Jul 6-Jul 10, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays…

 

Not So Positive 

 

Two questions I’ve been trying to answer since I got the bug…

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Even Less Positive 

 

JM is negative. So are PR, RT, and SC. K is positive. So is PB, my trainer…. I’m back to reading the most recent studies, trying to answer the questions everyone is asking.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Wealthy Is Not a Number 

 

“A billionaire? Why do you want to become a billionaire?” I asked.

 

He proffered a few unconvincing answers. Finally, he told me the truth…

 

“Man,” I said. “That’s a heavy burden.”

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

 

what I’m reading 

 

The Soul of America by Jon Meacham 

 

I went into this book knowing nothing about it or the author, which is not something I typically do and for good reason. It’s intellectually inefficient.

 

One of our book club members praised it highly. And I liked the title. So I started with an optimistic mind. By the time I was halfway through the Introduction, I had misgivings. I felt like I was listening to (on Audiobooks) a speech written to gratify a room full of campaigners for the next Democratic candidate for presidency.

 

The great bulk of the book consists of quotations strung together from eminent politicians, writers, and philosophers from the past praising America and the presidency. All of those quotations have a slant toward what today you’d call liberalism.

 

There are no facts – other than the facts of when and where the quotation was made. There is no argument – unless you would argue that a string of quotations showing a certain social and political bent is an argument. And there is no primary idea – except for the unspoken but evident suggestion that Trump is the worst president in history.

 

What I have noticed is a certain ideological smugness – the same attitude that made it possible for my liberal family members and friends to commend Hilary Clinton’s summation of 30-odd million Americans as “deplorable” and fail believe that Trump had any chance of being elected.

 

But I haven’t yet read the whole thing. So I won’t jump to conclusions. There is one sentence I admire. Toward the end of the Introduction, Meacham wrote, “We cannot ensure equality of outcome, but we can ensure equality of opportunity.”

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* “An Uphill Battle” – a nostalgic essay from Taki’s Magazine. To read it, click here.

 

* An amazingly detailed animation of the human brain…here.

 

* I ran Part 1 of this talk a few weeks ago. This is Part 2. Here, Stanford University’s Michael Levitt discusses two commonly used growth curves, the Sigmoid Function and the Gompertz Function.

 

 * My brother-in-law sent this to cheer me up. It did. Here

 

* Once again, Rancho Santana made it to Travel & Leisure magazine’s list of the Top 10 Central American resort hotels. To read the article, click here.

 

* All cultures are not equal… all religions are not fundamentally the same. Here

 

 

Q&A 

 

Your Question: 

 

Have you ever invested in foreign currency? If so, When? Which currency? Grateful for your knowledge. – BP

 

My Answer: 

 

I have. But never willingly. Well, that’s not exactly right. I have invested in currencies several times, but they were always indirect investments.

 

The currency market is enormous. It is larger, by far, than any other asset class in the world. It is also volatile – extremely so – with millions of dollars (in currencies) trading almost every second in exchanges all over the world. It is also very complex. It is a market appropriate for the most sophisticated banking and financial analysts assisted by speed-of-light tracking systems and computer analytics that can make decisions in seconds.

 

It’s not for me.

 

But I have participated in currency plays indirectly in simpler, slower ways. For example, I’ve bought residential and commercial property in Buenos Aires and Moscow when local currencies, compared to the dollar, were very weak. I’ve done the same with businesses in Europe, Asia, and South America. And as a long-term hedge against the US dollar, I bought a fair amount of gold bullion when it was trading at about $450.

 

I know this is probably not answering the question behind your question. My answer to that is “no.” Do not put any of your money in any currency-trading scheme.

 

Remember what usually happens when two people do a deal together and one of them has the money and the other has the knowledge: After the deal is done, the person with the knowledge has the money, and the person who had the money now has knowledge.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here

 

 

Continue Reading

June 29-July 3, 2020 

 

 

a look back at this week’s essays…

 

Investment Real Estate Outlook for the Rest of 2020 and Beyond 

 

I am concerned – very concerned – for two reasons…

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Found Poem: In the Basement of OK Cigars 

 

I’ve been writing poems for years. Hundreds and hundreds of them. A small percentage get into print. And most of those, when I reread them after a year or two, are disappointing.

 

This one was not. I like it as much now as when I wrote it…

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

I’m Positive 

 

I’ve written at least a half-dozen essays on the coronavirus and COVID-19 since the beginning of April…

 

On Wednesday, I found out that I was positive.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

 

quick quiz 

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

 

*  hospitality (6/29/20)

*  fugacious (7/1/20)

*  portentous (7/3/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

 

* “The most reliable way to forecast the future is to try to understand _____.” – John Naisbitt (6/29/20)

 

* “_____ is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost (7/1/20)

 

* “Accept the terrible _____ of life with eyes wide open.” – Jordan Peterson

(7/3/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

 

* Pierre Boulle, author of The Bridge Over the River Kwai, was held in captivity by the Japanese during WWII. (6/29/20)

 

*  According to the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics, one-third of jobs in the US can be done at home. (7/1/20)

 

*  The US isn’t the only country to celebrate the 4th of July. America’s Independence Day is also celebrated in Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, China, and Australia. (7/3/20)

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* An amazing display of beauty, strength, flexibility, and grace…Here

 

* The latest issue of Independent HealingWhat medical care is safe during the pandemic? Click here to read the July issue.

