[This is me in February of 2004. It’s fun for me to read now, because we were selling a lot then, and — like a lot of folks — the next year, 2005, was my best year so far. I didn’t plan to follow that up with three years of drought, but some days the bear eats you. This year started out with five more months of drought, and yet we’re going to finish 2009 somewhere between $8 and $10 million in gross volume. We’re surfing a 90-day pipeline of around $100K in GCI, and I’m working very hard to pump that up to $250K. If we can get there, we’ll actually have a business.
But: I’m not selling success as a matter of dollars and cents. That matters to me, but not as much as Splendor does, not as much as integrity and follow-through and a comprehensive commitment not just to the good but to getting better — all the time. I have an essay aborning in me about everything I have learned about sales in the last ten years, but even that’s not as much as I want to do — as much as I want to have done. I want better money, yes, for us and for everyone who listens to us. And I want for Realtors to be better. I want for us to have an earned and deserved reputation as honest brokers who put our clients’ interest first. But before all that, I want for people to do better, to be better, to experience life more as a rapturous treasure and less as an unwanted burden. I want for the world to be better, remarkably better in every conceivable way.
This essay is me, the real deal, entirely unedited. I know I’m not alone in being like this, but no one dares to talk this way. We are children of Abel in every way that matters, and we are too much ashamed of being alive to celebrate the simple fact of our vitality. And yet this is the change that matters. To be free of other people means to be free of them in the silence and solitude of your own mind. If they can’t get at you there, then chains and walls are nothing but expressions of their inevitable failure. But if you forebear to be who you really are at the command of some internal editor, you are imprisoned everywhere — even when you are completely alone.
If you want to buy or sell some real estate in Metro Phoenix, I’m your guy. But the best gift I have to bring to the marketplace is this one: The practical expression of Splendor as a philosophy of being. –GSS]
The world I live in, the world I love to live in, is a place of the most intense concentration. To a degree, it doesn’t even matter to me what I’m concentrating on, provided it commands my fullest attention. What I like best is to think about one thing and to think all about that one thing and to think about it exhaustively, until I understand it as if I were inside that thing, as if I were that thing.
The world I die in, the world in which I hate to find myself enmired, is the place where there is nothing to be thought about, nothing to be understood, nothing to be accomplished but the rote, the obvious, the useless and trivial. I am twice lucky, though, because I can live in my world even when I’m stuck in that place of dusty death, and because I cannot for the life of me remember pain in the instant after it goes away.
I live on this page, this temporary parchment of agitated phosphors, but I live at the same time in so many otherwheres. I wrote Macintosh software for years, the years when I couldn’t make the phosphors dance. My essay on Ibsen is the pride of Norway and a day off from work for lazy American literature professors, who assign it year after year. My study aids for the Oxford Latin Course and my partial rescue of the Interlineal Horace win me the acclaim of bleary-eyed young Latinists all over the globe. The absolute best work I have ever done, I think, is Anastasia in the light and shadow. But the most popular opus in my corpus — in terms of raw bandwidth — is not my weblog, not a political or philosophical essay, not a short story, not a book or a novel. It is a very crude animation explicating Catullus LVIII — and Lesbia just struts, she doesn’t even strip!
But this is my world, a world where all that exists is what I am concentrating on right now. I love it better than absolutely anything, and when I find it, that vast, pulsing orb of effortless energy, I can work forever, I can work until there is nothing left in me or of me or to me. I can work until I collapse, then sleep the sleep of the blessed, then wake to do it all over again — again and again, forever.
I love, love, love to write, and when it comes for me, when it’s right, I can write a thousand words an hour for six or seven hours a day. I stink like the dead when I stop, and I babble on senselessly, but when I sleep it’s as if the next day’s work is done for me in the night — by elves! — and the words just pour out of me when I sit down to work again. The things that I’ve written that are heartbreakingly beautiful — to me, at least — were all written that way — this way — as fast as I can type the words, constantly racing to catch up with my uninterruptible concentration.
But as much as I love to write, I love, love, love almost everything that I do. When I was writing that software, I wrote it to infinite perfection. I solved the mission critical problem. I solved all of the ancillary problems. I error-trapped for things that could never happen. I wrote jokes and poetry in the source code for my own amusement, and I built in Easter eggs for the end users, with other treats kept secret just for the people who helped me design and test my programs. I wrote my own manuals, and the manuals are fun reading — useful, practical, whimsical, cautionary, sometimes even wise. I made my own icons and designed my own packaging and did everything the best way I could, and I got better consistently through time. And all through all of that — all through everything, everywhen — there was within me the quiet and perfect and unquestionable conviction that working any other way would be hellish. That doing anything less the best I could do in functionality, in elegance and in pure enjoyment would serve only to enmire me in that world of dusty death. I would betray everything I had done by failing to do what I could have done — what I might have and should have done.
