I know/knew a crazy guy who’s story I like to tell. He was 21, and on a date with my best friend of the time, drinking coca cola on the water in Hou Hai, Beijing. “What are you going to do with your life?” says my friend, the actionary, activist, to her globe-trotting, silver spoonfed, soap operaesque paramour. “I’m going to make money move,” he responds.
“You see this coke can?” he says. “Someone had to make this coke can, build the factory, produce the coke, transport it, create the advertising and sell the can to us.” “Ok,” she says, “so you’re going to make that coke can?” “No,” he responds, thrilled with his audience. “You’re going to make the coke?” she says. “No.” “You’re going to sell the can?” “No.” “You’re going to do the advertising?” “No”. “What are you going to do then?!” she says, realizing she’s talking to a nutjob. “All those things need money,” he responds like philosopher. “I’m going to make money move.”
This story I tell again and again, about that crazy a-hole my friends once dated, and how very opposite my “type” he is. But I think it’s time to eat my can. Since Jobs death the Apple ad “here’s to the crazy ones” has been boinging around the internet. (Often by me, I’ve watched it about 100 times.) It’s a very GenX,GenY, rebellious, appealing, au moment concept – let’s be the creative crazies, the Don Drapers of the world. It encompasses the artists, the writers, the social media evangelists, the PR pros and the creative technologists, like Roman Cortes, the one who created the scrolling pure CSS coke can you may click the above image to view.
It’s easy to worship the artists, theologians, philosophers, the Georgia O’Keefes, Ben Franklins and Steve Jobs of the world. We can see what they created, repeat their wisdom to our children, even hold their art in our hands as tools for our own creativity. I’ve made it no secret I worship these American Gods, as well as the armies of developers, coders, entrepreneurs and creatives “building the digital matrix”. Their work is judged by its beauty, visual appeal and “cleanliness”. A line of code, like a geometry proof, is considered “beautiful” if it is simple. This is an easy skill to admire, cleanliness.
The people I’ve neglected to show my admiration for are Untouchables of the artistic world: The business people. My people. They are the stark grey and blue-pinstriped background to an artist’s painting, the cool steel frames holding up a Frank Lloyd Wright, the red electricity shooting through the Matrix. Without them businesses do not grow, offices do not exist, value is not stored in currency, exchange rates do not even out, buildings do not rise, and developers go hungry on ramen.
For Georgia O’Keefe her patron became her husband, Alfred Stieglitz. Apple became Apple, Inc thanks to Angel investor Mike Markkula. And Benji, one of our Founding Fathers himself was a financial guru. Franklin actually left $1000 pounds each to Philadelphia and Boston, with the wisdom of compounded interest.
Franklin was also a champion for paper currency. Money was a hard idea for the colonists to accept. Paper currency had no innate value, unlike gold, silver, or even copper coins. (Anyone in this bad economy who’s had their wiring ripped out by scavengers while on vacation can attest to the value of copper.) Even the first documented currencies, seashells, beads, even salt, held some innate value. Paper, as the Germans found out when their economy crashed, has no innate value, save for the ability to create interesting wall paper. But crazy Franklin saw things differently, and in treatise after treatise, he ushered in the “second era” of paper money, where we moved from colonial checkbooks to cold hard cash.
200 years later, with the extinction of Confederate currency, the Gold standard, the rise Wall Street, the Crash, the runs on the banks, and a new clever phrase no one could ever attribute to this Franklin, “money is the root of all evil”, and Ayn Rand, novelist, creative, artist, echoed crazy Franklin’s idea of money:
“So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?”
In 1886 John Stith Pemberton a pharmacist from Georgia, worked with druggist Willis Venable to formulate, test, and perfect a beverage to be used in curing what ailed you–and relieving Pemberton of his morphine addiction acquired during the Civil War. Pemberton never created a business from his concoction, but sold the formula to entrepreneur Asa Candler. Candler would become an American tycoon and briefly owner of America’s tallest building from coca-cola. It was Candler who set up the factories to produce the syrup, began the bottling franchise system which puts the burden of selling on the bottlers, and began the marketing department which made Coca-Cola a world wide brand.
If it wasn’t for Candler, the multi-millionaire, dirty businessman, with his aggressive marketing, and inventive distribution system, my friend may never have had her conversation on the banks of Hou Hai, the other side of the world from Venable and Pemberton’s Georgia pharmacies. Candler not only made money move, but the artwork of a coca-cola can.