There’s a Storm Coming

I tried to write an entry on reverse seniority last night.  I couldn’t do it.  I’m bugging out.

No cannabis.  That’s probably part of it.

I have a brain that doesn’t turn off, a large appetite for information, and an obsession for understanding things.  Something I’ve been doing since high school is recognizing patterns and using them to predict what comes next.  Nothing is concrete, just possibilities and probabilities.  Too many variables to keep track of, but sometimes you can see part of the picture and filling in the rest isn’t so tough.

Coming from an investment background, it’s difficult to ignore what I see in the markets.  Bonds are paying next to nothing.  The equity market hasn’t had a major correction in about 10 years.  The housing market is on tilt.  Even crypto is now detached from reality.  Besides my private equity investments, I’m now in 100% cash for the first time in my life.  It’s like being at a poker table with a bunch of drunk rookies.  I have chips, I know how to play, but when everyone else at the table is throwing money at shitty hands… you have to be patient.  Some days are easier than others.

My friends and I used to battle it out for who could be more generous.  We’d always enjoy trying to pay for one another.  Now we’re too poor to hang out with each other.  Half of them still live with their parents to avoid paying rent.  I look at my generation and I see an epidemic of drugs used to treat an epidemic of depression.  If it wasn’t for my drive and my lack of emotions, I’d probably be in the same boat.  Considering how much weed I was smoking, maybe I was in the same boat.  I’m surrounded by a generation of kids who were told that if they stayed in school and worked hard, they’d be able to land themselves a good career and that a good career would lead to a comfortable life.  I’m surrounded by a generation of the most educated kids we’ve ever produced, entering into a rapidly deteriorating job market, with the highest cost of living we’ve experienced in modern history.  We’re barely treading water.  Something’s gotta give.

Maybe it’s the birth rate.  Maybe this is how we cull the population.  I literally broke up with the first girl I thought I’d marry because she was fixated on having children in the immediate future.  I wasn’t willing to bring a family into this world without building a foundation first.  The biological clock is real.  And my heart goes out to the women struggling to understand what they should be doing at a time like this.

I saw Paul Ryan on TV the other night saying that the Republican tax reform was going to give the middle class the boost it needed to get back to having kids.  What a bold faced lie.  But that’s become the status quo for American politics.  Only a few of us will actually put the effort into understanding what’s going on.  The rest of us will just pick a team.  Red or Blue.  By picking a team, we think we’re taking a stand for what we believe in.  But we’re not.  Red or Blue, it’s the same song and dance.  The value of a politician isn’t a function of policies, their ability to inspire, or their ability to govern – it’s their ability to raise funds for their campaign.  Why?  Because the best campaign wins the seat.  But in the age of billion dollar campaigns, where is this funding coming from?  Big business and the top 1%.  So is an elected official’s loyalty to the people who voted for them?  Or to the people who paid for them?  If you’re not sure, I suggest you ask net neutrality.

With problems this obvious though, how are we not motivated towards change?  I’d argue that we are.  Trump was elected for exactly that reason.  As much as I liked Obama, he didn’t do enough to stop what was coming.  People were left behind.  All the pain and disillusion that we’re seeing in major cities today, the rural towns were ahead of the curve.  But they were team red.  They were loyal.  And someone on team red came along and said I have all the answers, here’s who you should blame, and if they ever say otherwise, they’re lying.  MAGA.  And half the country became complicit.

But maybe this is just what we needed.  When Trump was elected, I knew he didn’t have the character, integrity, or intelligence to be a great president, but I was open to the possibility of him being a good president.  As things started to play out, I knew that ship had sailed.  What did occur to me though is that he might still be valuable.  He might be so crooked, so corrupt, and so incompetent that the world couldn’t help but see that he had reached the most powerful seat in the world – not by merit – but through the abuse of American ignorance and a system which has been compromised beyond repair.  And maybe that would be our motivation.

