Do You Have A Scheme Or A Theme?


When I met with Bernie Madoff to see if he would put money into my hedge fund, I had no idea he had a scheme.

Everyone said later, “We always knew.” But on the way to the meeting, those same people were calling me and saying, “ask him if we could invest.”

They would deny it now of course. Not because they lie or they are bad (who can judge another?) but maybe they now keep secrets from themselves or maybe they are afraid. We are all afraid sometimes.

Like when we meet the girl and tell of our accomplishments but leave out the time our hand went through a window in an argument with a very similar girl.

When I left Madoff’s office, I was depressed. “How can I ever raise money with men like Madoff around?”

I didn’t have a theme then. I had my own scheme. To raise money. So I could feed my family. So I could live. So I could have significance among my friends. So they could beg to invest with me. So maybe other women would love me. So maybe I could live in a bigger place. Or have bigger friends.

I didn’t know what a theme was. I just felt fear all the time.

Where is the food? Where is the affection? Every barter had fear hidden inside of it.

Think of it. Yesterday, you were a spy. What secrets of the universe did you withhold from the people around you?

The other day, my 15-year-old said “bullshit” for me for the first time. “What the heck?” I said and I laughed at her.

She said, “It’s not always, ‘There’s a good reason and a real reason,’ or whatever bullshit you always say.”

What the hell? “Of course there is,” I told her. But I framed her “bullshit” in my heart.

You graduate from schemes to themes when you have a vision that helps people.

“I have a new method that will help people make money.”

“I have a new way for people to share information with friends.”

“I have a way to feed millions of people and build schools for them.”

“I have a new method for helping people be healthy or loved.”

“I have a new way to make people laugh.”

“I have new ways to help people realize their own visions. To lead their own businesses. To turn ideas into money into charity.”

“I have a new way for two, three, ten people to connect and share and help each other.”

We were each handed out two eyes and then shot like a bullet into the world. Our only job: to report back what we see. Each eye is unique. Each vision is unique.

A vision is giving because we only create value for ourselves when we create more value for others. Else it’s a scheme.

A vision is large. Else it falls back into the market, everyone selling the same commodities back and forth to each other just so they can live one more day.

A vision excites others. Because they have their own visions and you can trigger a spark that lets them set their vision on fire with yours.

A vision doesn’t worry about money or love. Those are byproducts of vision. When you can feed the herd, trust that the herd will feed you back.

I’ve had themes and I’ve had schemes. When you work with a scheme you are constantly worried they will figure you out.

When I’ve worked on things I really believe in, visions that have the attributes above, there is no sense of worry, no sense that I have to get on and get out as quickly as possible.

When I was working on my first successful business I felt like everyone needed to have their own websites. I wanted everyone in the world to have one. I would do websites for free for billion dollar companies because I wanted them to have one. That gave me up to 1000 employees until the theme turned into a scheme like many themes do.

Themes need to change because what we see in the world around us changes. Every day we wake up and the sun is rising and there are either clouds or no clouds, good weather or bad. You have to dress for the weather based on what you see.

Is this a rant or a story? I don’t know.

One time I was on a date. The girl got a call in the middle of the date. She took the call right in front of me, in the middle of dinner.

“I’m on a date with that guy I told you about,” she said. Then she listened. Then she said, “I don’t know. At first I thought he was ugly but now I don’t think so anymore.”

Then I moved to sit down side by side with her.

That’s a story. And it didn’t end well.

I believe everyone has a vision. The sky is always blue, even if the clouds seem perpetually in front of it, blocking you from that blue.

Trust that when you you live by a theme, you choose yourself, you get super powers, and then you help others choose themselves.

Then you can finally see the vast blue, stretched out into infinity that you can paint on. Turn your scheme into a theme.

At first you were ugly. Then I thought you were beautiful.