Is there an author who changed your life? How?
Oddly, mine is Martin Caiden, the author of “Cyborg”, the book that became “The Six Million Dollar Man.” He wrote a book called “The God Machine,” a very “Colossus, The Forbin Project” style book (probably not as good) but it contained a very fascinating scene.
It’s been almost fifty years since I read it, but I hope the basic details are right: In this book, a young computer engineer is faced with a sentient machine that takes over the world. It protects itself with a variety of mechanisms, one of them being defending an access port to its higher brain functions with enough radiation to fry you. The opening is so narrow that you can only walk through without shielding, and if you don’t have shielding you are dead.
Humans bow to the machine, and things go from bad to worse, with Engineer forced to run for his life. He ends up “off the Grid” hiding in hobo camps if I recall, essentially homeless. He is riding from one city to another in a boxcar, “Riding the Rails”, and gets into a poker game with an old guy. Engineer is sure that he is smarter, can reckon odds better, but the Old Guy just chews him up and spits him out. Shocked as he loses his remaining stake, Engineer is despondent. Old Guy takes pity on him. And decides to tell him why he lost. “You weren’t trying to win,” Old Guy says, more or less. “You were trying not to lose. You were trying to protect what you had, instead of playing to take what I have. And that means that you were thinking about the wrong things.”
Not the actual conversation. Sorry. But the basics were obvious, and the Engineer grasped the implication: the God Machine was playing poker as a matter of math rather than psychology. It reckoned that living things want to live, and set its defenses accordingly. But…what if your only aim was to win? To beat the machine…?
You guessed it. Engineer simply breaks the rules. Stops caring whether he survives. And cripples the computer. Unfortunately, the book cheats and finds a cheesy way to save Engineer’s life, and that lowers the quality of the tale.
But for me…well, I realized just today that I have to have read that book within about a year of the infamous incident where I walked out into the street to escape a gang of bullies, defeating them: I was willing to die, and they were not. I knew it had worked, but not WHY. Why? Because if you are willing to die, you become as efficient, effective, and powerful as you are capable of being. Your brakes are totally off. NOW you are one dangerous son of a bitch.
That notion became an organizing factor in my life. Every time I read about a famous and accomplished person, some part of me was noticing that they were willing to sacrifice more than others did. ALWAYS. Sometimes time, or energy, or life itself. Sometimes self-image, comfort, connection to community. But that sacrifice was always there. And the more they accomplished, the more they tended to put on the line. Reading the words of history’s great warriors, it was even clearer: to save your life is to lose it. To lose your life is to save it.
Try to survive in combat, as opposed to focusing on killing your opponent, and you are more likely to die. You have to have your defense on automatic, and focus on offense. Steve Muhammad doesn’t even HAVE “defense” in his lexicon. It is “offense” and “counter-offense.” A mental trick, sure, but it is the same notion. Want to accomplish a goal? Have an outcome that is important?
WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE?
I know lots of people who say that they want X or Y success result in life. But they have NO idea what they are going to exchange for it. “I want a million dollars,” they say. Well, that’s nice. But what are you willing and able to GIVE that the community will consider worth a million? The only answer I am clear on is:
“Everything. I will give 100% of who and what I am, so long as it is done with integrity.”
Then you can go into questions of why people buy things, what human beings want, how you can select from your life experience the things that are unique, or rare, and valuable, and GET BEHIND THAT S^&%. Ten thousand hours spent pushing the right plow will take you anywhere you want. Hell, ONE THOUSAND hours is enough for most disciplines, if you have taken your brakes off.
And if you are really smart? Choose something you’d do for free. Something you enjoy. Use your executive function to see how expertise in subject X, combined with marketing ability Y and finding the right market Z has succeeded in the past. X times Y times Z = $$$. Do you love X? Know how to communicate its value (Y). Do you know where there is a “starving hive” of people who need and want it AND CAN AFFORD TO PAY YOU (Z)?
Yes? Then go for it. With all your heart. With everything you have. Be willing to die to learn who you are on that path, to change the world for the better, and demand to be paid what you are worth. If you don’t think you’re worth much, you are laboring under a delusion that there’s someone out there “better than you.” Check yourself. People who think that also have the delusion that they are better than others. Set yourself free. Find your path, travel it with all your heart, with everything you have, not trying to hide from failure, or disappointment, or disapproval…remembering that all it takes to get everything you want…is everything you’ve got.
What book taught you something, and how and why?