You know what I wanted for Christmas this year?  Mueller.  I check my newsfeeds at least a dozen times a day.  Every time I do, I hope to see another piece of the puzzle.  Eventually, I hope to see justice.  And perhaps justice means that Trump is exonerated from crimes which he didn’t commit.  But I doubt it.  And I’m good at predicting these things.

So what happens when one of the most respected law enforcement officials of all time lifts the veil on the real Donald Trump?  What do those tax returns actually look like?  How much is he actually worth?  Who does he actually owe money to?  And what happens if there was collusion?  Will it be enough to shatter the image and faith placed in Trump?  I hope so.

I see the clouds on the horizon, and I can hear rumbles of thunder, but the storm is still too far away.  And I wanna dance in the rain.

I don’t know what that first crack of lightning will be.  Maybe it will be Trump going to jail.  Maybe it’ll be the Republicans refusing to impeach him.  Maybe it’ll be a loss of consumer confidence that triggers an overdue recession.  Maybe it’ll be the bond bubble that’s been growing since the last recession.  Maybe it’ll be China’s house of cards that finally topples.  Or maybe it’s on us.  Maybe we finally realize that you and I aren’t so different.  Maybe we realize that we aren’t the enemy.  Maybe we realize that we’re in this together…. and maybe we march together, up those stairs, and tell them that this does not belong to you.

And tear the whole. god. damn. thing. down.

Incest Porn

In my prime, I was probably just as interested in porn and masturbation as any other stereotypical male.  Perhaps one of my most embarrassing memories was being walked in on by a friend back in grade 11.  I still maintain he didn’t see anything, but holy shit was that awkward… then embarrassing when the rest of the school found out… and then a highly entertaining memory.

As the years have passed, it’s become more of a functional effort for me.  Sometimes it’s to help me get to sleep, sometimes it’s to de-stress, sometimes it’s because I saw boobies on TV and wasn’t sure what else to do with myself.  I’ve always enjoyed watching porn for a very different reason though – as a reflection of the human psyche.

If you were to ask 100,000 people what their sexual preferences or fantasies were, I don’t think you’d get an honest set of data.  I think most people would respond with some variation of vanilla + light bdsm.  If you were to take a look at the major porn sites right now, they’re dominated by incest porn.  Thanks Glasses Morty…

There’s an honesty to porn.  In the privacy of your own home (and incognito mode), you tend to care less about what people think and more about getting you to that mind-blowing orgasm.  For me, I’ve been through several phases but it’s always revolved around female pleasure.  Something about a girl looking like she’s experiencing levels of pleasure she’s never experienced before is totally my jam.  And when I think about who I am as a person, I see an alignment there.  One of my favorite states of mind is when I introduce someone to something they’ve never experienced before, and they have an awesome time.  I’m also super competitive and want to be the best at everything, including her body, haha.  So what does it say about the current state of the human condition when porn is being dominated by an incest fetish?

If I were to go onto any major free porn site, I’m saying close to half of the videos listed are either mother-son, brother-sister, or daddy-daughter.  Some aren’t even incest related, but they’ll toss it in the title for more clicks.  As someone who has a younger sister who lives in LA that has flirted with the idea of being a stripper, the last thing I want when watching porn is a reminder that the girl in the video could be my little sister.  As someone who has a complicated relationship with his mother, hearing ‘do you like that, son?’ is a quick way for me to lose all interest in what I’m doing.  The daddy-daughter stuff?  I’m not a fan of unbalanced power dynamics.

When I wanna watch porn, I now literally have to skip through the first 5-10 minutes of story line or risk it being ruined for me.  Kinda.  Because every once in a while, there’s one that I’m into.  In trying to understand what I was enjoying about it, a few things came to mind.

