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Monday, May 02, 2011

Ruminations on turning fifty

So it seems I am turning fifty tomorrow. How the fresh hell that happened I have no idea. I never thought I d make it this far for one thing and for another I do not feel 50. Somewhere in my mind I’m still 30 years old and ready for anything. I have had grey in my hair since my twenties so it’s not like that was a warning sign. I am successfully able to ignore the various creaks and cracks my bones may put on during the course of the day as a unique and committed form of denial of the aging process. I can recall turning 18 and thinking that I might be lucky to see the turn of the century as I calculated I would be the old age of 39 when that happened. That has come and gone and much to my surprise as well as that of many others I am still here. It has been one hell of a journey and I have picked a few lessons and observations along the way. Naturally being somewhat verbose in nature I find it necessary to share them here.

First and foremost my over riding thought on life is that it is simply too short to be miserable or unhappy. I am no Pollyanna I am fully aware that from time to time shitty stuff will happen to all of us. We will lose people we love. We will lose money, jobs, friends and many other things and people along the journey. Sometimes the world will just simply take a huge shit right on your head. Some of it will be of our own making and fault. Some of it will not. No matter of whose making it is just going to happen. If you play hard and live right you are gonna get some boo-boos. I guarantee it. When it does happen, deal with it and move on. Or as we used to say get drunk, get over it and get on with your life.

There is also a lot of nasty shit in the world. Wars, famine, genocide, poverty, taxes, The Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Steelers come readily to mind. Some of these you may be able to help change. Most of them you simply cannot. If you fixate on all that is wrong with the world and with life you will miss all that is right. And mark my words the vast majority of life has much that is right

There are so many moments of life that can offer varying degrees of rightness. To sit with someone you love and watch the sunset can be one of life’s more pleasant moments. You can listen to the majestic symphonies of a Beethoven, Bach or Handel and have your soul inspired to new heights. You can throw on George Thorogood and just celebrate the growling good time that is life and rock and roll. Throw Coltrane or Miles on and get lost in the complexity and twists of sound and thoughts. Delve deeply into the poetry of ee cummings, Yeats, Whitman and Frost to rediscover your sense of romance and thepossibilities that life can offer you. Read the works of the great writers and thinkers to learn the story and rhythms of life. Read the great storytellers to be entertained and escape and sometimes even be educated.

Who can list all that is right about life? Think about it all and it is overwhelming. Books, music , family friends. Shakespeare, Plato, Darwin, Galton, Vivaldi, The Beatles, Sunsets, sunrises, thunderstorms, babies laughter, three run homers ,deep long kisses, Robert Parker, Randy Wayne White, long nights with good friends, good wine, dock bars, rainy Sunday mornings, The Grateful Dead, Broadway Plays, road trips, holding hands, squeeze bunts, Oscar Peterson, Harry Potter, beaches , average wine, Waylon Jennings, Hemingway, clean sheets, kickoff returns, Graham, Clancy novels, adult children, a loving spouse, Louie Armstrong, fast boats, slow boats (but no blow boats) Bogart and Bacall, WEB Griffin, Mozart, Mark Twain, Slow dancing, wild sex, making love, Disney movies, weeping willow trees, dandelions, hard rock, soft jazz, rockfish, thick steaks, tears laughter love. And I have just scratched the surface. Yes life will have it bumps but there is so much more that is good and right about the world we live in and the possibilities that life grants us.

My second piece of advice that I can share at this point in my life is do not go into the financial business, especially investing. It’s too fucking hard for most and the plain simple truth is that those of us who do this for a living do not really add much to the world. We may help a few clients do better with their money over the years but for the most part the more honest among us will admit we do not add shit to the world we live in. If you are going to take on this type of risk and commitment of capital and time open a business. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received and not taken came from legendary trader Larry Williams. He said to own businesses that provided cash flow if you wanted to trade. Investing should be a companion to your real business activities for most people. If I was young today after reviewing different options I think the best choices for a career would be to own a liquor store, an auto repair shop or owning school buses. I know or am related to at least half a dozen people in these businesses and they have all done very well. If you don’t want to do that find a business you do love be it building houses, making widgets or programming computers to do useful stuff. You will have success and add a lot more to the world than those of us chasing red and green digits across a fucking screen. Use the cash flow from your business endeavors to trade and invest and I think you will have a more productive life. We are at a point in the world where I thing that learning a trade and having some business sense will take you a lot further than an MBA in Finance. But never under any circumstances do what so many have done in the past two years and open a damn cupcake store. That’s just stupid.

Be kind. A lot of people you run across in the world are going to be grumpy, surly and downright assholes. Try not to be one of them. Show some compassion as you go through life when you can. Yu are going to have ups and downs along the way and so does everyone else. You have no idea why the store clerk is in a bad mood. Don’t take their mood on your shoulders or add to their load if you can help it. That brusque waitress may be at the end of a second shift at her second job of the day to support two kids and a sick mother. You don’t know so be kind when you can. Which brings me to another thing. Don’t just tip, over tip. The extra buck or two means very little to you but could mean a lot to the server. Every once in a blue moon when you are a little flush give a bum twenty bucks. Of course he’s going to spend it on booze or drugs! What the fuck do you care? Your life is good at the moment and you ll never notice the cost but to him it’s another escape from what has to be a pretty shitty life. Be kind as often as you can.

Sometimes you will meet someone that is such an asshole kindness and compassion is just impossible. A hearty fuck you and move on is the best advice I have. Some people just can’t be in your life for whatever reason. Fuck em. Life really is too short.

Don’t be afraid. You are going to make mistakes and sometimes in spite of your best efforts you will lose. Guess what? Sometimes you are going win and winning makes up for losing by some very asymmetrical factor. Take risks in your life. In things like business, reaching your dreams and love you only need to win one time for it be permanent Don’t be afraid. Write the book, start the company, take the job, and sing the song. You might fail and that would suck for a little while. You might succeed and that will last a lifetime. Especially don’t be afraid of love. Being afraid of love is the saddest thing that can happen to a person. If you are even close to my age you will have had lumps, bumps and bruises from relationships. There are relationships that didn’t go where you thought they would, relationships where you knew it would end badly but took the ride anyway and relationships that died before they could be born. We all have them. I have had a few fuckups and scotch soaked nights wondering what the hell just happened in my life. If I had been afraid of love I would not be so happily married to so wonderful a woman right now. You only have to win once. At 49 I finally did and it was worth every loss that came before.

Know math. I don’t give a shit who you are math is going to dictate and control much of your life. From making change at the drive up to calculating the probability of success in a venture you need to have some clue about numbers and how they work. I am not saying you have to be a math geek although in hindsight I wish I had been. But know math. Probability, reversion to the mean, compounding, physics and the rule of 72 will all play a role in your life. A lot of equations will be important to know for each of us. So far mine have included some really cool ones like (.50xtb),B to the third power and the all important 1+1=1. Yours will be different than mine but equations of all sorts will be a part of your life.

Measure your success in life not by what you have and what you doubt by who loves you. This is far more important at the end of the day. Don’t tell me how great you are. I don’t give a shit what you have done if your achievements did not lead to having a circle of family and friends who love you. The greatest monument in the world to anyone one of us is not monuments or estates. It is those who love us as family, children, lover, and friends. You may think differently. You are wrong.

To have friends be a friend. Don’t expect a whole bunch of people to show up to help you move if you never toted a buddy’s couch up three flights of stairs. Don’t expect anyone to listen to your drunken ass whining about your life if you never took their midnight phone call. Don’t expect anyone to share their achievements and success with you if you never celebrated yours with them. Put others first sometimes and there is a good chance they will do the same for you when you need them.

It has been a long and interesting journey so far. Perhaps I ll write the whole story some day but I have seen jail cells, penthouses in the city and most stops in between in my time. I have been way up and way down and many stops in between. There’s lot of of stories involving cars, ditches, snowstorms, pissed off dogs, long walks in the desert in a three piece suit, filled straights, busted flushes and all kinds of other interesting happenings. I made some stupid mistakes, some silly mistakes and a few hilarious mistakes. Along the way I occasionally got a few things right.I look forward to more as I enter what will be the second half of the story. I have happy children who are doing well in life. I have friends all over the country with whom I have shared much laughter, a few tears and great knowledge has been exchanged. I have a wife I am head over heels in love with as I enter the next fifty years.

It’s a good place to be.