Questions You’d Be Embarrassed to Ask

I probably shouldn’t be reprinting stuff like this, but since I’m part of the group and since it seems that golfers are nearly universally fond of puerile and/or sentimental and/or downright corny humor (and since I’m part of the group), I give you these questions – some of which I’ve actually asked – passed this way by Joey Mac:

  • Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage?
  • Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?Why is it that doctors and attorneys call what they do “practice”?
  • Why is the man who invests all your money called a “broker”?
  • Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?
  • Why are apartments all stuck together?
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Making money passively… very passively

Got this message today from my brother Justin: “We just closed on the sale of the ‘Seabird,’ our 12-unit apartment building 99 yards from the wide white-sand beach in Pompano Beach. We bought the property from a bank in 2011 for $515,000. We put a few hundred thousand in it over the years, but much of that was from cash flow. So our sale price of $1.325 million still netted us very healthy capital gains. Specifically, we’re distributing just shy of $770,000, including just over $667,000 in capital gains.”

Justin has been building a very impressive real estate portfolio since he quit working for me in 2009 and went out on his own to make his fortune in real estate. I’ve been investing with him since then, and it’s been the best passive real estate experience I’ve ever had. Not just in terms of ROI, but in promises kept and communication.

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Sir Anthony Hopkins Surprised Me

 Anthony Hopkins is one of the world’s greatest living actors.

He’s probably best known for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (for which he won an Academy Award), its sequel Hannibal, and its prequel Red Dragon. Of his dozens of great film performances, my favorite may be in The Remains of the Day. He’s also acted in many theatrical productions and on television. (He starred in the critically acclaimed HBO series Westworld.)

Besides his Oscar, Hopkins has won three BAFTA Awards (including one for lifetime achievement), two Emmys, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

I sort of knew all that. But what I didn’t know was this…

Sir Anthony is a talented composer.

It turns out that he’s been a student of music as long as he’s been acting.

I bumped into this fact accidently. I was searching for a piece of music – I can’t remember what it was – when I stumbled on something I liked very much. It was called “The Waltz Goes On,” performed by André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra. I noticed it was attributed to “Anthony Hopkins.”

“It can’t be THE Anthony Hopkins,” I thought.

I was wrong.

Here is the LINK:  “André Rieu – Under the Stars. Live in Maastricht 5”

This isn’t the only music that Hopkins has composed. He also wrote a concert piece titled “The Masque of Time.” And in 1986, he released “Distant Star,” a single that peaked at No. 75 in the UK.

Anthony Hopkins is serious about music. In fact, I read that in 2007 he retired temporarily from acting to do a musical tour.

In a 2012 interview, he said, “If I’d been clever enough at school I would like to have gone to Music College. As it was I had to settle for being an actor.”

Trivia Question: Can you name another famous actor that had a talent for music and composed a beautiful and memorable song in Spanish?

Hint: He was a silent film star. THE silent film star.

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 “Is sweating healthy?”

Never one to be without an answer, I said, “Yes!” And then, “At least I think so.” And then I looked it up. It turns out sweating is useful but it’s not healthy in the sense that it will make you live longer. The primary purpose of sweating, my research says, is to cool down the body when it is overheating. Ideally, the sweat evaporates, thus cooling the skin. (In humid climates, this evaporation is reduced, which is why it takes longer to cool down in Florida than it does in Arizona.)

So I guess the answer is, “No.” But sweating does feel good when I’m exercising. And if it feels good, it could mean the body wants me to keep doing it because it is healthy.

Plus, I read synopses of scientific studies that show that saunas have proven health benefits. Saunas are hot. And you sweat in saunas. So I’m not ready to accept the research. Let’s say this: When you are overheated, sweating is necessary. And since saunas are healthy, maybe sweating is too.


Here’s a good plot for your next TV true crime script… It happened on the Hudson River.

