A friend asked me if I had any rules for investing, not necessarily in stocks but in other things, and I said that I didn't have hard and fast rules, but thought about it more in terms of principles. What are those principles, she asked? Well... I didn't quite have an answer ready.
I've thought more about it and decided to put it all in one place publicly.
First, I divide investments into "risk" and "no risk" categories. You could argue that everything has some risk, but I consider the no-risk investments to be things where, in my estimation, there is less than a 2% chance of loss. This is arbitrary and subjective, but for my investments there's a pretty clear cut line.
Investments that fall into this category would be CDs, fixed rate return stuff like BlockFi USDC coins, and investing in a friend's real estate development where he pays me a fixed return.
We make hundreds or thousands of subconscious decisions each day, but just because they're subconscious doesn't mean that we have no influence on them. Quite the opposite, they are actually dictated by our principles and the lenses through which we view the world. By changing those things we can automatically and effortlessly make better decisions.
One of the most important lenses through which we make decisions is our time scale. We make decisions to effect positive change in our lives, but WHEN that positive change takes place can vary a lot.
For example, a drug addict makes decisions on a very short time scale, maybe just a minute or an hour or so. Addicts know that the substances or behaviours they use are bad in the long term, but that's not a time scale that they are concerned with. If you want to optimize for the next few minutes of your life, choosing to use heroin makes a lot of sense.
On the other hand, some people optimize for infinity. I dated a girl once who was totally unwilling to spend money on anything (she actually spent tons of time entering sweepstakes so that she could win everything she needed), but had saved up tons of money. Even when the money would have a huge benefit to her life, she would not spend it.
We all want good things to happen in our lives. Sometimes these good things stem from obvious wins that can be picked up easily, like accepting a new job offer or going on a second date when a first date went well. In thinking about which events in my life were most positively impactful, however, I noticed that many of them were not obvious wins. They were maybes, which I turned into wins.
For example, take buying an island with my friends. This is definitely not an obvious win. It could have lead to fights with my friends, it could have turned into a big money pit, or apathy could have left it undeveloped and relatively useless. However, my friends and I worked hard to turn that maybe into a big win. We've had zero fights, have kept costs low, and have built it out to the point of being a great destination for ourselves and our friends and families.
Relationships, particularly marriages, are another one. I got married on the one year anniversary of meeting my wife. People congratulate each other on marriage as if it's an obvious win, but I'd categorize it as a maybe. I've seen people for whom marriage has been a huge negative as well as those for whom it's been a huge win. The marriage isn't a win, but what you do with it can be a big win.
Is dropping out of school or quitting your job a win? Like the other examples, it all depends on you.
Since my last blog post I traveled internationally for the first time in almost seven months. That period of time represents the longest time I've stayed in one country since 2008, I think. It was a weird experience for a number of reasons and made me reflect a lot on travel and being stationary.
In some ways I've been surprised at how much I've liked not traveling. Or, rather, I think that my lifestyle of nearly constant travel caused me to forget about the benefits of staying still. Staying in Vegas I've enjoyed seeing the seasons change, connecting a little bit more with local people, having a rock-solid routine, and doing projects that require longer sustained periods of time.
That said, I have of course been dying to travel.
The first thing that surprised me was what a big deal it felt like to travel. Before COVID I would go all over the place with very little planning, but planning a 3 day trip to Mexico felt like a big deal. It gave me a little glimpse of how most people think of trips as "big deals".
I was one of the very lucky ones, though it took me a long time to understand just how lucky I was. I grew up with loving parents, siblings with whom I never fought, very involved grandparents, and a bunch of cousins who I count as close friends today. I made friends with incredible people as early as kindergarten (one of whom is still one of my closest friends), and continued to have really excellent people as friends for the rest of my life. I thought that this was totally normal and nearly universal for a very long time.
Like anyone I've had big challenges in my life, but none of those challenges came from any sort of childhood trauma. If anything, my childhood helped me get through them.
