An ENTJ Love Story

I did my first MBTI questionnaire about 12 years ago.  I was in my early 20s and thought personality tests were a bit flaky but humored the 70 question quiz and arrived at the letters: ENTJ.  I started reading the overview and I remember thinking holy shit, this is real.  It told me several things I already knew about myself which seemed to verify its accuracy, but then it told me a bunch of things I didn’t yet understand about myself, which was enlightening.  Then I saw the suggested careers and got a solid ego boost. ‘The Executive’, destined for roles like CEO, Judge, University Professor… clearly I had hit the jackpot.  I became a proud ENTJ, telling everyone about the test and recommending they take it.  Little did I know, ENTJs don’t always experience emotions like others.  I wasn’t  prepared for the world of hurt that I would bring to the girls I dated.

At 28, I tried to lock down one of the greatest women I had ever met, beautiful inside and out.  It made so much sense for so many reasons.  It wasn’t messy.  It was a happy ending waiting to happen.  It was a disaster.  She grew up in a military family that moved around a lot and that meant that family was everything to her.  I grew up in a broken home with a father who worked a lot and a mother who avoided the kids.  My biggest priority was my career, so I could be in a position to give my family a good life, and have the time to spend with them.  I wasn’t willing to compromise on building the foundation I wanted to bring a family into, she wasn’t willing to compromise on waiting that long.  I thought that I was thinking logically while she was thinking emotionally.  I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t understand me, she probably felt the same.  We broke up after a year.  She was engaged 3 months later and was married a few months ago.  I haven’t spoken to her since we broke up but I genuinely wish her the best.

Then came tinder.  I’ll be happy to say that if you are willing to put the effort in, you can find quality people on tinder.  I went on some dates, met some cool people, and even dated one for a few months.

Then I met her.

For today, let’s call her Max.   She was 5’2″, 110lbs, black hair, and had the most amazing eyes I had ever seen.   With all the brain cells I’ve lost over the years (combat sports), I still remember that moment so clearly.  A mutual friend had invited me to a start-up’s open house so I came by for some light networking.  I was on their southwest patio talking to the founders of app that lets you pay for parking at city meters when she was introduced.  I suck at names. I consider them one of the least important pieces of information to observe when meeting someone.  I’ve never once forgot hers.  We stood on the patio chatting for a while and I’m sure I looked ridiculous staring so intently into the eyes of someone I had just met.  Fuck it.

I’m sure one of us was trying to play it cool and broke things off to hang out with other people, but eventually we ended up on one of the couches chatting about finance of all things – turns out she was a CA.  She understands money too? Jackpot.  I got her email, and sent something over soon after.  I’m not very good at hitting on girls, for most of my life I waited for them to hit on me… but Max had me feeling bold.  I don’t remember what I said, but it worked and we had a lunch date.

We grabbed lunch at a spot just around the corner from her work that she had wanted to try.  They had fancy chicken – and it was really good.  We talked about all kinds of things, and of course, the conversation could barely keep up with the things we had in common.  By the end of that first date, I knew something was different… way different.  She was a kind of special I had never known, and I was excited.  I wasn’t alone on this as Max later told me that when she went back to the office, she told her best friend that she just met her future husband.

On the next date, she told me she had just gotten out of a relationship that she still hadn’t entirely gotten out of.  I wasn’t bothered and said I’d give her time and space.  She told me that she had struggled with some addiction issues in that relationship.  I told her about mine.  She told me that she had cheated on almost every boyfriend she had.  I told her that maybe she had yet to find someone worth being loyal to.

It didn’t take her long to move on from her ex (kinda), but she told me that she had a tendency to jump from one relationship to the next and really wanted to see what it was like to be single and date, but she was torn because of what was happening between us.  I wasn’t bothered in the least, I told her to hit up tinder and see where it takes her.  She did, she went on a few dates with a few nice guys, and would then go home, call me, and tell me all about them.  I didn’t mind, because I knew that we had already fallen for each other and that this was just her process of making sure.  We used to joke and say ‘let’s be real… who else but me?’

After a couple weeks of hanging out 24/7, we were walking into a Canadian Tire, and I don’t remember what she did but I just looked at her and said, I….. lesbian you.  I know what I meant, but this soon?  Illogical.  I made a game of it and probably said ‘I lesbian you’ a half dozen times over the next week.  Not long after, we were in bed one night, and she looked at me with those incredible eyes and told me that she loved me.  I was so in love with her – and this time I didn’t try to hide it.

We made attempts at taking it slow, but it wasn’t working.  She was perfect for me in all these ways that I hadn’t even realized were important.  At one point, we looked at MBTI compatibility and even there, we were a prefect match.  We committed to not moving in together before her lease was up which gave us about 9 months.  We didn’t make it.

I was neck deep in a career that was tearing me apart from the inside. I was a rookie Investment Advisor for a top bank, building a book of wealthy clients. .  Part of what she admired about me was that I was able to conduct myself as a professional at the highest levels, but deep down, was still just a kid from the hood.  It wasn’t quite a dual personality, but it was close.  There was the me which tried to abide by banking culture, and the real me.  I had decided that the real me had to step aside and let banker me establish himself in the industry.  Real me always kept one hand on the wheel, but banker me started calling more and more shots for the sake of job security.

The real me understood her, loved her, and appreciated her.  Banker me did too, but banker me also wanted her to be a little more banker-y and a less like herself.  One of her best qualities was her fearless honesty.  But fearless honesty can make for awkward first impressions and awkward first impressions can sour client relationships and spook prospective clients.  I tried to tell her this by asking her to focus on things she had in common with the people she was meeting.  She resisted, saying that when she used to work at a major accounting firm, she was constantly having to behave like someone she wasn’t, and that she had gotten to a place in her life where she finally was able to be herself and felt good about it.  I told her that’s what I wanted for her too, but that I didn’t have that luxury and if I was going to continue along this career path, she either had to find a way to make it work, or I’d have to leave her at home.  Considering that my career forced me to be ‘on’ all the time, in hindsight, that was a ridiculous thing to ask of her.