First and foremost, it was a step-sibling dynamic.  No incest, just pretend incest.  Second, there was no jacked up power dynamic where the brother was blackmailing his sister or something weird like that.  The stuff that I was into was when there were two good looking people, living under the same roof, not related, super attracted to one another, knowing that it’s taboo, and caving into their desires.  Hmm… that’s kinda hot isn’t it?

And when I think about the popularity of this genre and what it tells us about the people who are watching it, I see a few interesting elements.

First is the evolution of the blended family.  Blended families are becoming the norm which means step-siblings are more common than ever.  That means we’re putting a whole bunch of teenagers and young adults, who aren’t related to each other, under the same roof.  From time to time, at least one of them is going to be attractive.  And we’re expecting the other sibling not to be attracted?  But their parents have told them that they’re brother and sister and brothers and sisters don’t have those kinds of feelings or engage in those behaviors.  That’s like preaching abstinence to reduce pregnancies.

Next is the taboo element.  Remember when BDSM was taboo?  Anal?  Gay sex?  Even blow jobs were taboo at one point.  They all follow the same pattern of a bunch of people collectively deciding it’s wrong and trying to shame the rest of us into complying.  But then a few people explore those boundaries, find out it’s totally awesome, and the dynamic starts to shift.  Eventually the people who tried to impose limitations on sexual freedoms start to look silly.  In some cases, you feel sorry for them.  In others, you swear they’re doing all kinds of kinky shit when nobody’s looking.

Finally, and perhaps the most subtle.  Or maybe just something I see… is this dynamic of doing what you know makes sense even when others tell you that you’re wrong, or a bad person for doing it.  If you were gay, at a time where the world was telling you that you shouldn’t be gay, I would imagine that being with the person you wanted to be with was an incredibly liberating and joyful experience.  This dynamic of going against the grain when you know you’re right is something that exists well beyond sex.  It’s how great investors invest.  It’s how great love stories are told.  It’s how great leaders change the world.  It’s also why teenagers consistently push the boundaries which their parents impose on them.  Whether it’s staying out late, skipping class, studying less than you should… most kids aren’t doing these things because they’re trying to sabotage their future, it’s because they think that they’re more capable than the limitations being place on them.  In the case of incest porn, I think it just comes down to…. she’s hot, I think she’s into me, we’re not related as much as dad and his new wife would like me to think so – and there’s your fantasy.

The last piece I’ll mention is that if any of what I’ve written here has relevancy, the real story is appreciating the diversity of porn because it’s indicative of the diversity of sexual desire, which is indicative of the diversity of humanity.  Some people are into big, some people are into small, some people are into feet, some people are into dressing like stuffed animals.  If we could understand and accept that 99.9% of the time, sex is about pleasure and not procreation, we’re in a position to realize a sexual revolution.  As long as there’s consent, do what feels good.  The doors that will open, the marriages that will saved, the minds that will be blown… could be very exciting times ahead.

I had the most fucked up dream

I don’t dream much.  I’m pretty sure it’s the cannabis.  When I get stoned before bed, it helps me pass out but I’m doubtful it helps me enter REM sleep.  I took a break from cannabis a few weeks ago, lost a bunch of weight, got a ton done, and thought I’d enjoy a nice Saturday night on the couch with my vape pen.  It was nice.  Until Elon Musk touched my bum.

The part of the dream that I remember was me and Elon Musk laying in a large bed, talking about all the cool stuff I’d want to talk to him about.  Then without warning, he touched my bum.  I’m not talking about light rub, I’m talking right on the button.  I immediately clued into what was happening and let out a stern and loud Noooooooo.  I turned around and he had a look of shock and shame like he just realized it was an unwanted advance.  He jumped behind his side of the bed to cover his embarrassment.  I remember feeling confused, and then sorry for the guy, and I think we talked it out… but that part is still fuzzy.  WTF.

Wow, there’s a lot to unpack there.

