Recap: The Last Safe Investment

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I received The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg when I was added to the Praxis Workplace last January. I only recently read the book from start to finish. On November 6, Michael joined the Praxis community for a special call discussing The Last Safe Investment.

This post is about the book and that call. The notes and my response will be mixed together instead of separated.

I highly recommend this book, go read it, it’s absolutely fantastic.


Bryan and Michael propose not just a system of investment, but a whole new way of viewing life. This is big stuff.

It’s important to first explain how Bryan and Michael define investing in this book. That is the first thing that is drastically different than the normal, conventional perspective.

Investing is not just money you use to buy stock, or pieces of other companies, to try to make more money and benefit from the money that company makes. If, instead, you buy something that not only benefits the area of life it was intended for, but other aspects of life as well, you invested instead of merely consuming. The example in the book is of going to see a movie. One person watches an action movie with friends and buys candy, popcorn, and soda. The other person goes with some friends to see a documentary and discuss it after; they buy water for each person. Assuming they spend the same amount of money, the documentary viewer invested in their relationships, knowledge, and health at the very least. Investing is, then, choosing purchases that benefit multiple areas of life, not just the original context.

The big picture: True Wealth is not just about money, but also tribe and advisor equity.  By investing in yourself, others, and meaningful relationships, you can save money and have a support network that will eventually allow you to retire when you are ready to do so.

When you invest in yourself, you learn and practice skills to increase your ability to create value for others. This, in turn, increases what you are worth to others and how fat your paycheck is.

With the money you have now, regardless of how much or how little that is, you can already start investing in yourself. Even if you can’t afford a class on sales or resources on marketing, you can start investing. When you go to make a purchase, think about how that will affect other areas of your life. How much happiness will you get? After the purchase, reflect on how much happiness you actually got. Was it more or less than you expected? Did you benefit in other areas besides the original context? If you think about this every time you make a purchase, you will hone the ability to purchase systemically (thinking about your life as a whole) and in a way that most increases your happiness.

This exchange of money for goods/services/experiences for happiness is called your Happiness Exchange Rate. By increasing the amount of happiness you get from each dollar you spend, you make it easier to spend less money. When you are able to properly evaluate how much happiness you will get from a given purchase and think about how that purchase will affect other areas of your life, you will cut unnecessary spending as well.

It might sound absurd that you can save money by spending it, but if you reflect on your purchases to see how much happiness you get and what the systemic affect is, you can do just that. I started doing this myself. I created a spreadsheet with Google drive to track my spending and reflect on what I buy.

The majority of the book focuses on learning Super Skills, skills that are widely sought after and valuable in almost every context. These are interpersonal, creative, technical, and physical. (The physical Super Skills first benefit you, then create a trickle down effect to others. By investing in your health, you increase your ability to create value in general.) Each of those categories has skills under them. They are skills such as sales, leadership, writing, design, mental modeling, building a marketing crank, mental focus, and a clean, healthy appearance.

Practicing and mastering a handful of Super Skills in various areas increases the value you offer to others. If you are skilled in both sales and building a marketing crank, for example, since they go together, you can increase the effectiveness of each. Because marketing is meant to gather sales leads, knowing how to sell can help refine your marketing approach. Similarly, if you know design and how to build a marketing crank, you can create better, more effective designs to catch and keep the attention of potential leads. At the same time, this increase in value creation will increase your paycheck.

When you are more valuable, you will also have more control over when and how you work and who you work for. By investing in more Super Skills and thereby having more value to offer an employer, you can find or make work you love and make money doing it. (This is related to niching down, for that go see my Recap of Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and be sure to read that too.)

When you combine this increase in pay with a decrease in the amount of money you have to spend to be happy, you gradually have a wider and wider margin of excess cash. That is your savings. That is the money you keep for retirement.

The greater your Happiness Exchange Rate and the greater your paycheck, the greater your savings. Savings is one of the three True Wealth assets.

The second True Wealth asset is advisor equity. Unlike traditional equity, which is partial ownership of something physical, advisor equity is an exchange of advise or mentorship now in exchange for compensation later. It’s built by interpersonal relationships and the compensation is based on gratitude, not obligation. For example, if I volunteer my time to regularly critique a friend’s writing, they may later offer me something in return.  What that may be depends on what they have and what they wish to give. That would be informal advisor equity, because it is person to person.

