Tag Archives: economics

Friday Night Ramblings – 6/28/2019

My least favorite human trait is envy. That’s not to say that I never feel it myself. Of course, I sometimes look at more successful people and wish things had gone better for me. Typically, however, I don’t dwell on coveting other people’s lives, and I try not to resent anyone else’s achievements. This is because I don’t believe that life is a zero sum game.

Back when my writing career was on an upward trajectory, many other writers within my circle of interaction would envy the small measures of success I had. Some would openly grumble when I did something good. Others would mutter behind my back (sometimes those remarks would get back to me). However, the ones who said those things wouldn’t attend as many conventions as I would, and when they did, they rarely would remain at the sales table as long as I did. They rarely hustled for as many radio/podcast/blog interviews. They rarely made as many sacrifices.

That’s my issue with envy. Most of the time, when someone is jealous of someone else’s good fortune, they desire the fruitful harvest, but they aren’t willing to plow the field and hoe the rows to get there. And in my experience, virtually every single successful person has worked damned hard to achieve what they have.

In terms of books, I never believed that I was in direct competition with other writers. Readers read as many good books as they can find, so I was in competition with myself to craft the best story I could compose. The same is true for my landscaping and tree business. No one business could possibly handle every job out there, so I’m not really competing with anyone except the expectations of my customers. If they are happy, I will get more work. It’s that simple.

Too many people seem to be jealous that they weren’t born a trust fund baby, able to lounge on the French Riviera and sip mimosas for brunch every day. And those people never seem content with their own journey, their own personal competitions. Would it be nice to have a bottomless well of cash? Yes and no. Sure, money can provide a lot of material comforts, but it doesn’t create internal contentedness. The wealthiest people I know are never really happy. Something is always missing from their lives. Happiness comes from recognizing the blessings you already possess and appreciating them.

Once you make that mental switch, from envying others to appreciating your own bounty, you can begin to savor each day as a new opportunity to accomplish something. And some truly cool things can begin to happen for you.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday Evening Ramblings – 6/26/2019

I’ve always felt like something of an anomaly. I have a strong dislike for large government and authoritarianism, but I tend to be pretty progressive about social matters. In my youth, because I came from a blue collar background, I studied Marxism and dreamed of a proletarian utopia, but after deeper analysis, I came to see the beauty of free markets. As a result, I’ve never felt at home with either political party.

I’ve always considered myself an independent moderate with a strong libertarian leaning. I’ll admit that I used to have a severe dislike for most conservative philosophies, but honestly, since I got out of jail, the people who have shown me the most love, compassion, and mercy have been conservatives. The majority of people who ghosted me are liberals. Something like that makes you rethink your own prejudices.

If I had to give myself a true political label, I would say I’m a neoliberal, which isn’t to be confused with a Democratic liberal. Neoliberals believe that free markets and economics are the keys to personal and social liberty. The reason why Marxism fails is because it doesn’t take into account that people are going to act in their own best interests most of the time. It’s impossible for any monolithic, central government to operate efficiently enough to account for individual taste, individual ambition, individual ingenuity. However, free markets can.

In our system, you have the opportunity to choose your own profession. You have the opportunity to start your own business. Yes, there are inequalities and not everyone starts out on equal footing, but I’ve seen numerous examples of people who started with nothing and built thriving enterprises. The mother of one of my best friends in college was from Vietnam. She barely spoke English when she moved to Memphis with her GI husband. After their divorce, she had virtually nothing, yet because of her personal ambition, intelligence, and will, she built a very successful import business.

I’ve also seen the opposite. Spoiled kids who had every advantage and opportunity, yet somehow managed to fumble it all away, usually through debauchery and laziness.

I wanted more than anything to be a novelist. That ambition drove me to study hard in college, practice crafting stories throughout my late teens and early twenties, and produce a damn fine fantasy series. It never caught on commercially, so in some respects, I failed in that career. But I learned so much about myself and the world and business that I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Now, I have a small tree and landscaping business that I literally started with my own two hands. I work hard everyday, but I’m happy and content with the value I add to people’s lives. I’m not wealthy, but that’s okay because I’m growing something that feels real. Anyone can do the same. Anyone can find a skill they have and apply it to solving problems in other people’s lives. That’s what free markets are all about.

That’s all for now.

Monday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/24/2019

I mentioned before that my oldest son keeps seeing all of these pro-communist posts on Tumblr. My assumption is that the vast majority are by recent college graduates who have been nestled in the comfortable space of academic idealism, where the theory of communism seems like a utopian paradise. The problem with most of academia is that it rarely can survive in the harsh and messy realities of day to day life.

The first question I would like to ask any pro-communist supporter is this: are you personally willing to tell Oprah Winfrey that she didn’t earn her money fairly and that she must surrender her assets to the authorities? What about Michael Jordan? That is the first step of communism, the seizure of private wealth, nearly always by force.

If Oprah resists, are you personally willing to imprison her? Injure her? Kill her? The academics tend to gloss over this step, as if people will just shrug and willingly hand over what they have worked a lifetime to earn. When you look at the real world examples of communism seizing power, a significant portion of the populace is physically harmed in the process.

If you personally are not willing to strip Oprah Winfrey of her possessions, congratulations, you understand in principle the folly of authoritarian rule.

That’s all for now.

Saturday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/22/2019

There are elements in this world you simply have to avoid as much as possible. If you allow them to, they will drain away all of your time and energy, leaving you little for your own prosperity.

