Simple Guide to Bitcoin in 2018

bitcoin

This is a simple guide to Bitcoin in 2018. I’m sure you’ve already heard of Bitcoin, but have a lot of questions and doubts. I’ve followed Bitcoin for years before finally investing in 2017. I tried to remove all of the hype and focus on the important things. Because of all that I’ve read, I give recommendations on what to buy and what to avoid.

Why trust my recommendations? I’ve spent the last decade traveling the world and doing whatever I wanted. I see a lot of potential in Bitcoin to make money, and everyone can participate. My own money is behind the recommendations in this article.

This guide is simple, but long. That’s because I want you to be informed about an important topic.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It’s digital money instead of paper money. And Bitcoin is run by everyday people instead of governments.

There are many cryptocurrencies, but Bitcoin was the first and is still the biggest. We will briefly cover some other cryptocurrencies below.

Why should I care about Bitcoin?

Cryptocurrencies can replace banks!

All of the trillions of dollars held by companies like Visa, Wells Fargo, and PayPal becomes public money. That means goods and services are cheaper because there’s less transaction fees, no overdraft fees, and no fees for keeping your money in one place. Banks charge you if you overdraft, they charge you if you have less than $X in your account, they charge you annual fees, etc. Bitcoin doesn’t.

Where can I buy Bitcoin?

Coinbase is the largest trading platform. And it’s very newbie friendly. I use and love it.

coinbase-account-dashboard
I made $3K USD in a month just by clicking the “Buy” button.

Coinbase offers 4 different cryptocurrencies for sale: Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC).

Should I buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, or Litecoin?

Short answer: buy Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). I have invested in both 50/50.

Buy: Bitcoin is the oldest cryptocurrency and has the largest amount of users. The core people believe in Bitcoin like a religion. They will never give it up, they will never leave it. They are constantly making improvements to it.

Buy: Ethereum is “smart money”. What if your bills paid themselves? What if your money automatically gained interest? Ethereum is a actually a network of computers working together to solve problems, and ETH is the currency these computers use to get paid. This cryptocurrency is a good bet to succeed because the founders are geniuses, backed by other geniuses.

Avoid: Bitcoin Cash is a copy of Bitcoin with two big differences: lower transaction costs and controlled by a few investors. This cryptocurrency will probably not succeed because the power is held by a few individuals and the same limitations of BTC also apply to BCH. The individuals behind BCH also did shady things like pretend it’s the actual Bitcoin and put out fraudulently false performance records. They even bought the @Bitcoin Twitter handle and pimp BCH regularly. Insider trading rumors also haunt BCH.

Avoid: Litecoin is a Bitcoin copy with a few [ultimately] meaningless changes. It’s not serious threat to win the cryptocurrency wars from what I can tell. The creator pumped the coin up to high levels and then sold off all his holdings in it. If the creator doesn’t believe in it, who will?

Update (2/18): the problems of transaction costs and speed of BTC have been fixed, making both Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Litecoin obsolete and likely to drop in value.

It’s better to think about cryptocurrencies and their purposes rather than thinking about them like you would paper money

  • Bitcoin: bank account
  • Ethereum: escrow
  • Monero: unmarked bills in a paper bag
  • Ripple: cash

We can pay with US dollars in many ways: cash, check, credit, debit, wire, PayPal, Venmo, etc. Think of cryptocurrencies in the same way. You use Bitcoin for a bank account, Ethereum to buy a house, Ripple for buying stuff at Target, and Monero for paying your “doctor” for “medication”.

When should you buy Bitcoin?

  1. Now
  2. When it loses a significant chunk of value

Don’t buy it when it’s rising, buy it on the dips.

Just buying it blindly and holding it is fine too. The latter is called “Dollar Cost Averaging” and is a concept from stocks.

Where can you spend Bitcoin?

Here’s a list.

Cryptocurrency is still very young. Other vendors will pop up “Soon”. When Amazon or Target or another big platform enters the market, it’ll be too late to buy Bitcoin as the price will skyrocket literally overnight. And right now the the market cap (total value) of Bitcoin is over $200 billion. Someone like Jeff Bezos of Amazon is going to say “I’d like a piece of $200 billion”.

Why do you think Bitcoin will increase in value?

The internet has forever changed old systems. College, mail, phones, TV, entertainment, politics… practically everything! Governments have controlled money for centuries. And that will change.

There’s too many smart people working on this and agreeing that it’s the future. Silicon Valley is jumping in head-first into block chains (the technology behind cryptocurrencies) because it frees up all of the money in the banking systems and governments. Trillions of dollars will be up for grabs!

You know the scene in The Social Network where Sean Parker says “1 million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” If that movie were released today, a “billion” would be replaced by a “trillion”.

Cryptocurrencies have real issues right now (high transaction fees, long wait times for transactions), but those issues will eventually be solved. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook announced 2018 as the year he looks into cryptocurrency. There’s a lot of talk how banks will move into cryptocurrency in 2018 as well.

Think you’re too late to buy Bitcoin? Wrong. You’re too early. And that’s perfect if you want to make money.

What are “altcoins” like Monero (XMR) or Ripple (XRP)?

Not everyone agrees on the best way to make a currency. Some coins, like Litecoin, are copies of Bitcoin with small changes. Monero is a privacy focused currency where X person sent Y person Z money. Ripple is purported to be the legacy banks entry into cryptocurrencies.

There are 100+ different cryptocurrencies. Most are too risky for me to talk about.

Who makes Bitcoin?

I don’t think it’s necessary for the average person to understand the technical details of how it works. The following is greatly simplified. The original Bitcoin whitepaper is pretty complicated!

Bitcoin is made and stored on internet-connected computers all around the world. You could even make Bitcoin on your computer. A Bitcoin is produced when the computer solves a hard math problem. This math problem could take your computer months of time and thousands of dollars in electricity! The math problem is solved and a Bitcoin is made. This is called “mining”, just like a person would mine gold.

“Mining” is the reward for keeping your computer doing transactions and storing records for other people.

Is it worth it to mine Bitcoin?

Not really. Huge data farms have converted to mining cryptocurrencies and made it unattractive for the average person. You need to buy special hardware, be part of a mining pool, spend thousands of dollars in electricity, and it still won’t be profitable until a year down the road.

If interested, you can look here for more about bitcoin mining.

Is Bitcoin safe?

