If you’re willing to share your two cents’ worth, Dan Ross is willing to pay you a dollar for it.
Ross, a 28-year-old Qualicum Beach writer and publisher, is planning to publish a book titled The One Dollar Consult. In it, he intends to share the accumulated life advice of residents throughout Canada, and is willing to pay for the privilege.
Ross launched his project last week in his hometown, strolling the downtown streets and offering incredulous pedestrians a dollar for their best piece of advice.
“I think they’re taken aback a little,” Ross said of his random sidewalk subjects. “Most of the time people come up to you on the street, they’re asking for money.”
During several laps of one block Thursday, Ross received a range of reactions, from those who thought it was a unique idea and wished him luck to others who thought the concept was, well, loony.
“One of the main reasons I’m doing this is because I’ve been isolating myself since about the time I turned 20,” said Ross, who grew up in Surrey and who lived for a time in Montreal before moving to Qualicum Beach three years ago. “I thought this would be a good way of getting out and talking to people again, meeting strangers, and learning that it’s OK to be rejected sometimes.”
The idea, Ross said, came to him one night as he was about to fall asleep.
“I thought about it, then I fell asleep,” he said. “A few days later I remembered it and talked to a friend who said I should go for it. Then I created the website.”
Ross’s blog, www.theonedollarconsult.com, contains contact information, background on his project and links to both his Twitter feed — where people may contribute their advice online — and to his Kickstarter campaign, an online, crowd-funding platform through which he hopes to finance a cross-country bus trip beginning in January.
For now, he is funding his $1 advice payouts from his own pocket, but he admits the financial stakes will go up when he hits the road for what will be a two- or three-month winter excursion across Canada.
“If the Kickstarter succeeds, it’ll be no problem,” Ross said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll probably have to put the trip on my credit card. Either way, I think it’ll be worth it. I haven’t travelled much; it will be a great way to see the country and meet the people.”
Ross put one of his first pieces of advice to practical use after his initial attempt at street solicitation bombed spectacularly Oct. 17.
“It was a total failure,” he said. “The first time I tried this I wasn’t dressed very nice. I bought some clothes because that’s what my dad told me I should do.”
Other lessons presented themselves early in the project. While some friends suggested he should set up a table and let people come to him, Ross realized that would be impractical on his road trip and chose to test the street solicitation approach before leaving home. He also rejected his original idea to ask people for two minutes of their time, in favour of the quick hitting, “Excuse me, can I pay you a dollar for your favourite piece of life advice?”
And he found that soliciting on a rainy day netted few willing subjects.
“When it’s raining, people are pretty dead-set on getting where they’re going,” he said.
Dressed in khaki slacks and a collared shirt with a pullover sweater, his reddish beard neatly trimmed, Ross had better luck on an idyllic autumn afternoon last Thursday. As red and orange maple leaves tumbled from an azure sky, he strolled the sidewalk, asking individuals if he could pay them for their advice.
“Never get married,” Jon Hyslop of Qualicum Beach said with a laugh. As Ross flipped open a thin binder and began writing, Hyslop reconsidered.
“That’s not very good,” he said. “How about, don’t take life too seriously. You only get one kick at the can; make it a good kick.”
Several people offered Ross one-liners in a similar vein, then pocketed the loonie he handed over. Others shared their advice and waved away the dollar, which Ross said he would donate to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
It would be nice, Ross said, if the finished book recoups his costs. And even better if it turned a bit of profit. But The One Dollar Consult really isn’t about the money.
“I’m an artist, so I can get by on very little.”