They say the three most important decisions in life are what you do, where you do it, and with whom.

That sounds right. But most of us don’t make these decisions formally. It’s not as if, when you turn 18 or 21, you get a communiqué from on high asking you to make your choices.

When I look back, I can see that each of these decisions was actually the result of a series of small decisions that seemed to lead me in some direction.

I never, for example, decided to live in Florida. I ended up here 40 years ago as a result of a misunderstanding about the tax deductibility of vacations and the advice of a stoner.

I certainly didn’t simply “choose” my life partner. I had a crush. We dated. We separated. I wrote to her. She wrote to me. Etc. Etc. There must have been a thousand small decisions involved in this big one.

As for what I do – my career – I didn’t exactly choose that either.

This is the path that (I think) got me to where I am today:

10 Decisions That Changed My Life 

  1. Deciding to start the Junior Police Club– I got the club idea from the Little Rascals’ “He-Man Woman Haters Club.” I formed it when I was maybe 12. The concept was a preteen version of the Guardian Angels. I met with the local police chief to ask his advice. (“Behave yourselves.”) I created a set of rules. We had makeshift uniforms.

Membership peaked at six, but the club thing stuck with me. It led to – in my 30s, 40s, and 50s – the creation of the Oxford Club, the Highlander Club, and The Wealth Club, all of them very successful businesses.

  1. Deciding to become a serious student – I was an underachiever. Mrs. Grow said I was the biggest underachiever she’d ever known. I’m not sure why I liked playing the clown in high school. It had something to do with a predilection for not conforming. But midway through my senior year, I decided to change and began to do my homework. My grades shot up almost immediately. In college, I forced myself to sit in the front row. I read the assignments, did the homework, and asked and answered questions. It didn’t take me long to be one of the “go-to” students in class. I graduated college with a 3.83 (out of 4.0) cumulative average, magna cum laude. And I went on to graduate school at the University of Michigan and Catholic University, where I won all sorts of academic honors.

I could have spent my life as the goof-off in the back of the classroom. I moved to the front and learned to enjoy it. 

  1. Deciding to start an actual business– I had been working part-time and on weekends since I was 12, and had every sort of job you could imagine – from waiting tables to painting houses to plating silver to selling pots and pans to writing term papers for money. Then, when I was about 20, two friends and I started Reliable Pools, a “real business” with real customers, real employees, real business cards, and real profits.

For the first time in my life, I was making more money than I could spend. In a single year, I paid off my college loans and had enough left over to fix up my parents’ dilapidated old house. It felt good. 

  1. Deciding to live in Africa – To get away from the dull destiny of my hometown, I applied and was accepted into the Peace Corps as a volunteer. I spent two years in Africa, teaching English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Chad.

I came away from that experience with a new perspective.  I became a citizen of the world. And I learned that I could be happy living a simple life in a simple house. 

  1. Deciding to get rich – About five years after I got back from the Peace Corps, I decided that I wanted to get rich. There were lots of other things I wanted to do with my life, but I decided to make getting rich my top goal and work on the others later. That decision almost instantly changed the way I worked and, more importantly, thought about work. I realized that if I wanted to get rich as an employee, I had to make my boss very rich. I did that in spades.

Within 18 months, I went from broke to millionaire.

  1. Deciding to retire (for the first time) – When I was 39, I decided to retire. I was still young and had an 8-figure net worth. I thought it would be a good time to try out my dream. I bought a warehouse, converted it into a library/art gallery/auto garage, and spent 18 months painting and writing poetry. I had a personal secretary to help me with… I don’t even know. And, yes, I was spending a lot of money. In fact, I was spending so much money that I had to either cut back or go back to work.

I tried cutting back. That lasted 24 hours. Then I went back to work.

  1. Deciding to stop caring about money – When I was 49, I realized that I had all the money I’d ever need. I decided to remove “getting richer” from my to-do list. I stepped down from actively running a large publishing company and went to work for it as a consultant. I also kept writing.