 

* Good advice from the FTC on shopping online…Here

 

 * If you like language you will love this guy… Here

 

 

 

Q&A 

 

Your Question:

 

I’ve been reading a lot about entrepreneurship lately, including lots of your essays and a few of your books. I’d love to have a business of my own, but I have family to support and I’m working full-time just to make ends meet. I have zero savings, and student loans to pay. I’m not in a position to make any risky moves. People that I love and feel responsible for depend on me. What can I do?

– J.P.

 

My Answer: 

 

I hear you. I was in very much the same situation in 1982 when I took a new job as managing editor of a start-up publishing company in Florida. I had, like you, zero savings, and a family to support.

 

There are several things I could suggest – things that involve working 20 to 40 hours a week on the side, earning extra income and learning about entrepreneurship. But that’s not what I did back then. So I’ll tell you what I did. I put off my plans to be an entrepreneur and worked like mad to become the next best thing – an intrapreneur employee working for a growing company.

 

I define an intrapreneur as an employee that makes himself financially invaluable to the company – so much so that he earns his way into a profit-sharing compensation plan.

 

Back then, as I said, I was working as an editor. I was making $35,000 a year, which was enough to pay the bills and as much as I was worth to the company. I couldn’t ask for more money for doing the work I was doing because my boss could have said “No thanks” and hired another managing editor at the same salary.

 

Instead, I decided to become the most important employee my boss had, which meant that I spent evenings and weekends learning the marketing game and writing advertising copy. When my first promotion was mailed and brought in a million dollars, my boss took me aside and said, “Keep that up and I’ll cut you into the business.”

 

Years later, after failing to retire for the first time, I took a consulting position with the business I work with now. The job I asked for was to help grow sales and profits. I accepted a modest monthly fee for working 60 to 80 hours a week. But I also got a modest percentage of profits.

 

That was pretty fair money as sales edged up from $8 million to $24 million to $50 million and then to $100 million. Today, profits are more than 10 times greater than they were back then.

 

That’s what I did. It worked out for me. If it feels like a direction you’d like to go in, the key is to work for a fair-minded boss in a fast-growing company.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here. 

Continue Reading

June 22-June 26, 2020

 

a look back at this week’s essays…

 

Does Sex Hormones Determine Our Thoughts?

Let’s talk about hormones.

I have just come up with a theory. But before I present it, you should know this…

Click here to read more.

 

 

Why It’s Okay to Fall in Love With Your Investible Art*

Passion is a popular emotion these days. We are encouraged to be passionate about our careers, our hobbies, and even our ideas. Like most popular ideas, this one is mostly wrong. On the risk/reward scale, it ranges between dumb and dangerous. But there are some noteworthy exceptions.

One of them is art. Let’s talk about that.

Click here to read more.

 

 

The Unpleasant Truth About Asking for Favors

You have to be careful when you ask for favors. Because the person from whom you are requesting the service may not think of it the same way as you do. Such was the case with the favor my partner was about to ask in the memo I intercepted.

Click here to read more.

 

 

 

quick quiz

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

 

*  strident (6/22/20)

*  prescind (6/24/20)

*  lethological (6/26/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

 

* “Testosterone is a rare ­­­­_____.” – Germaine Greer (6/22/20)

 

* “They say you cannot argue _____. Of course you can. It is one of the most rewarding conversations two people can have.” – Michael Masterson (6/24/20)

 

* “Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further ­­­­­_____.” – François de la Rochefoucauld (6/26/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False?

 

*  People that have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic are significantly more likely to transmit it than people that have symptoms. (6/22/20)

 

*  The name for the CoBrA avant-garde art movement was derived from the last names of its most important artists. (6/24/20)

 

*  Paul McCartney was recorded munching on celery on the taping of the Beach Boys’ song “Vegetables.” (6/26/20)

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog

 

* A report on Motor City from my colleague Tom Dyson – to read it, click here.

 

* “A study on infectivity of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers” – to read it, click here.

 

* (“Father Absence: The Biggest Issue Facing Black America”) Here.

 

* “COVID-19 Never Grows Exponentially” – Watch it here.

 

* The skill level required to do this is beyond belief… (“Carving a Bird in a Cage on the tip of a Pencil”) Here.

 

* This video says more to me about what is wrong and idiotic about racism than a dozen essays I’ve read…here.

 

 

 

Q&A

 

Your Question:

 

What do you think about real estate, given what seems like an inevitable recession and possibly worse?

– P.J.

