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Jul 6-Jul 10, 2020 


a look back at this week’s essays…


Not So Positive 


Two questions I’ve been trying to answer since I got the bug…


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Even Less Positive 


JM is negative. So are PR, RT, and SC. K is positive. So is PB, my trainer…. I’m back to reading the most recent studies, trying to answer the questions everyone is asking.


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Wealthy Is Not a Number 


“A billionaire? Why do you want to become a billionaire?” I asked.


He proffered a few unconvincing answers. Finally, he told me the truth…


“Man,” I said. “That’s a heavy burden.”


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what I’m reading 


The Soul of America by Jon Meacham 


I went into this book knowing nothing about it or the author, which is not something I typically do and for good reason. It’s intellectually inefficient.


One of our book club members praised it highly. And I liked the title. So I started with an optimistic mind. By the time I was halfway through the Introduction, I had misgivings. I felt like I was listening to (on Audiobooks) a speech written to gratify a room full of campaigners for the next Democratic candidate for presidency.


The great bulk of the book consists of quotations strung together from eminent politicians, writers, and philosophers from the past praising America and the presidency. All of those quotations have a slant toward what today you’d call liberalism.


There are no facts – other than the facts of when and where the quotation was made. There is no argument – unless you would argue that a string of quotations showing a certain social and political bent is an argument. And there is no primary idea – except for the unspoken but evident suggestion that Trump is the worst president in history.


What I have noticed is a certain ideological smugness – the same attitude that made it possible for my liberal family members and friends to commend Hilary Clinton’s summation of 30-odd million Americans as “deplorable” and fail believe that Trump had any chance of being elected.


But I haven’t yet read the whole thing. So I won’t jump to conclusions. There is one sentence I admire. Toward the end of the Introduction, Meacham wrote, “We cannot ensure equality of outcome, but we can ensure equality of opportunity.”




recommended links from this week’s blog 


* “An Uphill Battle” – a nostalgic essay from Taki’s Magazine. To read it, click here.


* An amazingly detailed animation of the human brain…here.


* I ran Part 1 of this talk a few weeks ago. This is Part 2. Here, Stanford University’s Michael Levitt discusses two commonly used growth curves, the Sigmoid Function and the Gompertz Function.


 * My brother-in-law sent this to cheer me up. It did. Here


* Once again, Rancho Santana made it to Travel & Leisure magazine’s list of the Top 10 Central American resort hotels. To read the article, click here.


* All cultures are not equal… all religions are not fundamentally the same. Here





Your Question: 


Have you ever invested in foreign currency? If so, When? Which currency? Grateful for your knowledge. – BP


My Answer: 


I have. But never willingly. Well, that’s not exactly right. I have invested in currencies several times, but they were always indirect investments.


The currency market is enormous. It is larger, by far, than any other asset class in the world. It is also volatile – extremely so – with millions of dollars (in currencies) trading almost every second in exchanges all over the world. It is also very complex. It is a market appropriate for the most sophisticated banking and financial analysts assisted by speed-of-light tracking systems and computer analytics that can make decisions in seconds.


It’s not for me.


But I have participated in currency plays indirectly in simpler, slower ways. For example, I’ve bought residential and commercial property in Buenos Aires and Moscow when local currencies, compared to the dollar, were very weak. I’ve done the same with businesses in Europe, Asia, and South America. And as a long-term hedge against the US dollar, I bought a fair amount of gold bullion when it was trading at about $450.


I know this is probably not answering the question behind your question. My answer to that is “no.” Do not put any of your money in any currency-trading scheme.


Remember what usually happens when two people do a deal together and one of them has the money and the other has the knowledge: After the deal is done, the person with the knowledge has the money, and the person who had the money now has knowledge.


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 



For a look back at the stock market, click here



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“I’m not sure this business is for me,” he said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

I’d been mentoring TJ, the son of one of my partners, for about a year. I was helping him develop a small business that I’d started the year before. His initial motivation had flagged a bit in recent weeks. I wanted to know what was bothering him.

“I just don’t see any way it can make me a billionaire.”

“A billionaire? Why do you want to become a billionaire?”

