Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No Try

The trick in hypnosis is that there is no trick. It is just a deep state of relaxation, and a willingness to hand over control to someone else. If it isn't up to you to decide what the obstacles are, you are more likely to do things without even trying. More likely to do or not do. More let's see exploration than I can't predetermination. I am a 'Try Hard'. If someone says 'You can't lift your hand', I find it incredibly difficult not to challenge them and test if I can. Of course, I can lift my hand. That isn't the point. If I challenge on that first point, I don't get to go on the journey. Fiction can go further than fact because it isn't constrained by our understanding of each step.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Righteous Indignation

I grew up with the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple as a parable around righteous indignation. That occasionally it is right to lose your temper. I am a big believer in tolerance. That rules should be clear, but based on consent rather than enforcement. I like rules that can then effectively disappear while people are creative within them. When people understand, and like, the agreements that they have made with each other. A friend observed that within my tolerance, I do get very angry. I do get triggered. I do have a deep seated belief in right and wrong. I find this tough to hear as I like the idea of being tolerant, and work at it. Yet bubbling under there is a raging bull. He also observed that growing up in Apartheid South Africa could have led to this scarred view of needing to stand up to power. The law was wrong. The law wasn't to be tolerated. It certainly wasn't consensual. I would love to let the bull chill.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Beyond the Hand

Living hand to mouth forces control of the hand. You have to work, or you starve. Putting some of the extra aside for tomorrow means if for whatever reason you can't work, you don't starve. It gives you a buffer. Putting the extra to work can create an engine that eventually will allow you to shift your attention from the hand, to the heart and the mind. It can allow you to detach. Detachment isn't ignoring something. It is only giving that thing the emotional energy it deserves, and no more. Money is incredibly useful as a trust and exchange mechanism for stuff. It allows good ideas, that can be monetised, to thrive - good business ideas. Not all good ideas are good business ideas. Not all good business ideas are good ideas. Creating financial engines can allow people, and even states (Sovereign Wealth Funds) and communities (Community Wealth Funds), the freedom to seek fulfilment in other ideas. We can detach from money while still recognising just how useful and important it is.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What is Enough?

In the essay 'Famine, Affluence and Morality', Peter Singer looks at the ethics of 'How much is enough'. When we know there are people struggling, what are the ethics around our own level of consumption? What are our obligations to others? How much is doing enough? Toby Ord is part of the Effective Altruism movement which looks critically at where, how, and why we give. He is the founder of 'Giving What We Can' and has committed to capping his own 'allowance' at £18,000 and giving away the balance of what he earns. 

In discussing the project I am involved in working on to build a Community Wealth Fund that pays a Universal Basic Income to 150 people, I was pointed in the direction of leanFIRE. F-I = Financial Independence. R-E = Retire Early. If you combine the concepts of building an engine to finance your expenditure with lean living, the size of the engine required comes down. The leanFIRE group discuss a Sustainable Withdraw Rate (SWR). This is what the Engine would need to earn to pay the amount you need sustainably. 3% seems a sensible figure.

If you combined Toby Ord's approach with a SWR of 3%, you would need a £600,000 engine. To pay a Universal Basic Income roughly equal to the median income per person in the world (c. £180/month) you would need an engine of £72,000 (3% is £2,160). The median income per person in the UK is about £21,000. The UK is a rich country. Toby isn't being a martyr, but living on that amount in the UK still requires some tough decisions.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Bahamas

Columbus first reached what he thought was a new route to China & Japan without going through the Muslim lands, he had stepped foot on what we now call The Bahamas in 1492. The local inhabitants were the Lucayan People, the last of whom were removed, and sent into slavery, by 1520. English colonists settled the islands in 1648 and it formally became a Crown Colony. After American independence, many loyalists were settled in the Bahamas, bringing their slaves with them and establishing plantations on land grants. Later slavery was abolished (1807 in Britain, 1834 in The Bahamas). It became a safe haven for freed slaves and today more than 90% of the population is predominantly of African descent. The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth Realm in 1973, retaining Elizabeth II as Monarch.

Sign at a state park in Florida commemorating escapes to The Bahamas

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Slow Learner

I am a slow learner. I am just very stubborn, and comfortable with the discomfort of appearing stupid and making mistakes in public. 'Things coming easy' isn't actually a sign of someone being sustainably good at something. The top riders in the Tour de France are definitely hurting more than a completely unfit beginner scared of going for a ride because it will hurt to start. It doesn't get easier. The best of the best just push on into that discomfort. There are also two paths to learning - deep and wide. You can't really do both. The great thing is we learn cumulatively, so the important thing is keeping connections, and trust, between us so the learning can be shared. My preference is being a constant beginner so that I am only a step or two away from most people I meet in learning something about something they care about deeply. Close enough to listen.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Community Business

I enjoy reading the histories of big institutional companies. Wells Fargo (a large American Bank) started its days with stagecoaches transporting gold from coast to coast. Shell (of Royal Dutch Shell) was named after the founder's father's antique business which expanded to import and export seashells.  Nokia started life as a pulp mill. Things change. Businesses start small, and then over time often institutionalise if they are successful. I like that public equity allows anyone to be an owner. It does have the knock-on effect of making businesses more like borderless countries rather than family businesses. I am also interested in learning more about 'Community Businesses' - ones that intentionally stay small. Family businesses can reinforce privilege. Meritocratic businesses can too, by hiring those who are already successful. How do we recognise that stories evolve, and make the engines of that evolution something we are proud of?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Simplifying Assumptions

Models are stories that help us think. Countries, money, words, companies, our own identity and anything that 'separates' one thing from another is a model. They aren't reality, but we can't deal with reality. It is way to big for any human that has ever existed's head. Our stories help us pick our mistakes. Ideally consciously. Ideally humbly. A famous financial model called 'The Efficient Market's Hypothesis' assumes all investors only think in terms of return and risk, in the same way, and in a way that can be reduced to numbers. It assumes unlimited borrowing, zero transaction costs and perfect flow of information. Despite all those assumptions being wrong, the model helped build some very useful low-cost investment alternatives. If you try to deal with all problems, and never make simplifying assumptions, it becomes impossible to move forward. My preference is micro-ambitious, trial and error. Try a little. Learn a little. Try again.

Through the noise