 

My Answer:

 

Good question. I am certainly concerned about the real estate investment market going forward, and I have given it some thought – but not nearly enough to give you a good answer. Here’s what I have so far…

 

The Corona Crisis has impacted the future of the real estate investment market in two important ways:

 

* The economy has crashed in a serious way. Forget Wall Street. We have huge unemployment and record levels of small businesses shutting down for good. That’s bad for a good swath of real estate.

 

* The extended shutdown has given tens of millions of American workers and thousands of companies the opportunity to experience business with an office-less office. This could prove deadly for many large and high-end commercial real estate investments.

 

I’ll keep working on this, and I will answer your question at length tomorrow. Look for it.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page.

 

 

 For a look back at the stock market, click here.

 

Continue Reading

the week in review

June 15-June 19, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

 

If You’re Trying to Impress Me, Don’t Do This 

He had been strongly recommended for the job. And so I was expecting a sharp, take-charge person. Instead, when I took his call, I got this…

Click here to read more.

 

 

Tribal Dynamics in Business 

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell looked at several anthropological studies of primitive societies that showed an interesting pattern…. Contemporary research shows that a similar connection exists in the modern workplace.

Click here to read more.

 

 

Are You “Privileged”? Yes? No? So What? 

“Privilege” is a hot topic today – around the dining room table as well as in the mainstream media. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the people that have the strongest feelings about it seem to have the most trouble defining it.

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz 

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

 

*  feign (6/15/20)

*  proxemics (6/17/20)

*  deference (6/19/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

 

* “Don’t expect others to listen to _____ unless _____ is interesting to others.” – Michael Masterson (6/15/20)

 

* “The person who knows HOW will always _____. The person who knows WHY will always _____.” – Alanis Morissette (6/17/20)

 

* “Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security, and prestige, it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to _____” – Steven Biko (6/19/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

 

*  Tug of War was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1920. (6/15/20)

 

*  A Venn diagram uses arrows to visually represent the relationships between things or concepts. (6/17/20)

 

*  Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. (6/19/20)

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* Click here to read the June issue of AWAI’s Barefoot Writer.

 

* “Homeless guy spits some truth”

 

 

* Two interesting videos about Venn diagrams – one on how they work … and one on how to use a Venn diagram to choose your career.

 

* “How Morals Influence If You’re Liberal or Conservative” Here

 

* BalletX – “100 Days” by Calii Quann Here

 

* “Words Used by Nabokov Quiz”  Here

 

* “Befriending Her Shooter” – a moving story. Here

 

 

Q&A 

 

Your Question: 

I have always had an interest in starting my own business and have dabbled here and there, but not with much success. Only thing I seemed to be successful at was spinning my wheels.

Aside from succumbing to the “shinny object/oh that looks cool” syndrome, I have discovered what the true momentum-draining behavior is. I  call it “Control Freak Syndrome.” This is when instead of outsourcing/delegating activities, you waste time trying to learn how to do everything yourself.

However, even if you recognize the problem, there is still a conflict for the bootstrap start-up, and that is money. How do you delegate if you can’t afford to pay someone else to do it?

– A.M.

 

My Answer: 

 I’ve written about this problem and solutions to it so often that I hesitate to talk about it again. My impulse is to direct you to any one of dozens of essays I’ve written on the subject. Or, better yet, to recommend that you read Ready, Fire, Aim, an entire book that I wrote on the subject.

But here is the short answer to your question…

It’s not about being a control freak. I am sure it feels that way, but the real problem is ignorance. You don’t know how to get the cash flow going. You aren’t really sure how to initiate a marketing program that can start bringing in actual customers that have opened their wallets to you.

You think you should know because you have read volumes about product creation, marketing, and sales. But your subconscious keeps whispering: “You have no idea.”

And that scares you.

Many pundits call this the fear of failure. I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s the fear of going forward blindly. It’s a perfectly rational fear. I have it myself every time I try to start a new business. I know that the most important piece of knowledge I need to be successful in that business is invisible to me. I call that knowledge inside knowledge. The knowledge you’ve been acquiring is outside knowledge – even if you are getting it by reading the recommendations of experts.

The only sure way to acquire inside knowledge is through experience. But since you don’t yet have the specific experience you need, you keep learning new things. And you keep acquiring new skills. Anything but taking the terrifying step of making that first sale.

You could gain the inside knowledge you need by getting a job in the marketing department of a successful business that is already doing what you intend to do and spending a year or two learning exactly how they do it.

If you don’t have the time or patience for that, you can follow these three steps:

  1. The first step in overcoming the syndrome you suffer from is to recognize that you have it. You’ve done that. Congratulations.
  2. The second step is to understand that there is only one priority for the Stage One entrepreneur: making that first sale. You must spend at least 80% of your time working on making this happen. And by 80%, I mean 50 hours a week. (It is nearly impossible to launch a new business unless you are prepared to spend 60 to 80 hours a week on it.) And that means ignoring 80% of the “work” you are doing now.
  3. The third step is making that first sale. If you follow Step 2 for a month or so, you will discover that the fear you now have will be gone, along with the compulsion you have to master and control all the other aspects of business that are currently absorbing your interest.

