I spoke this:
I gave this talk at SchnitzelConf earlier this month and it seemed to go down well. Since I adopted the presidential address style, I wrote a script. Here it is: Just starting and still freaking out.
In 1984 and Brave New World, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley respectively predicted, in their different ways, that the world would descend into a mundane order of automatons and conformity, where discipline was doled out from on high and grave punishment given to those who stepped out of line.
Growing up, as I did, in Dublin, I was often aware that there was no obvious movement for me to join. My parents shielded me from republicanism, from the hate and terror that happened for so long in their native Northern Ireland.
However shielded, I can’t hide from the fact that I am the product of wars. I am the product of freedom-fighters and terror. Ireland has a strong history of underdogs overcoming the might of the British. I am the product of uprising, uprising and diplomacy, uprising and bloodshed.
I grew up in an Ireland that was recovering from all that, shielded in the safety of a booming economy. My parents sacrificed themselves to give their kids the greatest opportunities they could afford. My siblings are phd scientists, a teacher, a nurse.
I have a very nice life. I had no obvious movement to join.
So instead, I took to making things.
I just want to be great. I want the things I do to be remembered. I want to overhear people at the next table in a faraway place talking about things that I have done.
I want to be Steve Jobs, I want to be Bill Gates, I want to be Gandhi. I want to be John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I want to be Simon & Garfunkel. I want to be Jimi Hendrix. I want to be David Bowie. I want to be Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick. I want to be Woodie Allen. I want to be Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci. I want to have grown up in Florence. I want to be the Mona Lisa.
I want to be fluent in French, German hell, why not Italian and Spanish too. I want to be Aristotle, I want to be Plato. I want to be Locke, Berkeley and Hume.
I want to be John Rawls. I want to be Karl Marx. I want to be Hercules. I want to be God. I want to be a fox, a bird, a wolf a lion and an elephant. I want to be a praying mantis.
I want to be a spaceman, a doctor and an athlete. I want to be president. I want to be able to quote the bible and Ulysses and Charles Bukowski. I want to be Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Laurence Olivier. I want to be James Dean.
I want to be Shakespeare. I want to be top of the charts. I want to be site of the week. I want to know more than Wikipedia about everything.
I want to spring out of bed in the morning. I want to end wars and I want to inspire nations. I want to build a movement and tear down a dictatorship. I want to be Lenin. I want to be Michael Collins.
I want every moment I live to be better then the one before. I want to be a nice person. I want to make things.
Because I love making things. I love technology. I love computers and devices and buttons that I click to click other buttons. I love touchscreens.
I love music. I love playing music. I love the air. I love the outdoors. I love horse riding. Running. Football. Walking in the mountains. I love it all.
I love pictures. Bright colours. Socks. Brightly coloured socks. Brightly coloured clothes. A bright smile. A bright face.
I love the internet. I love internet people. I love being on the internet. I love IRC. Email. Twitter. Connections. TCP/IP. Relationships.
I love the feeling of getting an email. The way that the word “Inbox” goes bold when there are unread messages. I love that I can view astro-photography, diagnose illnesses and download exercise programs and have the best of them all. In seconds.
I love my parents and I love their passion for life, and teaching and giving their kids the best that they possibly could. I love my brother and my sisters. I love my girlfriend. I love my friends.
I love movies, the cinema, I love emotions I love drama and stories. I LOVE stories.
I love fresh pizza, the smell of oregano and hot tomato and melted cheese and dried pasta and foie gras. I love nice crusty bread and creamy butter and truffles over a steaming risotto. I love Wiener Schnitzel. I love fine wine. I love people who love these things.
I love prettiness. And I love ugly things that hide inner beauty. I love discipline and correctness. I love dials and controls and interfaces. I love cause and effect. I love random joy. I love imagination. I love penny sweets. I love simple things and I love complex things made simple. I love trivia. I love doing things right, and I love finding out what the right way to do things are.