Formal advisor equity is typically given in cases of help or advice to a business or its owner. Formal equity is called such because there is a formal agreement of a certain monetary compensation. That could be a percentage of ownership of the company, or a certain payout based upon the money being made. But it is a straightforward, written agreement that John owes Bob X amount at Y time based on Z condition or whatever the case may be.

Advisor equity can come in a multitude of forms and often result in experiences that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise.

The third True Wealth asset is tribe. This amplifies the effects of advisor equity, especially within the tribe. A tribe, as Michael and Bryan define it, is a group of 15-150 friends who all know each other and share the same close bond with each other. Instead of having scattered, individual friendships or a smattering of small friend group, it’s possible to build a tribe. Instead of splitting your attention between your various friends, your friends are friends too, so by strengthening your relationship with friend A, you also stregthen your relationship with friend B.

The strength of a tribe lies in the shared values possessed by that tribe. If everyone cares about the well-being of every other member of the tribe, when one person has a hardship, the burden can be split among every other member. When everyone is supporting each other, if someone wants to take a risk and start a business but has to cut as many costs as possible, they may be able to float between houses.

I mentioned that tribe amplifies advisor equity within the tribe. By gaining advisor equity with one tribe member, by virtue of their word and their experience, you can then also have advisor equity with other members of the tribe before you invest time helping them specifically.

Not only does tribe amplify advisor equity and act as a safety net, but it can also increase your Happiness Exchange Rate. When you spend time with people you care about, you gain happiness and fulfilment. When the people you care about all care about each other, you can gain more happiness and fulfillment from your relationships with them. Instead of feeling spread thin by attempting to maintain too many friendships, you’re more fulfilled because your relationship with each tribe member is also tied to your relationship with every other tribe member.

Bryan and Michael don’t just think their plan works, they and their tribe actively live and practice this in their own lives. They have seen it work for them and for those close to them.

Praxis exemplifies this model, this ideology. The program is all about investing in your value to others. That may only be one facet of True Wealth as described in The Last Safe Investment, but knowing how to invest in your value to others is a vital step towards True Wealth. Also, the book is part of the program, and now Michael’s talk is part of the program. Praxians are not simply taking in Michael and Bryan’s book and ideas and thinking about them, but actively subscribing to the ideology and principles in their own lives.

The world is changing, careers are changing, with the internet the world is more global and people are less and less bound by geography for jobs, friends, or anything. As that happens, the necessity of value creation and a personal safety net increase. Experience matters more than a paper credential. A tribe to support each other in good times and bad is vital. Advisor equity is a safer, surer investment than companies you have no control over.

You are your most vital asset. Investing in yourself, your network, and in your ability to teach others are the safest investments you can make today to have a plentiful retirement later.

Recap: Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

When I posted Why I’m Not a Christian, it sparked a discussion between Courtney Whitaker and I about homosexuality. She sent me an article by Preston Sprinkle, a Christian theologian, called Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?


“[Some argue that] if Paul did not know of any gay people acting out their fixed sexual orientation within a consensual marriage, then Romans 1 cannot not apply to same-sex marriages today. In short, Paul didn’t know about SSO; therefore, his words can’t apply to people with a fixed SSO.”

A friend of mine held a position similar to this. I disagreed based on my understanding of theology and Christian teaching and the traditional interpretation of the text.

 

The article contains some examples explaining how the concept of inherent, ingrained, or unchanging sexual preference was not unfamiliar to Romans in the first century AD which are really interesting.

 

“We can’t use these texts to show that homosexuality as a sexual identity existed as such back then. It didn’t. As is widely acknowledged and almost universally agreed upon by scholars of all persuasions, the Greco-Roman world did not have the same category of what we call homosexuality or gay/lesbian as a sexual identity.”

It may not have been the same, but it seems that they certainly conceptualized it similarly to today, even if they didn’t frame it exactly the same. There’s some following clarification about this that explains the Greeks and Romans thought in terms of “manliness” and “womanliness.”

 

“Whether such sex is pederastic (man on boy), exploitative, consensual, forced, extra marital, marital, or the byproduct of a fixed sexual orientation established at birth—it goes against the Creator’s intention; it’s ‘not the way it’s supposed to be.’”

