July 24, 2014

Thoughts

Thoughts and Observations by Joshua Kennon

For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept notes of my thoughts and observations of the world.  It’s going to be easier to record these here.  These are the things that occur to me when I’m reading by the fireplace in my office; the things that I turn over, examining in my mind to try and understand why.

#1

There is a gap, often substantial, between what most men are
and what they would like to be.  I aim to narrow that divide each day,
little by little, until it ceases to exist.

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#2

Most people spend their life pursuing what they think they should want,
and not what they actually want.

They then wonder why they are miserable and unfulfilled.

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#3

Some men too often sign the front of checks.  Other men too often sign the back of checks.
Endeavor to find the right balance.

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#4

The idea of heresy is heresy.

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#5

When a man has consigned himself to never having the thing he most desires,
his reaction, almost always, is unadulterated hostility.
“Better to destroy it, so it can be had by none.”

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#6

People who think that men like me are motivated by money
are often nothing more than common fools.
Capital is the language through which we speak and create.
It’s no different than C++ or PHP;
notes on a staff, or paint on a canvas.

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#7

Those who enjoy the process of their work will always outlast
those who want nothing more than the results or accolades that come along with a field.

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#8

Those who build empires and those who seek truth are united in a struggle against mortality;
working to give birth to something that says, “I was here.”
After all, it was only in death that Cicero truly lived.

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#9

Anytime you can solve someone’s problem or satiate a desire,
you can exchange your solution for financial capital.
This is just as true for attractive hookers as it is for software companies.

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#10

Learning to make money is no different than learning to play the piano or develop software.
You study how it’s done, apply theory to action, and results follow.  Over time, your skills improve.

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#11

All of life is a war against atrophy.

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#12

“My people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge.” remains,
thousands of years later, one of the most powerful truths humanity has ever encountered.

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#13

Educational capital, sexual capital, financial capital, political capital, network capital,
intellectual capital, and goodwill capital can all be exchanged for one another.
Those who have figured this out have a much easier time navigating the world.

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#14

Wal-Mart, or any other mega-corporation, never put a small competitor out of business.
Consumers, voting with their dollars in a form of direct-democracy, did that.
If the competition wasn’t meeting some unfulfilled demand consumers desired,
the mega-store would fail miserably.  People would rather find a scapegoat than change.

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#15

Why haven’t people figured out that money doesn’t actually exist?
Fill a need or solve a problem and you get rewarded with claim checks on society.
Those claim checks happen to be pieces of paper with vignettes of long-dead men.
In and of itself, it has no intrinsic value.

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#16

The great tragedy of humanity is that most people don’t want to be excellent, they want to fit in with their neighbors.

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#17

When I was fourteen, I attended school in a small town where there was
one particular student who was excellent at everything he did.
His grades were flawless, he shattered athletic records, he was attractive,
and he had a kind heart.  The parents, however, wouldn’t allow their
daughters to date him because he was black.

That was the moment I realized civilization was f*cked.

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#18

Much misery is due to the inability of the average man to differentiate between cause and effect.

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#19

I would be the worse person in the world to rob.  I don’t get paychecks, most of my money is tied up in businesses or retirement accounts that aren’t easily accessible, and I very rarely have more than $5 in cash on me.  That is irony.

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#20

Most of what passes for religion is nothing more than culture, molded by the customs and practices with which people are comfortable.  Very few people can provide a logical reason for their specific beliefs when forced to examine them from a rational world view.

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#21

Many people, political organizations, and groups fail because they would rather nurse old wounds than move on and seek progress.  It is a human fallacy to make an idol out of suffering.

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#22

It is not in the interest of most special interest lobbies to actually achieve their goal because that would mean the staff would be out of a job and have to close the doors.

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#23

If a person’s delusions are strong enough and they are threatened, they will kill to protect them.  The pain of murder is less than the pain of confronting the destruction of carefully preserved cognitive dissonance.  This explains many of the witch trials and burnings performed by the Catholic church over the past few hundred years.