In the next 10 years, I wrote a dozen business books and published an advisory blog that had 900,000 readers. 

  1. Deciding to take my own medicine – One of the subjects I wrote about frequently on my blog was personal productivity. And when I read Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I incorporated his four quadrants of time management into my own system. Covey argued that focusing on your important-but-not-urgent goals – those that you never seem to get to because you are so busy – will change your life. He was right.

In the next 10 years, I accomplished all sorts of things that I’m quite sure never would have happened. Things such as writing fiction and poetry, producing movies, developing a family foundation, and so on.

  1. Deciding to keep working – I hired a therapist. Her job was to help me retire. I had tried to retire three times. Now that I was approaching 69, I intended to make one final and serious effort. We worked hard. We had fun. After 18 months, she told me that I was hopeless. “You should accept yourself,” she said. “Accept the fact that you like your work.”

I did, knowing that meant I was never going to retire. And since then, I have never wanted to. 

  1. Deciding to get rid of my wealth – I read too many books. I heard too many stories. Dying rich is a huge mistake. It almost always causes problems. Not money problems. Those you can take care of with proper planning. Family problems. Leaving money to others is like leaving emotional land mines. (Read Beyond the Graveby Jeffrey L. Condon.) Leaving money to charities is just as bad or worse. Acquiring wealth takes discipline and hard work. Getting rid of it does too. (That’s why Warren Buffett gave half of his wealth to Bill Gates – to let Bill figure out how to do it.)

For all of these reasons, I have decided to get rid of at least 80% of my wealth in the next few years. Instead of leaving it in my will, I’m getting rid of it now while I can see and be responsible for its effects. (Don’t ask. You can’t have any.)

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“Art = technical competence times emotional honesty squared.”

– Michael Masterson

I’ve been looking seriously at art for nearly 60 years, collecting it for about 40 years, and selling it for about 30 years. And I’ve learned a few things about it.One of those things has to do with why people buy art – which is the same reason that they buy everything else they don’t need but think they do: to try to soothe their damaged psyches.

That’s not mean to be a criticism. Or if it is, it’s a criticism I accept as deserving, since I cannot claim that I’m an exception.

But there are degrees in everything, don’t you think? And when it comes to some modern and most contemporary art (as opposed to art made prior to the 20th century), the relationship between sense and sensibility has never been greater.

Which is to say that the market for abstract art is absolutely unhinged today. The price people are paying for trendy works has skyrocketed to lunatic levels.

Here’s an example – a little story about a work by Kenneth Noland that was recently purchased at Christie’s by Robert Buford for a multimillion-dollar, record-breaking price…

“I bought it at Christie’s” LINK

I used to sell Kenneth Noland paintings. He is of a school of abstraction called “color field.” And he was a prominent player.

If you look him up, you’ll read something like, “Instead of painting the canvas with a brush, Noland’s style was to stain the canvas with color. The idea was to make the piece about the art, not the artist, by removing the brushstrokes. He emphasized spatial relationships in his work by leaving unstained areas of bare canvas as a contrast against the colors.” Blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, blah, indeed. The real reason Noland is important in the history of modern art is because… well, because he was a prominent color field artist…

Back when I was selling his work, an ordinary piece of his would go for 10 or 20 grand. A really good piece might fetch six figures.

How prices have appreciated…

So check out Buford’s little story about how he almost missed his chance (horrors!) to set that crazy record for a Noland. And when you do, notice the trendy sneaker-shoes he is wearing. I wonder how much he paid for them.

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“It is astonishing how much enjoyment one can get out of a language that one understands imperfectly.”

– Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve

Quora is a knowledge-sharing website where questions are asked and answered – and translated into various languages – by users. It is currently available in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil. To keep up with my foreign languages, I read it not only in English but in French, Spanish, and Italian. I like it because the questions are usually inane and the answers are ludicrous. You may not need the practice, but you might enjoy deciphering the translations.

