random questions about nothing- and a couple answers

Two random questions I have been pondering today:
1-Why don’t US Presidents erect monuments to display how powerful they think they are?
2-Why don’t you ever hear about women going on shooting sprees?

I have been reading the book Collapse by Jared Diamond. ( I have been working on our new house lately so books per month have been decreasing)

In the book Jared talks about how societies rise and fall. One of the commonalities that I noticed (Jared doesn’t make a note of this because there is probably nothing to it) about societies that fail is the actions of leaders to erect monuments to display their power while still in office. These monuments range from the stones of Easter Island to the churches of Norse settlers on Greenland to monuments of ancient Mayan civilizations to Egyptian pyramids to epic Roman constructions. Basically it all boils down to irresponsible allocation of resources by leaders.

When I was reading Sunday night, I had a thought. Doesn’t happened often but that day it did. Why don’t American Presidents build monuments to themselves?

There are no pyramids popping up on the plains of Plainview, Nebraska or coliseums being constructed in Columbus. Sure we have the Washington Memorial or the Lincoln Monument but the Presidents who these statues are named after didn’t build them. Someone else did as a remembrance of history. I could come up with four reasons ( not tested against data, not there would be any data to test this against)

1-The wealthiest of Americans are not in politics. Before you break out in laughter, I am well aware that almost all politicians are gaming the system and adding personal wealth due to their time in office. But we don’t see politicians who have the concentration of wealth like Bill Gates or Jerry Jones or Carl Icahn. In societies long, long ago the guy with the Jerry Jones level of wealth was likely also the ruler of the society. When Jerry builds a modern day $1bln coliseum (Cowboys Stadium) it isn’t tagged to the President but instead just the general elite of the world.

2- I might be thinking that Presidents or federal governments aren’t building monuments to themselves because I am thinking of monuments in the wrong way. When I think of monuments I instantly come up with the Constantine Arch, Eifel Tower, pyramids, or something similar. Not that all of those were erected by rulers but you get my point. I might be leading myself astray with that assumption.

Current rulers might simply be building different kinds of monuments cloaked under a veil of “infrastructure”. FDR started numerous projects under the Public Works Administration in the 1930s. Every day Americans travel on the Eisenhower Interstate System. JFK will forever be tagged as the person who cast the vision and allocated the dollars for the first landing on the moon.

3- Maybe we have just gotten better at resource allocation. I guess it is possible that American society hasn’t progressed to the point where leaders build random things with little to no use just to celebrate a victory or “greatness”. Or maybe this whole question is just me making something out of nothing.

4-Not enough time and too much democracy. Our Presidents are electable for at best two four year terms. They are also elected by an imperfect system called the electoral college. Given all the faults of the electoral college, it is still way more democratic than a family succession of Mayan rulers who spend a decade or two as the ruling body. With a decade or two of cushion a guy or gal can get a lot done, including putting up monuments. In four years, assuming a modern US President has four years since the first four years are spent trying to get re-elected, it is a lot more difficult to persuade, start and complete a self-glorifying monument.

As for why women don’t go on shooting sprees, I don’t really have a thought out explanation for that. Generally women are just more empathetic and in general “nicer” than men. Maybe when you are hard wired to give birth to a person it might be more difficult to pull the trigger and end a bunch of other people’s lives.


The 1%

I made it.

I’m finally in the 1%. My guess is that you think I just won the lottery or inherited a billion dollars or something. ( you didn’t think this if you know my family, that’s not a slight against my family. It’s just fact. We’re not billionaires)

The 1% I am talking about is that I am one of the 1% of people that took James Altucher up on his recent offer in Choose Yourself. For those of you who don’t recall, James made an offer to anyone who bought his most recent book that if they could “prove” they read the book that we would refund their purchase price or donate the funds to charity if they emailed him with receipt and the proof.

He sold 65,000 copies in 3 months-the term of the offer. The offer is not indefinite. Smart guy. Not because he might end up paying out a lot of money-he won’t but it would be a nightmare to manage that process for the balance of his life.

You might expect that people would be excited to redeem a money back guarantee in a book. You would be wrong.

As of today some 300 or so people redeemed the deal. That calculates out to .46%. And I happy to say I was one of them which puts me in the 1%!

One explanation is that people don’t need the $10 or so in funds that they paid for the book. That falls thru when you consider that James offered to donate the money to charity and multiply the amount by 20! That leads me to believe that a lot of James’ readers are lazy.

I choose to write a post about the book and have my money donated to charity and avoid the label of lazy-at least in this situation.

James’ comments about the whole experience are available on his subscriber list. He hasn’t posted them on the blog yet but if you email him and ask him to send it to you he might. I really have no idea for sure, I am just guessing. If you want to fall asleep read my proof-post


An unknown where there is usually a known

I wrote this yesterday but did not get a chance to post. The situation appears to have changed significantly over night and I hope they head in the current direction.

Usually I can come up with a pretty firm opinion on current events. Today I’m lost for what to think on our current Syrian crisis. For those who may not be familiar, Syrian “President” Bashard al-Assad’s government aledgedly used chemical weapons against its citizens and rebels fighting the current government. The US government, specifically President Obama is advocating a “limited” strike as either some sort of punishment for using chemical weapons and/or some sort of way to level the fight. It appears there is a glimmer of hope for the Syrians handing over their chemical weapons but there is no guarantee of that ever happening. I hope it does.

