Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #40 : Other People's Shoes

Suppose you are doing your Reservist and you hear a story from Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam is one of the most popular specialists in the Brigade and always seems to be surrounded by men wanting to hear about his ridiculous escapades.

Today Uncle Sam describes a story of his last trip to Hong Kong.

In this last trip, Uncle Sam visited Temple Street and hired the services of someone who calls herself Mistress Akina (Based on 80s pop singer Akina Nakamori). After bringing her back to the hotel room, Mistress Akina first orders Uncle Sam to strip, and thereafter, she ties up  while simultaneously humiliating him about the small size of one of his organs.

When Uncle Sam is tied up in bed, Mistress Akina proceeds to climb on top of him and takes a nice long crap on his chest.

Philosophical question for the reader from this scatological anecdote :

Was Uncle Sam suffering throughout this engagement ?

This chapter in the book talks about the important of getting into someone's shoes and trying to empathise with them. I think this is an important point in the "FIREr vs Entrepreneur" debate raging in the FB group after Alvin Chow of Dr Wealth wrote an article on whether financial bloggers are suffering.

Over the years, I have faced my share of critics who reason that my approach to personal finance causes me a lot of suffering. This is as if they are speaking for myself. But the truth is that without really going ahead to cut down the savings and actually grow your wealth, you don't really know whether this journey is one of pain or pleasure (or both, in the case of Uncle Sam).

I would instead argue that high octane entrepreneurs, super-FIRErs and BDSM enthusiasts have one thing in common : They belong to deviant subcultures that are misunderstood by members of the public.

Sub-cultures engage in conflict because of difference in what french sociologist Pierre Bourdieu would call a habitus. 

The habitus of a FIREr is that they dress and eat simply. A lot of their social capital is tied to the books they read and whatever investing strategies they have. Books FIREr's read include Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin.

The habitus of a entrepreneur, on the other hand, is that have have to dress well to hustle and sometimes rewards themselves with better food. Such a person might consider knowledge of finer restaurants part of their cultural capital. Entrepreneurs prefer reads like Gary Vaynerchuck or Michael Gerber.

But like two countries having different currencies without a formal exchange rate, the cultural capital of a FIREr may seem worthless to an entrepreneur and vice versa.

People will say all sorts of things about FIRErs. Some will say that they are denying themselves True Happiness. But these guys might not know that  FIREr is secretly laughing all the way to the bank getting thousands into their bank accounts in dividends every quarter.

[ Digression : For this weekend's class, one strategy backtest 31.28% with a semivariance of 15.93%. As there are no more previews left, if you want one of the last few seat for the lesson. Write to me private. I'll get you guys in touch with the organisers. ]

To ordinary people, life as a startup entrepreneur is harsh and they seem to hustle all the time. But these guys also have the great privilege of seeing their product ideas find validation in the market. I'm going through a journey myself, giving talks in previews and seeing if the audience dig my presentation enough to buying one of my programs and tuning the message if it falls flat.

As such, I think it a lot better to see Savers (High end FIRErs) and Strivers (Entrepreneurs) as the same side of the coin.

The opposite side of the coin is everyone else, folks who drift along the Singapore economy and accepts whatever society throws at them.

If they get upset, they can always activate their keyboards and pick on someone they don't like, like Nas Daily.

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