the riddle of steel
“He is strong! If I die, I have to go before him, and he will ask me, ‘What is the riddle of steel?’ If I don’t know it, he will cast me out of Valhalla and laugh at me.” … “That’s Crom, strong on his mountain.” ~Conan the Barbarian
Over the last couple of months we’ve all learned that some of the advice that we’ve been handed over the years will not be easy to swallow. Learning to live within your means and invest in index funds and network to maintain your job are all nice, friendly pieces of advice when the economy and the market are headed in a never-ending positive direction. The same was true during the real estate boom – “invest in real estate” was such basic, incontrovertible advice that it seemed almost crazy to ignore it.
Now for my generation (Gen X) and the rest of the country it’s time to learn the riddle of steel. I’m not apocalyptic, but as I’ve mentioned before it’s awfully easy to advise people to invest in the market when it’s returning 10% per year, or to invest in real estate when it’s wildly appreciating, or even to be aggressive in your career when the job market is hot. Nerves of steel will be required now. When the job market is tight and the investment possibilities are limited, it will take some fortitude to stick with the wealth-building philosophy. I made a pledge to reach a wealth goal last year, and recently I’ve doubted I’m going to make it. But I’ve decided that the current economic environment offers even MORE opportunities than the rosier markets of the past few years. When times are bad, individuals with focus and discipline are going to win the day.
I’ve been badly distracted by the presidential election in the US. I’ve mentioned it before – I’m a presidential politics junkie and I spend most of my free internet-reading time reading about minor political moves by the candidates, when my decision’s been made for months (although I’m not terribly happy with my choice). I am looking forward to the conclusion of the race simply because it will allow me to shake my addiction to political news and return my full focus to the question of building wealth for the benefit not just of myself but for my family, friends, community and clients/customers. I know that times are hard but I’ve realized that times like this are the times when people with real skills – not just paper degrees and flimsy networking connections – can move forward, and the more I think about it the more excited I get. The market will be tough, the business environment will be challenging, and even daily life will be harder – but these are the challenges that will allow us to measure the best versions of ourselves.