Paleo vs. Primal vs. Atkins, Thermodynamics and A Calorie Is Not a Calorie

“In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!” – The Simpsons

IMG00059

The Boy during a Primal phase.  Brains are Primal, right?

What does a diet do?  There are thousands (if not millions) of different diet books in print, each with a new diet, and they appear nearly hourly.  Diet books, perhaps, due to sheer number density, might form an information black hole that sucks in all other books.  Even Dilbert (LINK).  Then I would be sad.

The purpose of a diet should be twofold – to produce optimal nutrition at a healthy weight.  And make no mistake, those shiftless British (LINK) have done a study of British medical records and determined that . . . it sucks for your health to be overweight.  Being fit and fat?  Probably (according to the Portuguese guy I accosted on the street while yelling about these results in a threatening monotone) a pretty little lie we tell ourselves.

Out of this vast galaxy of diets, I’m picking out five for further discussion and follow up with a description of what thermodynamics says about them.  I pick these because they seem to be the main pattern of diets today:

  1. Vegetarian/Vegan: No one actually does this, but there are millions of people professing to like tofu instead of ribeye, and wanting you to have a meat-substitute brisket in the smoker.  And a vegan?  They will change any discussion that’s occurring in order to bring up the fact that they’re a vegan.

John Wilder:  “I hear that there might be life on Mars.”

Vegan:  “I hope it’s a vegetable, because I’m a vegan.”

It is my prediction that veganism/vegetarianism will catch on like wildfire when rare filet mignon and bratwurst are declared vegetables.  Sweet, meaty, fatty vegetables.

 

  1. Low Fat: Very popular in 1977 when your Mom took up smoking to impress that guy who had the cool Camaro®.  Still popular with the makers of sugar!, high-fructose corn syrup©, breakfast cereal®, and Pop Tarts™.

 

Oh, and turkeys!  Turkey bacon, turkey burgers, turkey cheese, turkey sour cream, and turkey mint julips.  Everything that’s come in about this diet indicates that it’s wrong on every possible level, including being responsible for Angela Merkel’s haircut.

 

  1. Paleo: The basic theory is that the human digestive system has simply not caught up to agricultural life, unlimited Twinkies®, unlimited couch time with Halo 47©, and unlimited calories.  Since our digestive system hasn’t come under significant evolutionary pressure, we’d be better off drinking elk blood in the forest.

The Paleo diet allows no: grains, sugar, beans, dairy, potatoes, processed food (I’ll miss you, dear bacon), refined vegetable oils, salt, alcohol, and good heavens, coffee.

That’s unnecessarily cruel!  No coffee?  What would I do for a personality?

A good website on Paleo is here (LINK).

Real short version?

2-0-1-7 tomorrow, out of time, so tonight we’re going to eat like it’s 10,099.

BC.

  1. Primal: A lot like Paleo, but recognizes the central role of coffee to my central nervous system.  Additionally, in comparison to Paleo, it’s more of a complete lifestyle, including exercising and having relationships like a Neolithic tribal dude.

The Primal diet is a lot like the Paleo diet, but you can have dairy, coffee, some potato, coffee, beans are okay-ish, coffee, and wisely chosen dietary supplements.  Did I mention coffee is okay?

The definitive website for Primal is here.  (This is also the definitive post.)

  1. Atkins® (or “keto”): Nuke the carbs from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.  Lifestyle?  Who cares.    THE.  CARBS.  20 grams or less of carbohydrates in some phases of the diet.  Bonus?  Eat all the bacon.  And drink all the coffee.

How does a diet work to help attain or maintain a healthy weight?

First:  What’s a Calorie?

In nutrition, a Calorie is a measure of the chemical energy stored in food.  It has a specific scientific definition as being “the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1˚Centigrade.”  So, if you weighed 750 kilograms (more than 1,500 pounds), you just have to walk into a fridge and reduce your body temperature by one degree, and when you warm yourself up, presto, a cheeseburger vanishes from your thigh!

In reality, there’s enough thermal energy in 10 plain chocolate M&M’s® to raise a big cup of coffee from room temperature to a pleasantly hot 130˚F.  When I tried this experiment at home, the coffee stayed cold, but got chocolatey after a day or so.  Then moldy.  Then The Mrs. yelled at The Boy and blamed him for the mess.  Whew!  It’s great having folks who’ll take the fall for a fiver.

The way they determine the Calorie content of your food is (I’m not making this up) by burning it in a really sensitive oven and measuring how much heat it gives off.

But your body doesn’t spontaneously combust, no matter how many pancakes you eat, so I’m thinking that the body may have a tiny lit furnace someplace south of your stomach, except for Pugsley, since sometimes he smells like burning tires.

So, food is used differently than that, as I started to discuss in a previous (LINK) post.

One rule of thermodynamics (thermo, from the Greek, meaning “a class in college” and dynamics, also from the Greek, meaning “that came from Hell”) is that you lose efficiency every time you convert energy from one form to another.  In the conversion of food from chemical energy to useful human energy, fat (as in yum!) and carbohydrates (as in sugar, also, yum!) are about the same, requiring about 5% to 15% of the energy consumed to digest and use.  In the world outside of squishy human bodies, that’s exceptional!  A human body is 85% efficient when running on Ding-Dongs®.  A car is only 20% efficient when running on gasoline.  You’re super efficient!

That’s also why you’re fat.  I’m willing to bet the human body developed a craving for sugar and fat because it was so efficiently converted to “keeping you alive” that when you could expect to find very little food, you were drawn to the best stuff.

When you convert protein (also yum, as in the rest of the steak!) to energy, the pathway is much less efficient, converting 65% of the energy to useful activities, like typing and drinking scotch.  Still this is three times better than a typical gasoline powered car.

