Meditation Pros and Cons – Might be Great for You, Might Kill You

“Sitting here attempting to meditate, I have counted the number of ways I know of killing someone, using just a finger, a hand, a foot. I had reached 94 when you entered.” – Star Trek: Voyager

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So, when I meditate?  Gotta have a tiger.  Nothing makes me calmer than sitting with an apex carnivore, because it allows me to forget materiality. 

So, I’ve always thought that meditation must be cool.  After all, David Carradine did it as Kwai Chang Caine all through the 1970’s as Kung Fu.  And he could give any group of bullies very peaceful and regretful butt-kicking they deserved.  And, really, throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s on television, meditation was seen as sort of a way to create super powers from within.  The (often Asian, or certainly taught-by-Asians) character would sit down, legs crossed, and would meditate until he got super-strength, super quickness, super pain tolerance, super control of his nervous system, or . . . super control of his ability to quickly grow fingernails at twice the speed of a normal human.

It was everywhere.  Meditation was the cure to all of life’s problems.  Transcendental Meditation™ would help with:

  1. Lower Stress – People who meditate appear to have lower stress and lower concentrations of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress). Me?  Sometimes when I try to meditate it stresses me out because I’m unsure if I’m doing it right, so I focus on that instead of meditating and pretty soon I’m wondering if I’ll have enough money when I’m 80 to parachute into the Super Bowl® and . . .
  2. More Work Output – Some study said that employees that meditate get more work done. I’m pretty sure that if my boss walks by my desk and sees me staring into a blank computer monitor and repeatedly saying “ohmmmmmmmm” he will either assume I’m measuring electronic resistance in my mind, or, more likely, he’ll think I’m off my rocker and rush to fire me before I can charge the company insurance a lot of money for treatment of whatever makes me stare at my monitor and say “ohmmmmmmm” again and again.
  3. Lower Blood Pressure – I thought I needed blood pressure? Oh, not the kind that causes blood to ooze out of my pores like sweat?  Got it.  I think this is probably compatible with the whole Lower Stress thing.
  4. Lower Risk of Heart Disease – If true, probably tied back to 1. and 3., above. Since heart disease sounds pretty bad, I’d probably like to avoid that.
  5. ADHD Treatment – Is ADHD made up? I don’t seem to recall this even existing when I was a kid – it was called, “being a kid.”  And you didn’t get classified narcotics for it.  You got a pile of wood to move and split and haul.  That typically un-deficited my attention and took all the energy I had stored up for hyperactivity away.  Move four tons of wood with a wheelbarrow?  Yeah, you’re not going to bug Mom to the point she wants to give you psychoactive drugs.  But apparently meditation works to help, too.
  6. Better Home Life – Yes, if you’re not a raging jerk from stress from work, that might help your home life. Or not.  Raging jerks seem to do okay, so don’t sell that short.
  7. Increased Intelligence – Unlikely. If you’re reading this blog, you’re already growing your IQ by 3 to 6 points . . . per hour.  If meditation increases your IQ?  Your head will explode.
  8. Ability to Smoke Weed Like the Beatles – Minus the money and the freedom from repercussions. Oh, wait, I’m describing most everyone.  No meditation required.
  9. Finding Chicks Like Yoko – How is this an advantage?
  10. Weight Loss – Yeah, most everyone wants to be skinnier. Except Gary Busey, who just wants to be a fried chicken.  Not eat it, be it.
  11. Growing Younger – Apparently (he said skeptically), a 55 year old that meditates regularly has the body of a 43 year old. Probably buried in his crawl space, right?  But here I think that there might be a correlation with the type of personality that has sufficient discipline to meditate regularly and not get side-tracked, rather than the meditation itself?
  12. Shinier Teeth – I made that one up. But, why not?

That sounds pretty good.  So why don’t people meditate more?

Well, there are some potential risks to meditation, namely a risk to your ego.  I’m not making this up.  Think about the process of meditation – it ends up bringing clarity and reflection on the way the world is, and, potentially, can strip away many of the constructs that we create in our day to day life.

And that is dangerous.

I had a boss that went to a leadership seminar – but this was an intensive leadership seminar, 12-14 hours a day, meant to rip the illusions about your life right up and out of your nostrils.  The theory was that this will allow you to take the risks and live your life unafraid.  Turns out that many people have built their entire life on illusions – and ripping those illusions out through your nostrils is painful.  Especially if you have to confront that you might be the cause of every problem you have, every repressed emotion, and that is dangerous.  According to my boss, one of these Fortune® 500 executives who had paid $25,000 for this course tried to kill himself due to guilt he felt after his illusions were pulled away.  (This is also why you DON’T TAKE my blog as ADVICE!)

