Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In Context

I don’t’ write Blank Cheques. Every decision has trade-offs. Having been born into Apartheid South Africa, I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of abundance. Scarcity is real. This means you can want something, but still not get it, because the price is too high. Everything, has a price that is too high. That doesn’t mean you don’t value “the thing”. That you don’t see the value. That you don’t have the desire. In isolation, every story can be incredibly powerful. But to understand something you have to understand the constraints. You have to understand the context. You have to mitigate for unintended consequences. No single decision stands alone. Unless it is literally the only thing that matters to you.

Worth It

How will you feel in the morning? How will you feel on Monday? I like to buy Democratic Goods. Those where the price is low enough that everyone who wants them can mostly afford them. Dividends of being Cultural Billionaires, sharing in societies compounded cumulative skills and knowledge. Price is relative. Just because the price is high tells you very little about its relationship to value. But a low absolute price does reduce the amount of Due Diligence you need to do. The bigger the number and the less you know, the more research is required. The bigger the number, the fewer other people (also researching) are likely also buying. Bigger number, smaller market. In tiny markets, the story becomes more important. It becomes easier for there to be different knowledge on the part of the buyer and seller, and smoke and mirrors in between. The bigger the absolute price, the more dangerous the epiphany, “I am worth it”. Of course, you are worth it. That doesn’t mean people won’t try sell you a story to get a chunk of that worth. “Is everyone else worth it too?” is a good follow up question.

Is everyone else worth it too?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Petty Dictator

It becomes gradually harder to accept things you don’t like, as you become more empowered to not have to accept them. Having no option but to carry on forces you to suck it up. We live in an income dependent world. Nothing kills an activist like a mortgage and school fees. Obligations that override competing desires. 30-year mortgages lay some pretty clear constraints around your options. I don’t like hierarchy without enthusiastic consent. I don’t like Petty Dictators.  I don’t like having to follow instructions because there is no option to walk. No agency. Particularly when the person issuing the instruction knows that. Teams work significantly better when there is genuine respect. At a human level, when the engagement is relational rather than transactional. When there is a sense of Peers who recognise each other’s competence and goals, and are supporting each other. In an income dependent world, Capital empowers you to say “No”. To work with people rather than just do what you are told.

STEM Engine

What are you counting? I have always had a love for both Art and Maths. In deciding on a career, I chose to be pragmatic. The harsh reality is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are more efficient money-making containers. Money making requires something you can count. If you can’t count it, you can’t measure it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. If you can’t manage it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t make money from it. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of pricing to think qualitative subjects don’t add the value of quantitative subjects. Price isn’t value. It just reduces the complex down to a tool for comparison. It creates a market that allows Due Diligence (alternatives, reliability, fairness). This doesn’t mean we have to live in a STEM world. It does mean that STEM Engines are more reliable. It is far easier to use Maths to make money, and free your Art from the constraints of supply and demand. Build an Engine you can count on, for the things that count.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Word "No"

“No one expects the dramatic Trevor John”, says my friend Stuart. I am generally a positive and optimistic person, but I have had to work very hard at the skill of Detachment. Detachment doesn’t mean not caring, it just means not caring too much. Not allowing any single thing to be more important than everything else. Allocating appropriate attention, but not more. I wear my heart on my sleeve a little too much for the Corporate Environment sometimes. Another friend's favourite trick was to “Poke Trev” before I went into my Annual Reviews. To touch me on my Righteous Indignation. I could easily take work too seriously, and insist on too much consistency. Sometimes you need to play the game. I wasn’t good at that. I don’t like that companies can treat people as disposable. As simple transactional inputs where there isn’t balanced negotiating power between ordinary people and the powerful “legal people” we create. The only real way to detach is to have an independent source of power. The word “no”.

Team Player

The harder you hold onto something, the more likely you are to lose it. I am a Scatterling of Africa. A Soutie. A Vagabond. One who has no fixed home. There were 147 boys in my Matric class. A group of them had been with me for 12 years. Not by choice. Some were very glad to see the back of others they had been trapped with. I was at University for 4 years, and at the three companies I worked at for 4.5 years, 5 years, and a year respectively. I was always a “Team Player”. Throwing myself in wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. But cynicism has grown to replace my romantic side. I am wary of Trusts, Legal People, and groups who we use the language of Ordinary People for. Speaking of Countries, Companies, and Teams as if they are a flesh and blood someone we owe our allegiance to. Teams change. Those groups I was at, no longer exist. The real group we owe our allegiance to is bigger. And smaller. To the real people we meet. The real people who move. To the expansion. To the connection. Time is a one-way door. I can’t move home. It does not exist. Yet I am home. If I loosen my grip.

Class 1 - 1986

Thursday, May 21, 2020

In the Stillness

The Gambler’s Fallacy stems from our obsession with patterns. Our desire to attribute to the world cause and effect, in our attempt to control it. When something has no memory, history is irrelevant. People have memory. It colours our world and is the basis of our personal hallucination that is our interpretation of reality. Real Reality regularly has no memory. Whatever happened before has no bearing on what happens next. The Gambler will believe that there is more likelihood of a six because there hasn’t been a six for a while. The Fair Dice doesn’t care. The probability is the same. There is something empowering about not trying to make sense of everything. About not attributing cause and effect to everything. Of accepting that every decision is complicated and has advantages and disadvantages. Every decision has unintended consequences. The only thing that is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present is Silence. That moment you pause to breathe.

50-50 and the Law of Large Numbers

Cornerstone Events

Autonomy and Consent are core values of mine. I believe we all have Cornerstone Events that colour the way we view the world. I was born in Apartheid South Africa. I was 14 when it ended. At the same time, my parents (and those of many in my school class) got divorced. My work life didn’t progress on the path I wanted it to, till I made a stab at self-determination. For the last four years, my wife and I have been going through Fertility Treatment. I had two surgeries to confirm that I have no soldiers. We had three unsuccessful IVF treatments with donor sperm. Huge existential questions about kids, no kids, adoption, risks, money, success, expectations. The degree of Righteous Indignation and Saviour Complexes I carry with me stems from these Cornerstones. How do you get to the point where you feel you are living life rather than life living you? Part of Autonomy and Consent has to be Acceptance and Surrender. Some things just are. No reason. No sense to be made. Then tweaked. So that every day carries some agency. Building on the day before. Building towards the next morning. Making meaning.