The Art Of Finding A Mountain

I have a question for you today. Two actually. Both come from subscribers.

But before we get into them, some thoughts on life goals.

Yeah, that’s the topic today (as you’ll see from the questions shortly), but not in the “rah rah, self help, visualize yourself with a Lambo, do some yoga every morning, and go vegan” codswallop that some dude in a skirt wants you to do while sitting in a room full of other people humming… when all you need to do is let go of some gas.

Nope, not that. Something that actually makes some goddamn sense.

You see, typically our bent here is centered around markets and investing, but really what greater investment can you make in your life than how you spend your time and what you do with this life? And this brings me to two questions I’m sharing with you today…

Question No. 1

 I’ve recently left my civil engineering career behind and am looking to get into something more in line with my interests.

I am 25, enjoy a healthy mix of using both sides of the brain (quant and qualitative), studying markets, narratives, etc. and really enjoy environments of competition and performance.

For this reason, I am actively researching ways to get into data science geared towards machine learning. While I am skeptical of the AI fear-mongering, I am convinced that machine learning is in its infant stages and once quantum computing arrives its prevalence will explode into every domain and it will be more effective (and cheaper) than human labor.

Quite a heavy topic to get into over email, however I would like to ask you if you were 25 again in today’s world, to what would you be dedicating the lion’s share of your energy towards in order to maximize the likelihood of affording yourself the ability to live a quality life with the intention of raising a large family one day? 

Question No. 2

Hi Chris,

Apologies for DMing; it wasn’t clear whether you’ve answered a question like this publicly before. I currently work in Risk for one of Australia’s Big Four banks, and in all likelihood I and many others are likely to be getting walking papers before the end of the week. A career course correction might be in order.

Without beating around the bush: discovering your blog 4 years ago ignited my passion for global macro. In particular your unique brand of synthesising narratives that draw upon politics, game theory, and history. Finding an email from CapEx in my inbox is one of my highly anticipated pleasures each week. Since becoming a founding member of Insider, the growth of my net worth has accelerated remarkably over the last few years, but it’s not yet large enough to clear the mortgage and go out on my own. As you’ve already trod the path I want to walk down over the coming 10 years, my question is, what advice could you give a family man in his early 30s looking to make this move? Having run the gamut from day trading to investment banking with the big name players (and keeping front of mind that you’re not a career counsellor), any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

You and your team have my utmost respect for the quality of the work you put out. Continue kicking goals.

Let me first remind you that I know nothing. I know nothing about a host of things that make any decision important. Things like interests and skills.

Interests because, without interest, you risk going through life like a rotting corpse. Skill, without which you risk trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The other thing to remember is that even though I figured some things rather quickly it wasn’t without many of the normal problems associated.

What I thought I originally wanted turned out to NOT be what I wanted.

I initially studied law (imagine that), and then for a short bit I recall thinking that, yes.

I really like loud music, and why the hell can’t I be a DJ at some funky club jammed to the walls with semi clad gyrating babes? I was actually rather good. I even had a neighbour throw a brick through my window at 3 AM in order to hear my music better. Yup, I was THAT good.

But back to the crux of the questions.

I thought long and hard about this and then remembered one of my favourite thinkers, Naval Ravikant, had written some gold on this topic, and so I’ve pulled out my favourites to share with you. Don’t thank me. Thank Naval, who can be found at @naval.

  • Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.
  • Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth creation games.
  • The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven’t figured this out yet.
  • Arm yourself with specific knowledge, accountability, and leverage.
  • Specific knowledge is knowledge that you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else, and replace you.
  • Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.
  • Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others.
  • When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools.
  • Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.
  • There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.
  • Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
  • Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.
  • Earn with your mind, not your time.
  • Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.
  • You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity – a piece of a business – to gain your financial freedom.
  • No one will value you more than you.
  • Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
  • Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.
  • Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.
  • There are no get rich quick schemes. That’s just someone else getting rich off you.
  • When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place. But that’s for another day.

What Else?

Well, there is this notion that somewhere between our mid teens and 20 to 25 we have to figure out “the path”. And that’s the path you stick to for the rest of your life.

I’m not so sure.

What those years are good for is taking risk. It’s in the process of testing ideas and your areas of interest that you’ll inevitably develop skills, and those will hopefully stand you in good stead later on.

Taking risk early is unbelievably important in my book because you’re typically young enough and poor enough to not give an isht about losing money, losing time, and failing.

What is obvious as mud too is that over the last couple of decades “higher education” has been commoditised and as such is less valuable.

I don’t see this changing much outside of very specific fields such as medicine and science for example. Certainly, if you want to incinerate money and become indoctrinated into completely worthless ideas, I highly recommend a degree in the humanities. Preferably gender studies.

So what areas seem interesting? I’d look at trends and then develop a list. What areas? Too many to list, so how about this…

Create a project out of finding your career.

You’re trying to find out what’s going to succeed and the rate of change is very fast so go where things are dynamic and moving fast. In other words not some stodgy conglomerate where, at best, you’ll be a number punching the clock and rotting in a cubicle.

Mikael Syding (Sprezza) wrote an excellent article on this very topic, and so I’m nabbing some of it here now. You can and should read the entire thing.

Find a start-up close to you. Call them or e-mail them and ask if you can visit them to see what they are working on, what their challenges are, what kind of skills they would need.

Then do one more.

Continue until you see the light and know what you want and need to learn. Then learn that – preferably fast, on-line, using and building a habit of doing deep work. While you’re at it, maybe try to get paid for your skills along the way, by starting a simple business or doing extra work at the start-ups you of course keep calling and meeting

But Will I Be Happy?

None of it matters if you’re a miserable sod. Even if you’re a rich miserable sod, it’s no way to go through life.

Still, it sucks being poor and the folks who say, “Oh, look, he’s rich, but I bet he’s not happy,” are just being silly. They secretly are pissed they’re not rich too. Being poor doesn’t make you a bad person and being rich doesn’t make you a bad person, but I do know being rich is better than being poor.

What I do think is important — because it’s at the core to human nature — is to find a purpose. I’ve spent time previously on this idea of finding purpose.

I believe that much of the consumerism that invades Western culture is a result of folks rotting on the inside without a purpose and they satiate that gaping loss with buying shit.

The guy who just keeps buying shit will find that it never fills the void. You can buy pleasure, but you can’t buy happiness.

Think about it. Climbing a mountain it far more satisfying than having completed it. The sense of well being comes from setting a goal and then achieving it. You get out of bed in the morning because you’ve got isht to get done and heaven help anyone who gets in your way. That is gold!

Research has shown a decline in happiness and an increase in depression when people complete something.

So, back to the question at hand. Let me know below what you’d do if you time machined your body back to being a younger you today. What would you focus on… and why?


“Nothing is more creative… nor destructive… than a brilliant mind with a purpose.” ― Dan Brown, Inferno


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