Psychology Today (also a dubious publication) indicated that meditation can also lead to depersonalization, psychosis, anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and dating Yoko Ono.  They also indicated that those who had previous trauma could also be . . . dare I say . . . triggered by meditation.

Buddhist meditation was designed not to make us happier, but to radically change our sense of self and perception of the world. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that some will experience negative effects such as dissociation, anxiety and depression.

–  Psychologists Miguel Farias and Catherine Wilkolm

I have been attempting to meditate, in my own fashion.  My best success has been while I’m off, alone, floating in the Wilder Family hot tub (LINK).  I’ll sit there, alone, focusing on breathing, and then . . . wake up half an hour later.  I know that the instruction manual says never fall asleep in a hot tub, but I’m generally refreshed and have a pretty positive outlook when I wake up.  And Yoko Ono is safely far away in New York, living on John Lennon’s massive pile of money.

Also, I’ve learned to think, when I meditate, that I might be good at Kung Fu.  And levitating.  And . . . being able to grow my fingernails . . . really fast!

How People Get Rich, and How To Do Well At Work

“My last job was at a Taco Bell Express. Then they became a full Taco Bell and I just couldn’t keep up.” – The Office

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Pugsley before his first day at his new job in the salt mine.  

About 47.6% of the American economy consists of books that purport to tell you how to get rich.  (The other 52.4%?  Equal shares of pictures of naked ladies and Pez®.)  But how did the rich folks get rich?  Let’s make the assumption that you’re not going to be James Bond Enemy Island Secret Volcano Space Program Rich, since Elon Musk seems to have that market cornered . . . let’s still ask the question, how do people get rich?

  1. Inheriting it is the old fashioned way to do it. 30-40% of the Forbes 400 richest Americans . . . inherited it.  You never really hear this part of the story, because the story “Baby Billionaire Born” is not nearly as compelling as “Unsung genius invents an app to get a cab driver to come by your house and trim your nosehair with your iPhone.”  An astonishing 60% of American household wealth is inherited.  So, unless you’ve got great-aunt Grunelda leaving you a stash of cash, this isn’t in your wheelhouse.  For reference, we Wilders have little inherited wealth, but are willing to learn what it’s like for science if you want to cut us in on your will.
  2. Investments and Real Estate – 127 billionaires got their third comma from FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate), which we talked about before (LINK). In 2013, per evonomics.com, the ever-hated top 1% made 21% of the US income, which I’m sure they were pretty fond of, since that’s out punching your weight by 20 times!  But the big driver to their wealth?  Gains from their investments.  In 2013, they raked in 35% of the business gains (things like dividends, interest payments, stock price gains, and real estate, etc.).  Really, the big drivers were stock and real estate.  So, if you’re not born with cash, this seems to be the most reliable way to get buckets of it.
  3. Tech, Media, and Energy, combined to create 123 billionaires. Now don’t cry too much for this bunch being in third place, since it includes folks like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Ellison.  (I refuse to add Zuckerberg because he’s such a tool.)  It’s pretty cool that these folks managed to make bank by changing forever the way we use computers (Gates), purchase stuff (Bezos), and, well, whatever the hell Ellison does that allows him to own Hawaii.

As we’ve discussed before, a job is less preferable than owning a business, where you have other people working to make money for you, but it is possible to get into a pretty good position with a job.  This isn’t the last post where we’ll discuss this, because most people have jobs, don’t own businesses, and aren’t blessed (yet) with a really cool investment portfolio.

So, how can you maximize your income as an employee?  Here are my first ten (not my top ten, just the first ones):