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#24

Everyone sells something.

Most people sell their time.  The only way to increase their earnings is to sell more units of time or increase the rate for which they can charge for each unit of time by getting rare, valuable skills such as law or medical expertise.

Those who grow very wealthy very quickly sell items that are scalable.  That is, beyond the first product, there is little or no additional labor, time, or capital required to produce incremental units.  Authors, musicians, software companies, video game firms, mutual funds, perfume houses, and pharmaceutical businesses belong to this group.  In other words, it takes Johnson & Johnson $1 billion to produce the first pill.  Beyond that, it’s all profit.

These “annuity streams” are the only type of income that can adequately give someone control over their time, which is the entire purpose of financial independence.  Most people who worked during 1987 got their paycheck and never saw another dime.  Yet, the makers of Final Fantasy are still earning royalties on their software, licensing rights on the characters, and sales revenue on the soundtrack.  They haven’t had to work on the project for decades.

The key is to sell annuity streams and not one-off profit shots.

If you must begin by selling your time (as most people do), you need to take your earnings and use them to buy assets that will produce annuity streams, such as hotels, businesses, apartment buildings, or bonds.

Once your income is produced 80% or greater by passive annuity streams, your life will change forever because you will have control of your time.  You will no longer be a slave to someone else’s agenda.

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#25

Thomas Moore, Saint of the Catholic Church,
burning peasants for daring to possess a Bible written in English,
was as much terrorist and tyrant as Bin Laden or King Leopold.

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#26

There is a compelling argument to made that misogyny, homophobia, racism, and economic elitism are all rooted in the subconscious desire to see genetic material passed on to subsequent generations, either directly or through children and grandchildren, that most closely resembles oneself and has the greatest chance for survival due to access to wealth, resources, and social acceptance.  Most parents would rather see their children genetically “successful” than happy and fulfilled, although they would certainly deny such a claim.

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#27

The wisest citizens can eviscerate a terrible President,
while still respecting the office which he holds.
Most people are incapable of this distinction.

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#28

Intelligence is a marvelous and terrible gift.

How can we take pride in seeing the world for what it is
and molding it to our will so effortlessly,
when we accomplish it using a biological machine
over which we can claim no credit for the construction?

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#29

Freedom is the right to make choices, not to be free from the consequences of those choices.

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#30

Our life is the cumulative sum total of the decisions we have made up until this point in time and the reaction we have had to past events. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control our reaction to those events.  Responsibility for my life begins and ends with me.

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#31

A teacher making $25,000 per year telling a kid how to be successful is like a Hindu telling a Christian how to be a good Catholic.

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#32

Those who oppose an incentive-based system or pay-for-performance are often unable to compete due to lack of talent or laziness.  They realize that in an objectively measured society, they will be left behind.  Instead, they focus on things like “seniority” and “experience” when results are all that should matter.

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#33

The world would be a better place if people spoke less and thought more.

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#34

There is a difference between self-confidence and arrogance. Self-confidence is the belief you can succeed no matter the odds.  Arrogance is the belief you cannot fail.

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#35

If half the energy that went into decrying the collapse of domestic industries such as steel, manufacturing and the car companies instead went into thinking up new ideas, our nation would be much more successful.  The Internet is a major portion of our economy today, interwoven in almost every sector, yet it didn’t exist for all intents and purposes 20 years ago.  Stop looking over your shoulder and instead cast your gaze upon the horizon.

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#36

Much of my success in life comes from two questions I constantly pose to myself that are designed to confront the underlying reason I haven’t taken action:

1. If not me then who?
2. If not now then when?

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#37

Financial success isn’t glamorous.  It is making sure more money comes in than goes out and that the money you keep earns a good rate of return at the lowest possible risk.  That is it.  That is the recipe.  If you do that for long enough, you can end up rich.

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#38

You know how most people say, “He is the next Warren Buffett?” or “He is the next Babe Ruth?”  or “She is the next Martha Stewart”?  How about, instead, you try to be the first of yourself.  The ones who make history are those who have their own mold, write their own story, and follow their own rules for success.

