Monday, September 4, 2023

@pdxsag: "The 10 Most Important Things I Have Taught My Children"

[From our correspondent @PdxSag. His previous guest posts on CBS include What I've Learned the Past Decade and A "Wonderlic" Test for Agency.]

Last year our oldest child left home. While our youngest has several years yet before he leaves the house, and ordinarily it would be hubristic folly to memorialize the occasion this far ahead of schedule, extenuating circumstances have prevailed. In about a month a very dear friend will be having his first child. For him, and shared with my fellow “internet autists,” I humbly submit: The 10 Most Important Things I Have Taught My Children. 

I didn’t reveal these all at once. I doled them out over years as they became age-appropriate. Perhaps a little ironically, the first was last. But they are, roughly speaking, in order of importance. I did start with numbers 2 and 5 at a pretty young age; pre-kindergarten.

1. Choosing your religion is the most important decision you have in life.

2. Choosing your spouse is the second most important decision you have in life.

3. When choosing a spouse beware regression to the mean. The genetic odds are that your kids will be more like your spouse's parents and siblings than they will be like you or your spouse.

4. Don't make someone else's life problems your life problems. You can be helpful, of course. But never make their problems into your own personal sacrifice.

This is especially true before you marry someone. Never marry someone with big or serious life problems. As you get older you'll learn how to recognize the difference between being helpful to someone in need and enabling someone with their problems. Don't be an enabler.

What are life problems you ask? Life problems are those that can't be solved with money. A person may not have the money, of course, and not having the money to solve a problem in one's life is a pretty unpleasant position to find oneself to be in. However, you'll come to learn that money usually finds a way, be it friends, family, or Fate. And in those times money does not find its way to you, almost always in the fullness of time you'll come to realize you solved it by some other means, usually by going around it. And the new place you ended up is markedly better than had you had the money back at the beginning. (This is Fate's preferred way of working, btw.)

Addiction is the textbook example of a life problem, but there are more. Most often they are of the type that in the old days were called mental or physical infirmities. However, even something as simple as a negative attitude can be a life problem for a lot people. Beware of that one most of all because it is the easiest to miss early on when getting to know somebody.

5. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Simple. Old-fashioned, but no less true. People respect a uniform. So powerful is this, they do it no less for unofficial uniforms. Also known as “look the part.”

If 70% of life is just showing up, 20% is looking the part. When you think about it, you can get pretty far on those two simple hacks. 90% is an A- after all. Maybe that's where a “Gentleman's A” comes from.

6. Strong posture is crucial in life. In my life I've had two different people tell me on two separate occasions, “it's weird, I thought you were taller than you are.” I'm not short, but I am below the median for American men. They were co-workers and this was a while after getting to know me on a more friendship-based level. The first time we were talking about something random and the guy cocked his head looked at me intently and said it like it occurred to him in that very moment. The second time a co-worker and I were talking about office politics and what-not and kind of sharing a few confidences. He smiled and said it in the context of when he first got the job he assumed I was one of the unofficial big boss types.

7. Sugar rots your brain. So does soy. The modern diet is a minefield. Avoid all the crap Big Food is trying to sell you with extreme prejudice. Read labels. Or, if it's marketed to Normies you don't even have to read the label. You'll just know. Quality ingredients are expensive. Few people will make the effort to afford them. The profit margins are lower too. Between a smaller consumer market and lower profits per unit, it doesn't make business sense to advertise.

This leads to the more general case which is to avoid anything that is marketed at Normies and/or poor people. To be sure, not everyone poor is dumb, but enough of them are that it is an advertising gold mine for big business. You'll save a lot of time and effort just by avoiding anything advertised in the mass-market.

8. "Compounding" - as marketed by Wall St - is mostly a scam. Too many businesses go out of business or at least fall on hard times from lousy management (examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Wall St uses survivorship bias to gloss over that inconvenient fact so you'll let them hold onto your money for effectively forever.

However, compound interest is real. You can and should leverage it by investing in yourself with the life and career choices you make from 18 to 28 years old. Not appreciating the power of compound interest in themselves is why people will over-estimate what they can accomplish in 1-2 years and vastly under-estimate what they can accomplish in 10-12 years.

Make big hairy, audacious, goals for yourself. (Excellent book by the way, Built to Last.) These are the companies that are true compounders.) BHAG's are goals that would be impossible to accomplish in less than 2 years, but should seem entirely possible on a timeframe of 10 to 15 years. Doing this prevents you from falling into the short-termism trap. It also prevents you from having goals that are so far off there isn't much in the way of measurable specifics you can be doing right now to work towards them.

Goals need to be measurable, and they should have some milestones along the way. The milestones are the things you come up with working backwards from your BHAG to your present situation.