When PayPal was just starting up, traditional bankers asked them: “What do you do about fraud?”. PayPal was confused because there was hardly any fraud at all. The bankers just smiled and said “Just wait”. In less than a year, 25% of all PayPal transactions were fraudulent! Fraud and fraud prevention are big industries which add huge costs to goods and services. These could be greatly reduced by cryptocurrencies.

Each computer storing the “ledger” and mining Bitcoin checks for fraud on each other computer out there. Millions of computers all making sure none of the others cheat the system. A traditional bank has to have one computer hacked for the whole system to fail. Millions of computers need to be hacked at once for Bitcoin to fail.

Which cryptocurrency will win?

Right now it’s not clear because it’s so early. There will likely be multiple cryptocurrencies which will be used for different purposes. That’s why I like Ethereum. Because while ETH might not be used for buying normal products, it likely will have purposes such as escrow or contracts.

What about other cryptocurrencies? I hear shitcoins gain 100x in a day!

Since you’re reading this simple guide to Bitcoin, the answer is No.

Should I invest in Bitcoin?

Yes and no.

Are you just looking to buy Bitcoin for $1,000 USD and hope to cash out with $10,000 USD a month later? No, you shouldn’t invest in Bitcoin.

Are you looking to become financially free with dedicated and deliberate investing over the next 10 years? Yes, you should invest in Bitcoin.

When should I sell Bitcoin?

Plan to hold your cryptocurrency at least a year. If it goes up significantly and you want to take some profit, go for it. But this is a long term play.

During my time as a professional poker player, I learned one big lesson: don’t gamble with the rent check. Please don’t invest in Bitcoin if you can’t afford to lose the money.

How high will Bitcoin go?

Some people predict a Bitcoin will be worth $100K USD (currently ~$13.5K). Or even $1,000,000 USD. Some people predict doom. No one knows.

How should I store Bitcoin?

Decentralization (getting your money away from banks and government) is an important idea behind cryptocurrency. Coinbase and similar are considered “hot” storage because they’re potentially vulnerable to hacks and fraud. “Cold” storage is keeping your money in a crypto wallet.

Trezor is the wallet that I use. Careful! If you lose this crypto wallet and your passphrase, your Bitcoin is gone! Just like losing your wallet.

Remember the tulip bubble of 17th century Netherlands! Now is the time to panic!

Normal people love to exclaim how the cryptocurrency phenomenon is similar to the tulip investment bubble in 17th century Netherlands.

Yes there are real questions and problems with cryptocurrency. But comparing a 17th century plant and economy to a cryptocurrency is ridiculous.

Secondly, the tulip bubble probably didn’t even happen. It was likely just a meme.

Plus, not all bubbles are equal:

What about Bitcoin prices crashing?

USD and Euro crash all the time and nothing happens!

From 2014 to 2015, the Euro lost 40% of its value against USD. 40%! In 5 short months, 4/2017-9/2017, the USD fell 20% against the Euro. There were no riots in the streets, and no mass panic.

usd-vs-euro
Does this look stable to you? Values of USD vs Euro. Source.

The European Union printed more money during 2014-2016 to purposefully devalue their currency so outsiders would invest in the EU because it was cheap to buy European goods with USD, RMB, Yen, etc. When the economy came around, they stopped printing money and the value of the currency [compared to USD] rose again.

So all Europeans salaries during 2014 immediately dropped by 30% in value against the dollar! The same thing happens in the US. And we continue to let the government control our money?

Forex is a trillion dollar industry where people make money off of traditional currency fluctuations. The same people who claim Bitcoin is too volatile are the same ones making money off of USD price movements every single day. Hypocrites.

The value of our money moves up, down, and sideways all the time and we don’t really notice because we don’t exchange currencies very often. The only reason I notice is because I visit ~10 countries every year. The value of USD jumps up and down like a sugar addicted child.

Inflation

USD is always losing value. Remember when grandma bought her house for like 1,000 bucks in 1920? That’s inflation. The government prints more and more money to pay its bills. That works out great for them and bad for you. This is how the rich get richer: assets like stocks and real estate keep pace with inflation and USD doesn’t. The average person gets paid in cash (salaries are cash, hourly is cash). If grandma kept that $1,000 in 1950, it’d be worth $1,000 now. But she could sell her house for $200,000 or more. Assets gain value. Cash doesn’t. Converting cash into assets is important to making money.

Bitcoin is a fight to keep your money because it doesn’t suffer from inflation.

In 2017, USD lost:

  • 33% vs stocks
  • 1,000% vs cryptocurrencies
  • 15% vs real estate
  • 20% vs the Euro

Cash. Got. Crushed. Your salary or hourly rate is paid in cash. Your buying power dropped by double digits in the past year alone!

The dollar gets weaker every single year, no matter what. Maybe crypto is too volatile for you. But inflation eats at least 4% of your salary every year. Get your money out of USD and pay down debt, put it into your home, into stocks, or into crypto. Don’t let inflation wreck you.

A good read about crypto in 2018, including a list of people to follow if you want to keep up-to-date

95 crytpo thesis for 2018.  (Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of it)

A more in depth resource for specific cryptocurrencies that I don’t mention here.

Conclusion

No one can predict the future. If this money means something to you, DON’T invest in Bitcoin. It won’t be worth the stress on your mind even if Bitcoin goes up in value.

But if you’re looking an investment with huge potential, head over to Coinbase and join the fun!

The Last Jedi Review

the-last-jedi

SPOILERS: Everything in The Last Jedi review below is not only a spoiler for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but it also spoils episode 9 which is 2 years away.

A month after Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I wrote a review titled “The Force Awakens is the Laziest Movie Ever“. The Force Awakens was a plot remake of A New Hope with black TIE fighters and X-Wings. Yawn. Disney took no chances with their new cash cow.

Early reviews of The Last Jedi claimed that the movie might have *too much* new material and not be faithful enough to the original. I went into the theatre excited and hopeful that they wouldn’t simply repeat Empire Strikes Back, because I’d seen that movie hundreds of times already. Either I would get to enjoy a new movie, or I would get to say “I told you so” for my correct prediction years earlier that these movies are simple rehashes of the originals.

And… I told you so.

Everything I said 2 years ago is still correct. These are just lazy rewrites of the originals.

Why are people saying it’s a new movie? Because when director Rian Johnson went to get Empire Strikes Back from the shelf so he could blatantly rip it off and make $5 billion just like The Force Awakens did, he made a huge mistake: he grabbed Return of the Jedi! So he spent all that time copying Return of the Jedi for episode 8 when it was supposed to be the end of the trilogy instead of the middle. He finally realized that he copied the wrong movie as the opening scene of Empire Strikes Back appears at the tail end of The Last Jedi. OOPS! Collecting billions of dollars for no effort is hard work!

