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.

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service

This post is not sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors, BookBaby, Medium, or Marcin Wichary. All information is based on my research for this post and while I was at this step of the self-publishing process for Inside a Writer’s Head.

I have a few recent posts about preparing a poetry collection for self-publishing. This post is more general and can be used for finding the right self-publishing service for any project.

There are a huge number of self-publishing services available nowadays. I couldn’t possibly investigate and review all of them. What I can do is discuss some qualities to look for when choosing a self-publishing service. When you find a service you like, you may want to review this page by the Alliance of Independent Authors rating self-publishing services to see what they have to say about that service.

Your Goals

Before you can find the right self-publishing service, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to give your writing to family and friends? Do you want to sell it? Do you want it to be something you giveaway to your audience, possibly as a free ebook download or a Patreon reward or in some other way? Do you want an ebook, physical book, or both? Are you going to design the cover or have someone who will? If a physical book, do you want a hardcover (dust jacket?) or softcover book?

Ask questions and really understand what you hope to accomplish.

I wanted to sell my writing to the most people possible, but also have the option of giving it away.

Cost vs Reward

Think about what the service costs, what you can afford, and what is being promised for a certain price.

Keep in mind what your goals are. If a service is really cheap but won’t check all your boxes for what you hope to accomplish, it may not be a good fit. On the flip side, if it’s way outside your price range but has everything you could ever want, it’s also not a good fit. As a side note, if the promised quality doesn’t match up with the price point, do some more research.

When I chose BookBaby I knew it was higher than I had anticipated. I thought about what they were promising for that price and did research on them and other services before deciding. For what I paid I’m getting 25 copies of my poetry collection, an ebook available on all platforms from Amazon to Apple’s iBooks, print on demand, and distribution of my book to catalogs for major retailers, and Amazon. I also got a free book review, which I shared on my Published Work page.

Ease of Use

You will also want a service that is uncomplicated and clear about the steps. Some services may have old or clunky software or process for uploading your writing and cover. There may be other advantages to a service that do make it a good choice even if the uploading process is harder or more time consuming.

The Finished Product

Find other authors who used the service(s) you’re looking at. What do they have to say about the service and their finished ebook or physical book? Is their review positive or negative? Why?

If they have a bad experience with the self-publishing process with a given service, see if that is common. If their negative review is with the end result, evaluate what they hoped to accomplish and if what they received aligns with your goals. Do the same for a good experience and a positive review of the end result.

While researching options, I found an article on Medium comparing the quality of four self-publishing services for printing 15 copies of a hard cover book. Marcin Wichary shows images of the books he received, discusses his goals and what he liked and disliked about all parts of each service. If you want physical books, definitely check out his article, even if you’re doing soft cover books. He shows the pages, the type quality, and the interfaces used.

 

These are the three main things to consider when choosing a self-publishing service, your goals, the cost vs reward, and the finished product. They all intersect, and the services that excell in all three areas are the services to choose from for your project.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.

Some Thoughts on NaNo

It’s November, and while I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo, I have in the past and I have friends who are doing it.

At a basic level, NaNo is a 30-day writing challenge, in a similar vein to the month-long personal development projects (PDPs) that are encouraged by Praxis. You spend a month focusing as much time and energy as possible on one goal, one endeavor. At the end, if you’ve spent time each day working toward the goal, you win.

If you don’t write 50k words in November, it doesn’t matter. That’s not the real purpose. If you do, congratulations.

You really win by forming a writing habit and spending focused time working towards a goal, in this case to write a novel, for 30 straight days.

You can make your own rules.

You can set a challenging but obtainable word count goal for yourself. Maybe 50k is too much but you can handle 15 or 20 or even 30k words. Don’t aim so high that you’ll be guaranteed to burn out.

You don’t have to write fiction. You could write poems, blog posts, a non-fiction book, a series of essays. Whatever genre or type of writing you want.

If you really want to, you could decide to do an entirely different month-long project. In fact, I’d encourage you to do some kind of month-long project, NaNo or otherwise.

I’m not doing NaNo, but I am doing a PDP. For the whole month of November, I will be marketing my poetry collection, posting on social media, interacting with people, and creating blog posts and videos about self-publishing.

That’s my project this month.

Tell me about yours in the comments below!

Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned

As I’m sure you know, I’m hard at work on my upcoming debut poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head. Since initally deciding to make this collection and amassing all the poems into one Google doc, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Don’t pick categories first.

This might be more relevant to collections that are already topic-specific. Inside a Writer’s Head is a collection of poems written about writing, so they have that theme in common.

