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Notes From My Journal The Lessons of History Delray Beach, FL– On the recommendation of Tim Ferriss, I’m reading Will and Ariel Durant’s The Lessons of History. Published in 1962, it contains the occasional paragraph that seems chronologically quaint. But the sentences are lovely. The tone is pitch perfect. And it is dense with wise thoughts and observations. A few tidbits: * We are all born unfree and unequal: subject to our physical and psychological heredity, and to the customs and traditions of our group; diversely endowed in health and strength, in mental capacity and qualities of character. * Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization. * Society is founded not on the …

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Notes From My Journal:  

This Actually Happened

Delray Beach, FL– We were talking about sexual harassment. Sally and Leslie and I. Sally said, “At my age, I could use a bit of it now and then. Leslie laughed, agreeing. “I’m way short on that kind of attention,” I admitted.

“Bernie used to harass me,” Leslie said seriously. “He used to come up behind me and rub my shoulders as I worked.” Bernie was her boss. And my partner.

“He did that to me too,” I said. “I took it as a fatherly thing. He did it to lots of people, including his kids.”

“It felt creepy,” Leslie said.

So there you have it. I have no doubt that it felt creepy to Leslie. I’m sure she was subject to various levels of sexual harassment during the years she worked for us. This was 30 years ago.

But I don’t believe Bernie was sexually harassing her. I believe he was doing to her what he was doing to me. I believe he saw it as an avuncular gesture, one of warmth.

I could be wrong. He could have had different motives depending on whose shoulders he was rubbing. I just don’t believe that.

Many would say that what he meant doesn’t matter. It’s how she felt that counts. And it does count. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.

These days, I wouldn’t think of rubbing a woman’s shoulders – any woman’s except K’s. But I’d have no compunctions about doing the same thing to a man. And what if he felt it was creepy?

Leslie never said anything to Bernie. And that was probably at least in part because he was her boss and, as her boss, had a certain “power” over her. But that power didn’t extend to prohibiting her speech. Though it made it more difficult. More risky.

Bernie is gone now so I can’t ask him about it. Neither can Leslie. We will never know. Leslie will carry that creepy memory with her. And I will live with my doubt.

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Elegant Solutions*

In his book In Pursuit of Elegance, Matthew E. May tells a story about Drachten, a Dutch village that had a serious problem with traffic at its main intersection. The village hired an expert, Hans Monderman, to help them reduce congestion and accidents.

The conventional way to do this is to implement various measures to get cars to slow down. Unfortunately, such measures – including stoplights, radar-controlled equipment, and a beefed-up police force – are expensive. Since Drachten had a small budget, Monderman was forced to do something different.

He realized that this was an opportunity for him to test a theory he had been developing about human behavior: that the more controls you impose on people, the less self-control they are likely to exhibit. In his words, “Treat people like zombies and they’ll behave like zombies. But treat them as intelligent, and they’ll respond intelligently.”

So instead of increasing traffic controls in the middle of town, he reduced them to a startling degree. Instead of adding regulations, he suggested repealing most of them. No speed bumps, no speed limits, no signs, no mandates about right of way.

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Notes From My Journal 

A Passing Jealousy

Delray Beach, FL– Walking to my office, a woman passes me, going the other way. She is attractive. Tall, lean, and handsome. And I notice that she is dressed attractively too, in a linen skirt and matching jacket.

She pays no attention to me. She is looking ahead, walking with a confident gait, speaking animatedly into her phone. I hear one phrase: “I mean… you can’t wear it all at the same time, can you?”

And that sends me spiraling into that existential despair. No, not despair. More like ennui. No, not ennui. But a pang. A reminder of how much I’m missing.

“I mean… you can’t wear it all at the same time, can you?”

I’m not judging her, as they (imprecisely and insistently) say these days. I’m jealous of her. Truly.

She is living in a world I do not, have not, and never will inhabit. Yet it’s a full world and it seems to me to be in many ways a happier one than mine.

I try to imagine what things in life I loved that much – what material objects gave me such pleasure that such an idea would have occurred to me.

I am a little sad that I have never felt that way: that I wanted to have it all but at the same time.

Of course, that world is entirely open to me. I have only to wish to enter it to become a denizen. Why don’t I?