My main problem with this is that someone can have a fixed sexual orientation established at birth and it would still be considered sinful for the person to have gay sex. Once I reached the conclusion that my attraction to women was out of my control, it didn’t make sense to me why it would still be sinful. If I were only ever attracted to women, I would not have any desire to marry a man; if I followed the biblical teaching on this, I would still refrain from any homosexual relationships, but I could very likely find myself unfulfilled in the romantic/sexual area of life. That’s not to say that freely choosing abstinence is a bad thing, but freely choosing it is what matters.

 

“I don’t think it’s accurate to equate what people mean by same-sex attraction to what the Bible says about sexual desire. SSA is a general disposition, regardless of whether someone is acting on, or even thinking about, it.”

This is actually different than what most Christians I’ve been close to have believed. Based on conversations in small groups and teaching from youth group leaders and even some slightly veiled mentions from the senior pastor, the majority position at the Baptist church I attended was that being gay was wrong.

 

“[L]iving in the constant state of opposite sex attraction isn’t sinful, even though it’s only okay for me to act on that attraction with one member of the female species. Likewise, living in the constant state of same-sex attraction doesn’t mean that someone is living in a 24/7 state of morally culpable sin.”

The difference is that you are “allowed” to act on your sexual desires, with your wife. Homosexuals, based on what I know and what you’ve included in your piece, are not “allowed” to act on their sexual desires with anyone ever.

 

“SSA is not just about actively wanting to have sex.”

So what? This is relevant to your argument, but I think this whole thing is you trying to justify having a dissonant position. It doesn’t mesh to say that it’s perfectly fine to be gay but it’s very much not okay to have gay sex, especially if you agree that at least some people were or may as well have been born gay. That would mean God created them gay and forbid them from ever having sex.

He then continues to talk about how SSA is more than just a desire for sex. It’s a bit excessive in my opinion.

 

“Romans 1 appears to conflate desire and action. That is, Paul doesn’t seem to view a naked desire apart from a sinful action.”

And you follow that with this, a couple paragraphs down.

(James 1:13-14) “James distinguishes between a desire, and desire that “gives birth to sin.” A woman may give birth to a child, but the woman herself is not the child. Likewise, in James’ own words, desire may give birth to sin, but this means that desire itself is not sin.”

So which is it? Paul doesn’t distinguish between the two, but then you pull out a different, unrelated passage that you explain as contradicting that.

 

The article contains some interesting historical information about the time period in which Romans was written. That part is fantastic, I really enjoyed it. Throughout the article, there is a strong emphasis on same-sex attraction being separate from a sexual desire for someone of the same sex. Followed by an ambiguous conclusion about whether such a desire is sinful. Romans 1, the passage the article primarily deals with, deals with them as though they are one and the same, but James 1:13-14 has a different perspective. It is unclear which is the correct perspective on homosexuality.

I would like to point out that Preston Sprinkle’s interpretation of the passages encourages my opinion that Paul and James presented divergent and contradictory perspectives. Take that to mean what you will.

Recap: Niche Down

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Niche Down: How to Become Legendary by Being Different is a book by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Christopher Lochhead is the host of the Legends and Losers podcast, and there is a Recap post about Episode 181. Heather Clancy is a journalist. The subtitle serves as a great synopsis of the book — it is Christopher’s and Heather’s observation of “how to become legendary by being different.”

I just finished Niche Down, and it’s fantastic. Anyone who want to do something big should read it. It’s chock full of excellent examples of people and companies who embody the mindset and approach Heather and Christopher are pushing. Many of the people don’t know either of them, and “niched down” without that term existing to describe their actions.

I did not take detailed, structured notes while reading. My notes are then, mostly my recollection of the book overall. The chapters bleed into each other. Each chapter has a main focus, but they’re interconnected.

Notes:

That by being different, doing something differently, or viewing the world and solving problems in a new way, you will stand out. In order to become legendary, have a household name, be wildly successful, whatever it is, you have to stand out, you have to be different. If you do things like everyone else, play by other people’s rules, you will not be the best. You have to set yourself apart, become a “category king or queen” and set the rules to have the majority of the marketshare for that type of item, service, etc.

