“There is a wonderful, almost mystical, law of nature that says three of the things we want most—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained when we give them to others. Give it away to get it back.”
John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach
I got this pearl of wisdom from this week’s “3-2-1 Thursday” newsletter from author James Clear. Each week, he offers up 3 ideas, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question to ponder. If you’re not already on the email list, you can sign up here.
Yesterday I attended a happy hour with my old (both in age and tenure) buddies from Xavier. These gatherings actually are billed as “Hoppy Hour” because we meet at a different local brewery each month… and the person who picks the pub (we take turns) also picks up the tab.
A decade ago, we couldn’t have pulled off these monthly gatherings. But we’re off Little League duty now. Our kids can fend for themselves, so there’s a bit more free time in the ol’ schedule. Heck, we’ve got a few empty nesters in the gang already… and even a few grandparents!
Attendance has been great. Some of that’s due to our newfound leisure time, but I think part of it also has to do with Father Time. That ever-ticking clock reminds us we’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil, and while we may be shufflin’, we’re still picking up speed on the downward slope. As the Buffalo Tom song says:
“Now my time behind is greater than my time ahead.”
Back in college, we were thought we were invincible. Now we know better. We’ve all come face to face with mortality. Knees and hips and sometimes hearts are wearing out. Parents, in-laws, even peers from our college days have passed on. It’s sobering… and a “Hoppy Hour” won’t bring our dearly departed back, but spending time with friends is a soothing salve for the soul, and the laughs are an over-the-counter heart remedy.
Yes, we still talk about sports and bring up ill-advised-yet-somehow-we-survived stories of the beer-and-testosterone-fueled antics of our youth. That’s what guys do. But the gift of time has helped us realize that basketball games aren’t life and death. That empathy trumps ego. Caring matters more than career. We’ve all taken different paths over the past 35 years, but now it’s nice to reconnect with our fellow travelers.
If we have our health and a few close friends, we are truly blessed. If we can meet them for a beer or two every once in a while, our cup overflows. (Sorry about that… hand us a bar towel and we’ll clean it up.)
Warren Buffett is an investing legend, of the “buy and hold” variety. His annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is full of his folksy wit and wisdom. Here’s my favorite part of this year’s letter, which came out Saturday
The tens of millions of other investors and speculators in the United States and elsewhere have a wide variety of equity choices to fit their tastes. They will find CEOs and market gurus with enticing ideas. If they want price targets, managed earnings and “stories,” they will not lack suitors. “Technicians” will confidently instruct them as to what some wiggles on a chart portend for a stock’s next move. The calls for action will never stop.
Many of those investors, I should add, will do quite well. After all, ownership of stocks is very much a “positive-sum” game. Indeed, a patient and level-headed monkey, who constructs a portfolio by throwing 50 darts at a board listing all of the S&P 500, will – over time – enjoy dividends and capital gains, just as long as it never gets tempted to make changes in its original “selections.”
Productive assets such as farms, real estate and, yes, business ownership produce wealth – lots of it. Most owners of such properties will be rewarded. All that’s required is the passage of time, an inner calm, ample diversification and a minimization of transactions and fees. Still, investors must never forget that their expenses are Wall Street’s income. And, unlike my monkey, Wall Streeters do not work for peanuts.
It’s easy to focus on the monkey and the darts… but cagey ol’ Warren also baked in some key principles of his billionaire success: patience, level-headedness, inner calm, diversification and minimizing fees.
As Buffett notes, “the calls for action will never stop”… but many times the best move is no action at all. Your patience will be rewarded.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find 50 darts and a monkey.
The mental health crisis is the silent pandemic. What can we do when we’re still in lockdown? We can’t hang out with a bunch of strangers in a bar (unless you’re in Sturgis for the Harley Rally – anything goes!) But we can at least reach out to a few of our casual acquaintances. Whip out that smart phone, scroll through your contacts to find four folks with whom you haven’t connected in a while, and shoot each of them a quick text. Just to say howdy.
A really smart guy, three weeks ago
OK, now let’s fast-forward to yesterday (seems oxymoronic, but just stay with me here). Ryan Estis is one of the many “achieve your dreams” gurus making fat bank off corporate speaking and consulting gigs. (His website sayeth: RyanEstis is a sales and leadership expert preparing companies and individual contributors to embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance.) And guess what he talked about in his weekly “Prepare for Impact” email newsletter yesterday? Pretty much the same damn things I covered three weeks ago:
How the pandemic was creating a loneliness epidemic.
