Although, that being said, you count from 1 to 10, not from 0 to 9. So really, the next decade should be a year away... regardless, Happy New Year (tomorrow) and have a great 2020 everyone!
This week on Episode 7 of The Good Stewards Podcast, my dad, Amanda, Ryan and I discuss the essential importance of due diligence. Due diligence is rather boring, but incredibly important. Indeed, we've been burned by not doing sufficient due diligence multiple times. And I've heard of even worse cases from other investors.
In fact, due diligence is so important I wrote my longest-ever article (almost 5000 words) for BiggerPockets on the subject. So please join for this deep dive on this all-too-important but underdiscussed topic:
And here's another post from my old blog which I get philosophical once again. (I guess it was a bit of a trend with me back then.) This one dives into the roots of fear, most notably our modern fears.
Fear is a natural and useful instinct that all humans share. It is meant to alarm us when there is danger. We are afraid of a stranger standing in front of us with a gun because well, they can shoot us. Sure we could probably go with out the emotion and rationally construe that the best course of action is to tread carefully. Actually fear may make things worse by inducing panic. Yet many if not most other emotions are like that. Anger being probably the best example, because it is basically always useless. However, most other emotions are triggered by a situation that understandably stimulates it. Anger comes when someone or something wrongs us in some way. Fear however, seems to manifest itself in completely meaningless situations. So what is it that we really fear?
There are a multitude of different phobias, few of which make rational sense. Why on Earth would a 150 pound human being be scarred of a non poisonous little Granddaddy Long Leg spider that weighs less than an ounce? Yet, other fears that almost everyone has are present, even if not to the extent of a phobia. For example, calling a girl (or boy) you like, cold calls, phone calls in general, knocking on someone’s door, speaking up in a meeting, etc.
In essence, those fears fall into one category, while the others, like the aforementioned arachnophobia, fall into a second. The second category is simply a fear of danger. That danger is often non-existent, like in the case with most spiders, or horror films or dark alleys, etc. Yet it makes sense that people may feel this way. Some spiders are poisonous, horror films represent very dangerous situations for characters the audience has grown to care about and bad things can happen in dark alleys although they rarely ever do. The second fear makes less sense however. That is the fear, I believe, of being judged negatively.
This fear includes taking risks, initiating conversation with a stranger, potential client or someone you are attracted to, starting a business, etc. Some might argue that a third category should be added, that of failing, but I disagree. I think it’s the same basic fear. The fear of taking risks would seem to amount to a fear of failing, but is it failing or is it being judged for your failure? I believe it is the ladder. If something is appealing to someone, they will take the steps to get there, even if it sets them back financially or in some other area of life. Think about it this way, why would the average American be more willing to spend 101% of their income on mindless consumerism than launch a new venture? Laziness perhaps, or maybe some fear becoming financially ruined, but most don’t want people to see them aim for a goal and then fail. They don’t want to be judged.
Our culture today revolves around what you appear to be. Abercrombie and Fitch, the Gap, Banana Republic all celebrate this image driven culture along with plastic surgery, breast enhancements, most rappers, movie stars, most advertising, credit cards, etc. The problem is however, that appearance has nothing to do with yourself and only how others perceive you. People are basing their behavior, persona and just about everything they are on what others want them to be. Thus it makes perfect sense when Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Effective People, did a study on new age vrs older self help literature and found that books written in the past 50 years focused on one’s exterior persona while those written before are based on an introspective approach to self improvement. This cultural paradigm shift has come with quite unfortunate consequences.
Now this isn’t all to say I’m against capitalism (I’m not) or believe the good old days were so much better than now (they weren’t). But we as a society have appeared to lose some valuable insights. For instance, trying to please everyone will please no one, especially not yourself. It just makes you a yes man, fad riding, amalgamation of 50 different pop icons with no real discernable personality. Furthermore, it makes one fear others internal judgment constantly. Thus it cripples any attempt to reach out to others, take risks or pursue “strange” opportunities or dreams for fear of this judgment. What’s ironic is that people who speak their mind, take risks and have a sense of humor about failing are respected more by their peers than those who don’t. They just come across, well, they come across as real.
I for one believe that we’ve made great improvements in society overall. I wouldn’t go back to segregated, intolerant Cold War era of the 1950’s and earlier into the World Wars, colonialism, monarchies, de facto feudalism. Yet this change, or perhaps trend, has significantly damaged us by making us fear the irrational. Surely these fears existed before, but our culture exacerbates them and with out understanding where this fear comes from and how irrational it is, it is sure to cripple us in whatever we do.
From my old blog. Not sure I'm politically "moderate" anymore, but then again, that's the point of the whole article. Perhaps it should have differentiated "moderate" and "independent" a bit better.
