If I’m So Smart – Afterword

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11, Part 12

Thanks to everyone for the kind notes sent to me throughout my writing of this series. I heard from people via comments here as well as via Twitter, Google +, Facebook, email and even other blogs. It helped encourage me to finish the series – and to get it finished in a relatively short span of time. When I started down this road, I had no idea that I would end up writing as much as I did. And yet, as I’m sure you realize, what I have written and published here is a very abridged version of the story.

So, I hear you ask, what motivated me to write and share all of this? There are many answers to that question.

For years, people have told me that I should write a book. And it’s not just friends – I’ve had one publisher tell me that he would be interested to publish such a book, should I ever finish it. I’ve given these suggestions a lot of thought on many occasions. There’s a million reasons to write a book but the question for me has always been why would anyone want to read a book written by and about me? As vain and egotistical as I can sometimes be, why would I put in all of that effort to write something that no one would read?

Of course there is a huge market for autobiographies from celebrities and historical figures. If Bill Clinton or Neil Young writes and publishes an autobiography, they have a huge built-in audience. But I don’t think having a blog that gets between 500 and 1,000 hits a day qualifies me as a celebrity.

There are plenty of other kinds of autobiographies as well. What is their purpose for existing? These books usually have to have some larger purpose. Such a book would need to impart lessons learned or reveal details of an interesting life to an audience hopefully eager to learn about these sorts of things, whatever they may be.

So in thinking about writing my autobiography, what would be the lessons to impart? What would be my elevator pitch, the blurb on the back cover that would get people who have never heard of me interested enough to spend a few hours in my “company”?

When I was growing up, I would look out of my apartment window at the people on my block. These were mostly people who would be born, grow up, get married, have kids and die on the same street. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to get as far away from them as possible – and I succeeded. I got to travel to, see and even live in fabulous places and have friends from across the globe. I got to be as comfortable on the streets of Taipei, Tokyo and Shanghai as I was on the streets of my native New York. I got to meet, date and have sex with more beautiful women than I can begin to count.

I’ve told myself, more than once and only half in jest, that the theme of my autobiography would be the tale of someone who got to live a life he wouldn’t have even dared to fantasize about when younger. And through it all, I remained a person who learned absolutely fucking nothing.

That might make for a good read.

Another reason for an autobiography might be to present a story that has a beginning, middle and an end, a story that contains a clear emotional arc, hopefully a story that might be of interest to some portion of the public out there.

Looking back at my life, one story that I feel could stand relatively on its own and that might make for an interesting read would be the story of my relationship with “T” (and long time blog readers will know exactly what I mean). That’s a story with a beginning, a middle and an end and definitely an emotional arc. There was also a lesson learned, perhaps more than one – although it wasn’t until a few years after the story ended that I truly comprehended what a colossal asshole I had been during all of this and how much of the insanity was my fault. But there is an arc there, there’s a description of a lifestyle that few have or will encounter, and there are lessons potentially worth sharing with a wider audience.

My inspiration is Henri-Pierre Roche. Most of you have little idea of who he was. He was a French journalist, art collector and dealer. He sold his art gallery when he was in his 60s and wrote two books. The first was published when he was 74 years old and it was called Jules and Jim.  It was a thinly fictionalized remembrance of a love triangle from 50 years earlier in his life. The book came out in 1952 and it didn’t sell very many copies. It seemed destined for remainder bins and landfills. But one day Francois Truffaut came across the book and in 1962 released a film of the same name starring Jeanne Moreau and Oskar Werner. The film is one of the great films of all time and in the ensuing 50 years, Roche’s book has been translated into dozens of languages and has never gone out of print.

I find this story inspirational on many different levels – a man who gave his life to commerce creating a piece of enduring art before he died; a work of art that was ignored for a decade and then discovered and has stood the test of time.

So I pulled together all of the material I could from my earlier blog and other sources. I loaded it all on my laptop. I’ve spent three years re-writing the introduction – and a good part of that time just on the opening sentence.

