One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal

The Importance of Being Earnest

He had accepted the opportunity to become a partner in our Jiu Jitsu studio, but a week after he started he realized he couldn’t do it. He had two other jobs, a sick mother, and a car that seemed to break down every other day.

He wrote a long letter of resignation, apologizing and explaining his decision. Because he felt guilty about breaking his commitment, he made the letter formal and expressed his excuses in a sort of legalese, thinking they would carry more weight.

Before posting it, he read it again. It wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do. It sounded defensive and almost pompous. He tore it up and started from scratch. This time, he wrote from the heart:

Dear Mark,

 I fucked up. I should not have said yes to your kind offer so quickly. And now I’m afraid you are going to be really angry, and I don’t blame you. I have to quit this job…

 And rather than post it, he walked it in. His hand shook as he handed it to me. I read it. I wasn’t surprised. I suspected he had bitten off more than he could chew.

I didn’t feel anger. I felt compassion. More than that, I was so impressed with the honesty and authenticity of his writing that I offered him a scholarship to take the American Writers & Artists beginners program for copywriting

He went through the program lickety-split. And now he’s working as a part-time copywriting apprentice. My bet is he’ll be making six figures in less than two years. Then he can quit all his other jobs and do Jiu Jitsu for fun.

Today’s Word: tub-thump (verb)

To tub-thump is to promote something or express an opinion vociferously. Example from Jean Zimmerman’s historical novel Savage Girl: “Ever eager to tub-thump America’s vast superiority, local civic chauvinists wanted our homegrown exposition to outstrip them all.”

Worth Quoting

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”

– Viktor Frankl

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Is Someone Abusing You?

Here’s How to Claim Your Power Almost Instantly

He was the kind of person that leaned into you when he spoke. Poked you in the ribs to emphasize his enthusiasm and never laughed at your jokes. When he met K for the first time, he put his arm around her waist. I didn’t like him, but I was making good money from him. So I put up with it. For a while…

Tony Robbins once told a story that went something like this:

He was on a flight in the first-class cabin when he was identified by a well-dressed, middle-aged man who said, “You the power guy, right?”

When Tony acknowledged that he was, the man confronted him. “I’ve watched your infomercial, and I think it’s crap. The way I see it, everyone falls into one of two groups: the powerful and the powerless. Ninety-nine percent are powerless. And regardless of what you promise them, they’ll stay powerless.”

“You’re missing the point,” Tony said. “Everyone has an untapped power center, and I show people how to unleash it and use it to fulfill their dreams.”

“Bull!” the man replied. “You want to see real power? Watch this!”

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Notes From My Journal

On April 16, 2007, I wrote this in my journal:  Rents are expected to go up in 2007. This would be the third year in a row. The rise is projected to be 5% this year for a 14% total rise since 2004, a report by Marcus & Millichap said. That compares to a 4% increase in pay. Over the same period, adjusted for inflation. Marcus & Millichap says this situation will make housing more difficult to find, especially in the coastal cities.  They predict the trend will continue for another three years. From 2000 to 2004 landlords couldn’t raise rents, USA Today said, because tenants were leaving to buy houses or condos. To feed that buying frenzy, about 300,000 apartments were converted to condos for sale in the past 3 years. Now, even with 92,000 new rental units this year, the stock is still too little to meet the rising demand. New York City is one of the worst. There rents have increased 7% in the last year. The national median rent will be $943 a month, which is 60% of the median mortgage payment of $1,566. Renters will get a break in Miami, Las Vegas and San Diego, where investors bought up thousands of condos hoping to flip them. Since the market faltered, many of those investors will need to drop rents to help them pay expenses or will be forced to sell them at steep discounts.

That was then.

This is now…

Since 2010, housing supply has increased considerably. Thousands of new units have been built and so the market for rentals has slowed. My partners and I have been selling our single-family holdings in favor of small-to-medium apartment buildings (8-50 units). And though we have seen some evidence of prices going down, it’s mostly on properties that were priced too high to begin with. As a result, we’ve had a tough time finding buildings in our general price range (up to 8 times gross rents).

