Monday, February 04, 2019

Beware the Price

"Never forget the 6-foot-tall man who drowned crossing the stream that was 5 feet deep on average." Howard Marks The price we pay for things is an average. For the people who believe the value is higher, it is a bargain. For the people who think it is lower, it isn't worth it. It is very unlikely to be "correct" because value is personal, and isn't quantifiable.

Being personal, value is complicated, ambiguous, relational, and fluctuates with time and our moods. When things are hard, we often choose something easier to grab on to. It is easy to price things by time, or anything you can count. Charge by word. Charge by hour. Charge by weight. Charge by person. Price is an admission that we don't know the answer. Instead it is the dance of supply and demand, that grabs onto anything you can count. Sometimes inappropriately. However much there is of something, and how much people want. If there isn't enough, the price goes up. If there is too much, the price goes down. That signals to people who can choose what to produce and consume, where they should focus their energy.

I am passionate about spreading the idea that you don't have to be defined by the things you can count. Sometimes you do what you have to. That allows you to do what you want to do. It is true that we have to accept the way the world is before we can change it. You can build Capital by playing by the world's rules. You can build an Engine by doing things that can be counted. 

Then you can set yourself free to do the things that count. 

Step one is to stop the bleeding. You can't build Capital if you are spending more than you earn. Step two is to build a Buffer. That is sufficient Capital to handle the bumps and curve balls that life throws at you. Enough to look up. To Breathe. To plan. Step three is to build a Base. That is sufficient Capital to pay yourself a Basic Income. A Basic Income is enough to remove panic. Enough to participate in the community beyond mere survival. To be swimming rather than just not drowning. Step Four is to gradually build an Engine that can earn on average what you would like to be spending.

Beyond that point lies the freedom to choose what counts. Note that the size of the Buffers and Engines are also quite personal. The more simple the life you are comfortable with, the smaller they need to be. The more control you have over what you spend, the smaller they need to be. The more pleasure you can find in things that are plentiful (low price) rather than things that are rare (high price), the smaller the Engine needs to be.

A high price is a better indication of scarcity than value. That isn't what counts.

Cross the river safely

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