You will actually be eager to make that sale. And that means you are ready. Ready. Fire. Aim. Make that first sale. Experience the high of making a sale. Become addicted to it. Once you have cash coming in the door, you can figure out all the other things. There will be plenty of time to “aim “your business later.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here

 

 

Continue Reading

  • June 8-June 12, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…

 

The End of Intimacy, Trust, and Love

 

I’ve been thinking about how the world has been coming apart lately…

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

The End of Real Knowledge

 

“When I take over the world the first thing I’m going to do is abolish social media,” I announced.

 

“Yeah, right,” my sister said.

 

“Not funny!” my niece shouted.

 

“You can abolish Facebook, but don’t touch my Twitter,” my daughter-in-law warned.

 

We were joking. Sort of.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Fine Art As a Long-Term Investment

 

In my first essay in this series, I made the broad case for why you should consider investing in art…. Today, I’m going to explain why so many ordinary, “amateur” art lovers – people who are not necessarily financially savvy – have, nevertheless, seen their art holdings appreciate amazingly, leaving them and their heirs immensely rich.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

 

*  anagnorisis (6/8/20)

*  cursory (6/10/20)

*  acumen (6/12/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

 

* “When I got my first _____, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.” – Andy Warhol

(6/8/20)

 

* “The simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most _____ man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” – Leo Tolstoy (6/10/20)

 

* “There’s something to be said about the art-industrial complex, the collectors who recognize that your work has some sort of future _____ value.” – Kehinde Wiley (6/12/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False?

 

*  The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (6/8/20)

 

*  According to James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, social connection can actually be more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea. (6/10/20)

 

* Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike each year than all the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined. (6/12/20)

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog

 

* If you don’t approve of the looting, but are horrified by the murder and want to do something actionable that is consistent with your moral and political views, you might want to contribute to this guy. (There are hundreds more like him. You can locate them if you look.) Here

 

* “How to Change the World by Doing This One Thing Every Day” by James Altucher – a good thought piece. To read it, click here.

 

* This short WSJ video reports on what some believe schools will be like in the future. I don’t believe it…Here

 

 * “Full Bore” – a quick, amusing read by one of my favorite essayists in Taki’s Magazine. Click here.

 

* I’ve watched 50+ interviews with doctors and scientists on COVID-19 and the lockdown. This doctor does the best job in explaining the facts in a way that anyone should be able to understand. Here

 

Q&A

 

Your Question:

 

I liked your “Free Is Bad” essays.  What you said in Part 1 of this series is a reminder of what we learned in direct mail and have forgotten as we’ve moved into the electronic age. A buyer’s list was always worth more than an enquirer’s file. Also, you can cross-sell much more to a file that bought an expensive product, than you can to buyers of a cheap product. You just have to work harder to get the first sale.

The current trend to get a “small purchase first and then build on this,” I believe has been invented by people with very little direct-mail experience and never fully tested.

I don’t have any experience running charitable foundations, but all your comments in Part 2 made sense.

Will there be  a Part 3?

 

My Answer:

 

To your comments about free offers, I would add this: When the direct-response industry shifted from snail mail 20 years ago, there was a five- to six-year window when anyone could make a killing using the free-to-paid model. The Agora, my primary client, was probably the world’s leader of this model back then. Many people still call it the “Agora” model.

But even back then it was clear to my partner and me that those days of easy pickings were not going to last. Because the barrier of entry was so very low, thousands of new companies were flooding into the market and steadily pushing up the cost of acquiring “free” names.

That’s ancient history now. But there are still countless internet marketing gurus out there in cyberspace promoting this antiquated notion. And, yes, it still works – but barely.

The competition has returned to product quality and salesmanship, where it should be.

What many don’t understand about free-to-paid marketing is that amassing a huge free file today is not a meaningful marketing event. It is not a sale. It is merely a digital version of renting a direct-mail marketing list.

As JSN told me a hundred times when I worked for him: “The business doesn’t start until you’ve made the first sale.” Persuading a prospect to sign up for a free product is not a sale. It’s a marketing expense.

The magic happens when the sale is made. And making a sale today is not easy.

Re your question: Yes, there will be a Part 3… and probably a Part 4.

 

 

Your Question:

 

In reading your June 5th blog, you state that “last year there were 41 deaths of unarmed people by police.  Of that group 20 were white and 9 were black.”  I can’t find that statistic anywhere on the web.  Can you send me the source?

 

 

My Answer:

 

The numbers came from The Washington Post’s Police Shooting Database. (Since 2015, the Post has created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty.)

Following are some additional numbers. Note that the ratio of black to white deaths has been getting smaller every year since 2015. Next week, we will be publishing a longer essay on this issue.