Today’s Word: career (verb)

To career (kah-REER) is to go at top speed. As in “We careered toward the embankment.” Note: “Careen” means much the same thing.

Worth Quoting

 “Compassion is probably the only antitoxin of the soul. Where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.”

– Eric Hoffer

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Word for the Wise

Spavined (SPAV-ind) – swollen, decrepit and broken down. Example as used by Lester Chadwick in the 1913 children’s book Baseball Joe at Yale: I can size a player up as quick as a horse buyer can a spavined nag.”

 Did You Know?

If you keep a goldfish in a dark room, it will eventually turn white.

 Principles of Wealth: #14 of 61

Income is an important factor in the acquisition of wealth, but it is not a measure of it. Nor are expensive possessions. The only measure of financial wealth is net investible worth.

It had a pool in the back and automatic doors on the garage in front. It was the nicest house I had ever lived in and our first home. Three bedrooms. Two baths. Friendly neighborhood. $170,000.

“Do you think I’m being foolish?” I asked. “Spending so much on a home?”

Eddie looked at me as if I was crazy. “Your income last year was more than double the cost of the house,” he said. “And your income this year is higher still.”


“I close hundreds of houses a year in this area,” he said. About a third of them are for homes that cost more than a half a million. And they are bought by doctors and lawyers that make no more than you do.


“They drive Mercedes. You drive Hondas. They drink Dom Perignon. You drink Proseco. They all look rich, but most of them are in debt. They spend their money faster than they make it.”


“How much did you have in savings last year?”

“About $175,000.”

“And this year?”
“About $250,000.”

“That’s what I thought. You are worried about buying a home that cost you about six or seven months of salary. That alone tells me you are an extremely conservative spender.

“More importantly, you’ve made this promise to yourself to increase not only your income but your savings every year. And you’ve been doing that for years.

The doctors and lawyers I know are spending two to five times their yearly salaries on their houses. These guys have great incomes but they also have great debt. Debt that is often greater than their assets. They are buying prestige and keeping their fingers crossed that their financial situation will always be strong. They have zero savings and no net worth.”

“That net worth thing. It’s always troubled me. How can I count my house or my cars? I’m always going to need them. I don’t want to be forced to sell them.”

“Okay, then don’t count them. Count only the net worth you have after subtracting them. Call it something…”

Years later, when I wrote about it, I called it net investible wealth.

 How to Fix Your Business in Seven Days

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Word for the Wise

Hauteur (haw-TYURE) – This is a word that you should almost never use because it almost always sounds pompous. It means “disdainful arrogance” or, less often, “overbearing pride.” You will come across it a lot in magazines like Vanity Fairand in art books.

So don’t use it… but be sure you recognize it when you see it.


If you want a model of productivity, James Patterson is a great candidate… 

He writes novels as frequently as I try to retire – like twice a year. His secret? He doesn’t work alone. He teams up with other less famous and less successful but very capable writers. He gives them the outline. He edits for pace and tension. The emended manuscript goes to his publisher. And then he moves on. He’s not Cormac McCarthy, but he does good work and his books are almost always bestsellers. Plus his co-writers – really apprentices – get to learn some of his secrets while they get their names out there. It’s a win-win proposition. Actually, win-win-win, if you count his readers. There are other creative people who do/have done this. Andy Warhol and Michelangelo come to mind. The challenge is to keep the quality consistent.


 Principles of Wealth: #13 of 61

We buy financial products and services because we believe they will make us richer. But we should never forget that the purchase itself is almost always a cost that makes us, for the moment at least, poorer.

You buy the new $45,000 Audi you’ve been dreaming of. It makes you feel like rich. But the moment you drive it out of the dealership its value – and your net worth –go down by about $6,000.