I am a self-described libertarian. However, many libertarians annoy me with their righteous moral certitude (ever read Ayn Rand?). So I must also add that I consider myself a political moderate, and no, that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention. It means, like it sounds, that I fall in between the political extremes at least as it relates to the United States of America. And to do that and care and be informed, well let me tell you, it’s harder than being a rank and file conservative or liberal. It means I have to form objective opinions on my own, recognize bias, and never only settle for one source or point of view. Yet it is well worth it.
The main reason it is so worth it is what becomes of those who are not. It’s amazing the amount of bias that smart people will allow themselves to absorb with out a second thought. It will always amaze me when a conservative takes something Bill O’Reilly says as fact or a liberal does the same with Michael Moore. These two are bias producing machines, using stick men opposition, shouting, omission and fancy editing to make their point seem like the only one that could possibly be correct.
The idea that only your point of view is correct is, in my humble opinion, the single greatest cause of human suffering in the world. I’m not saying that Bill O’Reilly or Michael Moore and anyone who agrees with them are evil. I’m saying that their thinking and techniques are what has lead to such disastrous consequences. Normally at this point, it would be prudent to give an example, but there are so many that it’s hard to settle on just one. For instance, the Nazi’s believed it was only OK to be Arians, Osama Bin Laden and his followers believe it is only OK to be an Islamic fundamentalist, Pol Pot and Khmer Rogue believed that it was only OK to be an uneducated, agrarian, communist, etc. etc. How hard would it be for someone to say “this is too much, these are people too!” Evidently, very hard when you’re only seeing things from one perspective.
This ‘with me or against me’ attitude creates a false dichotomy: an absolute good and an absolute evil. What must happen to that absolute evil? Well it must be eliminated! So we see the Holocaust and Killing Fields and just about every other tragedy as a result. Now obviously this doesn’t mean that those with strong opinions are going to go on a genocidal rampage. It’s just that this kind of ideological idolatry is the foundation that kind of evil can be built upon. Luckily, for the most part the problems it causes are less severe.
The US government is currently paralyzed by partisan politics where each side is looking to gain power instead of helping the common good. I heard a political pundit say that more people know Bush’s political advisor (Rove) than his chief of staff (who knows what his name is?)! And it’s true! George Bush, as well as other Republicans and Democrats, have done a great disservice to the American people by being a member of their party first and their country second. The rhetoric coming from both sides of aisle during this election cycle should be proof enough of this.
So finally, what it means to be a moderate must be capped by what it absolutely does not mean to be a moderate. Being moderate does not mean that you don’t have strong opinions. I think George Bush has failed miserably, but that doesn’t mean I’m a liberal. Who’s to say our political balance is even in the right hemisphere. For example, a moderate in the United States would be considered a radical right-winger in the former Soviet Union!
A moderate could be a communist or a laissez-faire capitalist (like me), it doesn’t matter what you believe. In essence, you can still be a liberal or conservative and still be moderate. Because a true moderate is not defined by where he stands, but the fact that he knows and tries to understand where others stand and why. Someone who is willing to debate robustly but in the end, agree to disagree. A moderate is someone who recognizes that we are all human and all want what’s best, we just disagree on how to get there.
Recently, I appeared on the Don and Eden Podcast to discuss "When and Where to Invest" in real estate. I thought it went really well and has a lot of good info for any aspiring real estate investors:
In this episode of The Good Stewards Podcast, we all take on the sexiest of real estate investing topics: Acquisitions. Indeed, if you want to do real estate, you obviously have to do acquisitions. Please check it out!
There has been a growing animus toward landlords in the United States, as well as on property rights in general. Indeed, not long ago there was a push to actually make it illegal to screen for evictions and felonies in Kansas City, MO.
The bill that was eventually passed was much more reasonable. Even still though, many unreasonable bills are being passed throughout the country and this hostility toward property rights is not going to stop anytime soon. So I figured it would be a good idea to write a defense of landlords. Especially since many people are quite confused about how much money we make and what landlords offer.
It’s quite odd to me that landlords are sometimes seen as substantively different than other entrepreneurs or investors. Would politicians and community activists prefer real estate investors just sent their money to Wall Street instead of investing it in their own backyards, simultaneously improving and maintaining properties in their communities?
The article clocks in at 3500 words and I believe it may be the most thorough defense of landlords around. So please check it out!
By now, we all know the Iraq War was sold on lies (and had enormous consequences too), but it's becoming more and more clear by the day that the Afghanistan War, the longest war in American history, was also sold on lies.
Perhaps The Washington Post is doing penance for supporting the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars before they started. (Or perhaps they're trying to airbrush their role in them.) Regardless, they've released a long piece (behind the paywall, of course) summing up a large cache of documents and "extensive array" of interviews about the war in Afghanistan. A war which is nearing its 19th year.
The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.
These lies have been repeated through "three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders" All of whom "have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan."
Can we please bring our troops back and stay the Hell out of the Middle East from now on?
So the IG report dropped and it said James Comey and company weren't traitors who launched a coup against the sitting president of the United States? So how did Mr. Comey take this?
The report actually appears to be utterly damning, but only in terms of showing the FBI was incompetent and negligent to an extreme. It lists 17 "serious performance failures" which include, for example,
Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an "operational contact" for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior cont acts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;
The report can be read here and the list of "performance failures" can be found on pages viii through xii. Robby Soave sums it up quite well,
The FISA warrant, which was reauthorized three times, contained false and misleading information about Page. It omitted that he had previously disclosed his Russian contacts to a government agency; it overstated the government's confidence in the Christopher Steele dossier and ignored Steele's own doubts about one of his sources; it declined to mention that Page had said he and Paul Manafort had 'literally never met'; and in general it ignored information that rendered unlikely the theory that Page was a Russian asset.
In other words, Mr. Comey, F minus.
But at least you're not a traitor.* If you consider that vindication, well congrats!
*Assuming US attorney John Durham doesn't have something of substance up his sleeve, of course.
And so I shall finish republishing this series-of-sorts from my old blog on voting (part 1 and 2, if you can call them that, here and here). This one asks the simple question: What should be up for vote?
In my last entry I discussed the limitations and problems with democracy, at least the unbridled version of it. However, I realized I wasn't very specific on what should be up for vote and what should not be. This is actually a very tricky question, unless of course you're an ideologue, i.e. everything should be up for vote or nothing.
Let's start with the obvious. The politicians that represent us should be elected by popular vote. Having problems with unbridled democracy is by no means supporting dictatorship. Even with a strong constitution and a rigidly defined version of federalism, the likes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Benito Mussolini are going to find a way around them unless they are voted out (or preferably not voted in).
So what else? Well if I was an Ayn Rand obsessed objectivist I would say not much. Pure laizze faire capitalism should rule the day. However, while I lean libertarian, I do think there are places the government can intervene to help a little bit with out screwing up the economy or become totalitarian. I don't believe in massive wealth redistribution, a business-government compact, the military industrial complex or an over bloated affirmative action program for every minority there is, but some mild protections and maybe even a little welfare for the truly downtrodden is by no means out of the question.
Here's how I would break it down. The government's primary goal is to protect natural rights or negative liberty. By that I mean it should protect its citizens from threats to their well being either foreign (invasion, terrorism) or domestic (crime, persecution and the government itself). This epitomizes the classical liberal maxim espoused by the likes of John Locke and Adam Smith that your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. On the other hand, positive liberty, like the right to a home or healthcare, is really a misnomer because you can't give positive liberty to someone with out taking it from someone else.
Therefore, the federal government should deal almost solely with negative liberty. It should be there to provide a national defense and intrastate police force (like the US Marshalls) to chase down criminals that flee from one state to another and probably the major infrastructure such as the freeways. It should also override state decisions, but only in the negative. So for example, the Jim Crow laws should, and eventually were, be overturned by the federal government. I would probably be OK if the feds also overturned Proposition 8, which I discussed in the last entry. However, the federal government should not be handing out welfare to citizens in Alabama or telling how a small business in Deleware should be ran.
I would give the states more leeway though. Here I think citizens should be able to vote for more positive rights. Some welfare here and there, a couple regulations as well as on the tricky issues like abortion, for which it's debatable whether or not another person is involved. I would still leave things like outright socialism, discriminatory laws, denying gay rights and probably even denying the right to ingest whatever drugs you want off the table.
Why more power to the states? For several reasons. First, this creates a separation of powers where the federal government can prevent the states from denying people's rights while not having the power to do so itself. Secondly, the majority is more likely to actually represent people's opinions in a state because of the smaller and more homogenous populations involved. It always amazed how angry liberals got that major policies in California and Massachusetts are decided by people in Texas and Georgia, yet liberals still oppose state rights. Finally, even if a state enacts an atrocious law that the federal government fails to overturn it, it's much easier to move out of a state than out of the country. And if the United States goes wrong, a country founded on the thirst for freedom, where else do we have to go?
So there you have it. Under these guidelines the federal government could probably be funded by a small non-protective tariff and perhaps some corporate taxes. I'd probably let the state's citizen’s vote on how each state government should be funded even though this opens the possibility for those high taxes I dislike so much. I can always move to New Hampshire right? Anyways, I know it probably needs to be more refined, but it's a good start.
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM