How I Became Financially Independent by Monopolizing Trade Routes to the Spice-Rich East
And you can too!
Gone are the days when any low-level baron with a ship and an insatiable lust for profits could set out upon the high seas and achieve instant success in the spice trade. Many young merchants I speak to worry they’ll never control a trading fleet that spans continents.
Competition is fierce these days, but I’m here to tell thee that with a little planning anyone can become the flamboyantly rich spice merchant they’ve always dreamt of being.
Just look at me: I became a millionaire at age 28 simply by monopolizing trade routes to the spice-rich lands to the East, and you can too!
If financial independence and a trading empire spanning across the seas is what thou desires, follow these tips that helped me become the Merchant Lord I am today. (Disclaimer: the East is off limits, since that is my territory. But maybe consider the North; or the Southwest.)
1. Be Born into at Least Mid-Level Aristocracy
This one might seem obvious, but thou wouldst be surprised how many merchants try to dominate international shipping lanes without first being born into at least mid-level aristocracy. A merchant with no claim to noble blood has no such right.
2. Murder the Competition
Some competitors can be overcome by typical means like bribery, treachery, or an “accidental” fire that incinerates their entire fleet. But if a rival merchant refuses to requit his ships from a particularly lucrative trade route, the best strategy might be goode olde fashioned murder. Step 1 above cometh in handy if thou can obtain a pardon from The King since He happens to be thy great uncle’s second cousin.
3. Get a Second Job Monopolizing the Fur Trade in the North
Maybe demand for spices hath not yet taken off as thou expected? Or mayhaps pesky pirate raids are cutting into thy profit margins? No matter. Thou can always pick up a second job monopolizing overland trade routes for a high demand product in a different territory. Furs from the North and precious gemstones from the mining provinces are always safe bets.
4. Sublet Thy Extra Hull Space
There’s always a rich stowaway looking for a ride, or a mysterious stranger trying to transport some sort of sacred evil relic away from the prying eyes of the Constabulary. Such customers will pay top dollar for a sliver of hull space. Consider subletting out a dank corner below decks and charging them ten tymes the going rate.
5. Cut Back on Unnecessary Golden Scepters
Every successful spice merchant needs at least a dozen or so ostentatious gilded scepters, but ‘tis important to set limits. Before hiring a sceptersmith to craft thee another diamond-encrusted solid gold scepter, ask: do I need this ostentatious gilded scepter, or do I want this ostentatious gilded scepter?
6. Max Out Thy IRAs (Ingratiating Royal Attendants)
No matter how goode thou art at monopolizing trade routes, no merchant can do it alone. Many merchants regret that they didn’t invest in Ingratiating Royal Attendants (IRAs) earlier. Keep as many grovelling IRAs around thee as possible to constantly remind thee that thou art the greatest Merchant Lord who hath ever lived.
Addendum: Will You Ever Be as Famous as Cheese?
“No matter how hard you work and how big a celebrity you become, you’ll never be as famous as cheese.”
I thought it was a fair assumption to say that nobody will ever be as famous as cheese, but I needed to see the data to verify this for myself. So I turned to Google Trends to compare search trends for “Cheese” with some of the world’s most famous people. Here’s the result:
It’s a little hard to see what’s going on down there in Cheese-Taylor Swift-Tiger Woods-Jesus Land, but basically Cheese has a consistent lead over the others, except for the period from late 2015 to early 2021, when Donald Trump dominates. In the U.S., Trump’s cumulative searches from 2004-present put him as slightly more famous than Cheese, although Cheese is more famous internationally. Worldwide, both Cheese and Jesus are more popular compared to the others than they are in the U.S., which makes sense because the other three are Americans.
There were some notable periods where one of the other celebrities briefly overtook Cheese in popularity:
Taylor Swift in Nov. 2008, Sept. 2009, Oct. 2012, and Nov, 2014 (I guess fall is her season?)
Tiger Woods in Dec. 2009
Jesus competed with Cheese in popularity and frequently surpassed it up until 2015, but he’s been steadily losing ground ever since
Trump had a solid run for a few years, but it was short-lived and he flamed out fast. Because his popularity was concentrated almost entirely within a seven-year period—whereas Cheese has existed for over 7,000 years—I don’t think we can say he is truly more famous than Cheese. Really, Jesus is the only individual who consistently comes close to competing with Cheese in popularity.
Based on this, I think we can safely draw the conclusion: While there are brief periods in history when an individual may become temporarily more famous than Cheese, Cheese is more famous in the long run.
So Dan’s claim is largely correct.
There are some notable runners up:
What about specific types of cheese?
Here, the competition is tighter. As the Situation Normal article points out, certain celebrities might be more famous than specific types of cheese, especially the rarer varieties.
Parmesan and mozzarella are the most popular cheeses worldwide based on Google searches. Feta comes in a close third, and it has been on the rise ever since a feta-related TikTok video went viral in 2021.
Plot these against the famous people, however, and there’s no competition:
Parmesan and mozzarella are close to Tiger Woods in popularity, but nowhere near as famous as Jesus or Taylor Swift.
Google searches are not a perfect representation of how famous someone/something is. There are plenty of people who know about Cheese but are not searching for it online.
Another limitation is that Google’s data only goes back to 2004, but all of these search terms existed before then. In terms of famous-ness, I’d say this tilts the scales strongly in favor of Cheese and Jesus, since they’ve been around way longer than the others. Cheese production predates recorded history, and probably started well over 7,000 years ago. Jesus’ time was over 2,000 years ago. If we could extrapolate the Cheese and Jesus lines back 7,000 and 2,000 years, respectively, they would dwarf the others in cumulative popularity.
This also doesn’t account for people who may be popular in countries that don’t use Google as their main search engine.
Moral of the Story
What’s the lesson we can draw from all of this? If you had any hopes of one day becoming more famous than cheese, you can go ahead and give up now.
You can read the article that sparked my cheese curiosity here: