I'm not saying that I've given up on the new economy. Nope. No way. Absolutely not. I'm not one of those "Stock-market Johnnies" who turn tail and run at the first sign of a crash, um, market correction. I'm still a card-carrying member of Free Agent Nation. I still want to create my own brand, buy a URL, corner the market in stock options for some obscure dotcom, and become fluent in new-economy-speak. n But these days, you can't be too careful. It may well turn out that "after further review" (as they say in the NFL), the new economy will start to look a whole lot more like the old economy. At a minimum, there is something to be said for having a foot in both camps. I have friends in the new economy, I have friends in the old economy, and I always stick with my friends.
I've noticed lately that for all the talk about dead-tree media being dead, a lot of people are still making a lot of dough writing ink-on-paper books on how to win in the new, post-paper economy. That only convinces me that the new new thing is really an old old thing: Having a best-seller is still a great way to gain legitimacy. Plus, bird-in-the-hand royalties still beat stock options any day.
Since jumping on the bandwagon is what I do best, I've decided to come up with a triple threat: a real, live, ink-on-paper book that features some homespun wisdom and that explains the new economy so that people can make a ton of money. (I figure that promising to tell you how to get rich is the fastest way for me to get rich.) I want the book to be so simplistic that readers instantly mistake it for a brilliant work.
Therefore, I present "All I Really Need to Know About the New Economy I Learned in the Summer Before My Freshman Year (10 Rules for Clueless People, Plus an 11th Rule for Newbies)."
1. Eventually, the people who have given you money (your parents, your investors, your bookie) will lose patience with talk about "finding yourself" — and will demand a return on their investment.
2. The smartest person in your most difficult class will be from a foreign country. This also holds true for your future cubicle mates.
3. Don't confuse computer geeks with couch potatoes. Although they may both sit on their butts all day and speak in monosyllables, that's where the similarity ends.
4. Youth, beauty, and brainless enthusiasm will trump age and wisdom every time. Even so, remember: That poetry-philosophy-photography journal that seemed like such a terrific idea at 4 am won't earn you a dime.
5. bo quickly loses its bohemian charm. The more popular you get, the more you will be expected to have good hygiene.
6. The Net routes around greed, but it runs smack into stupidity. You will encounter this lesson in class — and later in life, when you work for an idiot.
7. Getting in good with the guy who knows where all of the parties are is more important than any one party. Take this to heart, and you'll make big bucks.
8. Changing your business model is like changing your major: Everyone does it once. People who do it twice look as if they're not afraid to change course in midstream. People who do it three times look as if they don't know what they're doing. People who do it with brain-numbing regularity are called "eccentric geniuses" — except by the people who gave them money.
9. Be nice to everyone on your way up, because you never know whom you're going to meet on your way down. (This is actually a bit of advice that I scammed by renting the movie Annie. It comes, I believe, from Daddy Warbucks.)
10. You can be the kind of person who gets her papers in on time, or the kind who waits for her options to vest. You cannot be both.
11. Money talks; the rest walk.
This is the latest episode in the spy's continuing saga, "working behind enemy lines." You can find the entire spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).
A version of this article appeared in the September 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.