What faith has to do with Martin Scorsese and his detachable penis

I was listening to this King Missile album today, and it has that song “Detachable Penis” on it, and that song is pretty cool because when you think about it, having a detachable penis would be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you could slip it into your pocket when dancing with a girl so it didn’t get in the way, but on the other hand, in the song, the guy wakes up and his penis is missing again. He checks the medicine cabinet and a bunch of other places and eventually goes out and finds some street vendor selling it. That would be bad. I’m glad mine is stuck where it is.

Anyway, that album also has the song “Martin Scorcese,” which is just a bunch of screaming about how Martin Scorsese MAKES THE BEST FUCKING FILMS, HE MAKES THE BEST FUCKING FILMS and the singer goes on to say all of the things he’d do to Martin Scorsese if he ever met him, like bite off his ear and spit it out in his face because HE MAKES THE BEST FUCKING FILMS and I’m not pretending that the song is kind of full of mixed messages, both for Martin and for the listener.

Anyway, that album is called One Step Ahead of the Spider, which is what got me thinking of writing this post because I kind of realized that the album title is a good metaphor for how I’ve been living my life for the past year or two.

Because as I build this online THING, I don’t have to storm my way to untold wealth, and I’m definitely not doing that quite yet. For now, I don’t have to make a zillion dollars.

I just have to make one dollar more than I’m required to spend.

I just have to stay one step ahead of the spider.

(And that’s THE spider, not “stay one step ahead of Spider,” who was this smelly toothless chess genius I once ran afoul of. Although come to think of it, it’s a good idea to stay at least one step ahead of him at all times, too.)

You may be wondering where I’m going with this. The answer is that this post kind of has a metaphysical message to it. Just you watch; I can do that starting from dick jokes. I’m that good.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that I’m foo-foo enough to believe that everything really does happen for a reason, and that when bad shit happens, it’s something from which we’re supposed to take a lesson. i.e., if I hadn’t started having panic attacks while pursuing my genetics Ph.D., I would be festering in a lab somewhere right now. So, it was a good thing. And if I hadn’t had my real estate bummer, I would never have started this blog and this business, which now accounts for 100% of my income. So, it’s a good thing. I guess.

I’ve learned a lot from the past “bad” things that have happened in my life. I’ve learned to follow my gut, to listen to my mother, and to make my income through my talents rather than through what feels like easy money (real estate, ahem). I’ve learned, to some degree, which risks are worth taking and which are not.

What I haven’t learned yet is true faith.

(And by “true faith,” I mean faith that is true and real and whole and honest. I’m not talking about that New Order song “True Faith,” because I actually know that pretty well. It’s the one that goes, “I used to think that the day would never come, something something filet of the morning sun” and had much less of a Joy Division feel than their hits back when they were Joy Division and eschewed such traditional concepts as “hits.”)

Anyway, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I try to have faith about things that seem uncertain, but part of me just won’t listen. So life keeps kicking me in the nuts until I figure it out. Until I accept that whatever problems arise, they will be handled.

Until I learn to see seemingly insurmountable obstacles arise and instead of saying, “Oh, shit,” to instead say, “I’m going to enjoy the ride.”

Now, I imagine some of you may be reading this and thinking, That’s not how things work for me. All of your talk of income and faith and problems resolving as if by magic? Yeah, that doesn’t happen.

Well, maybe that’s not what you’re supposed to be learning right now: Faith about money.

Or, maybe you’re knuckling under and spending all of your time worrying and fretting, instead of trusting and continuing to place one foot in front of the other. You won’t learn the faith lesson that way for sure.

Or maybe I’m the crazy one, yammering on and on about Martin Scorsese and his detachable penis.

But all I know is that despite the fact that things feel like they’re going well, I keep getting interesting… challenges… thrown at me. I’ve already tossed a lot of money down the real estate sinkhole this month, and today was supposed to bring a check for late rents of just over $1000. It was under $400. I have $1000 in insurance due in a few days, and other things due, and I’m tapped out.

But I’m not going to sweat it. Not this time. Because this has happened like twenty times in the past few months, and I know exactly what will happen.

The money will appear. Because what I’m supposed to be learning right now is to have faith.

If this has gotten too metaphysical for you, I won’t be offended if you call me a hippie douchebag and then leave.

But yeah, that’s my thing. Faith. Another thing you could call it is living by your wits. Something always falls out of the sky in front of me, or some solution presents itself. Quite often, money I’m expecting in the future shows up early. I then have the time between now and when that money was supposed to show up to earn the difference. Somehow, I always do. Like, in ways I couldn’t predict ahead of time. I can’t count the number of times that exactly the right unexpected job has plopped onto my desk at exactly the right time, worth exactly the right amount of money.