What I’ve found especially interesting is that the English version has the most trivial but practical questions, the French are mostly concerned with comparing themselves to the USA, and the Italians talk almost exclusively about cars and sex.

Before cheating and doing a Google translation, try your hand at this one – Gordon Miller’s answer to the question “Why do so many people that want to get rich fail,” translated for Quora’s French readers by Gaetan Beissirad:

Il y a 10 raisons qui expliquent pourquoi la plupart des gens sont fauchés 

  1. Ils sont incapables de gérer leurs émotions. Les gens ne peuvent pas rester calme quand ils sont sous pression. 
  1. Ils se fixent des objectifs pas assez ambitieux. Les gens ont des objectifs trop bas.
  1. Ils pensent trouver « le secret ».Les gens pensent que certains livres détiennent « le secret » pour réussir. Il n’y a pas de secrets. 
  1. Ils ont des pensées limitantes à propos de la vie et de l’argent. Les gens pauvres pensent que tout est contre eux tandis que les gens riches font bouger les choses pour avoir ce qu’ils veulent. Les gens pauvres pensent que l’argent n’a pas d’importance et les riches comprennent l’importance de l’argent. 
  1. Ils choisissent de mauvais mentor. Les gens croient « le coach de vie » « le coach de business » ou leur « mentor » qui n’ont souvent rien fait dans leurs vies à part gagner de l’argent en vendant leurs conseils de coach.
  1. Ils sont contrôlés par la peur. Les gens prétendent que cette peur n’existent pas mais finissent leur vie dans la pauvreté et la misère. D’autres agissent en dépit de la peur et ne laissent jamais la peur les stopper et finissent riches et misérables. Les vrais Winners « embrasssent » la peur et la laissent les motiver. 
  1. Ils essayent de réinventer la roue. Les gens doivent débuter avec un système prouvé et efficace que même un idiot pourrait reproduire. Parce qu’éventuellement un le fera.
  1. Les gens sont nuls en business. Les gens doivent apprendre les mécaniques, les principes du business dans la vraie vie. 
  1. Les gens sont inconfortables avec les mots comme « ventes » et « persuasion ». Les gens doivent réaliser que la vente fait partie de la vie. Soit vous vendez et persuadez soit vous échouez.
  1. Ils sont esclaves de l’argent et n’attendent que leur paye mensuelle. Les gens qui travaillent pour quelqu’un d’autre ne deviendront jamais riche. La seule exception ce sont les gens payés par commission à la vente ou les gens qui sont capables de générer des actifs massifs pour une société. La meilleure façon de démarrer votre propre business est de le commencer pendant que vous avez un autre travail à côté. C’est ce que j’ai fait.
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“It takes as much imagination to create debt as to create income.”

– Leonard Orr

Auto Debt, Student Debt, Federal Debt: What’s Not to Love? 

Bill Bonner has been writing a series of interesting essays about trucks and cars. Well, if you know Bill, you know they aren’t actually about trucks and cars but the economics of owning/leasing/using them.

In the October 2 issue of Bill Bonner’s Diary, he cites an article from The Wall Street Journal:

“Walk into an auto dealership these days and you might walk out with a seven-year car loan.

“That means monthly payments that last well past when the brake pads give out and potentially beyond when the car gets traded in for a new one. About a third of auto loans for new vehicles taken in the first half of 2019 had terms of longer than six years, according to credit-reporting firm Experian PLC. A decade ago, that number was less than 10%.…

“For many Americans, the availability of loans with longer terms has created an illusion of affordability. It has helped fuel car purchases that would have been out of reach with three-, five-, or even six-year loans.”

In the last ten years the average auto price has climbed from $30,000 to $40,000. That’s an escalation rate of about 3% a year, 50 basis points (or $5,000) higher than inflation.

“Since the average wage has been little changed – around $23 per hour – that means the time price has gone from about 1,300 hours to about 1,700.”