You have to identify a problem you care about solving (this is important), find the solution, and sell it. This should be a problem people don’t know they have, or that you can solve in a new way. You have to tell people what the problem is, convince them it is a problem, and then explain why they should take your solution. You can’t “be a mercenary,” you have to “be a missionary.” You have to be so sold out to the problem and your solution that you don’t just gain customers, you gain followers, who are sold out to your perspective. When you do this, you become a cateogry king or queen.

Don’t make something like an existing thing. If you are doing something like someone else, you won’t stand out. You will be compared to whoever did it first. That’s not what you want. You want to redefine the problem, solve a new problem, create a new category entirely. Then people will follow your lead, your ideas, be compared to you. Most people wanting your solution will go to you, not the competitors in your category.

In winning people to your solution, evangelizing them, sharing your unique perspective is vital. You have to build social capital as well and increase your presence online. Have a digital body of work and use it to signal that existing “similar” products/companies/etc. should pay attention. That the problem and solution you are working with are important, that people care about it, and so should they.

Niching down is a scary thing. To do it, you have to go against the crowd, you have to stand out, you can’t stay in the safe zone with everyone else and their ideas. You have to position yourself as a leader rather than a follower.

Response:

There’s so much in this short book (only 110 pages) that’s so good. I could go on so many tangents.

While reading, I thought about myself, my goals, what I love in relation to the content. I found a lot of questions, but very few, if any answers to them as of yet.

I want to make money to at least partially support myself by writing. How can I niche down in that? What problem can I solve with my writing, either a finished product or my skill of writing? I know I want to stand out, I don’t want to be like everyone else, but how do I do that? When there is such a saturation of creative work nowadays with the advent of the internet, how do I stand out from a crowd of writers?

I don’t have answers now, but I’m still at the start of my journey. I only really started seriously pursuing writing earlier this year. I have time, I know that. I’m not using that as an excuse for complacency, however, just an encouragement to myself that I still have days and weeks and months and years to figure this out and refine my approach and define myself and establish my niche.

Most well-known authors are recognized by their works. Romeo and Juliet, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Raven, Inkheart, Eragon, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and others. But it depends on readers what sticks, what has staying power, what is recognizable years, decades, centuries later. (And often times publishers, at least traditionally, but self-publishing is a growing alternative that does not have any approval process limiting what becomes available to readers.)

Recap(ish): How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is more a reflection inspired by this post from Wait But Why that gave the name to this blog post you’re reading now. It’s really long, but I recommend you read it if you haven’t and do your own reflection.

I’ve wanted to write for at least five years now, maybe even closer to seven. The quality and quantity of my writing was drastically different (see Deleted Drafts: The Etaloniy Story for a prime example of this). But I knew I wanted to write. Initially it was a vague, general desire to write and publish books. I only kind of knew what that meant, and didn’t know what that looked like.

As I grew, physically, mentally, and in this desire to write, I developed strong convictions about making money by making art. In traditional publishing, the author makes royalties from sales, but the publishing house makes a lot of money too. The author probably makes a certain dollar amount from each book sale. It’s also crazy hard to get into traditional publishing. You have to find someone who connects with your story and can see it making them money.

That’s not what I wanted. I felt very strongly that if I were going to put in the hard work to write a book (or other sellable writing) that I wanted to make the money from my efforts if there were any money to be had from them. It would be my intellectual property being sold, it belongs to me, therefore I should benefit from sales. Also, creative control over my work is important to me. The cover image and all the contents. I don’t want to cut or add scenes I don’t want in order to get published.

This lead to the conclusion that I would self-publish. Even if I sell fewer books as a result, even if I don’t become as widely known, I care about my writing being mine more.

I have such a compulsion to write, even if it doesn’t become my career. I will keep doing it. I want to make it my career, at least partially, if I can. To do that, I joined a freelance site, opened commissions, and next month I’m publishing a poetry collection.

Productivity, Recap, and Accountability

This is partially part of the series Recap, but only loosely so. It will not have the structured Notes then Response sections. Instead, it will harken unto my previous post on productivity and what I learned and am implementing from two recorded Praxis Group Sessions with Amanda Grimmett.

[I do have one note. I avoid swearing, but in this case it was in the name of the workshop.]

Maximizing Your Output:

Have a plan for the day to have more focus and structure. At the end of the day write down what you did and what the next step is to decrease ramp-up time.