So by positioning this “If I’m So Smart, How Come I’m Not Rich” thing so publicly, it forced me to knock out something in a brief span of time. Of course it’s only a summary and I have completely omitted key events that I don’t want to be so public about – at least not for the time being. But it gives me a rough outline to work from and a treatment (along with some sample chapters that will not be posted) to show to a select audience.

Almost everything I write for the blog is a first draft. I’m not the kind of writer who does a first draft and then edits and edits and edits until something is all polished and shiny before I click the “publish” button here. I finding writing very easy. I finding editing agonizingly painful. I understand why it takes Leonard Cohen years to finish a song. I can stare at a single sentence for two hours debating the structure and the choices of words. I will work it and rework far past the point of normal obsession. And I look back at everything I write and publish here – even this stuff from the past ten days – and I’m appalled by the mistakes I’ve made, not to mention seeing 2,000 things that I could have written better. A grammatical error here, a missing detail there, an adjective repeated one time too often, a phrase that could be vastly improved upon.

Writing this, reading it, editing it is a step in confronting the issues that have held me back in life and in coming up with a plan to deal with these issues.

I understand that a combination of factors has held me back in life. The first is fear of failure, coupled with the fear of not being any damned good at anything – or worse, being unable to recognize and properly exploit those things that I would be good at. If I’ve thought about being a writer, a musician, a photographer, a fireman or an astronaut … I never fully committed to any of them. I have drifted like a tree branch in a river, going wherever the current takes me.

The second thing, very much aligned with the first, is that I’ve got too many interests. I’m a dabbler instead of a specialist; the wandering contents of this blog across ten years are undeniable evidence of that.  My attention has been so divided between so many different things that I haven’t been able to become truly great at anything or been able to exploit just one to its maximum potential.

So I regret not picking and sticking with one thing – and I regret not being good enough to take my crazy bits of knowledge of so many different things and not figure out a way to earn a more satisfying living from that. But the fact that I haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean I can’t still do it.

Okay, delete delete delete several paragraphs of morose self-pity. I’ll save it for the movie. Get up with it!

Failure is not an option. Neither is being happy with the status quo.

It’s just slightly too soon to go public with the details. Writing this, reading it, thinking it over, convinces me I will be doing the right thing. Remember back to Part 3, where I wrote:

I asked my friends what they thought I should do. All of them, even my female friends, told me the same thing. “As long as I’ve known you, you haven’t been happy. You’re still young. Do something that makes you happy.”

The fact is that I haven’t been happy in a long time (with the exception of my marriage). I have to make a change. I have to find, well, call it my “happy place” or my “mojo” or whatever term you like. I’ve lost my mojo and I need to get it back.  I’m not stupid enough to think that staying my current course will suddenly give me some different result from what it has given me over the course of the past five years. I can’t keep doing the same thing hoping things will change, that some deus ex machina will swoop down from the sky and change my life. I have to do something different.

So recognizing the need to change, I’ve put the the wheels in motion. I’m both nervous and excited by what’s coming next. I’ll tell you about it soon.

14 thoughts on “If I’m So Smart – Afterword”

  1. Booyaa!!! Way to go – I think its great that youre doing it. I sympathize with your ‘who’s going to read it?’ question – but like I said when I first met you, you’ve had an interesting life and I think theres plenty of room for those stories to be told. Martin Booth had an interesting life too….plenty of people I know read his ‘Gweilo’ book (and not much else I gather!) :-) I know I’d be buying them to pass out to my friends as Xmas books – everyone likes a good read!

  2. Dear Spike,

    Once again, thanks for the narrative. I’ll miss it now that it’s finished.

    That you conclude that you need to make a change sounds right. After all, “life is not a rehearsal.”