I guess first things first, why was I in bed with Elon Musk?  It’s fair to say that I have a bit of a professional crush on Elon.  I think he’s one of the most visionary leaders of our time and I greatly admire his approach to business.  He’s the effective bar I’ve set for myself so I pay close attention to what he does and how he does it.  That still doesn’t explain why we were in a bed together, but it was genuinely a non-sexual scenario for me.  I’ve also already gone down the ‘am I gay?’ rabbit hole and came back pretty sure that I was more likely to be asexual than gay.  Who knows, maybe we were in bed because I was actually in a bed.  Maybe Elon is the one guy I would sleep with?  Anyways, moving on…

The second part was the ‘bad touch’.  I’ve been hit on by guys before and I’ve always been pretty good with keeping things light, polite, and clear.  I didn’t have the opportunity in this one.  It went from a casual conversation with my back turned to him, to feeling like someone was about to go knuckle-deep and try to check my oil.  In fall fairness, I’ve reacted the same way when girls tried to do the same thing.

I think this is a result of all the time I’ve spent thinking about rape, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct over the last few months.  I’ve been through some unwanted sexual scenarios but this dynamic was very different.  It was extremely unexpected, acute, and from someone who I didn’t want to turn around and toss out of my life.  If I remember the dream correctly, I think we talked it out afterwards and everything was good.

I think my subconscious was trying to simulate sexual harassment as experienced by these women who have accused these high-profile men.  Clearly it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but I can’t help but think I tapped into a few things.

The first is that there needs to be a difference between an unwanted advance and sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.  Elon clearly skipped a base or two with what he did and he obviously caught me by surprise, but once I said no, he stopped.  I was no worse for wear.  We talked it out, and we were good (I think?).

Perhaps this is where I should enter the disclaimer of rape is wrong, but the reality is that I see rape as a form of bullying (perhaps the most extreme) – and I am strongly against bullying of any form.  What I’m trying to understand here are the nuances because being held down and penetrated against your will is not the same as your idol trying to give you a sneak-attack prostate exam.

We seem to have entered into a time where this entire topic is taboo.  I keep hearing that we must believe the women who have accused these men of sexual misconduct but that’s literally contrary to one of the most fundamental legal principles – due process.  By no means am I saying that these accusations should be dismissed, but believing someone at face value for anything is a dangerous precedent to set.  I wholeheartedly agree that men everywhere need to step their game up, especially with holding their friends accountable, but this isn’t the way.

I’m confident that no one would step in more quickly or more fiercely than I would if I saw someone being taken advantage of like that.  It wouldn’t matter if it was rape, someone getting jumped, or a kid getting picked on (maybe less fiercely).  It’s all bullying to me.  It’s an exercise in the abuse of power.  But if that’s true, can it not also be addressed like bullying?

When I was a kid, I was taught that if someone bullies you, you tell the teacher and they get in trouble.  Because they got in trouble, they wouldn’t do it again.  Wrong.  If I have kids, I’ll show them how to stand up to that bully, because there will always be another bully.  Assuming all the tactics for avoiding confrontation didn’t work, you now have a physical altercation.  If you don’t know how to handle yourself, you’ll be scared.  If you’re scared enough, you’ll be more likely to play dead than fight back.  Now you’re prey.

We live in a physical world.  Not being able to protect yourself is a glaring deficiency that I think we overlook as a society.  If someone picks a fight with you and you don’t know how to defend yourself, you’re probably gonna get fucked up.  Those bruises and broken bones will hurt all the same regardless of that person’s motivations.

 

If I had kids, I’d teach them self-defense from an early age.  The things you learn from martial arts and combat sports are lessons that you can carry with you throughout your life.  I’d teach them that when dealing with a bully, your first priority is always to deescalate the situation.  Being able to walk away without confrontation is almost always your best option.  I’d also teach them that when it isn’t, you need to be ready.  Know any bullies that got laid out, and then went back to bullying that kid?  Doesn’t work like that.

