Free Money Day 2012

Wednesday, 12 Sept, I had the privilege of seeing Patti Smith and her band blow out the lights at the Brighton Dome with their performance of Free Money.
Thursday, 13 Sept, I sat through a marketing conference where men talked excitedly about “cashless payments” – the technologically-enabled manifestation of the truth that money is nothing but a figment of our imagination.
Friday, 14 Sept, I found out about Free Money Day “a global invitation for people to explore, in a liberating and fun way, what it might be like if our relationship to money was a little different”.
Saturday, 15 Sept, I will join people from all over the world in giving a little of “my” money to a stranger, two bits at a time, and asking that the recipient to pass one note or coin on to someone else.

Free Money Day
bills the event as “An opportunity to start fresh conversations about money [and] sharing.”
I say it’s a gesture of liberation. Money is a construct, a spook that haunts our collective consciousness. As long as we prioritise money above health, happiness, relationships, or creativity it owns us. Give money away and it loses its power, but gains in worth.


Participate in Free Money Day

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You Say Failure, I Say Evolution

Over at Harvard Business Review Jeff Stibel writes about embracing failure. His office is home to a “failure wall” where employees are encouraged to: “(1) describe a time when you failed, (2) state what you learned, and (3) sign your name.” He concludes by saying: “If we hadn’t hired people who cherish failures, my entries on the failure wall would be very lonely. Often when interviewing, I poke around and see if I can get the candidate to acknowledge a failure.”

Kudos to Stibel for being several shades more enlightened than most anxiety-ridden American execs but I am puzzled by his persistant use of the word “failure.” Stibel got the failure-wall ball rolling by admitting to his “most memorable (and humbling) failures.” So these so-called “failures” were essential. Without them there would have been no wall. No learning, no growth, no progress.

If you take the long view, all life on earth is the product of failure. What, after all, is evolution but a series of failures? The aim of sexual reproduction is to create a faithful, functional replica. Nothing changes. Evolution happens when sexual reproduction fails, when a gene splices in the wrong place, when a burst of hormones creates a novel set of characteristics. Would you rather be a successful swamp creature than the walking, talking, cognating product of several hundred million years of nature fucking it up? I wouldn’t.

It isn’t just self-defeating to dwell on failure, it’s presumptutious. What do people really mean when they talk about failure? In a work context “failing” to make a sale, get a promotion, or get the numbers in that report aligned in a certain column simply means that a task or event did not play out according to one’s preconceived notion. Choosing to define that as failure privileges the individual’s view as objective reality. If I apply for a job and the role is offered to someone else so I say “I failed” (or, if I feel snubbed: “they failed”) I assume my perspective is the only one that matters; that the stars must align for me. What an arrogant nonsense!

An artist once told me, sincere as anything: “I’ve never, ever failed.” This, in the course of a conversation where he talked about selling LSD to his classmates, getting arrested for making a bomb threat, contemplating suicide, and going bankrupt at least twice. At the time, I thought he was a little crazy. Now, I understand what he was getting at: it’s only “failure” if you fail to learn. And it is crucial to understand that the lessons aren’t always obvious. One of my long-standing professional regrets was that I “failed” to ever write a feature for Q. If I had “succeeded” I would have likely spent the last five years in an office in central London instead of living in Ibiza and Mexico, travelling in Europe, driving across the western United States, getting a Master’s degree, learning Spanish and working at everything from production editing to project management.

That’s the problem with taking the word “failure” seriously: our definition is limited by our imagination, which is puny. “The universe is wider than our views of it,” Thoreau noted. We waste our time and work ourselves into frenzies over “failure” but the truth of it is we rarely, if ever, know enough to say what is, or isn’t, for the greatest good in the long-term. When it comes to work, we should jettison the notion of “failure” and replace it with something useful like “evolution.”

Dear Prospective Employer – I’d Kill for a Job

I look as if I’ve just killed someone with my bare hands. It’s only paint but the dark brownish-red dots splotches on my palms and nails ringed in non-cosmetic scarlet are suggestive. Part of me wishes it were true. It would open up a range of new employment opportunities. Bodyguard. Assassin. Ninja. Gun for hire. Cage fighter. Maybe I could get a job as a prison officer. Or work for a private security firm in Iraq or some other high-risk location where wages are inversely proportionate to the value of human life. An unsqueamish woman with lethal fists could have a job for life with the CIA, or star in a Quentin Tarantino film. I could freelance as a butcher; become a safari guide, or a stunt woman, or…

Women too...

Not that I want to kill for a living but in the current economic climate it’s important to pursue every opportunity. In the last 30 days I’ve applied for 66 full-time jobs, 24 freelance posts, and sent 30-something pitches to newspapers or magazines. I haven’t asked to be an astronaut, elephant trainer, sommelier, CEO or pop star. I have soberly and responsibly applied for roles as reporter, web editor, deputy editor, sub-editor, proofreader, copywriter, personal assistant, executive assistant, administrator, online journalist, copy editor, report writer, and research associate. Jobs that all have two things in common: a) they require specific skills, education and experience, and b) I have the requisites. I’m not trying to waste anyone’s time, not trying to blag it; not getting ideas above my station. I have highly respectable undergraduate and graduate degrees and international work experience. At 31 I am young enough to be a good long-term employment prospect but mature enough to be reliable. I am willing to relocate; to consider part-time, contract and temporary work. I am flexible, personable, and well-presented. I speak two languages. I have management experience, recruitment experience, teaching experience and customer service experience.

If you are an employer advertising an editorial job and took the time to read the CV I sent you’ll know I write for national magazines including Mixmag, Real Travel and Mslexia; I write opinion columns and blogs; my essays win awards and my work appears in literary journals. I am a contributor to The Nervous Breakdown and a highly praised ghostwriter. I write about music, travel, media, literature, politics, food, fitness, pop culture, economics and women’s issues. I have worked in consumer and business to business publishing. I have managed websites and commissioned writers. I know InDesign, CMS, SEO, and social media. I can administer budgets, write reports, handle internal communications and external suppliers, deal with celebrities, clients and contractors.

For those employers seeking a proactive, organised, “good at liaising” executive assistant I have highlighted my organisational skills and project management background; they will know that I am good at multi-tasking and never miss a deadline. I have noted that working in different countries has made me flexible, open-minded and adaptable. I mentioned my dedication, drive, loyalty, and ability to get along in a team, and my work for leading brands.

Maybe you are looking for a food server, or someone to stand in a shop and smile when the doorbell jangles. Then you’ll know I have waitressed in casual and upscale restaurants; I have tended bar; run a coffee shop; and done silver-service catering. I have worked in shoe-shops, call centres, estate agents, warehouses, fast-food joints, schools and bakeries. I’ve been a football steward, a pet-minder and a babysitter. I can paint, too: houses, garden gates, and garage doors – that’s how my hands got all bloody-looking. I’m not persnickety. I’ve cleaned toilets and filled out marketing questionnaires for ten bucks a pop.

The one percent doesn’t support shit. Millions of people doing boring, repetitive, unrewarding, disregarded work is keeping this stove-hulled economic ship afloat. All those mediocre jobs that cover the mortgage and credit card minimums, keep food in the fridge and pay for broadband (though maybe not all in the same month) are holding off the deluge. Trouble is there are more hands than there are pumps and water is pouring in. It isn’t that people are too lazy, uneducated, inexperienced, fussy, or inflexible – there just aren’t enough jobs. I know. I’m looking.