Rian Johnson wrote as well as directed The Last Jedi. One night while taking notes on Return of the Jedi, he got a brilliant idea: why not just rip out the pages of the original script and paste them into the new script for The Last Jedi? That would save precious hours retyping dialog and scenes! So he ripped all the pages out. Then, disaster struck. Rian dumped all the pages on the floor in a heap. Putting them back in order would take at *least* 5 minutes. Fuck that! He slapped the ripped pages in a folder in random order and swam in the millions of dollars Disney gave him.

spongebob money angels
Disney executives making money angels from the profits of Star Wars

Rian Johnson sliced up Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, mixed up the scenes, and baked them together in random order to create The Last Jedi.

For example, the throne room scene in Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi are nearly identical:

  • Luke/Rey returns to face Vader/Ren
  • In the elevator ride up, the Luke/Rey tries to turn Vader/Ren, who refuses
  • Emperor/Supreme Leader tells Luke/Rey that this was all part of the plan
  • Everyone watches the rebels/resistance get their asses kicked for a bit
  • Emperor/Supreme Leader wants Luke/Rey to be their apprentice instead
  • Luke/Rey refuses
  • Emperor/Supreme Leader says “Haha, just kidding about just saying 5 seconds you sucked, Vader/Ren go kill Luke/Rey xoxoxoxo i luv you”
  • Vader/Ren kills Emperor/Supreme Leader

Here’s a list of scenes in order as they appeared in The Last Jedi. Parenthesis show the original movie it was copied from and if it occurs in the beginning, middle, or end of the movie.

  • Destroy the death star/dreadnought (Return of the Jedi, end)
  • Jedi Training montage, complete with Evil Cave dream sequence (Empire, middle)
  • Good Jedi purposely gets captured by Bad Guy in a failed attempt to turn him (Return of the Jedi, end)
  • Some good guys on a side quest for good guy fleet: “We gotta give ’em more time!” (Return, end)
  • Big Bad Guy, Apprentice Bad Guy, and Good Guy watch as rebel fleet gets slaughtered (Return, end)
  • Big Bad Guy murdered by Apprentice Bad Guy (Return, end)
  • Master refuses to help apprentice until Old Jedi Master Ghost convinces him (Empire, middle)
  • Speeders in the snow/salt (Empire, beginning)
  • Evacuation from AT-AT walkers (Empire, beginning)
  • Millenium Falcon flies through tight spaces to avoid TIE fighters (Empire/Return)
  • Master becomes one with the force (Return, middle)
  • Rebuilding of the rebels with a sliver of hope (Empire, end)

I mean, it wasn’t totally the same. The AT-AT’s from Empire Strikes Back now had knee-pads and the white stuff was salt instead of snow. So different!

The things I thought were going to happen in this movie were merely pushed to Episode 9.

Visually Stunning

The highlight of the movie is easily the extraordinary special effects which are a staple of the series.

Ski-Speeders

The choreography and pacing of the fight scenes is excellent as well. Maybe the story behind the fights doesn’t make much sense, but damn they look good!

Rey’s Parents

Kylo Ren tells Rey that her parents were nobodies. They were dead in the sand of Jakku and sold Rey for drinking money. Case closed on three years of speculation, right?

Nope. Lying about dead parents was in the original. Obi-Wan told Luke that his father, Anakin, was killed by Darth Vader. In Return of the Jedi, Luke and Obi-Wans ghost have a little talk about “points of view” and that Anakin ceased being Luke’s father when he became Vader. Try to be surprised in Episode 9 when this happens.

Rey is still the daughter of Han and Leia, brother to Kylo Ren. Read the rationale here.

You forgot about Finn!

No, but I wish I had. Rian had a problem: the character of Luke Skywalker was split into two characters, Rey and Finn. Rey can do anything because she’s all-powerful in every way. As this bloopers article points out, how can she swim so effortlessly as she grew up on a desert planet?

Star Wars: 15 Mistakes You Completely Missed In The Last Jedi

This type of character is called a Mary Sue. Hermonie in the Harry Potter movies is another example of a Mary Sue: perfect in every way.

Finn gets all the trash characteristics: he’s a hopeless coward who can only be guilted into doing something admirable. Seeing as he’s basically the co-lead, he gets a story arc in The Last Jedi that is pointless and boring. And for good measure, they threw in a romantic interest while catering to the huge Chinese audience.

Did you know that animal cruelty is bad? A Public Service Announcement from Rian Johnson

In a universe with hyperspace technology, the only way to get a “racehorse” to run fast is by repeated abuse by laser whips. They don’t even have fake-rabbit-on-a-rail technology like the average dogtrack.

The alien horses are cared for by slave children who clean up after them because rich people are evil. Because I’m fairly certain that a society that can make droids like C-3PO and R2-D2 have invented the Roomba.

Rose said “it was all worth it” because the alien horses got to run around for a bit. Finn and Rose just left those little slave kids.

Did you know the only way to get rich is by selling weapons? Another Public Service Announcement from Rian Johnson

Why not have a little propaganda in the middle of the movie? Rich people are evil, but not Disney who brainwashes kids to buy mindless toys so the average family can’t even afford a $500 emergency payment, the rich people who sell weapons that ushered in the longest era of world peace in history are to blame!

Weapons bad! Toys good! Charge them to your credit card!

Diversity montage time

lieutenant connix

We see this girl 10 times and I have no idea why I should care about her. Something happens, the scene cuts to her nodding in approval, and then the movie continues flashing mug shots of people of every ethnicity and age for 5 minutes until all the viewing demographics are pandered to appropriately.

DIVERSITY!

She’s a strong woman who don’t need no man

A feature of our culture is that it’s strongly pro-woman. 80’s movies were over-the-top masculine, steroid fueled, murder fests. Popular series today put women in the leadership roles:

  • Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter
  • Game of Thrones
  • Star Wars

Disney princesses no longer have Prince Charming coming to rescue them, the princesses have bumbling male sidekicks who need to be saved from themselves.

Star Wars tries to follow this pattern by murdering the entire command structure at the beginning of the movie so they can give more screen time to Leia and Admiral Purple Hair. That’s all fine and good, except for two things.

First, Leia has to survive the blast that killed everyone else, and then magically fly through outer space without a space suit. It’s easily the most ridiculous scene in the movie. They couldn’t have thought up a reason why Leia wasn’t on that exact ship?