We never completely resolved that issue, but we compromised to a point where… I’m tempted to say it was good, but it wouldn’t be true.  I imposed my logic, she conceded.  I feel sick to my stomach right now just writing that.  I’m so sorry.  My eyes are literally watering up right now, what kind of ENTJ am I?  She made that concession for me and my career and I will never impose that on anyone ever again.  What makes it worse is that she didn’t concede because I was smart or right, she conceded because she was beyond motivated to make this relationship work.  She would often tell me that this was the first relationship where she wanted to put in work, and do the things we needed to do.  She inspired me.  She was the best.

Then came what actually broke us apart.  She had spent her entire life living in the same city.  It was a world class city, but she was dying to get out.  I couldn’t leave.  My career was tied to my client base which was almost entirely local.  She would say ‘what if it was for the opportunity of a lifetime?’  I would tell her that’s what I already had here.  She would toss out the idea of long distance.  I told her years of long distance after a few months of dating probably wasn’t the recipe for a healthy relationship.  She wanted to go as much as she wanted to bring me with her.  Her company started tossing out the idea of moving her to their SF headquarters.  After talking about it, we decided that we’d delay any moves until we had been together for a year and make the decision then.

It didn’t matter.  She would ask about doing an MBA in Toronto.  Then about a tech job in California.  How cool it would be to live in a place like NY for a couple years.  My response was always the same, if you really want to go, I think you should go, but I can’t come with you, and there won’t be a long distance relationship.  She would persist, but she always decided to stay – until she didn’t.  She brought it up so many times that I didn’t have any other answers to give her – until I told her she should go and that the relationship was over.  She handled herself with class, even when she came back a few days later to get her things.  When she did, she looked at me asking, “is this it?”  The ENTJ was back, I told her it was and went back in the house.

Shortly after an ex started texting me.  We did the deed.  She was the one I had dated just before Max and was still a little hung up on me.  We didn’t use protection.  I should’ve. She told me that I was the last person she slept with, and I trusted her.  Then Max starting texting me We hung out a few times and yes, even some stellar sex for good measure.  We were in a good place.  We knew that we each had things to work on and were eager to work on them so that we could find our way back to each other as better people.  Eventually she told me that it was a bad idea, that breaking up with the goal of getting back together wasn’t really breaking up, and I agreed.  Didn’t change the fact that I was still hoping we’d have another chance down the road.

Then came the dagger.  I was helping my sister move to LA when I got a text from Max.  It read something to the effect of my ex just texted me letting me know that he tested positive for something and I’m really sorry but I needed to let you know.  I said sorry to hear it, but I got tested after we broke up and I’m all good.  That’s not what she meant. What she was trying to tell me is that right after we broke up, she had unprotected sex with her ex, and then unprotected sex with me.  That dagger cut deeper than anything I had experienced and almost every part of me that cared about her shut off almost immediately.  I deleted and blocked her number.  Then she whatsapp’d me so I blocked and deleted her there too.  Then FB messenger – block/delete.  I don’t think it was until she emailed me that I gave her any kind of response.  And I wasn’t looking to talk about it, I was looking to make her face the reality of what she had done, make her feel shitty about it, and then disconnect.

The part of this story that I left out until now is the nature of the relationship she had with her ex.  It was a slow breakup.  She still cared a great deal about him.  He was still in love with her.  They bought a dog together.  I’m not sure if it was familiarity or attachment, but she kept going back.  For the first month or so, she would be over at his place about once a week.  She never hid it from me.  The first time I piped up was when she came to my place from his loaded up on ketamine.  I didn’t need to be jealous to see an unhealthy dynamic.  She responded well.

As the months went on, she would still talk about her ex from time to time, and I really didn’t mind it.  What I did mind was the lingering attachment, paired with drugs and a history of cheating.  Not long before we broke up, he called her while we were driving home and kept her on the phone until about 2am.  Most of that conversation was in my bed.  I could hear him asking her why they weren’t getting back together and the mixed signals she was sending him.  I heard her tell him that she was happy with me, and that she wasn’t trying to send mixed signals.

Years ago, I dated someone who had cheated on all of her exes and waded fearlessly into that as well.  I learned in that relationship that you’ll never know whether or not they’re cheating so trust that they aren’t until you have a real reason to think that they are.  Max was testing my limits of what I considered to be a real reason.  When she told me that she went straight back to him after we had broken up, in my mind, it was like I was the one who had come between her and the person she actually wanted to be with.  Dagger.

After I blocked and deleted her out of my phone, she emailed me pleading to have a conversation.  I told her that having unprotected sex with someone else, and then having unprotected sex with me was a huge issue.  That because of her carelessness, my health is now at risk.  I probably gave her shit for going back to her ex too, but I don’t remember the details.  What I remember most is being hurt, wanting her to feel hurt, and knowing that the best thing I could do was create space between us.

My only communication with with her after that was when I tried to redeem my birthday and Christmas gift cards that she had given me the past December.  It was two tickets to bungee jumping and two for skydiving, something she was excited to do together.  By the time I looked to use them, they had already been used.  Apparently she still had the originals.  Ironically, I had also gotten her a skydiving jump for Christmas, so my revenge was sending her an email letting her know that I wasn’t going to use hers, and I hope she has a chance to enjoy it.  She said she probably wouldn’t as she was moving to San Francisco.  That’s the last I heard from her.  That was about a year and a half ago.