And I do everything that way. And I hate doing anything any other way. I hate having anything to do with anything that doesn’t need to be done, and I hate for things to be done half-way, half-measure, half-assed. I don’t even want for tasks merely to have been accomplished competently and proficiently. If there is nothing of delight in the doing, then the chore is not done. If there is nothing of me in the doing, then I might as well have been dead.
I would see myself reflected in everything I touch — not as a vanity, not as a self-indulgence in appreciation for the accomplishment of nothing, not as an accident of nature. I want to see the evidence of my hand — my own hand — in the things I have done as a measure of the value I bring to and seek in my life. I want to look upon my work and say, “This is well done. This is properly done. This is superbly done.” I want for the things I do to be distinct in every way from the natural, the accidental, the random, the dusty and the dead. My work is my life and my life is my work and the full evidence of my effortless energy must be present in each of them — or both are dead.
I think about all of this now — a point on a line of time named ‘always’ — because of the people I am working with right now. I so much love nearly everything I do that I have never cared very much about remuneration. Enough to live on was more than enough, and the rest was mere score-keeping, a vanity at best. But my son has developed a taste for expensive education, and my wife and I will need to retire in due course, and the simple fact of life is that I can reap just as much delight working at peak intensity for money as I can working at that same intensity for free — or some small sum in the immediate neighborhood. To that end, I have consciously directed my attention to learning how to be a truly fearsome sales monster. I approached this like everything else, with a ferocious concentration, and it looks like it’s about to begin to pay off.
But what I’ve been thinking about is how much I enjoy it. It’s like everything else for me — everything is like everything else for me — thoughtful effort is thrice repaid. I think about everything associated with this one little thing, and I think all about what I think is wrong in everyone else’s thinking. It’s the same approach I used with Latin demonstrative pronouns, master the base and overlay the exceptions, a very programmatic style of ratiocination. I plan someday to know more about this than anyone. Not for the sake of knowing. For the sake of doing. I want to be able to do this job so well that I end up turning away more people than ever I can help.
And I love, love, love the people I get to work with. I spent the first third of my working life in salaried jobs, and half the people I worked with were half-assed at least half the time. The others were exceptional, and I loved working with them and learning from them — or simply admiring their delightful competence. But now everyone I work with is a sales monster in some respect — a person who is paid only upon the successful completion of an intricate and volatile task.
Mostly these folks are not what I would call contemplative. Like my lovely Gwendolyn, I go to some pains to edit the full glare of me in their sight. But to a man, to a woman — they are focused. Each one of them, every day, is presented with this challenge: Do each and every task your job requires, perfectly and as soon as it must be done, without failure, all on your own motivation — or starve to death! This is reality, the reality that is never absent in random, accidental nature. That most people, most employees, most time-servers — half-assed at least half the time — are insulated from this reality is a gift from exceptional people like the ones I get to work with every day. If I might wish to make a deeper sort of conversation with them, I could never ask to experience a deeper admiration for them.
They are of my world. I don’t know what they think about epistemology or ethics or economics or esthetics. I don’t know if they agree with me about anything away from the world of our business. What I know is that when we are in that world of our business, they are in my world and I am in their world and none of us is in that world of dusty death.
I believe in Splendor, and what I mean by that word is the state of being — the state of mind and the intensely physical, palpable oscillation of the body — that comes from doing whatever it is you’re doing so fully, so completely, so consciously that you are not doing anything else — not anything else. The mind is focused by an act of will, but true concentration is not a focused mind. True concentration is a focused everything.
That sounds harsh, but of course Splendor is delight — undiluted, undiverted, undivided — undiminished and inextinguishable. I love it when I live it, and I live in my world because I love it so much. I have my wife with me and my son and my dogs. I have the wonderful people I am privileged to work with. I write psalms for those who shun my world, or who seem to, but in truth I don’t miss them. I can’t. I am enthralled by a vast, pulsing orb of effortless energy — the object, the subject, the essence of my devout concentration. I can’t bear to look away. And I never, ever look down…