Like Justin Beiber, sugar has a much darker side – it spikes insulin output, which is required to get sugar into cells so it can get to work.   But insulin is also the hormone that, in abundance, tells your body, “Hey, back up the truck with all the energy you can’t use right now.  We’ll just turn it into fat.”

A recent JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association, or Jamaican Ancestral Music Annual, I forget which) article says that people on ultra-low carbohydrate diets burn 100-300 more Calories per day than those same people on other diets.

I think Dr. Atkins just dropped his microphone and walked off the stage.

My conclusion is this:  The Paleo and Primal diets both restrict carbohydrates very effectively, but not as well as the Atkins diet, which is as single minded as a puppy on a pork roast in elimination of carbohydrates.

A potential optimum?  Use Akins to get to a healthy weight, then transition to Primal as a lifestyle.  Atkins is the journey, but Primal is the habit, and, of course, the lovely, lovely coffee.

Comments?  Your mileage?

Reminder:  JOHN WILDER IS NOT A DOCTOR.  Consult yours before following the patently absurd advice offered above.

Distraction and Action – The Internet and Your Brain

It’s very unusual for Michael not to show up to work. My guess, he’s either deeply depressed or an icicle has snapped off his roof and impaled his brain.  – The Office

DSC03864

The Boy, praising the giant stone head which holds the entirety of the Internet, at an undisclosed location in Texas.

“The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.” – Someone Dead, Probably a Roman

You have to be there to win.

You can’t achieve, or even focus, if not present. I’ll not define achievement or focus, you can probably figure out what I mean by those, but I will speak a bit about being present.

Being present is having your focus here, right in the place that you are at, and now, as in focusing on the present moment.  It implies both locality and attention.  If you are truly 100% present, generally there is nothing wrong with the world, no worries.  You are where you are, doing what you’re doing.

It’s been my experience that right now, at this moment in time, there are very few things that concern me or bother me to the point that it pulls away my attention.  The sun is shining, Pugsley is mowing the lawn with the push mower, The Boy is concocting a new app that combines AirBNB and Twitter (BedWitter) so you pay for your room rental with witty comments, The Mrs. is doing some work on a novel, and the pork chops are marinating on the counter prior to their encounter with the grill tonight.

So, in this moment in time, as Rainbow talks about a Man on the Silver Mountain (it’s a song), I sit and type in utter peace – I’m stuck here in the present, fully focused on the moment, and at this point in time, there’s nothing wrong in the world.  Well, my beer might be low, but I know where another one is.

The content on the Internet is evolving, and its sole purpose is to pull in more and more of your attention.  Why?  That’s what funds it.  It’s been that way for a while – media is funded by that which grabs your attention – good ratings=high attention and that results in more products like that.  But the Internet has allowed measurements that are to the millisecond – how long has your attention been taken, what did you buy later, what did you click on?  The technology exists today to understand who you are through a fairly small number of clicks, even on a browser you’ve never been on, and to understand what drives you are as an individual.  Maybe even better than you do.

What are the apps that do this very well?

You know them, and many of you interact with them daily:

  • Google – The big dog – probably knows what you’re going to search after a character or two. I was shocked to find out (in 2005) that a search on my work computer gave a different list than on my home computer.  Now, 12 years later?  I imagine each individual gets tailored results, by device and location.  Thankfully they’re not evil, right?
  • Youtube – I’m listening to music on it right now as I type this. And it picks the next song, so when I get in a writing haze, really focused on the work, seven songs that I love can blend seamlessly into the background, without me noticing.  And I get different Youtube content suggestions on my phone, because I listen differently on it.
  • Facebook – I’ll admit that this is an application that I’m not on, and it’s one I never really got. The Mrs. got on to promote her book, but I don’t think she uses it all that much.  But, boy, when I say I don’t Facebook I get funny looks.  It’s like I’m not exactly human, some sort of pre-technology throwback.  I figure if my friends want to talk, they’ll call.
  • Reddit – Been there, but it’s not even weekly that I visit. Good concept.
  • Twitter – This is one that seems to be the real wave of the future, but people can’t figure out how to make money owning Twitter – it’s like owning that kiosk where everyone puts up random notices. It would be way better real estate if you could get the hippys out.

What drives your behavior?

I hate to tell you, but the Internet is driven by your brain, specifically your amygdala.  Your amygdala is where your strong emotions come from, and the internet is evolved to stroke those emotions to get you to take action based upon what your amygdala wants:

  • Sex – This goes beyond porn sites, but also includes the sidebar ads on the sites you visit with girls in bikinis with a headline “You won’t believe what happened to the cast of Malcolm in the Middle!” It’s a primary psychological driver, and (really) has resulted in some of the most significant technological advancements in information technology, like streaming video.  You like YouTube?  Shake a porn star’s hand (but wear a glove, really).
  • Outrage – OMG! What did Trump do?  OMG!  Did you see what Obama did?  These sorts of stories are intended to drive you into an emotional frenzy, based upon something you care about.  Its stories like Cecil the lion that feed this side of the Internet, creating a frenzy that burns itself out when the new frenzy appears.  Just think about what Jimmy Kimmel is crying about this week, and you have a good idea what the latest frenzy is.  This outrage feeds your amygdala, and, let’s face it, sometimes you just want to fight.  (Hint: that’s your amygdala.)  The internet drives you (along with other people that think like you) straight to the fire so you can pour gasoline on it.
  • Trivia – The shear amount of information that exists on the Internet is enough to keep you swimming in it for hours if you let the current drag you away. Ever look up “Dogs” on Wikipedia and end up in an engrossing article about 17th century French bottle manufacturing techniques?  Yeah, me too.
  • Fear – Hacking at your brain – see the adds that say “here are the three things your doctor doesn’t know about the CANCER THAT IS EATING YOUR BRAIN RIGHT NOW” alongside a picture of a forearm that has hair on it.   Feeding your brain.
  • Envy – Facebook is awesome at this one – your friends don’t show you pictures of the monthly bills for that new Porsche®, but they sure do post pictures of the car. When living in Houston, I would be sitting at a stoplight and see a beautiful Mercedes pull up next to the Wildercar.  I tried to pull up a statistic about the number of new Mercedes that were bought with a loan.  I can’t find it now, so I’ll make it up – 87% of Mercedes purchased are bought by someone with less than a million net worth and they owe money on it.
  • Desire – Envy’s brother. See a nice bauble on Amazon?  You’ve lived your entire life without it.  But now it’s your precious, and you’re its Gollum.  Hint: avoid hobbits – it won’t end well.
  • Pride – You really want put that picture of you and your new Porsche© on Facebook. That’ll show ‘em!