So why blog this?  Why now?  ENTJs don’t deal in heartbreak let alone dwell in it.  Maybe I’m no longer a classic ENTJ.

Remember when I said that my career was tearing me apart inside?  The real me never took his hand off the wheel.  Management kept putting me in situations where I was expected to put the bank’s interests ahead of my clients’ interests. They thought that dangling a 7 figure income in front of me would be enough to compromise my integrity.  It wasn’t.  In those environments, the nail which sticks out is the one that gets hammered.  They started moving me towards the door, so I used my trump card.  I reached out to a senior advisor who spent most of his career in management with the bank I was with.  He had been asking me to join his team for a few years but I kept declining as he was in a small town about 5 hours away and I was invested heavily in the area I was in.  I knew that if I asked for advice, he’d give me the job.  So I did.  And he did.

The move surprised a lot of people.  I think most people would’ve assumed I wouldn’t leave the city that I had such deep roots in.  What they didn’t know is that when my father passed away, he left a few hundred thousand dollars to the kids – in a hold co that I was exclusively in charge of.  Barely enough for a down payment on a house these days, but I knew that I could put that money to work and turn it into a meaningful part of my dad’s legacy.  The only direction he ever gave me with it was that if one of the kids had a business venture worth investing in, this could be for that.

The role that I had at the bank had a base salary in the first year, but then went to pure commission.  The first few years were notoriously lean because the role was mostly wining and dining, and it was all out of pocket.  Being in one of the world’s most expensive cities didn’t help.  Most would fail out of the program for financial reasons and the bank would retain their clients all the same.  In year one, I ran close to a break even.  In year 2, my income was cut in half and I started drawing from the hold co to keep my head above water.  In year 3, I drew less, but still some.  By year 4, I passed break even and was quickly moving towards 6 figures.  The last paycheck before the move cleared my credit card and line of credit.  Replacing the money I had borrowed from the hold co was next.  Protecting my father’s legacy was more important than where I worked, where I lived, and especially more important than any impact this would all have on me.

So I moved to that small town to work under one of the top advisory teams in the whole firm.  Things went sideways quickly.  I got along well with the branch, the team, the clients, and the lead advisor, but again, I didn’t get along well with management.  The branch manager was trying to play politics; I didn’t buy in.  He expected loyalty, but my loyalty was always to my clients and the team.  He figured that out pretty quick.  I was fired 2 months after arriving, against the wishes of the team, and for reasons which would never survive the most basic of HR investigations.

I left the office that day with just as much drive as I came in with.  I am an unstoppable force of nature and this will not compromise my momentum.  It was Monday and I told myself I’d have a new job lined up by Friday.  And then I went straight to the dispensary and bought a pile of weed for the first time since I had got there. Alone, in a small house, in a small town, disconnected from the outside world and no longer being defined by my career, I had an opportunity to figure out what really happened.  Blaming the bank for being shady was a cop out.  I needed to understand what I did, what I could’ve done, and why I didn’t do it.  Success rarely comes easily for me, but this was the first time in my life that I had dedicated myself to something completely, and had failed.

I used to play a lot of texas hold’em.  I think it should be a standard part of any school curriculum because it’s an excellent teacher of probability and the nature of cirmstance.  The best hand you can be dealt can still lose to the worst hand in the deck, if the circumstances aren’t in your favor.  For most people, that’s the nature of luck.  For me, it showed how important it was to create or find the best circumstances for my success.

The bank was a massive bureaucratic entity which marketed themselves to the public as advice, but operated internally like cut throat sales.  Middle management didn’t have the balls to tell upper management that their sales targets were so unrealistic that most people who were achieving them were doing them in a way which was continuing to degrade the trust that the public had in the banks.  I’m a leader and a problem solver that looks to challenge the status quo to make the world a better place for everyone.  They wanted a soldier who would ignore the problems, stay within the lines, and make management look good.  I didn’t realize how much of myself I was giving up to be there.

Shit.  Is this what Max felt when she left her big accounting firm?  She would tell me how much happier she was, how she was finally being herself and how liberating it was.  And I was telling her to go backwards.  Not only that, when I was imposing my logic, I would remind her that I was 3 years older and therefore likely more experienced in these kinds of things.  I grew up fighting for everything that I had.  I learned to convince people that I was right even when I knew I was wrong.  Maybe old habits die hard.  I’m such an ass.

After I got fired, I broke my arm pretty bad.  7mm separation, 6 screws, 2 plates, detached wrist, ligament damaged, and nerve damage.  I refused opiates.  I smoke more weed.  Interesting things happen when a logical mind disconnects from the outside world.  There’s no noise, no distractions, just the universe as it exists.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about the world around me.  I learned a lot about my/our place in the universe.

I may not be pocket aces, but I know I’m a hand worth playing.  There are no guarantees in life.  The proverbial bus is always just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my god damn all put everything I have into this universe and make it a better place for those who are ready to be happy.

There are 3 events in my life that stand out as moments of intense personal growth.  The first was grade 12 when I went from minimal effort and average grades to maximum effort and the grades that I needed to get into top universities.  That’s where I learned the value of work ethic.  The second was when my dad passed away and I learned about mortality and what it means to be responsible for others.  The third was being fired from a career where I gave it my all, and it still wasn’t enough.  That’s where I learned that for me to be successful in that environment, I would’ve had to fundamentally change who I was – or for me to be successful, I had to find an environment that encouraged my best.  To find that environment, I first had to understand who I was and what I had to offer.  During that search, I started to realize that I was weirder than I thought I was.  I spent most of my life trying to fit in, trying to fit the mold the people around me told me I should fit.  I did it well.  It wasn’t me.  I’m so much more.