The thing is, if you can let go of the fear and the worry — i.e. if you can just have some faith for once — it’s one hell of a ride. It feels kind of like speeding along a curving road in the dark without the high beams on, turning this way and that with only the slightest inkling of whether or not the road continues in the direction you’ve turned.

It’s kind of like stepping out onto a bridge that you have no tangible reason to believe is actually there.

It’s kind of like saying to the world, “Okay, I’m not going to raise my hands to block this time. Instead, I’m going to trust that you’re not going to hit me in the face.”

I realize how this sounds. It sounds borderline irresponsible. My dad lives in Philadelphia, and after a break-in in his building, he wanted to buy a gun. Then he thought, Do I really want to live that way? Do I really want to live in fear? Or do I want to trust that what’s supposed to happen will happen?

And so some of you are saying, Get the fucking gun. You don’t have to use it. Just get it and have it.

But see, if you get the gun, you’re not having faith. That’s like saying that yeah, I totally, totally, totally trust my kids not to drive the Lexus, but I’m still hiding the keys. If you hide the keys, you don’t trust your kids. And if you buy the gun, you don’t have faith.

Faith is about belief in the absence of any reason to believe. It’s about not gathering proof and evidence. It’s about not having a backup plan. It’s about operating without a net. The irony is that the minute you have any reason to have faith, it’s not faith.

The only way to have faith is to choose to have it. The only way to work without a net is to trust that you will never really fall.

I have three days. I need around two thousand dollars.

Now just you fucking watch what happens.


  1. Mynde says:

    I’m really enjoying getting to know you better… if that’s what this is (reading blog posts and following your tweet updates).

    This topic is particularly poignant, mostly because I like to make everything about me. Well, I’m trying to get over that actually, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s always nice, and cool, and reassuring, and validating to know there are other metaphysical hippie douche bags like me in the world… walking their talk.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s an excellent reminder and one that I needed (and enjoyed reading) very much this day.

    I will be watching you… even though I think we both already know how the end of the story goes. Faith. I already see it for and with you. Faith. No evidence. Just some tweets and a blog post. Faith. Make sure and be really f’ing happy too, while you’re at it. Just sweetens the deal 🙂


  2. Fabian says:

    With true faith or without, you seem like the perfect hippie douchebag guy to stay one step ahead of (the) Spider for sure. The lessons you learned in the past will do their job, as will the work you do every day. And although 2k seems like an amount too big for me at the moment to even get it within four months, I´m really positive you´ll make it.

  3. Fabian says:

    Oh, and that “hippie douchebag” was striked… seems like the good ol´ “s”-tag doesn´t work in here…

  4. Mary says:

    Literally, just the other day I asked my husband if you can have faith if you don’t believe in God. I grew up a Catholic, but now consider myself agnostic, and this faith question didn’t really dawn on me until now because we’re in a vortex of tough spots lately. (Car broke down, dryer broke down, Hubby looking for work, rotten fall weather, etc.)

    Hubby, in all his infinite wisdom, said, “Of course you can have faith without believing in God. You just have faith in other human beings. God is simply a manifestation of what humans believe God is.” Sounds so easy put that way.

    Still, it can be difficult not to slip into panic. When that happens, I try to distance myself from the situation through distraction or by talking to someone. And I remember all the other tough spots we’ve gotten through in the past.

  5. Anne says:

    Okay, got to admit the title threw me.

    Great post though Johnny! The best part was when you said you learned to listen to your mother. Yes! All mothers everywhere are shouting “yes!” (Well, at least I am.)

    You are so right…my husband is a building contractor and I can’t tell you the number of times we have faced situations where many people would have just thrown in the towel and filed bankruptcy. I’m talking $90,000-in-debt-and-no -money kind of situations. Several times.

    And this year has been a bust so far too. I don’t even WANT to know how much money we owe. In a way it’s because I don’t care because I know that somehow it will work out. If I end up living with my kids in 20 years, so be it (hey, I had four so at least one of them should be able to pony up – or maybe I’ll spend 25% of the year at each of their houses – or my son who hopes to be a professional golfer will really make it and he’ll build me that beach house he’s promised me…but I digress.)

    Anyway, good for you. You’ll make it.

    BTW, a PHD in Genetics? Like seriously, dude?

