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January, 2018:

Thinking Excercise: Age

Have a look at this graph:

US Demographic by Age

There has never been as many old people in the US as there is today, and that number is only going to get bigger. What determinations can you make from it? Women live longer than men, obviously. But go deeper. What other conclusions or questions can you come up with? Can you think of any opportunities? Stop reading now, and think.

How about:

1) Who’s paying the social security? (A: Not enough.) There obviously has to be changes to system to make it viable. (If you’re 20, what do you think the odds are that the retirement age is still 65 when you get grey?)

2) The US funeral business looks to be a growth industry for the next 30-40 years.

3) Before the baby boomers die off, most have to make the process from “middle age” to old to, “I have more wrinkles than a bulldog”. The demand for assisted living, (known as “old folks homes” to the younger set) is set to take off.

4) The amount of (legal) drugs consumed increases with age, doesn’t it? That’s a good tailwind for the pharmaceutical industry.

5) There’s more 45-50 year olds than 0-5. Presumably more people born 45-50 years ago have died than ones born less than 5 years ago. We can reasonably assume that the American population (minus immigration) is shrinking.

What do you have?

Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL)… Ripoff?

No, I’m not chopping down rain forests to build a coal fired power plant as I type.

But this is something I came up with when asking myself questions like:    “Every place I see nowadays seems to have these compact flourescent lightbulbs to save power… is that right?” and “What is everyone missing here?”

Then I came across at least one answer.

Fr Wikipedia:

“Approximately 90% of the power consumed by an incandescent light bulb is emitted as heat, rather than as visible light.

A typical compact flourescent lightbulb uses around 1/4 to 1/5 of the power of a normal lightbulb.  But they also cost a lot more than a normal incandescent lightbulb.  So it takes a period of some years for them to pay for themselves… right?

Well, not if you place that lightbulb in a place that requires heat.   Like Canada or the north part of the US.  Because for every kilowatt hour being “wasted” as heat, that’s one less kilowatt hour you need to spend on your heating bill.

So in places that spend a lot of their time requiring heat to keep the space usable, the time required for energy savings to pay for the extra cost of the flourescent bulb isn’t measured in years, it’s measured in decades.   Or never, realistically.   Does that apply to outdoor bulbs, or places that never require heating?  No.   In places that have air conditioning, they’re performing double duty, putting out less heat that needs to be remedied by spending even more power on air conditioning.

So is it a scam?  Not at all.  But in many parts of the world and in many, many situations, it simply costs so much more than a normal incandescent light bulb, that what’s the difference?  As long as you’re losing money, who cares what the intent was?


(I’m sure there’s other factors, too.  I have a hard time believing that anything that requires 40-50 different components to function is going to last longer on average than something that contains 4 or 5.  Out of 5 indoor CFLs in my house, 2 of them have burned out this winter alone.)

Obsessive Compulsive… Order?

As has been recently demonstrated in books such as “The Genius in All of Us” and “Talent is Overrated”, genius, or extreme talent is not born, it is earned. The average master in any given discipline has spent more than 10,000 hours honing his or her craft. And not just 10,000 hours doing stuff that you can already do in your sleep. A concert pianist playing chopsticks does not count. That’s 10,000 hours spent outside of the “comfort zone”. Practicing/learning things which do not come easy. Breaking down the most difficult aspects of whatever it is they do, identifying the part they have the most trouble with, and repeating relentlessly. Deliberate practice.

What does this mean for the average Joe like you and me? Well, not much. If you’re reading stuff like this, you probably don’t have 10,000 hours to put into something. That’s why most “masters” started their training when they were children. Putting in the time is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about making money to put food in your mouth.

However, consider this… how much time does the average person spend deliberately practicing anything? In school, perhaps. Homework is generally designed around that concept. But how many of us actually deliberately practice, say, looking for opportunities? Creating a business? Public speaking? The answer is, hardly anybody.

Almost no one deliberately practices anything unless they have to. It’s by it’s very nature unpleasant. It’s identifying what we do worst, and practicing that specifically. So how does one motivate one’s self to do it? Passion. You need to have a passion for whatever it is you do. You need to feel a desire to do it as soon as you wake up in the morning.

It’s so complete, that chances are you’re going to end up neglecting a few things in your life. That’s what is meant by “sacrifice”. I would honestly rather stay in on a Friday night and work on my (poker) game than go out and party. I often find my mind drifting during boring bits of conversation to things like how I would play 87s on the button against a 3-bet from the big blind. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, it’s just poker stuff.)

That’s passion. Or as it’s called in psychology circles… obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s not their fault, it is simply the natural result of a profession that is built around determining what “normal” is, and getting people that have mentally gone off the tracks back to that baseline.

But we’re not looking for normal, here. We’re looking for above and beyond. And almost without exception, the best performers at almost every pursuit have put in an amount of work and effort that would make a “normal” person wince, and make a psychologist perscribe pills.

There’s really no difference between that kind of passion and an addiciton, other than one is presumably positive, and the other isn’t. An addiction that makes one look at himself honestly in the mirror, identify his weak points, and strive to improve them.

But passion can be such a difficult word to picture. So few of us have ever spent time around a truly skilled practicioner who has an honest-to-god passion for what s/he does. But addiction, we’ve all seen that, we’ve all been there.

And that’s what we need to develop to become successful. A positive addiction. Obsessive complusive order.

Practice “Thinking Outside the Box”

One of the most important parts of being able to live off your wits is the ability to see opportunity where others see nothing but doom and gloom. Through our five senses, we are exposed to over a million individual bits of information every second. And it is up to us to decide which ones we pay attention to.

Many of us prefer to focus on information that shows that the world is a nasty, brutish place. That we are victims, thus absolving ourselves for any responsibility for our situations. I was just born fat. Those greedy CEOs are taking all the money. Those damn illegal immigrants are taking all of the jobs. You’ve heard it all before.

Many of us prefer to focus on the information that shows that the world is a kind, loving place. There’s someone out there for everyone, the meek shall inherit the earth, my chi is strong, but I’m a little indecisive because I’m a Gemini. Certainly a happier world view than the first example, but it requires one to ignore rather a large chunk of reality. The chunk with the problems in it.   But where there’s problems, there’s opportunity.

What we need to focus on is two things:
a) Is there an opportunity hidden here, if so, where?
b) What is everyone else missing?

Truth is, every single thing you see with your eyes except some portions of the night sky, someone made money off of somewhere. Sometimes it was extremely difficult, requiring millions of man-hours of labour. Sometimes it is breathtakingly simple. The grass out front? Someone grew and sold the sod. $$. Someone’s cutting that grass. If that’s not the owner, that’s $$ for someone. Does it need fertilizer or pesticide? $$.

Now let’s practice. Global warming. (If you don’t believe it exists, fine. Pretend you do. Practice getting outside your belief system.) Bad, right? Sure. All bad? If you believe so, you haven’t spent a lot of time examining that belief.

So let’s try this thought excercise. Try to figure out 5 benefits of global warming. They don’t have to benefit the entire population, just some segment of it.

Now along those same lines, try naming some investment opportunities that might benefit or might not even exist without the earth getting warmer.

Global Warming Forecast

Go ahead. Think about it. Cultivating a state of mind that allows you to see positive aspects and opportunities that others miss is absolutely VITAL to taking control… not just of your finances, but of your mind.