When I started tapping into my inner weirdness – what made me different – I found genius.  This had nothing to do smarts, but everything to do with finding what made me different from everyone else.  What made me different from everyone else was the source of what I could do better than everyone else.  My niche.  My element.  My gift.  It didn’t apply to just me, it literally applied to everyone.  What would the world look like if we were all given the opportunity to be in our element?  It was an unrealistic concept in the past, but on the verge of mass automation, it’s now a future worth considering.  Then it occurred to me that happiness may be a function of maximum utility.  If you get to spend your time doing what you were built to do, there’s an alignment there which I don’t think can be undervalued.

I went off the deep end didn’t I?  I smoked way too much weed this year.  These concepts are so far detached from mainstream reality that they can’t be real.  So why do I see the universe more clearly than I ever have?  Why does everything make so much sense now? I’ve gone off the deep end…

I’m moving into the unknown, and I have no interest in coming back.  I know how logical my mind is. I know how critical I am of my own thoughts and the information I’m presented.  I know how open minded I am to new information.  I’m tempted to say I’m delusional.  Maybe I am.  But I don’t think I am.  I’m too analytical for that, too pragmatic.   Too honest with myself.

So what do you do when you think you’ve cracked the code to human happiness, and recognize the systems in place across the world that discourage the vast majority of us from coming anywhere near?  What happens when you see the fundamental flaws in these systems and can’t help but can’t help but have an intense motivation to fix them?  What happens when you become fixated on changing the world for the better, but realize how hard the establishment will fight to maintain the status quo.  You solve for x.

But I’m scared.

I’m never scared.  Never.  When I was in my early 20s, I got jumped.  There were a few of them.. they had a knife and someone was getting a gun.  They wanted access to my family to make sure that I wouldn’t go to the police.  They told me if I didn’t give them up, they’d have to kill me.  I respectfully told them that if they’re making me choose between my life and my family’s safety, I choose my family every time.  There isn’t much left to be scared of when you’ve made peace with death.  For the longest time, I thought I would be invincible until I wasn’t.  Nothing could hurt me.  Fear wasn’t unwelcome, it was barely a distant memory.

I’m not scared of pain or loss, I’m scared of being alone.  I’m scared that I’m right about what I see and what I know.  I’m scared that if I follow this path, others won’t be ready to come with.  I’m scared this is a path I’ll have to travel alone and eventually I’ll lose the opportunity to connect – and I’ll be lost and alone.

If what I know is real, it will catch on.  Maybe in my lifetime, maybe not.  But even if it does, I’m not looking for fans.  I’d rather have people appreciate my work than know who I am, but neither would fill this void.  I don’t want to walk this path alone.  I will because I owe it to myself and to the world to give everything that I have, but I don’t want to walk that path alone.

Every person I’ve ever been with, fell for the person I was projecting, not for who I was.  Except Max.  She saw exactly who I was right away, and she fell madly in love with that person.  She used to call me her benevolent robot king.  I was barely the king of my basement suite.  It didn’t matter.  She found me well before I found myself.

When I think about going off the deep end – into the unknown – and talking about things like revolution.. there’s only one person I can see putting up with me.  Only one person who would be brave enough to make that jump.  Only one person who effortlessly understands the depths of who I am.  The only person with whom I’ve ever experienced unconditional love.  It’s Max.

When she and I dated, I was struggling.  I was struggling with my career.  I was struggling with who I was.  I even struggled with my weight after I tore my hamstring.  She got the worst of me… and she loved me anyways.  I refuse to put her though that again.

I started thinking about Max more and more over the last few months.  It was only recently that I realized why.  There’s now this swell of motivation to be better.  I stopped smoking weed.  I cleaned up my diet.  I’m back to training and in best shape I’ve been in a long time.  I’m writing more than I ever have.  I’m getting dialed in.  And none of this is for Max, but I’d be lying to myself if I said it wasn’t partly because of her.

I’m too pragmatic, too logical to hope that she’s sitting around waiting for me to call.  She’s the kinda girl who’s only single if she wants to be.  And even if she was, she lives in SF.  I’m not doing any of this so she’ll take me back, I’m doing all of this because I want to be the caliber of person who’s capable of being with her.

If I’m going to be that person, I need to put in work.  Not just on the physical, but on the emotional too.  I need to be more than an ENTJ.  This story has been an exercise in flushing this all out.  That part about me being scared?  I didn’t know that before writing it here.  There are a lot of things I didn’t know before writing them here.  I did know I needed to write this though.

In a few weeks, when I feel like I have clarity of mind, I’m going to make a YouTube video and send her the link.  It’s going to be an apology.  I want her to know that I’m sorry for trying to change her into someone I knew she wasn’t.  I want her to know that I’m sorry for cutting her out of my life because the truth is I didn’t give a shit about possibly testing positive for an STI.  I was hurt because I had found someone who I knew was so special to me, and I was afraid that I wasn’t nearly as special to her.  I want her to know that I’m sorry I couldn’t give her my best, and that I’ll always appreciate that she found a way to love me so unconditionally when I was at my worst.  I’ll tell her that while I’m not doing this for her, or to get back together, she deserves the satisfaction of knowing that she’s the one who inspired this.

And I guess we’ll see what happens.

True Meritocracy

The world is a crazy place.  It’s probably always been a crazy place, but something’s different right now.  Something’s starting to boil over.

A war is being waged between how things have been done, and how they could be done.  It’s tradition versus progress.  People are afraid.  The future is uncertain.  If you have it good, change isn’t so appealing.  But most people don’t have it so good – so change is coming.

One thing we all seem to agree on though is the concept of a meritocracy.  The best person for the job should get the job..  Seems straight forward but I don’t think we really appreciate what that really looks like.  In a meritocracy, opportunities are only earned, no longer given.