So, essentially the internet has evolved to focus all of your presence and attention on the seven deadly sins.  And this is what we’re teaching the vast artificial intelligence that we’re creating.  And we’re feeding it with our behaviors and attention constantly.

It also dulls our sense of wonder.  On the Internet, you can see the best and most extreme of everything, all at your fingertips.  So, seeing a guy jump off a 25’ cliff into a pool of water below?  Yawn, but on the Internet, you’re staring at a little square screen that is where you are giving precious minutes of your life, but it’s so distracting!

Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is a truly amazing servant.  It provides great venues for learning, specific fact finding, this blog, comparison and quality shopping, this blog, low cost instant communication, this blog, real time storm warnings, this blog, long distance work collaboration and, of course, this blog.

On a recent vacation we stopped for breakfast at a Denny’s® (little known fact: La Quinta is Spanish for “Next to Denny’s”) and had to wait about five minutes.  As I scanned the crowd of other potential pancake patrons, I noticed that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (including parents) was head down in a phone.  Not a single person was legitimately present.

After noting the Wilder fam following into a similar pattern, I decreed a ban on cell phones at dinner.  They stayed home or we weren’t going to go out to eat.  Pop ‘em on the table, folks.  Likewise, at home, at dinner – nope.

Although I would dearly love for the family to take their phones into the hot tub, they leave them out.  So, dinner, hot tubbing, board games, patio days (going outside and just hanging on the patio all day) and cooking barbeque are all times where we have miniature Internet breaks.  The result I’ve seen is those are the closest and most genuine moments that we have as a family.  We’re genuinely happier when we cut out Zuckerberg and Brin.

But right now I just have to see what Chelsea Clinton said to Trump on Twitter®!

Chime in below on how you rule your brain in a world of distraction  . . .

Change Is Based On Emotion

Now, ironically, in astronomy, the word “revolution” means “a celestial object that comes full circle.” Did you know that? Which, if you think about it, is pretty funny, considering here on earth it means change. – Fargo (Series)DSC03299

Change sometimes comes best from the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun. (That’s The Boy, some time ago, as he weighs 190 pounds now (that’s 431 stone or 650kg).

In my experience, people are sticky.  No, not the “haven’t showered in two days in 105F weather and I just ate a runny ice cream cone and have no paper towel” sticky, but the “not going to change my habit” sticky.  Habits are sticky things, especially the ones that are bad for you.

Like tobacco.  Mmmmm.

It has been my experience that people experience lasting change for two (and only two) reasons:

  1. Extreme Emotional Impact – An extreme emotional event is one directly related to the behavior that results in change. And I mean extreme, not, “it’s snowing outside – I think I’ll lose 10 pounds.”
  2. Somebody Else Really Thinks You Should Change – This always works. Wait . . . this never works.

I guess that leaves one (and only one) reason that people change – Extreme Emotional Impact.

I have done a quick Google® search and have determined that most people who write about change on the internet and say that they have coached change, have probably never left their mother’s basement and interacted with another human being.  Some of their answers are awful.  A sampling of their “Reasons People Change’:

  1. They Have Learned” – No, sorry, as much as I like learning, it’s about as effective at changing habits as a newborn baby otter is effective at changing the oil in a 1980 Fiat Spider (hint, it’s an Italian car – you don’t change the oil, you just replace the oil that leaked out).
  2. They Have Suffered” – Good heavens, we have all suffered for years with the Kardashians. No change noted.  Suffering does not equal change, not even spare change.
  3. Tired of the Same Thing” – I ate the same hot ham and cheese sandwich for four years of high school. Well, not the same sandwich, it was a different sandwich, but it was the same kind of sandwich every day.  Change potential?  For me, not high.
  4. Want To” – The worst one so far. Everyone wants to change something.  Most of us never make any significant changes.    I “Want To” start a billion-dollar business.  Change based on “Want To” starts in . . . never.

There are more, dozens, and some are high-school term paper bad.  A couple of people, however, got close to the right answer (John Maxwell, Steve Aichison) but they used way too many words and are not nearly as cool as me.

In my years of watching and being a people, I have seen zero (nada, zilch, none, empty set) people have a significant change without emotion being the driver.  And by change, I don’t include changes that violate basic laws of physics, like pretending an amputated uvula is still attached.  I still miss my uvula, which I lost in a tragic ukulele accident at Camp Oconda back in ’03 while camping there with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

There must be an equivalence and proportionality between the emotion and the change being sought – a stubbed toe will not give enough emotional energy so you can heal your relationship between you and your cheese-eating sister.  A death threat is not generally required to get someone to turn off the lights as they leave a room (with the exception of Pugsley, who seems to like all the lights on).

Two years ago, a friend of mine didn’t show up for work.  A bit later, I heard that his boss had gone to see him in the hospital.  I saw him about two months later – he had lost about 30% of his body weight, and he wasn’t all that chubby to start with.  Turns out he’d had a heart attack, a triple bypass, and had taken the doctor very seriously when he said lose weight or die.  My friend lost the weight, and has kept it off.