“One day this watercolor will fetch a hundred grand at Sotheby’s,” the art dealer tells you. You want to believe him. But his profit on the $80,0000 artwork is $20,000, which means you are now, for the moment, at least $20,000 poorer.

It’s no different with stocks. You have read about the company in your favorite financial newsletter. Your broker agrees it’s going to double or triple if this or that happens, as it surely will. So you buy it and can almost see all those dollars in profit appearing on your account statement. But at that moment, at the moment when you buy it, you are poorer by the fees and commissions your broker is taking.

This is not to say that fees and commissions are bad. They are simply part of the cost of buying.  All financial products and services, however advertised, have a cost of buying.

When you buy a “no load” index fund you pay a very small cost of buying – usually about one half of one percent. But when you buy a penny stock or whole life policy your cost of buying could be 30% to 50%.

The prudent wealth builder knows the true cost of his buying and understands that in nine cases out of ten that cost will make him, for the moment at least, that much poorer.

Words of Wisdom From Dave Barry

* Never lick a steak knife.

* You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she is pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

* A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

* No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

 (Source: DaveBarry Turns 50, by Dave Barry)

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Word for the Wise

Leonine (LEE-uh-nine) = of or relating to a lion. Example as used by Sax Rohmer in the 1915 crime novel The Yellow Claw: “In the leonine eyes looking into hers gleamed the light of admiration and approval.”

 Quotable Quote

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.” – Hans Hoffman

Principles of Wealth: #12 of 61

The term “value” is widely understood in theory but rarely in practice. Value denotes that which you can appreciate and benefit from, both now and also in the future.

Anything that is valuable to you can be said to be a value. Friendship, for instance. Or fidelity. Or art. Or dance. Or music.

Politicians value power and loyalty. They seek to acquire as much of it as they can as they rise through the political ranks so they can wield it when they are on top.

Performance artists value approval and use their energy and creativity to create the largest possible base of fans.

Professionals – doctors, architects, and plumbers – value their reputations and work hard to not only gain but also preserve and improve them by providing high quality service and personal care.

Most healthy minded people understand that wealth (and even net investible wealth) has no intrinsic value. Its value is dependent on its ability (or perceived ability) to be exchanged for those other values: friendship, loyalty, power, and admiration, to name a few.

Mini Philosophy Lesson: Aesthetics*

Most people think of aesthetics as the study of beauty. But it is a bit broader than that. The word derives from the Greek term to denote perception, feeling, or even sensation.

Plato had an idealistic view of aesthetics. He believed that there was a perfect form of the beautiful – generally and specifically. A bed, for example, was an imitation of an ideal thing, a “Form” or paradigm, almost like an abstract blueprint of what a carpenter might build. The bed that the carpenter actually built was beautiful or not to the degree that it replicated some ideally beautiful bed that exists in some other dimension. In his ideal word, only representational art would exist, and its purpose would be didactic: to teach viewers what truth and beauty look like.

Aristotle, perhaps the greatest of all philosophers, was not an idealist. He did not believe that there was some perfect bed in some ideal world that real beds and paintings of beds should imitate. It was enough for him that the painting of a bed should look as much like its earthly subject as possible. His approach to aesthetics was to identify the best expressions of art and compare them. From that, he made observations that could be used by critics (for evaluation), viewers (for appreciation), and artists (for creation).

Most of the ideas we have about aesthetics today can be said to have originated in the writings of either Plato or Aristotle. But there was a twist added at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the advent of “art for art’s sake.” This view held that art should exist solely to be beautiful. It need not have the pragmatic/didactic purposes that Plato and Aristotle suggested.

I don’t know of a philosopher who has made this claim, but I believe that much of aesthetics is actually the basis of ethics. At the bottom of many ethical preferences – once you cut through the skimpy rationales – is some deeply held feeling about what is ugly and what is beautiful in human behavior.

*From my book How to Speak Intelligently About Everything That Matters”.

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