One of my most read articles of last year and one that I got the most messages about was titled ‘freedom‘.
It was inspired by many conversations where multiple people were using the same words but not meaning the same thing.
To recap one section of “freedom” I described degrees of freedom in terms of work/money as an example and later shared a great passage on “types of freedom”. To get the point across
“There are multiple types of freedom and each one is a spectrum, not black and white. So it might be a good idea to be precise in what ‘freedom’ we’re talking about, else we talk past one another.”
Another issue I’ve struggled with over the past years is people using one perspective to define “success vs failure” or “right vs wrong”
In this article I’ll share multiple examples of how I look at perspectives at the micro (within yourself) to macro (between countries).
Asian families sacrifice the Individual
One of the simplest ways to see how “success is defined based on perspective” is to consider most Asian families.
Most Asian families don’t care about the desires, opinions of the individual. Over decades and centuries the culture has involved optimizing around what’s the strategy most likely to benefit the entire group as a whole.
This has created a lot of success stories in terms of families being able to start from scratch and pull themselves up from ashes.
- A Chinese family moves to Indonesia and starts a shop where they live in the tiny quarters in the back of the shop.
- They save and reinvest most of their money, living very spartanly and the children work in the business from a young age too.
- They bring family members into the businesses (eg. cousin gets funded to start as a supplier)
- They create a circular economy based on family which means trust is very high so very little time or money is wasted on financing, contracts, middle man etc.
- Over generations you have an empire.
Tomas Sowell has a good section ‘Are Jews Generic’ in ‘Black Rednecks and White Liberals’ about this.
It’s no surprise that Asian American families have the highest wealth of immigrants in the Us.
Now a question, what about the desires of the children or the individuals?
Well they don’t matter of course. Why would they? That’s not how success is defined.
Success is defined as ‘what’s the thing most likely to benefit the entire family across multiple generations?’
Modern day version is:
- Want to become a singer? Fuck off, go to medical school.
- Want to be a writer? Fuck off, become an engineer.
- ‘What will the neighbors say’
- ‘Your grandmother will die from the shock and disappointment’
- ‘How am I going to be able to talk to my friends about you now?’
By the time you’re reading this exact sentence (yes you!), someone in India has just killed themselves because they didn’t want to marry someone their parents picked or because they’re forced to study something they don’t care about at all. (India has One suicide every 3.5 minutes)
But hey! Wealthiest immigrants by household wealth in the US! 🥳🎉
Is it a failure that you have to sacrifice your entire life, never do what you really wanted and live a life full of regrets without ever making a choice?
From the individual’s perspective, Of course. It’s a failure.
From the family’s perspective, of course not. It’s great to have a slave sacrificing themselves to the group that is the family. It’s a success.
Similarly the larger the group the more they’re likely to work with a “low ROI but high probability of success mentality”. Because that’s how group mentality works, certainty and security is overvalued.
“But if they’re stuck in their ways, how will they adapt? It makes no sense that they can be successful over time”
Well in almost all cases there are pioneers, the exceptions.
People who decide to break free and try something new who then come back and share the information with the family.
Here’s an example of “Indians leaving India for the US”.
This wasn’t something Indians did 100 years ago. In fact if you watch the movie “The Man Who Knew Infinity“ about Srinivasa Ramanujan you’d know that even in 1910 the majority of Indians believed that you’re not supposed to go over the horizon and leave india because you won’t come back?
Years in parentheses = when the people moved to the US.
- First generation (1900-50s): “look at these stupid people what are they thinking” looked down upon back home #disappointments
- Second generation (1970s-2000): lots of money and CEOs of Microsoft, Pepsi, Google #success
- Third generation (2000s onwards): ‘Of course this is what you have to do, don’t you know this? Go do this and don’t question’ Result: stuck in H1B line for decades, huge loans and mortgages, caught up in the zero sum culture wars #sacrifice
Think of the “hero’s journey” when the individual or group that decides to venture out into new territory is shamed in the short term, but praised later on when they’re right.
The new information gets incorporated into the culture and taken as granted.
‘You’ll fail’ -> ‘I always knew you could do it’
“You’re not supposed to leave your motherland” -> “of course you have to leave if you want a good life, don’t you know that?”
As I already shared in “No Adults in the room” this is where ‘speed of change’ comes into the picture into why it’s not the same anymore.
I remember sharing the above explanation of how Indians incorporate new information with a friend. But my conclusion of it is completely different.
Due to our quick changing nature of the world, by the time you can get the group to adapt to some reality it’s already outdated.
If you can convince a large group of people that something is an opportunity, it probably isn’t that much of an opportunity anymore.
An example I always like to use is “working online and traveling the world”.
People like me were the pioneers in that for most of the people that know me. So in the past the expected journey would be
- I leave the bubble of “degree + engineer” in India
- I enter the bubble of “work online/SaaS/digital marketing and digital nomads”
- I succeed in the new bubble
- I come back from Mount Sainie with the tablets and teach everyone in 1st Bubble how to do the same and take them to the promised land.
But what was my reality?
- I leave the bubble of “degree + engineer” in India
- I enter the bubble of “work online/Seo/SaaS/digital marketing and digital nomads”
- I succeed in the new bubble
- I realize that an most interesting bubble exists
- I leave the “work online/digital nomad bubble” or just consider it obvious and integrate it.
- I enter the Crypto bubble
- I help start one of the world’s largest bitcoin education NGO and now focusing on how to work with small governments and electricity generation companies to stop wasting energy and use bitcoin mining to stabilize grids etc. (Might write about this later in the year).
I remember telling my friends that from the perspective of the family/larger group, they want you to be Moses. They want you to sacrifice your future interests so the entire group can learn what little you’ve learnt from your “hero’s journey”.
But from your perspective, you probably want to go on another hero’s journey because they’re so many exciting things you could be doing.
If things change in decades it’s easy to say “hey, just become an engineer and move to the US instead of living in India.”
But do I want to talk about affiliate marketing, blogging, becoming a digital nomad, work anywhere in the world etc etc? Of course not.
The 4 hour work week was published in 2007 and all the articles and videos are available for free on the internet. Talking about the same thing for years is soo boring (I genuinely don’t understand how most content creators do it?)
In 5 years do I want to talk about bitcoin and crypto? Of course they’ll be obvious to people and I’ll probably be doing something else entirely.
I summed the above best with a hyperbole very-paraphrased conversation I had with a friend who haven’t put in the time to understand bitcoin:
“I used Facebook, did you?
‘Yes of course, what kind of stupid question is that?’
”I used Facebook half a decade ago to get 100k/month readers to my travel blog and never had to work in an office. You use Facebook to share memes.”
We both say we “used Facebook” but we don’t mean the same thing. (Not saying one way is better/worse, just different).
This is where letting go of “shared realities” come into the picture. If you need the world to be a part of your bubble, by the time everyone comes around to them, it’s no longer a frontier.
Conclusion: From the perspective of the family, the family wants to sacrifice the desires, wishes and dreams of the child to guarantee that the family is secure.
An Ego is Evolutionary useful
A few months ago a friend asked me “why do we even have an ego if it causes us so much suffering?”
I remember the answer being obvious to me but not to him so thought i would share it here.
Who is more likely to have more kids, a person obsessed with themselves and hence any offspring they have, or someone who doesn’t identify themselves with their “I”?
Of course the one with the ego.
Who’s more likely to have more sexual partners over their lifetime, someone who puts up building with their names, conquer countries or someone who’s content being by themselves alone in a room their entire life.
I could give multiple more examples, but from the perspective of your genes. The bigger your ego (to a point) = higher odds your genes will succeed.
So isn’t it obvious why humans would evolve an ego cause why does the happiness or peace of the individual matter from the perspective of the genes (it doesn’t).
The body has many other examples:
- The individual cancer cell considers ‘success’ to continue to exist
- The virus causing you to be sick, considers ‘success’ evolving where it can be symbiotic and not kill you.
Internal Peace matters to the point that you don’t kill yourself in a depressive state, but more than that? Any peace you have as an individual isn’t evolutionary useful for your own genes.
“Not being sick” isn’t the same as “being healthy”.
Conclusion: your genes are fine with you having a shitty life with terrible self talk as it drives you to perform behaviors that are beneficial to the further existence of your genes. But you would prefer letting go of your ego and being at peace in the here and now.
The Gold standard ‘failed’
Many people who pay little attention to economics have probably heard the phase “the gold standard failed”
Or other versions of it, “there’s not enough gold for a gold standard”.
But what does that even mean?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple if you just look at the numbers.
On May 1, 1933 the Us confiscated its citizens’ gold and forced them at the point of a gun to accept $20.67 per troy ounce.
In a few months (January 30, 1934) the Us Government revalued that Gold at $35 per oz of gold and used that Gold to buy things from other countries.
So Simple. The US government in one year used the confiscation of gold to steal $35-20.67=$14.33 per every oz of Gold it confiscated.