 

201594 Total

32 White

38 Black

19 Hispanic

5 ‘other’

 

2016 – 51 total

22 White

19 Black

9 Hispanic

1 ‘other’

 

2017 – 70 Total

31 White

22 Black

13 Hispanic

3 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’

 

2018 – 58 Total

25 White

23 Black

8 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’

 

2019 – 55 Total

25 White

14 Black

11 Hispanic

5 ‘other’

 

2020 – 24 Total

10 White

7 Black

3 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 3 ‘unknown’

 

Totals (2015-2020)

352 Total

145 White

123 Black

63 Hispanic

16 ‘other’; 5 ‘unknown’

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page.

 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here.

 

 

Continue Reading

June 1-June 5, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

 

How to Be Happy With Your Money 

When I had no money, which was the case for the first 30 years of my life, I resented [the notion that money doesn’t buy happiness]. It seemed a glib sentiment expressed condescendingly by those that had to those that had not…. That was then.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Hiring Someone to Grow Your Business:

The 7 Personality Traits of a Superstar Entrepreneurial CEO 

Running an entrepreneurial business is very different from running a mature one. A mature business needs to be managed. An entrepreneurial business needs to be grown.

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

Black Lives Matter 

Black lives matter. What does that mean?

 

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz 

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

 

*  ephemeral (6/1/20)

*  bromide (6/3/20)

*  insouciant (6/5/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

 

* “He that is of the opinion that _____ will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for _____.” – Benjamin Franklin (6/1/20)

 

* “A _____ is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell (6/3/20)

 

* “We can no longer ignore the fact that America is not _____.” – Fannie Lou Hamer (6/5/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

 

* People who drink and smoke are more likely to have a problem with snoring. (6/1/20)

 

* Since the shelter-in-place strategy was implemented, calls to suicide lines have increased by as much as 1000% in some states. (6/3/20)

 

* Unarmed blacks are killed more often by police than unarmed whites. (6/5/20)

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* “Could the CDC Make That Mistake?” – To read the article, click here.

 

* “70 Step Basketball Trick Shot” – I’ve watched a number of these ingenious games… devices? But this has to be the best. Here

 

* The latest issue of Independent Healing Click here to read the June issue.

 

* How to build the perfect squirrel-proof bird feeder…Here

 

* Must Watch: “Woman gives powerful speech to looters on streets of NYC” Here

 

 

Q&A 

 

Your Question: 

 

What is your opinion on contractor vs. employee?

 

My Answer: 

 

With one exception, I don’t have a strong opinion on contractor vs. employee. To me, it’s a payroll and tax consideration.

In the past, I’ve recommended that certain creatives – like copywriters and editors – be put on a contract basis because I felt they’d be more productive if they were paid by the job. I don’t buy into the idea that creatives need to be in physical proximity to one another. I know the theory. I don’t see it working in practice. What I see are people in cubicles that communicate with one another by email or text. The only time they actually get together is for meetings. (I now believe I prefer Zoom meetings to flesh-and-blood meetings.)

As for marketers and their assistants, I suspect that the employee relationship works better because they need to be communicating with one another, often in small, impromptu groups, to keep things moving. This is just a hunch, though.

As for data entry people and other piecemeal workers, freelance, remote contracting seems like it should usually work.

The only group that I think should definitely be employees and also in the office (and early) are the company’s leaders and those that directly report to them.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

 

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the week in review

May 25-May 29, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

Art Collecting: Learn While You Earn* 

5 Reasons to Invest in Art: Investing in museum-quality art will make you richer financially… owning it will give you a richer life.

Click here to read more.

 

 

What We (Should) Want for Our Children 

When my children were infants, I wanted only one thing for them….

Click here to read more.

 

 

How to Get Better at What You Do Best 

The greatest challenges we face in life are obstacles that reside inside of us. When it comes to mastering a skill, the greatest challenge is not the work and time involved in acquiring it but the desire to be a master before you become one.

Click here to read more.

 

 

 

quick quiz 

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

*  fractious (5/25/20)

*  serendipitous (5/27/20)

*  reproach (5/29/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “The only time life allows for _____is the present. Right now. In this very moment.” – Michael Masterson (5/25/20)

* “Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than _____?” – Marcus Tulius Cicero (5/27/20)

* “If you accept your _____ you go beyond them.” – Brendan Behan (5/29/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* The X in X-rays stands for electromagnetic. (5/25/20)

* Camp David was built as a retreat for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (5/27/20)

* Every year, the Washington Post holds a contest in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. (5/29/20)

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog

 

* “Freedom Isn’t Free” – a powerful speech by President Ronald Reagan. I don’t know enough about Reagan’s career to have a strong opinion about it, but I can think of only two other presidents in my lifetime that were as good as he was at speechifying: Kennedy and Clinton. To watch the speech – which includes Reagan’s dramatic reading of “A Soldier’s Pledge” – click here.

