Thursday, March 17, 2011

Starting Late

The book ‘Start Late and Finish Rich’ by David Bach has the right title to attract people like me. Middle – age with modest saving who wish to make a lot of money before retirement. The message is mostly common sense with a focus on savings; for example, avoid buying expensive lattes or eating out in fancy restaurants. On the other hand, the investment advice is more like Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’.  Invest in stocks, bonds, real – estate and have other sources of income aside from your day job. There are some interesting ideas on franchising and starting your own business as well as on renting out property and buying real estate. It was an enjoyable book to keep one on track to having a good financial education. There were also some good tips like the homeowners tax credit if one sells a home one has lived in for two of the past five years and if the capital gains are less than $ 250 thousand.

Reading these types of books reinforces one’s financial literacy. But one has read too many investment guides that one can’t keep track of the different techniques. But after one keeps reading, the theme is always the same. So it becomes more of a refresher course than anything else. Basically, save more, don’t spend, invest in stock, bonds, and real-estate and start your own business. The book also provides hope that all is not lost in one’s advancing age. It gives hope to the saying that life begins at 40 or 50 or 60. After reading all these books, one realizes that those spent on economic theories maybe the most useless. It was more of an attempt to keep updated of one’s undergraduate economic training. Henry Ford maybe right when saying that reading books is a waste of time. The only books worth reading are technical manuals or other such books that teach a real skill that you can use to earn a living.

One has been on this road of reading self-help books for so long that one does not live up to the lessons. More reading and less actual practice becomes the result. With the free resources available in the Internet, one no longer needs to read any more of these investment books to be updated. Just watch a video in one of those investment websites that love to impart the latest theories. The foundation has been laid after reading Robert Kiyosaki, Benjamin Graham, George Soros, Warren Buffet, Burton Malkiel, David Bach, John Bogle and so on. Now is the time for action after reading all those works from the so-called roll call of experts. The availability of all these books in the library is enough to satisfy one’s thirst for knowledge. But one’s thirst has been fulfilled and it’s now only overindulgence and drunkenness. Perhaps one is drowning in too much advice. 

I attended a creative writing course yesterday and arrived 30 minutes late. I had read about the course at lunch time. The cost was only $ 35 and the text book is interesting which I bought at Amazon – the Kindle version. My goal this year is to attend as many creative writing courses that I can while completing my book. I think I have read enough about creative writing for the past years that I need to attend actual group sessions. I hope I can replicate the success of Toastmaster in my public speaking into my creative writing by attending these public courses.  Like my initial feeling when I started attending Toastmasters, I felt awkward and felt it was a waste of time. But one realizes that the lone genius is a myth (read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’) and group interactions are the key to one’s growth especially in innovation and creativity. Just like the Toastmaster experience.

This is the key lesson in the crowd sourcing concept. One can get smart talking to smart people than reading lots of books. Getting ideas from the crowd is also the key success factor. Not all of one’s ideas are correct or perfect and, in fact, more egoistic than anything else. Although writing is a lone pursuit and endeavor, one benefits from sharing one’s work and getting feedback. For example, Ernest Hemingway with Gertrude Stein and Maxwell Perkins or Thomas Wolfe with Maxwell Perkins or James Joyce with Ezra Pound. Moving from journal writing to creative writing is a big step that requires the removal of one’s ego and move towards a more impersonal craft where feedback from other people is important. It’s crowd sourcing from a writer’s point of view.  Like in most other endeavors, egotism and self-centeredness prevents one from growing.

A good example is one’s interpersonal skills. One had tried to develop this craft by trying to playact and provide a polished veneer. At the start, it was intuitive and natural until one went forward with a belief that being professional is best with the result that’s impersonal and cold like a professional spin master.  In fact, the best tactic is just being you with all the doubt and insecurity expressed in front of the audience. It makes one human and more believable to the larger crowd. It was due to arrogance and being wrapped up in thought that prevents one from seeing reality like it really is. Perhaps it was reading too many books and preferring a solitary existence with limited social contact and so resulted in egotism. Being forced out in the open with Toastmaster and creative writing sessions and other social interactions is the best way to remove one’s blinders.

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