Second, Carrie Fischer had passed her prime. A life of drugs left her voice gravelly as Johnny Cash. Her face had so much botox and plastic that she could have doubled in the Lego Star Wars movie.

Worse yet, there was no reason for Leia to be in the story other than to have Rey’s mother die in Episode 9 (which they will now have to do entirely in CGI). Everything Leia did in The Last Jedi could have been done by Rey/Finn/Poe/Rose.

Public Opinion

Professional reviews, which I highly suspect of getting Disney kickbacks, overwhelmingly love the movie. Public support is strongly split 50/50.

Here’s a Reddit comment reviewing The Last Jedi:

The way the story is now has taken away any anticipation of the final episode. There is no real climax anymore. Rey already bested Kylo Ren in episode 7, there is zero doubt she will again. I have zero interest in what happens to Finn now either as he just seems pointless, I cannot imagine what he can do other than being a useless side character now.

The Last Jedi really fails in raising the stakes for the conclusion, if anything, it lowers them.

Know why the The Last Jedi “fails in raising the stakes for the conclusion”? Because the conclusion already happened! Stories are constructed to emotionally manipulate the audience (in a good way). The problem is that The Last Jedi screwed up the order of the emotions by releasing the tension too quickly. No one fears Kylo Ren, a “master” who got beat by Rey and Finn. [Perhaps] the most loved character of the entire Star Wars universe, Han Solo, was killed off in The Force Awakens. Rey and Poe, likely love interests for Episode 9, just met at the end of Episode 8!

Star Wars Episode 9 spoilers

Episode 9 hinges on the brother/sister “twist” to be the climax, as well as the death of Rey’s mother, the whirlwind romance story, and Poe getting captured and tortured. How do I know this? Because there’s no scenes left for them to copy from the original trilogy. Disney has copied scene-for-scene 2/3 of the original trilogy on their way to making $10 billion. Do you really think they are going to stop now?

There’s also no one left to die. Kylo Ren and Leia are goners, for sure. It’s hard to see Kylo becoming Ben again and everyone just forgiving him for killing billions of people. He would have to self-exile to a distant planet a la Luke/Obi-Wan/Yoda. Maybe Finn and Rose pull a Thelma and Lousie and sacrifice themselves for the greater good, but I put that at a 0.0001% chance. I guess they could kill off Chewy? We could watch a moving death speech in Wookie where he tells Rey she’s Han and Leia’s kid.

Random tidbits

  • Reviewers generally didn’t like the constant attempts at humor. I didn’t mind them as the originals were fairly campy and the prequels were kid-focused. The only one I didn’t like was Yoda using the term “pageturner”. A creature who can’t use basic grammar now knows colloquial English?
  • Characters that died before their time: Snoke, Captain Phasma. Rest in pieces. Fan reactions were very negative to both deaths, which surprised me.
  • Admiral Purple Hair smashed gender stereotypes by slowly leading a group of men on and then crashed the ship she was driving.
  • Finn, please die please die please die YES FLY INTO THE CANNON AND GAME OF THRONES THIS… Oh, fuck you Rose for saving him. Fuck you.
  • Wait! Rose is dead! YES! Oh goddamn it, Mei from Overwatch lived.
  • Everyone not named Kylo Ren or Leia is protected by impenetrable plot armor.
  • I desperately wanted new Lando, and Benecio del Toro didn’t fill that void (as much as I love him as an actor). Just bring back Billy Dee Williams. I can’t imagine anyone hating that choice.
billy dee williams colt 45
Disney, bring this man back for Episode 9! DO IT!

Why can’t Disney surprise with Episode 9?

Because Disney will make $15 billion for the trilogy movies alone by merely copying the originals. And they’ll make another $20 billion from licensing and toys. Don’t fix what ain’t broken. Don’t even touch it. GET AWAY FROM THE PILES OF MONEY!

The missing scenes from the original trilogy will be baked into the eventual turd-pile that will be episode 9:

  • Ewoks/Gungans/Wookies, or some new alien race
  • Someone losing an arm and jumping down a tube (Doubtful they would do this to Rey as mutilating a woman can’t happen. Most likely Finn/Poe)
  • Rey, I am your brother
  • Redemption of Kylo Ren
  • Kylo dies
  • Continuation of the Skywalker line (Rey + Poe)
  • Capture and torture of Rey’s friends to bring her out of hiding, most likely Poe
  • Luke Skywalker ghost talk (actually, Leia ghost talk)
  • Finn and Rose go on a shitty and meaningless side quest, die 5 minutes into the movie, and the theatre starts cheering

Oops, that last one is just wishful thinking.

Who are Rey’s Parents, and is Disney astroturfing to prevent spoilers?

disney astroturfing

“Astroturfing” is when a business poses as normal people on social media to spread their message. What I didn’t expect was that a company would do this to squash a fan theory about “Who are Rey’s parents?”. I think Disney is astroturfing to prevent Star Wars Episode 8 spoilers, and here’s why.

disney astroturfing

Who are Rey’s parents?

I wrote a piece on why Han and Leia are Rey’s parents.

The TL;DR version:

  • Rey speaks Wookie.
  • Rey and Han finish each other’s sentences, just as a child mimics their parents.
  • Story-wise, just as Episode 7 was a plot copy of Episode 4, Episode 8 is going to have a “Luke, I am your father” moment. Except it will be “Rey, I am your brother”.

If you don’t think Episode 7 is a copy of Episode 4, you’re not nearly as smart as you think:

Being around a Wookie, fixing the Hyperdrive in the exact same way as Han Solo, completing Han’s sentences, and being Force Attuned really narrow down the options regarding her parentage. There’s more in the link above, but that’s the gist of it.

Other theories are based in pure speculation:

Luke’s daughter theory

  • “they way he looks at her”
  • “his lightsaber called to her” – The lightsaber theory
  • “the story is about the Skywalker family”

The last one completely forgets that Leia is a Skywalker and that her children are Skywalkers as well. The lightsaber calling to Rey is a copy of the cave scene in Empire Strikes Back, where items/areas with latent Force can cause mini freak-outs in Force Attuned people. So the only “evidence” is Luke looking at Rey. This also doesn’t explain how she knows Wookie or why Rey and Han finish each other’s sentences.

Kenobi’s daughter theory: No evidence, just some people hoping.

Other person we haven’t met yet: I’m sure that halfway through a trilogy we are going to meet some random dude who shows up and pays backdated child support for all those years on Jakku. Basic storytelling rules this theory out.