    “Some people are not meant to work in large organizations,” a guy who fired me once told me in a reconciliation meeting long after the event. He was right, at least in his reference to me. I think the same may apply to you as I read your accounts of torture in the bellies of various corporate beasts.

    If you had embraced entrepreneurialism at a younger age, you might have found greater self-fulfillment and perhaps greater material success, although it seems to me that you’re a fine and good person who has lived a full life thus far and you have little reason to second-guess the career decisions you made along the way. If you ask me, for all of us, there’s an awful lot of “fate and destiny” going on throughout one’s life.

    As for decisions and outcomes in your personal life, well, I couldn’t and wouldn’t comment, except to say that no one really knows what goes on in a relationship between two people, except those two people. “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but, then again, too few too mention.”

    If you decide to write your autobiography, please sign me up as an advance purchaser, although I’d prefer it if you left out all the corporate job achievement bullshit, which is boring and of no consequence one way or the other, and focus on the personal side, where you have a clear voice and singular potential.

    1. Actually PCC, a lot of it is quite the opposite. I think I do better in large organizations. I need the structure and prefer the kinds of budgets that larger companies have as opposed to the small ones I’ve been working at for the past several years. Keep in mind that I did try starting my own business twice (the first time I tried this I was 27) and also tried the independent consultant route, all with very little success. Anyway, thanks!

  3. This has been a fantastic read, and I can relate to a lot of the happenings and the doubts. Thanks for sharing – it must have been difficult to relive some of these episodes, but perhaps time and distance added some perspective. Good luck with the new endeavor.

  4. I would buy your book. What about “The World According to Spike”?

    About the need for change. Change is good. But maybe it’s your perspective you need to change. I don’t see you as a failure and many people in this world would call you rich.

    Great stuff. Good luck and keep it coming.

  5. Thank you for writing this series. It has been engaging read. With the best with whatever you write from here and wherever the road takes you next.

  6. fiction is about what it is to be a fucking human being (David Foster Wallace said so and he was fucking right). creative non-fiction and memoir are the same. why can’t you write about yourself? who says you need to come to a big revelation at the end? there are no rules.

    good luck!

  7. In previous ages, the “dabbler” was often called a Renaissance Man.

    And the Truly Great are few and far between. Better to be very good at a number of things together and admired ( or envied :) ) by many for your successes, than either the leader in an esoteric niche or a Quart Finals winner soon forgot. And if the tendency to edit for perfection is present in other aspects of your work side, well…..

    My first impulse was to reply simply with “Who Dares, Wins.” On reflection I suspect you’ve committed yourself to Dare, eh?


  8. I’ve been following your blog for about 10 years (or whenever it started basically), so you must be doing something right – people want to read what you write.

  9. Spike, great read. Shared with my wife every night over dinner. BTW, retirement here in the Philippines was the best move I have ever made. We miss HK after being there for 12 years, but there comes a time to turn the page and be happy and content. Good luck in your next adventure.

  10. Read it all and it was very interesting. Read most of your stuff since your first blog earlier. This tied a few missing threads together nicely. I’d buy and read your book if you got one published.

    Cheers for the read.


  11. Hi Spike,
    Great read and interesting life you have had.
    If you want to define rich and success in a conventional way, then I would say “Behind every successful man is a strong, wise and hardworking woman”. Most (but not all) of the successful men I have met all over the world do have very strong support at home. One cant do it alone in the world today, it takes two. This applies to successful women too!
    May be you have not had the good fortune to have met such a person or may be you did not cherish the person enough.
    I only started reading your blog when I moved to HK some 5 years ago. I love your writing. It is authentic and fun. I am not familiar with the personal history but one must move on.
    Best of luck with your book publishing. I would actuallly think that the more personal pieces make it more authentic but it is a tradeoff how much you want to reveal. I would think most of your potential readers would be men as some women may take exception to your lifestyle. Apologies for being blunt about it.
    I enjoy the blog and I would buy a copy but I most likely wont be giving them away as gifts.
    Best, Sophia

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