His mood was great, too.  I imagine that when you survive a heart attack, the little things that used to bother you (like running out of Pez© on a Thursday when the Pez™ delivery man doesn’t show up until Friday) all of a sudden lose their power over you when you’ve been in agonizing pain and about ten minutes away from seeing if all those prayers paid off.  He has two young children, and I imagine the thought of leaving them orphaned is probably a kicker.

Even with an emotional event, another necessary ingredient is that you have to have a reason to change.  Doesn’t have to be a great reason, but you have to have a reason.  If my friend hated his life? Meh, another cheeseburger, please.

The significant change I’m personally most proud of came in January of 2012.  I decided I was done with tobacco, and was worried (based on looking at my gums) that I was doing real long term damage, like deadly, to myself.  (My dentist says it all looks mahvelous now, so, not an issue.)

It was emotional for me, and I decided I was going to quit.  Despite not liking my tobacco use, The Mrs. had never once asked me to quit.  In reality, that would have had the opposite effect, BECAUSE MY SOCKS CAN STAY ON THE FLOOR!  But I announced my intentions, and quit a day later. Five years ago.

Do I miss tobacco?  (EVERY SINGLE DAY.  EVERY MINUTE.  I LOVE IT.)

Maybe a little.

I love the smell of it.  I love the taste of it.  I love the feel of it.  If anyone ever tells me, “John Wilder, you have six months to live,” I am going to buy 500 gallons of it and fill my hot tub with it and bathe in the tobacco until I twitch like a poisoned cockroach.  I didn’t say it’s good for me.

But I don’t do that now.  I had my emo-moment (or is that an emo-momo?) one night when I really pondered if I was killing myself quickly, and decided to stop.

Emotion mixed with purpose, and it was over.  I’m done.  It’s a powerful combination.

If you look at the attempts that advertisers use (more on this on Monday) to get you to purchase Pez© or Matthew McConaughey’s sweat gland extract which he waxes about in his low monotone before going home to play naked bongos at 3AM, your emotion is their target.

Thankfully, though, I was able to use my own emotion to make the personal change.

And I’ve used emotion in the past to fire change that has been beneficial and healthy for me.

So, people are sticky.  And I know that applies to me, too, especially in July when I’ve just finished that ice cream cone and have no paper towel.

Shake?

So, what’s your biggest change?  How do you deal with being covered in melted ice cream?

Talent Stacks

“She’s not a superhero; she’s a weirdo.” – Stranger Things

DSC01911Talented?  Hmmm, lucky if you ask me.  Except for The Hulk.  He’s got talent.

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) created the concept of the Talent Stack and wrote about it in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.  I have always enjoyed Mr. Adams’ work, and appreciate his sense of humor, but I think I like his unique ideas even more.  And this is an interesting one.

Talent

One way to be great is to have a singular talent that nobody else possesses, like, Keanu Reeves.  Keanu is the most talented person on the planet earth, because?  His talent is literally and only “Being Keanu Reeves.”  Neo in The Matrix and Bill in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?  Same dude.  But Keanu also doesn’t age due to a pact he made with an old gypsy woman on a mountaintop in 1643 in Bulgaria, so that has to count as a second talent.  But we’ll pretend that doesn’t exist for now.

Bulgaria or not, you will never be Keanu Reeves.  (Unless it’s you, Keanu!  Hi!  It’s okay for you to be you!)

Talent Stack

Let’s take a second person.  Say, Peyton Manning.

Peyton has multiple talents – he’s tall, like 7’8”.  In his prime he could throw a football adequately, but never the best in the league.  He had a talent (built up out of long practice) of being able to understand a defense and what opportunities it provided his offense.  He could also lead a team on the field.  He ran, however, like a burning stork being chased by Hillary Clinton.  Pretty slow.

Was he world class in any of these talents?  Not really, but probably pretty close in his understanding of the whole offense/defense thing.  His talent stack made him great.

In Mr. Adams’ thought, in order to be great, you don’t have to be great at everything, you just have to be adequate at a bunch of little things.  It helps to be great at some, but it’s not required.  Here is his analysis of Donald Trump’s talent stack.

I tend to take this analogy in a slightly different direction – as an individual it’s horribly hard to compete against a big company.  Let’s pretend you want to duke it out, toe to toe against Google®.  You might be an awesome programmer.  But in order to compete you have to also be an awesome marketer, accountant, leader, financial wizard, and about a hundred other things and there wouldn’t be any you left over to eat Pez®.

Where I Throw In One Too Many Football Analogies

One more analogy – if you have a football team that’s all quarterbacks and defense with no other offensive players?  You’re not very good (sorry, Houston Texans™).  That’s a horrible talent stack.  So, not only do you have to have adequate talents, you have to have the right talents.  The Patriots® don’t have the best at, really, any position.  Tom Brady is a decent quarterback, but the year he was out injured?  The number two guy did just as well.  And when they traded him?  Umm, I think he’s a beet farmer in southern North Dakota.  That team regularly transforms mediocre players into a championship roster.  They cover all of the positions adequately.  Oh, and occasionally they cheat, which is a talent all in itself.

My theory? A talent stack in a single person is exactly like teamwork in an organization.

So, while acknowledging that it’s impossible for me to be Keanu Reeves, I will say that it’s not impossible for me to be wildly successful with a decent talent stack.

What kind of talents fit in a talent stacks?

Most attributes a human can be good at.  Piano.  Chess.  Necromancy.  Running.  Eating a Slurpy©.  Knowing how much cheese to put in a bowl of chili.

