to the fact that everything I do for fun has been taken away. I can’t travel. I can’t perform. I don’t have the freedom to explore. I don’t feel comfortable going to bars or restaurants. My life consists of work and being at home, that is it. But there is one thing that I have wanted to do, that I can do. In those moments of silence and during those long drives to work in middle of nowhere I have had a chance to think. Thoughts have come up that may be insightful or funny, may make a point or express an emotion. Things that could make a difference to others, but in a less high handed manner would make a difference to me by getting them out of my head and onto metaphorical paper. But I haven’t written anything in almost a year. Why?

I could have easily written at my kitchen table, or anywhere else in my house. But I missed the coffee shops where I used to put things down on paper, and I didn’t know if I could capture the motivation in my living space that I used to get from being somewhere with the express purpose of writing. So when I saw a sign advertising a coworking space I filed it away in my memory, and when the next day I saw a FB ad for the same thing I clicked the link. Now for $5 per hour I am writing at a desk in an old mill with a beautiful view of the river and free coffee, and worst case scenario I can definitely drink $5 per hour worth of coffee.

I don’t have any aspirations to become a writer. I feel like referring to myself as a blogger is a very 2006 sentiment. I’m no essayist, David Sedaris’ Masterclass taught me that. I don’t know what writing can do for me, or why I keep coming back to it, but after months of being miserable with not creative outlet I need to do something. It won’t be morning pages like Julia Cameron, or a daily blog like Seth Godin, hell it could be a long promised thing that keeps getting pushed back like the Winds of Winter, but I am going to make an effort to block out time, find my space, and put in work. Maybe after months of no consequence I can finally make some progress, all thanks to having some skin in the game.