Have a list of priorities to return to when you get pulled in different directions so you know what to do when you get back.

Dedicate blocks of time to projects.

Ask bosses when they need a requested task done so you can prioritize it.

Getting Shit Done:

Dump, sort, work. List everything that needs done. Then sort tasks into categories and prioritize them. Then get to work.

Recommended online tools: Wunderlist, Trello, Asana, Monday, Swipe

Implementation:

notebook.JPG

I have a large notebook I bought at Walmart for $4 or $5 bucks. I write the date and day of the week, today’s time-specific obligations, and tomorrow’s time-specific obligations. Then I draw a line and write my to-do list. Everything after the to-do list is notes on what I’ve done, notes on live calls for Praxis, or sometimes notes on recorded Group Sessions as well.

to-do-list.jpg

Additionally, inspired by the GSD workshop, I reached out to my cohort, the participants who started Praxis at the same time as I did, to start an accountability group. We’ll push each other to meet our Praxis goals, both short term weekly goals and the long term whole bootcamp goals. We’ll also keep each other accountable to other goals we set for ourselves.

Recently I’ve had a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed at almost the same time every night and getting up at almost the same time.

I don’t always approach my work in an orderly fashion, doing a lot of task switching. Not in the middle of a task, unless I get stuck or otherwise need a break. Once I get into a groove, I can bust out most of my to-do list before I head to Walmart in the early afternoon. By switching tasks I can continue working without getting burnt out or bored by continuing to focus on one thing.

For example, I’ll work on blog posts for a while. Sometimes this is as simple as editing the notes and response I wrote for some content I consumed, as for Recap, or it’s more complicated, like My Birthday: A Reflection. Then I might switch to check in with the Over the Invisible Wall team to remind them of work that needs done so we stay on track and taking care of anything that they need me to do. Then I’ll switch to working on my Praxis deliverables or giving feedback on my cohorts’ deliverables.

Recap: The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

This is a response to The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems by Courtney Martin. While I do not agree with some of the more political examples in her post, she gives some great insight into the main trouble of attempts to solve foreign problems.

Notes

Other people’s problems seems easily solvable from an outside perspective. “It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.” A lot of non-profit organizations are geared towards “saving the world,” and international aid.

It is problematic to try to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity.

It’s dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. There’s domestic need, which we can better understand because it’s closer to home. It does require more research and as such seems more daunting.

Problems abroad can be tackled, but they take time and effort. You have to cultivate relationships with the people, listen to them, understand them, build trust so you can work with them to solve the problem.

Response

It only seems more because we recognize the complexity of the problem and the depth of understanding required to solve it. If we understood the same for foreign problems we could help the people create better solutions to those problems as well, but it would take time.

 

The article has a lot of excellent real world examples which I did not include. This is far shorter than the original piece, but that is a synopsis. I recommend reading the full article, it’s really good.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 29

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I’ve also responded to Episodes 9 and 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 29, Two Parts Substance, One Part Style, Isaac Morehouse discusses how to maintain success.

Notes

This is a recipe to turn success into sustained success. You need the right ratio between substance and style to build brand, reputation,  and credibility over the long term. Isaac’s not saying not to market, have style, and flash — he firmly believes you should shout from the rooftops your abilities and skills and products, a lot, and signal who you are. However, you should have twice as much substance to back up the style. Have something you’ve done that you didn’t talk about. Twice as much value.

If you want to engage in PDPs and work on something everyday to chip away at obstacles and you want to build a signal, a digital footprint, do it constantly. For every one thing you share on Facebook have one thing you’re working on that you don’t share. You want your product to be so good it sells itself.

Response

I’ve sort of been doing this, but not always well. Years ago I was active on DeviantART, sharing fanfiction and poems I’d written. I’d also talk about projects I was working on and say “I’m going to ___.” I didn’t always do whatever that thing was, I just talked about doing it. I’ve gotten better now at not telling the whole world I’m working on something unless I’m sure I’m going to do it. I’ll still discuss the maybes with people close to me, but if I don’t have something to show for a project except an idea, that’s not enough. A “want to” doesn’t necessarily equate to a “will” or “have.” I’ve been public with the main projects I’m working on, but don’t share a lot about when or what I’m doing on them. When I have some progress to share, it has taken time and work to get there, work I was doing in the background.