People have speculated a bunch of nonsense on who Rey’s parents might be. Read “Gizmodo’s 24 most insane theory’s about who Rey’s parents are“.

The main argument against Han and Leia being Rey’s parents is that they “would have to be horrible parents to leave her on the desert world of Jakku”. Anyone who makes this argument hasn’t seen the original Star Wars, in which Luke is dumped on the desert world of Tatooine in similar fashion… or have they seen it and are spreading lies to cover up spoilers?

Why do I think Disney is astroturfing?

The internet fulfills the prophecy of “1,000 monkeys at typewriters for eternity will eventually produce The Bible”. We are those monkeys, shitting out content every day. Every ridiculous theory out there gets play time…

…except the Han and Leia theory.

Almost all of the articles, posts, and Tweets discount this theory. The cover-up is so overt, it’s covert.

I looked at the top 100 Google search results for “Who are Rey’s Parents?”. Some of the articles stated their theory concretely, while others leaned one particular direction. If it was unclear or they didn’t choose a side, I didn’t add it to any total.

Top 100 search results for “Who are Rey’s Parents?”:

  • Luke: 17
  • Obi-Wan: 3
  • Ezra Bridger: 3
  • Jyn Erso: 3
  • Emperor Palpatine: 3
  • Han and Leia: 3
  • Anyone BUT these: 2
  • The Force magically conjured her: 1
  • Shara Bey: 1
  • Mon Mothma: 1
  • Cloned from Luke’s severed hand: 1

You’re probably wondering why these numbers don’t add up to 100. It’s because of two reasons. First, many articles didn’t pick a theory. Second, director J.J. Abrams misspoke at a film festival and said Rey’s parents weren’t in Episode 7. While he’d quickly retract this statement to mean “they weren’t discovered in Episode 7″, a flood of articles were printed and clogged up the results.

Jyn Erso (Rogue One) was named as Rey’s mother before the movie even came out!

Ezra Bridger is a character of Star Wars: Rebels video games, and was named as a potential father on complete speculation.

Emperor Palpatine was listed as Rey’s father for reasons too stupid to mention. Seriously don’t look into it, it will make you dumber.

Flowcharts like this exist, making you think all the options are equally likely. Chewbacca as the father is a possible choice on this flowchart.

So the only couple in Episode 7 capable of having a Force Sensitive child ranks alongside ridiculous nonsense such as being cloned from Luke’s dismembered hand. OK.

Where do you hide a leaf? On the forest floor with a million other leaves.

The biggest perpetrators of the Luke-as-father theory are big media sites. Of the three search results that had Han Solo as the father, only one was a mainstream site (vox.com). They give roughly the same reasoning as I do for Solo parentage. And this article came right after the movie came out. My guess is that too many people were figuring it out too quickly, and Disney felt they had to protect their $5 billion investment in the Star Wars franchise. Articles quickly appeared on big media sites to squash any Han/Leia parentage theories.

One of the most notorious sites for spewing bullshit, HuffingtonPost.com, printed the following:

The only time the Han/Leia parentage is mentioned is #3 on the list of the first article, #1 of which is that Luke and Leia committed incest to make Rey. I don’t think Disney would sign off on their main character of a $5 billion franchise being the product of incest.

The media was drowning out Han/Leia parenting theories in a sea of garbage.

Methinks thou doth protest too much

Every “theory about Rey’s parents” post on Reddit gained traction… except the Han/Leia theory.

The most popular post was a moderately popular one where almost every comment on the post was disagreeing with the Han/Leia theory.

Why would Disney pay people to cover up a fan theory? Because if people already knew “the twist”, it would reduce interest in the following movies!

Here’s a Reddit post that surmised fan theories ruined the TV show Lost.

One comment in particular sums it up:

Writers: “We have a phenomenal idea for the ending of the show! It will make everyone’s heads explode and will blow their tits off!! This ending is going to be pure genius!”
Internet: “Are they [spoilers]?”
Writers: fuck

If the internet spoils the surprise twist of in season 1 of a six season show, that’s a disaster. The post details that the creators then had to steer the show in a different direction to try and not be as obvious. The result was that nearly everyone hated how Lost ended.

Episode 8 comes out on 12/15/17, when we find out if I’m right or wrong.

I actually hope I’m wrong and that Episode 8 isn’t a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back. I hope that Disney put more thought into the movie rather than their astroturfing. But, so far, I have no reason to think that will be the case.

Long Term Travel Lifestyle

long term travel lifestyle

People ask us: What does a long term travel lifestyle look like? After being on the road for 3 years now, I can answer that question.

In general, our days are very fluid. They also vary country to country depending on the customs, accommodations, and activities. But here is an overview of what our life looks like each day.

long term travel lifestyle
Just walking around Annecy, France. Often referred to as “Little Venice” due to the canals through the town.

Fun

Let’s start with the good stuff. Each day we try do something fun. It could be something as small as taking a walk, or it could be a big event like an all-day SCUBA dive. And on some days, “fun” is staying inside and playing video games (me) or watching a TV series (Alicia).

We tend to stay in places where fun things are easily accessible. It sucks to travel a hour each way: that’s basically a commute. So we switch locations often because that cuts down on overall travel time.

kayak tour new zealand
Kayaking in New Zealand

Learning how to live

We have to relearn how to live every time we change locations. From simple things like buying food, to transportation, and even how to work the shower. Imagine everything in your day as being completely different, every few weeks. And I mean everything: different bed, different meals, different home, different language, etc.

Sometimes, we even have to relearn pooping.

It can be very mentally draining, so we travel slower than a person would on vacation.

Sleep

Some cultures have different sleep schedules that basically force us to get in sync. “Siesta” (napping) cultures like Argentina and Spain have schedules that look like this:

  • 9 AM: wake up
  • 10 AM-2 PM: work
  • 2 PM: Lunch
  • 4-5 PM: Nap
  • 5-9 PM: Work
  • 10 PM: Dinner
  • 1 AM: Bedtime

Trying to get lunch at noon or dinner at 6 in these cultures will severely disappoint. Shops and stores close for siesta during the day. Trying to fight against an entire culture is a losing battle, so we take the naps and eat dinner at 10 PM like everyone else.

Exercise

Gyms don’t really want people who stay for one or two weeks at a time, so we mostly do bodyweight movements and running. Alicia does Jillian Michaels workouts on her Kindle device with a yoga mat found at a random store. I buy a pull-up bar when I can find it in local stores. Between pull-ups, push-ups, and running, that fulfills most basic exercises. It might seem wasteful to use a pull-up bar for a week and then throw it away, consider it an at-home gym for $20.

