Mail Bag Joshua Kennon Pen

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

If you are comparing yourself to other people all the time, you’re wasting your mental energy and your emotional reserves.


Mail Bag Joshua Kennon PenI read the site and it both encourages and discourages me.

You expect us to achieve so much.  Don’t you understand that not all of us are you?  How are we supposed to do these things?  I’m frustrated.

I spent all day sitting here, achieving nothing.  What did you do?  I really want to know.

Anonymous By Request

I get that I’m not what you would consider “normal”.  I never have been.  The first time this really struck me was my freshman year of college, when a friend of mine was walking with me on campus.  I mentioned something like, “Man, I didn’t get everything done I wanted to this afternoon.  I’ve been so lazy.”  She started laughing and said as lovingly as you can imagine, but very seriously, “Josh, I don’t think you realize that your idea of ‘work’ is not the same as everyone else.”

That was the moment I got it.  Until you’re around a lot of other people who aren’t family and friends – the type you grow up with – you don’t really think about these things.  I hadn’t yet come across mental models or learned to evaluate myself using them to understand my actions in an impartial way.  Now I do.  I get it.  Even though I, personally, feel normal and had assumed my experiences were normal, impartial data shows they are not.  You can look up net worth, education, and other sociodemographic figures and see that to be the case.  As a rationalist, I have to accept that and I finally have, though I still don’t like being the center of attention.  I’d much rather talk about ideas than myself.

Before I get to the important stuff, to answer your question, in the past 24-36 hours, I have:

  • Written and published over around 13,000 words on the blog covering everything from Roth IRA ownership methods to discounted cash flows
  • Gone out to coffee for three hours with friends who are back from England
  • Baked four additional loaves of bread to test
  • Spent hours redesigning the pantry, including organizing, filling, and labeling three or four dozen Oxo containers with staples such as bread flour, cake flour, six types of sugar, etc.
  • Practiced the piano
  • Composed for awhile
  • Played Sim City 4 for a couple of hours
  • Reviewed my personal household accounting records for the month, including authorizing certain payments for bills
  • Bought several new books on Amazon
  • Researched the best video games of 2012 and ordered a few
  • Researched six companies and acquired shares of one of them for one of my personal retirement accounts
  • Slept a full 8 hours
  • Took a shower
  • Watched a movie
  • Refined my personal and business goals for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th quarter, and year-end

And, hand to God, six hours ago I looked at Aaron and said, with complete honesty and meaning it, “I’ve been so lazy the past day or so.”  I’ve finally accepted that about myself.  Too much of my time, in my estimation, was spent on recreation, baking, and music.  It was at least 50% of my schedule.  It doesn’t matter than in the remaining 50%, I accomplished more than most people do in a week.  It doesn’t matter that in that time period, I earned more money than a vast majority of the typical families reading this did.  None of that entered into my personal, internal equation.

[mainbodyad]It’s not complicated: If I want to do something, I get up and do it.  A lot of people seem to struggle with that concept.  I’ve never understood why people make things so difficult.  If you want to do it, just do it.  Seriously, just do it.  There is actually quite a lot of time in a day.  I don’t even have a schedule.  I wake up in the morning and just start working on whatever is on my list, based on however I feel at the time.

My gains are magnified exponentially by the fact I have a spouse who is equally as driven, in different areas, as I am.  We compliment one another.  While I was penning those 13,000 words, I didn’t have to worry about the fact certain other tasks were being solved that needed to be crossed off the list today.

That’s not important or relevant to you.  

My skill set is not your skill set.  

Your skill set is not my skill set.  

Statistically speaking, there are things that you can do much better than I can.  It’s just a function of probability.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t outliers but given the odds, it is safe to say that.

Stop comparing yourself to me, or anyone else.

I mean it.  Stop it.  No good can come of it.  Do you think I sit around all day and worry about whether the guy next door made a little more money today or whether I haven’t achieved as much as someone else by a certain age?  No.  I work toward what I want and I enjoy my day.  That’s it.  I make sure to surround myself with people I love and trust, and who love and trust me.  If I want to stop for a tea party in the middle of the day with a five year old, that’s the way it is.

Your journey is unique and it is your own.  You have certain cards that were dealt to you and your job is to play them intelligently.  Don’t whine about it.  My life would have been immensely easier had I inherited a trust fund at birth or something ridiculous so I could just manage money from the time I was young.  Instead, I had to earn it myself.  That’s the way the world works.  To complain about it, given that we are in the best time humanity has ever seen for standard of living, education levels, and longevity, is patently stupid.

TL;DR: To quote Nike, “Just do it”.  Figure out what you want and just do it.  If you fail, keep going.  All this angst makes no sense.  It’s not an intelligent way to go through life.  You don’t have to be the smartest, fastest, or best.  To quote one of my favorite thinkers, you just have to find an area you love, plug away at it every day, get a little richer, smarter, and wiser every time the sun goes down and life tends to work out.  That’s it.