    Well, that would’ve been cool if you had wanted it. My daughter has a Master’s degree in (get this) Forensic Drug Chemistry. Now, does that sound cool or what? It is except, she can’t get a damn job. Oh well, that’s another story…

    Anne @alivenkickin

  6. John says:

    Hey Johnny,
    I’ve run into you a while ago (online) and again, just recently, where I spent some time on your site getting to know what you’re all about and subscribed to your feed. I’m REALLY bad (hopefully will get better) at commenting on the millions – (maybe not that many, but it feels like it) of blog post I read – I know there’s a word for me in the blogosphere. But your candid and close-to-home post struck a cord with me, enough to get me off my ass and let you know. I’m in a similar situation with a very similar way of looking at things. You’re doing exactly the right thing, well at least the thing that has worked for me, by putting it out there, into the universe, and have the faith to let the universe do it’s magic and take care of ya.
    Funny enough, I’ve been thinking of ways I could work with you and giving my clients (future clients) more of a one-stop service type of deal. But for now, I’ll just send good energy your way.
    Keep the faith, man.

  7. Jess says:

    “Beliefs can be powerful servants, but they make terrifying masters.” – Mai Tzu

  8. Vicki says:

    I loved this post! You are not only developing faith, but trust in yourself. You’ve proven over and over that you can and will do whatever it takes. Now you believe it.
    I’m still working on this daily. I have so much more trust and faith that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes I just am not privy to what it’s supposed to look like!
    Can’t wait to hear how things turn out. I know there will be an entertaining and thought provoking story to go with it.
    You rock!

  9. Johnny says:

    Thanks, everyone! And yes, I really was going for a genetics Ph.D. But that’s okay because now I’m working with a laser physicist. We scientific types have to stick together and tell dick jokes.

    Remember, there is no spoon.

  10. Justin says:

    I’m a performance artist learning to make this online business shit work for people in my field. I’m nearly $2000 in the hole on a show I’m doing in three weeks. I have no idea if the audience will be large enough to pay for the show. AND I currently make about $1000 per month, total, from my single income.

    So I’m fucked if the show doesn’t pull through.

    But I’m right there with you, bro. I’m convinced the show will sell out. I’m convinced I’ll be able to use the funds from the show to create a business for artists like myself to benefit from. I’m convinced that it will replace the very-poorly-paying job I have right now.

    It’s specifically because of reading posts like this, from you, from Naomi, from Havi and the whole Real Online Business gang (as opposed to the charlatans). My whole attitude is one of triumph rather than despair. You’re part of that.

    So thanks, Johnny. Keep it up and let us know how things pan out.


  11. Beth Warren says:

    Great post!

    I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason”.. including today being the day I read this particular post… 😉

    The universe is continually conspiring on our behalf.. if we have the faith to believe that our needs and wants will be met when we’re ready.. they will be.

    You’ll get your money.. I have faith.

  12. Susan says:

    This was interesting to read. I’ve come to the conclusion that even though things can really suck wind, they settle out as they should. Interesting to read you feel the same – your writing lead me to believe you were more hard-charging control freak.

    And that’s not a criticism. I’ve been known to be the same way. Kinda. Maybe just a few people have said so. Ahem.

    Interesting also to read your entry of frustration from earlier in the year. Awesome to see how far you’ve come!

  13. kate says:

    i now have that song stuck in my head, haven’t decided if it’s annoying or not yet – time will tell.

    I like this post a lot – it’s so scary to put this stuff out there, and yet, when you do – those of us who lurk can’t help ourselves from commenting and telling you we love what you are writing!

    you struck a big huge cord with me.

    thanks for that…

  14. Johnny says:

    I’m pleased that so many people seem to agree. Although it’s possible that those who don’t agree are stewing quietly, getting all irritated and curmudgeony.

    Justin, the thing to keep in mind is that even if your show doesn’t come through, it won’t matter because something else will. Or nothing will, and you’re thinking right now that you’re fucked, but it’ll ultimately be a great thing that you’ll be thankful for down the road.

    Seems like so many times, what I think has to happen to solve something isn’t what actually ends up solving it… or even making it irrelevant.

  15. ryan says:

    I’m all about the faith. my wife calls it niavity, and sometimes a tend to agree with her. more often than not, though, it just works for me.

    I do feel like you’ve given me a clearer picture of it, though. for me it was more like luck, but i think i’ve been looking at it wrong.

    that being said, though, 2 grand in 3 days is fucking crazy. did you manage to make it?

  16. Johnny says:

    $1044 in new work that paid immediately.
    $522 in payments due that arrived early

    = $1566 total…

    … and my 3-day deadline got extended by another few.

    There is no spoon.

  17. Jackie says:

    Perfect timing… I need $4000 in the next 10 days. One minute I know I can get it… next I feel sick with worry. Now I will just have faith!!!

  18. Anne says:

    Johnny, I am totally lost on the “spoon” metaphor.