The best part about travel is the constant walking. It keeps us naturally fit and healthy without even thinking too much about exercise.

Eating

picadas buenos aires
Sometimes dinner can be an event, too. Above: eating “picadas” in Buenos Aires. It’s a small meal at 5pm consisting of meats, cheese, and wine. It’s very Argentinian.

We eat what the locals eat. Trying to find an American style breakfast in other countries will generally lead to disappointment. Besides, the local foods are interesting and wonderful.

Eggs and coffee are staples of our diet because they are found everywhere. In some countries (typically South East Asia), getting enough protein can be challenging. But eggs solve that problem and are plentiful and cheap everywhere in the world.

As wonderful as other culture’s food can be, I admit there are times where I crave American food. I binge on the worst fast food when back in the US because it’s impossible to get anywhere else. Even the burgers at McDonald’s are different when traveling because they are from locally sourced beef. Hamburger in the US is typically 20-30% fat, but in other countries it’s 4-10%.

Travel Days

My wife and I travel with backpacks only. When we went around the world in a one year (top 10 and bottom 10 experiences), we stayed in 33 different locations. That’s an average of moving every 5 days! We’re quite experienced at moving around.

And I can say this about Travel Days: they pretty much ruin the entire day. Between checking out, getting to the station/airport, traveling, checking in, getting settled, and finding food, the day is nearly gone. Yes, even for short trips such as moving across town.

While typical vacationers can muster the energy to go sight-seeing (because vacations are less than 2 weeks long), it’s generally better for long term travel not to over-exert yourself like that. Your brain works overtime when you get to a new location because it’s taking in all the new sights, sounds, and smells. It’s mentally taxing to find your way around in the new location. It’s better to get situated and plan a bigger day for the next morning.

Remember, we aren’t on vacation: this is our life. We can’t go at vacation pace every day because we’d drop dead from exhaustion.

Work

Our work life ranges from very little to frantic. In 2016, we took on more work and there were a few months where we locked ourselves to our computers. That killed the south island of New Zealand for us, so we pulled back on the work front. We typically cram work into 1-2 days per week and enjoy a 5 or 6 day weekend. How can we do that? Tip: meetings are a gigantic waste of time and you should do everything in your power to avoid them.

The few meetings we have are typically at odd times because of the time differences. In South East Asia, our meetings are typically after midnight. In Europe, our calls are after 8 PM. The upside to the time differences are that we look amazing because we send emails while everyone back in the US is sleeping! It makes us look very productive. 😉

Would you like long term travel?

I’m not sure most people would like our lifestyle. While it works very well for us, most people enjoy traditional things such as a home and local community. We have to relearn how to live our life every time we change locations, from food to shopping to transportation.

For us, it’s perfect. We just got into Italy yesterday, and now we are going to walk around Rome. It’s not a vacation, it’s our life.

Do the Opposite of Normal

normal spongebob

To get an uncommon life, do uncommon things. Do the opposite of normal.

I have no idea what the future will bring. Heck, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing now. But everything turns out pretty well for me because I possess what’s scarce. My secret is to find what everyone is doing (easy), and then do the reverse. Collect scarcity by doing the opposite.

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
Jerry to George, Seinfeld

The method of doing the opposite works because if everyone is doing something, it’s abundant. If it can be obtained anywhere, it’s cheap. Rarity makes something valuable. Gold is rare, as are doctors. And that makes both of those things expensive and desirable.

Become expensive and desirable.

I kept getting fired. That’s how I first learned the strategy of doing the opposite. All of the normal decisions had gone really badly for me. Since I was unemployed, where was there to go but up? If you would rather be in a different place than you’re at right now, why not try something new? New decisions will lead you to new places.

I turn down free money. A company scammed us, so I left them over a dozen bad reviews online. The owner of the company offered $2,500 as a way to bribe us to take the reviews down, because the rest of their reviews were great. We told him to stop harassing us.

Normal people take the money. But Alicia and I enforce standards on the world, not the other way around. Steve Jobs was notorious for having a “reality distortion field”. He imposed his will on everything around him. I’m not Steve Jobs, but every time I push back on the world, the world moves. (And I’m always surprised when it does.)

We sold our house. Normal people keep upgrading their home, aka “spreading their roots”. We dumped our house. Not having a house allows us to be anywhere in the world at any time. It allows us to have zero debt and save money. Oddly enough, traveling around the world is cheaper than living in the US.

No house = permanent vacation + save money + and no damn yard work

People told me that being a professional gambler was a mistake.

My mother cried when I told her I was going to play poker professionally. Everyone assumed I was dealing drugs or living off the government. But I was a pro for 2.5 years, paying for our destination wedding to Aruba, my wife’s engagement ring, and her BMW.

It’s not normal to give up a stable career like programming for professional gambling. But I did.

I had no idea at the time, but the math and psychology books I read during my gambling stint paid off when I went into marketing. In a way that I could never have seen, being a poker pro opened the door to much larger things. It improved my skills as well as my mental toughness. Both have proved more valuable than sitting in a dark corner office writing code.

I stopped letting fear stop me. There’s a lot of scary stuff in the world, and it’s very normal to feel afraid. But fear is useless.

Fear stops 90% of people from living the life they want. That means I only have to compete against 10% of the population. I eliminated 90% of my competition just by learning to ignore that whiny voice in my head. It takes effort, but it’s doable.

We work less than we could. Normal people wear overwork as a badge of honor. Alicia and I keep turning down work even though we could make more money. This keeps us fresh instead of burnt out. We don’t miss deadlines or expectations from having too much to do. We enjoy Monday through Friday instead of dreading it because our workload isn’t overloaded.

I value time over money. Normal people don’t waste items, they store them until those items become useful. I give items away to the Goodwill or throw them away to save the time of storing them. There were some things I’ve purchased more than once because I kept giving them away.

But not having possessions saves so much time. No spring cleaning. No cleaning the house because there’s nothing to make a mess in the first place. Laundry takes little time because we only have two backpacks worth of clothes.

When we visit our parents, there’s always more at their houses to be cleaned, organized, and fixed. We help out because it reminds us of all the time we save by not having it at all.

I don’t value money. Normal people are protective of their money. I make bad decisions like smashing my car with a tank. The car could have been sold for a few thousand dollars. I paid a few thousand dollars to destroy it instead.