Another example of the same thing was Argentina taking all the USD in the bank accounts and giving everyone 1 peso in return. When people went to buy the dollars again it cost them 5 peso to $1. Lebanon and Sri Lanka did the same in 2023 and 2023 respectively.
The US just did the above with Gold and USD. While other countries have done it with USD and their local currency,
In most other scenarios we call situations like that stealing, but I digress.
From the perspective of the people holding gold, wouldn’t they have preferred to just hold the gold and have $35 of value instead of $20.57? Of course.
So the confiscation (and printing of money and deficit spending by the same logic) is Taxation without representation or legislation.
Instead of saying “we need xyz money and we’re going to tax you for that money”, it was much easier to say “people holding gold/USD is preventing us from saving everyone/the system so we need to confiscate it”.
It’s similar easier to say, “big tech exploited society so we need to tax them more” instead of saying, “here’s exactly how Jeff Bezos broke the law and illegally made an extra $1b so we’re going to sue him in a court of law and return that money to the victims of the crime”.
So basically a “gold standard fails” because a hard money standard prevents Taxation without representation while a fiat currency allows for Taxation without representation.
Most politicians, social engineers love Taxation without representation so they’d never describe our economic and political system that way even though that’s how it works. Who wouldn’t use a credit card who’s bill they don’t have to pay the bill?
If you follow down a rabbit hole of MMT it’s basically just backed by the threat of violence. And that’s fine, I’m not saying governments will go away but just realize that this is how success is defined and the narratives society will believe in has nothing to do with reality.
“But we are the government”
Haha 😂 nice one!
But even let us say I agree with you, okay “we the people” are the government. Then you believe in democracy and rule of law right? So can we agree with the idea of “taxation with representation”, #whoWillBuildTheRoads?
Cool, then in the initial example there’s no need to confiscate the Gold right? And people can use whatever currency they want, you can just find a fair tax that the populus can agree to that you can pass you don’t have to force them to use your currency that you can inflate away, right?
“But the people wouldn’t agree to higher taxes”
So they don’t vote for taxation, so you want to shove it down their throat in a sly way. Cool admit that.
Admit “I believe that I know better what the people want/need so I’m going to do things behind their backs” because what’s you’re doing.
So you don’t actually believe in “no taxation without representation” and believe instead that a group of “smarter than Thou” people in charge is better than the masses. (The pro-democratic people often tend to be the most anti-democratic people if you just look at their actions and not their words.)
So in conclusion. When someone says “the gold standard failed/can’t work” what they mean is this:
“A gold/hard money standard prevents governments from spending more money than it collects in tax. If the government wants more money, it needs to raise more taxes. A fiat standard allows Taxation without representation which is stealing and undemocratic even if you believe that ‘we are the government’.”
Sidenote: This is where people struggle with separating “morals” and “reality”. People want to believe in something and in most cases when they lose religion they replace it with the state and the nation and in the process have to find reasons to justify why something is “good” if it exists.
Just because something is bad doesn’t mean it’ll cease to exist and doesn’t mean you can even do something to stop it. Separate “what should be” and “ what you want to be” from “what is”.
We can agree that Taxation without representation means most political systems are less democratic than we might have believed before we realized it while still admitting that it’ll continue to exist in the future.
Just because you have to live in a world where bullshit exists, doesn’t mean you have to believe the bullshit.
So as Balaji said, “Most people have replaced capital G.O.D with .GOV” and unless you’re drinking the Kool Aid you wouldn’t mind the system being criticized honestly.
Perspectives of yourself through time
Alright enough politics, let’s talking about something more relevant to you the readers.
CGP GREY has a good article titled, “I have died many times” that I recommend everyone to read.
For all intensive purposes, when you look at the future there is no “you”.
There is however, “1 day from now You”, “5 years from now you”, “20 years from now you” …
Now, every action you do can negatively or positively affect each of these people.
Eating a donut is sacrificing ‘5+ years You’ to ‘1second from now you’.
Saving money in the present is sacrificing, “now you” for “future you”.
That framework of realizing how your actions affects the different Yous is very useful to helping to narrow down your focus.
Now let’s go further, it’s not always about sacrifice.
They’re often decisions or changes we can make in our lives that honestly benefits all future ‘yous’ with very little sacrifice. Fitness and health are full of stuff like that.
Also as I shared in, “Zoom Out” In most cases they’re opportunities which are literally free lunches. For example, learning how to navigate the internet marketing space instead of getting a engineering degree in India is something that benefits all future ‘yous’ quicker sacrificing just the opinions of others and perceived security.
And yes life is uncertain, you never know if they’ll even be a ’20year from now You’. But you can try your best to find a balance between the presents you and future you’s.