 

I consider myself someone who has fought hard for almost everything he has, but I’d be foolish if I said that I had earned all my opportunities.  I went to an inner-city high school that probably had the lowest graduation rate in the city.  Most of my friends lived in the projects while my family was middle class.  When grade 12 came along, they were barely considering college.  Meanwhile, my dad kicked my ass into gear, paid for biology and math tutors, and even a guy to help walk us through the application process to universities.  That didn’t mean that I wasn’t working my ass off, but still.

And the idea of being able to afford university?  My grandparents set some money aside for that.  It didn’t cover the full ride, but it let me come out of university with barely any debt.  I know I’m intelligent, I know I’m capable, and I know I have a strong worth ethic, so perhaps I earned an opportunity at a university education – but how many other intelligent, capable and hardworking people never had that opportunity?  How many of them are working dead-end jobs because they weren’t given the same opportunities along the way that I was?

In my mind, in a meritocracy, resources and opportunities flow to those who are most deserving.  So how does one determine who is most deserving?  It’s a function of efficiency – If you’re going to do the most with the opportunity, you deserve it most.

In the case of post secondary education, it’s not a matter of payment, access, or even intelligence, it’s a function of who will do the most with that education.  How many times have we seen people end up with a bachelor’s degree only to find out that it had nothing to do with what they wanted to do with their lives?  How many times has someone who would’ve turned that degree into a bright future, been turned down?

In the case of jobs, how often have we seen friends hired over strangers?  I’ll concede that familiarity and trust are important factors to consider when hiring, but the inside track is real.  How many times have mom or dad made a call to one of their friends at the firm to get their kid set up?  How many other kids who were more qualified were turned down because of it?  And here’s the crazy thing, is the kid who got hooked up really better off?

How often do we see kids pushed into careers like accounting or law by their parents, only to discover that it’s not aligned with them at all.  Sure it comes with a decent income and some degree of job security, but if that’s not their gift to the world, they’re holding themselves back.  If they could make the effort to tap into their inner-genius and align themselves with what they were born to do, not only would they probably make a lot more money, they’d probably be a lot happier too.  And for bonus points, that would now free up a spot in their previous profession for someone who was born to do that.

And now we arrive at one of the most interesting and currently relevant oversights of a meritocracy: Inheritance wouldn’t exist.

If you googled: great leaders who come from wealthy families, you might be surprised to at what it returned.  Not much.  If you do, you’ll notice that google tries to auto-complete the query with ‘nothing’ instead of ‘wealthy families’, the second suggestion is ‘poverty’.  This query returns everything you would expect it to.  Is that a pattern worth observing?

If you’re born into a wealthy family, are you more or less likely to encounter obstacles and experience adversity?  Are you more likely to be given your opportunities or earn them?  How likely are you to experience sacrifice?  How likely are you to think of your own self-worth as an extension of your family’s success?  How likely are you to have a skewed perspective of who you are and what you can offer the world?  How likely are to you see equality between you and someone who isn’t as nearly well off?

Maybe this is why Warren Buffett, perhaps one of the most grounded billionaires of all time isn’t passing his billions along to his family.  Not because he doesn’t like them, but because he thinks it’ll do more harm than good.  Personally, I think one of the best things you can do for your children is to help them discover their own success.

Back at the banks, part of my role was to help devise estate plans for my wealthy clients.  More often than not, they were great people who had worked hard their entirely lives to build what they had.  Most were philanthropic, but almost all wanted to leave the majority of their estate to their kids while paying the least amount of tax in the process.  From their perspective, they earned the money and should be able to do as they please when they pass away – it was about freedom of choice.

So is freedom of choice at odds with a meritocracy?  I don’t think so.  On first glance, someone might think that my suggestion would be a 100% estate tax with the proceeds used to fund something like free post secondary education.  I don’t think it’s that simple.  It would be too easy to invest your estate into a business or other asset, and gift that asset to your heirs, only for them to sell it and receive an indirect inheritance.  Rules create loopholes.  They need to be self-motivated to do it.  We have to convince the rich that their families are better off without all the money.  It needs to be logical, and it needs to be their idea.

So why is passing your fortune through to your kids so important?  The average price of a home here is about 20x the average household income.  The cost of living is high across that board.  What that means is that the only people who can afford real estate are people who already own real estate, people who in the top 1%, and children who receive financial assistance from their parents.  Under the guise of a free market, we exist in a scenario where only the wealthy and their children are capable of buying real estate.

You can only own property if your parents owned property – that’s downright feudal.

But how are you going to convince those parents not to help their kids?  I’m sure the parents would much rather spend that money on a vacation home or their favorite charity, but they’re deeply invested in the future of their children and will gladly sacrifice some of their success to see their kids get ahead.  But what if they didn’t?

A market will go up when there are more buyers than sellers.  A market will go down when there are more sellers than buyers.  When the well-off are funding the real estate purchases of their kids, they’re creating buyers.  They’re effectively raising the market price on everyone.  If they were willing to let their kids experience the realities of an unbalanced market, you’d be helping the market find its equilibrium – where an average income could afford an average home.  But they’re scared.  They don’t trust the system, and they definitely don’t trust that the system will look out for the best interests of their kids.  So they take matters into their own hands and take care of their family at the expense of others.  Do I blame them?  No, especially because I don’t think many of them make that connection.  Caring for your offspring is one of the most powerful instinctual drives we have, including protecting them at the expense of others.  So how do we move past it then?