I see money as infinite, even when I didn’t have much of it. You can always make more. With that attitude, I don’t have stress over money like most people do. Less stress means more energy for more productive pursuits, like making money. It’s an upward spiral.

I’m writing a book. That’s a bad idea on paper because out of the 300,000 books written per year, only 200 of them become hits. That’s 0.00006%. The lottery offers better odds. But the book can be more than selling copies. At a minimum, it will be a good conversation piece. It’s something I can check off my bucket list and feel proud of accomplishing, no matter the outcome. And there is the chance that the notoriety can lead to something greater.

Normal people don’t spend a ton of time without potential reward.

I have no idea what the result of the book will be. There’s a 90% chance it’s nothing more than a funny story. All I know is that few people do it, and doing the opposite hasn’t let me down.

I have no idea what I’m doing nor do I pretend to be able to see the future.

But I do know that every time I do the opposite of normal, it works out. Maybe give it a try: trying new things isn’t normal.

Duolingo will replace US foreign language teachers

duolingo

Duolingo will replace US foreign language teachers in the US. And those teachers deserve to be replaced. Correction: those teachers deserve to be fired, put on a rocket, and shot into the sun.

Foreign language class in the US looks like this:

The students show up for the new year, and struggle. The teacher scraps the lesson plan because the class is performing poorly. The teacher sticks with the basics for the entire year. At the end of the year, the teacher passes the class even though they didn’t get through nearly what they should have. The students enroll in the next level even though their knowledge is crap.

Repeat the above for 6 years, and you get my joke of a foreign language education. Every year we learned the absolute basics of the language and nothing else. Every year the teacher was somehow shocked that we knew nothing, but still passed everyone on to the next level.

duolingo
Unlike US teachers, Duolingo doesn’t let you progress until you actually know the material. Shocking!

If I sound mad, it’s because I am

Alicia and I took a 4-day Spanish course in Buenos Aires. I learned more in that 4 days than I did in 6 years. In 20 hours of class, we covered more subject material than my schools did in 6 years. My classmates and I spent hundreds of hours for nothing.

Wait, it wasn’t for nothing. It was for thousands of dollars because I was in private high school and private college. That’s much worse.

Foreign language teachers in the US have wasted the time of generation after generation. It’s institutionalized failure. Teachers keep passing students instead of failing them because not having a second language isn’t a big detriment in the US. There’s no accountability. So generation after generation keeps failing their way through the system.

Language myths

Myth: “It’s a good thing Timmy learned [Medicine] when he was young, because that’s the best time to learn it!”

There’s no other subject out there that uses age as a crutch. Doctors don’t need to learn their profession when they’re young. Ditto airline pilots.

Computer programmers learn other languages far past childhood age. If you don’t think programming languages qualify, do me a favor and view the source of this webpage. Complicated stuff, isn’t it? Reading and understanding your average JavaScript function is a ton more complicated than saying “I will eat a cookie”. And yet, after 6 years of Spanish I can’t even say “I will eat a cookie”. We didn’t get that far.

Myth: “Martha wouldn’t have passed [History] without that immersion program.”

Kids learn math without immersion. They learn complicated algebra and calculus while the foreign language classes are struggling to say “I will eat a cookie”. See how stupid that is? Why do we continue to accept this?

People who have foreign language proficiency usually participate in immersion programs, often by studying abroad. Studies show that classrooms suck:

  • “The formal classroom students made no significant gains”
  • “The summer immersion students made significant oral gains…”
  • “The study abroad made significant gains, but less than the immersion”

If immersion is the only way, fine. Then don’t waste time with non-immersion classes. But I don’t think immersion is the only way. I think the classroom is broken.

Myth: Language is different/special

People learn new languages all the time! Listen to any professionals talk to each other and try to understand what they’re saying:

Programmer: “The data layer to the CMS threw an exception in a concurrent thread. It’s a race condition.”

Poker player: “I merged my range when I bet two-thirds pot with Irish position on a monotone board with top set.”

Do you know all of the above words? Yes.

Do you know what those sentences mean? Not even remotely. Just like I don’t know the language of your job.

My parents are a doctor and a nurse. I’ve been listening to them talk about the hospital and patients since I was a kid. I translate what my parents are saying to other people, even though everyone speaks English. Because professional jargon is a different language with its own rules, words, and syntax.

Let’s stop practicing failure

Throwing more money at a broken system isn’t the answer. My class sizes were never larger than 25 (usually ~20 in high school and ~15 in college). These schools cost $15K/year for high school and $40K/year for college. Money wasn’t the issue.

I’m OK with the performance of my other teachers. I’ve used algebra, calculus, statistics, and geometry over the years to solve problems. It’s not a memory issue since I can recall other information taught to me decades ago.

Today I had to take a proficiency test for the Spanish classes Alicia and I are taking. 50 questions. I filled out the first two and handed in the rest of the questions blank. My professors didn’t teach us infinitives, past participles, or future tenses in 6 years of Spanish. It was the same ser/estar/gustar verbs in the present tense, every year.

Depriving generations of education has to stop.

I think Duolingo, or something like it, could be a better way forward. Anything is better than what we have right now. Accountability would work as well, but schools haven’t been accountable so there’s no reason to think they’d start.

Duolingo effectiveness study: “The study estimated that a person with no knowledge of Spanish would need between 26 and 49 hours (or 34 hours on average) to cover the material for the first college semester of Spanish.”

The study shows that an app on your smartphone is more effective than college. Oh, and it’s free. And it takes way less time.

So we should gather all the foreign language teachers in the US, put them on a rocket, and shoot them into the sun while we actually learn something using our phones.

How Much Should Your Business Charge?

audi-quattro-club-mn-wild

A common question in entrepreneur circles is:how much should your business charge for it’s service or product?

I’ll give you three stories. Two of them involve Audi, and that’s not an accident.

Alicia got into the Audi A4

The A4 was her dream car that she wanted after college. Her previous car was a Volkswagen Jetta whose lease was coming to and end. This was our first test drive and she was excited…

…until she looked down at the door handle. It was the same as her Jetta. And the dashboard was the same as the Jetta. The entire interior of the Audi A4 was the same as a car costing $20K less! Sure the car had more horsepower and looked sleeker. But Alicia couldn’t shake the feeling that the car was just a re-branded Volkswagen Jetta. Her dreams of an Audi A4 were crushed.

So we looked at other luxury vehicles and were disappointed. Lexus’s were re-branded Toyota’s. The Porsche Cayenne was a re-branded Volkswagen Touareg. It was down to Land Rover and BMW because those were the only brands that didn’t obviously share parts with cars tens of thousands of dollars less. She went with a BMW x5.

