More on Caring Less: The Questionable Virtue of Restraining Desire

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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.

Hiring Creatives? Standard Practice Doesn’t Work

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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.

What’s the Truth About Employment in America Today?

Friday, September 14, 2018

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.

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…

. . . continue reading

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 Works 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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The Soothing Power of Making Music

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Delray Beach, FL – About 55 years ago, I won second place in a solo contest for the French horn. I played a tune called Mighty Major. I got back into it about five years ago and then dropped it. I’m back into it again… and I’m wondering why I stopped. It is thoroughly enjoyable. It may be the only thing that gets me completely away from my head. I’ve been trying to achieve a bit more equilibrium in my life through meditation. But it’s hard for me. Playing this difficult brass instrument is faster and, at least for the time being, more satisfying. I am fully absorbed while doing it, and calm and happy with myself when I’m done.

It’s interesting…

The Importance of Being Earnest

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Delray Beach, FL – 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.


The Rental Market Today vs. 2007

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…

. . . continue reading The Rental Market Today vs. 2007

A Very Rich Entrepreneur You’ve Probably Never Heard About

There are many ways to get rich as an entrepreneur. One way is to create just the right product at just the right time. A second way is to identify, and then cater to, a neglected niche market. A third way is to introduce a new and attractive marketing strategy.

He made his fortune by doing all three at the same time.

Reiman got his start by working as a freelance writer and dabbling in magazine publishing. In 1970, he noticed that two farming magazines had eliminated their soft “women’s features” and he sensed an opportunity.

He devised a prototype for a magazine called Farm Wife News. To test the idea, he rented a mailing list of 400,000 farmers from an agricultural company. He sent a copy of the prototype to a tenth of the names, offering six issues for $5. The response was so great that he abandoned the next test and sent the sales package to the entire list.

A few years later, he was publishing 11 magazines aimed at the rural market and enjoying revenues of more than $300 million. His titles, with a circulation of roughly 16 million, included Country Woman, Ranch Living, and Taste of Home.

The magazine market in the USA has always been very large. But it has also been very competitive, with dozens of publications on every popular topic. So how did Reiman do it?

The most desired demographic has traditionally been young and urban. But rather than going after them, Reiman marketed to older, rural readers.

And rather than selling advertising, he decided to make his profits solely through subscription sales and renewals.

. . . continue reading A Very Rich Entrepreneur You’ve Probably Never Heard About