 

* “New Tennis Rules” Here

 

* “More Than Money: The Good Life Parable” – In this short film about a well-known fable, a fisherman teaches a young businessman about life after the young man uses his MBA knowledge to explain how the fisherman could be more successful. Here

 

* A TED Talk by George Monbiot – lots of interesting facts about how nature works. Here

 

* This is wrestling…Here

 

 

Q&A 

Your Question: 

I liked your essays on the Corona Economy, as you called it, especially your explanation of how the Treasury and the Federal Reserve work. For years, I’ve heard the term “printing money” and always assumed that the Treasury really printed new dollars. Now I understand how it works – how both the Treasury and also the Fed can create fake dollars out of thin air and still manage to balance their books.

One thing I didn’t understand: You mentioned that there was a difference between what the Fed did to bail out the economy after the real estate crash of 2008 and what it is doing now. What is that difference?

 

My Answer: 

I put the same question to Tom Dyson when I was researching those essays. Here’s what he said:

“The difference between original QE and ‘monetizing the debt’  is in the intention behind it… its intended purpose. Mechanically, they’re identical.

“The QE they did 2008-2014 was to goose the stock market and give a tail wind to the banks. They did it voluntarily. It was somewhat of an experimental new idea put forth by Ben Bernanke.

“The QE they are doing now is out of necessity. They must do it because if they don’t the government won’t be able to finance itself and it will go broke.

“It’s a subtle distinction and one that I’m sure would be lost on most mainstream economists. Most mainstream economists probably wouldn’t even entertain the idea that the US government is insolvent if not for the Fed’s money printing.”

Tom said it is a subtle distinction, but he was being polite. It is a very important distinction and one that, after you “get it,” explains a lot.

One of the arguments against the 2008-2014 QE bailout was that it was going to be inflationary. (Increasing the money supply by a trillion dollars should, in theory, make prices rise because you have more dollars competing for the same number of goods and services.) That didn’t happen. I wondered why. Now I understand.

The larger economy didn’t inflate because almost all of those extra dollars went to the financial sector, as Tom pointed out. The financial sector did inflate. Hugely. Stock prices shot up and made Wall Street (its brokers, bankers, insurance agents, their lawyers, accountants, and shrinks, etc.) very rich. And that tidal wave of newly “printed” dollars flowed into the businesses that catered to Wall Street: luxury cars, fine art, expensive real estate, etc. But the rest of the country? Main Street? They got poorer.

Now that I understand it, it’s difficult to see it as some sort of brave fiscal “experiment.” It’s hard for me to believe that the effect of it would not have been apparent to everyone behind it (all those Wall Street insiders) that so nobly volunteered their time to conjure up and direct the bailout.

But the current QE is different. It is different not only because it’s necessary rather than optional, but also because the lion’s share of it went to the American public through stimulus checks and the PPP program. So will the next $3 trillion.

That probably will cause inflation in the general economy because most of those dollars won’t be spent on stocks and bonds but on food and clothing and other basic commodities. Those are the things that will become more expensive, which means that the productive classes – the people that pay taxes – will be paying off the government’s crazy borrowing by paying more for just about everything they buy.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here

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May 18-May 22, 2020 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

 

Free Is a Bad Idea, Part 1: Free Offers in Business 

After many years of mulling it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that giving away things for free is a bad idea. I’m sure that statement will sound odd or even idiotic to many people, but give me a chance to make my case.

Click here to read more.

 

 

Free Is a Bad Idea, Part 2: Free Offers in Charity 

I know more about making money than I do about giving it away. But I’ve been inclined toward charitable giving all my life, and have been actively involved in running a charitable foundation for the last 20 years. So while I don’t pretend to be an authority on the subject, I’ve come to several conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

Click here to read more.

 

 

Living in Fear of the Fear of COVID-19 

[My friends/family agree with me] on one thing: The Trump administration bungled its response to the threat. But [they] think the mistake was in implementing mass quarantines too late. I think the mistake was in implementing them in the first place.

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz 

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

 

*  eschew (5/18/20)

*  cosset (5/20/20)

*  insinuate (5/22/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

 

* “All _____ is basically about customers and marketing and making money and capitalism and winning and promoting it and having something someone really wants.” – Roger Ailes (5/18/20)

 

* “Too many have dispensed with _____ in order to practice charity.” – Albert Camus (5/20/20)

 

* “Those who would give up essential _____, to purchase a little temporary _____, deserve neither _____ nor _____.” – Ben Franklin (5/22/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

 

* Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax to help pay the debts of the Civil War. (5/18/20)

 

* Leonor Fini, an artist in her own right, was married to Salvador Dali. (5/20/20)

 

* According to medical historians, there are basically two ways that pandemics end. One is when death rates plummet. The other is when fear about the disease wanes. (5/22/20)

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* “When Mask-Wearing Rules Faced Resistance” – an interesting account, on History.com, of the use of face masks during the 1918 “Spanish” Flu pandemic. To read it, click here.

 

* In the mood for a little fun? Try this

 

* Here is one of Leonor Fini’s paintings – called “Rasch, rasch, rasch…” –  featured in one of Christie’s online publications.

 

* I was fascinated by this video explanation about how COVID-19 patients die. To watch the video, click here.