And most talents are talents that most people can be adequate at, with a bit of work and practice (with the exception of the cheese/chili ratio).  And if you’re not good at them?

But they can also point out areas where you have crucially missing talents.

The downside of this, for stupid people, is the Dunning-Kruger Effect, whereby people that are too stupid, are too stupid to realize how stupid they are.

The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras. (Wikipedia)

I suspect it’s also similar for people who have glaring deficits of social skills as well as cognitive skills, but being as socially adept as I am, well, I certainly wouldn’t know.

Where to Get Better

I really do think that the biggest returns you can make are when you work on your best talents, as long as the basics that you need to cover are covered.  You probably don’t need to be a great accountant at your small business, unless your business is accounting.  (Then you probably need to be a great accountant.)  Imagine, if you will, if someone told LeBron James that he should spend more time on math.  That would likely have been a waste, unless LeBron could improve his jump shot by using differential equations.

So, to summarize:

  1. Talent – Having a strong talent will take you places, unless the talent is eating Doritos©. Then I can’t really help you.
  2. Keanu Reeves – Doesn’t age. And makes movies based upon being Keanu Reeves for a living.
  3. Talent Stacks – It’s like having Multiple Personality Disorder, but with much more profit.
  4. Singular Talent Vs. Talent Stacks – It’s like being a dentist vs. winning the lottery. Be the dentist.
  5. If You’re Stupid – No real hope for you. Enjoy the lemon juice.  And the prison.  Please don’t have kids.
  6. Talent – Is probably not enough for you. Or me.  Or anyone but Keanu.
  7. Talent Stacks and Team Work – Similar to each other.
  8. Where to Focus – On what you’re good at, as long as that talent is useful.

So, my talents?  I like humor, can math, like to write, and I generally show up to work on time.

What about you?

Short speech. You lost your partner today. The DEA took all your money, your lab. You got nothing. Square one. But you know the business and I know the chemistry. I’m thinking maybe you and I could partner up. – Walt, Breaking Bad

20160706_150654

That’s what happens if you don’t take risks.  Also if you do take risks.

If someone were to ask me, “How do you ruin your life?” I would have to think a long time about that – most all of my life has been pretty awesome.  I’ve still got all of my hair, I can fit into my high school jeans, and I have never had a moment of sorrow.

Okay, that’s a lie – what do I look like, a Trump kid?

I’ve had my share of issues, and, from a follicular standpoint, well, NASA requires me to wear a hat so the reflecting sunlight doesn’t blind the astronauts in the International Space Station and cause them to steer it into Britney Spears.  My high school clothes are far behind me.  And sorrow?  Sure, I’ve had a few moments.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is a variation on Nietzsche, “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”  And it’s true.  I’ve actually found that at the core of each of the worst moments in my life was embedded the seeds of the best moments.  It took me a few times to realize, that the rough moments were the poo which fertilized the awesome moments to come.

Perhaps on a deeper note – as I’ve said before – this moment in time, I’m fine.  The past is gone, so there’s no use to complain about things that you can’t change.  The future isn’t yet here, so getting upset about it is silly.  Right now in time, I’m working on this blog, watching silly TV with the family, having a nice glass of wine, and, regardless of what happened five years ago, five days ago, or five minutes ago, life is good.  And the future?  Yeah, I’ll die.  But I own how I feel until that happens.

So, when you look at the quality of life you have, you get to choose.  And you can choose to be happy, or not.  And you ca also choose to ruin your life if you want to.  J.P. Sears is the brains behind Ultra-Spiritual Life, a series of YouTube videos that parody movements, situations, and are generally a pretty fun series to watch.

In the YouTube box below, J.P. talks about “Ways to Ruin Your Life.”  It looks like it predates his current series, but it’s still pretty funny (and pretty short).  I’ll give you my take on how I rank against his criteria.

  1. Never Take Risks

This is one where I’d rate myself a 7 or so.  I’ve made multiple major life decisions that had some form of risk attached to them.  I’ve not jumped out of a moving plane, but I have moved my family halfway across the North American Continent and then back again.  Those risks turned out to be some of the best choices that ever happened to us.  Looking back (so far) I can’t seem to find any particular risk that I didn’t take that fills me with regret, and at each turn, it looks like I took an okay path.  Private jet?  No.  WilderNetWorth©?  Yeah.

So, why 7 out of 10?  It’s 7 out of 10 because I’ve seen people like Jeff Bezos take even bigger risks and create even greater value than I have over time.  Part of this might be just survivor bias.  You see the survivor, the guy who took the big risks and made out like a bandit, but you don’t see the guy who’s working in McDonalds™ because his dotcom company almost made it.  I see Mr. Bezos’ success and don’t see all the exploded failures along the way, like the guy who invented TinderTwit, or UberOogle.

Also, really successful people tend to take risks, but the risk ratios are very skewed – they get a great deal of return with the probability of a small loss.

  1. Seek the Approval of Others

I have sought the approval of, oh, my supervisors in the company that pays my salary, because I have found that not doing so has pretty negative implications.  But I don’t fawn on them, and when it comes to a point of principle or fact, I am fairly dogged and determined.

Personally, I have found that not caring about the approval of your supervisor is career limiting.

One time I had the fortune to be in a training class being (partially) taught by the CEO of our company.  He’s worth billions, and I had a chance to talk to him one on one.  I was thrilled!

 

I had a problem I was working with – some folks in his company wanted to spend money that wouldn’t be a good idea – it would lose money for the company.  I told him it was politically difficult to fight these folks.  He told me, “John Wilder, it’s not kindergarten.  You have to fight to create value in the company.”  Armed with his advice, I saved him about four million dollars, but angered half of the people that were in favor of the project, who were all corporate VPs.  Oh, and I wasn’t.

Seeking their approval *might* have been a better idea.