    Anne @alivenkickin

  19. Johnny says:

    Anne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzm8kTIj_0M

    By this point in the movie, it’s already been established that “the world as we know it” is all bullshit, and that “the real world” exists unseen beneath it.

  20. Casey says:

    Don’t lie and say you are not running round the house in your PJs and Aviators blasting George Michael’s “Faith”…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSvHpvHFXU0

  21. Tyler Prete says:

    So I assume you don’t lock your door either? And women with fistula in Africa after being raped repeatedly as a child have it because it was meant to happen? No offense man, and I understand relaxing and dealing with life as it happens, but “what happens is meant to happen” is an excuse for being lazy. Why help people if what happens to them is meant to happen? You wouldn’t want to interrupt their lesson.

    And to Susan, who said this:
    “I’ve come to the conclusion that even though things can really suck wind, they settle out as they should.”
    Once again, would you say the same to those women in Africa with fistula? And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fistula. Anyway, would you say that to her? It will all work out as it should? I’m guessing no, which means this is nothing more than well-off people talking about how great it is to be well-off, and is frankly rather insulting to those who weren’t lucky enough to be born in your circumstances.

    “Or nothing will, and you’re thinking right now that you’re fucked, but it’ll ultimately be a great thing that you’ll be thankful for down the road.”
    No doubt the little girl in my neighborhood who was recently raped and killed feels the same way. I’m sure her family will come to see that it was what was best.

    Face it, shit happens, and unless the universe is a cruel and sadistic bitch, it’s hard to keep a straight face saying it all “was meant to happen.”

    My advice is to focus on the positive, by all means, but don’t pretend the negative doesn’t exist. Save money for emergencies, get health insurance, and lock your doors. And if your neighborhood is really dangerous, move or buy a gun. As the old saying goes, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”

  22. Susan says:

    You’re making a massive leap by taking a discussion from the context of stressing yourself out over running your own business to social issues elsewhere in the world. I don’t believe anyone was saying that “what will be will be” applied to all facets of their outlook on the world – just to the particular situation of feast-or-famine when you work for yourself. I have no idea how you got from point A to point B on that one.

  23. Tyler Prete says:

    Susan, there is nothing magically different between running your own business and the rest of your life. My point is this: If you are living a life of faith, and can still get fucked over, then when you are running a business by faith, you can still get fucked over.

  24. Tyler Prete says:

    I’d like to apologize for my tone. I had been reading some shitty news, and definitely came off too strong. That said, I still stand by my point. I think your approach of not worrying about it is the right one, but I disagree with your rational. To me, It’s not a matter of having faith, it’s a matter of realizing it’s only money anyway, and that even if it went wrong, your life wouldn’t change that much for the worse. Hell, even if you lost your house, you still don’t have fistula. It’s more a matter of detachment, to me. Realizing that you aren’t your business.

  25. Johnny says:

    Okay, couple of things:

    1. I wasn’t offended by your tone.

    2. I won’t try to argue faith… no real point.

    3. But, that said, I think there’s more to this. Any argument that things happen for a reason can definitely be a cop-out. It’s fatalistic, and leaves people with a great excuse for not doing shit. I could come up with a 1000 words on this, but let’s just say that I think we agree in spirit on some points and that I also agree with that aphorism, even though I’ve heard it somewhat differently: “Have faith in God, but tie up your camels.” There’s definitely a line where faith stops and stupidity begins. Just don’t ask me where that line is.

  26. Anne says:


    Just want to add, for myself, how much I respect your concern and the points you brought up. I agree with Johnny totally on not stressing out about business or money because frankly, in the big picture that stuff will work out and like you say, so what if you lose your house? Yeh, it sucks. But compared to losing a loved one?

    I made a point about this in a comment to another post Johnny wrote. I learned the hard way how little what you have in the bank really matters. For starters, 12 years ago my brother was killed by a drunk driver. I can tell you that put me in a tailspin that lasted for years. Two years ago my 19-year old niece was killed in a traffic accident. If I could have traded places with her I would have in a heartbeat.

    That is the kind of crap that teaches you how little the stuff we stress out about matters. I have still not been able to deal with losing my niece and it doesn’t help that my dad died last year from cancer.

    When you bring up the situation with the women in Africa, I am with you. I have seen the documentaries and it is heart-wrenching. Moreover, we have women and girls all over the world – and yes, here in the U.S. too – that are being held as sex-slaves. There are certainly a lot more important things to get upset about than whether our 401K is robust.

