The Value Of Nothing

By Phil La Duke

We live in a post-Napster world where everything on the internet is believed to be free, or at very least that it should be free. It’s easy to blame lazy, self-centered, shiftless Millenials for this, but what then of lazy, self-centered, shiftless Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers? Everyone shares the blame of the lowering of the collective IQ of the blogosphere, and it’s because we place no value on something we get for free.

I’m as guilty as anyone of this. In this crap made in China world why have electronics repaired when it’s cheaper to through it out and buy a new one.  The less we pay for something the less we value it.

So what value do we place on safety advice given to us for free? Zero, zip, nil. Recently someone published an article I wrote, word for word (except for an opening paragraph advertising their crappy webinars. I sicked the lawyers from Entrepreneur on them, but the point remains that plagiarism isn’t even seen as wrong anymore.

One of the reasons I quit my writing this blog is that people don’t place any value on it. Maybe it’s not any good, but maybe that’s because it’s free. It’s not just free of cost, but it’s also free of corporate sponsorship, it’s free of an evangelical safety agenda, (although everyone who disagrees with my posts likely doubts that statement), it’s free of ads (one fellow blogger recommended a service that would increase my hits and therefore increase my nonexistent Google revenue), and mostly it’s been free of fear—fear of the violence the impotent goofballs who send me threatening emails (nice to see a safety professional threatening to kills someone), fear that people will read my work and not want to do business with me, or even fear that I might lose my jobs—hell if quit better jobs than this. Would I like it if someone read my blog and hired me to help improve safety at his or her organization? Absolutely, but apart from the odd speech here and there the closest I have come to deriving real business from this blog is having people want me to meet me, which I enjoy doing, but sometimes I feel I am being treated like a carnival geek.  You can’t imagine how many people are disappointed that I am not a ragging asshole when they meet me.

And because my blog is unequivocally free it is also unequivocally devalued. How do I know it’s devalued? In several ways.  When the National Safety Council blackballed me I asked my readers to email the organizers to explain why.  I was told that even though my evaluations were in the top half of the presentations, they were in the bottom of the top half.  Bear in mind that section on my performance and knowledge of the subject matter were always excellent the topics generally scored poorly.   These topics were selected by the NSC not me.  Not one person emailed the NSC leading me to believe that my blog was not even worth the 16 seconds it would have taken to support me.

On another occasion my ex-wife was found dead. She was destitute and my two daughters (both college students with minimum wage jobs) were left with the burden of claiming the body, making funeral arrangements, beyond all else raising a $3000 to have a funeral.  My in-laws started a Go-Fund me campaign and so I posted a link on this blog (since removed) reasoning that maybe, just maybe, someone who had found value in one post, or had been helped or encouraged might find it in themselves to donate $5 as sort of a gratuity for my ten years of writing this blog.  Of the thousands of you who read it not a single one donated even a single cent.  Not a single penny. My help, it would seem has not value. Don’t worry, me, my family and my Facebook friends picked up the slack and we barely made it.

What did I expect? Free equals valueless, and I don’t do this for the money, I certainly don’t do it for the fame—I get over 2.8 million readers from my Entrepreneur articles twice a week and frankly nobody threatens to kill me—and if I wanted to be famous for something it wouldn’t be

So why do I do this? Because maybe, just maybe I can change a single mind, improve a single practice, and even save a single life.

I want you think about this when you offer suggestions to your organizations about how to make the workplace safer, even though you collect a salary your advice is free to them and while they may thank you to your face, you advice will always be worthless.

So I am back writing this, but I am coming back with my eyes wide open knowing that I can count on each and every one of you for exactly nothing. I have asked people  to share the blog with others tweet it, post it on LinkedIn, and only a few true friends have ever made the effort. So read away, contribute nothing, and know that your reading means nothing to me.