 

* “How One Man Circumnavigated the World By Car” – Amazing story! Here

 

* “The history of our world in 18 minutes” – an interesting TED Talk by David Christian. To watch it, click here.

 

* Jeff Allen: “My America” Here

 

 

 Q&A 

 

Your Question: 

I stumbled upon your article on not giving away things for free, which I enjoyed. Although, the one exception that came to mind was giving away free food samples in the mall at the food court. It’s worked on me where I tried something I never ate before, liked it, and then went to the restaurant several hundred times over the course of a few years. (I eat lunch at the mall frequently… or at least I used to.)

Is this a valid exception?

 

My Answer: 

Like all rules, there are exceptions.

Costco, the mega-commodity store, gives away free samples every day. I don’t have to research Costco to know that this works for them. The fact that they’ve been doing it for so many years tells me that.

But it may not be working the way you think.

My guess is that their giveaway program doesn’t generally produce direct sales – so I’m speculating that the main reason Costco offers samples is that it is appreciated by their customers. Their marketing execs have learned from surveys that it is considered to be one of the primary benefits of being a Costco customer. I also suspect that the sampling gives them a lot of valuable information about their customers’ buying preferences.

The same is no doubt true for department stores that give away perfume and cosmetic samples. I could give you other examples, but you get the point.

Here’s the thing: Sampling almost never works for acquiring new customers.

I don’t expect you to take my word for that. I’m going to be writing more about it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to make a statement and then leave you with something to chew over.

Giving away free things is not a good way to acquire new customers for all the reasons I enumerated in my “Free Is a Bad Idea” essay on Monday.

When you give away something for free, you are not making a sale. At best, you are acquiring a potential target. And there is a big difference between the two.

All the magic happens in business when the sale is made. How that sale is made determines how profitable the relationship will be for both the customer and the business. To acquire the kind of customers you need to grow a business, you have to design a strategy that will sell the product at full price. Until you’ve done that, you haven’t done anything that matters.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here

 

 

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May 11-May 15, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

 

Money. Let’s Talk About Money! 

I collect art. I also collect books, beer bottles, and cigar lighters. I enjoy collecting them all. But there is something I get from my art collection that I don’t get from books, bottles, and lighters: I get richer.

Click here to read more.

 

The Simplicity Imperative 

There are probably a hundred personal productivity mistakes I have made in my business career, but most of them can be sorted into three persistently wrong-headed impulses…

Click here to read more.

 

Fear and Hope for Young People Today 

“I feel sorry for young people today,” a friend said to me recently. “They are growing up in a terrible time.” I gave him a sympathetic nod. I didn’t want to get into it. I don’t have the same feeling. And I’m not even sure why…

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz  

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

*  dilettante (5/11/20)

*  respite (5/13/20)

*  breviloquent (5/15/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “There are two ways that art is judged as good: connoisseurship and _____.” – Michael Masterson (5/11/20)

* “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be _____; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” – Henry David Thoreau (5/13/20)

* “‘_____’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all” – Emily Dickinson (5/15/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* Prices of investable art follow the stock market. They immediately rise when the stock market rises, and fall when the stock market falls. (5/11/20)

* COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, spreads the same way as chickenpox, measles, and the common cold. (5/13/20)

* Dr. Matthew Schmitt developed a breathing exercise to help people stop smoking. (5/15/20)

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 

* “Stephen King Has an Idea for the Story Joe Biden Could Be Telling” in The New York TimesA solid interview with a very good writer. Click here to read it.

 

* “Seymour the Squirrel and the Avocado Helmet” – Is this animal abuse? HERE
 

* “Lockdown is a huge mistake…” – A dull presentation, but it’s from someone (a Nobel Prize winning scientist) that understands the math. HERE

* Whether it’s caused by COVID-19 or another illness, you can help relieve mucus buildup in the lungs by following this doctor’s “rule of threes.” Click here to see how it’s done.

* “To prevent the next pandemic, it’s the legal wildlife trade we should worry about…” – In this essay from National Geographic, a biologist argues that viruses can spread as easily from the trade of legal wildlife like frogs and monkeys, a multibillion-dollar global business, as they can by bats and other exotics in “wet” markets. Click here to read it.

* This poignant video of a music teacher trying to convey her thoughts and feelings about shelter-in-place through a heartfelt song nearly brought me to tears. HERE

 

 

Q&A 

Your Question: 

I’m a 51-year-old actor living in Los Angeles. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on many great projects in the past 30 years, but haven’t created any savings. What advice or suggestions do you have for creating wealth at this stage of my life?

My Answer: 

Ah, to be 51 again!

Lucky you! But I get it. When you pass that 50-yard line, the end zone is no longer a distant possibility. And as an aging actor, you may be anticipating less demand than supply of your talents in the future.

But you didn’t write for my encouragement or sympathy. You want advice, or at least a suggestion or two that you can make useful. I’m happy to oblige.

The first thing I’m going to say is something you already know and may not want to hear. The bottom-line reason you haven’t saved any money till now is not because of any or all of the dozens of serious financial challenges you’ve faced in your life so far. It’s because of all the thousands of small decisions you’ve made about working and spending and (not) saving.