So the average American is paying more for a car these days – not because he can afford to but because the auto industry is willing to extend and the consumer is willing to take on more debt.

When cars became the transportation of choice, a hundred years ago, they were much cheaper than they are today – not just in absolute terms, but also much cheaper relative to inflation.

Bill explains:

“When Henry Ford introduced the Model T, the sticker price was $850. Then, with his conveyor belt assembly lines, he was able to get the price down to $360 by 1925. As near as we can figure; hourly wages in 1925 were between $1 and $1.50. So, the auto – basic transportation for the Roaring Twenties – cost the typical wage earner about 300 hours of his time. Now, he must work nearly six times as much for his wheels.”

Bill sees this as a symptom of a much larger problem, a great shift in how just about everyone in power – politicians, captains of industry, leading academics, and the mainstream media – feel about debt.

Bill and I were brought up to believe that debt was dangerous – something to be avoided in most cases, except when the cost of money was relatively low and the thing you were financing was an appreciating asset. (Like a house purchased at a low price.) Cars are not appreciating assets. So Bill and I didn’t finance our first cars with loans. We bought cars we could afford with cash. My first car was a 1957 Pontiac, I think. I know what it cost: $25.

Bill continues:

“It’s Inflate or Die in the auto industry – and in the whole economy. Auto debt has nearly doubled since 2009. All that additional debt – about $720 billion – only brought sales back to pre-crisis levels.

“In other words, the only way to stay in the same place is by adding debt. And the only way to do that in auto finance is to stretch out the payments.

“But by the end of the term, the collateral value of the auto has been impaired. And like the mortgage loans of 2007, investors are likely to end up with considerably less than they bargained for.”

Automobile debt in the USA is about $1.3 trillion today. That’s roughly the same as student loan debt. Elizabeth Warren proposes to forgive $50,000 of student debt for everyone who earns less than $100,000, Bill reminds us. That’s a great vote getter for the students. But every dollar of forgiven debt is a dollar more of federal debt, which is up $12 trillion since 2009 and growing by a trillion a year.

“The Federal Reserve urges us to borrow more,” Bill reminds us. “The president and his advisors assure us that the Dow will hit 30,000. Warren, Sanders, et al. have their own debt-financed bamboozles… waiting for their hour to come ’round at last.”

“Will these new things make our lives better?” he asks.

My answer: Not likely.

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“Kill Your Inner John Bolton” by Caitlin Johnstone 

“We each have a miniature John Bolton,” Caitlin Johnstone says, writing in Taki’s Magazine.  And he’s “living rent-free inside our heads, ruining our peace and promoting world domination at every opportunity.”

She continues:

“The most common objection I hear when I advocate non-interventionist foreign policy can essentially be boiled down to something like, ‘But- but- but if we’re not controlling the world all the time, then the world will be out of our control!’ The argument, as I understand it, is that if the US-centralized empire stopped waging endless wars, staging coups, inflicting siege warfare upon civilian populations, patrolling the skies with flying death robots, arming terrorist militias, and torturing journalists who expose US war crimes, the bad guys might win.”

What she finds funny about this, apart from the obvious, is how it relates to meditation.

“‘This is all fine,’ the mind interrupts constantly while the meditator struggles to find peace. ‘But there are tasks we must attend to, and there are wrong people on the internet who simply must be put in their place. Life is cold and hostile and we must protect and secure ourselves against it if we’re to be safe. You can keep sitting there doing that breathing nonsense if you must, but I’ve got plans, schemes and witty comebacks to formulate. The world simply cannot get by without my being there to control it.’”

Her argument is that foreign policy would be a lot more effective if it modeled itself on meditation. “You simply allow everything to be as it is. You sit without trying to manipulate or control any aspect of your experience.”

When you meditate, you don’t try to control the thoughts and feelings that move through your head. You give those things permission to be there – and by leaving them alone, they move on.

And that works out, she says, because you enter a state of “benevolent detachment” in which “the deep and pervasive peace underlying the appearance of all forms is in fact our true nature.”