There isn’t a complete parallel between the bullying I’m describing here and the sexual harassment/#metoo movement but there have to be some.  Bullying is bullying right?  I got back into training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recently and I asked myself how many of the women in my class could hold their own against a guy who was acting inappropriately.

A light-bulb went off – probably all of them.

When I started BJJ, it took me about a month worth of classes to reach a point where I would be completely dominant over your average joe.  We’re talking just the basics of how to move and where to go.  A few months later, some guy at the bar tried to pick a fight with me and I was able to laugh it off and walk away because I had this new confidence, knowing that if things went sideways, I’d probably be just fine.

I desperately want women to have that same confidence.  

I don’t think this movement of victimhood and blame will help create sexual equality between men and women.  Among other things, I think it’s going to create a lot of confused men and fragile women.  What I do think will make a difference is if women start standing up for themselves with the confidence that comes with knowing that you can handle your shit.  Unwanted kiss?  Bob-and-weave. Unwanted dick pic?  Ew, beat it.  Guy pushes you up against the wall, get him off and tell him it’s in his best interest not to try that again.  Guy jumps you while your on a run and drags you into the bushes?  Get on top of him and smash his face in with a few solid elbows.  Then call the police and ambulance so the poor fool doesn’t choke on his own blood and die.  You want men to stop doing this stupid shit?  Handle yourself.  These men will learn that the time of being able to take advantage of women is over.  That if you cross that line, there will be consequences.  That if you make things physical, you should expect to get your ass handed to you.

Women are clearly motivated to make a change.  They even earned themselves the cover of Time magazine this year.  If we could only push it one step further and create a movement where women were motivated to abandon their title as the physically weaker sex and embrace that untapped physicality – I think we’d be looking at a foundation for the new age of sexual equality.

Thought Vs. Emotion

I grew up with an unemotional father while my mother and sister were on the other end of that spectrum.  I was probably a bit of a drama queen in my own right when I was a kid, but I seem to have grown out of it.  Now I’m known for my lack of emotion.  In trying to understand the sequence of events that led from there to here, I’ve noticed some interesting dynamics.

The first was bullying.  I grew up in the kind of neighborhood where fragile didn’t last.  As far as your peers were concerned, it was their responsibility to toughen you up.  For others who have been through this, they’ll know that this kind of behavior was more likely to come from my friends than from people I didn’t get along with.  Even now, we tease each other relentlessly, but I’m happy to have gone through that.  When the worst names you’ve been called come from the people who care about you most, you have to decide whether it comes from a place of hate or a place of love.  When you realize it’s a place of love, you start to realize that the intentions behind the words are far more important than their definitions.  That’s when I understood that words would only have the power that I gave them.  Today, even if it’s at my expense, I’m just as likely to laugh at a good joke as the people around me.  I can’t remember the last time I felt sad or hurt because someone said something mean to me.

From my perspective, being ‘triggered’ is an emotional state of over-sensitivity that comes from people reacting to a word’s definition without understanding the intent behind it.  Even if someone called me the worst name imaginable, with the most malicious of intent, they still wouldn’t get an emotional reaction out of me.  If anything, it would be a response of compassion.  Regardless of who I am or what I’ve done, what that person is saying has everything to do with who they are and the way they experience their reality.   If they’re overwhelmed by the need to lash out at me, they’re probably not in a very good place.  If I can, I’d like to help them get beyond that.  I can’t help but think that if we understood this dynamic collectively, we wouldn’t be so divided.

Back at University is when I first noticed myself becoming less emotional.  I think it probably started with trying to be the guy that I thought women wanted me to be – the tough guy who doesn’t cry.  I’m sure it was a lot of posturing at first, but eventually things started to shift.  There were several moments where I felt like I was forced to choose between breakdown and cry, or dig deep and march forward.  I never chose to breakdown and cry.  I’d blast some Eminem, and tell myself that even if my collar bone is crush or crumble, I will never slip or stumble.  I persevered – and was stronger for it.  Eventually, I got knocked down so many times that getting up and pushing through became second nature.  Eventually things that would’ve derailed me before barely phased me.  It was like I had gained so much momentum that I started feeling like a freight train that could crash through just about anything.  I think that’s when I started associating emotion with weakness, and a lack of emotion with strength.