  1. Talk, but Take No Action

Okay, I might be a 3/10 here.  I’ve had so many plans for doing things that I hadn’t followed up on.  Most of those, however, were because I couldn’t get the people together, the money together, or on the cold light of day it turned out to be a stupid idea.

My initial assessment of the iPhone was that it was silly to try to combine all of those features in one place, kind of like adding a clock radio to a toaster to an electronic toothbrush.  My bad, but it also shows that sometimes my initial vision might be off a bit.

This may tie back to risk, but, honestly, 99% of all ideas are bad, even my ideas (some of my ideas are awesome), but really, did the world need The Clapper©?

In general, I’ve gotten more failure from being bold, but those failures have been small, or my ego absorbed them.  True story:

9th Grade John Wilder, Calling Girl to Ask For Date:   Would you like to go to a movie with me?

Not the Future The Mrs.:  No, I can’t.  I’m busy that night.

I had not specified when I would take her to the movie.

  1. Value Things, Use People

I don’t think I’m probably okay here, 6/10 or 7/10.  In the end, one of my basic philosophical points is that people are important, probably even more important if you’re their supervisor – that’s a real responsibility.

Now, I never said I was nice.  But being nice isn’t always how you help people.  Let me explain:

I was in college, and was listening to a speech.  In a twist of sadism, teachers about then decided that the way to grade a speech was peer review.  I attempted to listen to the speech but it was difficult – the presentation was really bad.  When it was my turn, I said to her:

“During our speech, you said ‘um’ 14.3 times per minute, with an approximate total of 753 ‘um’s’ during your speech.  It was distracting.”

If you have never seen a look of hate, imagine Hillary Clinton after they told her that Monica Lewinski just defeated her in the presidential election.

It was pretty bad.

Next speech?  Flawless.  I said so in my evaluation.  Best speech of the day.

She didn’t smile.  To this day, I think if she could poison me and not get caught? She’d do it.

  1. Conceal Emotions

I’m probably a bit worse here, say 3/10 – I’m a bit of a poker face when it comes to most things.  I don’t do that so much with The Mrs., but that’s because she’s The Mrs.

At one job where the company was in trouble, I was told I was too cheerful.  I was told I should be sadder.

I share the emotions I wish to share – those are mine.

  1. Be Normal

I’m excellent at being abnormal.  That’s why you’re reading this.  8/10.

  1. Keep Secrets

2/10. If you tell me a secret, I’m pretty awesome at keeping it.  My own?  I’m okay with that, too.

  1. Never Work Hard

9/10.  Throughout my career I’ve worked very hard indeed, with some years putting in well over 3,000 hours for the company.  I’ve even tried to work smart while I work hard.  The major issue that I have is (sometimes) I make it look easy because of the poker face.

If you have a great boss, and you’re in a great situation, life is good.  You can do it!

If you have a meh boss (that will sink you for a dollar) and the job is rough, you might want to think about point nine (below).

  1. Ignore Intuition

I’ve followed my intuition fairly well – and it has been, for the most part, spot on.  I’d give me an 8/10.  Down side of following your intuition is that if it didn’t bathe, it can be all stinky being behind it.

  1. Avoid Personal Responsibility

If this were my list, it would be number one and at the top.  I have found that I am greatly compatible with most personality types.  There are two types that I cannot mesh well with:  Clowns (specifically the ones that dress like hoboes) and people who don’t take responsibility for their lives.  I call them:  victims.

Don’t get me started on victims.  Everything is always the fault of someone else, and if you listen long enough, it’s like they don’t even take any part in their day to day lives.

Here’s J.P. talking about the points above.  He’s awesome.

 

So, in the end, it’s your life, and you get to choose how you live your life and how you choose to view it.  But don’t ask me how your speech is if you don’t want to know the truth.

 

Your wife’s virtue shall remain as untouched as Bill Gates’ weight room. – The Simpsons

20160525_211929

The Scorpions have scale, and can rock you like a hurricane.

I was sitting on the deck, enjoying an evening at Stately Wilder Manor, while discussing the future and types of careers that are available with a Wilder-in-law.  One thing that we started talking about were career paths and luck.  I thought I’d share something our conversation inspired.

There are about a million bits of career advice we’ll talk about in future posts, but this is WilderWeeklyWisdom®, so we’ll be a bit more philosophical than that.

One of the better books I’ve ever read is “The Black Swan” by Nicholas Nassim Taleb (his site is here). Taleb does an awesome job of relating probability to the way we view the world.  He does so in a brash and insightful manner that’s sold millions of books.  He’s almost as good as me.  I’m going to borrow one of his core concepts to share with you, because it’s just so darn different of a way to look at how our modern world works.

Black_Swan_poster

Not this Black Swan.

Most things that humans experience are nice and linear.  You start at point A and go to point B, and they follow nice 1+1=2 level math.  Simple.  When we lived in tribes of 30-170 and before we combined to create nations of any kind our life was simple and these linear models worked well to explain life. We lived and died seeing things that were almost all explainable by these simple relationships.  And it all made sense, or at least as much sense as it could before The Drudge Report™.

Let’s pretend we’re members of a 99 person tribe.  And it’s the most average of average tribes, so our tribal average height is 5’9” tall (that’s the average height of adult dudes in the USA).  If our tribe suddenly had the tallest person of all of the over 7,000,000,000 that are living in the world today join it, we might start seriously thinking about Olympic© basketball, since the tallest person in the world is 8’3” in height and we could certainly beat Moldova.

But what would the net impact be to our average tribal height?  We’d be 0.3” taller.  That’s the equivalent of wearing thick wool socks taller.  Hardly noticeable.

