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Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, and Intellectual Strategy

1 min

In 1836, when his Twitter profile still showed nothing but some obscure username and the face of a Roman statue, Ralph Waldo Emerson published a badass blog post called Nature. The day before he clicked "post," he setup a private chat forum called the Transcendentalist, which he hosted on a web service called Discord. He was only a mediocre Harvard graduate recently resigned from his position as minister of Boston's Second Church. He resigned from that role a few years earlier, in 1832, to begin a new career in livestreaming. Back then they called it lecturing.

To this day, most people still don't realize that lecturing is a career you can begin whenever you feel like it, despite having no past accomplishments, no published books, no agent, and no institutional affiliation. Emerson had some haters who said he'd never pull it off; to them he said, "Hold my beer, normies!" And with that he shared a link to his Nature post on Twitter and let's just say it got a lot of retweets. A year later he gave a private livestream to the Phi Beta Kappa society, an address we now know as The American Scholar.

In The American Scholar, one of Emerson's basic messages was this: "You're all a bunch of degenerate sheeple who spend too much time on bureaucratic nonsense. If you wish to be an intellectual, you are accountable to nobody but the clear blue sky, so quit being such a big bunch of pussies and get after it. Oh and party at my house in Concord!"

From there, he was off to the races and never looked back. He would spend the rest of his life doing public lectures, converting these lectures to written essays, and then selling books, which were typically just collections of his essays.

Hat tip to Jonathan Havercroft for reminding me about the Emerson production model. The Portable Emerson contains all of the works mentioned, as well as a nice short biography.


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