  1. Do something valuable that requires you to think. College is a stupid idea for many people.  Honestly, lots of people going to college really don’t belong there – it’s just like four more years of high school for them.  Since employers can’t (by law) give IQ tests, they use college as a rough screen for IQ.  They want smart-ish workers (not TOO smart, mind you) and they use a college degree for a screen for that as well as the ability to defer pleasure now for a payout later.  Unless you’re going to get a degree that is required for the field, like science, engineering, law, medicine, accounting, finance, and teaching – I would think twice about college, especially if you choose a major like anthropology.  Seriously, fast food workers make more money than anthropology professors.  Smelly teen age fast food workers.  Also avoid: sociology, anything ending in “studies”, communications (The Mrs. has that one), recreational studies, art, classics, public administration, exercise physiology, media management, music therapy, etc., etc.  These are “degrees” made up by universities to extract the maximum student loan value from you.
  2. Pick the right industry. Pick an industry where there’s huge oceans of cash swimming around.  I’ve listed them up above – finance, real estate, energy, technology.  Pick one of those.  It’s still not easy to get rich there, but there is a TON of money floating around in those businesses.  Teaching?  Not so much.  Regardless of how much fun you have doing it, if you can’t support your family, that is going to suck your energy out like a cat eating a banana.  Find something that you can do that pays well, and do that thing.  Not many engineers (for instance) end up as really rich dudes.  That’s fine – the median engineer does well, but often doesn’t get to the top slot.  There were a LOT more guys with business degrees than engineering degrees, and you’re only seeing the ones that were good AND lucky that get to the top.  You’ve got to be good, but you’ve also got to be lucky (which will have its own future post).
  3. Work harder than the next guy – and be a closer. The only reason to watch Glengarry Glen Ross is the scene where Alec Baldwin, in no uncertain terms, illustrates that you have to work hard, and also have to show actual results.  I’ve linked to it below.  Be warned – the language and content are R-rated, so if you’re squeamish about naughty words and crude concepts, skip it, but this seven minute scene he’s in got him a nomination for best supporting actor.  Seven minutes.  Really, working hard is important because it sets the stage for results, but results must  (Note:  a recent study showed that bosses only care about how much time you’re in the office, and think if you’re there a lot, you’re working hard.  Guess they never heard about goofing off?)  Are results the only thing that matters?  No.  But they matter A LOT.
  4. Don’t scare your boss. If you work hard and are smart and are getting great results, you should be setting yourself up for amazing success, right?    You might be one step away from being fired.  Bosses are people, too, and most of them don’t want to be eclipsed by an employee, namely, you.  If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance that, besides being handsome and bullet-proof, you’re smarter than your boss.  With a good boss, that’s okay – he (or she) wants to teach you and allow you to grow.  With an insecure boss?  Oh, my.  With an insecure boss who doesn’t have skills?  Competence is a death warrant, or at least a quick ride to a pink slip.  If you have a scared boss?  Act stupid.  Give them bread crumbs to come to a good decision, and then allow them to take the credit.  Most importantly?  Align your incentives so if your boss makes you look bad, it is a reflection on their leadership.  Sometimes none of this will work.  Look for a new job or a new position in the company, but be prepared to exit involuntarily.  Insecure people are horrible (more on this in a future post).  One other note?  At some point you will have a really horrible boss.  Deal with it.
  5. Stay off of lists. HR has a list of people who, say, didn’t do training.  Who showed up late to work.  Who go one too many times to Facebook on the company Internet.  Who call a radio station 3400 times in a month attempting to be caller nine with the phrase that pays (this actually happened to someone I knew).  These lists might be petty lists, with “insignificant” actions or behaviors on them, but your very presence on the list turns you into your boss’s enemy, because you just became someone he has to defend to HR.  A boss, even a good one, will only go to that well so many times.
  6. Be flexible. No, not like a gymnast.  For your boss, your job description is only the barest suggestion.  If he or she asks you to learn to translate ancient Babylonian tablets instead of your job, which is generally being an accounting clerk, TRANSLATE THE TABLETS.  A job isn’t an argument, and if you make it one, you become . . . another pain to your boss.
  7. Be firm when your principles are involved. Even if means your job.  When I was doing an internship in college, the boss asked me to do something I knew to be technically illegal (like a real “go to federal prison” felony).  I told him no, I couldn’t do that.  He was on the road, and called, yelling at me to do the illegal thing.  I went to his boss (VP), and told him about the illegal action, and explained why it was a felony.  The VP made one minor comment, but was in agreement with my boss.  I told my professor (that I was taking a business organization class from) about the situation, and asked what he thought I should do.  He told me, “Well, it looks like you already quit.”  I thought about it, and, yeah, I had quit, but I was the only one at work who didn’t recognize it.  I turned in my notice the next day.  They weren’t surprised.  Don’t be a felon.  Don’t compromise your basic beliefs for a job – that’ll tear you up inside more than having a Chihuahua with needle-sharp teeth surgically implanted next to your spleen.
  8. Be a solution, not a problem. I have a rule with people who work for me – don’t come to me with a problem.  Come to me with a problem and two or three suggested solutions.  Most of the time I take one of their solutions.  Some people?
  9. Be nice. Those people you’re working with?  They talk to your boss, too.  And if you’re nice to people?  Good karma accumulates.
  10. Be on time. Just do this.  Being late shows a lack of respect for whatever you’re late to.