Angelika Graswald and her fiancé, Vincent Viafore, were kayaking on the Hudson River when he disappeared into the white water. She called 911. The police came. Her fiancé had drowned, apparently because someone had removed a plug from the boat and a locking clip for the paddle, the lack of which caused the boat to capsize and the fiancé to drown.

But then, in talking to the cops, the 37-year-old said that “it felt good knowing he was going to die.”


In the days after Mr. Viafore’s disappearance, according to the police report, Ms. Graswald “behaved in ways that struck some who knew the couple as unusual, singing “Hotel California” at a local pub and using social media to post selfies and a video clip that showed her doing a cartwheel.

The police also said that, during a lengthy interrogation with investigators, she said that she knew she was the beneficiary of two life insurance policies belonging to Mr. Viafore and stood to receive a total of $250,000.

Her lawyer, Richard A. Portale, argued that she was coerced by investigators and that there was a language barrier between Ms. Graswald, a native of Latvia, and the police.

 My Former Partner’s Amazing Transition

Myles warned me that if I kept writing essays encouraging employees to start their own businesses some of them would leave to do that… including some of our best people. He was right about Tom… and Tim and Josh. They all had great-paying and exciting jobs with one of the financial publishing groups but left to do their own thing last year. Contrary to what I’ve always suggested, they started a business that was considerably different from the one they knew.

I wished them the best but feared the worst. In fact, they made it work. And now Tom, who was a great writer, is writing about it in a daily blog, which I find to be riveting. Here’s an example:


The corner of Federal and Atlantic

Thursday, 10:25 a.m.

 Picture this.

 Tim and I are in Dunkin Donuts. We’re about to meet two very successful businessmen from the aluminum industry. At this point, we have no clients. And no revenue.

 This is our big chance.

 We have printouts. I have a sales pitch in my head. I even bought a limited edition OneBlade razor as a gift to help seal the deal.

 We’re going to ask for $1,500 per month.


 Then a funny thing happens…

 The men walk in. We make our pitch. They say “okay” like we’re offering a coffee refill.

 And then THEY pitch US.

 My friends and I jumped through The Portal and into The Unknown of kitchen table entrepreneurship 12 months ago. We started with nothing. No capital. No knowledge. No experience. No business model.

 Just the username and password to an Internet course that promised to teach us how to make money online.

 It was a decision of pure faith.

 Now, here in The Unknown, we’re having a great adventure. We’ve picked up treasure. We’ve overcome obstacles. We’ve had to fend off scary monsters. We’ve noticed something else about The Unknown too…

 There are magical creatures and friendly spirits everywhere that help you along your way.

 We started off in this business generating leads for aluminum screen enclosures. We spent months trying to make it work. Terrible business. But it led us to meeting these two men at Dunkin Donuts.

 “We’ve got another product we want your help with,” says one of the businessmen. “It’s got nothing to do with aluminum screen enclosures, but it’s a national product. And it’s very popular. Can you generate leads for that?”

 “Uh, sure,” we said. “We can try.”

 Today, we call these two businessmen “Client #1.” Generating leads for their national product is our most important project. It launched our business. And we’re making nearly $15k a month from them.

 Total luck. But that’s what happens in The Unknown.  

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The Time You Spend on Your Smartphone: Gold, Wood, or Poison?

There are basically three kinds of activities that you can choose to spend your time on:

  1. Golden – meaning activities that improve you
  2. Wooden – meaning activities that have no apparent effect on you
  3. Poisonous – meaning activities that diminish you in some way

With a Golden activity, you’re working well on something you value. Something you are proud of and would do for free (or even pay to do). This is indubitably the best way to spend your time.

With a Wooden activity, you’re doing something that simply amuses you. Something like playing video games or watching mindless movies or playing golf. You’re not causing harm, but you’re not doing anything constructive either. You are simply wasting time.

With a Poisonous activity, you’re doing something that that causes permanent damage to yourself or others. Like using mind-numbing drugs or acting on jealousy or hate. This is the absolute worst way to spend your time.

