Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tom Peters: Mutant Businessman

by AJ/Skald

In the spirit of seeking input from strange and even hostile sources, I've been reading Tom Peters blog lately. Peters is a corporate management guru... sort of my "evil twin" (or perhaps I'm the evil one). He's a raving, passionate, crazed maniac for "revolution", innovation, and passion (his words).... in the corporate business world'?!?!

I must admit to a sort of twisted fascination with him. I mean, damn, he almost makes business sound meaningful and fun. He, quite obviously, is having a great time. In him I sense a passionate and fierce soul... the sort of person Im usually lauding as a "hobopoet" or "freedom fighter".

But. But all of this is done in the context of the corporate business environment. And try as I might (I did try, honestly) I just can't imagine how anyone can get excited about working for GE, or Microsoft, or Wal-Mart for goddsake. I have yet to encounter a drug that could facilitate such a thing; and there's no way I could do it sober.

So once again I face the riddle: "Are there people who are not only happy working for a corporation... but are actually passionately enthused about doing so?" "What makes these people tick?" I mean, why does a crazed mutant like Tom Peters focus his energies on business? (I don't sense that its about the money). Shouldn't he be writing Kerouac-esque tales of travel and adventure? Or blowing minds ala Timothy Leary? I'm afraid I'll never understand... just as most "responsible" people cannot and will not understand the job-hating freaks who read this blog.


He still has great things to say.... if you take them out of the context of business and apply them to the neo-nomad path. Here is a sample:

Mimic Lord Nelson!
1. Simple scheme
2. Noble purpose
3. Engage others
4. Find great talent, let it soar!
5. Lead by love!
6. Trust your gut: seize the moment!
7. Vigor.
8. Master your craft.
9. Start a passion epidemic!
10. Change the rules, create your own game.
11. Shake off the pain, get off the ground, the timing may well be right tomorrow!
12. Quash your fear of failure. Savor your quirkiness and participate fully in the fray!

Good advice for the Hobopoet path, I think. Simplicity, Noble purpose, passion, making your own rules, shaking off pain, and quashing the fear of failure. Absolutely. But instead of doing these things in service to a soulless entity like a corporation, how about doing them in service to yourself and your highest aspirations?

If you want to be free and travel the world and write poetry.. do it for goddsake. Do it now. There is no failure. No one will be giving out report cards... and most people in life simply won't care what you do. So whatever the big dream is,... do it. Want to make movies? Save up, buy a digital video camera and a laptop, and get to it. Want to motorcycle across the States? What's stopping you? Or sail around the world in a catamaran? Or paint in Italy? Or work for yourself?

Do it. And the key,... or one of the keys.... to doing it lies in Peters' point number one: simplicity. Simplicity helps make the others possible-- especially the quashing of fear. The more I've simplified my life, the more fearless I have become. I lived in a vehicle twice... once in a Nissan Sentra and once in a van. For much of the time in the van I was broke and even hungry. It wasn't necessarily fun all the time but it was OK. So now, unemployment and poverty and even homelessness are not scary to me. Im more inclined to do what I want because I have little to lose (especially in a material sense).

Along these lines, Kris recently reminded me of two great quotes from Fight Club:
1. The things you own end up owning you.
2. Stop trying to control things and just let go.

I'm also reminded of the quote from Troy: "You don't control Achilles, you unleash him". That's getting at the heart of it... cultivating the spirit of a warrior; not trying to control the world or your life-- just unleashing yourself upon it. I mean, a glorious failure (like Todd & Lewis' RV project) is worth more than a thousand mediocre "sucesses".

This is one reason a vegetarian, Buddhist, bleeding heart like me holds the vikings in high regard. I cannot help but romanticize those bloodthirsty bastards: defiant, free, and joyous in the face of terrible odds and likely death.

In the words of Led Zeppelin:
The hammer of the Gods,
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde; sing and cry:
'Valhalla I am Coming'

If there is a "mission statement" for hobopoets, that's it.... letting ourselves be driven to new lands... facing the unknown and our own fears with defiance and ferocity.

That's what unites us, I think... whether we be cyberhoboes earning six figures or penniless vagabonds walking the back roads.


cathy said...

AJ, I work on admin of Tom Peters' blog. Yes, he talks to big business, but one of his favorite themes is that everybody who works therein is in charge of his own career, a free agent temporarily assigned to XYZ Corp. I'd tell you to read more Tom so you could see how closely aligned you and he really are, but you're doing fine all by yourself!!!

AJ said...

Yes, I love Tom's blog (though not necessarily the corporate gossip). Whatever your field, I think its important to read WAY outside of it. I've gotten English Teaching ideas by reading Taoist texts, books on physics, business blogs, anarchy sites, etc.... Tom inspires great ideas.

I also love the idea of being a free agent or freelancer. I could never understand people's nostalgia for "lifetime employment" (or employment at all). How horrid to be imprisoned in the same job for your entire adult life. "Lifetime slavery" is more accurate.

Far better to your own person... whether that means busking on the street for a living, or selling your art on the sidewalk, or being a hired gun English teacher, or a cyberhobo computer programmer, or a freelance "consultant". Work when you want, don't when you don't.

Do what you want. As Kerouac wrote, "the problem with work is that you are always doing someone else's"..... "work" (in the "expending energy" sense of the word) is great so long as its your own work your doing: working for your own dreams, passions, and aspirations... whatever they be.

One of my favorite example is "The Fiddler (see archives)... who makes a good living playing music on street corners... enough to spend half his time in Sweden & half in America. A true troubadour. A true "freelancer". A true hobopoet.

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