So, unless one of you is gonna write me in on your will, and die soon, I’ve gotta go to work tomorrow.  And follow my own advice.  But I’m still saving up for that private volcano island.  Right now I think I can afford a small rock outcropping off the coast of that Pacific island inhabited by cannibals that kill and eat anyone who stops nearby (this is a real place).  But, hey, it’s a start.

This blog is not financial advice, yadda-yadda-yadda-yadda.  Be responsible for yourself.

(Reminder – LOTS of naughty language.)

Sleep Deprivation, Health, Zombies, and B-Movies

“All persons who die during this crisis from whatever cause will come back to life to seek human victims, unless their bodies are first disposed of by cremation.” – Night of the Living Dead

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This is a test pattern, back from the days before Infomercials. Public Domain.

Sleep and I have always had a rough relationship.  As soon as I discovered Creepy Creature Feature movies on Saturday night (the movies STARTED at 11:30PM, after Star Trek reruns were over) I was hooked.  I was also in kindergarten, and it was the height of irresponsible behavior for my Grandparents to let me stay up that late, but as long as they could go to bed after Hee-Haw® and the weather forecast, they were happy.

On most Saturday nights when I was a wee Wilder, I would weasel my way to Grandma and Grandpa McWilder’s place because they were so fun to be with.  Grandma McWilder would cook me my favorite dinner, and give me money to buy comic books.  You’re thinking Archie® and Superman© and X-Men™, right?  Sure, I bought plenty of those.  But Grandma didn’t seem to care what a five-year-old bought, and the store didn’t seem to care, either.

To be clear, if I went to the store as a five-year-old and wanted to buy a carton of cigarettes they would have sold them to me.  I bought issues of National Lampoon in the 1970’s that had . . . NAKED WOMEN in them.  And you thought that all people were fully clothed all the time, before the Internet.  Not so.

They wouldn’t have sold me liquor, though.  That’s at least sixth grade.

So I bought:

Creepy and Eerie Magazines – the best in 1970’s black and white cartoon gore:

creepy cover

Nothing unusual here, just a woman holding a disembodied hand close to her chest.  Happens every day, most normal thing in the world.

Image owner likely Dark Horse, used under Fair Use (Criticism), but I’ll take it down if they ask.

And, even:

Off-brand magazines like Weird.  Which were not as good as Creepy, but made up for it with worse artwork:

weird magazine cover

No, that’s not “Wired” it’s “Weird.”  I’m pretty sure I had this issue, but sadly can’t remember a thing that went on in the comic – I’m sure there must be a reason purple-skull man and the werewolf are killing vampires.  Probably a zoning violation?

Image owner unknown and probably hiding, used under Fair Use (Criticism), but I’ll take it down if they ask.

Anyway, Grandma didn’t mind if I was up until 1:30 AM when the test pattern came on watching invisible atomic brain monsters (1958’s Fiend Without a Face) get shot and dissolve in a movie that five year old Johnny Wilder thought was really, really good (I give it five blankets over the head!).  But most of those movies were 1950’s B-movies that were so absurd that even my five-year-old brain could scoff at with ease.  Mostly, I’d just watch the giant spider fight the giant radiation enhanced cow and go to bed.

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Not a radiation enhanced cow. (Source, Wikimedia, fair use, criticism)

But then, one night they showed Night of the Living Dead.  Uncut.  Totally uncut, bare butts and all.  More importantly, all of the zombie human-eating was in the movie, too.  This was certainly the scariest movie I’d ever seen, and only one or two in the future would ever capture the utter dread that this movie brought, along with the calculation that Grandma’s house simply had TOO MANY WINDOWS to board up in the event of a Zombie apocalypse.  Plus, the entire concept was new to me – dead people craving human flesh and actually not going to McDonald’s drive-through, but hunting their own!

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EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!  Zombies!

This one is, through an odd twist, likely Public Domain.  I’d certainly take it down if Mr. Romero asked me to.

It’s now 1:30AM.  Time to go to bed, but I don’t want to walk on the floor because it creaks.  That would certainly draw the zombies my direction.  I finally get up, and go to the spare bed that’s in Grandma’s bedroom where I normally sleep.

After watching zombies eat living humans my five-year-old brain processed certain facts:

  • Dead people might become zombies, and
  • Develop an insatiable desire to eat human flesh.

I then recalled:

  • Grandma was very old (like 70!), and
  • Old people died, and
  • She might become a zombie in the middle of the night, and
  • I was made of human flesh.

So, if you’ve ever had difficulty sleeping because you thought your wonderful, kindly Grandma might become a zombie and eat you while you were still alive, raise your hand.

Only me?

Anyhow, sleep and I have continued a dubious relationship, and during my life, whenever I could stay up late I certainly did.  But, when I was younger, I would never sleep more than eight or so hours at a stretch until going to wrestling camp in high school.  One of the other wrestlers would just sleep whenever he could.  This was a huge change of perspective for me:  I always avoided naps, and had since I was in head start, and would throw blocks at the other kids who were actually good and attempting to sleep like I was supposed to do.  Heck, even before they kicked me out of head start I knew that naps weren’t for closers.

So, I discovered naps.  What fun!  My sleep schedule became even more chaotic and drift even farther from normal, first a little, then finally my sophomore year of college I had no classes that started before noon.  But the work happened, 7AM start times, early morning sunlight.

The break of dawn.  Ewwww.

At times my sleep pattern has provided four hours of sleep a day during the week, followed by 12 hour weekend crashes.  And, I hear that’s not really good for me unless, that heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes are good things.  WebMD.com says that those things are really not good for me.  Web MD further states that it can lower my testosterone, make my skin wrinkle, make me gain weight, and (eek), make me die earlier.

That sounds negative, which makes me wonder how did Edison get by on a steady schedule of only four hours of sleep a night?  Well, apparently he did a lot of napping, which must not have counted.  But he really did get by on less sleep than 8 a night.  A lot less.  And a host of famous people have gotten by with less, even though WebMD says they’re all going to die next week.

I have been pushing it too much recently, though.  Since restarting the blog, I spend about nine to twelve hours a week on it, prepping, researching, writing, editing and publishing, and so far I’ve taken that time out of sleep, rather than other pursuits.

I’ve started graphing my sleep, and so far I’ve added about five hours a week back, during the weekdays, where I’d sometimes been getting less than four a night.

One thing I’ve noted when I go to bed early, is I wake up after that four hours, and sometimes have difficulty getting back to sleep – so I’ve begun taking a little melatonin prior to going to bed.  It’s literally a little, 1 milligram – The Mrs. takes about 10 milligrams, I think, and calls me a lightweight.

So, if you’re up too late and can’t sleep, here’s a copy of Fiend Without a Face, courtesy of YouTube – I hear a remake is coming, but you can enjoy the cheesy effects, especially about one hour and seven minutes into the movie . . .

Just make sure that you have a contingency plan in place to take care of Granny if she goes zombie on you . . .

Note:  JOHN WILDER IS NOT A DOCTOR.  Please don’t do anything unless you’ve talked it over with a large stable of professionals, like your actual doctor.

 

Kiyosaki and Sources Of Wealth

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your khakis.” – Fight ClubDSC02988

Someone’s Rich Dad?  Yeah, no marble sculptures of Poor Dad.  The Romans took “Got Your Nose” seriously.

I think that Robert Kiyosaki wants you to be rich.  I’m certain he wants you to think that he’s on your side, and he’s also spent a lot of time and effort doing presentations long after I would have retired to my private island off the coast of Antarctica (I like it cold) with my laser penguins.  Kiyosaki has made a metric ton of quarters selling the concepts in his Rich Dad/Poor Dad series of books (Amazon LINK) through both the books and personal consulting (rumor has it personal coaching can cost $45,000, and those are real American dollars, not fake Canadian metric currency).

Kiyosaki’s story is that his natural father was “Poor Dad.”  I’m assuming this book was NOT originally released on Father’s Day.

Poor Dad was very smart, and had a Ph.D. and worked in high government posts, but had a worldview that didn’t set Robert up for financial success.  By contrast, “Rich Dad,” a mentor and friend, explained how getting to financial freedom and wealth really worked.

Kiyosaki breaks the ways that people make money into four categories:

  1. Being an employee. This is most of us, and society works to perpetuate this role.  What is an employee?  One who works for a salary (or hourly wages) and benefits.  We live with a misconception that being an employee carries with it a degree of security, even if it’s less security today than it was in, say, 1970.  If you work for the government, however, it’s more likely that you’ll get malaria from a married vampire bat than get fired. (really)

Being an employee is generally based in . . . fear.  And the ultimate fear that employees have is . . . termination.  The threat of being fired, for many, is a direct threat to the core of who and what they are.

