motivation is worthless

Motivation is worthless.

I read a lot of self-improvement, self-help, whatever you call the body of work that’s specifically about improving the individual (as opposed to something more general, like a book on how to cook).  Articles, books, blogs, etc.  I listen to podcasts, watch vlogs – I consume a lot of it.  Some of this is self-improvement tourism, the idea that you improve yourself simply by learning about ideas and actions that you may or may not put in place.  Some is genuine desire to learn about how great achievers managed to do what they did (reading about Benjamin Franklin or Elon Musk).  But one of the key things I’ve taken away from all of them is that motivation is worthless in and of itself.  This flies in the face of the “pursue your passion” thinking so prevalent on the startup/millenial focused internet.

Discipline equals freedom.

Jocko Willink

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a mess.  Back out of shape (I’ve been through THAT before), struggling with a career that had seemed headed in a good direction (I left a consulting career to pursue the “heights” of corporate America, again) and just a general struggle with daily existence.  I read a short article talking about the commencement speech Navy Adm. William H. McCraven gave at his alma mater, the University of Texas, in 2014.  You’re probably familiar with it by now, it’s entered the public awareness, but he basically told grads to start the day making their beds.  The reason is simple:  discipline will MAKE motivation.  Motivation is worthless, in the long run.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

Jim Rohn

This was certainly true for me.  I started making the bed every day, but that wasn’t the root habit that really turned things around for me.  What did was doing one pushup every morning.  I didn’t shoot for anything more than the consistency of doing one.  If I was running late, sick, unmotivated (!), whatever… do one pushup.  And at first, that one pushup was a struggle.  When you’ve hit a skid in life where most of your actions are driven by reaction rather than purpose, anything in the morning feels like an obligation you’d skip if possible.  But if you do one pushup a few days in a row, one day you’ll do it without thinking.  One day you’ll forget and abashedly drop down to the floor and do one on your way out the door.  And miraculously, one day you’ll do a second one.

Discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most.

Author Unknown

Why do we want anything?  I’ve thought about this, as we all do, and I come back to a couple of conclusions.  One is grand and theoretical, and the other is simple and practical.  The former is that we want the continued existence of the species (I’m not talking about biological necessarily, but just that we want to advance humankind in some form, by reproducing, creating a new vaccine, building a rocket ship, etc. etc.).  The latter is simply being happy.  Discipline achieves both.  By applying discipline in the form of a pushup, I reclaimed my health, focus, and yes, motivation, which is only worthless as a means of starting to do things.  I apply this concept of discipline first, motivation second to most of my lifestyle design these days, and it works wonder.  Remove the element of requiring motivation and apply the structure of discipline to most aspects of your life and you’ll see results.  Do one pushup every morning.  See what happens.


early retirement extreme: book review

I’ve had an atypical personal finance ‘journey’, so to speak. I never thought about personal finance for most of my life.  My family had a harsh, almost unforgiving attitude towards debt, driven by Shakespeare’s maxim:  “Neither a lender nor a debtor be.”  I was taught from an early age to spend less than I earned, to be frugal when I could and always be prepared for the unexpected.  So using these simple guidelines I made it into adulthood without debt, and with substantial savings that were carefully invested in diverse markets.

But I had no end goal. My plan was to simply work until I couldn’t work anymore, save a little bit more than I earned and never enter into debt for any reason.  But when I first started to think about my responsibilities as a dad, when I learned Bubelah was pregnant, I decided I needed to read up on personal finance fundamentals.  So I went to amazon, searched on “dad finance” and lo and behold, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” came up.

I didn’t know anything about the ‘baggage’ that’s associated with Kiyosaki’s work.  All I knew was that someone here had opened up my eyes to a new way to view the world.  Life didn’t have to be about working until a government-mandated retirement age; you could have another plan, financial independence.  Now I know that many of Kiyosaki’s real estate principles are ill-advised, to say the least, but you know what he did that many other authors didn’t do?  He made me think.  He presented an alternative to the mainstream.  I’ve read a few dozen “get a side job” or “cut out the latte” type books, and they are all good advice… but they don’t really make you think.  Rich Dad did.

So in that vein I’d recommend the book Early Retirement Extreme. I’ve enjoyed Jacob’s blog for years.  You know why?  Because, in a sea of advice about how to advance your career and manage your 401(k) and deal with your mortgage, he simply says:  you can leave it all.  You don’t have to live by society’s dictates:  get a house, get a yard, push your way up the corporation, and utilize the stock market as laid out by your retirement plan’s administrator.  He offers a very clear and very reasonable model for doing something DIFFERENT.  This is not just practical – it’s also philosophical.  Jacob begins the book by exploring Plato’s allegory of the cave.  I hadn’t heard of this before I read this book, although I had read Plato.  But there’s nothing wrong with that – in the sense that philosophy is ‘elite’ we probably need more elitism these days.

Jacob retired in his early 30s. He had saved drastic – almost draconian – amounts of his salary in his twenties and thirties by living an exceptionally minimalistic lifestyle, although he argues that he didn’t do anything truly exceptional – he simply avoided the temptations of consumerism and was attentive to the use of his resources.  One of the things that struck me reading his book was that he lays out a vision for life that’s predicated on the idea that none of us really need any “things.”  That’s an exaggeration:  we need clothes, and some utensils, and shelter, and maybe a few semi-extras like computers and high-speed internet; but by and large most of the things we think of as ‘must haves’ are not.  If you have a neighbor with a shovel, and you have a hammer, the two of you can share; you don’t both need a shovel and a hammer.  We don’t need martini glasses and winter/summer tablecloths, or multiple sets of dress belts.

Maybe much of this is obvious to people who live a minimalistic lifestyle, and maybe much of this is insane to those who live the standard suburban lifestyle. I don’t think Jacob’s writing to convert anyone, to be honest.  He seems to be trying to convince readers of his plan, but I don’t think you could come to this book treasuring your Lexus and enjoying your lattes and Netflix and occasional trips to TGI Friday’s and have the right mental mindset to absorb what he’s talking about.  You have to be halfway there already.  If you’re already thinking about an endgame – financial independence – then what he’s talking about will open up a lot of new ideas for you.  The idea of extreme minimalism, of community sharing, of making maximum utility of the resources you have at your disposal will all seem quite simple and yet have a “why didn’t I think of that before” feeling.

I’m not sure this plan is for everyone.  As someone who’s further down the suburban white picket fence/4 bedroom/2.3 kids model than I’d ever thought I’d be, I’d say that the transition from an air-conditioned, cable-supplied house like ours to an early retirement extreme existence would be exceptionally difficult.  But the important thing about books like ERE is that they point out that difficult does not, by any means, imply impossible.  You can minimize your expenses.  You can make the goal of your life independence, not wage slavedom.  You can do these things – others have and you can, too.

So while I can’t recommend ERE to everyone – it’s technical, it’s unforgiving and it’s hard – if you want to learn something new about personal finance and frugality and minimalism and environmentalism, you have to read this book.  I haven’t read many personal finance books that have deeply affected my thinking about money and the role it plays in my life.  One is Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  Another is The Millionaire Next Door.  And Early Retirement Extreme will sit alongside those books, too.  Not so much because it’s a guideline, but because it’s a philosophical work that deserves to sit in the back of your mind all the time; every time you buy something you should have this formula ringing in the back your mind.  You won’t read many books like this, to be honest, but that’s exactly the reason you should read this one.  I’d imagine if you read this blog, you’re probably the type of person who would enjoy Early Retirement Extreme; so buy a copy through amazon or visit your local library and request a copy.

does voice recognition software work?

Dragon Naturally Speaking

This is a test. I’m seeing if it’s going to be possible to write posts using voice dictation software… without extensive revisions. I think it’s probably possible; the technology is much better since I last tried use it several years ago.  So does voice recognition software work?

I was given the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home, Version 11 as a birthday gift recently. I had tried using voice-recognition software a few years ago, but the results were – well, to put it sympathetically, unsatisfactory. But the positive reviews I read of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home, Version 11 software made me think I would like to try it again and my parents graciously got it for me as a birthday gift.

Dragon Naturally SpeakingAfter using it for only 30 min., I’ve been able to dictate and prepare this post without touching the keyboard (although I made a few minor edits – mostly for style – afterwards). It’s an interesting experience. I’m quite used to typing but then again, I get sick of doing it because I work on a computer all day long at clients. In so using voice-recognition software seemed like a natural way to do some of my writing work without actually having to do any writing… Using the keyboard.

As you can see, the dictation is somewhat hit and miss. It’s obviously not producing perfect English, but it is producing something that you can read well enough to understand. I imagine that as I use it more it will probably become more and more accurate, and as I also learn how to control my own dictation (which, in all fairness, still retains a slight Southern accent and may therefore not be ideal for voice recognition software) space I hope will further improve.

So look forward to new posts written – well, spoken – with my new voice recognition software. If you see the occasional glitch in my work, well, it’s just voice-recognition software, not me. I never, ever make mistakes! But then again it took me much less time to compose this post than it typically takes me to type one. It may just be that I’m a verbal person and therefore it’s easier to think while speaking than it is to think while typing. It’s an interesting question, and one that I probably should think about a little bit more. But at least for now this is a fun way to compose a post. So at least so far you can see from the results of my efforts, the voice-recognition software works adequately and certainly can substitute for typing. If you’ve ever wanted to play with the voice-recognition software package, I can – so far – highly recommend Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home, Version 11 1 for ease-of-use, ease of set up, and simple wow factor.