Government as it exists now, if they ever came around to it, would want to put rules in place.  There would be regulations, and taxes, and other nonsense that would be more likely to shift wealth to the lawyers and accountants than to the people who would make the best use of it.  The movement towards a meritocracy needs to be a movement of the people, and it may have already started.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates spent some time over the last several years speaking with their fellow billionaires about the impact of leaving their wealth to their families.   They’ve made progress.  More than 150 billionaires have already publicly pledged to give half their fortune away, including Zuckerberg who pledged 99% of his Facebook shares.  Just about every self-made billionaire will have a keen eye for investments so what does this really look like?  How is this connected to a meritocracy?  Does it stop at the billionaires?

When you’re looking to make an investment, the first thing most people ask is how much will I make?  I would ask, “of what?”  Investing is not financial by nature, it’s much more dynamic than that.  When these billionaires are looking to invest, most aren’t simply writing a check to their local chapter of United Way, they’re looking for the best return on their investment.  So what are they getting back?  I’d guess it varies on a case by case basis, but I think above all else, they’re looking to put those resources behind those who will do the most with them.  How many women are there in the world who are capable of so much more than the opportunities afforded to them today?  How many children die from poor health care before they’re able to contribute to society?  How much of the world is still off-line and unable to see beyond their own horizon?  These kinds of investments might create a return of capital, they’ll almost definite return some warm and fuzzies, but the real genius is the return that’s created for the rest of the world.

Think of how many women there are in the world who are operating at their full potential.  Now compare it to how many women in the world who will never have the opportunity to work, let alone at something that they were born to do.  Now multiply that number by how many neurons there are in the average brain and you’ll arrive at the world’s largest untapped source of brain power.  You could say something similar about most people living in poverty.  Imagine the power of bringing those minds online.  Imagine what the world would look like if we were all afforded the opportunity to tap into that inner genius – that’s the foundation of a meritocracy.

Does it stop at the billionaires?  I hope not.  They can’t do it alone.  They need our help.  They have the money, but we have the power – we just don’t know it yet.

r/The_Donald

Perspective is important. Even when I’m confident in what I know, I remain critical of any potential bias. No echo chambers. No thought bubbles.

Fox News and Sinclair have been letting me down as a source of counter-points. The agenda has been too obvious. They now seem to be playing into willful ignorance instead of delivering a valid counter-argument.

I’m a big fan of Reddit. I’ve found most of the posts in the_mueller to be factual and balanced. I knew The_Donald wouldn’t be the same, but I had hoped it was similar. it wasn’t.

My home feed was flooded with The_Donald posts. Probably about 15-20% of my feed and most earning under 2k up votes. I was hoping for facts and nuggets I wouldn’t find anywhere else. I was hoping to better understand their perspective and what they were dealing with. I couldn’t. If the post wasn’t designed to be inflammatory, the comments would pick up the slack. There was no rational discourse, just hate and toxicity.

But nobody wins while it’s still us versus them.  We need to bridge that gap and that’s not the same as them conceding.

Is Fashion an Exercise in Prejudice?

The majority of my clothing budget for the last 5 years was spent on suits.  For the banking industry, it’s a uniform.  You show up in in a nice suit, well put together, and people assume you’re on top of your game.  If you show up in something less, people start to ask what happened.  It’s almost like wearing your resume.

I always liked my suits.  They were all tailored so they were among my most comfortable clothes.  They had a lot of personal detail like lining, monograms, etc.  It was also easy to come up with a bit of style, almost like the suit was a template where you just had to pick a few colors that went together.  For the first time in my life, people actually thought I had style.

So I left banking in January and now I work in the cannabis sector.  I don’t really wear my suits anymore.  I look for excuses to wear them here and there, and still suit up for big meetings with old colleagues, but the suit now carries baggage with it.  In banking, the suit was an exercise in putting your best foot forward.  In cannabis, the suit seems to represent the establishment, corporate greed, and a lack of liberal values.  Ironically, I’ve been dealing with far more prejudice in this environment than I ever did in the ‘corporate’ world.

The Cannabis industry seems to be filled with entrepreneurs and employees who hold a great deal of distrust for ‘business people’.  The suit is the uniform of such people.  If you see someone in a suit, it’s best to assume they’re a threat.  Lovely.

All good, I’m adaptable.  I started to break out the jeans, sweaters and t shirts that hadn’t seen much action over the last decade and made an effort to be a little more casual.  Casual wasn’t necessarily more comfortable, but it seemed to fit the environment and I really didn’t mind it.  Eventually, one of the founders started poking fun at my style of casual clothes (probably rightfully so), and suggested that we do a shopping trip in the near future where she would introduce me to some modern fashion.

That was last week.  I basically let her lead the way through the shopping district and tried on everything that she put in front of me.  For her, the focus was on making me appear ‘softer’.  I don’t mind soft.. Lions, tigers and bears are plenty soft.

Pretty quick, I was told no V-neck shirts.  I didn’t bother asking why because I’ve heard that V-necks are for douche bags at least a few times.  I didn’t know that douche bags were so geometrically inclined but was annoyed that they apparently ruined the 6 V-neck t-shirts I had at home.  Personally, I don’t understand why the V-neck or U-neck would hold any relevance, so I decided it was best to go with the flow.

Next came pants.  I grew up wearing baggy jeans, and it was awesome.  There was plenty of room to move around, they were comfortable, room to put stuff in your pockets, and they would still fit if you grew a bit.  Around 2010, I remember going shopping at the local hip hop store for another pair and finding out that they were now only selling skinny jeans.  I was told this was the new style, and ended up buying a pair.  I literally wore those jeans less than 5 times until I dropped them off at the salvation army 5 years later.  The tapered leg looked a bit silly with my shoes at the time, but it was mostly an issue with comfort and function.  I have a big bum and big thighs to begin with, but squeezing into these made me look and feel like a sausage.  Things wouldn’t fit in my pockets and everything got super-tight in all the wrong places when I sat down.  As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to pants shopping in 2017.

