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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.”


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:


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.

“Buzz Aldrin was afraid of spiders and he went into space.” – Gus, Fargo (2014)


I’m too young to remember when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon, but somehow I still ended up with Apollo themed jammies and our family patriotically drank Tang©.  Mom bought scads of those Space Food Sticks© in the foil wrappers, which tasted like tubular chocolate flavored beef jerky. 

space food sticks

My Mom even found recipes for “hot Tang®” (Big Reveal: it’s hot water and Tang© powder) and made that drink for our frequent snowmachine expeditions. Hot Tang™ tastes like you might expect.

IT'S...1959! Tang Breakfast Drink


The entire hopes and dreams of our nation, and, indeed, the world followed three brave men as their capsule door was closed.  Thunderous engines fired, and the massive space ship shook off condensed ice on its hull as it shuddered, at first slowly, and then quickly into the Florida sky. Every television in the world was tuned to the voyage when the spaceship left Earth orbit and hurled into a lunar intercept.  The astronauts ran through the checklists, and in a journey worthy itself of a Hollywood film, managed to land on the Moon mere seconds before the lander would run out of fuel.  While preparing to launch back to rendezvous with the orbiting Apollo capsule, Buzz Aldrin looked down and saw the circuit breaker had broken off.  He then did the coolest thing ever done on the Moon:

“Since it was electrical, I decided not to put my finger in, or use anything that had metal on the end. I had a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of my suit that might do the job. After moving the countdown procedure up by a couple of hours in case it didn’t work, I inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch should have been, and pushed it in; sure enough, the circuit breaker held. We were going to get off the moon, after all.”

This was a total Boy Scout/Be Prepared moment.  Faced with the prospect of a lonely death in sight of his home planet, Buzz decided that no way was some stupid circuit breaker is gonna hold him back.  Buzz has steel in his soul and has the brains (BS in Mechanical Engineering, PhD in Astronautics) to take action.


You’d smile, too, if you were going to get to eat space food.  Buzz is on the right.  

Additionally, Buzz was the first person to pee on the Moon, but that wasn’t due to Armstrong’s lousy piloting, it was due to Buzz being a total dude.

So, you’re 39, you’ve just walked on the Moon. I mean YOU JUST WALKED ON THE MOON! (and peed on it, too) and . . . Now What?

When you achieve your goals, “Now What?” is the hardest question.  It was even harder for Buzz Aldrin.  He was internationally known, and had done a life’s achievement, but life was yet to be completed for him.  He already had his epitaph (“THIS IS THE SECOND DUDE TO STEP ON THE MOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”), and he was only 39. How do you go up from there?

He didn’t know, and that was the worst thing that can happen to a man.  (I think the answer may be different for women – men leave a legacy to history by what they do, women leave a legacy through their children, but I have no experience being a woman, other than the time the football team I was on dressed up like cheerleaders for a Pep Rally.  The clothes were not comfortable, except for the skirt.  The skirt was okay.)

In the 1970’s Buzz, his legacy seemingly set, spiraled downhill until he was ready to spiral back up.

What changed?  He changed, he moved his goals from being on the first team to the Moon to figuring how to best get man to Mars, and even now has figured out a fairly quick, low energy (not in a Jeb Bush way, but rather using less rocket fuel) way to get there that he’s trying to sell to NASA.  Is that a worthy goal?  Yes.  Is it one he can throw his whole being at and change the destiny of mankind (again)?  Yes.  But from me to you, Buzz, NASA can’t even get a paperclip into space right now, so keep spending time with that guy whose name rhymes with Belon Rusk.  Just sayin’.

(An aside, isn’t NASA not being able to send people into space a lot like, say, the Arby’s running out of roast beef????)

Buzz is a personal hero, for his intellect, but also for the way that he transformed himself to something better than before, by creating goals for himself that are lofty, meaningful, and difficult as can be, and being bull-headed enough to achieve them.

Why is he my hero?  Because I had (unwittingly) created a goal trap for myself.  I wanted to have sufficient funds to take care of my family for the foreseeable future.  This isn’t “buy myself an island and declare myself a sovereign nation type of money, but WilderNetWorth® (which is 10 years of life expenses in the bank, free and clear).  I hit that goal several years ago.  It’s not a bad goal, but for me it was probably too significant to the way that I thought about the world.  And I hadn’t been working on the next goal, or really, I hadn’t even defined it.  Frankly, I didn’t realize the problem was as big as it was for me personally.  Then I remembered Buzz.  Heck, if he can do it . . .

Now What?

That’s an interesting question, because if we don’t have a direction in life, regardless of the motion, we’re just treading water.  I know that Scott Adams has had wild success with his focus on Systems over Goals (and there is a great deal of evidence to support him) but there are times and places for goals, and perhaps even certain personalities that are goal driven.  Being good enough to be selected as one of the first people to go to the Moon just *might* imply a bit of goal driven behavior.  We will talk more about Mr. Adams philosophy the future posts (and I agree with him in many respects), but he is certainly one of the most original thinkers on the planet today.

But a system is a thing you do to maintain, and even improve.  At least for me, when I hit my weight goal, I’ll have in place a system to maintain.

All that being said – I still have goals.

Finding your goal for some of you is probably the easiest thing in the world, but for me it was hard, and I’m not sure I’m fully there even now.  I read dozens of books and websites, and two of particular help were The Nine Laws and Halftime.


Particularly useful for me was the exercise (in both books) that deals with owning up to your own mortality and deciding what you want to be known for.  Spending a few hours in that thought bubble will help you understand what really is important, and will get you focused on what is really missing in your goals.  And, in future posts, we’ll come back to that, too.

Now What?” for me (at least in part) are these words I’m writing to you right now – it’s my goal to be an uncomfortable influence on you every day (okay, at least three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) to ensure you wake up .  My goal is to be like Tony Robbins©, but with less hair, stalking you via this blog to encourage you on rough days, and to inspire you on good days to make them great.

Now, get up, get going and make the world awesome.  Otherwise I’ll make you drink hot Tang©.