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#39

You know you’ve found your life’s calling when you can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their time doing anything else and, at the same time, you are really good at it.

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#40

Categorical imperatives are the intellectual crutch of a handicapped mind.

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#41

A value investor overpaying for a stock is like a nun with a sex addiction; the behavior just isn’t compatible with the job.

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#42

It is a mistake to presume that the keys to your happiness are the keys to the happiness of others.  What makes one miserable might be the life joy of another person.

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#43

Everyone thinks life is one upward, smooth trajectory.  They think of Cinderella in her big castle and forget that she spent decades scrubbing floors, being beaten, and locked in a cold room.  Between “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after” a lot happens.  Not all of it is good.  I call this The Cinderella Principle.

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#44

The only people who are embarrassed to talk about money are those who didn’t earn their own fortune.  For someone who accomplishes something great, the wealth (often in the form of stock ownership in a company he or she founded) is a sign of a job well done; a scorecard that demonstrates value delivered to society.  The money doesn’t actually represent money.  But inherited wealth carries an almost paradoxical stigma of shame – to enjoy the fruits of another man’s labor, another man’s foresight, another man’s ideas, and another man’s achievements is the genetic equivalent of a welfare check.

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#45

Throughout mankind’s history, devils and demons, spirits and ghosts have been blamed for what almost always amounts to poor decisions and irrational choices.

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#46

These days, S&P downgrading a company has all the moral force of the town whore giving a speech on the virtues of chastity.

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#47

When it comes to love, two things that should never be underestimated are a man’s capacity for remaining oblivious and a woman’s capacity for self-deception.

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#48

Misoneism is a sin that is never committed by those who are prepared and who have confidence in their own abilities.

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#49

There are only two ways for a person, company, group, or nation to become superior to the competition.  First, by building themselves up to be better.  Second, by tearing the enemy down.  The first should always be the preferred method, but is often avoided by those of little talent or moral strength.

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#50

It’s amazing the questions, “What would Jesus do?” and “What would Auntie Mame do?” almost always, inevitably, lead to the same conclusion.

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#51

Originality is good but flawless execution is better.

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#52

Would Prince Charming have asked for Cinderella’s hand if she had been 400 pounds, refused to bathe, and couldn’t speak properly?  When the fairy godmother appeared, she was prepared for it.  It is your job to make sure that you are prepared for the times in life that opportunity presents itself.

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#53

If you want your financial cattle to grow fat, it is best to graze in green pastures.  Avoid investing in hard businesses.  Life is hard enough.  Don’t make it more difficult.

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#54

Addiction should be avoided at all costs.  No one ever said, “My life would have been so much better if I had done more cocaine.”

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#55

What counts in a business is the cash that can be generated from operations or pocketed during liquidation.  Unless it can be turned into real greenbacks that you can shove into your front pocket, it’s a mirage.  Charlie Munger calls those types of illusionary earnings and assets “good until reached for”.  That’s what you want to avoid.

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#56

Success gets easier and easier.  The same investment that turns $1,000 into $5,000 will also turn $5,000,000 into $25,000,000.  There is no more work or effort involved but the utility difference is enormous.

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#57

It’s easy to sleep well if you are in good health, have no debt, and own a collection of assets that are gushing cash day and night.  Make decisions that improve your probability of enjoying those outcomes and time does most of the rest.

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#58

Success = Book Knowledge + Experience + Execution

The last one is the most important.

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#59

Never privately apologize for something you did in public.  A public transgression deserves a full, frank, and public confession.

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#60

Wit is like beauty – sure, it can be developed and improved, but you either have it or you don’t.

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#61

A.) Wouldn’t anything of a sufficient power differential be imperceptibly synonymous with what humanity considered God or the devil; the distinction depending upon whether the actions and edicts of the entity were benevolent or malevolent?

