The Ladder Generation

I am of the first generation to do worse-off financially than its parents’ generation.

I’m okay with that. There are other things that we can give to our children and the succeeding generations, hard-fought bits of wisdom that will help them avoid the same mistakes we made, and some advice regarding things they can do now to make the future easier.

This will be short and sweet, and is meant to elaborate upon a tweet thread from a few days ago that got a halfway-decent response.

Becoming an adult is a good thing. Reject the youth-worship that’s engulfed American culture for the past 50 years. It will stultify you more than nearly anything. Learn. Grow. Progress. Improve.

And sometimes . . . sometimes, listen to old guys.

Alright my friends, here we go:

  • Avoid Expectation Inflation: We are living in an anomalous time of unprecedented material abundance and physical security. Our parents likely never faced hardship, and they–maybe even our grandparents–grew up in a post-World War II world where (1) prosperity seemed to happen without even trying and (2) the older generations wanted to make sure that the younger generations never experience similar hardship. This led to many of us thinking that if we just followed The Rules, we’d be similarly successful–a house bigger than our parents’, more cars, better vacations–just because! This is not the case. It seems self-evident now, but when you’re in the sea, you don’t really notice the water. It’s okay to not have exactly the same lifestyle your parents had. Or even better, if you want that lifestyle, get serious about what it takes to achieve it. The rules have changed. It’s different than when your parents were younger. That world is over. I had the misfortune to be in my teens and twenties during this transition. The transition is over. You are aware of it now. Realize that the future is what you make of it, and not a given.
  • Be Serious: Don’t just think about what you want out of life and where you’d like to be. Make a plan. Bring it to life by writing it down. Make a list of where you’d like to be one year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. Add some concrete steps you can take, or systems you can put into place, in order to get to where you want to be. Put it away for a few months and then revisit it to see where you are. The time and relative lack of responsibility that you have now won’t last forever. Lay the foundation in your 20s so you have something solid to build upon in your 30s. This ties into the next bit of advice. Continue reading “The Ladder Generation”

Ownership?

I paid off my car this month. After six years, it is finally mine. At last, I own it. 

And I don’t just mean “I have physical possession of the vehicle.” I mean that it’s mine

It is a debt that has been completely, fully paid off. 

Which got me thinking about how little any of us actually own. 

America prides itself on being a land where you can have your own piece of the pie. In fact, homeownership itself at some point became synonymous with “The American Dream.”

As one who went from house to apartment and is again looking for a house, I can tell you that being a “homeowner” is a misnomer. You really “own” nothing. 

Your bank owns the house until you pay off the mortgage some thirty years later. And even then, if you don’t pay your property taxes, the State can do all sorts of fun legal things to make you pay…including putting a lien on your house. 

I suppose if you’re a homesteader, you can perhaps get around some of this. But there are so few ways to be truly left aloneContinue reading “Ownership?”

The Treadmill of Life

Real-and-Inspiring-Getting-Off-the-Treadmill-of-Life.png

“Are you stuck in a rut? Does life make you feel like you’re on a treadmill, constantly running and getting nowhere? Well, stick around because boy, do have the answer for YOU!”

The above sentence is, of course, complete nonsense. And yet, there’s a lot of this going around.

Look, I love the Internet. There is more knowledge, more communication, more connection than you could ever handle in a lifetime. There is also another thing that gets forgotten: More inpsiration.

That’s right! Like lots of other people, I have discovered what is sometimes called the “manosphere,” but which I just like to refer to as “men.”

Like most males of the species, I do not have many friends that I see on a regular basis. My “social support group” or whatever you want to call it can be counted on one hand. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I have let my friendships dwindle down to mere acquanitences, and it feels futile, and even daunting, to try to rekindle them.

Enter the Internet. There are lots and lots of men talking about these things, and how to navigate a life that seems not quite deisgned for you to live in. A lot of it is in good fun and the spirit of true self-improvement. Some of it has even been helpful!

I’m not here to knock any of it, even though I don’t agree with all of it.

But sometimes I do look at these people–older than men, younger than me, the same age and me–who seem to have it all figured out, and I have to tell myself, before I get too depressed, that everyone is different.

And also that this is the Internet. Lots of people are trying to sell themselves. While 99% of what they do is given away for free, and it’s eminently fair to offer that remaining 1% for a price (usually low), there is an element of puffery.

Still, it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to others, even when we know that can sometimes be a fool’s game. But without something to aspire to, where do we go?