For example, if you want to sail around the world, an important milestone is live in a place that has sailboats. You can't learn to sail without water, sailboats, and other sailors to learn from. But depending on where you are in life, maybe that's not your first milestone. If you're a high school kid in the midwest, your first milestone might be get accepted at a college in a city with a recreational sailing scene. Or failing a city, at least a state. Maybe then after college you find a job in the city with a recreational sailing scene. Then you join a sailing club and volunteer to crew on race nights. Then you get fed leads on a good first sailboat to learn weekend cruising on.

The milestones along the way are where the compounded returns come from. A degree, a good city, a good community of well-off, like-minded hobbyists – each of these milestones has its own inherent value. When they are combined their value is compounded: 2*2*2*2 > 2+2+2+2. It's a virtuous cycle for living your life.

Starting when you are 18 and having a goal to get there in a series of small, but non-trivial steps by the time you are 28 will set you up for outsized returns the rest of your life in ways you could never predict, or even imagine. Success breeds success. Success in life comes from living it in interesting ways.

9. If you are fortunate enough in life to discover your arete, move to the premier place for whatever it is. Arete is your personal reason for being. It's that one thing in life that energizes you above and beyond all the other things in life. It's what you're most happy doing.

The energy of all the other people living their arete and doing the same thing in the premier place for it is infectious. You won't fail in life doing that. If you're serious about it, all the other people also doing it will look out for you and help you.

Caution: Normies call this “following your dreams.” Normies don't have an arete. They have "dreams," which are really just memes they've picked up from the media they consume. Dreams are usually an escape, arete is a calling. You should be able to feel the difference.

10. Family Max. For 99.99% of the people in this world, your one and only legacy will be your children. When the time is right embrace creating your family fully, joyfully, and with all your and your spouse's energy.

And don't over-plan it. The future is reserved for those that show up.

Be there for your family at meals and at night before they go to bed. For children (and wives), quantity time is quality time.

Speaking of meals, make them at home from quality, raw ingredients.  A woman that cooks for her family can ensure corners are not being cut for some corporation's profits. You don't have to go over-board with expensive boutique-organics either. A good diet these days is defined by what it doesn't have, rather than what it does. Follow rule #7. A lot of grocery shopping can be summed up as: if comes in a cardboard box, don't buy it.

Finally, there are no guarantees for anything in life, but a good, strong family is as close as it comes. It's also the one thing, more than any other thing, that you can (and will) take the most unabashed pride in for a job well-done. No one will be able to take it away from you. It's yours until, and on, your dying day. That is pretty awesome, and underscores why #2 is second most important.


CP said...

Good Tweet by Justin Murphy (@jmrphy):

Mate selection is by far the most important determinant of your child's life outcomes. Parenting books never talk about this because everyone assumes "parenting" begins after marriage. False. 95% of the stuff in parenting books has little to no effect on the child in the long run. Parenting books should be written for single people while they're seeking marriage, and 9 out of 10 chapters should be about genetics. 1 chapter about nutrition, sleep training, behavior, etc. Once you get married, your work as a parent is mostly finished.

CP said...

Also, a good time to recall our review of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids:

This is by GMU economist Bryan Caplan, who you may be surprised to learn is staunchly pro-natalist. Like a typical modern economist he denies that there is any Malthusian limit on population - he believes that the quantity of niche spaces for humans increases with the population, unlike any other known life form. The Edo Japanese farmers in the previous book practicing infanticide just needed a Bryan Caplan lecture! (Notice that Gregory Clark sides with Malthusians and physicists on this.) Anyway, Caplan's argument that the reader (who is presumably an educated professional) should have more children is that today's American middle and upper class parents artificially inflate the cost of having children, which of course leads to a suboptimal quantity being demanded. By making some parenting changes the cost can fall and lead to an increased quantity demanded. (He also makes the point that many of the benefits of children come later in life, while at the beginning they have "high start-up costs.") He focuses on behavior that I would call "overparenting," i.e. the way that "moms and dads tag along with their kids as supervisors, or servants." He also makes the point that "families earning six figures have plenty of fat to cut. If you have two kids, a part-time nanny will probably do more for your quality of life than a new car." (Since he's a lolbertarian economist, he also says "a nanny doesn't need fluent English or a driver's license to provide loving care for your children.") A big chunk of the book is a summary of nature over nurture arguments, with the purpose of convincing blank-slatist SWPLs that they can helicopter parent less because their children are genetically destined to strongly resemble them. (He says, "Behavioral genetics offers parents a deal: Show more modesty and get more happiness. You can have a better life and a bigger family if you admit that your kids' future is not in your hands." He even says, "trust not in your parenting but in your genes... pick a spouse who has the traits you want your kids to have"!) Ultimately, I do think that Caplan is right but for the wrong reason. I think that the biggest factor that drives down family sizes is not overparenting but the cost, or apprehension about the cost, of the American education scams: not only overpriced colleges but also secondary schools. Once you have the key insight that "selective" private collages (full of potheads) are a scam, you can save a tremendous amount of money. And as an added bonus, the "selective" college scam has also been driving the excessive extracurricular activity burden.