Dan said to me, go to your Gmail and look at the number that’s to the right of the word “Inbox”. What does it say?
I took a look. 105,591.
Dan said, That’s the number of unread email messages you have. Not even spam messages, which goes in another folder. That’s the emails you’ve gotten from people that you actually know AND that you haven’t even opened up and read.
I already knew this. I carry that number with me everywhere, like a weight on my back.
Its Passover. So I’m one of those sweaty, slave jews carrying mud bricks on my back like in that Charlton Heston movie so that Pharaohs could have their pyramids. Those jews had a lot of work to do, if that movie was true. They had to roll around in the mud all day making bricks. All the while Egyptian soldiers are hitting them with whips. Most of the jews I know now would not be able to roll around in the mud like that. And whats with the word “jew”? Is it a bad word? Or a good word? Am I “a jew”? Or a “jewish person”?
Ok, I said to Dan. I have a lot of unread emails.
Guess what my number is, he said.
I don’t know.
Which was very impressive to me. He told me he’d been cleaning up his emails. He’d gone back four or five years and just started deleting all of the unread ones.
He’s turning 36 this weekend. Happy Birthday, Dan.
Which could mean that he has this big sense that the first half of his life is now officially over. 72 seems like a reasonably long time to live. So he wanted to clean things up. Get things down to only one unread email.
I forgot to ask him the critical question of course. What was the one email he was still keeping around unread?
Was it from me? Some late night paranoid worrying I might’ve had in 2006 that he knew even then he shouldn’t open and now that its 5 years later is neither here nor there. Whatever I was worried about then either came true in full force or had withered away on the vine like 99% of my other worries. Worries have a quick half-life.
So then I started to wonder: How come I have so many unread emails? I decided to go back to the first unread email to see what I was missing. To see how the pattern of disregard for my peers, family, friends, and colleagues all began.
Its an archaeological dig. A Mental Google Maps where you zero in on your past instead of on a geographical location. A place you got so lost from that now you need directions to find your way back.
My first of 105,631 (its gotten bigger since I spoke to Dan yesterday) unread emails is from January 7, 2005 from John Mauldin. It’s from his weekly email letter that he still sends out for free to 2mm email subscribers. Which reminds me: I need to do a post about John Mauldin at some point: the office he had in a baseball stadium near Dallas, our argument about Freakonomics and abortion, the crush I had on his daughter Tiffani, hanging out in Chicago, hanging out in La Jolla, etc. But that’s all another story. A story involving greed, despair, Frank Sinatra, Ponzi schemes, suicide, and so on.
But apparently on January 7, 2005 I completely ignored his email. Hold on a second. I’m going to read it right now.
It was titled, “Forecast 2005: The See-Saw Economy”
Here’s the critical piece of the email:
“When the next recession comes in 2007, the stock market will drop. Average drops
during a recession are 43%. The Baby Boomer generation will realize that the
stock market is not going to bail out their retirement hopes.”
Dear John, why didn’t I read that email?
It would’ve saved me some grief (assuming I would’ve then paid attention to it). Should I read your latest book that came out? Or will I wake up in the middle of the night screaming.
Gmail is an extension of our lives now. We can’t run from it. I have 105,631 emails I have to do something about. Here’s four exercises for RIGHT NOW. Do it:
A) Go back to your oldest unread email. Respond to it. I just hit reply on the John Mauldin email. “Looks like you were right”, I said.
B) Pick two random emails from 2005. Sincerely respond to them. Duncan Coker sent me a New Year’s best wishes. I just thanked him and asked him how things are going. I hope he isn’t dead or anything.
C) Select at least one email list you usually get. Filter it with “Spam” so at least you can eliminate that from now on from appearing in your unread messages number. I just got rid of an email list that was filled with negative people. Don’t need it. Spam.
D) By searching through emails from 4 or more years ago, find three things you didn’t know (or forgot) about your life. Respond to them.
By the way, Google officially announced Gmail on April 1, 2004. Here’s the press release. (Click on above link)
I wonder if they released it on April Fool’s Day on purpose. If so, what a cruel, cruel joke they've been playing on me all this time. In the press release, Sergey Brin says, "If a Google user has a problem with email, well, so do we,"
Well, Sergey, I guess you have a problem then. What do I do with these 105,633 (it went up two) unread emails? Because I have no idea. And my life is probably more than half over.
Sergey Brin has a blog that he hasn't updated in awhile.