When I was a kid, the highest future standard anyone my age could be held to by our parents, grandparents, teachers or the mumbling Filipino guy in my neighborhood who handed out cigarettes to ten-year-olds and only didn’t have to register as a sex offender because they didn’t do that back then was that of doctor, lawyer or President of the United States. For my parents’ generation it was more or less the same, except astronaut was probably one of them. Or a member of the Rat Pack or something. The original one. Not the sleazy one with Dean Martin and those guys.
Also, Dean Martin was probably one of them.
And right around the time that crazy Filipino guy was handing out cigarettes to me and my friends, and we were either gagging on them, forgetting where we hid them, accidentally swallowing the smoke or forcing ourselves through the nausea and vertigo to become as cool as a member of the my generation’s Rat Pack, the “Brat Pack,” something was happening in America: scores of college-aged preppies from the most elitist universities in the 1980s were taking summer internships or flocking, degrees in briefcase, to positions down on Wall Street.
You see, it was the Reagan era. And what Ronald Reagan represented and championed, more so than anything else—aside from being that one dick who fakes his way through every important job he holds in life and somehow still makes it to the top—was deregulation.
Meaning, in a nutshell, passing laws to hamper the government from preventing everyone who was already unimaginably rich from vacuuming more money and opportunities away from everyone else who wasn’t.
The results were biblical. But in the way that always made God evoke an even greater wrong to try and even things out again.
But didn’t in this case.
Everybody like Donald Trump of Donald Trump’s generation born with a silver dildo in their mouth got richer, people who knew how to game the system rose to great financial heights and then quickly faded like so much trading-floor coke buzz on Black Friday, around 90% of all the world’s capital from international transactions went from going local to becoming globally speculative and, most importantly, it all paved the way for the archetypes I’m about to talk about, and the myths surrounding their being “successful.”
Here they are:
Successful Person #1 – The Serial Entrepreneur
Born with a silver dildo in his mouth. Plain and simple. You want to be this guy, mommy, daddy or other rich people you know/are related to have to start you out with millions in venture capital. And, with it, you play the market, invest in a tech startup or try to create your own low-level Machine (see #3, below). And you fail. You lose all you started with. Over and over again. And you get bailed out every single time. But it’s not even a bail out, because you were never in any peril of going bankrupt. It’s more like a…well, like nothing ever happened, and maybe in the process you learned not to trust in anyone that tries to convince you that Premier smokeless cigarettes won’t actually smoke like a human turd. Or that people actually want to see or hear the next incarnation of Madonna.
The slutty one, not the other one.
Until something finally clicks. And because you invested millions, you get many, many more millions in return. And a name for yourself. And with that you keep investing as before, only now your resume has changed and you call yourself a “serial entrepreneur.” You’re independent of your family’s fortune. And you lie and tell everyone you were “self-made.” Even start to believe it yourself. Took out a million dollar loan (or however much) from your parents / grandparents and paid the whole thing back with interest within a year. And, having successfully made your way this far with the more-or-less shitty batting average of a Major League pitcher, you now find yourself as…
Successful Person #2 – The 40 Year Old Billionaire
How many competitors did he squash? How many financial lives, ruin? How many handshake agreements did he welsh on? How many valets, waiters and ex-girlfriends think he’s an heirloom strain douche tomato of extraordinary flavor and succulence?
How many former and current employees has he and does he haphazardly screw? Figuratively and literally? And, because he’s a billionaire, there’s absolutely no reckoning for it. He can do whatever he wants. Unless he’s an outright sociopath, and does it over and over and over again. Which he probably had all the makings of, growing up the scion of a family like his. And, being a billionaire by now, probably is only a couple gin and Dubonnets or coke lines away from becoming one on any given evening. Menendez-brother style.
Eccentric habits: the human equivalent of a slaughterhouse pig gnawing on the bars of its own cage because its life just ain’t fucking normal anymore. A short temper. Shitty listening skills. ADD. Self-importance. Self-righteousness. The belief in rich people eugenics. The rich person right-of-way on the road. That hilarious rich people obliviousness that’s like a real life Wonder Woman lasso around them when they get asked a question about how the world actually works. And no sense of shame after they show they have no idea (which makes it even funnier).
