Admit it: Most of us don't think of our ideal success story as "Work hard for 40 years and earn enough for a modest retirement." We want to hit the home run and get rich while we're still young enough to enjoy it. And most of us aren't exactly knocking ourselves out looking for our million-dollar idea -- it's more about hanging around and hoping a reality-TV producer will decide to turn our life into an even less eventful version of Jersey Shore.
Well, we have to admit that does sometimes happen. Here's your inspiration, slackers:
Sometimes, the more blatantly intelligence-insulting an idea is, the better it works. Perhaps nowhere is this as true as within the world of advertising, where the dumbest ideas can bring fame and fortune, to the point where it seems that the ad companies flat out don't give a shit about anything anymore. The good news is that you don't need to be a snazzy ad executive to get your piece of that sweet, sweet money cake. Hell, you don't even need to work.
You can even afford to eat cake that doesn't taste like retired currency.
Just ask Jason Sadler, who decided in 2009 to see if companies would pay him money to wear their T-shirts as a human billboard of sorts. He set up a website, came up with seemingly arbitrary face-value pricing for his "services" (the first day of the year costs $1, January 2 costs $2, and so forth) and set to "work." Literally the only thing he had to do was to put on a shirt when he woke up.
Sadler made $83,000 in his first year.
We guess he spent it all on people who take their shirts off for a living.
This prompted him to double the prices for 2010 -- which sold out as well, bringing in a quadruple income, as he had actually even hired another dude to work for him in the difficult trade of wearing a shirt. 2011 (also sold out) saw Sadler's IWearYourShirt.com employing four T-shirt wearers aside from himself, meaning the income should be 2009 times 10 (five wearers as opposed to one, double prices). He is now selling 2012, and unfortunately appears to have already hired this year's team of professional T-shirt wearers.
"Says here on your resume that you spent your 2012 wearing an AsianBeauties.com T-shirt. When can you start?"
Even taking into account that some of the other T-shirt wearers might work only part time, that would make his total earnings somewhere in the upper tier six figures. For wearing a shirt.
Still, at least Sadler does something for his money -- unlike Alex Tew, who set up the Million Dollar Homepage more or less as a "please give me money" joke in order to pay for his tuition. It was a simple concept: a blank slate website with a million pixels, which Tew sold for ad space at $1 a pixel. It was such a ludicrous, no-effort idea that it couldn't have possibly worked.
"Do you remember the Internet in the '90s? Yeah that, except we make money from it."
But work it did. The sheer ballsy stupidity of the plan made the Million Dollar Homepage Internet famous in no time, and Tew sold out his million pixels in under four months, actually having to auction the last 1,000 ones on eBay for the hefty sum of $38,100. The gross total of the Million Dollar Homepage earnings was $1,037,100, which left Tew with roughly $700,000 after taxes, costs and some charity donations. The site is still up, proudly displaying its advertisers as a monument to gullibility.
Websites are like women -- the best names were already gone by the mid-'90s. But unlike today's parents, who have turned to made-up words and geography in their search for good names, the Internet has turned to commerce. Domain names are a huge business, with professional investors and manuals and everything.
"Chapter One: Beginner Time Machining"
And holy shit you could have made some serious coin if you happened to jump on the train before anyone even realized there was a train. Take Chris Clark, the guy who registered the domain name Pizza.com in 1994, hoping this newfangled "Internet" thing would help his consulting company score a deal with a pizza business somehow. He ended up maintaining the domain for $20 a year for 14 years, using it as a small time advertising directory, until one day he realized that both pizza and Internet seem to be doing alright and someone might actually be interested in paying a buck or two for his domain. The second the domain name went up for auction, every pizza company in the world went apeshit and a bidding war ensued.
The man eventually netted $2.6 million.
We bet all you grad students out there are feeling pretty dumb.
That story is far from the only one. The whole reason Clark even thought to sell his domain was because a very similar chain of events took place with Vodka.com, for an even cooler $3 million. And man, we don't even want to go into the eight-figure lawsuit-riddled mess that is the history of Sex.com.
But although we're talking about a multimillion dollar business (think the gold rush, but quite a bit sadder), the biggest blows are dealt not to the wallet, but to the pride. This has been experienced by several countries, whose bureaucratic machinery has slowly figured out that they should probably have an online presence -- only to find out enterprising individuals have already registered domain names such as Russia.com, Brazil.com and Malaysia.com and are peddling them to the highest bidder.
It's probably best to claim countries that won't try to murder you in your sleep. Like Belgium.
Companies aren't any safer: A list of top-selling domain names shows us Facebook buying its shorthand fb.com for $8.5 million. That seller could have been you, if you'd thought to buy a bunch of two-letter combinations in the '90s.
Phil Ozersky, a longtime Cardinals fan, genetic researcher and caretaker of his paralyzed father, just happened to be sitting at Busch Stadium when Mark McGwire hit his 70th home run. Like everyone else who cared even vaguely about baseball at the time, he was caught up in the home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa, when bounce ... the ball that broke the record plopped from a coworker's hands into his own.
So, that's a nice souvenir, right? Maybe something to give the kids when they grow up? Ha, no. It turns out that sitting in that specific seat (out of 47,000) on that particular day meant he was about to get "You don't have to work again" money.
Which is probably just as well, because your colleague is going to poison your coffee.
Not that it was easy. At first, Ozersky was politely led into a meeting room after the game, where the Cardinals' officials (who recognized the ball's future value) tried to persuade him into handing it over. Just ... givin' it. And maaaaybe, if he was sweet, they'd give him some signed McGwire gear for his generosity. Phil Ozersky wasn't having it.
When persuasion and weak-ass bribery attempts failed, they started getting demanding and dickish, flat out denying the only thing Phil really wanted from the ball: to meet Mark McGwire in person. Think about that for a second. Phil Ozersky had a gold mine in his hands and he would have gladly handed it over to meet Mark McGwire ... a player so boring that only illegal performance enhancers could make him interesting. And if McGwire and the Cardinals had not been dicks about the whole thing, he probably would have just given the ball back to Mark for free.
Meeting a fan would have cut into his tight schedule of being red and bulgy.
Instead, Ozersky held onto the ball and later auctioned it off. For $3 million freaking dollars. More money than most of us will make in our entire lives, because a baseball landed in his lap.
He used the money to buy his dad a handicapped-accessible house and to pretty much become a philanthropist, including making generous donations to Cardinals Care, the team's community foundation. So he wasn't the only one who got lucky on that bounce, is what we're saying.
It's amazing that something so small could buy so many hot tubs filled with strippers.