I'm Strong Because I've Been Weak
Lifetime learning, The end of the world, and Expensive Kids
Lifetime learning is a core principle in my life. I make it a goal each year to read 100 books and I hit that goal every year for 20 years. In college I met a guy who was selling a speed-reading course and something he said stuck with me: “When I want to know something about a topic, I read 5 books on it.” I saw that as a superpower.
In 2021, I took a break from it to write my own book, A CEO Only Does Three Things. I still read a ton that year, but the bulk of my mental energies for the year were directed to creation which was a vastly different skillset from information digestion. The process was brutal but positive and if you are still on the fence of writing your book, check out the Scribe process. I can’t tell you how different a person you are with that book out in the world.
In formulating my 2022 goals, I was ready to return to my default of 100 books but I had developed this nagging sense that there were other — equally acceptable — pursuits that I was missing out on because they didn’t count as reading books. Things like Masterclass (which is ok but has some real gems), The Great Courses (none of which have ever disappointed), and other things I find of interest. Recently, I’ve used the Hillsdale Online curriculum to learn about economics from Arthur Laffer (so so so good), and I’ve just completed the History of Japan (super fun and easy) on the History Maps site. I could also possibly include podcasts in the mix although I find that I don’t digest information and make it my own the same way through that format.
Most people I meet don’t read 4 books a year. They definitely don’t do online courses. They don’t make a concerted effort to improve their minds — and it shows. As I near the end of my 40s, my friends are doing the same and I notice in them the early stages of psycho-sclerosis, the hardening of the attitudes. They are increasingly certain about things that haven’t been true for 20+ years — because they used to be true. They don’t explore new music, new movies … they don’t pursue new anything.
I don’t want to be that way. I once met Larry Munson, the legendary voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, at a movie theatre surrounded by 20-somethings. He went every week to the movies with a bunch of kids and then wrote a piece for the local paper reviewing the movie. He was learning and processing and seeking out the new well into his 80s. It kept him young and vibrant and relevant. Sign me up for that kind of life!
“Enlightenment is the space between my thoughts.”
Here’s a helpful tip that I wouldn’t think needed to be taught in this day and age. If you are truly sincere about conveying your condolences to someone on the loss of a loved one, say “You have my deepest sympathies. I remember your loved one fondly.” Then, shut your mouth. Anything you say after that will destroy the value of the gesture, especially if it’s a request for money or property. Respect yourself enough not to pick over the flowers on a grave.
“Now is the time to know / that all you do is sacred.”
Peter Zeihan’s latest book might be my favorite audio book of all time, edging out Ken Langone’s I Love Capitalism. They are both read by the author which is key because you can really hear their inflections on what is important. They are both gifted in this and not all authors are (raises hand).
In Zeihan’s The End of the World is Just Beginning, he brings his own expertise that arises from a lifetime of study in demographics, economics and history to show how these things impact geopolitics and provide the best bellwether for the future.
The picture isn’t pretty. Zeihan successfully argues that the last 500 years have been an anomaly in human history where the competition for resources has been largely eliminated (comparatively speaking to early eras) by the concept of trade and mercantilism. This is even more true in the last 70+ years marked by the end of WWII as restraint on trade was effectively criminalized. For us that has meant “more,” and the future expectation of “even more.” This time is coming to an end.
Whereas the White House spokesperson (bless her heart), speaks in terms of transient inflation and touts the fact that inflation is only 7% (on top of 8%, on top of 9% so that we have seen a real 50% increase in the price of everything), and is coming down every day, this ignores the coming reality that prices will stay higher forever because there is less stuff being made, and less of it being traded with others. The era of globalism is dead … it died in 2020 but most of won’t get the news for 20 more years.
As economic patterns die and fade away, political systems must follow suit. Zeihan predicts convincingly the end of Greater Russia as a political concept, the same in China in less than 10 years. His analysis suggests that it is really only the United States that has the resources, strategy, military and commitment necessary to keep things going in a similar vein to our past — and even we are going to have to make a choice to be an imperial power, or shrink behind our borders for security.
This book is a must read, very much akin to The End of History and the Last Man was in the 1990s. It will change your mind, change your worldview, and if we are lucky, change the way you are addressing planning for your future and that of your family and your business. Give it a read!
“The moment before letting go is often when we grip the hardest.”
— Kodo Sawaki
My wife gave birth to our third child in October of last year. A “Bonus Baby” they are called, coming later in life and bringing so much joy and love into a phase of life which can become dominated by routine. Another friend calls them “Punchline Babies” because they prove that God has a sense of humor.
Regardless of what you call them — and we call Mary-Salter precious — kids are expensive. My wife and I were talking after about 4 months of having a baby and wondered if she was more or less expensive than her siblings. The answer is “yes and no.” Part of being older parents mean that you’ve been through it before and you know the things that were good investments for your other kids and what constituted a waste of money.
We find that we are buying much much less quantity, but spending the same or more on quality. The baby furniture that we thought was so important for our first two has been replaced by practical choices from ikea. The child carrier and stroller has been upgraded by an order of magnitude because of how much one uses them. Tummy time replaces toys by the dozen, and expensive clothes that stain easily give way to standards that can be thrown away after the point of no return.
Economists also point out that up until 2020, the cost of raising a child in the US declined by almost 50%. I’m sure those numbers are due for a reset following the inflation debacle of the last 2 years, but all in all, I think its cheaper now than it has been.