A message of freedom to graduates

“We don’t stop going to school when we graduate”
Carol Burnett

So you’ve just graduated from 4 years of epic study at a big time college?

First, let me congratulate you for your persistence and tenacity to study and sacrifice to get that degree.

I’ve been there.

Now comes a bit of travel and then the serious business of making your parents happy by putting that degree to good use in your first real job.

Spoiler alert…

Working sucks. It bites. If you are a normal human you are going to hate it. You’ll develop feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, desperation and anxiety within a couple of years.

Probably the very first thing you will notice is the loot is ok, but beyond that you’ll also notice how little freedom you suddenly have going from student to worker.

So little freedom that compared to being a student that it can be shocking. Most people struggle with this sudden evaporation of person determination, self direction and general freedom.

Suddenly you have a boss that determines your reality. They expect you to be in a certain place, at certain time, they tell you exactly what to do and sometimes with overbearing microscopic exactness every minute of most every day.

For most of us one of the biggest life shocks is the transition from student to worker. Your experience isn’t unique. We all feel this way.

It’s painful to suddenly you see you life stretching out in front of you with unending monotony.

So my advice?

Don’t play the game.

You are smart.

You have a degree to prove it!

Use that big brain to explore alternatives.

There will never be an easier time to start your own business.

There will never be another time where you can live in your parents basement while you write a novel.

There will never be a better time to set yourself up outside of the mainstream corporate job.

Knowing what I know now I feel confident saying that I won’t be encouraging my kids to limit themselves by getting a job.

I actually think the advice to get a job is terrible life advice.

Please set your sights higher.

Is a job working in some grey corporation going to give you that life you really want?

How do you holiday when life is a vacation?

“Laughter is an instant vacation”

Milton Berle


One of the massive problems with simple living is holiday planning.

A couple of years ago I wrote that if you need holidays you are doing life wrong.

That advice is evergreen.

Our biggest problem is what do you tell people you are doing on holiday when your life is effectively a big holiday?

We don’t have money to fly off to some exotic beach at the very time that accommodation costs the world over are at their most expensive.

We don’t see the value in wasting tanks of gas on a road trip so we prefer to stay local.

In fact we are at the point where we don’t bother with ideas like vacation and the need to manufacture dreamy fantasies to impress virtual strangers.

When every day is your vacation defining periods of time as a holiday is a complete nonsense.

We are free.

We can eat, beach, sleep, repeat any day we care to.

The absolute best (and utterly simplest) way to invest

“The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator”
Ben Graham

Is something left in your purse besides lint at the end of your pay cycle and you want to invest, but don’t know how?

I invest our money for the absolute best returns relative to the risk. I want low cost of access and simple ongoing acquisition and management.

The absolute start point and actually the only investment tool you need to learn about is an ETF. ETF is an Electronic Traded Fund.

It’s basically a composite of a collection of shares. Say you decided to buy 1 share of every stock on the Dow Jones. That is a pretty diversified low risk portfolio, but it will cost you at least $10,000 with fees of around $30 bucks for every $1.05 share you buy. The trading fees alone make that a bad idea.

Enter an ETF that is a composite representation of the Dow that you can buy for as little as $100. All the dividends, growth and value appreciation with equivalent risk and all for a single trading fee.

ETFs make investing safe, simple and profitable.

There are only three things to do right away.

1. Open an electronic discount broking service that you can use to buy ETFs online.
2. Understand the different ETFs and find the funds that are performing the best longer term (hint: it’s almost always the ETF that is the purest representation of the underlying asset category it is trying to model).
3. Save regularly and acquire consistently.

By far the third point is the hardest to implement. Investors always get sucked into shiny light syndrome, but remember this last piece of advice.

Only a handful of individual stocks and managed funds will out pace an ETF. Since you can’t know which investments these are beforehand and the vast majority won’t outperform an ETF then the possibility of a bigger return does not beat the probability that you will pick an investment that won’t beat an ETF.

ETFs are perfect for the average investor that wants a very good return without a lot of risk, complexity and active oversight.

For many people it is likely the only investment vehicle you need to understand.

Is everyone your friend Daddy? Infecting people with your friendlinesss

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend”
Albert Camus

Whenever I am out with my son and we come across a stranger he asks me the same question.

“Daddy…is that your friend?”

I always say yes. Quite often I say something like “She is our village store-owner and she is a very lovely friend of ours”.

Something interesting happens when you introduce people like this. First of course my kid sees how to be friendly and he expects people to be friendly because they are our friends. Second he wants to be friends with as many people as possible.

But, there is something else interesting that occurs with people we see around the village that we barely know know their name. The man that walks the dog has become our friend Nigel and his dog Woody. Nigel always stops and talks to us and lets us pat his dog.

Out of thousands of customers the grumpy old lady at the village store has become our friend the lovely storekeeper.

Several times we have referred to her in this way when she was actually short, slightly hostile or annoyed at being interrupted from watching daytime TV to sell us stuff.

Now we get a warm greeting. She asks my son what he is doing today and often gives him a couple of free lollies. I’m not super stoked with the lollies, but I wager myself that my boy is the only one she treats this kindly.

Even though I was always friendly prior to having two kids I never had the opportunity to use the interaction with my kid to message an intent of friendliness.

No matter how friendly I was she never really warmed up to me. It always felt like I was putting her out.

Now our friend the lovely storekeeper is always a lovely warm person to deal with.

I’m pretty certain once we leave she goes right back to being a grumpy old sausage, but she’s nice when we talk to her and that is what matters to us.

We still haven’t gotten on first name basis yet and not for the love of trying. My little guy has introduced himself and inquired about her name several times. She either ignores his question or grunts and waves her hand when he asks.

What can I say…it’s a work in progress. We’re slowly infecting her with our friendliness

Quite often as we walk away down the street my boy will remark ‘she didn’t have her listening ears on today did she Daddy?”

No my friend she did not, but she’s paying more attention and becoming friendlier every time we see her.

I want my kid to see strangers as potential friends rather than as scary bad people that would steal him in the night.

I feel that you can learn relationship skills and still learn safe community behaviours. Truth is more uncles and family members molest children than strangers. While there is some stranger danger that is not where you should focus your attention as a parent trying to nurture a thriving independent child.

Bunging the bleedholes

“If saving money is wrong then I don’t want to be right”
William Shatner

I like to think about my bank account or more specifically my wallet as a tea bag.

While I am sleeping my wallet bleeds money. During the day regardless of whether I spend coin, bills or electronic credit money is leaving my bank. It feels like a penetrated levy where small unpatched leaks become torrents and if unmanaged the entire embankment might burst emptying the entire contents.

To keep on top of this one of the things I like to track is my bleed score.

There are very complex ways to calculate the daily haemorrhage.

I prefer simple.

Each quarter I calculate my net income after any tax (if I volunteered to pay).

Using a calendar I calculate how many days there were in the quarter.

Then I calculate my total savings over the period.

I subtract this figure from my net income to get my expenditure and then I divide this figure by the number of days in the period.
This is my average daily bleed.

My goal has been to try to reduce this figure quarter by quarter by quarter.

At first it is easy to halve, quarter or even decimate. After only four quarters of effective action this number becomes very hard to impact with status quo thinking. Only radical questions and experimental behaviour can continue to bring the $$ bleed down.

The process reminds me of a very popular guy on Youtube. He has a channel with several million subscribers. He says he is a passionate environmentalist and that he wants suggestions from his audience to reduce his carbon footprint. The first two suggestions were that he could reduce his carbon footprint by 50% if he cut out air and car travel and if he stopped eating animal products.

His reaction was that that the suggestions were ridiculous. He has money and freedom to travel and he likes meat. Clearly he likes the idea of feeling like he is environmentally conscious, but he really isn’t an environmentalist because he isn’t willing to take massive effective action.

Saving is a lot like that. People say they want to be rich. They talk about saving and investing, but unfortunately many like the idea of being rich more than their willinness to do what is necessary and make uncomfortable decisions and save massive amounts to free oneself from work in the shortest time possible.

The Saving Habit

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving”
Warren Buffet

At the bus stop today I decided not to front the fare. I walked instead.

On the way I smelt coffee and considered buying a newspaper and a brew, but I kept walking.

In a window I saw some nice shoes at a really great price. I was tempted to splurge on them and affordability wasn’t really a problem, but instead I strolled on.

At lunchtime the day was overcast and a little cold. I considered going into a warm cafe and buying lunch. Instead I put on a coat and ate my prepacked potato salad in the park while I read a chapter of my book.

I didn’t spend on a whim today. Truth be told I wasn’t even tempted. I have committed every dollar available to a single result. Through the earnings I get from saving and investment I don’t have to work for somebody.

Coffee or work? Easy choice in my case.

Simple Parenting: Evolving beyond violence and intimidation

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”

Elizabeth Stone


As a parent I’m committed to not use fear or violence to control my children. In fact I don’t believe I have the right to expect that my children will be obedient or that they will respect my every wish.

Crazy right?

Let’s accelerate the madness.

I don’t even use timeout to punish because to my way of thinking to make another human sit in an invisible prison isn’t legit.

So if you don’t smack, you don’t scare and you don’t use timeout how do you keep things together?

I generally consider this question in my interactions with my child:

How would I feel if a smarter and physically superior person used this approach to control me?

This view has resulted in a decision to try to identify and outlaw the use of intellectual domination of my children as well.

Sure I still use the false choice like “would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to help you put your shoes on?”.

It’s a false choice because no matter what the shoes are going on, but it’s a far cry from simply begging your child to put their shoes on while they assert their tiny will and bellow “I won’t!!”.

When you get in those types of confrontations there is no easy solution. My feeling is they can mostly be avoided. It’s a lack of understanding of your child and your child’s lack of understanding of the opportunity cost of not putting their shoes on.

So how the hell do you parent a kid without smacking, without intimidation and fear, without aggression and punishment and without using your smarts against a juvenile mind in a way that is unfair?

Good question.

Simply it comes down to coaching, guiding, negotiating (I’m massive on the value of negotiating), opportunity cost, clarification/reframing and bribery. You definitely have to do a little bribery sometimes! 🙂

Imagine you are back in college. You room with a really nice guy or girl who is still pretty immature. You care about them and want the best for them, but left to their own devices you can see they are a screw up in the making. You can’t bear to see all that potential squandered. How would you help in that situation?

Well you could beat the shit out of them every time they run late leaving the house. You could lock them in their room if they make a mess in the toilet. If you are scary enough you could make them stay at the table and eat dinner instead of allowing them to eat Cheetos, but tell me would you ever consider behaviour like this?

Face it you’ve slipped over from a strong desire to help to possibly committing a crimes against them.

If you agree that you’d never dare treat a buddy like this then why the hell do we think we have the right to treat the most vulnerable in our care in this way?

We need simpler and more effective parenting methods.

Using fear to parent your child is just a lazy excuse for real parenting. If you give up the violence you are going to need to become incredibly patient. You need to lay the table for the right behaviour and everything has a long lead time to avoid that store isle tantrum (seriously why are you even in the store in the first place…:)).

I started teaching my son about negotiation from 2 years old. He’s 3 now and he understands a few of the basics.

  1. We leave his presence (or ignore him if it is unsafe to walk away) when he tantrums. We are committed to making sure that is an ineffective expression of desire and that he sees the negotiating framework as the best way to achieve his aspirations.
  2. A ‘deal’ is an exchange of value and both people need to win.
  3. No deal means you need a new offer (his offers are hilarious and it’s a fun way to co-author your shared experience).
  4. Sometimes you can’t make a deal.
  5. A handshake is a binding arrangement (we do an olden style forearm grasp hand shake like Odysseus). I teach him that a man does what he says and that is where a bit of Greek bed time stories help to develop the concepts of integrity, honour and trut.

The other key to success in negotiation is to ensure that your child’s action goes first. Then you can renege if they don’t ‘do what they say’.

Of course you need a few other ongoing lesson layers because any prodigy of yours is going to quickly start to negotiate for the things that aren’t great for their health like lollies, TV, staying up and never bathing.

That said if my son crafts a very creative or innovative deal I let him won some things I’d prefer he didn’t have (e.g. staying up late) because I value the skill of negotiation and I think being an effective deal maker is going to set him up in life.

I want him to become a great negotiator and I’ll accept the risk that he gets so effective at negotiating that he can spike every at bat in his favour.

By that point hopefully some other lessons about health, humanity and the world around him have bedded in.

We fully expect our daughter to catch up fast under her brother’s tutelage. She’ll be speaking soon then we’ll have a houseful of little deal makers and deal breakers.

What we absolutely won’t have is physically or emotionally broken children. I want my kids to look back and say hey our parents really set us up with a few great skills for life.

I’m looking for future friends instead of the usual broken parent-child relationship thanks to overwhelming fear and loathing which children of abusive and intimidating parents get landed with in later life.

Simple parenting is harder. So what?

I believe it is so much more fun and so much more rewarding that once you give up violence and intimidation as your only tools you will realise how silly and childish that style of parenting really is.