Why I Hate Geniuses
Some nights when I’m really totally fried like crazy I watch Hulu on my computer.
People who know me know that I don’t really watch much TV. In fact, right now, I don’t even own a TV. I know that’s weird, but you know what...I don’t flippin’ care. I’m a musician. I feel like weird is our standard and I’m proud of that.
So Hulu has this new series called “A Day in the Life” and it always features some crazy radical person who is also now a massive wealthy success and this week’s feature was Tim Ferris, the author of the Four-Hour Workweek and the Four-Hour Body, and some other notable books about efficiency. The book he’s writing now is about learning. And how he learns. And his learning. And how obsessive he is about learning. And him.
Which brought me to this realization of why I hate modern "geniuses." Because...it becomes really clear while watching the episode about Tim Ferris that he’s an absolute obsessive compulsive about himself. And that seems to be the thing that all the new geniuses have in common - an absolutely overwhelming obsession with themselves and their ideas and their lives and how they live them. Of course they write about ideas that only they think about - because they’re obsessed with themselves.
The thing that you can’t buy into - the thing that’s rigged about the genius success story - the thing that you can’t let affect you as an artist is the lie that gets told about this story. Over. And over. And over. It goes a little like this:
If you apply the magic formula of the genius, you’ll create an amazing piece of work (i.e., a book, an album, a photo, a painting, a software platform, a device...)
Everyone will notice how much of a genius YOU are and will worship at your feet...
And pay you tons of money to tell them how you’ve become this amazing genius! Because YOU have figured out the secret to the Universe and SUCCESS (which means wealth, people - let’s face it, we don’t care about success really - it’s the money that matters.)
Except...well - this rarely ever really happens to REAL geniuses. Moreso NOT if they’re musical (I could make a list, but really - do I need to hammer this point home? You guys know how true this is.). But there are plenty of other historical examples. Einstein for one. People stole the relativity thing right out from under him when he first published it. And throughout his career, he was never much of a self-propagandist. Or particularly successful.
But in 2012, self propagandist and genius mean the same thing. Don’t get me wrong - I like SOME of Tim Ferris’ ideas (that’s coming). But the foundations of his “genius” are largely un-applicable to the large number of working class people AND MUSICIANS out there slogging to pay their bills and stay financially afloat and it’s not because they aren’t efficient or smart enough to do what they do well, because when you take into account the fact that most people have children (Tim Ferris doesn’t) or work more than one job, they work FREAKIN’ MIRACLES with their time - and that is even more true for musicians.
Why? Because believe me - as a musician there ain’t no such thing as a four-hour workweek - no way, NO HOW. Having a career in music doing anything is a constant stream of saying yes to people. And then catching up on all the things required just to stay working. And then getting to your 2nd or 3rd or 4th to do list when that's finished. Some of us do this work very efficiently, but our reality is we don't live on a planet where artists are paid what they're worth. And we certainly don't live on a planet where artists (or most people for that matter) have a reasonable amount of work to get finished that they will be compensated for.
It’s a nice magical idea. Bestowed mostly on a guy that has a really good fantasy to sell an overworked American population that really loves to believe in magic.And magically acquiring wealth. Selling this magical idea accounts for his wealth, which he is now investing in small startups with good ideas, which is great.
Which brings me to what I actually like about Tim Ferris. Or more specifically - the one thing Tim Ferris has to sell you that is actual truth - LEARNING actually IS MAGICAL.
There is no better thing on the planet than learning. Everything of value I have ever attained in life or has led me towards any kind of success has come from a real thirst for learning about something I had no contact with. Whether it’s cooking or computers or multi-effects or recording. Learning can take you places. Learning opens doors. Learning shows you a life you never thought you could have.
So..if there’s one thing the self-obsessed genius might have to teach you - it’s that. Trust in your ability to absorb. And do it. Everyday, if you can.
And the rest of the crap the modern "geniuses" have to sell you...just bag it. Those of us who are really paying attention are smart enough to identify it as what it really is - opportunism in the face of a failing work system and a money focused culture.
After all - when the rest of you are done slaving 70 hours for a salary that barely pays the rent, and cooking dinner, and doing the dishes, and fixing the car, and bathing and putting the kids to bed, surely, surely...you have time to drink your measured dose of Yerba Matte and wine, and then go write the secrets to the universe that mostly have to do with how easy success is. While working stiffs foot the bill to learn all about it...