Sadly, I know the answer to that. You go to a pretty dark place and it’s tough to get out.

But at least a dark place feels like SOMEWHERE, even if it’s not a somewhere you want to set up permanent shop.

Being on life’s treadmill, though . . . treading water . . . is almost more miserable in its mediocrity.

You’re just going . . . nowhere.

Or as one of my favorite bands puts it:

Runnin’ twice as fast to stay in the same place
Don’t catch my breath until the end of the day . . .

–Faith No More, “Ricochet

“It’s temporary,” you might say. “We’re all in this situation at some point.”

True . . . but fifteen or so years can sure seem like an eternity.

So while I have no answers for how to get off, I can continue to use my life as a cautionary tale to make sure that you don’t get on the treadmill of life. Continue reading “The Treadmill of Life”

An Economy of Air: The Gods of the Marketplace

Take a look around at what you’re doing right now. Chances are, especially if you live in a modern Western nation, it’s kind of weird.

“Weird? How can that be? We’re all normal, decent, ordinary, every day people!”

Well, yes. But the thing is, the way we live is a historical anomaly. I think this is why many of us feel a vague unease with the way things are.

Just think about the rhythm of many of our daily lives:

  • Wake up
  • Commute
  • Go to one place for 8 to 12 hours
  • Go home and have a couple of hours to yourself
  • Sleep
  • Wake up

And so on.

“But that’s life!” you might say. “Everybody has to work for a living.” 

And you would right. But the kind of work we do is just so…weird. 

Look at me. I’m a lawyer. I read stuff that was invented by humans and yet is treated as though it has the magic ability to make people do what it says.

The corporate and office jobs I’ve had amount to not much more than trying to make a decision on who to talk to that can make another decision, who then escalated up to somebody else who makes another decision.

Nobody really does anything. It’s ephemeral. We have an economy of air.

People love to mock the so-called “working man,” or people who work in factories or in trades. But at the end of the day they at least made something that was a concrete, tangible, real.

Soon, though, that will be gone. Everything will be automated, even my job. We’re almost there. Some predict we’ll be there in a decade

Will this be good? Maybe. Maybe we’ll have more time to devote to philosophy, the arts, music…but even music has a mathematical formula. And artificial intelligence has almost developed to the point where it can write music

Weird, right?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that things don’t always have to be this way. Yet any suggestion that the post World War II world order might be wanting in several areas is met with reactions of shock and horror.

A lot of the same rebels who love to rail against the status quo recoil with disgust at the suggestion that maybe some things needs to be changed.

Unconsciously or not, so many think we’ve reached the end of history and that there is no other way except this. What we have now is the be-all, end-all and must be frozen in amber for all eternity, fossilized with no hope of change.

Now that’s weird, and is something our forebears sure wouldn’t recognize.

Am I suggesting that we all live in caves? Go back to toiling in the field? 

I don’t know about the caves, but there’s something to be said about growing your own food. You actually feel a connection to the world you live in. It’s hard to feel a connection when you’re sitting in a cubicle farm in some gray concrete slab of a building, or even in a NEW, HIP OPEN OFFICE at some trendy new tech start-up.

At the end of the day, it’s an economy of air. 

Whatever we’ve been given to replace this lack of connection doesn’t quite cut it. Buy this, wear that, think this, watch that, pop this, drink that. Don’t worry about it. Trust us. 

It’s just distraction. Is that why we’re here? To be amused? Continue reading “An Economy of Air: The Gods of the Marketplace”

Heart and Treasure

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

Financial discipline has always been a little bit of a problem with me. Not that I’m delinquent on any bills–I have never missed one in my life, whether it be rent, mortgage, car, utility, Internet, credit card, insurance–but I don’t really save.
I also ran into some tough times of joblessness, and took time during one bout of joblessness to go back to school. And how does one fund this, even with a wonderful wife who works very hard?

Why, by selling personal possessions, using savings, and going into debt.

What kind of debt? Credit card debt.

Now, this credit card saved me a few times, and as I said I have never missed a payment. It’s just been difficult to pay off the whole thing, even though I (a) use it for staples like things my son needs, gas, food, clothes, (b) use it for situational things that come up (birthday or other gifts for family, medical bills, car repair), and (c) pay more than the minimum due every single month.

But I am yet to get it down to zero.