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

The Miracle of Compound Knowledge

I have a little gift for you. A simple idea that can mean the difference between struggling and being immensely successful. It is a very small idea that will be worth a great deal to you if (a) you really understand it, and (b) you make it a part of your life.

The idea in a nutshell: Knowledge is a form of wealth. Like wealth, it provides dividends if it is invested. Over a long period of time, those dividends compound. Eventually, they become gargantuan.

Let me explain.

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Notes From My Journal 

More on Caring Less: The Questionable Virtue of Restraining Desire

Delray Beach, FL-“The discipline of desire is the backbone of character,” wrote Will & Ariel Durant.

That’s different from the Buddhist idea of extinguishing desire. The difference is profound. And it says something about two different worldviews.

The Durant idea is very Western, very Christian – almost Puritanical. It is about self-restraint. About reining in one’s natural impulses. This is a view that sees desire (and the temptations that come from desire) as inherent to the human condition.

The Buddhist idea is about letting go. It is about giving up desire. Energetically, it is the opposite of restraint. It assumes that desire is extrinsic to the self – that the self can be separated from desire.

For the Durants, life is a struggle to resist one’s inherent desires, and the effort to resist builds moral muscle. A good or virtuous person is one who strongly and continuously resists temptation.

For the Buddhist, extinguishing desire (caring less) is not about character but about wisdom.

Let’s say K and I agree that we will go to the Norton Museum Saturday afternoon. I know there is a possibility that we may not go. Still, I allow myself to look forward to the trip. Saturday arrives and K tells me she cannot go. I am disappointed, on the verge of anger. I want to blame her, which will cause a fight and more pain. So I control myself. I restrain the desire I have to act out. I behave myself. I behave like a person of good character.

But if, instead, I take the Buddhist path, I do not attach myself to the prospect of going. While scheduling the event, I consciously detach myself from the anticipation of it. I allow myself not to care. By doing so, I spare myself the possibility of pain if it turns out we cannot go, while not diminishing in any way the possibility of joy.

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Collecting: The Best Way to Satisfy Your Inner Material Girl (or Guy)

I’m a big fan of rewarding yourself whenever you’ve made significant progress on any of your long-term goals – especially your wealth-building goals. If, say, you get a raise, start a new side business, or negotiate a great deal on a piece of income property… you should give yourself a present.

For some people, that could be a gourmet dinner or a weekend cruise. For others, it might be an expensive toy – maybe a designer watch, a wave runner, or a motorcycle. I’m not against vacations, toys, and dinners. They make life (and hard work) grand. But today, I would like to make an argument for another kind of reward – one that is tailor-made for wealth builders.

I’m talking about collecting.

How good is it? Let me count the ways:

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Notes From My Journal 

Hiring Creatives? Standard Practice Doesn’t Work

Delray Beach, FL– He needed a new editorial director. I asked him how the search was progressing. He said that someone was “currently reviewing resumes” for him.

That worried me.

Because when it comes to hiring members of your creative team, you are not looking for a specific set of skills. You are looking for superstars and potential superstars. And for them, conventional recruiting methods don’t work.

Academic credentials mean nothing.

Resumes don’t mean squat.

Relevant work experience is generally overrated and problematic. (Superstars are usually treated like superstars and therefore rarely appear in the job market.)

And re the initial review process… you have to be careful. You don’t want a sensible person doing that. They will cull out the “unqualified” and the “oddballs.” But superstars and potential superstars are usually both… so you have to make sure the reviewer understands what you are looking for.

What are you looking for?

You’re looking for temperament and talent. Someone who is very smart. And naturally contrarian. Also, someone that can play well with others.

You’re not looking for good. You’re looking for great.

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Principles of Wealth: #19 of 60*

There are two ways that investments can build wealth. One is by the generation of income. The other is through appreciation – an increase in the value of the underlying asset.

Certain asset classes are inherently structured to increase value by generating income (e.g., bonds, CDs), while others increase value through appreciation (e.g., “growth stocks” and entrepreneurial businesses). But there are also many asset classes that provide both income and appreciation. The prudent wealth builder will likely have all three types of assets in his holdings, but he will favor those that provide both income and appreciation.

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