But it is not easy to attain this state of consciousness, she acknowledges. It takes a leap of faith, a “conscious decision to honor the sovereignty of everyone and everything.”

Just as non-interventionist foreign policy would.

“In exactly the same way that Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton argues that the ‘anarchic international environment’ is so dangerous that any means necessary must be employed to bring it under control, we too have a shrill, mustachioed voice in our heads continually arguing that life must be brought to heel at any cost. But in both cases it is the agenda to control the world, and the inability to simply trust it, which is our real enemy. Our enemy is not a cold, hostile world which resists our attempts to control it, no: our enemy is the John Boltons, both within and without.”

Johnstone argues that the natural, “default” position of both human consciousness and human civilization is peace.

“It is only by the most rigorous efforts to control and manipulate our world that we drag ourselves kicking and screaming out of that natural state. We will come to peace, both within and without, when we choose to trust the world and take that leap of faith into our true nature. The path to all peace necessarily follows this one unifying trajectory.”

What about the Russians? What about China? What about Al-Qaida?

She believes that such objections are fast becoming irrelevant, that we are approaching a point where we will either make sweeping changes or we will all perish.

“One way or the other we are going to wake up one day in a world without any John Boltons, either in our heads or in Washington, DC. The only say we have in the matter is in whether this will happen because we chose to rid ourselves of the evil mutant death walruses who are driving us toward death and destruction, or because they succeeded in doing so.”

 

 

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Every politician, college professor, social warrior, and NYT columnist today is concerned about wealth and income disparity. The general view is that there is a lot of it. Globally, but also within the good old USA. The underlying assumption is that this is a bad thing.

I agree. When I was a young man, living in Africa and working for the Peace Corps, I felt that I was part of a larger mission to close the gap – not by bringing the wealthy down, but by bringing the poor up. And during my lifetime I’ve taken part in and/or witnessed many efforts towards that goal. Johnson’s War on Poverty, for example, and the hundreds of social welfare and economic reform campaigns that have taken place since then.

To my chagrin, I’ve seen no substantially positive results. The biggest reductions in poverty happened around the turn of the last century thanks to industrialization. More progress was made mid-century after WWII. But progress has slowed to a standstill. In the last 30 or 40 years, in fact, the gap has widened.

The African country I lived in for two years, Chad, is no better now than it was in 1975. The same is true for most sub-Saharan countries. Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and South Africa are much poorer than they were back then. (See my essay about Robert Mugabe.) In the USA, working- and middle-class Americans earn less – when you figure in inflation – than they did in 1980. That bothers me.

I’ve been thinking and writing about this subject since about 2000. And what I’ve noticed is that the remedies that were proposed nearly 50 years ago are pretty much the same as they were then: give more, help more, teach more, etc.

The aid we give to single moms was meant to help them take care of their children, who would then go on to have better lives. But what’s happened is much the reverse. The children are dropping out of school sooner and getting into legal trouble at a much higher rate than they did when the only financial assistance their mothers could hope for came from churches and private charities.

So if what we have been doing is not working, it seems obvious that we should try something else. But the only “something else” that is being offered is to do nothing. That may be the better solution… but for me and many others, it is not a satisfactory one.

Which brings me to an essay I read recently by James Clear: “The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards in Life.”

The Inequality Gene: Our Deep-Seated Impulse to Be Better or Worse

In his essay, Clear talks about the discovery of the famous 80/20 rule in the 19thcentury by Vilfredo Pareto, a part-time gardener and full-time economist.

Having noticed that most of the peas in his garden were produced by a small number of plants, he wondered if there was some sort of mathematical ratio that could be applied to the peas as well as to other things. As an economist, he had been studying the unequal distribution of wealth in various countries – so now, beginning with his own country, he turned his attention to analyzing the data he had collected. And the first thing he found was that about 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by just 20 percent of the people.

He found similar ratios in other countries. In Great Britain, for example, 30 percent of the population earned about 70 percent of the total income.