Just as a way of background, in my previous job-search blog, lost unfortunately to the sands of time, I wrote about this issue a little over a year ago when I had just started this current job. I had saved some of my posts in Word format, so they aren’t totally lost in the ashes of an inadvertently deleted WordPress blog:

Regarding food, let’s just say that it’s been a little tough, given my penchant for the stuff, but it’ll be good seeing as how I really would like to lose a stubborn 20 or so pounds I put on since I last shed a whole bunch of weight. I figure $150 should keep me going for a month, provided that I don’t eat out too much, buy coffee outside of the house, lay off of the alcohol and the cigars, and generally spend frugally

*     *     *

All told, I’m doing alright so far. Food-wise, I’ve been portioning everything out and meal-planning well in advance. Here’s what I did: I bought a three-pack of pork chops, a four pack of chicken breast, two cucumbers, six tomatoes, a bag of onions, a little garlic, three bags of frozen vegetables, a rotisserie chicken, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, four cans of tuna fish, four boxes of soup, a dozen eggs, a bag of apples, a half-gallon of milk, a half-gallon of orange juice, a box of cereal, and a huge can of coffee. Most, if not all, of this was store brand, and good Lord is the price difference shocking! And guess what? There is barely a perceptible difference in taste. I swear I saved over thirty bucks just by buying generics.

So I hard-boiled the eggs to have for breakfast, ate half of the rotisserie chicken that day, the other half the next, grilled three pork chops with onions and steamed the broccoli which, so far, has lasted me two days and will suffice again for dinner tomorrow. I’ve also been portioning out my salad because, come on! Greek boy’s gotta have his salad. And then an apple serves as desert. A little Spartan, yes, but I have family from there and I need to be as frugal as possible. I’m trying really hard to turn over a new leaf now that I have a job that pays MORE than I could have gotten right out of undergrad, pay down my debts, and save. The idea isn’t to just save a nickel, it’s to make a buck while saving a nickel!

As you can see, this has been a concern of mine for a while. Continue reading “Heart and Treasure”

Reinventing the Reinvented Wheel

Sometimes it gets, to use an overused Internet term, exhausting 

What does?

Life. Existence. History. 

No, I’m not going goth on you. Let me explain. 

Every single generation in human history ignores the lessons of the past, screws up, realizes that the old timers were right, and desperately tries to keep the next generation from making the same mistakes. 

Except it never works. Ever. 

Check out the Strauss-Howe generational theory. Whether you buy it or not, it presents a compelling case as to why we see the same patterns again and again in history. 

It’s kind of depressing to think a nut, especially if you don’t like the particular cycle, or generations archhetype, you find yourself in. 

This blog is an attempt to make sense of the world, tie everything together, and help people, particularly younger ones, avoid the mistakes of my past. 

If even one person finds what I do here useful, I will consider that a success. 

However, I’m selfish. I’m greedy. And I’m a narcissist. 

I want to help more people. Educate them. Talk with them. Dare I say it, change them. 

Even…[CORNBALL WARNING]

…[YOU WERE WARNED]…

CHANGE THE WORLD. Continue reading “Reinventing the Reinvented Wheel”

Cultural Traps, Part II

America is a great place. That said, there’s nothing wrong with critiquing it in the hopes that it can get better. As we are all products of the culture in which we live, it’s important to look yet again at some of the American cultural shibboleths that should be re-examined or even discarded as we form a more perfect union.

In Part I of this series, I defined a “cultural traps” as:

…[those] idioms, maxims, ethics, and ways of living that we except as normal, “the conventional wisdom.”

So with lot further ado, let’s take a look at a few more.

Everyone is rational. Western civilization loves this idea. Here in America, we still cling to this myth that everybody–ourselves, our neighbors, our leaders–are rational beings who act in a rational manner in furtherance of their own rational best interests. If you still believe this, then I’d like to talk to you about Amway…

The fact of the matter is, rationality is only something we can get to if we keep our emotions in check. And even then, there are other things that go into our decisionmaking, not just emotion but things like morality, instincts (whatever that means), and peer pressure.

What do I mean by “morality” is irrational? Here’s a scenario: Let’s say you are a rich, ruling-class elite. The rational, most efficient way to solve the problem of poverty, which would be in your own self-interest, would be to kill the poor. Morality, by stopping his, could be seen as irrational.

See?

We ignore these things at our own peril, because while you think everybody’s acting rationally, their actions will often make no sense. And don’t forget, you are not acting rationally either. Taking into account why you and others are making a choice can keep you from committing costly mistakes–or trusting others.  Continue reading “Cultural Traps, Part II”