    That said, yes – get life insurance, save money, work hard. I too took issue with Johnny’s comment about his dad getting a gun. If he wants or feels he needs a gun, by all means. Thank God we still have that right. It’s really not about faith, except maybe whether or not we will have faith that everyone out there means us only good and not harm. I lock and latch my doors. I want my kids to call me when they’re out so I know they are okay. Because the fact is, bad stuff does happen, something I know only too well.

    When you say, ” it’s a matter of realizing it’s only money anyway.” – you hit the nail on the head, and I’m pretty sure Johnny would agree with that.

    Anne @alivenkickin

  27. Tyler Prete says:


    After you response, I also feel we agree in spirit on some (perhaps most) things being discussed here. I agree with your comment about the line between faith and stupidity, and how difficult it is to define. And I have to give you that you must have some degree of faith to even bother starting a business: if you have no confidence at all in success, why would you even try? But lean too much the other way and you get The Secret, and while I now see that you’re not espousing that belief, I was probably reacting to that idea.

    The gun comment, however, I still find interesting. While I don’t own a gun, nor feel the need to, and I actually have misgivings about people buying guns purely out of fear (a reactive response), I believe that the option to own one is a good one.

    Thank you for the nice words, and my heart goes out to you for what you’ve gone through. Bad things happen all the time, as you know, but I find hope in people that are working to make things better.

  28. Awesome post!
    I thought I was the only one who remembers King Missile.
    I just discovered your blog. It’s oh-so-very entertaining, so I do believe that I need to subscribe to your rss.

  29. Johnny says:

    I kind of read that as “I need to subscribe to your ass,” which is actually pretty cool.

  30. I really don’t know that there’s much point in adding to a conversation that finished so long ago but for some reason I feel the need to write something.

    Johnny, I like your writing, I’ll be following your blog now that I’ve found it and I hope that since I’m beginning from a point in the past things will have worked out a bit better for you by now. Faith in yourself and the universe is necessary, otherwise none of us would get out of bed.

    Anne and Tyler, We all know that many people who had more now have less, many people who had little now have nothing at all. The big picture is always there but I don’t think any of us would really object to Johnny focusing on his immediate reality, especially when he is doing everything he can to improve it and inspiring others to do the same.
    I’m surprised to read a blog on writing/online business and discover comments about guns. In Scotland hand guns are illegal regardless of why you might feel the need to purchase one. I’m afraid it seems fairly horrible to me that you agree that people should be able to choose to own something that exists to kill other people. I can’t get my head around that idea.
    Anyway, if either of you wishes to argue with a man who really has missed out on the big picture, try googling ‘proofreaders’. There’s a blogger on your side of the Atlantic who really does get ridiculously upset at spelling mistakes. He could really use a reminder that there’s a great big world out there.

  31. Johnny says:

    Ah, yes… that’s what I like most about this post. I wrote it when things were kind of ugly, knowing they’d get better and work out fine. And that’s exactly what happened.

  32. think graphic says:

    believe, believe and prepare to receive.


  33. GAh. Dude. You. Are. Awesome.

    Love your style, your vibe, your subject matter, and LOVE THAT YOU KNOW “DETACHABLE PENIS” – what a weird, wacked-out track from wayback, and what a weirder way to tie it in to faith.


    I feel very much on the same page. I trust your trust. Rock on.

  34. Haider says:

    Johnny, I strongly disagree with this post (in theory), and wholeheartedly agree with it (in practice).

    I quit my job just under a year ago, and every time I run short on money, something totally unexpected happens that brings me back to the safe zone.

    Looking back on my decision to quit my job, I’d say it was a dumb move, and I should’ve waited until I had a stable income stream. Looking at how my life is turning out right now (and how benevolent the universe seems to be), I can only smile and enjoy what life has to throw my way.

  35. Johnny says:

    @Jason – Yeah, that’s how my mind works. It doesn’t make a lot of sense all the time, but since I was doing One Step Ahead of the Spider, “Detachable Penis” wasn’t far behind.

    @Haider – Actually sounds to me like you DO agree. What is it in particular that you don’t agree with, in theory?

  36. Haider says:

    Yes, I do agree with you, but it seems like an insane thing to believe in (in theory).

    You wouldn’t tell someone to quit their job even if they don’t have a backup plan. Doesn’t sound like sound advice (again, in theory). But it seems, from experience, more often than not, things do take care of themselves. Last month I got a money transfer and I still have no clue where that money came from. But it helped a lot. 🙂

  37. Johnny says:

    Oh, I totally agree. When people seem to be asking if they should take a leap or quit a job, I completely hedge my response with lots of “it depends” and “well, think about it.” The funny thing is that my partner in Question the Rules (http://QuestionTheRules.com), Lee Stranahan, has zero such issues and pretty much just says, “Yes, quit the job.” Ha!


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