Then my dad got sick.  He meant the world to me.  Everything I do now, is still, in some way for him.   When he was first diagnosed, he was given weeks to live.  I was the first one he told and he asked that I not share it with the rest of the family until he better understood what we should do next.  It was a completely unemotional conversation for both of us.  We had been presented with an impossible problem to solve, but we knew that being emotional about it wouldn’t improve our chances of getting through it.  In my family, we tend to choose our time rather than let our time choose us.  The tough old bastard lasted nearly 2 years.

As we were getting closer to the end, I remember reaching out to a friend and telling her that loosing my dad would be the hardest thing I would’ve gone through.  I told her that every time I went through something like this, I became less emotional.  I was concerned that after this, I wouldn’t have any emotions left.  I didn’t know what it would mean or how it would affect me.  My whole life, I was told about how important emotions were, but I had become so strong without them.  It was confusing.

The last time I saw him when he was coherent was when he had decided to stop eating.  He had picked his time.  I teased him a bit about being difficult and the weight he had lost.  He smiled.  I think he appreciated someone who wasn’t feeling sorry for him.  I knew that was going to be my last conversation with him so I wanted to avoid making the mistake that every macho man makes.  I broke down.  I told him that I loved him and respected more than anyone else I had ever known.  I could barely get the words out but I didn’t care.  Nothing was more important to me than him knowing how much he meant to me.  He looked at me, said happy to hear it, and shook my hand.  I laughed off the tears and thanked him again for everything.  Some people might think that he probably could’ve done a better job of saying ‘I love you too’ or something to that effect.  It wasn’t his style – nor was it needed.  What he helped me understand was that love isn’t a moment of passion or words, it’s a lifetime of action.  I had no doubt that the least emotional person I had ever known loved me more than anyone I had ever known.

My dad passed away about a week later – within hours of me taking him off the oxygen.  He was surrounded by friends and family.  We all cried.  I tried to be strong but I wasn’t that strong.  Within hours though, I was dialed in.  The bankers, the accountants, the lawyers, the executor, the bills… all me.  It was so rewarding knowing that I was able to shoulder these responsibilities, the kind of things my dad would’ve been doing to make sure the family was taken care of.  His shoes weren’t mine to fill, but his family was my family and I would always make sure they were taken care of.

I spent the next week in the zone, making sure everything was looked after.  Once I ran out of responsibilities, I went back to work.  I hadn’t shown any signs of emotion since watching my dad pass and I was concerned.  As important as it was for me to be strong for my family, it was more important that I be strong for my family for all the years to come and I didn’t want to risk having emotional baggage.  So after work each night, I did my best to allow myself to be sad.. and bummed out.. and miss him.. and to let those emotions run their course.  I did, and they did.  A funny thing happened though.  At the end of the week, I could almost hear my dad asking ‘how much longer are you gonna keep this up?’.  I thought, you’re right, I’m good.  Time to get back at it.

This wasn’t a Jedi mind trick that I was trying to play on myself.  I understood that it’s tough for a kid to lose a parent, but that it’s nothing compared to a parent losing their kid.  This was part of the natural order of things, and my father had lived a life worth living.  Rather than mourn his death, I chose to celebrate his life, and let his legacy inspire me to become greater than I could’ve otherwise been – allowing me to create a more positive impact on the world than I was previously capable of realizing.  Sadness, sorrow, love, and all these other emotions were a natural reaction to having gone through something, but it wasn’t until I had a chance to think and truly understand my situation that I gained this perspective.  It was as if emotion was the physiological reaction and biochemical experience while thought was what let me understand what had happened and allowed me to rise above it.

