Other People's Property
The risks & rewards inherent in renting and owning
“How can you build on such a quicksand?” — Arthur Conan Doyle, 1904
The White House, sometimes called “The People’s House,” is the most well-known piece of public housing in the world.
And it’s a powerful reminder that we don’t always control where we live or do business.
Every four or eight years, the occupant of the White House is required to move out. And just like that, the permanent staff goes into a whirl to prepare the residence for a new president.
It was 214 years ago this week — on August 24, 1814 — that the British army, laying siege to Washington, DC, set the White House on fire.
It seems apt timing then, that late last week, OnlyFans made an announcement that rocked the world of creators. The site, known as a platform for those who create a variety of sexual content for their fans and viewers, abruptly announced they would ban explicit content.
Since many adult actors turned to the site during the pandemic, it became a break-out success. But OnlyFans says the banks that back the payment systems on the site object to the content — particularly because user-generated content has not been independently verified and can contain material related to sex trafficking.
The point is this: when you rely on someone else’s platform for your livelihood, you may find your destiny is not in your own control.
“Don’t build your house on rented land,” as they say.
In this case, the content creators don’t control the platform on which their content is hosted. And to add another layer, the platform doesn’t control the payment system.
While it’s not impossible to get around such an arrangement, neither is it easy.
Creators of any kind can take control by owning their own land. That is, they can create their own domain or website. They can host an audio show on a platform that gives them the ability to determine where to distribute the program.
When it comes to payment systems, we’re beginning to see the emergence of players in cryptocurrency such as Rally that allow creators to benefit from 100% of the money that changes hands. [Disclosure: I own the Timeless Coin ($MONTY) on Rally. Check out my coin for benefits that accrue to holders.]
To Rent or to Own?
There have always been trade-offs to renting versus owning.
When a theologian renting from ninth-century Islamic philosopher al-Kindi hosted two cousins for a month-long visit, the landlord increased the rent proportionally. His reasoning: a dwelling has a “limited existence.” A tenant enjoys this without the burden of ownership, then leaves the space “a dung heap and in dilapidation, only repairable at grievous expense.” 1
Being active on social media means you need to follow someone else’s rules and that without warning, they can shut down and leave you stranded. Users can accrue huge followings on social media if they’re willing to take that risk.
Email newsletters, while typically smaller in size than social media followings, allow you to have direct relationships with your audience — and if you decide to change email service providers, you can take them with you.
The presidency itself is a job with 100% turnover. The troubles of the world are his for the duration of his term in office, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The officeholder receives a nominal salary, public housing, an airplane, a country estate, and an executive chef — all of which he relinquishes upon leaving office.
But those troubles and those perks give the jobholder the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of millions of people. More than most private-sector jobs could.
Risks and rewards abound at every level.
As with anything in life, you’ll be judged by what you do with your time and talent.
You just need to decide where you’re going to spend it.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
Be sure to read the follow-up essay on scarcity and abundance (“Creating a Home”) and how it applies to work and life. If you become a Premium Member, you’ll be rewarded with additional content each week — and you even get a chance to try it for free 👇