I made the mistake of grouping poems together by topics when I was putting them into the Google doc. I had no idea how I wanted the poems arranged when I did this. I didn’t know which poem would open the collection, which would close it. I created buckets without knowing if I’d use them or how many poems would be in each bucket.

This made it harder for me to move forward because the poems were already “organized,” so I wasn’t sure how to “reorganize” them to make a cohesive collection.

2. Do play around with the order.

Move the poems around. Try different poems at the start of the collection, at the end. See what goes together and what you don’t like. What that means will depend on your purposes.

I have a few poems I paired together to create a humorous effect, or because they had a similar implication in some of the lines, or because they gave some clarification to each other.

I’m still not done doing this. I’m much happier with this draft over the previous one, though.

3. Don’t be afraid to cut, combine, or otherwise change the poems in the collection.

I had three poems about my novel-in-progress. They didn’t fit the collection. They would’ve needed some explanation and context and I didn’t want to interrupt the collection and the flow of the poems in order to add that. So I cut them. I didn’t want to, not really, but I did it anyway to improve cohesivity and order.

I had two poems that were very similar thematically, such that they were almost two versions of the same poem. So I made them one poem. A couple other poems needed lines cut or some other changes to be made.

You want the poems to individually be the best they can be. You want the collection as a whole piece to be the best it can be. For that to happen, you will have to make changes and edits. Also, just because you cut lines or a whole poem doesn’t mean you can’t still use it or that it has no merit. But you have to recognize when it doesn’t fit in the collection or the poem.

4. Do make the collection what and how you like it.

This is your piece of art, own it. If you’re not happy with it, it won’t matter how happy everyone else is. Everyone else could think it the best collection in the world, but that won’t make you happy with it.

Take control over your creative product, make it what you want, make it how you want. It’s in your name, you need to own it.

(That’s actually one of my reasons for self-publishing.)

 

I’ve only just finished a second draft. I’m not done crafting the collection, reordering the poems, etc. These are four things I’ve found to be important over the last few days when I moved from draft one to draft two.

For anyone looking to make your own poetry collection, I hope this helps.

If you have any questions about organizing your manuscript, Inside a Writer’s Head, or advice for me, put it in the comments! I’d love to discuss this with you.

How I Work

Location: St. Louis metropolitan area

Current gig: Crafts or Toys associate at Walmart, blogging here and at Over the Invisible Wall

Current mobile device: iPhone 6s

Current computer: I’m not sure, but I run Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritization

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Drive, notebooks and pens or pencils, Gmail, Facebook messenger, my phone calendar with notifications

What’s your workspace like?

Messy. Clutter tends to pile up as I prioritize my work for Praxis, blogging, and other projects over putting away the binder I got out two days ago and finding a more permanent place to store some other things.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Write down what is done and the next step before switching to a different task.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My notebook and gel pens. I also have calendar notifications for hard and fast obligations for the day. I made a larger list of ongoing to-dos in a Google doc which I’m still refining.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Probably my fitness tracker, headphones, and webcam. If non-electronics count as well, my notebooks and pens.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Creative problem solving, thinking outside the “box” to find or make a solution that may be unconventional when the conventional solution is not possible or available.

What are you currently reading?

Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Other books I’m in the middle of: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller, The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsburg, and How Could a Loving God…? by Ken Ham. There are probably others that I started reading and forgot about.

What do you listen to while you work?

I mostly don’t listen to anything while working because I find it distracts me more than it helps me focus. I probably just haven’t found the right kind of music for that, but I prefer songs with lyrics most of the time. I might try making a playlist of instrumental songs and listening to it while working to see if it is distracting or not.

I would welcome any suggestions for instrumental work music, leave your recommendations in the comments and I can make a follow-up post reviewing my experience listening to them while working.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I like to spend a lot of time alone and working on projects in my own space. I like spending time with people, but I get drained by long periods of in-person interaction even when I’m having a really good time and want to be socializing.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I stay up late and get up late, except when I have to get up early for a shift at my job. I tend to be up past midnight and get up around 9 am if the money making is in the afternoon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The quickest way to improve at anything is to work at it every day, even just a little bit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I consider how I make money work, my projects work, Praxis obligations work, etc. Anything I’m not doing “just for fun” is work. That doesn’t mean it’s unenjoyable or not fun, though. I spend the mornings before my shifts at Walmart working on my blog, Over the Invisible Wall, other projects, or stuff for Praxis. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling and satisfying rather than tiring and draining.