The numbers were never quite the same, but the pattern was consistent. The majority of the financial wealth and income always accrued to a small percentage of people.

“In the decades that followed,” Clear writes, “Pareto’s work practically became gospel for economists. Once he opened the world’s eyes to this idea, people started seeing it everywhere. And the 80/20 Rule is more prevalent now than ever before.

“For example, through the 2015-2016 season in the National Basketball Association, 20 percent of franchises have won 75.3 percent of the championships….

“The numbers are even more extreme in soccer. While 77 different nations have competed in the World Cup, just three countries – Brazil, Germany, and Italy – have won 13 of the first 20 World Cup tournaments.

“Examples of [what we now know as] the Pareto Principle exist in everything from real estate to income inequality to tech startups.

“Why does this happen?”

Clear answers his question with another theory: the Winner-Take-All Effect.

The idea here is pretty simple. When you win the gold, you are given rewards that put you in an advantaged position over those against whom you have been and will be competing.

“From this advantageous position,” he says, “with the gold medal in hand or with cash in the bank or from the chair of the Oval Office, the winner begins the process of accumulating advantages that make it easier for them to win the next time around. What began as a small margin is starting to trend toward the 80/20 Rule….

“If one business has a technology that is more innovative than another, then more people will buy their products. As the business makes more money, they can invest in additional technology, pay higher salaries, and hire better people. By the time the competition catches up, there are other reasons for customers to stick with the first business. Soon, one company dominates the industry….

“The margin between good and great is narrower than it seems. What begins as a slight edge over the competition compounds with each additional contest. Winning one competition improves your odds of winning the next. Each additional cycle further cements the status of those at the top.

“Over time, those that are slightly better end up with the majority of the rewards. Those that are slightly worse end up with next to nothing. This idea is sometimes referred to as The Matthew Effect, which references a passage in The Bible that says, ‘For all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

This takes us to what Clear calls “the 1 Percent Rule.”

“The 1 Percent Rule states that over time the majority of the rewards in a given field will accumulate to the people, teams, and organizations that maintain a 1 percent advantage over the alternatives. You don’t need to be twice as good to get twice the results. You just need to be slightly better.

“The 1 Percent Rule is not merely a reference to the fact that small differences accumulate into significant advantages, but also to the idea that those who are one percent better rule their respective fields and industries. Thus, the process of accumulative advantage is the hidden engine that drives the 80/20 Rule.”

So where does this leave us? How does this help?

What it means is that in any free area of competition – whether it be competing in sports or owning a restaurant or running a business or making money – those that come out of the gate working harder and smarter than the rest and edge ahead of the competition can stay ahead of the competition and eventually move to the lofty one-percent level… if they continue to work hard and smart.

But it also means that in any given area of competition, newcomers that come up with new ideas and/or new strategies for “winning” can enter the market and begin their own ascent.

What’s interesting is that in a free market – where everyone is competing for wealth and income – staying ahead, though perhaps easier, is not as common as the 1 Percent Rule would have you suppose. Fortunes made in one generation are reduced in most cases in the second generation, and are mostly gone by the third.

Meanwhile, the up-and-comers keep coming. About 80 percent (there it is again!) of the approximately 1500 new millionaires the USA produces every day are people that started from scratch.

And the reason for that is another principle. Let’s call it “the intrinsic impulse for inequality.”

This is my principle. (You heard it here first.) And it is easy to understand. It states that human nature deplores equality. And that no matter how often and how ruthlessly you attempt to level inequality in any given market, the moment you seem to be making headway, every single individual in that market will begin to work on creating inequality again.

The easiest way to achieve inequality is to find a way to do less or to have less. And that is the choice that many people make. The harder way is to do more in order to have more. And that is also a popular choice.

A government can, by force, mandate more equal incomes. It can also redistribute wealth. This can be done partially or fully. But the result is always the same. The forced equalizing is accepted, even welcomed by those on the take. But within 24 hours, that equality will start to erode as individuals do what they are genetically designed to do – distinguish themselves from the rest.