B.) Were such an entity to reveal itself, how could humanity be certain that it was, in fact, who it said it was given that said power differential is so vast that we, as humans, cannot discern the truth?

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#62

The world is full of miracles if you take the time to appreciate them.  A honey bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.  When you add a teaspoon of honey to your tea, you are reaping the life savings of a dozen bees, who collectively had to fly 213 miles and visit 7,752 flowers to produce it.  It’s incredible.  Every sip should fill you with so much wonder it borders on a religious experience when you fathom how remarkable that basic fact is.

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#63

Most people do not want the truth, they want certainty.
They want certainty so badly, they will fight for it even if it is built upon a demonstrably false premise.
Threaten that certainty, and they will see you as the enemy.
Threaten that certainty, and they can become dangerous and foolish.

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#64

Barbarians and savages are just as likely to be wearing three-piece suits and carrying briefcases as they are loincloths and holding spears.  Learn to spot them.

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#65

Never forget the lesson of Mary Howitt’s 1829 poem:

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
‘Tis the prettiest little parlors that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne’er come down again.”

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#66

A man who believes himself to be good, but who writes a check to his church before he has established trust funds for his children and grandchildren is either a liar or a fool. (Proverbs 13:22).

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#67

Be wary of people who can’t maintain friendships for more than ten years.  It often speaks to a certain vapidness or character flaw that isn’t likely to end well.

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#68

Be almost as selective about whom you allow in your inner space as you are when choosing a spouse.  Your company is often your destiny.  You absorb their values, prejudices, and behaviors through osmosis.

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#69

Any organization that asks for money, but won’t provide an audited financial report, is trying to hide something.
You’re being robbed.  You just don’t realize it because they are doing it with a smile on their face.

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#70

You do not have to be the best to win.  It helps, but it is not a requisite.  The people on the top of the Billboard 100 charts are not the best singers nor the best instrumentalists; the people at the top of the Forbes 400 are not the most intelligent nor the hardest working.

With very few exceptions, almost anything can be had.

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#71

The way to get what you want is simple:

1. Identify what you are trying to achieve
2. Identify then deduce the fastest, most efficient, and cost effective way of achieving it
3. Decide whether the cost is worth the price that must be paid, if it is
4. Do it.

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#72

Speed reading a great work of literature or non-fiction is a bit like getting a hand job in the stairwell and calling it romance.
Isn’t it better to make love to the text?
To have extracted every ounce of value so that it stays with you for the rest of your life?
To have reflected on passages for days at a time,
letting them wash over you as you think about what they mean?
To allow them to challenge you, and change you, into a better man,
so that years after you’ve last cracked open the cover, it is still with you?

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#73

Some people wear their unhappiness like a warm coat in the winter.
It gives them security.  It gives them comfort.  It provides familiarity.
No matter what they say, they don’t want to part with it.

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#74

A wise man knows when hurt and fear are masquerading as anger.

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#75

You cannot speak reason to insanity,
nor rationality to irrationality

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#76

It’s a dangerous thing for a slave who plans on making a break for freedom to mention his plan to other slaves.

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#77

The most we can each strive to accomplish is to become the best version of ourselves possible. Neither man nor gods have the right to expect more.

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#78

The real wealth is time.  As long as you have even a moment of it, you’re richer than old King Solomon, dead in his grave.

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#79

There are times in a civilization, company, or career when “winning” is defined as “not losing”.

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#80

Jesus taught His followers to be compassionate, to love God, and to treat others as you would want to be treated.
Paul taught them to be dicks.

Despite his conversion, the Pharisee of Pharisees never changed his tune; merely the lyrics.

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#81
04/24/2014, 1:13 a.m., CST

The externalization of both evil and redemption is one of the most advantageous evolutionary adaptations man has ever evolved.  It permits a significant minority of people to overcome past transgressions that would otherwise cripple them, believe they are worth more than their current self-image tells them, and fight against their own worst instincts in a way that makes the battle easier to wage.  Voltaire, it would seem, had it right when he said, “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”