Being fired brings with it:

  1. Reduction in Resources – Most jobs pay enough to keep you coming back, but only a very few offer sufficient extra income to build real wealth. To the astonishingly high 78% of Americans that sometimes or always live paycheck to paycheck, the threat of job loss is especially dire.  It doesn’t help that we, as consumers often increase our individual spending so that it matches our income.  But, I’ve posted about that before (LINK).
  2. Loss of Status – Many men (especially) think of themselves AS their job. When you think about it, this makes sense.  The first question you ask a working-age man that you’ve just met is “What do you do?”  This establishes him the social hierarchy.  Society really does define a man by his work.  Time at work can represent half of your waking time.  In 2015, I spent 48% of my waking time at work or commuting to work, meaning I interacted more with co-workers than I did with my family that year.  Status drives many important hormones, and, for men, stress and job loss actually cause testosterone levels to plummet.
  3. Loss of Purpose – I’ve discussed before (LINK) that purpose is necessary for a real life, and it’s necessary to have a big one. Given the hours and time spent at work, it’s inevitable that work can become our purpose.  When you lose that purpose, you’re set adrift until you find a new one.

In a sense, the employer/employee relationship is a kinda like an “on speaking terms” hostage situation.  They have a job that represents status, purpose, and life-giving resources.  You have all of your time, effort, and passion to trade for that job.  Kiyosaki thinks that’s a bad trade.  But he could buy his own island.

  1. Small Business Ownership is the second income generator that Kiyosaki talks about. And, if possible, it comes off even worse than being an employee.  Being a small business owner entails all of the work of being and employee, plus lots more risk.  His reasoning is that employees at least have the business to fall back on if they have a bad day, week, or year.  Kiyosaki defines a small business as a business where, if you take a day off, the business cannot go.  You’re the spark, the fuel supply, and the tires.  Essentially, you become the whole car.  Or Taco Truck.
  2. Business Owner, which Kiyosaki defines as someone who hires employees (smart ones!) to work for him (or her). Kiyosaki feels that small businesses can’t compete at all against these larger entities, since he can hire great legal, accounting, and HR people and small businesses have to do all of that themselves, generally not very well.  Given that the business has support staff in place, the business owner can focus on the business itself.  The owner can also take a day or a week off and the business will continue to function and generate wealth.  Kiyosaki likes this, since money invested into the business makes more money.  And Kiyosaki breaks with many financial advisors here – debt is just fine in his book as long as the debt is generating more revenue than it costs.  This is his formula for building personal wealth, as well as freeing up time to do . . . whatever it is you want to do.
  3. Investing is the end stage for Kiyosaki. Investing allows for all of the time freedom, plus financial freedom.  All of the wealth you could want.  Kiyosaki would NOT classify your house as one of your investments – it doesn’t generate revenue, and you have to pay for it, so it’s a liability.  Investments generate income.  Oh, and risk?

“Investing is less risky than being an employee.  Skilled investors are in control of their investments, employees are controlled by a boss.”

Furthermore, Kiyosaki makes this Zen-like statement:  “ . . . you do NOT (emphasis in original) invest with money!  You invest with your mind!”  In other words?  Find the deal and the money will show up.

As I said, this is a different way to look at life – a different lens.  I’ll easily admit that my life since I was 22 has been focused on being a great employee.  At some point, it seems I need to have better investments, but note that Kiyosaki says . . . “Skilled investors,” but, alas, tonight I learned that my Pez® collection is not an investment because it generates no revenue.

Thoughts?

Free to Choose, or, Economics is Stupid

“It’s not my fault your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some philosophy of self-enhancement.” – Star Trek, Deep Space 9

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The Boy, when you won’t buy his feathers.  

It’s amazing how it can take a lot years of study to state something that’s blindingly obvious.

Economics is one of those sciences that does exactly that.  It took an Austrian, Carl Menger, until 1871 to state a fact which most of us take to be blinding obvious – people value things differently.

Let’s take Pez©.  Everyone thinks that Pez® is roughly worth its weight in gold, and, should we need to give our gold to the aliens of Zontar-7 so they can make a gigantic gold Pez™ dispenser for their harvest god, well, instead of gold we could use Pez©.

Wait, not everyone thinks that Pez® is as valuable as gold?

Menger came up with the concept that, in a free exchange, both sides of a deal walk away happy.  When I go to Wal-Bart, I trade them dollars for steak.  They want the dollars more than the steak.  I want the steak more than I want the dollars.  We both win!

I know that sounds obvious, but this one bit of philosophy is the foundation of an entire political movement, libertarianism.  I know it sounds like I’m joking, but I’m not.

Let’s take Marxism, the whole communist philosophy thing.  Karl Marx (another Carl? What IS it with that name?) said it all a bit differently, and, history shows, a lot more stupidly.