 

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About AZ… 

AZ and I have a friendship that is at least partly about our common career paths. We met after K and I had moved to South Florida. I was beginning a new job as editor of a newsletter publishing company. He had a furniture business. I was broke. He was making money. Some years later, fate turned against him. He closed his business and moved north to start another. He built that business into a great success, then sold it and retired. I saw him recently at his Tuscany summer home, a villa he and his wife bought and beautifully renovated five years ago.

AZ has many admirable qualities. But what I especially like about him is that he has no pretentions about his success. He doesn’t talk about the hard work and perseverance and intelligence it took to build it. He talks as if he hit the lottery. He’s amazed to think that he came here when he was 12, speaking no English and broke.

He loves his toys. And he isn’t embarrassed to spend money on them. He also loves his charities and gives generously to them. But most of all, he loves his friendships – and he has many.

We talked about the friends he and his wife have made since they started coming to Tuscany. He spoke about his new hobby – making things out of wine bottle boxes. And he spoke about our friendship, now more than 30 years old. What we didn’t speak of is the cancer that is in his kidneys and may be spreading to other parts of his body.

I am of an age where death is always looming. In another year, I’ll be entering my 70s. When you die in your 70s, people don’t say you died young. They say, if they want to say something positive, that you lived a “full” life. I don’t feel like I have yet lived anywhere near a full life. I’ve got projects to complete and books to write. My manuscript box has 14 unfinished books that I’m working on.

I won’t go easily into the night. I’m already raging against it. But when I die, I won’t be hurting anymore. Living while your friends are dying… that’s what hurts.

But AZ isn’t raging. He’s living every day happily, busy with his friendships and his hobbies, feeling grateful for what he has.

Saying goodbye later that night, he hugged me warmly. “We’re so lucky,” he said. And I know he meant it.

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I just read an article about a new trend in delivery services on Peter Diamandis’s blog, Abundance Insider. Here’s what he wrote:

Thousands of autonomous delivery robots are about to descend on US college campuses

What it is: Having just raised $40 million in its Series A round, autonomous robot delivery startup Starship Technologies is now targeting U.S. college campuses. In total, Starship’s self-driving delivery bots have traveled 350,000 miles, completing over 100,000 deliveries across 20 different countries. With extensive testing under its belt, the company plans to deploy thousands of its all-electric, six-wheeled bots for college food deliveries over the next two years. Already in action at George Mason University and Northern Arizona University, the robots can carry up to 20 pounds of cargo and make deliveries within a three-to-four-mile radius.

Why it’s important: Online grocery shopping is predicted to surge up to fivefold over the next ten years, and American consumers are expected to spend upwards of $100 billion on food-at-home items by 2025. While today’s human-conducted delivery services (think: Postmates and DoorDash) are on the rise, these non-automated options remain heavily subsidized, as labor costs far exceed those of robotized alternatives. By first targeting college campuses, companies like Starship can benefit from well-defined, easily navigable environments (not to mention an abundance of tech-savvy, young buyers) while building out an expanded business model for urban integration.

So what do we make of this? Automation, in general, is a trend that seems both inevitable and also fast-moving. That’s a good thing for consumers and for the environment and for the companies developing these tools. But what about all those people making a living today in jobs (such as delivery “boys”) that could soon be a thing of the past?

So far, technological evolution has created more, not fewer, jobs. Many relatively unskilled workers are now employed in the continuously expanding service market. But automation is insinuating itself in the service industries, too. Thinking like this puts the mind right into science fiction movies of 20 and 30 years ago. Will it be a world where everyone is working 2-hour days? Or will it be a world divided into fortified cities surrounded by wilderness where people in loincloths scavenge for food?

 

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“What 13 Highly Successful People Like Warren Buffett and Donald Trump Read Every Morning”?

