Wednesday, October 10, 2018


One of our strengths as humans is our ability to believe two things that can't both be true. If we become aware of the inconsistency, we will only change our mind/heart if the clash causes stress. If new evidence means we have to choose. If we don't have to choose, we are pretty good at parallel lives. Consistency makes communication easier. Agreement between two people is effectively a choice. If we don't want a new discussion every time, we need a rule. Rules need consistency. Like computers which think in 1s and 0s. It can't be both or you will get 'the blue screen of death'. It may be possible to have a world where the answer is 1, and a world where the answer is 0. Each of us live in our own little worlds. Our worlds bump into each other. Consistency is the way we smooth those bumps.


A world of scarcity and abundance have different rules. We have flipped the two as people have become richer. Our resources are finite, but we have freed ourselves from the enforced desperation when they were relatively infinite. There is a strong case that we could end poverty by choice. The problem isn't the lack of resources, it is the distribution of those resources. Our total consumption rate isn't sustainable, even if some of us still don't have enough.

I believe it is important to answer the question 'how much is enough?'. I also think the one answer that shouldn't always be allowed is 'more'. A friend of mine doesn't like the word 'should'. He feels it carries implicit judgment. I agree with the principle that we right and wrong are determined by agreement and consent. Largely, people should be left alone to do whatever they like... unless it harms others. That is where I am okay with judgment. That is where I get very judgy. We don't live in isolation.

I am a rule-loving anarchist. I am allergic to non-consensual hierarchy. In my ideal world, everyone would be empowered to say Yes or No, always. That doesn't mean that we should be allowed to do whatever we want.

Rules make the game more fun. Constraints stop winning being the result of someone else losing. The two strongest cases for constraints at the moment are (1) our joint unsustainable consumption, and (2) our joint unsustainable poverty. Rules are just agreements between people to make things better.

One of those agreements should be a consideration of what is enough. You can live a life of abundance within constraints. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

No Salary

Salary is a terrible measure of self-worth. Particularly if the aim is always more, and the comparison is always your immediate peers. A Salary is just a price, and prices don't measure value. Prices are clearing mechanisms. They compare how much there is of stuff to how much is wanted. None of us want to be stuff. Aiming for a 'One Dollar Salary' is more appealing. If your spending is covered by an Engine (an investment which earns more than you spend), then you always have the ability to walk away even if you choose not to. Then rather than growth as a motivating factor, you can choose other things that are important to you. As Bill Cunnigham says, 'If you don't take the money, they can't tell you what to do.' GDP is one measure of the world's salary. It is biased to growth. It focuses on things that we can count. It may be that a lower salary means you are doing what you need to do more efficiently. In Rich countries, a lower GDP could (possibly) be a good thing. It may be we are doing things more sustainably. Numbers are great questions, but terrible answers. Sometimes smaller numbers are more beautiful.

Monday, October 08, 2018

You Are Not...

The question 'what are you going to be when you grow up?' was designed for an everyone-knows-their-place world. When things are scarce, you have to be part of the team. Pick a role, and society will look after you. That functions when teams are relatively small and the Lord of the Manor's life is not that dissimilar from the rest of the team. Genghis Khan spent most of his life in a Ger despite building one of the biggest empires the world has seen. A big Ger, sure, but still a Ger. 

As the world abstracts and you get paid a salary for work as a transaction, things fall apart. A salary is a price. A price is a clearing mechanism. It has nothing to do with value, and certainly nothing to do with 'who you are'. The question about what you are going to be, is a completely separate one from 'how are you going to finance being?'. Too often, our identity gets wrapped up in how we are going to make money. Money and identity are not great bedfellows. Money cares too much about what other people are doing. It only cares about how much of something there is, and how much is wanted. It doesn't see you. It can empower you, and lack of it can disempower you. But it is not you.

It may just seem like wordplay. But saying I am angry, or I am happy, or I am a doctor is different from I am feeling angry, I am feeling happy, or I am doctoring. That is how phrased in Russian. You aren't a writer, you are writing. You aren't an investor, you are investing. You aren't an Artist, you are creating. I think that difference matters.

You are not your job.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Beyond Nails

Every business does the same thing. All businesses solve problems. Money is exchanged because someone gets something they didn't have, or gets rid of something they didn't want. 

Effective teams are those that build trust. They let other people solve parts of the problems. Normally a problem has multiple solutions. If you decide 'you' are the important bit, rather than a solution being the important bit - then 'you' need to be the one who solves the problem.

