Grinding Along the Lifeyness Curve

When I hear someone use the phrase “I have no life,” I always wonder what exactly they mean. What makes a life a “life”? They breathe and they eat like everyone else, and yet there is something, let’s call it lifeyness, that they lack. What is it?

I sometimes imagine such a person at the hospital, hooked up to various machines with tubes and wires. The doctor examines his chart and remarks “Hmmm. Temperature, blood pressure, pulse, everything looks good… except, my god, this lifeyness level is in the toilet!

If lifeyness is a score card, then what are the checkboxes to tick? What moves you up and down the lifey ladder? What makes something lifey?

I think that, conventionally, people who make this joke are referring to things like relationships, children, travel, quality time spent with family, hobbies. These are often the kind of things that will sound good at your funeral. She was always there for you. He was kind to dogs.

Now, in contrast, consider the person who has no life. Why do they lack lifeyness? Maybe they have no close relationships. They don’t go on vacations because they never take time off. They only think about one thing. They are no fun. Often this is because they work too hard.

So let’s say low lifeyness levels often correspond to obsessive grinding.

But there is an escape clause in this calculus of conventional lifeyness, in this vernacular karma. If you work obsessively and ignore your family, but you become famous and rich, you can still get a high lifeyness score. Your funeral will be crowded. This is because we always forgive geniuses and billionaires. They maintain robust lifeyness even if they are miserable bastards.

Maybe you disagree. Maybe you think billionaires shouldn’t be in the lifey club. Sorry pal. I don’t make the rules. I just muse about them ironically.

I think this comes down to what Steve Jobs called “denting the universe.” If you succeed in making a noticeable difference, in denting the universe, then you are rewarded with lifeyness despite the fact that you may have labored away in friendless monomania. There’s an old joke that nobody’s last words were ever “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Everybody nods and smiles like this is obvious. But suppose all that time at the office brings you fame and glory. Now who’s laughing?

When viewed through the lifeyness lens, obsessive grinding is a high-risk, high-reward game. Maybe you’ll make it safely through the dental divide and into the glorious lifey uplands. Just remember, most people don’t! If it’s lifeyness you want, it’s a lot easier to be nice to dogs and sing beer-flavored songs with your friends.

The MacGuffinator Startup Warren

Have you heard about my startup incubator? I call it the MacGuffinator. And when I say incubator, I really mean it. We’re not going to do much more than get you out of the maternity ward. But if you’ve ever dreamed of a sweet exit strategy (whether or not you actually have any business experience or even a credible idea for a business), then we can help you find the big venture capital payout you deserve. You don’t need a vision. You don’t need ambition. You just need to pay me $25,000.

The Pez was a lie.

Here’s the secret. To make money, you don’t need an idea. You just need a story. And the story doesn’t really need to be true. Did eBay’s founding really have anything to do with Pez dispensers? No! Did Post-It notes come about because of Art Fry’s choir practice? Please. That’s just candy for the gullible masses. What you need is a story that is memorable and plausible. Plausible to a business journalist, anyway, which let’s be honest, is not a high bar. And get this: the story isn’t even about the idea. It’s about how you got the idea. With this in mind, we’ll give you a random MacGuffin when you arrive. A cat toy. A juice box. An old View-Master. Then our skilled storycrafters will work with you to start tuning your pitch: “I’ll never forget that moment when a bowling ball fell on my girlfriend’s toe, and I realized that everyone needs a …” Nobody will even pay attention to what comes next. They’ll be too busy reaching for their checkbooks!

In addition to a story MacGuffin, you’ll need a nonsense Internet name. For this, we have a bag full of Scrabble tiles. Pull some letters… ZazzPix, Funtasm, NeoSpork, NonSentrix, Lamovator, ZazzPix (did I say that one already?)… and bang! You’re good to go. You’ll get a stack of cheap business cards with a logo designed by LogoTron, our automatic logo generator. Your logo will have some colorful boxes and arrows, because that’s all LogoTron can do at this point. Fortunately, it’s all you need!

NonSentrix. “It’s something about your business needs, probably.”

Now you just need a place to write your business plan and start your journey. This is why each startup gets their own garage and a stack of cocktail napkins (or diner menus or dry-cleaning bills, depending on your preference). As soon as you have an idea for a business plan, quick! note it down on the napkin. Preferably with some arrows and boxes. Even if you don’t have an idea for a business plan, you should probably draw some boxes and arrows. The drawing will come in handy in case you actually do have an idea.

Next we’ll get pictures of you in your garage, one of dozens in the GaragePlex Startup Warren on our central campus. If you imagine yourself to be in software, we’ll get you hunched over a laptop. If hardware, you’ll be holding a smoking soldering iron, looking back over your shoulder at the camera. Please don’t shave on the day of the photo shoot! Our expert photographer will make sure the photo is grainy and poorly framed.

Finally, there’s a graduation ceremony where you are presented with your MacGuffin, a framed picture of your garage, and the original napkin sketch. After that, you really need to move on. There’s not much more we can do for you.

The MacGuffinator: It’s not about helping founders start a company. It’s about helping founders start the mythology of starting a company. The rest is easy.