My dad had left a modest sized portfolio to the kids and I was responsible for it.  It was through my work on that portfolio that led me into my role as an investment advisor with a major bank later that year.  For the first time in my life, being unemotional was like having a super power.  In understanding the psychology of the markets and working with individual investors, you quickly learned that emotions were the enemy of investing.  When the market had gone up for a while, people felt safer and more optimistic it would keep going up.  That’s usually when it would start moving in the other direction.  This was especially true when the market was in a deep correction.  People would run for the hills, looking to stuff their money in their mattress when the market was in rough shape but this was always the best time to invest.  If you invested emotionally, would you almost always buy high and sell low.

A big part that role was research.  I put a great deal of time into studying great investors like Warrent Buffet as well as great CEOs like Steve Jobs.  As I continued to learn what made them tick, I also payed close attention to the qualities they had in common.  Musk, Zuckerberg, Gates, Cook, Buffet and others were all remarkably bright, inspired leaders, and unemotional.  That was the tier of human being I was aiming for, so the virtue of being unemotional was reinforced yet again.  It became something I was proud of.  It let me make rational decisions while emotions drove others to make irrational decisions.  I started to see emotions as something which clouded peoples judgement more than anything.  But I was still human.

I don’t think it would be fair to say that I didn’t have emotions, but I became very good at not letting my emotions impact my thoughts.  If I noticed that they were, it was a moment of weakness and I was quick to correct it.  Even now, I look at emotions as something to be understood and that once they’re understood, they become thought.  I can’t imagine how confusing this must’ve been for the girls that I dated.  But that’s also where I had to face the reality of thought versus emotion.

I was convinced that thought was a higher form of cognition than emotion.  You couldn’t think hate, you could only feel it.  I would say the same about fear.  Prejudice was often rooted in emotion or an incomplete thought.  I looked throughout history at some of humanities greatest accomplishments and greatest failures.  The accomplishments were heavily skewed towards great thinkers while the failures were often attributed to someone letting their emotions get the best of them.  Another thing I noticed throughout history is that as a species we seemed to be getting less emotional – suggesting that there might be an evolutionary angle.

Most of us would agree that even today, we carry evolutionary traits that we’ve outgrown.  Physical attraction is perhaps one of the best examples.  Joe Rogan calls it leftover monkey brain and it’s often at odds with how we conduct ourselves has humans today.  I’d argue further that our minds are evolving faster than our bodies and the idea of thought versus emotion is highlighting an internal battle we’re all facing.  So thought is a more evolved form of cognition than emotion right?  I don’t think it’s that simple.

Consider the example of burning your hand while cooking.  Upon first contact with the hot surface – nothing – then comes the pain.  You don’t think the pain, but you certainly feel it.  You instinctively pull your hand away from the heat source, panic for a brief moment, and then probably go put your hand under cold water.  Afterwards, your burn is highly sensitive if not painful.  I often joke around, saying that people are much easier to understand when we think about them like robots.  Extreme pain triggering an instant withdraw, followed by hypersensitivity until a repair is complete sure sounds like a subroutine to me… But that’s a physical reaction, not an emotional reaction right?  Consider the example of being cheated on.  You put yourself in a position where you expected to be safe, but weren’t.  The shock and the pain created a sharp withdrawal, maybe even inspired a few new curse-words.  You spent time feeling hurt.  Even after you get past the initial pain, there’s some degree of hypersensitivity.  While there are variations to each the point is simply that feeling like you’ve been burned is a lot like feeling like you’ve been burned.

The overlap between instinctual behavior and emotional behavior is too significant to ignore, but I think there’s at least one more layer to this: intuition.  I’m not talking about girl who’s been cheated on and is now hypersensitive to anything that might look like suspicious behavior, I’m talking about the trusting girlfriend who’s never been cheated on whose intuition is telling her that something’s wrong, even if she doesn’t know what it is.  She can’t explain it, but she can sure as hell feel it, and that’s real.

