This book was sitting at the library in a little display on the second floor. There was a bunch of business and investing type books that the librarian must have assembled for display. During a writing break, the green and black cover caught my eye as well as the longish subtitle: Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality. Wow, what more could you ask for than to make mega money, rock the career, and revel in individuality! And, it stood out being written by a woman as well, Christine Comaford-Lynch (the last name is as long as the subtitle!). Most of the other titles were by guys. Either they did not catch my fancy (Derek Foster.s titles, no thanks) or I had read them before (When Genius Failed, great book on the explosion called LTMC that resulted when you mix together nobel prize winners and 100:1 leverage). Well, flipping through it, it looked like it was a collection of stories from Comaford-Lynch.s experiences that allowed her to, well, make money, rock the career, and revel in individuality! I wasn.t looking for a self-help type book, but Rules for Renegades is also set up like a juicy tell all tale with stories of dating Bill Gates and Larry Ellison thrown in for fun. I decided to read it.
As diligent readers have come to expect, here.s an image of the title:
As well as the blurb from the back:
From high school drop-out, to monk, to multimillionaire, Christine has lived the Rules for Regnegades.
Wow, you don.t say?
You want a fabulous career. You want to succeed without sacrificing your personal life. Your path is different than mine, but I’m guessing we have things in common. I wrote this book for you. Signed, Christine Comaford-Lynch.
She wrote this for me? Awww, how kind!
Already from the back blurb you can see where Comaford-Lynch is coming from. The first thing I notice is a self-promotional bias. But that.s sort of offset because she.s put herself in the customer.s shoes,ie she.s self-promotional to gain your trust so that she can help you. So the self-promotion isn.t based on vanity but a desire to do something for others. Very clever. It strikes me that too often we don.t mention the advantages of our actions for their recipients. It takes a special mindset to be able to see the transaction from the other party.s perspective. And when one is able to convey to the other party that we are ‘thinking as if we are in his shoes’, there.s an opportunity to win trust, even during periods of intense negotiations.
Rules for Renegades is a business book–or really a collection of business anecdotes. But there.s something she shares with writers as well. And I want to share it with fellow writers because it.s so true:
An honest self-assessment based on answers to the questions above will help you determine if it’s time to be a quick-change artist. One of my friends, Walter, is a talented and prolific writer. He often moans about the publishing industry, about how it feels closed to newcomers, how first-time authors have such a slim chance of getting published. I asked him how he saw the industry and his position in it. He said, he sees the publishing industry as this enormous mansion, with manicured grounds. He’s not even working in the garden–he’s a farmhand way out on the South 40. The impressive entrance is barely visible from his distant field. As an indentured servant, he’ll never even get near the publishing mansion.
I blurted out, ‘But everything’s an illusion–so why not pick one that’s empowering?’. Walter asked how I, also new to the publishing scene, saw it. I said that to me the publishing world is a complex software system, and I am a talented hacker. Every day I make more progress navigating the system and getting closer to understanding how it works. It’s a cool adventure, and I know I’ll figure it out. Walter was silent for a moment, then said, ‘Wow. No wonder you have a terrific agent and a book deal’. He took this to heart. Walter is changing his self-image and illusions of the publishing world, an dI know one day soon he’ll sell his first novel.
‘Everything.s an illusion–so why not pick one that’s empowering’. That.s pretty good advice because it.s easy to lose confidence along the way. Just look at my recent blogs: in quite a few of them, the issues of a writer.s self-doubt crops up. Again and again. And the message from this book and the recently read Buffet Speaks is that self-doubt is a negative quality that successful people just don.t seem to have. ‘I.ve never doubted myself’, says Buffett (or something similar). What struck Comaford-Lynch about Bill Gates when they hit it off was his complete lack of self-doubt–he would frequently express surprise when she pointed out the risks: ‘What do you mean it.s risky?–of course it.s going to work. And work PERFECTLY’. If this point of view can be put into an aphorism, it.d go something like this: better to aim for the stars and miss than shoot for the gutter and hit.
There are those without self-doubt: Gates, Buffett, and probably Elon Musk. They are the world changing industrialists. There are those with too much self-doubt. A lot of writers fall into this category. Did you know the brilliant theorist Bakhtin used his manuscripts to roll cigarettes, such a low estimation he had of his writings (and no doubt being penniless). And then there are those in between. Perhaps yours truly falls into this category. Here.s my campfire story.
Back in the early 2000s, I was thinking about free will, fate, consciousness, and things like that. These are the things I like to think about. They are the sort of thing you can ponder while looking into the expanse of the sky at night. I was also reading Homer.s Iliad. The Iliad asks questions such as: is Achilles’ free although his death foretold, how ‘fated’ is it for Troy to fall, and so on. The idea occurred that fate and free will are not necessarily antithetical concepts. At least in literature. It could be conceptualized as a chess endgame. Endgames have certain properties which make them interesting. Players are free to move their pieces. But to a knowledgeable observe, the ending is already predetermined: either White or Black will win and this is known during an endgame scenario. In the endgame scenario, you could, therefore, see a harmony between fixed fate and free will working simultaneously. I wrote the article and sent it off to academic journals. I even mapped the final confrontation between Achilles and Hector (including the surprise twist when Hector realizes Deiphobus isn.t really there and Athene has duped him) onto a chess endgame. To do so involved going through hundreds of endgame scenarios to find an endgame where Black thinks he.s going to win by a power play in which he takes White.s queen. But by taking the queen, Black actually seals his own defeat.
Rejection after rejection. And since the refereeing process is anonymous, some mean rejections as well. ‘Don.t bother wasting our time’, ‘Give your head a shake’, and so on. Just poisonous. There must be some disgruntled academics out there. But anyway, I believed in myself. I don.t know how, but I thought the article deserved to be published. It was a simple workaround to a long standing debate. To go back to Rules for Renegades, I put on the illusion that I had something to offer. I was a hacker who would game the system. Eventually, that.s what I did. I noticed that the editor of Antichthon at the time, HT, also served as president of a national chess federation. I sent the manuscript to him. I got back a reply, ‘It needs some work but I like it. Make x,y,z revisions and we.ll go from there. And by the say, I enjoyed the chess analogy’. Bingo!!! ‘The Harmony of Fixed Fate and Free Will in the Iliad‘ came out in volume 36 (2002) of Antichthon: Journal of the Australian Society for Classical Studies.
The moral of the story? Oft-times nothing profits more than self-esteem grounded on just and right. Do something well, and believe in yourself. Instead of creating a mental structure biased to your limitations, create a mental structure biased for success. Instead of being burdened by the system, game the system to make the most of your chances. Carry on soldier, tomorrow.s another day.
To close out, Rules for Renegades offers a viable psychological strategy for success. Even if you.re already successful and there.s no shadows of self-doubt clouding the sun of your ambition, read it for the colourful anecdotes: the stories of Gates’ mom running his life with sticky notes posted all over his furnishings, how Ellison tried to show off to his date this new thing called the ‘internet’ and how it crashed… So, dear read, until next time, I am Edwin Wong and I am revelling in my individuality by Doing Melpomene.s Work. May you also make more money, rock your career, and revel in individuality! *mental note* in some future blog I should talk about the cult of individuality these days as opposed to looking at things from a communal perspective.