Marx said, essentially:  an object was worth the amount of labor and material that went into making it.  Only a fool would make the obvious joke about polishing a poop . . . but that’s exactly what Marx said.  Okay, he didn’t make an explicit joke about a poop.  But the philosophy still stands . . .

If you spent a million hours of labor in polishing a poop perfectly, it’s still a poop.  But that poop represents the labor and hours and investment of good Soviet Men!  So they must be accounted that way.  The free market allows for profit!  Which is also bad, because it’s MORE than the cost of production of the item.  But it’s just philosophy, right?

And that philosophy resulted in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cambodia, North Korea, and Viet Nam.  Oh, and at least 94,000,000 dead.

The practical impact of that philosophy was felt in the USA, too.  In the 1970’s, in response to rising gasoline prices (due to the OPEC oil embargo), the price of gasoline was limited to a maximum price.  So, gasoline prices went up, but not as much as a free market would have driven them.  The result?

Long lines at gas stations.  If you were a typical driver, you needed gas to get to work.  Your boss then (as now) had zero sympathy for you not having gas.  So, you got in line at the gas station, waiting to get gas as soon as the truck showed up and filled up the station’s tanks.  But pretty soon everybody had the idea, and the lines for gasoline wrapped around city blocks.  Then rationing started – only even numbered license plates could come in on Tuesday.  And odd numbered plates on Wednesday.  And non-binary transgender plates on Thursday.  You get the point.

You and I might think that this idea was put into place to drive the public crazy, but it was supposed to help us.  When Ronald Reagan became president, he dumped this crazy Nixon-era idea, and then . . . lines stopped.  The price of gasoline went up, it went down, but nobody had to face a line at the pump.

And Menger started that revolution, simply by stating what you and I know to be true:

A thing is worth . . . exactly what someone will pay for it.  And in a free transaction?  Everybody wins.

Let me give another example:

The Boy was going to second grade.  For whatever reason, they made feathers out of construction paper.  In whatever fever-induced-second-grader dream he was having, I was supposed to buy, with real money, these feathers from him.

If you’ve never had a seven-year-old screaming at the top of his lungs, “BUY MY FEATHERS,” well, you’ve never lived.

The Boy was also pretty sure about the price he wanted.  He wanted two dollars for each construction paper feather, and demanded I buy five of them.  DEMANDED!

Normally, The Boy has, was, and is reasonable.  On this day?  He was a screaming pile of id, demanding payment.

In a rational, calm voice, I tried to negotiate.  “How about a dollar a feather.”

“NO! TWO DOLLARS!  BUY MY FEATHERS!”

“How about I buy one of them?”

“NO! BUY THEM ALL!”

It started to feel like negotiating with a cop over a ticket for not stopping “enough” at the stop sign, or the IRS about not paying them “all” of the money they said I owed them.  There was no rational basis for this.  Just like Marx, The Boy saw only one value for the feathers, and that was the value he put on them.

So, in his mind, I was to buy a set quantity of a thing, for a price that he dictated.

He should be in government, thus endeth example the second.

But when you look at the counter example, I can recall that almost every transaction where I’ve bought something, sold something, or traded something for something else, I’ve come out happy.  And so have they.

Sure, I didn’t want to pay a lot of money for electricity for air conditioning while I lived in Houston, but that was way better than living in Houston without air conditioning.  I had a choice.  And when I bought that Battlestar Galactica Original Helmet©, complete with signatures from Apollo™ and Starbuck™?  Yes.  Totally worth it.

In a free market, people are free to choose.  I get to choose my own purchases (most of them, thank you IRS, Social Security, Medicare).  When businesses are free to choose, they can choose to serve me or not.  Thus came, from this simple economic idea, an entire political idea – I can choose what schools, what kind of light bulbs, what size of toilet tank, and almost every aspect of your life.

In the year 1900, your involvement with the federal government would have consisted of going to the post office.  That was (pretty much) it.

Now?  You get up, brush your teeth with an FDA approved toothpaste, shower in water covered by several federal laws, in a shower where the valve is regulated to work a certain way, and then dress, go to your car (as approved by several governing bodies, including the EPA and the NHTSAA) and turn onto a road paved with federal funding.

All of this before you get to work!

I’m not saying that I think the end result of all of those laws was bad, but they do limit our freedom to choose our own path.  And that adds cost, removes our choices and makes us all poorer.

Except for The Boy.  He apparently can set his own price for construction-paper feathers.

Will young blood keep me alive forever? or . . . Blood, Billionaires, and Mice

“Think about it. From vampirism to Catholicism, whether literally or symbolically, the reward for eating flesh is eternal life.” – The X Files

DSC04036

The blood is fake, as is the snow . . . 