First are the professional victims. These people are never at fault for their own failures. They always find someone or something to explain away their shortcomings. These people never grow and develop properly because they never learn to evaluate what they did wrong that caused them not to achieve their goals.

Closely related are the victimization enablers. These people, who come from every band of the political spectrum, tend to develop elaborate theories for why a particular socioeconomic group is struggling. From conservatives blaming immigrants to liberals blaming white people, the enablers dismiss personal accountibility and engender negativity. If you want to find internal peace, you must remove the victimization enablers from your reality.

Another form of energy leech is the constant complainer. Nothing will ever satisfy these people. If you give them soup, they prefer steak. If you give them steak, they want pie. No matter what you try to do, you will never satisfy their needs because their misery is deeply rooted. Your best course of action is to limit your exposure as much as you can.

To me, the most important people to avoid are the naysayers. These are the people who said that flight was impossible, that computers would be a passing fad, that we would never reach space. Naysayers will pick apart and scoff at any idea. If you aspire to create anything new, to start a business, to ponder fresh ideas, you will have to teach yourself to tune out the naysayers and listen to the animal spirit inside you. At some point, you will run up against an obstacle, and the naysayers will be quick to say I told you so. That’s when you will have to tune them out even more and trust that virtually every success follows a handful (or more) of failures.

That’s all for now.

Friday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/21/2019

Two and a half years ago, I had a hand-me-down Pontiac on its last legs, a handful of tools that were mostly worn out, and not much else. The lady I had been working for online sent me a message one afternoon that said some friends of hers needed some dirt moved around for a flower bed. That was her pitch. Some dirt moved around.

I have a master’s degree in writing. Once upon a time, I was a bestselling author, ranked number #134 of all books on Amazon. Not all fantasy books. All books, fiction and nonfiction. I was #2 in fantasy. I’ve delivered presentations to crowds of hundreds. I was a college instructor for over 16 years.

A tiny sliver of me felt insulted, humiliated, and demeaned that I had been reduced to moving around some dirt. But only a tiny sliver.

The rest of me saw an opportunity. Building a flower bed is my kind of work. Physical labor, dirt, nature. I could already see the flowers growing. In the back of my mind, I thought: landscaping business.

See, here’s the beauty of America and the free market. Everything is capital. You don’t have to have money to possess capital. An idea is a form of it. Your skills are a form of it. Anything and everything you can imagine can be transformed into an asset. I didn’t have much material wealth, but I did have a strong body, a broad knowledge base, a plethora of skills, and a vision for becoming my own boss.

Anyone who is willing to take the risks and put in the effort can develop their own business. The universe is full of problems that need to be solved, and people and businesses are willing to pay to have their problems taken care of.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/19/2019

One of the most important lessons I have learned in life is to stop worrying about the things I cannot control. I have zero influence over politics, so I no longer give politics my energy. That change alone has made me so much happier and healthier than I was back when I was plugged into the “daily outrage machine.”

I have no control over other people’s actions. The only thing I can effect is my reaction to their actions. After losing so many friends and family members, I had to teach myself to let go and move on. I simply cannot dwell on what others think of me, no matter how close we may have been. There are people I miss, of course, and from time to time I reminisce about our friendships, but overall, those people are quite simply dead to me and are not welcome in my present reality.

I cannot control overall market forces. I can, however, pay attention to and anticipate how those forces will affect my life. In terms of risk management, I try not to put myself into volatile situations. From being at the very bottom, I learned that there are always jobs out there that people don’t want to do for whatever reason (hard labor, dirt, danger), but they will pay someone else to take care of it. In that regard, the market for my services is relatively stable, as long as I’m willing to and capable of handling it.

I can’t control what memories or emotions bubble up on a daily basis. I can control my reaction to them. If anger comes up, I let it pass and move on. I can’t let anger consume me. If I have a twinge of self-pity, I push it aside as quickly as possible. That won’t help anything. Every single day, I make a concerted effort to focus on the blessings and positives in my life, and that focus has done more to heal me than anything else.

That’s all for now.

Tuesday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/18/2019

This time three years ago, I had virtually nothing in terms of material possessions. No car, no savings, no real furniture, and just a handful of clothes. My home was barely inhabitable from my time away. To make matters worse, my credit score was in the low 500s, and my reputation was ruined. Probably 90% of the people I had considered friends or family had turned their backs on me.

There were some very dark nights.

I could have chosen to focus on all of those negatives and wallowed in self pity, and most likely, no one would have blamed me for just giving up. But if you know me at all, you should know that I don’t quit easily. Instead of the negatives, I turned my focus to the things I did have: that 10% who remained by my side, my recovered health from that God awful neurological illness that had nearly crippled me, my resolve to rebuild my life and rebuild my relationship with my kids.

For the first couple of months, I focused on cleaning my home and searching for a job. Because of the circumstances, no one wanted to hire me. Even shitty janitorial type openings were denied to me. My first real break came when two of my dearest friends gave me an old car that had sat undriven for a couple of years. I cannot tell you how profoundly this simple act of charity impacted my life. I will always be grateful for their love and generosity. My father helped me get the car running, and suddenly I had a modicum of independence back.

The second big break came when a different friend helped me secure a part-time online job. The pay was pretty good for the work involved, but the real boon was that the lady who hired me was so impressed by my work ethic that she recommended me to friends who were looking for a groundskeeper/handyman for their property. That may not sound like a glamorous job, but that work became the foundation for the businesses I would begin.

That’s all for now.