Encouraging his readers to reach out to three people via text.
Son of a biscuit-eater… Ryan Estis stole my idea!
I’m not upset. I’m flattered… and now I realize I’m just a sport coat, a checkered shirt and a wireless mic away from being a “leadership expert.”
(I actually do like Ryan Estis’ stuff. Obvi – I subscribe to his newsletter. His most famous presentation is at the bottom of this post. )
Hey Ryan, hit me up in the comments, and I’ll let you know my home address so you can start sending royalties my way.
My wife’s grandfather had this model train car in his collection:
A bright yellow car with “Plastics” plastered on it. It couldn’t be louder or prouder unless it had a few exclamation points.
Now, plastics are threatening our future…
But there’s still hope. Boylan Slat, a Dutch inventor, was just 18 when he started Ocean Cleanup back in 2013. He’s trying to tackle the complex challenge of cleaning up the ocean garbage. These days, he’s also working to remove it from the 10 rivers that contribute the most garbage to the patch.
We can do our part, a bit further upstream… by reducing our use. Weaning ourselves from bottled water is a great place to start.
Bailing out on plastic bags will help too. A lot of cities have banned single-use plastic bags, or are charging a fee if you use them.
These relatively simple daily changes may seem like a drop in the ocean. But maybe that’s the point.
Jeff Tweedy, a songwriter and musician best known as the leader of the band Wilco , has written a ton of great songs. He’s also written a couple of books. His most recent is How To Write One Song.
If you aspire to be a songwriter, there’s plenty of useful info in the book. And if your goal is merely a single song, the same holds true. (Tweedy is wisely lowering the “barriers to entry” with his book’s title. Writing a single song seems much less daunting than becoming a songwriter.)
But even if you never want to put pen to paper and create a song, you’ll still find plenty of creative fodder in Tweedy’s breezy and engaging book.
It’s not really about songwriting, it’s about creativity, in all its forms. The songwriting angle is really just an interesting construct, a device to get us to embrace our inner creative kid and ignore the critics, both internal and external.
I love that advice. Seems like we’ve heard similar suggestions before, right? Ignore the haters. Do what you love. Do it out of love, not out of a search for approval or fame or fortune. Trust the process, don’t worry about the end result.
It seems so simple, yet it’s difficult to put in to practice. Because we’re scared to be vulnerable.
Here’s the money quote:
Check out Jeff’s book… then give yourself a little more permission. One song at a time.
I’ve learned so much from PBS. And when I say “PBS” I mean Pearls Before Swine, the comic strip. (What, did you think I was talking about that highfalutin TV network?) Here’s Stephan Pastis’ brilliant strip from yesterday:
Astounding, ain’t it? Good work if you can get it…
Yeah, I know you can counter this with an argument that CEOs are the LeBrons and Beyoncés of the corporate world, and superstars get super pay. (Pro tip: you probably shouldn’t use LeBron and Beyoncé as your examples, as Blacks and women are woefully underrepresented at the CEO level.)
Are CEOs really nearly a thousand times better than they were back in 1978? Highly unlikely. Not even the CEO of Stark Industries deserves that big a bump, and he’s saved the world a time or three.
I’m not saying CEOs shouldn’t make millions… but their salary should be linked to the salary of the worker bees in their company.
Ideally, we would tie worker pay to executive pay. The maximum ratio would be enforced by law. In order for those at the very top to enrich themselves more, they’d have to raise the wages of their employees. Companies would no longer be able to pay minimum wage to many of those at the bottom and tens of millions to those at the top. All the happy corporate talk about “team members” would finally mean something real.
Peter Guber is a movie producer. He’s produced many memorable flicks such as Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Midnight Express, Gorillas in the Mist, and Flashdance. He’s also produced some clunkers, but he’s got a nice batting average. All told, the films he’s produced have grossed over $3 billion worldwide and received 50 Academy Award nominations.
Oh, he also co-owns the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Football Club of the MLS.
By the way, he’s also a bestselling author. His most recent book is titled Tell to Win.
Peter was a guest recently on Rob Lowe’s podcast, Literally! and had a lot to say about the power of storytelling. Check out this excerpt.
I love that term, emotional transportation. (Clearly this blog is like a Yugo Taxi that’s running low on fuel, but still…)
“Resonant, memorable, actionable.” Yeah, that’s the ticket!
The full podcast episode is here. And Peter Guber’s article for the Harvard Business Review, The Four Truths of the Storyteller, is here.