I love it when I can say “I love Angry Birds” and everyone gets it.
I love it when someone appreciates when I do a nice thing for them. I love making things. I love the things I make.
I hate greed. I hate scum. I hate selfishness and I hate ego. I hate apathy.
I hate people who spit on the pavement, or when people are rude in restaurants or shops or in an email.
I hate people who are just rude in general. I hate thieves and liars and manipulators. I hate money and I hate vice. I hate anyone who forces their opinion on others. I hate excuses. I hate it when things are half assed. I hate imperfections. I hate procrastination. I hate Santa Claus because he’s not real.
I hate large corporations. I hate corruption. I hate needless bureaucracy. I hate slow decisions on simple problems. I hate fluctuating flight prices. I hate economic inequality. I hate laziness and moaning and complaining and talk talk talk. I hate waste. I hate killing anything. I hate destruction.
I hate it when a better, cheaper solution exists for a problem and is flat out ignored. I hate queuing for things that could or should be done online. I hate sending a letter when I could be emailing. I hate emailing when I should be sending a letter. I hate mundane things that are inefficient. And I despise effiency at the cost of humanity.
I hate it when someone tells me I can’t do something and sorry, but that’s that.
I hate conforming. I hate acceptance of the status quo. And I hate it, I hate it when someone looks at me as though I don’t exist.
Because I’m terrified of rejection. I’m terrified of death, of dying, of the unknown. I’m scared that I’ll get shot in the back or knifed in my sleep, before I get to do anything truly great in the world. I’m worried that my next flight will be my last one.
I’m scared that I’ll be laughed at or mocked for what I do, or who I am. I’m scared that I’m not good enough. I’m scared that I’m really, truly crap.
I’m scared that I didn’t do well enough academically. That I fluffed my way through university and I’ll never get over it. That I’ve never made a movie that I’m not proud of.
I’m scared that I’ll never be anyone worthwhile, that I’ll never make anything of any lasting worth. I’m scared that I’m not a genius, that I’m just average, that I’m just another face in a sea of faceless people.
I’m scared that I’m a coward, that I’ve no heart, that people talk about me behind my back. I’m scared of what people might really think about me. I’m scared that my friends aren’t my friends and I’m scared that I’m really, really alone.
I’m scared that I’m not ambitious enough and I’m scared that I’m not following through on my ambitions.
I’m scared of coins. And the dark sometimes. And creaky pipes. And snakes.
I’m scared of people smarter than I am but I’m even more terrified of people who don’t want to become smarter than they already are.
At a conference last week, I was introduced to someone by a friend:
“This is Paul, he makes cool shit.” I liked that. A lot.
I was a smart kid, but never a prodigy. I won’t make any lists for great achievements under 25. I consider myself, most of the time, completely average.
I built a web product last year but it doesn’t have many customers.
I don’t have very much money. I play guitar, but I don’t practice very much. My singing voice doesn’t record very well. I’m quite serious; I try to be as witty as I can, but I have trouble remembering jokes. I can draw, but I don’t think I’ll ever be much of an artist.
I got a worthless college degree because I didn’t read enough books while I was there for four. long. years. I don’t know very much about politics.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t shape shift into an animal. I often attempt to catch up on my reading, but it’s not easy ; my current reading list is still gathering dust. I never really got a chance to act, or tried much, but I did once perform as a dancing sailor in a school play.
I’m often guilty of so many of the things I hate. Sometimes my fears absolutely consume me. Sometimes I just want to give up.
When I get up in the morning, it’s usually a struggle; I don’t get up at 5am and hit the gym like I feel I should. I’m normally quite groggy and it’s usually a struggle to get going.
I find it difficult to make decisions and I’m easily distracted.
But, I do get going. I’m not regimented, but I value discipline and I try not to be too easy on myself. I’m passionate about what I do, and I try to embrace, control and channel that passion as much as possible.