We grow up with questions like 'what do *you* want to be when you grow up?'. Our identity then gets wrapped up in the particular kind of problem we solve. That is a terrible idea. It turns people into productive assets. It turns people into hammers constantly searching for nails. We specialise so much that we stop trusting people who don't see the world in the same way we do. We stop trusting people who don't ask the same type of questions we do.
Beyond a world where everything is a nail

Ideally, you can snap the connection. This may take time. It may take generations. It may take you snapping the connection for your grandchildren, and the community of which they are a part.

The first step is to build a Buffer. Stop living hand-to-mouth. Have a little bit of a gap between your hand and your mouth. Then stop connecting your identity with your hand. Gradually the Buffer can be put to work. The Buffer can grow into an Engine. An Engine is something that earns more than you spend.

Then the magic starts. If your Engine can build a Buffer between what you spend and what it gives you, it can slowly start to multiply. The Engine can then start to support others you care about. Engines could grow into Community Wealth Funds. A Community Engine can solve multiple problems without being defined by any of those problems.

Not everything is a problem. Not everything can be clearly articulated as an ask (buy) or an offer (sell). Some things are much more fuzzy and much better when they are allowed to be fuzzy. When they are relational, rather than transactional.

I don't think we can answer the question, 'who are you?' until our hands and mouths are free. Until the hands and mouths of our communities are free. Until we can stop trying to solve problems. Which forces us to see everything as a problem.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

River Crossing

The Holy Grail of business is 'discriminatory pricing'. The ability to charge different prices (for the basically the same thing) to different people. Normally this is done by creating 'classes' or groups, and slightly different offerings. The heart of the offer can stay the same, as long as the higher paying groups perceive themselves to be relatively better off. Often the thing you are selling is relative status. Sometimes the product may simply be the higher price tag. It is a way of someone displaying their financial power.

If you have to charge one price, you are charging some people too much (they won't buy), and some people too little (they will think they have received a really good deal). The price is an average. Beware of averages. 

"Never forget the 6-foot-tall man who drowned 
crossing the stream that was 5 feet deep on average" 
Howard Marks

As the person buying, this means you have to have an internal understanding of value. Price is not value. From the bucket list of things you want, you have to compare that gap in value and price, and make the best decisions you can.

The problem is you can't always 'just not buy' some of the things that cost way more than you think they are worth. There are some things you have to buy. I think of Housing, Health and Law as 'the three guns'... there are situations where you just have to pay the price that is given. You are a price taker.

The first two rules of good financial decision making are 'Never be a forced Buyer' and 'Never be a forced Seller'. Unfortunately, life has a habit of forcing us to make decisions. The more space you can create to avoid these situations, the more control you will be able to have.

Our wants and impulses also end up pushing our financial decisions. Something that seems like a good idea on a Friday night, is not the same thing that seems like a good idea on a Monday morning. Good financial decision making is about developing habits and 'rules of thumb' for your intuition. Deep soaked Intuitions based on what you really want. What trade-offs genuinely match the kind of life you want.

The rules aren't really rules. They are self-imposed. So a better word for them is 'choices'. To make good choices, you need to be able to step back, decide what you want (in general), and develop your own rules. Rules, choices, and habits are basically the same thing.

If you don't develop your own rules, the world will impose its averages on you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Push and Pull

I don't believe everything happens for a reason (pulled). I don't believe everything happens because of something (pushed). I believe the majority of things happen because things happen. I find that comforting. There is no ill-will involved. We are the positive-will involved. The 'push and pull' of it gets added afterwards by us. We create the meaning. The story. We connect the dots in a way that makes us feel empowered. We cope. We make the best of situations. Even successes close doors. When something goes well, it means there are other things you can't do. The beauty of our imaginations and resilience is we get to decide our story. We get to choose what matters to us, and what doesn't. Then take the next step.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Tongues and Ears

Before elections in the United Kingdom, political parties release Manifestos. These are supposed to detail the mandate they are given. In South Africa, the same happens and the party then chooses members of Parliament. In the UK, a Member of Parliament directly represents and is chosen by their constituencyThe step I believe is missing is how each party, and MP, will incorporate the desires of the opposition. The current method is like a Utopia Sale followed by a fight. 'Us' gets a fat 'Them' carved out... and the carcass is left to bleed out. The heart of Democracy isn't the ballot box. It is consent. It is the feeling that the Government is about empowerment rather than control. Somehow we have empowered our tongues at the expense of our ears.