Take responsibility for that.

You don’t have to beat yourself up about it. There are millions of happy people that live without the burden of that responsibility. And some portion of them make it through life without a care in the world. But you have a care. You are concerned about the lifestyle you’ll have in the coming years. And with good reason. The country is broke. The entertainment industry is in lockdown. Your prospects for making good money in the future are narrowing with each coming birthday. It’s almost enough to make a person think, “Why me?”

Since I’ve written thousands of pages on your question already, I’m not going to waste your time or mine repeating bits and pieces of them in truncated form today. Instead, I’m going to recommend that you read two of the books I’ve written (under my pen name “Michael Masterson”) in a specific order.

  1. The Pledge: Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life– If you let it, this book will get you over the hurdle of making the changes you need to make to accomplish your financial goals.
  2. Automatic Wealth: The 6 Steps to Financial Independence– This is basically a blueprint for acquiring wealth. There are plenty of books out there that do this. Some of them are very good. What I like about Automatic Wealth is that I know the blueprint is real because it’s my blueprint. And I know it’s easy to follow because I hate complicated plans.

If you are willing to read these books, I am confident you’ll have the answers you are looking for. If you are not willing to read them, I’ve got another book for you. It’s called Living Rich. It’s about having a truly rich life on a modest budget

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here.  

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May 4-May 8, 2020 

 

a look back at this week’s essays…

How to Know If Your Great Idea Actually Sucks 

I make my living by coming up with ideas. It’s a great way to pay the bills. And I’ve been doing it now for so long that the ideas come easily – on walks, in the shower, while reading, etc.

Many of them seem brilliant all the way up to the moment I write them down. Then things can get complicated.

Click here to read more.

 

Don’t Hire Your Friends… and Don’t Make Friends With Your Employees 

I have the good fortune to employ lots of very smart and engaging people. Every week, I meet some new employee that has the qualities I seek in a friend: intelligence, good character, and wit. I can’t stop myself from wanting to be friends with these people, even though I know I shouldn’t.

What I do to resist the temptation is tell myself, very consciously, that the desire I have to make friends with them is a sort of mental illness….

Click here to read more.

 

Principles of Wealth #38 

When we think of wealth, we usually think of financial wealth. But there are many other forms of wealth…. [If] one commits to becoming rich, as I did 45 years ago, it would be wise to give these other forms of wealth the consideration they deserve.

I didn’t and I paid the price for it.

Click here to read more.

 

 

quick quiz  

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

* specious (5/4/20)

* egalitarian (5/6/20)

* wistful (5/8/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “If you can’t explain it _____, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

(5/4/20)

* “One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that the most difficult problems to solve are _____ problems….” – Michael Masterson (5/6/20)

* “We can all… increase our wealth daily by _____ to enhance the value of our property, our knowledge, our skills, and our trustworthiness.”  – Michael Masterson (5/8/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* Unlike most countries, South Africa does not have a legally defined capital city. (5/4/20)

* According to a survey by TalentLyft, 72% of employees say they are driven more by contentment with their work environment than by career advancement opportunities. (5/6/20)

* The Spanish Flu got the name as the result of a misunderstanding. (5/8/20)

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog 

 * “COVID-19 Compared to 6 Other Diseases” – The only thing I’ve found [this past week] that adds anything helpful to the conversation about COVID-19 immunity. LINK

 

* I wonder how much this guy gets paid…LINK

 

 * The latest issue of Independent Healing – One ER doctor says this simple at-home device saved the lives of two of his coronavirus-infected colleagues. In this issue, you’ll find out how it works… and where you can get it. Click here to read the May issue.

 

 * When you have no idea what you’re talking about…LINK

 

 * “Take ‘the Other’ to Lunch” – There’s an angry divisive tension in the air that threatens to make modern politics impossible. In this TED Talk, Elizabeth  Lesser shares a simple way to begin a real dialogue – by going to lunch with someone who doesn’t agree with you and asking them 3 questions. Awkwardly corny at points, but true. LINK

 

 * “Isolation” – This Canadian comedian has been on a roll lately, riffing on the Corona Crisis and its effects… LINK

 

Q&A 

Your Question: 

I’ve been a copywriter behind the scenes for many, many years… [and] now, I want to help businesses succeed in this new reality….  I’m starting a company of my own for the first time in my life – I’m 52.  Figuring it out as I go.  Any advice?

My Answer: 

My advice to anyone starting a new business is to know as much about the business as you can before you start. Not the things you can learn from Google searches, but the things you will learn if you worked in the business: where potential customers are, how they like to be reached, how sales are made, what products and offers work best with the customer base, the allowable acquisition costs, etc.

These add up to what I call the optimal selling strategy (OSS). You can read about it in Ready, Fire, Aim. Do that first, then read the entire book three times. If you have any more questions after doing that, shoot them my way.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 

For a look back at the stock market, click here

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