Most of what I tried on looked like spandex and was not comfortable.  For me being able to move around and sit down without discomfort seems like a reasonable prerequisite for buying clothes.  If they fit well when you’re standing like a manikin but start to burst at the seems when you sit down – they don’t fit.  I had some resistance on this claim from the fashionista, but I stood my ground.  One of my comments was that the pants were so tight than I wouldn’t be able to put anything in my pockets (keys, wallet, cellphone).  She said that’s why I needed to start carrying a man purse.

Let me get this straight… I’m supposed to sacrifice functionality, comfort, range of motion, and money, to buy clothing which is more in-line with today’s expectations of how people should be expressing themselves through fashion.

Isn’t fashion supposed to be self-expression?  If my brand of self expression was classic, timeless, functional, and comfortable, shouldn’t I be steering clear of skinny jeans?  Or do I start wearing the uniform of the socially acceptable?  As a kid, I remember seeing everyone wearing wide-leg jeans and casting prejudice on people who wanted to wear skinny jeans.  With the cyclical nature of fashion, now the dynamic is apparently reversed.  With that knowledge, there’s no way I can buy into the dynamic of one being right and one being wrong.

By the end the trip, I bought 3 pairs of pants.  2 will have to be altered to fit my over-sized legs and bum.  The other may never see the light of day, although I’ll concede that they’re quite comfortable.

Whether you’re wearing a suit or dress, khakis or ripped jeans, wing-tips or flip flops, we all need to get better at judging people on who they are.  There is absolutely creativity, artistry, and personal expression in deciding how you dress, but replacing your clothes on a frequent and ongoing basis to conform to fashion standards set by others is downright silly.  Almost as silly as assuming that someone who wears a suit is a corporate douche bag, or assuming that someone who rocking dreadlocks is a lazy stoner.

If I were to redesign the fashion industry, everything would be done to custom measurements.  We all come in different shapes and sizes, most people do not fit ‘off-the-rack’.  Then we would have fabric designers.  People who create the different prints and fabrics of the world because that’s what they love to do. Then we have the clothing architects who build the blueprints of the clothes we want to wear.  Then we would have the option for custom details that make those items truly unique.  Finally, manufacturing would take place where ever it made economic sense.  We should be closing in on the fully automated manufacturing of clothing within the next decade so picking up a few items of clothing at your local shop should be a non-issue sooner than later.

If we could decentralize the design and manufacturing of clothing, then it would no longer be major designers and retails looking to set fashion trends and rotate them for the sake of new inventory.  It would be the designers  of the world, and the people who identify with their designs.  With greater decentralization comes a more transparent view of what the world’s fashion really looks like.  With a clearer perspective, comes a greater understanding and with a greater understanding, there’s less room for prejudice.

Once we get there, I may invest in a clothing line.  I’ll call it something pragmatic… like Function.  These clothes would be designed by an algorithm that considered:

  1. Custom measurements for sizing
  2. range of motion for the cut
  3. climate and intended use for fabric
  4. Personal requests around functionality for things like zippers and pocket

The algorithm would take all these details into consideration, and then produce a piece of clothing with all the required specifications, with the least amount of fabric, at the lowest cost.  Each piece would theoretically come with a perfect fit, unrivaled comfort, made with the most strategic fabric, and designed with the functionality of the wearer in mind.  The clothing would also be made for the lowest cost possible, with the least amount of fabric possible – leading to great value and an efficient sense of style.

Pretty sure it’s all going to look like spandex eventually.

Female Empowerment Vs. Equality

I grew up around feminists.  My mom, my sister, my sister-in-law… all very strong minded, outspoken, and ready to thrown down if you’ve crossed a line they think you shouldn’t have crossed.  Oddly enough, I didn’t find out that I was a feminist until university when I was teasing my friend about taking a women’s studies course.  He asked what my views on women were, so I told him that I thought men and women were equal.  He said that made me a feminist.  Oh? Sure, why not.

I’m now reflecting on why I didn’t understand feminism as a battle for equality when I was being raised by someone who considered herself to be a fierce feminist.  My mother spent a great deal of her life angry.  Angry at her father.  Angry at her brother.  Angry at my dad.  Angry at me.  There was also a lot of blame, and she placed very little of it on herself.  Men were the source of all her problems.  When I saw her brand of feminism, it wasn’t about raising women up, it was about putting men down.  It was about being hurt, being oppressed, and making sure that others knew about it.

Now I have a sister who thinks that a man is a rapist if a girl who has consented to  sex changes her mind mid-way, even if she doesn’t tell him to stop.  I also have a sister-in-law who condemned John Damore’s memo on social media, but said that she had done too much emotional labor around the topic to even discuss it.

I don’t think we’re still dealing with the pursuit of equality here.  This is about the empowerment of women, and those are two very different things.

I often joke around and say that men have had this coming for centuries and we’re just the unlucky bunch that have to deal with it, but sometimes it’s not a joke.  I’ve had women tell me more than a few times that because of what men have done around the world, and throughout history, women deserve to be more than equal.

More than equal.

Does that not suggest that women would be superior and men would be inferior?  Is that really the goal of feminism?  These dynamics have been interesting to observe because as I try to have these discussions and understand the rationale, I’ve found a lot of inconsistencies that demonstrate several different perspectives within feminism.  Some think that porn is the objectification and sexualization of the female body while others think that a women choosing to do porn is female empowerment.  Some feminists think that Caitlyn Jenner is a strong and beautiful woman, some think that she’s a shitty person.  When I see these inconsistencies, I try to focus on where everyone agrees and that usually illuminates what’s really connecting the movement.

When I think about this deeply, I see two separate movements: Female empowerment, and the pursuit of equality.

