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I quite often develop an asymptotic relationship with my future. Though I seem to move forward at a reasonably consistent pace, whatever I imagine I’m pursuing seems just about as far away no matter how much time elapses or effort expends. I might be stiff-arming, holding manifestation back with one hand while swimming—sometimes frantically—with the other. Perhaps I have become a master at sabotaging myself. I know that my pursuit of whatever I seem to be after only rarely rewards me.

This situation could be a feature of my time in life. As I age, distances might lengthen like shadows do as the sun slips past high noon. Earlier, the horizon seemed endless and my direction obvious. Now, the horizon seems more constricted and my orientation uncertain. Relative progress seems impossible to discern and absolute progress, a once believable fiction.

I’ve spent my time pursuing notoriety, and even achieved a form of it. It was not as I imagined during the pursuit. Fame and fortune gratefully eluded me. I had one of the first dozen wikis in the world, but I could not defend it against dedicated spammers and abandoned it as unworkable before Wikipedia was even launched. I blog plenty, creating high quality content I never intend to go viral. Now, I only occasionally imagine myself being ‘discovered.’ I do not now aspire to that, having seen the effects of discovery on souls more hearty than mine. Near as I can tell, popularity almost certainly leads to unanticipated and unwanted consequences. I have been the flavor of the month and I ended up being Baloney Ripple.

I have long considered popularity as the opposite of success. Who hasn’t revealed that they thought [fill in your favorite popular recording artist here] was a whole lot better before the A&R crowd shoved them to the top of the pop charts? I bought coffee at the original Starbucks, when it was the only one in the universe and the owners were headstrong iconoclasts bucking a well-entrenched oligarchy, and, yes, it was a lot better then. Red Robin used to be a single sort-of University dive bar in Sleaze-attle where undergrads gathered for Friday burgers and beer. Elevated out of that context, it became another pop-out plasticized replica of a foregone time. Hard to include the original context in an exit ramp strip mall, especially if the original context included the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

But the economy I inherited seemed to insist upon scaling up as the proper metric for success. The bigger, the presumed better, though I know in my heart of hearts that this has never held true. Certainly, economies of scale might emerge along with expansion, but the founding economies of ‘snail’ cannot keep up with scaling up. They get left behind like out-grown shoes. And it was the quality of that slow food, that natively scaled experience, that determined the attractive qualities of that original experience. Not the notoriety. Not the over fifteen bilious billions sold, a metric better suited for excess rather than success.

Many of my colleagues actively feed their twitter accounts. Some queue up a week’s worth of insights then feed them into the stream at a rate scientifically determined to be just south of overwhelming, interspersed with another derived number of gracious appreciations and gratuitous retweets to encourage appreciations and retweets in response. This strategy broadens a scale known as reach, resulting, with diligent repetition, in being named among the top, most of whom employed an A&R PR professional to show them how to jigger the scale. Now, it’s nearly certain that those named to the Top Ten List engineered more clever consent than quality content. Scaling demands it.

But what if, I wonder, what if the pursuit of notoriety lost its glitter? What if I (finally) accept that I’m a food truck in a food court world. I do what I do. I am not in competition for anything. I have my regulars, drop-ins as synchronicity provides, but no strategic imperative to conquer any new continent. I’m not here to change the world, but to nourish it.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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