A new years prayer, and 2010 in review
First and foremost, Id like to wish everybody a happy new year, but better than just wishing it, I would like to extend to all my greatest wishes for myself in 2011 to everybody. Here they are
All the winning and losing I have managed to pack into my relatively brief life have left me with no small amount of thoughts on ponderings on humanity, society, myself and more. But probably no two lessons swirl around my mind more than these, lessons that to no small extent I never really realized until 2010.
To begin, I would like to wish each of you, for 2011 and beyond, a sense of purpose. May your activities matter to you, may your energies be spent on pursuits that you feel are important. It is not the magnitude of wealth or accomplishment that makes people happy, in my view and experiences, it is exactly that: the feeling that our lives are going somewhere and that what we are doing has purpose. Give a man $50 million and force him to take 2 years off and you may well have destroyed him. Give him 5 grand and something he believes in, you may have made him great.
And here is why I wish this for me, and all of you. 2010 was a challenging year for Checklist on a personal level. The end of 2009 and early 2010 saw me reach my long-term (like ten year) financial goals for investing after 14 months, after making more than 4x my money from jan 09 to early 2010. I spent the rest of the year flying around here and there, hitting up probably half of the most famous nightclubs in the country, and making sort-of friends here and there. Living the dream I guess? Interestingly, the year found me close to as discontent as I have ever been in my life. This made me wonder why, and ultimately I concluded that from puberty until 2010 I had spent more or less every minute of every day working towards some clear goal. In my early teens I was bent on being a major league baseball player someday, late teens I was going to be a big time track star, after getting to college, track scholarship in hand, I immediately realized sports past the age of 18 are extremely lame and set out to make the most friends, throw the most parties, chase the most girls, and all of that. After that got old, I set out to start a business and get rich, and after selling those I set out to make some money from the gigantic stock market crash (which I went into with just cash). In 2010 I had no goal, and no idea what to do. Being rich and traveling the world, at least for me, doesn't seem to be that great.
More on that later, as it relates to the second wish I have for everybody...
My second wish for Checklist, and all of you, is that we find ourselves surrounded by great people in 2011 and beyond. I never realized this until the last year or so, but my longtime business partner is someone without whom the fantastic successes of the last 15-20 years of my life would not have happened. See, its an interesting relationship we have long had. I am smarter, and for all practical purposes I have had probably all of the ambition of our group, when we were kids I met all the friends with whom we partied so gloriously, I met 90% of the girls and he stole 1/2 of those, I got the job at the italian joint and got him hired there, I taught him how to make major coin waiting tables, I started teh businesses, and I invented everything, wrote the patents, and negotiated all the deals. I have, at tiems in my life been annoyed that he didn't give as much back. And he and I have come to blows over this sentiment many times. But, in retrospect, there is far more to the story. He may staunchly refuse to be outgoing at all, and as such heap the burden of making friends on me, and he may have stolen half the girls I ever brought home back in the day, but the fact of the matter is hes as cool a guy as I have ever met and having him around was no doubt a huge part of what made it so easy for me to make all those friends and meet all those girls. And he may have copied my table watiting theories, back when we were saving cash in trash bags to start a biz with, but he rapidly got better at it than me, which forced me to try harder, which caused him to try harder, which caused otehrs to want to be part of the fun. And I may have invented everything, and negotiated every deal, but he ran a manufacturing company at 47% pre-tax margins while I was pre-disposed with said inventing and flying around to negotiate and was smart enough to answer the phoens and all the emails at teh same time. Because nobody we hired ever actually was able to actually understand the subject matter. @#%# complex business.
And so, you see, I think what I will say in my next sentence is actually true, more or less always: we are never better than the best people in our lives. Indeed, randomly, and against all odds, as waiters at some italian joint more than a decade ago, he and I wound up surrounded by a peculiarly excellent group of chaps. It is a strange, but true, thing to talk to them - an exec at hp, a pga golfer, the two richest self made businessmen under 50 for hundreds and hundreds of miles, and more - and have them all say the same thing - that was the funnest time of our lives. Why? It was the time when we were surrounded with the best people. The highest quality peers. In business we hired incompetent men old enough to be our fathers, and fired them for little things like refusing to make a sales call to a company we wanted to talk to when they were our sales manager (and only sales guy), or smoking weed in the lobby of our biggest customer (for real), or not showing up to work on time for a month straight. And they cry, bawl like 3 year olds who didnt get a cookie, beg. Its so pathetic you can't even stomach it. We never had the good fortune of hiring one of the Johns (old buddies) or someone equivalent. If we had, it may have made all the difference in the world.
If you ever find yourself in a position of authority, social, financial, in a workplace, you must use that power to try to surround yourself with people that are better than you, and NOT people that you are better than. You will, yourself, attain more riches surrounded by people who can beat you than you will being "the man". Trust me. And dont get me wrong, I have many fantastic people in my life, but... for the first time I dont have any "going my way". The greatest wealth possible in life, in my book, is to have good quality people in your life that want the same things as you.
I would offer that the CAPs game has, in exactly this way, made my life alot better. Some of the ways that the CAPs game has helped my life include putting me onto BDCs, via ACAS, which someone was bashing, which led to me understand what mark to market accounting was, which led me to bet the farm (quite literally) on financial stocks in late February/early march 2009, which, quite literally, helped me bank many, many times my money. And, like this summer, when everything is bearish and negativity abounds, these boards can be one of the only places to find calm reasonable commentary.
And thats how 2010 left me flat. My decision to experiment with my wealth and travel about spending money and "being rich", due to me not having one single friend in real life to chase girls with, resulted in alot of cool stuff. Meet many people I would never have been able to meet otherwise, and get yet another set of stories nobody would believe if I told them. But ultimately, with less than one handful of exceptions, most of these people are rather lame. Its illegal to have real boobs in california or vegas, I think, which is lame. And most of the people I've met just aren't as good as the people I, very spoiled in this regard, have become accustomed to keeping company with, which is also lame. So, no matter who famous is sitting 3 feet away while you are getting drunk, and no matter how glorious your hotel suite, no matter if you are on the A list at whoevers dream club, this doesn't mean that your life isn't full of lameness. I will think of something to remedy this in 2011, mark my words. The people of california should be punished horribly for managing to take the single most beautiful and awesome place on the planet and convert it into lamesville. There is a reason they are broke.
So those are my wishes. May our lives be full of purpose, and excellent people working towards that purpose with us, one way or another.
Next post will have the predictions.