No. of Recommendations: 37
One of my daughters – we call her “The Ghost of the Canyon” -- asked me to enter a contest in the Hidden Gems paid service where a muscle shirt is awarded for the best few posts on the topic, “My Bottom Line: How HG Investing Has Improved My Life, Financially and Otherwise.” She wants the muscle shirt, I think.

I cannot resist such a request, but I also cannot write an essay on that topic. I think if I tried Jehovah would frown and fire would rain down on me from the sky.

So, I compromised; I wrote about some stuff I wanted my kids to hear. And I like what I wrote; it comes tolerably close to saying what I wanted to say. That rarely happens; usually I start off in one direction and end up at some random place.

But I miscalculated, since none of my kids and MF friends other than The Ghost of the Canyon are members of Hidden Gems – i.e., none of them could easily access that post.

So, begging the indulgence of the METAR community for yet another completely OT post – and emphasizing that while I feel free to give advice to my kids, I do not presume to do so with you guys (and thus think of this post as “things I learned the hard way that might be of interest to you”) -- I am reproducing the essence of that Hidden Gems post here so people I care about can read it if they want.

OK, here is my contest entry:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am entering this contest because I have vowed to try to contribute value to these boards . . . it would be nice to revive the old spirit of these boards, which were once probably the best in the MF universe. So, despite my natural inclination to curse the darkness (and the light, and the twilight, and the dawn, and . . . well, you get the idea; I am a bit of a curmudgeon), I am embarked on a program of lighting candles, figuratively.

However, I do not really want a muscle shirt – it would be so superfluous! Although it might come in handy if I ever get a chance to meet Helen Mirren . . . .

Still, in the unlikely event that I would otherwise be a winner, no need to send a shirt – let’s just view my contribution as community building, sort of like those exercises where your coworker closes his eyes and falls backward, trusting that you will catch him, and instead you let him fall and then laugh uproariously.

If I am not careful, I may inadvertently wander off topic here. So let me dive right in to discuss “My Bottom Line: How HG Investing Has Improved My Life, Financially and Otherwise.”

Wow, to be honest, I do not really feel like talking about that topic!

I have learned a lot as a result of HG, but in the grand scheme of things it has not really been all that important in my life. Once you can tote up a big enough score, in terms of years on this planet, the odds are that you will have been through many things that outweigh an investing service in terms of impact. (If not, perhaps you should have gotten out a bit more!)

In my case: I have been married longer than our advisors have been alive; I have five kids; I have started four businesses and succeeded in two; I have been hired 24 times and fired 9 times (fifteen quits, currently “self-employed”); I have survived malaria, being shot, and falling overboard in a storm off the coast of Catalina; I have sat by the bed, stunned and sad, as my father and younger brother passed on to whatever comes next; I have been a greens keeper, construction worker, fire alarm salesman, tax attorney, merger and acquisitions attorney, theoretical particle physicist, Silicon Valley strategist, and developer of a free math and reading program for preschoolers that is now in use on three continents (and is very different from, and way, way better than, LF's); I watched as Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and as Walter White faded to black; in short, as is the case with anyone my age, life has pummeled me a lot, caressed me a little, and fascinated me throughout.

So, bearing the weight of that history, and cognizant of the fact that my five kids will read this post (they have no choice!), let me just throw out a few things I have learned:

1. The other guy is way smarter than you think – and if you take the time to listen to him, and get to know him, nicer, too. This even applies to Methodists and people from Iowa.

2. Conversely, we are all far less interesting to others than we think. Our inner depths, our passions and beliefs – well, if we are lucky enough to be beautiful or rich, other people will pretend to be fascinated by these things; otherwise, they will not even pretend.

3. Corollary: focus outward; “knowing thyself” is a dangerous endeavor unless it can be done in the interstices between more productive pursuits. I recommend devoting Thursdays from 11:00 AM to 11:20 AM to “knowing thyself,” leaving other times free for better things.

4. Illustration: if you peer inward, and focus your energies on your inner being, you might forget to notice things such as black walnuts and Osage Oranges, soapstone, Bach, Goethe, the wonders of modern cosmology (inflation, dark matter, dark energy, and the Big Rip – which I guess could also be called the Big “R.I.P.”), T.S. Elliot, the feel of sweat trickling down your back as you put everything you have into a sledgehammer under a hot summer sun, the mysteries of quantum physics and the shocking realities of relativity, and – most of all – the joy of coming to know others: your spouse; your children; your boon companions.

5. That said, take the time to figure out what is really important to you, and make sure it is at the top of your to-do list every day. It is easy to put “time with the kids” on the list under all the quick, pressing daily chores such as cooking, cleaning, washing, yard work, etc. – and when you do this, all that other stuff gets done and “time with the kids” – well, maybe it slips to the next day. In a rare display of good sense I chose time with kids over clean floors; never once have I regretted it.

6. In the end, your time is all that you have, so spend it wisely. Forget TV, for example (except Breaking Bad).

7. Listen to your kids. They are very smart – not knowledgeable, really, but smart. Respect them, listen to them, and they might just listen back. And you will learn a great deal in the process.

8. Enjoy the great things in your life: kids; spouse; health; success at work and play; warm winds under gentle skies - - you get the idea. Bad things will happen, and they will claim their share of your days. That is life; it is unavoidable. But do not let bad times claim more than their share – savor the good times, untainted by the bad that has happened or will happen.

9. There is nothing better than a fresh local peach. Do not deny yourself this seasonal pleasure.

Well, that about sums up ““My Bottom Line: How HG Investing Has Improved My Life, Financially and Otherwise” –time to move on to my next project, figuring out the chords to “KilKelly Ireland.”


A Drumlin Daisy

Who points out how much it frees one to disclaim a prize and thus make his own rules for the game . . . .
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