Smartphone activities can fit into any one of these three categories. Yes, your phone can be a tool for serious (Golden) research or learning languages or having meaningful conversations. But it can also be a tool for (Poisonous) bullying. The medium is the message (as what’s-his-name famously said). And for most people, most of the time, the addictive (Wooden) message of the smartphone is: “I will make your time disappear.”

Here is a funny clip that explains what I’m talking about:

That’s why I pay close attention to what I do on my phone and how much time I spend doing it.

My most common phone activities are:

  1. Reading email
  2. Reading news
  3. Listening to informative material (TED Talks, podcasts)
  4. Researching facts
  5. Playing solitaire or brain games
  6. Watching stupid videos that people have forwarded to me
  7. Communicating with friends and family

Numbers 3, 4, and 7 are generally Golden activities. Numbers 1, 2, 5, and 6 are Wooden activities.

In my case, email – because I get and send so much of it – is the biggest offender. It’s almost always busywork or other people trying to persuade me to do their work for them. So, to limit its Wooden effect on my time, I’ve established some rules for myself:

  • I don’t check my email until a set time in the afternoon.
  • I’ve disabled the “new email” notification on my phone.
  • I’ve set up an automatic reply that lets senders know that they won’t hear from me until later in the day.

Your goal should be to limit all activities that are Wooden. (And, of course, completely eliminate any that could be Poisonous.) Because Wooden activities tend to be such a pleasant way to spend time, that can be easier said than done.

The first step is to identify those time-wasters on your phone. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to start coming up with your own self-imposed rules.

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76 Million Baby Boomers Abscond To Fiji After Draining Nation’s Social Security, Medicare Accounts

From the Onion

WOODLAWN, MD—Arriving en masse to the Pacific island nation after fleeing under the cover of night, 76 million baby boomers reportedly escaped to Fiji on Friday after completely draining the nation’s Social Security and Medicare accounts.

Sources said the daring $3.1 trillion operation was discovered early this morning as stunned federal employees checked both programs’ reserves only to find that each now held a total of $0.00, the apparent culmination of a plan that reportedly was meticulously organized and executed over the last 30 years.

“It’s gone, all gone, they completely cleaned us out,” said Social Security director Nancy Berryhill, revealing that airport security cameras had caught every American born between 1946 and 1964, having emptied the U.S. social safety net, boarding red-eye flights to Fiji. “These people were using our nation’s wealth as their personal piggy bank for decades, just waiting for the right moment to make their move and take us for everything we were worth.”

Shocked citizens from around the country were forced to contemplate how they could ever replace the funds they had been counting on for their own healthcare and retirement income.

“The way they acted so sweet all these years—how could we not see this coming?” she added. “Those selfish sons of bitches were working us the whole time!”

According to sources, the entirety of Medicare and Social Security was slowly siphoned off as the post-war generation built trust by assuring the other 240 million Americans that they would collect their share eventually. However, since decamping, observers say the baby boomers have spent the funds on opulent lifestyles in the tropics where they intend to live out the rest of their days relaxing in comfort, all at the expense of the children and grandchildren they reportedly claimed to be concerned about.

“We thought they were our friends, neighbors, and loved ones, but clearly they’ve just been enriching their own coffers for years,” said Berryhill, adding that it was now apparent that despite their “inspirational hot air” about investing in the country’s future, the baby boomers only really cared about themselves. “As we speak, they’re probably cruising along in their European sports cars to the beachfront condos they bought with our money, laughing at how naïve we all were.”

“And we fell for their scheme,” she continued. “How could we have been so foolish?”

As they awoke to find the baby boomers gone, shocked citizens from around the country were forced to contemplate how, and even if, they could ever replace the funds they had been counting on for their own healthcare and retirement income. Speaking to reporters, many expressed anger and disbelief that their hard-earned money would be used to pay not for their own basic living expenses, but instead for expensive new wardrobes, luxury hotel suites, and sunset champagne cruises to private Fijian lagoons.

“In retrospect it now seems obvious why they were skimming off a little piece of my paycheck every month,” said Roland Jensen of Rochester, MN, noting how his town was left strewn with abandoned homes, each containing notes hastily taped to front doors that simply read “Thanks for everything—xoxo.” “They always did think they were better than us, that their generation was somehow special. And now those bastards are an ocean away enjoying their perfect tropical paradise while we’re left footing the bill.”

“We may never recover after what they did to this country,” he added.

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Sympathetic and Vulnerable in the Windy City

What the hell, I thought. Let’s try a yellow cab. Surely they’ve improved by now…We arrived in Chicago a bit after midnight last night. Having taken an Uber Black from Newport Beach to LAX four hours before, I was tempted to indulge in the luxury again. I would be guaranteed a spotlessly clean, late model luxury car driven by a well-dressed, English speaking person aiming to please. But we were on the arrivals level and the Ubers and other “shared transport” were upstairs at arrivals and knowing that K always prefers to go economy, we opted to walk straight out and see how the taxi situation looked.

It looked good in the sense that the line was short. Our driver was from India or Pakistan. His hair was a wild, black garden. His eyes were burning coal. His smile was demonic. His car was filthy. I remembered: I cannot change this man or his taxi. But I can change the way I was about to think of it: aggrieved – personally and politically, Instead I saw him as a comic book character and indeed that was what he became. Yes, there was the terrorist sounding language and conversations with one of his friends on speaker. But no, he didn’t drive like a maniac. We arrived at our hotel quickly and safely. He removed our luggage from the trunk and wished us a good stay in Chicago. I almost hugged him.


The Park Hyatt Hotel had overbooked its capacity by ten rooms. That meant ten guests had to be “relocated.” Since we were so late in arriving, we were among the bounced. I’d been bounced by airlines before, but never by a hotel. (Except for that horrendous experience of having my entire party of 25 bounced in London thirty plus years ago) I was surprised, nearly shocked, sort of insulted and could feel something angry brewing as the reality of K’s announcement found its way into my dulled consciousness.

“They are overbooked,” she said for the second time. “We can’t stay here.”

The hotel receptionist, a stout black man whose suit barely contained his weight, was nervous and apologetic. It was as if this was his first time sending guests into the dark. Perhaps because of that or perhaps because of the “choice” I’d made with our taxi driver, I remained calm – even cordial – and felt good about it and almost instantly. The receptionist, this man who worked two jobs to support six children (in my mind) was the one that was upset. And yet he was not the perpetrator of our difficultly. In having to deal with disgruntled guests, he was as much a victim as we were. He too had a choice. He could have been distant or defiant or defensively surly, as employees often are in these sorts of difficult situations. But he chose to be sympathetic and vulnerable. I felt bad for him. I liked him. I loved him. He offered to pay for a cab to take us to the Conrad, six blocks away, where he had booked a room. We decided to walk. (I had a stub I thought I’d enjoy smoking.) As we were walking out he put a ten-dollar bill in my hand. An avuncular gesture. Touching. I accepted it.

To Tip or Not to Tip

Speaking of Uber, one of the several things I most liked about it was that there was no tipping. You didn’t have to go through the mental crush of feeling obliged to tip someone that had just put your life at risk, cranking the car back and forth in dangerous traffic while gabbing obliviously to some other taxi driver in the city. With Uber, the tip was automatically included in the charge. I liked it that way.

About a year ago, amidst reports that Uber drivers were poorly paid, a friend told me he was tipping Uber drivers cash to compensate for their measly earning. I told him I thought that was a terrible idea. I loved the no-cash-needed benefit of Uber. If he and others began shelling out cash it would soon come to be expected and then the benefit I liked would be gone.

The folks at Uber may have anticipated my worry and responded to it because the next thing I knew I was being given the opportunity to tip the driver afterwards with the electronic receipt. Those I’ve seen give three modest choices: a dollar, three dollars and five dollars.

