Friday, May 07, 2021

Not to Be

I don’t like the question we ask kids, “what are you going to be when you grow up?”. It would be fine if the underlying question wasn’t “how are you going to earn money?”. They are fundamentally different questions. One is existential and the other is a financing problem. Not all ideas are good business ideas. Not all good business ideas are good ideas. Money is made by solving quantifiable problems in containers. Who we “are” shouldn’t be confined by such pragmatic constraints. Solving problems relies on flexible skills. Being able to clearly articulate problems. To collect and analyse information, and be able to present solutions. To read and write... both words and numbers. These skills are required whatever the problem is. They do not define you. The price of solving problems changes with supply and demand, and is not connected to your value and identity. Price is not value. Salary is not worth. You are not your job. Financing the things that really matter requires capital, skills & knowledge, and containers. But it is what matters to us, that make us who we are.  

Not to Be

Necessary Friction

Building wealth is not purely about skills and knowledge. There is not a pure play meritocracy with a completely level playing field. The reality is we all have to eat, and that requires a degree of protection to be able to incentivize investing in skills and knowledge. With 7.7 Billion people on the planet, a pure meritocracy with no barriers would mean almost all of us would have to point out that someone is better than us at what we do. That means building wealth does require some friction. Some boundaries. Something to allow you to build an engine and vehicle completely detached from you. That can support you, and your community, without judgement of their merit. To still the waves of financial anxiety, you cannot constantly be weighing and measuring everyone. There has to be some independent commitment. That requires a level of self-awareness, seeing what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your community is, who your clients are, and understanding the market you are in. Developing skills that do not define you, but are transferable between different problems. 


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Defining Container

It is horrible not getting the job you want. It is worth remembering you are likely not the only one who did not get it. With so few great jobs, there are normally plenty of candidates for those roles. It would not pay well if we create work-for-work-sake. Just because we want people to have those jobs. There are limits and there are constraints to what is required. Beyond a specific role’s requirements, understanding some generic business skills is important. These are the kind of skills that that are going to be with you throughout your life whatever your “source of wealth” is. However you build your wealth, you need financial literacy. Capital helps you make money. Through financing and risk management. Supporting your skills and knowledge. Developing an understanding of the containers in which all that happens is equally important. The accounting/law/product that creates the shape and form for what you are doing. Detaching a little to understand the things that are not specifically about you and what you do. You need some awareness around that to have a plan for how you are going to build your freedom, your autonomy, and your ability to make decisions. So that one fragile job/opportunity does not become your defining container. 



Monday, May 03, 2021

All Animals Are Equal

When the supply of candidates massively outweighs the number of jobs available, work givers have the option of being picky. There is a lot of wiggle room to impose their preferences. In “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman talks of how hard it is to convince people that interview processes regularly don’t add value. One tool in the Hubris Factory is to be very selective in hires, and regularly fire people. This gives the illusion of meritocracy. It is very difficult to evaluate this process objectively because you have no long-term, definitive, information on the people you didn’t pick, or the people you let go. The people doing the selecting/letting go are also often not subjected to their own criteria. One of my favourite German words is Geschmacksfrage – a question of taste. You need to detach from job interviews/opportunities. It is hard, because you know you. The interviewer does not (cannot), but will superficially form an opinion to think they do, and to reinforce their belief in their process. You are not your job. You are also not the jobs you did not get. 


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Happy 27th Birthday South Africa

Democratic South Africa turned 27 today. 

We experience life as a controlled hallucination. We interpret our experiences and the information we gather through the stories we have soaked in. It takes about 25 years to settle into our own adult perspective. 

I think you get a few more years, maybe a decade, where you have some grace to work through all the baggage that entails. Sins of the father leaking into the next generation. Stories colouring stories that are not our own. If you do the work. If you unpack all the obstacles that obscured your way of seeing. If you want to release burdens to look with fresh eyes. Relooking. Relearning. Reworking. Reinvesting. 

A 27-year-old is verging on being able to claim their story. Claim their community. Claim what it is that matters to them. But Freedom is not the ability to impose yourself on others. It is not the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom includes the messy work of caring what others think, and respecting that freedom. No adult is unconstrained by the past if they want a future that matters. A future linked to the freedom of others.  

Happy 27th Birthday Democratic South Africa. The messy work of building Freedom continues.  

How do you see?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Work Giver

There are formal skills that are easy to quantify/articulate and are specific to the jobs that require technical knowledge. For those, you just need to know what they are and do the work. There are other less obvious barriers to entry. It is not just about skills and knowledge (“Merit”). It is also about supply and demand. How many people have that ability? Why choose you? If there is an oversupply of people in the area that you are interested in, it is going to be difficult to get those jobs. Not because of you. Because of your choice. Qualitative and subjective filtering processes give lots of wiggle room to those selecting who gets the job. In a world where demand for jobs outweighs the number of jobs on offer, employers become guardians of opportunity. The German word for employer is arbeitgeber – work giver. The employer will be faced with similar supply and demand questions one level up. What is the problem they are solving, and how many other employers are solving it? Do they have the Capital needed to solve the problems? Can they solve the problem in a container with barriers to entry? It is not just about you. It is not just about merit. When building wealth, capital and containers matter. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Beyond Television

One of the joys of being human is we are in it together. When you're mapping out a path, you can look at what other people are doing. This is where social capital kicks in. Being surrounded by people that you share enough in common with to believe their paths are paths open to you. You can see the skills that they need to do what they do. If you know them well enough, you can ask questions. Ideally, you want a holistic sense of the person. To know beyond the stories you attach to the job, or what you have seen on television. What is their actual day-to-day? In practical terms, what does the person do? Every week? On TV, you might see the exciting bits of law, with time-lapses of them spending all night for months in a room with a box of files. If you know someone, you see the journey, and the consequences of the job beyond the conspicuous. Subtle things like knowing their circle of friends and family. Their capacity for interests beyond work. Their health. Do they spend lots of time on spreadsheets? Do they write a lot? Do they read a lot? Are they mainly in meetings? What are their frustrations? How is their relationship with colleagues and bosses? What is the politics like? What are the barriers to entry and development?

Monday, April 19, 2021

Doubling Time

Part of the story I tell myself about money comes from the micro-world I grew up in. The bubble within a bubble where my parents were the decision makers. One of the ways I was taught saving was that my parents used to match what I saved. How do you instill the concept of compound interest, and delaying getting something now, so that it can build for later? Saving and Investing are worth thinking of as different things. You save *for* something. Investing puts money to work (reinvesting rather than consumption). You can then spend some of what the investment earns, and reinvest some. But it is hard enough learning delayed gratification by saving, so... baby steps. Compound interest also takes time to kick in. 5% real return would double your money in roughly “rule of 70” 14 years (70 divided by return equals roughly the doubling time). No kid is still a kid if they have to wait that long. The big thing I wanted was a music system. I saved half by starting a sweet business, and my Mom matched what I saved. Where she got the magic “compound interest”, I don’t know. But she managed. She was a bit of a hero.

Funny Faces sold individually were my biggest winner