Blood.  There’s a lot of it coursing through The Boy’s veins . . .

Last August, I read an article that I found fascinating.  Eggheads performed a study in 2014 that showed when old mice were injected with the blood plasma from young mice that their ability to learn increased, and their memory increased as well.  I’m not sure if they gave the mice the verbal section of the SAT to test them (or, if they took expensive mouse SAT prep courses), but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t give the mice the essay section of the SAT, since all the mice would have had to write about would be how these giant humans keep sticking them with needles.  Oh, and the mice could write about Game of Thrones.  Mice love Game of Thrones.

It turns out that Peter Thiel, multi-billionaire tech investor, is very interested in the implications of those needle-shy mice.  Thiel has been aggressively working on life extension techniques and technology.  This makes sense, since if you’re a multi-billionaire, your checklist for must-haves includes:

  • Island Lair
  • Ownership of a Small South American Country
  • Asian Manservant
  • Low-Yield Nuclear Arsenal
  • Eternal Life

I kid.  Mr. Thiel appears to be six degrees of awesome:

  • He’s a multi-billionaire, but also
  • Chess Life Master
  • Co-Founder of Pay Pal
  • Bought 10% of Facebook for $500,000
  • Has a TV Character Based on Him

He also wants you to live forever, and is funding research to extend life for everybody.  This would change the math of retirement/Social Security, but would also allow people enough life to explore different professions, to change the dynamic of families by providing a coherent story that spanned hundreds of years, or to play endless video games and eat Nachos Bellgrande® forever.

Thiel looks to an optimistic future where people live and contribute to the fullest (though I suspect there’ll be a LOT of 800 year old stoners on basement couches).That where parabiosis comes in.

Parabiosis Etymology:

  • Para from Latin, meaning “Two,”
  • Bio from the Ancient Greek for “Story” and
  • Sis meaning “Sister,”
  • So, literally two stories about your sister – and they aren’t flattering.

Parabiosis as term initially described (and I am not making this up) experiments where two critters of the same species were surgically joined, especially their circulatory systems.  Besides being a bad B-movie plot, this practice was largely forgotten for over 70 years.  New experimenters, encouraged by Christopher Lee playing Dracula, picked the experiments up again.  Someone had the bright idea to stop stitching mice together, and just inject them.  The mice were very pleased, since now they could avoid the whole creepy “sewing two animals together thing” and just have their blood transferred back and forth via needle.  That takes all the fun out of it, but it did induce the mice to stop the strike.

Anyhow, the results showed that injecting old mice with “young” mouse blood plasma had the significant positive health impacts mentioned previously, making them “younger.”  Injecting young mice with “old” mouse plasma made them, in many measurable ways, “older” – they formed fewer brain cells, and tended to hike their pants up higher and reminisce about back in the day when they were baby mice.

Some studies have even been done with humans, and there appears to be significant benefits to us, as well.

Wow.

Given that it looks like the changes might be real, and might be long lasting, there is some pretty significant interest in parabiosis as a starter longevity treatment.

It’s not like we have a shortage of young people who have rich, sweet plasma that you could milk, er, drain, er, farm, er, whatever.  Is harvest politically correct?  And a fit 18 year old can generate 800ML (more than a wine bottle’s worth) of plasma a week safely.  Unlike kidneys, which have to be bought using blackmail or a cheap hotel room and a bathtub filled with ice, it’s totally legal in most places to BUY plasma from the donors – you don’t have to put on a cape or sneak into their room in the dark with fangs.  You can buy it for $40 or $50.

This treatment is totally not a standard FDA/AMA approved treatment.  There is, however, a completely legal way to get a treatment with the plasma, if you have $8,000.  Ambrosia LLC (LINK) is running a trial on the therapy, complete with an extensive (and expensive) panel of blood work to test the before condition and the after impacts of the therapy.  There are even rumors that several Silicon Valley tech titans have their own young and healthy donors on retainer (and, yes, this is legal – if you have $200,000 or so, you could probably wrangle this as well).

And, you might well ask – have you, John Wilder, considered doing this?  Certainly!  $8000 (plus travel to and from) is a bit pricey, and I thought of putting in a GoFundMe or Kickstarter for a “Blogger Looking For Blood” might even get me close to the asking price.  I could even make the argument it’s tax deductible, since I’m doing it for you, dear readers.

I even have my own prospective donor, The Boy, who is so healthy and strapping that he exudes wellness through his pores, along with sweat and teenage boy stink.

I wonder if there’s a BYOB (Bring Your Own Blood) discount?