Whether we’re talking about nature or nurture, evolution or personal growth, I think it’s reasonable to assume that emotional responses can be trained.  Back to my robot analogy, imagine the human body containing thousands of sensors.  In a body like mine, those sensors feed directly into the CPU where the CPU cross-references that sensory input with other sensor data to ensure that it’s a valid reading,  Then I scan my memory for all past events relating to this sensory input, looking for patterns that would help me identify an intelligent response.  I then cross-reference that response with my internal guidelines and if all checks out, it produces an action.  Very IFTTT.  But that’s me.

So what if someone’s cognitive process excelled at sensing where I excelled at processing?  Theoretically, they’d be working with more data, and more accurate data.  When you have higher volumes of more accurate data, patterns tend to become more obvious.  When patterns are more obvious, they’re easier to react to intelligently.

When trying to understand this dynamic, I often imagine someone being able to feel the vibrations of the universe similar to how a spider senses the vibrations in their web.  When a spider feels that vibration, it knows exactly where to go and what to do, and I doubt that involves a great deal of active thought.

So thoughts versus emotions – equal but different?

I’m not sure.  I’ve always been well-served by accepting what I don’t yet understand, and pursuing a greater understanding of it.  That’s where I rest with this now.  I think there’s a strong body of evidence which suggests that the absence of thought is primal but I’m also tempted to say that an absence of emotion is hollow.  I would joke and say that the difference between thought and emotion is understanding that the world is round but feeling like it’s flat.  Well, what exactly would it be like if we understood that the world was round but lacked that ability to feel grounded?

Perhaps thought helps you connect to the non-physical universe similar to how emotion lets you connect to the physical universe.  If this is true, and we’re expanding the reach of our minds faster than we’re able to expand the reach of our bodies, thought becomes more valuable.  As we move towards virtual and digital realities, I’ll be interested to see how emotions evolve.  If I’m right, the understanding which we’ll eventually arrive at is reminiscent of Vulcan culture.  Something to the effect of emotions are a natural part of the human condition and should be appreciated as such, but they make a better co-pilot than pilot.

The Busy Anthem

Apparently busy is the new black.

When I’m in the zone, I usually work from sun up to sun down.  When I was at the bank, the early morning was for responding to email, research, and taking account of any interesting activity that day.  The late morning was usually meetings or portfolio management.  Lunches were always overlapped with meetings.  Afternoons were usually filled with meetings or cold calls.  The early evening was hopefully the gym, but more likely to be a networking event.  I usually got home between 9-10pm.  Then I’d fire up the vape and tune out until I fell asleep on the couch.  And repeat.

Weekends?  Just extra hours to get more done.

Holidays?  Haven’t taken a holiday in 7 years.

I understand busy.  But I also understand bullshit.  Even when I was at my busiest, I always followed through on my commitments.  If I said I was going to be there, then I was.  You became part of my busy.  So why have we accepted busy as a valid excuse for being flaky?

I refuse.  You’re not busy.  You’re just not honest about your priorities.

In an age where people are averaging hours a day on social media and binge watching series on Netflix, I think it’s time to collectively admit that we’re not nearly as busy as we claim to be.  It’s not that we don’t have an overwhelming and unrelenting stream of things competing for our attention, it’s that we’re unable to be honest about how we prioritize.

Burnt out after a long week because you work a job that sucks?  Feel much more like crawling into the safety of your couch than heading out to an event?  That’s cool, own it.  Told your friends that you’d love to grab dinner with them but are looking at your bank account and would rather eat ramen? That’s cool, own that too.

We need to get better at being honest with one another because telling each other that we’re busy just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Beautiful things happen when we’re honest with each other.  Maybe we’d be more honest about our depression, or finances, or our lack of motivation to go outside when it’s raining.  Whatever it is, if they matter to you, just don’t tell them that you’re busy.

 

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.