Saturday, October 6, 2018

Notes From My Journal 

The “Triumph” of Trump’s New Trade Deal

Delray Beach, FL–Trump’s new trade deal, the USMCA, is more than 1,000 pages long. Usually, books of that size written by government cronies contain a lot of fat. Mostly pork. But according to Trump, the USMCA was a great triumph.

Here’s how Bill Bonner sees it:

“Lo and behold, it was much like the deal that Mr. Trump had previously called ‘the worst trade deal in history’ – NAFTA.

“But at least Mr. Trump got a few morsels. He got a new name for the agreement: the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He got to claim victory over the wicked Canooks.

“And he got some cheese, too; Canada lowered its dairy product tariff barriers. Now, American dairymen will have access to 0.24% (about one quarter of one percent) more of the Canadian market.”


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

What the Ancient Martial Arts Can Teach Us About Winning*

The ancient Chinese art of kung fu is largely misunderstood. The term “kung fu” itself is generally taken to mean the art of fighting. In fact, according to a Chinese philosophy student and martial arts friend of mine, it means the art of ending fighting.

Much of the reason for the confusion is that references to the martial arts in ancient Chinese documents are difficult to interpret. Traditional Chinese script is comprised of pictographs – characters that have myriad and subtle meanings. With even a slight change in his brushstroke, a calligrapher could express a different thought, feeling, or perception.

In 1949, the Chinese government simplified the characters, assigning particular meanings to particular characters, as we do with words. As a result, some scholars believe that many of the nuances were lost.

Another possible misconception is that Shaolin kung fu – the style that most people think of when they think of kung fu – can be traced back to a form of Chinese martial arts practiced by Shaolin monks as far back as the 5thcentury. This may or may not be true. The historical record is not clear.

What is generally accepted as correct is that there are two fundamentally different but complementary styles of Chinese martial arts: external and internal.

Shaolin kung fu is primarily external. Practitioners of this style overcome their opponents with a combination of speed, strength, and technique.

Wudang kung fu is primarily internal. Its practitioners succeed not by overcoming force but by yielding to it. (I’ll never forget how my friend defeated a much larger opponent without ever even striking him. He just moved and parried until the much larger man fell out of the ring, too exhausted to climb back up.)

Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the martial art I practice, embraces both styles. It includes movements of speed and strength. (Even striking movements, which most fans don’t realize.) But most of the technique is about neutralizing one’s opponent’s superior strength and size with relatively little effort.

From the perspective of contraction and relaxation, it’s easy to see how Shaolin style is primarily about contracting, while Wudang style is primarily about relaxing.

Jiu-jitsu, as I have been taught to understand it, employs both.

A good black belt in jiu-jitsu probably spends more than 90% of his time employing relaxed techniques. Contracted techniques are necessary, but infrequently.

Blue and purple belt practitioners of BJJ have trouble with this ratio. Coming as they do from contraction-dominant sports philosophies, they tend to engage with 90+% force from minute one. This approach, needless to say, leaves them depleted of energy after just a few minutes. It’s at that time that the smaller and “weaker” black belt will take advantage and submit them.

This is not dissimilar to what works for me in business and, in fact, in every other realm of my experience. Successful outcomes arrive when you are mostly relaxed but also alert. That way, when the moment comes when force is needed, you have the awareness and the energy to use it.

* In this series of essays, which hopes to become a book, I’m exploring an idea I’ve been thinking about for a long time — that our knowledge of the universe and our experience of living can be understood by the metaphor of pulsation – of contraction and relaxation – and that such an understanding might helpful in succeeding in life and accepting death.


Today’s Word: periphrasis (noun): Periphrasis (puh-RIF-rah-sis) is a word you use when you want to show off, which normally is not a good idea. But the circumstances that would suggest its use are such that they would probably allow you a little bit of vocabulary flexing.

Periphrasis means “circumlocution” or “verbal evasion.” So the next time a friend or colleague is trying to talk his way out of an awkward situation, say something like, “This is no time for periphrasis.” No one will know quite what you are saying, but they will forgive you because they’ll know the word has something to do with what they have been witnessing.


Did You Know?: After Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw is the most widely quoted writer in history.


Worth Quoting: “Nothing stands out so conspicuously or remains so firmly fixed in the memory as something in which you have blundered.” – Cicero


Read This

James Altucher’s 10 Commandments of Freedom

I think James Altucher and I became friends instantly. He came with a film crew to interview me at my home. When he walked in the door, I started yelling, “I can’t believe it! James Altucher!”And he started yelling back, “I can’t believe it! Mark Ford!”

We are busy guys and don’t often connect. But I keep up with him by reading his blog and listening to his podcast. He was very good when I met him and he’s only gotten better.

Here’s a recent blog I thought was especially good in that it contains a whole lot of wisdom in 10 simple rules: