Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

I miss the mob

I was in Las Vegas for a conference, taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel.

Just making small talk, I asked the driver, “How long have you lived here?”

He said, “27 years.”

“Wow! A lot has changed since then, huh?”

“Yeah. I miss the mob.

“Huh? Really? What do you mean?”

“When the mafia ran this town, it was fun. There were only two numbers that mattered: how much is coming in, and how much is going out. As long as more in than out, everyone's happy. But now it was all bought up by these damn corporations full of MBA weasels micro-managing, trying to maximize the profit from every square foot of floor space. Now the place that used to put ketchup on my hot dog tells me it'll be an extra 25 cents for ketchup! It sucked all the fun out of this town! Yeah... I miss the mob.”

(Sure we could bring up other issues with the mob, but let's just leave it as a metaphor and a lesson.)


I told this story a lot at CD Baby.

Sometimes MBA types would ask me, “What's your growth rate? What's your retained earnings rate as a percentage of gross? What are your projections?”

I'd just say, “I have no idea. I don't even know what some of that means. I started this as a hobby to help my friends, and that's the only reason it exists. There's money in the bank and I'm doing fine, so no worries.”

They'd tell me if I analyzed it better I could maximize profitability.

Then I'd tell them about the taxi driver in Vegas.

Let's not forget why we're really doing what we're doing.

Are you helping people?

Are they happy?

Are you happy?

Are you profitable?

Isn't that enough?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25909621@N08/3181219032/