My product, Ketchup, hasn’t been the overnight commercial success that I hoped, but doing it has lead to other great things. That said, I’m only 8 months in. So far, I’ve met heroes who respect me for doing my own thing. I have more ideas and plans and opportunities than I think I’ll ever need, but I know it’s only a fraction of what’s to come. I think I’m going to be ok.
I try to listen to smart people, and do what they do, without copying. I try to put as much of myself and my ideals into everything I do. I don’t have much money, but I don’t need all that much to do what I want to do.
I’m not religious, but I’m deeply, deeply thankful for my life and my gifts and everything I have. I let myself get emotionally invested in everything I do and I’m proud of that. I trust my gut, but I trust my experiences too. I really, really care.
I try to see the world from other people’s point of view. I find that I’m often quick to insult, but I do try to be thoughtful before I speak, or judge anyone’s opinion or work. I try to do my own work with integrity and I try to apply what I’ve learned in everything new I do. I try to be as nice as I can. I try to make things as well as I can.
I don’t really want to be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or John Lennon or Gandhi or Leonardo da Vinci. I don’t need to be Coppola or Spielberg or Plato or Aristotle or Michael Collins. Not even David Bowie.
Each one of those guys who achieved great things were born into a world where the things they achieved didn’t exist yet. I was born into a world that has the benefit of their legacy. The benefit of every great person down through history.
A great man from this part of the world once attempted to prove, logically that we live in “the best of all possible worlds” … his proof, unfortunately, or not, relies on the existence of an all powerful, all knowing God. I feel as though Leibniz would be utterly as convinced today, that we do live in the best of all possible worlds.
If any of us travelled back in time to almost any point in the history of humanity, armed with a net connection and some common sense, we would be almost indistinguishable from Gods to the people of that time.
Truly, there is no time that I’d rather live than now, and there is no-one in this world that I’d rather be. I live in a world at the pinnacle of evolution, at a point where knowledge and understanding is moving faster than it ever has.
It’s an amazing place to be.
It’s not perfect and it’s not global.
All around us governments are falling apart, awash with the fuck ups of a society where you had to fight your way to the top. Ridiculous wars, outrageous inequality, greed, corruption and unsustainable mass production of crap.
But I feel that things are slowly coming around. Corporations are being given the runaround by people who care about what they do and other corporations are at least trying to care.
I’ve met so many people in the last few years, all over the world, who care deeply about what they do. Passionate people, who don’t understand what it is not to care. They have strong voices, and people are finally listening. Twitter makes news headlines. The lines between blogs and traditional media are blurring and disappearing. The cost of doing business, at least in Ireland is negligible.
Today, for peanuts, you can learn a new skill or technology with amazing screencasts. You can mock up a web app, track bugs and time, host your code, get inspired designs or set up a personal call centre all for less you’d pay for lunch every day.
Travel is cheap, and the computer I’m typing on is no slower than that of the most powerful people in the world. Global communication is a commodity.
Orwell and Huxley got it wrong. In a society where we’re constantly being watched and constantly being monitored the trend that emerges is not power or corruption. The control required for that is relinquished when everyone has an equal voice. That’s the world I know.
The world I know is a world where nice people are winning.
We are in the age of the individual. Now is a great time to be alive. It’s a great time to be doing business. It’s a great time to be creative. We live in a world of opportunities. A world where knowledge is vast and access is cheap.
We live in a world where great wealth is the default position. Our options are vast and wide. We can choose any path we want. We have 600 million years of evolution on our side, guiding and influencing us subconsciously; it helps us know what feels right. I don’t really know why I want what I want, love what I love, hate what I hate or fear what I fear. But I trust in it.
All that’s left is to get on well together, to make awesome things and to be really good to each other. And everywhere I see people who treat each other with respect and understanding, I see great things happening, great products being built and great ideas spreading.
To do what feels right. That is our movement. That is our victory.
To win is to be nice.
I’m Paul. I make cool shit. I’m just starting and I’m still freaking out. Thank you.