the pages of illusions

Ah, it’s that time of year, when we make promises to ourselves that we won’t keep.  For virtually every new year since the mid ’90s, I’ve made at least one of the following three resolutions: (1) get a new job, (2) get more exercise, (3) write a book.  Totals over the last fifteen years:  9 jobs, 2 years in which I exercised more than the prior year, 1 book (unpublished).

To be fair, 7 out of the 9 jobs were really a single job to me:  learning how to be an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.  I’ve learned some good lessons, and although I didn’t achieve the outcomes I aimed for, I’m not sad about the experiences of the last dozen years.  How can I be sad?  After all, everything I’ve learned only gives me fodder for another book . . .

I’m going to title this book The Age of Illusions.  If I can do this properly, I’ll be working on three intertwining themes:

Illusions of youth.  In your 20s and 30s, you’re at the peak of your powers, or at least in the prime of your unrestrained ambitions.  You’re out of childhood, with the energy of youth and none of the detritus of age. Maybe I’m taking turning 40 too seriously, but I mean this as a celebration, not as resignation:  If you haven’t crashed into a wall by the time you’re 40, you’re doing it wrong.  If you haven’t learned your limitations the hard way, you wasted the resilience of youth.

Illusions of enterprise.  My core work experience of the last decade was at a startup that could be considered the most successful failure of the Internet age.  Changing the world is hard, and most of the people who say they’re doing it aren’t even really trying.  At Linden Lab, we weren’t just trying to change the world, we were trying to recreate it in a better image.  We didn’t get where we wanted to be.  Some say that failure is a badge of honor, but I can only agree with that sentiment where the goal was so great that even trying is reasonably regarded as lunacy.

Illusions of empire.  The first decade of this millenium was a rollicking cascade of unreal events.  The background of all of our tales of this decade may be the end of the American empire.  It’s a story too large for me to tell with my limited skills, but somehow I have to acknowledge that I’m fingerpainting on the canvas of epochal history.

Folks, don’t hold your breath:  I estimate that it’ll take me almost six years to write this book.  I think I’ll only average around a page per week, and I’m aiming for at least 300 pages.  Ah well – it’s nice to have a slot filled for those annual resolutions all the way through 2016.

Happy New Year!

the age of illusions

The NY Times asks what we should name this decade.  I’m going to go with The Age of Illusions.  It certainly matches the experience of those of us in the United States.

In the very first minute of the decade, we found out that the looming Y2K disaster wasn’t real.  Then the dot-com bubble burst, proving that vast paper fortunes weren’t real.  Most of us voted against GWB for president in 2000, but he took office anyway, showing that popular democracy isn’t real.  The September 11 attacks seemed too horrible to be true, and we began a War on Terrorism with no real evidence that our target was involved in the attacks.  But the real illusion turned out to be the hope that “nothing will ever be the same again” – we quickly returned to ironic humor and emotional distance.

The Web 2.0 bubble came and went without a meaningful public company being created.  Massive investments in complex financial instruments that ultimately had no real basis for valuation led to a worldwide financial crisis.  A nation that stands as the apotheosis of capitalism turned to massive government bailouts, ultimately saving at least one sector of the economy:  big banking, whose leaders rewarded themselves handsomely for work they didn’t do.

Yep, the Age of Illusions it is.  Naughty Aughties, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.