Female empowerment is defined by the collective hurt, frustration and powerlessness that women have been feeling for generations.  For them, powerlessness and inequality are the same problem.  To solve inequality, one must become more powerful.  With power comes the ability to right wrongs and protect those you care about.  It’s not the first time we’ve seen this dynamic in history and it’s probably not the last.  The problem with a virtuous  pursuit of power is that you start to think that any decision that makes you more powerful is a virtuous decision.  At that point, right and wrong no longer have any bearing.

The pursuit of equality has been my jam for most of my life.  It understands that there is a natural order to the universe and appreciates that we’ve just scratched the surface on understanding it.  It accepts that we’re all unique people with unique circumstances and this leads to the unique lives which we collectively call humanity.  If each of us lives a truly unique existence, then we should really only be judged on the merit of what’s in our soul.  In the pursuit of equality, eventually you understand that equality already exists, it’s simply our perspective on the matter which needs to change.

Perhaps I should be concerned.  There’s a lot of momentum behind female empowerment.  It’s especially interesting to hear men explain their affinity for it. Unfortunately, the problem with the pursuit of power over equality is that you’re more likely to end up with power than equality.  If the women of today are successful with that pursuit, what are they leaving for the next generation?  There’s a pendulum effect worth observing here.  If female empowerment leads to men being treated as the inferior sex, how long until male empowerment catches on?  If I was a feminist of today, that is not the future I’d be looking to create for my children.

The reason why I’m not concerned is because while fear is often louder, love is almost always stronger.  I suspect that while the majority of men and women today might not understand equality, they believe in it.  There’s something intrinsic about equality which resonates with people and it’s probably why we’ve been fighting for it throughout history.  Unfortunately, equality is the enemy of the powerful so the ruling class usually doesn’t take so well such things.  Fortunately for the rest of us, they’re on borrowed time.

Time Travel

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Keeping in mind that time is a human construct that measures progression throughout the universe, ‘travelling back in time’ would literally be a regression of the universe, in reverse order, to a specified marker to a system which we made up.
  2. Travelling into the future seems much more realistic.  If your goal was to travel 100 years in the future, it would simply be a matter of figuratively (maybe literally) freezing yourself for 100 years.  If there was a way to keep your body and mind in a form of stasis which allowed you to remain healthy for an extended period of time, this would effectively be time travel.  Assuming that you don’t have to endure what feels like 100 years of sleep and that the transition is more instantaneous (perhaps a bold assumption), this would effectively be like taking a nap and waking up 100 years in the future.  Sounds a lot nicer than most modern forms of travel.

There is however another way of looking at this.  Infinite universes, infinite timelines, infinite possibilities.  At that point though, I think we’re talking about inter-dimensional travel and not time travel.

A Completely Automated Business

Here’s a thought…

how far are we away from kids at Harvard coming up with a fully automated business for a class project?

I said it in that context for a couple:

  1. I suspect fully automated businesses already exist in the fringe but I’m talking about something more widely applicable
  2. By the time the kids at Harvard are doing it, it’ll be big news and government regulators will have to start shifting around this potential

Imagine a company called Widgets.com.  Widgets.com is a market place for widgets where manufacturers of widgets can list their products.  Buyers of Widgets can come to the site, pick the widget they want and place an order for delivery.  When a customer places an order, the order is relayed through to the manufacturer and the manufacturer will ship the widget directly through to the buyer.

Widgets.com outsources it’s live chat and call center.  And their web design.  And their IT.  And their Legal.  And their Accounting. And their digital marketing.

Widgets.com would also have extensive data analytics that would help track key information for making strategic decisions.  These data points would include customer feedback and reviews, website activity, error tracking, legal reporting, financial reporting, and social media stats.  And anything else you wanted to include.

The Widgets.com algorithm would be capable of making executive decisions, but would aim to outsource nuanced details.  For example, if pink widgets were trending on social media, a note would go out to the digital marketing team and manufacturers of pink widgets, while a request would go to the web designer to feature pink widgets.  If the situation was more nuanced, say with a zero star review, the algorithm would track that info, forward it to a capable customer service rep and have them work to resolve the issue.

It’s actually a fun exercise because you can do this with just about any decision being made within a company.  I’m pretty sure these are the steps to building this decision engine:

  1.  Identify the cues to look for when identifying a problem
  2. Use additional cues to verify the problem
  3. Review past solutions to the problem or similar problems
  4. If a past solution has worked, use it again
    1. If a past solution works again, make a note
    2. If a past solution doesn’t work, go back to step 2
  5. If a past solution didn’t work, look to variations of solutions to similar problems.

I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification but what I’m getting at is that with enough time and insight, a top CEO could effectively upload his decision engine into a neural net.  Perhaps a decision engine wouldn’t make the best CEO for a complex company that operates in a rapidly changing environment with an actively engaged customer base… but maybe at that point, a human CEO isn’t cutting it either.

That’s where I see this going, especially because it’s already happening.  Big data analytics is an early stage version of human/digital hybrid CEO.  Right now, we’re mostly using data analytics to provide the human CEO with more information.  If the human CEO sees that everything X happens, Y needs to happen, he can automate it.  Once it’s automated, that’s the responsibility of the digital CEO.  As more information starts to get tracked, more patterns will emerge, and more automation will occur.  As that process progresses further and further, the human side is needed less and less.

I’m not sure how this will play out, but I do know that today’s pundits are suggesting that the CEO’s role will be among the last to be taken out by automation.  That before the CEO role goes digital, manufacturing will be replaced by 3D printing, warehouse workers will be replaced by robots, delivery drivers will be replaced by automated trucks and drones, and even computer programmers will be replaced by computers who programmers have taught to program.  Considering that the new Atlas looks like its about to try out for Cirque, who knows.