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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Notes From My Journal

What’s the Truth About Employment in America Today?

Delray Beach, FL- In South Florida, it’s difficult to find contractors these days because the demand for new construction and renovations is stronger than it’s been in years.

It’s also tough to find qualified people for the publishing and marketing industries. It’s a good time to be looking for a job. Not a good time for finding employees.

I don’t know how this cut of the employment situation is countrywide, but in claiming “victory” for making America great again, President Trump has cited (among other things) record low unemployment statistics.

My colleague Bill Bonner had something to say about this recently on his blog

President Reagan’s budget advisor, David Stockman, writes that, while the official unemployment rate has gone down, the number of full-time, “breadwinner” jobs in America, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in July, was 73.83 million. 

When the century began 18 years ago, the number was 72.73 million. Only 1 million decent new jobs have been created – while the U.S. population has grown by 48 million people!

Almost all the rosy jobs numbers are traceable to 1) people dropping out of the workforce, 2) low-paid, part-time jobs in the leisure and medical service sectors, and 3) inflation.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Should I Care Even Less?

Next on My Passion Diet: Economic Theory

Popular philosophy today promotes the idea that a good life is a passionate one, that by caring more we can lead fuller lives.

I used to feel this way. Do it with passion or don’t do it at all. I can’t say it was an idea because I didn’t actually think about it. It was how I approached my life. I was passionate, sometimes get-into-trouble passionate.

So when I was introduced to Buddhist thinking in my college years, I was appalled at one of the “four noble truths” – that desire (i.e., passion) is a primary cause of suffering and that the proper path in life was to get rid of desire.

The idea seemed prima facie absurd and/or repugnant. All my fun came from my passions. Why should I give them up?

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Notes From My Journal

Does the SEC Really Give a Crap About Small Investors?

Delray Beach, FL– “The private markets are awash in capital these days,” Jay Clayton, Chairman of the SEC, told entrepreneurs and business-school students in Nashville recently. “The question is, who is participating?”

For decades, regulators have walled off most private deals from smaller investors. Because of the added risk of private investing, they must meet stringent income and net-worth requirements to participate. As a result, small investors never had access to companies like Uber Technologies and Airbnb.

Mr. Clayton wants to change that.

“This is good news,” TM said in a memo to my partners. “And it would be no small potatoes as it would open a big line of biz. Early Seeds.”

TM was talking about the opportunity for businesses like ours, publishers of investment advice, to sell more newsletters and other advisory services focusing on this newly opened and quite exciting topic.

Here’s what I think: Yes, it will be good for financial publishers like us. And it will be great for financial advisors and brokers and all the guys with suits that live off Wall Street. But it will not be good for ordinary investors, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. This change will make the sum of them poorer. And I’m pretty sure Mr. Clayton knows that.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

A Serious Answer to a Dumb Question

 “What habit made the biggest difference in your life with the least effort?”

This is the sort of question you see on Quora – ultimately dumb but superficially interesting. I rarely open the links because I know the answers will likely be as silly as the questions.

That’s what happened when I saw this one.

But then I thought: If I am taking questions from an audience and someone asks this one, how would I answer it? I couldn’t dismiss it as a stupid. What would I say?

Hmmm… the audience is waiting. Clock is ticking…

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Notes from my Journal

Everything Is Going Up

New York City– Walking uptown on 8th, from 17th to 41st, we passed through what used to be called Hell’s Kitchen. And we were surprised to see a half-dozen glittering glass skyscrapers amidst what appeared to be a massive development.

It was Hudson Yards, a 60-block megaproject financed by the state, the city, and the MTA, in conjunction with The Related Companies, Oxford, and some additional private builders. It goes from 29th to 42nd street, and from 8th Avenue to West Side Highway.

Much of it is built on a huge concrete platform that covers an underground storage facility for rail cars. The first phase, which is what we were looking at, has two large office towers with a retail podium between them, and an 80-story tower on 10th that is the city’s third-tallest building.

The complex will include millions of square feet of residential and commercial space, including seven residential towers, a mall with 100 shops and 20 restaurants, and six acres of gardens and roads. The total cost of the project was estimated several years ago at $20 billion but it is likely to come in higher.

Dozens of businesses whose headquarters had been moved out of the city in years past have committed to leasing space. And some firms residing in the financial district have plans to move in. Needless to say, this has spurred all sorts of secondary development activities in surrounding areas.

I wondered about the economic impact of the project. New York City has problems.

Last year, for example, the city was ranked last among 20 US cities on “taxpayer burden.” The city had accumulated over $150 billion in bills above and beyond assets on its balance sheet, which translated to $61,000 per taxpaying denizen.

What those numbers didn’t take into account, however, was the city’s ability to raise revenues through taxes. As these buildings go up, so do tax revenues. Not just property taxes but sales taxes and personal income taxes as more mid- and high-income people are lured back into the city.

I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to the eventual success of the project. But it’s hard to imagine that during the next 5 to 10 years it will be anything less than hugely positive.


From my work in progress basket

Get Up, Take a Walk, Extend Your Life

You don’t have to be a physiologist to understand how unhealthy it is to spend 8 or 10 hours a day sitting on your butt.

The stiffness you feel when you get up should be an obvious warning. Or the simple logic of recognizing how the body is designed (to move on two feet) and the consequences of ignoring that.

You’re probably aware that countless studies have linked extended sedentary behavior – prolonged sitting, in particular – to not only spinal, muscular, and joint problems but a plethora of other conditions. These include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

Note: We are talking about any form of sitting – in front of a screen, in front of a steering wheel, or in front of a keyboard.

And although I think of myself as fairly active because I walk for 40 minutes and exercise for an hour each day, if you add up the time I spend reading, writing, or driving… I’m probably in a sitting position for 8 to 12 hours.


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Notes from my Journal

A New Word, an Old Peeve

New York City– Sitting on the stoop in front of this brownstone, reading a magazine, I come across a word that’s new to me: glanceable.

This doesn’t happen often. And when it does, it’s usually a neologism built from something foreign or political. (Have you noticed? Recently, most political neologisms seem to be invented to cope with the ever-expanding micro-culture of identity politics.)

Glanceable felt different. Modest. Unpretentious. Easy to interpret. But was it unnecessary? Could it have been just a synonym for scannable?

I looked it up and was happy to discover that, no, it is not a synonym for scannable. There is a subtle but important difference.

Scannable is an adjective that qualifies the readability of text. It means “that which can be scanned,” either with a fast read or electronically with a scanner. (Example: a scannable ID)

Glanceable also refers to the readability of text. But its focus and its requirements are very strict. Glanceable denotes information – usually on a screen – that can be read and understood at a glance.

In other words, it refers to very short lengths of text (headlines, subheads, captions, etc.) or graphic elements (charts, graphs, Illustrations) that can be comprehended in a matter of seconds.

That’s different than readable or scannable. And I like it for that reason. It has a use, a particular use that is much needed in the publishing world.

A pet peeve of mine is the publication of graphics meant to demonstrate concepts that are difficult to grasp. They may convey the information intended. But if it takes the reader minutes to figure them out, what’s the point? It would be better to use words.

If you can elucidate (see “Today’s Word”) complex ideas through graphics, you should do so. Just make sure that they are glanceable – i.e., so crystal clear that the reader can grok them at a glance.

The logic of this rule is so simple that it’s hard for me to understand why so many writers and editors choose to ignore it and continue to put out charts and graphs and illustrations that confound.


From my work in progress basket

A Simple and Realistic Way to Attract Success in Your Life (for People Smart Enough to Smirk at the Law of Attraction)

There’s a way to bring good fortune into your life. It might look, from one angle, like luck (or perhaps some precious “law” of the universe). But it is, in fact, something much more mundane. Something like a recipe for baking bread.

I’m talking about a “recipe” for attracting (yes, attracting) success. For solving problems and opening doors and bringing amazing people into your life.

I discovered the recipe 30 years ago by observing TP, a man that had built one of the largest direct-marketing companies in our industry.

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