That’s linear/bell curve thinking – the way that the normal distribution works.  In my best condition ever, I think I could have run 100M in 13 or so seconds.  Usain Bolt ran it in 9.58 seconds.  I’m above average, but Usain is far, far to the right side of the curve.  He’d win every time, but he still “only” beats me by 3.5 seconds, it’s not like I finish the next day.

Normal_distribution_and_scales_tr

Source: Wikimedia Commons – They also had it in English, but you weren’t going to read that, either.

So, things that are physical parameters we deal with every day – how tall, how fast, how smart, how skinny, et cetera, are all ruled by the mathematics of the normal curve.

But civilization has given us an enormous change in the way the world works.  Let’s look at the wealth of, say, Bill Gates.  If we kick out the tall guy (he was horrible under the rim) we have room to adopt Bill into our tribe.  Remember, our tribe of 99 is average, so we have an average (per Credit Suisse, via Financial Samurai) net worth of $301,000 (their estimate for the average net worth in the USA).  We adopt Bill who has a net worth of $84,000,000,000.  Our average net worth just went to $840,300,000 per person.  That’s a massive difference when compared to the property of height.  The changes in wealth are not normally distributed, and are scaled so differently that it’s hard for us to wrap our brains around this massive difference in quantities.

I’ve prepared an example to assist.  Let’s go back to our height comparison.  Bill Gates is 279,069.8 times wealthier than the average person in the USA.  Let’s just say that we used that same factor with something like, say, height?

Bill Gates would be 303.9 miles tall.

How about weight?

The average weight for dudes in the USA is 183 pounds.  Bill Gates would be 25,534 tons.

So, now I’ve created a gigantic Bill Gates that is certainly going to menace us like Godzilla.  Fortunately, at 303.9 miles tall, Bill’s head is over 295 miles above marginally breathable atmosphere, so he wouldn’t be able to menace us very long.  Until he fell after he died.

Assuming no terminal velocity constraints due to atmospheric friction, Bill’s enormous head would hit the ground at 6,886 miles an hour.  Ouch!  Goodnight Seattle!

Thankfully, we don’t have to contend with a gigantic Bill Gates.  We are stuck with the 5’10” version.

Taleb calls the wealth effect a scalable quantity, and it surrounds us.  If I were to restart my career today I would try to expose myself to scalable quantities whenever possible – it’s these scaled effects that generate the greatest amounts of wealth.

The flip side is that scaled opportunities have been and will force massive dislocation in the labor markets.  Once upon a time, every little town had a brass band, and singers, too.  The phonograph took the need for many of these local bands away – and even more so the singers.  I could pick up an album and listen to the best singers in the world.  The record companies made vast sums of wealth from the change in scale afforded by technology.  Then?  CDs, Napster, and right now I’m listening to songs (for more or less free) off of Youtube.com.  On Amazon, I have a subscription to essentially any song I can think of with the exception I cannot find the album “Stand Tall” by the Killer Dwarves, and yes, it’s a real album.  The internet is killing the record company.

Scale has done that to local disc jockeys and radio talk show hosts – now they’re national, we only listen to the best.  Scale will probably do that to the entire radio industry within a decade.  I get up in the morning and listen to radio stations in Houston or Fairbanks.  My local radio station is, for me, irrelevant.

Scale will probably eliminate all but the best teachers, too.  We’ll have great “rock star” level teachers and on-site facilitators will help kids learn in class.  That’s coming quickly.  Scale has already done that to sports – fractional differences in performance are worth tens of millions of dollars in contract revenue for players.

In all of these cases, there is going to be massive profit made for those that execute well on the scalable strategies, just like there was for our 303.9 mile tall Bill Gates, who has made money by destroying industry after industry – from typewriters to libraries, and not by stomping on them physically.

Artificial Intelligence will also impact the lives of millions (and make others billions).  There are 3.5 million truckers.  How many truck stop employees depend upon them?  At least a million more.  If I have a self-driving truck, now I eliminate most issues with driving hours, rest periods and legal liability.  I also put at least 2.5 million of the truckers out of business.  This is more scaled disruption that is possible in a decade or less.

So, back to my career advice to the Wilder-in-law?  Become a dentist.  Robots aren’t good at drilling teeth, and probably won’t be for fifty years, and I’m thinking we won’t accept the Terminator® with a drill in our mouths, until forced to by our orbiting Emperor Gates the Gigantic.

All hail our new titanic overlord!

“Wreck. Big wreck.” – Long, Sixteen Candles

20151005_153055

Maybe my new car?  I’d be stylin’ and profilin’ in this one!

Dear Internet, I was going to write to you about things other than cars, but, alas, it’s back to cars we go.  Please forgive me.

I’ve had the same daily driver car for nearly eleven years.  That’s over 38 metric years (which are 100 days each, and which I just made up).  You should see the names of the metric 10-day week!

Given that (ISSUE REDACTED-they told me I could talk about it after Donald Trump’s audit is done) occurred, the insurance company told me that the Wildercar is probably totaled.

I don’t appear totaled, but I thought that I’d use the experience to share a few (more) points about finances and cars.

My car was made before the final episodes of Malcom in the Middle and Arrested Development were made, so for me it’s quite a passing.  I’ve been in this car on tons of adventures with The Mrs., The Boy, and Pugsley all across at least sixteen mountain passes, two alternate realities populated only by members of the band “Journey,” and seven states.  And these aren’t small states like Connecticut or Delaware (which, let’s face it, are smaller than most master bedrooms in Texas), but proper states that you can’t throw an underinflated football across (talkin’ about you, Tom Brady).

I’ll miss the memories of that old car, since, according to math, if my average speed in it was 35 miles per hour, I spent 166 days behind the wheel.

But until the car I bought in 2012, this was almost the most expensive car I’d bought.

Here are my further thoughts on cars and wealth.