Here’s what I’m thinking.
My ideal opinion would of course be, you live by the sword you die by the sword. Violence doesn’t solve violence. A young man from Nazareth taught this years ago.
But on the political side of the debate I am having trouble firming up an opinion. I understand how the US wants to make sure that the Syrian situation is in constant stalemate with neither side getting the upper hand. The current regime is not friendly to the US nor are the random collection of rebels (Al Queda included). I also understand how someone can come to the conclusion that people who use chemical weapons on civilians need to be reminded (aka attacked) of the fact that our world has a loose, very loose agreement to not use chemical weapons.
The arguments against are that there is no way this is going to be a limited attack. Limited very quickly transforms into involved when it comes to these types of situations. Another thought-why should the US\get worked up about a weapon that killed roughly 1,000 people in one attack when we have stood by and watched a 100,000 or so people kill each other daily for the last 18months. Does the US really want to go it alone on this one, as it appears most of our allies have decided to not to attack.
All that to say, this might be the most intelligent thing I have heard about this whole situation.

“Here we are on the eve of dropping more bombs on people in order to establish peace in a region that we know nothing about.”-James Altucher


The Tony Lexus Problem

Living in 21st century America you can’t help but notice the subtle pressure of maintaining and slowly improving one’s standard of living. Over time a person rarely goes from a house that is x size to a house that is .8x size or .5x or anything less than 1.0x We’re always trying to move up a level on the standard of living scale. At a minimum we always want to stay the same.

It’s not like everyone out there is constantly thinking about their status in life relative to their friends. Although some are, Facebook is an awesome medium for telling everyone where you rate in life, however subtle and unintentional it is.

The over or up lifestyle starts with small choices. Let’s use housing as an example. You live in a certain neighborhood and you would never move to a lesser neighborhood. The exception there is first time home buyers who kind of have this built in out clause where they can say “well, you know it’s our first one we are just starting out.” But usually the decision is cloaked in “the neighborhood just isn’t the same as it used to be” or “we wanted to get to a nicer school district for the kids”.

Once you start drinking Starbucks you rarely go back to gas station coffee. Or Folgers? Yuck.

In college Target clothes were fine. now I have to shop at stores that are a cut “above” target. whatever that means. I can’t tell you what it means but everyone knows what I mean.

When is the last time someone intentionally decided-“I can afford x but I am going to buy .75x”?

This scenario-the never moving down, always moving up thing is something I like to call the Tony Lexus Problem.

Here’s the scenario. A person can afford to make a certain luxury widget purchase-say a Lexus. The problem is that when it is time to replace that widget-or you just get bored with the widget you aren’t going to trade down. You now need to maintain an income that supports that standard of living and whatever else in life you choose to pursue.

When you’re making a big decision in life, like where to live or what car to buy remember that choices->habits->character->lifestyle. It is probably easier to choose now that you don’t need to move up your standard of living than it is to try and move down after five years living the good life.


Not saving sex for old age.

Last week I had lunch with someone that I have an enormous amount of respect for.  If this person were to ever read this I wouldn’t want him to ever doubt the respect I have for him.  I have had many life direction altering conversations with him and he has impacted my view of the world for the better.  If we got together more often, that would be a good thing. 


As we often do , we moved to the discussion of life/happiness/career.  He said some really great things about not looking out the rear view mirror or too far out of the windshield for happiness. Changing his perspective from what used to be, once I achieve X I will be happy to  finding happiness in the now and being proud of what he has accomplished thus far in life.  


He also impressed me with the amount of work he has done on his house. He’s become an Al Borlan of sorts.


During our conversation about career he brought up his desire to go to a top notch MBA school. Like Ivey League notch. He said he wants to alter his world view and build an awesome network and learn all kinds of things. I am impressed by his motivation.


As amazing as that sounds, I just don’t believe it would work for me. Maybe I am too much of a skeptic or maybe I have just given up and I don’t have the five year drive that corporates are supposed to have.


I can’t help but shake the idea that a MBA = massive amounts of debt and another ride around the “Get a Big Corporate Company to Choose Me” merry-go-round. 


Warren Buffett once said that “taking a job to build your resume is like saving sex for old age” What he means is to simply find something where you are good at  and enjoy instead of working a job that will prepare you for some future unknown gig.  My current thought is that as I apply it to myself, MBA is substituted for job and would be just a way to build a resume.  I’m not that overly excited about it and as far as experiencing different world views I think I can accomplish that without the deagree + debt. 


Look at all the amazing pieces of knowledge out there available for such a low cost on blogs, books, conferences, online courses. I am confident that the equivalent of a MBA level of knowledge is available to anyone with a library card, internet access and the time to invest in reading.  One further benefit is that  you don’t have to apply the same filter that a B-school professor is going to use to allocate what knowledge should be consumed.  

One thing that is more difficult is building the network.  From what I have heard, the cohort of people you complete grad school with is a life long group of people who will open unknown possibilities in one’s life. who you are connected with in life has a big influence on the direction of your life.  MBA networks can be very impressive, I wish I could build a network like that minus the $50k and years time at a higher learning institution.  My guess is that there is a market for a  service that brings together likeminded individuals who are MBA caliber but not in an MBA program. And that service would probably generate a premium payment from its members. Somebody should start it.


Notes about nothing? or notes about something?

Lately I have been thinking about what I want to do with this wordpress site. Is it ok for me to just randomly talk about whatever I want and ping pong between subjects or do I need to find a path where I can be somewhat intelligent.

Blogs like zenhabits or farnam street or The Big Picture all have a “thing”. Something that they stay focused on and when you go to their site there is going to be a specific kind of content waiting for the reader.  Thus far, this blog has been about everything and nothing. All at the same time.

I think it would be a bit foolish of me to assume I am providing any value on any specific topic to my count-on-one-hand sized audience.  Maybe thats what I am going to do with this blog. I have no idea what my topic would be so I am just going to write about everything and nothing, but never something.