It seems like a good solution. The amounts are small. The action is discrete (the driver doesn’t know) and the cashless ride is preserved. As to the assertions that UberX drivers make little money: I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, their compensation is low because the fares are so cheap and the fares are so cheap because of free market compensation. None is forced to drive. Many are students or people otherwise employed that like the chance to pick up some extra dollars during their down time. On the other hand, most of the drivers I chat with (and I chat with most of them) turn out to be likeable people and I don’t like thinking that they’re barely covering gas and equipment costs with the fare I’m giving. My solution? Most of the time I take Uber Black, which is expensive – like 3 to 5 times the cost of Uber X – so I don’t have to worry that these drivers are poorly paid. And when I do occasionally take an Uber X I hit that tip option. Like almost everything else in life, I can’t be ideologically consistent on this point. If I take the time to think of it I end up making a business decision, which is almost always a compromise.

Making money passively…very passively

Got this message today from my brother Justin: “On April 24th we closed on the sale of the “Seabird,” our 12-unit apartment building 99 yards from the wide white-sand beach in Pompano Beach. We bought the property from a bank in 2011 for $515,000. We put a few hundred thousand in it over the years, but much of that was from cash flow. So our sale price of $1.325 million still netted us very healthy capital gains. Specifically we’re distributing just shy of $770,000, including just over $667,000 in capital gains.” Justin has been building a very impressive real estate portfolio since he quit working for me in 2009 and went out on his own to make his fortune in real estate. I’ve been investing with him since then and it’s been the best passive real estate experience I’ve ever had – and not just in terms of ROI, but promises kept and communication.

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Culture > Logic


Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist, had a unique view of free market economics. He had an insight that some of his best fellow economists were blind to. He understood that economics is ultimately not about supply and demand or about financial rewards but about culture. Culture always trumps rational analysis. Otherwise, why would the poor be willing to serve the rich by dying in war?

Schumpeter was right in thinking that capitalism would eventually yield to socialism. Not, as Karl Marx had predicted, because of economic needs but because the culture of the powerful and educated classes would demand it. What he was not aware of was the force of the culture of countries that owned slaves or had colonies that did. They will have to deal with that problem for another two hundred years.

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MilkManThe idea that there are more good and qualified people who want to find jobs than there are appropriate jobs for them is a myth (perpetuated by academia). The opposite is true. There are plenty of good jobs, but most people who apply for them are unqualified to fill them.

These are people at the bottom of the employment chain, people whose “skills” have been rendered largely useless by the advance of technology. In the age of the Internet, we no longer need people to open and sort mail. Nor do we need people to enter data when it is done automatically.

What we need are people who have learned to think rationally and communicate effectively — things our educational system is not set up to teach people to do. So they are put out into the marketplace, a marketplace that has no room for them.

Unless education radically changes, the poor will always be with us.

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Government or Business?

Just as you can’t trust businesspeople to put their customers first, you can’t trust politicians to put their constituents first.

Neither libertarians nor big-government advocates have a theoretical advantage in the argument over whether it is better for the government or for private businesses to hold power. But if you look at business versus government in terms of their major contributions to American history, you can see a difference.

Arthur Bloom, the award-winning television news director, said this about the government’s efforts to destroy the Bell Telephone Company:

There are two giant entities at work in our country, and they both have an amazing influence on our daily lives…. One has given us radar, sonar, stereo, teletype, the transistor, hearing aids, artificial larynxes, talking movies, and the telephone. The other has given us the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, the Great Depression, the gasoline crisis, and the Watergate fiasco. Guess which one is now trying to tell the other one how to run its business?

At the highest level of our economy we see big business working hand-in-hand with the government. That is because the government has always known it was in its best interest to align itself with the bankers and major business players. It is really only the entrepreneurial class that can be trusted to create more wealth for more people, but government rarely gives entrepreneurs more than a passing nod.

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