DEPRECIATION:

I bought it used, so the majority of the early depreciation was done.  Depreciation, for those of you not fluent in accountant, is the amount of money that evaporates from a car when you don’t keep it tightly sealed in a Glad™ bag.

The minute that you drive a new car off the dealer lot, it plummets in value.

Why?  Because we all agree it does.  Don’t argue!

The slightly longer answer is that most people would rather buy a <b>new car from a dealer with a nice pretty lot rather than someone selling it out in the alley behind the Costco™.  The really longer answer involves cats, string, and the feeble tug of Pluto on the brains of the members of the Federal Reserve, but we won’t go there.

My original purchase prices (cash only, right?cash only, right?) was about $11,000.  I anticipate that my insurance will end up paying me $4,000 due to a variety of factors.

Yeah, I lost $7,000 in value over ten years, but that was based on my price.

Remember I bought this used, about a year old?  Sticker price was about $22,000 for this car.  When it was sold to me, I bought it for half that – initial depreciation on this car was around $11,000!

So, yes, when I turn over the keys and title to the car undertaker, I anticipate that I will have (net) lost $7,000 over ten and a half years.  My net cost of ownership will have been $56 per month.  Per mile? About $0.05.  A nickel a mile!

OPERATING COSTS:

I’ve probably spent about $3,000 on repairs over the years, mostly standard stuff like exorcisms and at least two alternators.  Add in oil changes and tires and that’s probably another $2,000.  A warranty would have paid virtually none of these costs, so you can’t say that it makes sense to have purchased the car new.   Cost per mile?

About $0.04.

FUEL:

My guess on gasoline (at $3.50 a gallon over the life of the car) is about $0.14 per mile.  My car got okay mileage, not great mileage.

Now, you might say, “But John Wilder, life would have been so very much better for you if you didn’t buy so much gasoline!”

To which I retort, “HA!”

I looked at hybrids.

Toyota™ makes the Yaris® and the Prius©.  The Yaris© gets about 15 miles per gallon less than the Prius®.

As far as I can tell they are about the same size of car, so, assuming that you’re mainly buying that 15 miles per gallon, you could buy a Yaris™ and about 3,300 gallons of gasoline at three dollars per gallon for the same price as a Prius™.

If you look closely based on fuel economy, the Prius© is a better deal than the Yaris© after about 390,000 miles of driving.  Or 26 years at 15,000 miles per year average driving.

So, that’s the price of being a Prius™ owner.

I’d look at electric cars, but I don’t want to make the Tesla© and Chevy® Volt™ owners cry.

Insurance: 

I’m betting that insurance cost about the same $0.07 per mile – I did some back of the envelope numbers, and that’s what it came out to.

Unusually, I have full, full, full insurance.  I realize this goes against conventional wisdom and advice of many financial planners, but I have my reasons, and those reasons are:  ALL OF THE REST OF MY MONEY.

I got into a car accident in Houston way back when I was first starting to be worth slightly more than a used paper cup.  I rear ended they guy.  It was rainy, but it was my fault.  He said his neck hurt.

My blood ran cold.  I realized that every bit of my insurance was “Statutory Minimum.”

Crap.

He was (actually) joking about the neck hurting, but it was the best unfunny joke of my life.  Now I have insurance, umbrella insurance, and a little insurance person that follows me around looking for insurable events.  I gladly hand that person a relatively small amount of money to prevent to insure me against (unlikely) but devastating events.

My strategy as a 22 year old had been sound, “What are they gonna take if they sue me?”  Now that I’ve got WilderNetWorth, that equation has greatly changed.

Adding It All Up:

So, my costs to run my late, great, sedan are:

Item Cost
Ownership $0.05/mile
Fixing Stuff $0.04/mile
Gasoline $0.14/mile
Insurance $0.07/mile
Taxes $0.02/mile
Total $0.32/mile

 

Sure, you might do better, but most times you’d have to pedal to beat these numbers . . . .

 

Bonus Content, Not Available In Theatrical Release:

N+1:

Cars either run when you want them to run, or they don’t.  In our family we have a rule: Number of licensed drivers + 1 is the number of cars we have.  Not sure that it matters if they are older or newer cars, since you’ll have to have them in the shop sometime.  Have a spare, especially if it’s a cheap spare, kind of like United Airlines treats customers.

Air Conditioning:

For two years my air conditioning didn’t work in the Wildersedan.

I go to work in the morning and come home in the afternoon.  Most mornings in the summer are nice and pleasant.  If it’s a little warm?  Crack the window, what do you live in a mall?

Most evenings are as hot as the surface of Venus during a forest fire.  I rolled down the window and did what they did in 1950.  Dealt with it.  Still don’t know why no one wanted hugs when I got home in the afternoon in the summer on a hot summer day.

Yes, I’m that cheap.

Cost of Repair vs. Replacing The Car:

They say there is no price on love.

They lied.

There is some cost at which I’d just dump the car rather than repairing it – and for the late great Wildermobile that number was probably about $2500.  I had owned the car for years, and knew what generally went wrong, what was wrong, and what I could live with (see Air Conditioning).  Somebody else’s really old car?  That’s a learning curve.

Alternate Views:

Mr. Money Mustache (who I greatly admire) believes strongly in the philosophy of no cars and does a lot of pedaling.  He also (really) believes strongly in not having a job.  As soon as I decide to fully swallow the Mustache Pill, perhaps I will change my mind, but as of now I have a job, commute, and The Mrs. and I are sometimes a huge distance away from each other in a day.

Plus, he has no job.

 

Well, I’ll miss my old friend, from Detroit.  If there’s an afterlife for it, perhaps it’ll come back as Wal-Mart© shelf?

Anything but a Prius™ – I wouldn’t wish that on Kim Jong Whatever’s car.