As time has passed, I've met more and more people with childhood issues that continue to affect their daily lives. This was very surprising to me at first, but when I thought about how I continue to benefit from a good childhood, it made sense that issues from childhood would continue to plague people.
Through coaching, as you might imagine, I've seen a lot more of this sort of thing and have gotten to explore it in depth.
One of the greatest luxuries in life is to not have to worry. This isn't possible for all people at all times, but there are things all of us can do to be more carefree, especially those of us who have only "first world problems".
Be very deliberate about taking on obligations. The obvious example is debt, which I talk about all the time. Most people make debt decisions based on their current situation, and not an evaluation of all reasonable outcomes over the term of the loan. Rather than worrying about the debt before they assume it, they are forced to worry about it over the term of the loan. And of course if something happens, it's even harder to be carefree.
Obligations extend beyond finances, though. Everything you purchase, especially large purchases, comes with some obligation. For example, with all of the properties I've bought with my friends, I'm essentially always on call to deal with them. More than once I've gotten an email from our Hungarian accountant saying, "You really need to come here by the end of the month to sign a document." Those obligations are worth it to me, and I can remain carefree and deal with them only because I've been judicious about taking on other obligations.
Don't totally avoid obligations, just make sure that the benefit accrued from them justifies the obligation.
Last summer I got to travel to Uzbekistan with some friends from the area, and we were randomly invited to visit the house of one of the five richest families in the country. However incredible you may imagine the house, I promise you it was even more amazing. The courtyard could have fit several tennis courts inside it, it had a museum in the basement, the foyer was bigger than several copies of my apartment in it, and the front door was made of inlaid metals and stood 30 feet tall.
It was easily the nicest house I had ever seen the inside of and yet... it had terrible light bulbs.
A year later and I'm still thinking about it. The house was incredible and the product of excellent taste, but no one noticed that the light bulbs were bad. The house would have literally felt twice as nice to be in if they had the right light bulbs.
Today I brought a new light bulb for the fixture in my tea teacher's tea room. People were stunned at how much better the room looked with the new bulb and asked for details so that they could get better bulbs.
If you've read my blog for a while, you might be surprised to see a post that's about video games. I've never written about video games before because I have never really played them. A couple years ago I had the idea that I should find a fun video game to play on airplanes just to pass the time when I'm too tired to work, but I couldn't find any that held my attention. In other words, I am not into video games at all.
However, I am REALLY into VR. Seven years ago I got to be one of the first hundred or so people to experience VR with full positional tracking, and it blew my mind.
For the past few years I've had a gaming PC and wired headset just for VR, but I haven't recommended it much because the cost of a gaming PC + headset are pretty steep for occasional VR use.
However, the Quest 2 from Oculus/Facebook changes all of that. I've had one since launch date last month and am absolutely blown away by it. I've pushed a bunch of friends to buy one and the universal reaction is something along the lines of: "Wow, I had no idea this sort of technology even existed."
Why are some people secure while others aren't? Is it because they deserve or don't deserve to be secure? There are enough obvious counter-examples to that idea to dismiss it immediately. Is it genetic? Maybe partially, but many people have switched from being secure to insecure or vice versa. I'd argue that being secure is a practice that anyone can implement.
A friend of mine once told me, as if the idea was an obvious one, that he constantly suspected that people didn't really like him very much and invited him around to be polite. This idea completely blew my mind, because he was one of the core members of our friend group and I'd never once heard anyone say anything bad about him. It made me realize that insecurity is usually an error of perception.
Pickup transformed me from a very insecure person, who basically thought that almost no woman would really want to get to know me, to a very secure person who now assumes that basically everyone will like me and see my value.
The biggest thing I learned is that people will like you for who you are. This sounds obvious and simple, but for years I just figured that there were one or two "very likeable" archetypes, and I wasn't one of them. Media and pop culture set this trap and it's an easy one for anyone to fall into.