Successful Person #3 – The Pop Culture Star
Ah, this one. What a majority of kids aspire to be by the time they reach the ripe, old age of 25. You don’t necessarily need money to start. Nor even a superlative amount of talent. What you need is a bit of hard work, and to somehow tap into youth culture through your art, music or looks, and then for the right executive or scout to see you and then to plug you into The Machine.
The Machine then does the rest. All you have to do is not fuck things up too bad by acting, saying, looking or doing something so utterly stupid that the public won’t forgive you for it. Which would have to be an awful, awful lot. Just ask Robert Downey, Jr., Kim Kardashian, Pamela Anderson, Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Lohan, Roseanne Barr or John Wayne.
And after anywhere from 3 to 7 years after first entering in, it’ll spit you and about 75% of everybody else who went in around the same time out and focus its attention on the slightly younger, who it tricks society in believing is now more relevant. All over again.
So, what is The Machine? PR, A & R, marketing, branding, lawyers, capital, connections to the best video directors, producers, sound engineers, photographers, choreographers, journalists, creative directors, stylists—everything that makes the famous famous. And once you’re in, you’re made like a Brownie.
Until you’re not anymore.
But it’s okay, because despite the jokes everyone makes about you afterwards, you still make plenty of money off your name, your band’s name, your royalties, off all that you learned being plugged in that you later put to use as a producer, songwriter, collaborator, consultant or manager in the industry, yourself.
And once that’s all over, you’ve still got the Oregon Indian casino circuit to plow through.
Successful Person #4 – That Person Who Has Millions of Followers on Social Media and Doesn’t Seem to Actually Do Anything for a Living
Right? Every kid/adult wants to be them, but no one actually knows how because it’s such a new thing, and all the traditional avenues of vocation don’t lead to it. They don’t teach objective courses for it anywhere. Plus, if you pay attention, many of them never come out and say or show you what it is they actually did to get there.
Because they’re going to guard their deepest trade secrets like your older brother’s friend Tony Dinkadoo guards the names of all the muff he’s banged, because he doesn’t want any other bro sharking in on his snizz.
Now, omitting for obvious reason actual celebrities or pro athletes, or even more everyday-types who’ve become globally famous for possessing the invaluable life skills of knowing how to make short videos, apply makeup or do leg bends, the people I’m referring to here are, well, this one: @anllela_sagra, in a nutshell.
And that’s not to discount a whole new wave of TikTokkers, people who have massive followings on the platform (*cough* little kids *cough*) whose talents–or lack thereof–are so painfully evident to those of us over the age of thirty that we don’t even have TikTok accounts, and yet which generate in us an ICF (Internet Cringe factor) of several thousand whenever our nephews or nieces or some other little kid we run into feels compelled to show us their videos. Which is, like, way too often. And yet who, despite what I say about them, stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars whenever they create their “art” because, yes, the world is, in fact, run by multi-billion dollar corporations.
So, you want to know how to start?
Well, you need to rewind the clock back to whenever the platform of your choice first started up. Then you need to not be afraid to look stupid. And you start making specialized videos and taking pictures of yourself and putting them all over said platform. Mostly looking stupid. And then wait to get lucky.
Barring that, you need money. A fucking lot of it. And to be attractive.
That’s pretty much it.
Successful Person #5 – The Small Business Owner
This is the one you have the most sympathy for. They take actual risks. Make actual sacrifices. Take a real gambit borrowing money against their personal assets, money that they may not be able to pay back. They miss time with their kids. They worry. They stay in the red for years. They ride a little sailboat on the ocean of business until they either reach that golden shore or capsize / founder somewhere in the middle.
And trapped in a wormhole someplace in contemporary, easy-listening spacetime, Harry Chapin is continually and about to be in the process of recording a hit song about it.
This is the one you have the most sympathy for. Until they make enough money and begin to do greedy, self-important shit like take a small yet considerable amount of the money they get from working people like you and donate it to a political platform that limits your right to have an abortion if you want to, or writes up a tax code that makes you pay more a percentage of your salary than somebody like them.
At which point, you start to lose sympathy.
But not before they invariably wind up as…
Successful Person #6 – The 50 Year Old Millionaire
You get the idea.