Q: How do you get on the road to freedom?
Ok, I’ll admit it. I read spam. I don’t read all the spam that I get. There’s just too much of it, tens of hundreds of unsolicited invitations to buy Viagra and Cialis at a better price or meet willing singles in my area.
I don’t read these types of emails; don’t need any Viagra or Cialis I am proud to say and I am not in the mood to meet anybody—single, double or triple, thank you. I am very fussy about who I let into my life, as is my wife.
But there is one spam item that always grabs my attention. These emails have a subject that is along these line: Become a world renowned chef in no time at all.
I have a fantasy. It goes like this: One day I reach my limit. I can no longer tolerate the dynamics, waste and idiosyncrasies of Corporate America. So I just toss in the towel and go to culinary school. I learn to be a most excellent chef. I can walk into any kitchen, look in the most barren of refrigerators and produce a world class meal, practically out of nothing. I become capable of making something of value to others in a way that requires every morsel of my thinking and creativity, sort of like the reason that I got into software.
I become most well known for my pastries. I can make the most buttery croissant and an éclair to die for. I can make my little oven produce an angel food cake that is truly heavenly. Soon just by word of mouth alone news of my recently acquired skills reaches willing buyers from all walks of life. It doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time: first a cake order here and a pastry order there. Then two cakes a day, five cakes a day, ten cakes a day, all with pastry orders. After a while, I have so many cake and pastry orders I need to I rent oven space in a nearby bakery to meet demand. Soon I am up to thirty cakes a day, ten dozen croissants and five dozen assorted pastries.
I am wise. I save up my money. Soon I have saved six thousand dollars. I have enough to buy a used convection oven, a mixer, a refrigerator, a pastry table, a display case, a coffee grinder, a coffee maker and a point of purchase system. Also, there is enough left over to pay first month and last month on a small, 500 sq. ft. store front with parking in back. I am lucky. The area is well trafficked and the Board of Health is easy to get alone with.
Soon I am up to two hundred cakes a week, twenty dozen croissants a day and a twenty dozen assorted pastries. Also, I am selling a hundred cups of coffee a day at dollar gross profit per cup.
I need help. I hire burnt out, computer science refugees who want to learn the business. The helpers learn the business, after all they are really smart. And they are really ambitious. They too have dreams.
After a while I lend them money and support to move onto their own dreams. All I ask in return is 3% of the gross profits. They are so grateful that they report their income accurately regardless of the fact that, although we have been taking credit and debit cards for a while, fifty percent of the business is still based on cash transactions.
It’s twenty years later. We have a hundred units across the world. All are profitable. All still make the most buttery croissants, éclairs to die for and angel food cakes that is heavenly. We had an opportunity to get funding to grow to a thousand units world wide. We took a vote among all the dreamers. We decided that if we got to a thousand units, we would become that which we had escaped. We are all content with what we have.
After twenty five years I sell my five hundred square feet to a kid who tried to rob me five years ago on a Wednesday afternoon in broad daylight. He was no older than fifteen. He had never been to school. His family did not have a computer at home. The only way to go to school twenty five years from now is on the Internet. There are no more brick and mortar educational institutions, not even for the really rich. The business model is unprofitable.
Anyway, the kid walks in one day, pulls out a gun and demands money. I told him that we no longer use cash, that everything is done by plastic. He gets mad. I tell the kid that if I had cash, I would give it to him, “you’re one scary dude!”. I ask him if he’d like an éclair instead. The kid says that he has never had an éclair. I give him one. He likes it. He asks me how you make one.
I show him. It’s a total fluke. Most kids would have shot me or just eaten the éclair and left with no inkling of curiosity about the tradition and knowledge required to make such a delicacy. This kid is different. Five years later the kids knows everything that I know. He can make the most buttery of croissants, an éclair to die for and an angel food cake that is heavenly.
I am old and dying. I sell the business to the kid on terms that have two conditions: that he teaches someone else how to make the most buttery of croissants, éclairs to die for and angel food cake that is heavenly, and that he makes affordable monthly payments to me until my passing.
A few months later I die.
But the dream lives on.
And that’s why I read spam that tells me that I too can become a master chef.
PS: This is dedicated to my friend Wolfgang on the anniversary of the passing of his most beloved wife and my friend, Inga. May her beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.