He proffered a few unconvincing answers. Finally, he told me the truth: If he was going to go into the business, he said, he felt he needed to surpass his father’s success. At the time, his dad was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Man,” I said. “That’s a heavy burden.”


Wealthy Is Not a Number 

Self-improvement books and magazines are replete with the same advice: When it comes to setting any goal – especially a “get rich” goal – make it big and make it specific.

When I first began thinking about building wealth, that idea didn’t occur to me. Today, looking back, I’m glad it didn’t. As I see it now, there is only one minor benefit to that kind of goal setting and many major downsides.

First: Really big goals, like “becoming a billionaire,” are statistically as realistic as deciding to become an NBA MVP. If you are amazingly talented, extraordinarily hardworking, and incredibly diligent, you might be able to bring your chances of success up to one in ten thousand.

Second: Since your chances are so infinitesimally small, the likely result is that you will be seen by virtually everyone you share it with – whether it be your family, your friends, your potential partners, or your employees – as a nutter.

Third: You are defining a career of failure. From the moment you set the goal to the moment you give up on it (or die), you will be living as a wannabe. That is not good for the ego.

But it’s not just the bigness of a billion dollars that was wrong with TJ’s goal. Again, I know that most self-improvement pundits say the opposite. But specific numerical goals will give you only the briefest satisfaction if you achieve them, followed by another long, frustrating period of chasing some new, more ambitious number.

Numerical objectives can be very helpful in trying to achieve (or motivating others to achieve) specific short-term objectives. But for the big things – like life satisfaction – they are useless and even counterproductive.

The moment you achieve them, you experience about 24 hours of exhilaration. After that, the good feeling is replaced by an anxiety-ridden ambition to reach a new goal.

When I started to make “decent” money, I set my first specific financial goal: to pay off my mortgage, which was about $150,000. I did that fairly quickly – within 18 months. As soon as it was taken care of, I set another goal: to put aside a million bucks in savings. I achieved that goal the following year. But by that time, I was thinking about selling the house I finally owned free and clear and buying another one that was five times more expensive and would require me to get another mortgage.

Something similar happened every time I set a specific financial goal. Two days of fun – the first day and the day I hit my goal. And in between, months or years of angst and obsession.

Then, sometime before my 50th birthday, I had a conversation with a friend that helped me jump off this vertiginous mental merry-go-round. It led me to a simple idea that changed my life. Maybe it will have the same effect on you.

The idea is this: Don’t strive to attain a certain amount of wealth. Strive, instead, for the feeling of being wealthy. 

It’s a bit trickier than it sounds.

When I say the “feeling” of being wealthy,” I don’t mean the way you might feel when you picture yourself owning the things that are usually associated with being rich – the houses, the cars, the yachts, etc. I mean the way certain experiences make you feel.

For me, the feeling that I had always associated with being rich was having a sense of ease and independence and possibility. And the experiences that gave me that feeling were such simple things as having a drink in the lobby of a beautiful hotel… reading a book on a comfortable chair in a library… or smoking a cigar on a walk on the beach.

Having identified the feelings that I associated with being rich, it was easier to give up the desire to keep hitting higher financial targets.

I realized that I didn’t have to pay off my mortgage to be happy, I just had to be on the way. I didn’t have to have a million or a hundred million in the bank. As long as I had enough to pay the bills, I could have all the relatively inexpensive “rich” moments I wanted.

I wrote a book about this, called (unimaginatively) Living Rich. The premise was that if you pursue the feelings of being rich rather than some specific financial goal, you will find that you will be able to feel rich while you become rich.

As I said, this was an idea that changed my life. It did not change me immediately and 100%, but it gave me a way to think about my life that put everything into focus. Decisions were easier to make. Mistakes were easier to admit to. Urges and impulses were easier to resist – especially those tied to the ambition of making more money.

If you have specific financial goals that are stressing you out, this is something you might want to think about.

Start with the best moments of your life – the times when you felt like “This is what it’s all about.” If, like me, they were about simple experiences, you will probably also associate those experiences with the sorts of feelings I have described. And if that’s so, welcome to the don’t-worry-be-happy club.


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proffer (verb) 

To proffer (PRAH-fur) is to offer; to hold out something to someone for acceptance. As I used it today: “He proffered a few unconvincing answers. Finally. he told me the truth.”

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