I’ll be damned. Most of the most successful entrepreneurs in the USA don’t follow my advice. Judging from this article on Entrepreneur.com, most of the big shots spend the first hour or two of their days reading news and checking email.

I guess when you’re a billionaire you can do anything you want. But they’d be happier and more productive if they reserved that precious part of the day for something that actually matters – like working on a project that their grandkids would be proud of. (“Grandpa was amazing. He used to read five newspapers every morning.” “Grandma was a stud. She sorted through 150 emails every day before nine o’clock!”)

Unless your career depends on being up to date on the news, trying to stay “on top of” what’s happening is largely a waste of time. (I know you don’t agree. When you are my age, you’ll understand.) And email? 80% of it is other people asking you to do their business.

I’ve been saying this for 20 years: The two things you should NOT do first thing in the morning are reading the news and answering emails. What you should do is devote that crucial part of the day to advancing an important-but-not-urgent goal.

One thing, though, that the big shots do (according to the Entrepreneur.com article) that I’ve recommended is wake up early. Most of them are at work by six am. Early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise.

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I am not big on conspiracy theories.

I’m 100% sure Hillary Clinton was not involved in the global pizza parlor/child slavery industry. I’m 50/50 on JFK.

But so far, I’m thinking that Jeffrey Epstein did not hang himself. Here are the facts I’ve gathered so far. (I haven’t verified them, but I’ve seen them repeated several times.)

Jeffrey Epstein: What Can We Believe? 

 * Fact: On July 23, weeks before his death, Epstein was found unconscious in his cell. He had marks around his neck. Epstein said his cellmate had assaulted him.

* Fact: His cellmate was no ordinary convict. He was a hugely muscular ex-cop facing trial for murdering four people and burying them in his yard.

* Question: Why did Epstein, a high-profile inmate who had incriminating knowledge of extremely powerful business and government figures, have a cellmate?

* Fact: Although there has been no record of the thinking behind it, prison officials decided Epstein’s claim of assault was false and put him on suicide watch.

* Fact:  Six days after being placed on suicide watch, Epstein was returned to the general population. According to Dr. Ziv Cohen, a psychiatrist who evaluates inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein was being held, “Any case where someone had a proven or suspected serious suicide attempt, that would be unusual to within two to three weeks take them off suicide watch.”

* Fact:  According to the medical examiner’s report, Epstein had several broken bones in his neck, including the hyoid bone – which is far more commonly broken in cases of strangulation than in hangings. And Epstein’s eyes were bulging, which is also more typical of strangulation.

* Fact: The day before his alleged suicide, Epstein’s cellmate was moved to another facility, leaving Epstein alone in his cell.

* Fact: Two guards had been assigned to check on Epstein every 30 minutes. According to prison officials, they stopped doing this around 3:30 am on Saturday, and they didn’t return to his cell until 6:30 am – when they “discovered” his corpse. (Although they allegedly made log entries lying about having routinely visited him.) Per the official party line, they had both fallen asleep… for about three hours.

* Fact: At first it was said that the cellblock’s cameras had malfunctioned, meaning there was no video of Epstein’s possible suicide. Later it was said there was video, but nothing was divulged about what the video did or didn’t show. It’s hard to know what to believe when the stories keep changing so quickly.

Jim Goad reported most of these facts in an article in Taki’s Magazine titled “We Are All Conspiracy Theorists Now. “He concluded:

“What we are commanded to believe – lest we be labeled paranoid conspiracy theorists and therefore domestic-terrorists-in-waiting – is that an absurdly wealthy convicted pedophile with a known penchant for wining and dining the rich and powerful at sex parties where every single move was videotaped and stored for blackmail purposes was allowed to kill himself less than three weeks after a previous alleged suicide attempt because he was taken off suicide watch with no explanation and left alone in his cell at a time when the cameras stopped working and the guards – both of them – conveniently fell asleep. And all this happened at a jail where there hadn’t been a suicide in over 40 years.”

What do you think?

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