We knew that we were paying an up-charge for the brand. We were paying for exclusivity. A brand can charge disproportionately more for exclusivity, but they do have to give more in return. The A4 didn’t give enough.

Audi Quattro Club at Excel Energy Center

audi-quattro-club-mn-wild

Rinkside tickets cost $450+ for a Minnesota Wild game. Tickets for row 3, literally a few feet back from the rink, cost $150. The viewing experience is actually worse rinkside than 10 rows up. The refs and plexiglass posts block the action. The jumbotron is hard to see because it’s right above you. How can they justify the charge?

wild-game-rinkside

The seats around the rink are exclusive. The players crash into the boards, flexing the glass and knocking off drinks and phones placed on the ledge. The seats are leather with the Audi logo stitched into them, further differentiating them from normal seats. You also get the benefit of banging your hands against plexiglass in celebration. Who knew that people would pay triple to hit inanimate objects?

The final benefit is the Audi Quattro club. There’s free food, beer, and wine in this club. Of course it’s not exactly “free” because no one could possibly drink enough 50 cent light beer to get their money back. The point is the exclusivity. Even the name “club” insinuates that some people belong and some people don’t.

Getting to the club is oddly difficult because it’s not well-marked. On purpose. Club members have to go through the back corridors of the arena where most people are not allowed to go. On the way to the club you pass by the press lounge and player entrance. The arena itself is beautiful and clean. The back tunnels to get to the club are ugly and not meant to be seen by “normal” customers. Club members are “different”.

The Audi club, just like Audi cars, is a brand that allow people to pay more simply to signal to other people that they are different. I think the Audi Quattro club gave enough value for the price.

The best salesman I’ve ever seen

The prospective client asked “How much does it cost?”. The salesperson replied: “What does your budget look like for this quarter?”. The client responded with a number. The salesperson told the client that he was in luck: the product cost exactly that amount! How lucky!

Over the years I’d see this salesperson sell the same software product for $500 and $50,000. He was also the owner of the company and was very successful.

This same salesperson took clients golfing and out to lunch and dinner. Because it made the clients feel important. These clients would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with with the salesperson. The lunches and golf trips cost a few thousand dollars and yielded a 100x return.

I’ve worked at another small company that charged every company the same amount for their software. They didn’t allow clients to pay for the opportunity to feel special. They didn’t take clients out for lunch. The company struggled and ultimately stopped selling software.

Maybe you think that it’s unethical to sell the same thing at different prices. But that software had different value to different companies. A company with 5 users wasn’t going to pay a lot because they couldn’t get much value from the software. A company with a dozen worldwide offices and tens of thousands of users would get a ton of value from the software. Why should both companies pay the same price?

People pay for an Audi car because they want the appearance of luxury. People pay for rinkside tickets for the exclusivity. Businesses pay the amounts something is “worth” to them.

People will give you a lot of money so that they can feel special. But you have to let them.

Other people will want the best value without the emotional niceties. Offer clients and customers this option too, just like Volkswagen is the cheaper Audi and the rink has cheaper seats with excellent views.

Your pricing strategy should be fluid

Pricing client to client is time consuming at the beginning, but a real time saver overall. If a client is trying to haggle on price, remove features. If a client wants more features, raise the price. All parties should be happy with the price and features.

There are clients that want a lot of touch and face-time. Those clients pay more because that’s time consuming to you. But it’s worth it to them to have more meetings. I’ve had clients be unhappy because while performance was strong, they really wanted that high-touch, constant meetings and face-time experience.

There are other clients that just want the work done with the least amount of hassle possible. Those clients can pay less. This benefits both provider and client because meetings are a disproportionate time suck.

Every client is different, so every price should be different

Figure out of your client or customer is an Audi or Volkswagen person, and give them that. Offer a no-frills value package for your money conscious consumer and a luxury package for those willing to pay for the best. A luxury client won’t be happy without special options and a value client won’t be happy paying for luxuries!

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone paying the same price is “fair”. Pricing middle-ground will make everyone unhappy. Luxury customers will look down on your product because it’s not exclusive enough. Value customers will think your product is overpriced. And you’ll be broke because no one is buying.

Reverse Culture Shock

home-sweet-home

Returning home after a long travel yields reverse culture shock: your own culture will feel odd and unnatural. I originally dismissed reverse culture shock as made up nonsense for digital nomads to talk about. Then I went through it. It’s real.

Food

I gained THIRTY POUNDS in the three months since being back in the United States from our around the world trip. Holy hell. The food in the US is loaded with sugar. Even Subway is guilty of this: there are 5 grams of sugar in a serving of their Turkey. Go look it up on their site. In their turkey is “dextrose”, a type of added sugar. Why is sugar in something that isn’t even supposed to be sweet? Because food in the US is meant to be addictive. Sugar gives a sugar high (and crash) which allows addiction to form.

We weren’t eating healthy while traveling around the world. Eating out every meal and drinking all the local alcohol. The wine was so good in Argentina we had a bottle every day for a month. Good thing we left or we would have died of alcohol poisoning. But with the ridiculous amount of sugar in the food in the states, maybe it was healthier to stay in Argentina.

People

The people back home were exactly the same as when I left. I felt like I had learned and grown more in a year than I did in the previous 10 years. It was jarring to see that everyone else was still in the same spot. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way as I’m sure people who have had large life events felt the same about me at one time or another. It was weird to see the rest of the world basically frozen in time.

Alicia and I meet doctors, lawyers, and other traditionally successful people when we travel. When they hear our situation, they pause for a moment. The wheels turn. They inevitably reply: “I’m in the wrong profession.”. I’ve heard that statement dozens of times. Because the traditionally successful people pour in tons of hours per week to get all the trappings of success. And some moron like me lives their vacation permanently. Going home and watching everyone fight rush hour traffic reinforces the idea: WTF are people doing with their lives? So much is possible.

Pace of life

Being back home is boring. Boring as fuck. I spend the days trying to figure out how to fill the time. Everyone else has a day job and no free time so it’s a lot of time at home. I guess I’ll try and make more money? Meh, we have more money than we need.

So we book small trips out of the country before we leave long-term again, just to burn time. Mexico and Curacao for diving. Might as well run a half marathon in California at Disneyland. Let’s go visit our parents in both Minnesota and Florida. I hear we can go SCUBA diving in Epcot Center. Heck, let’s go to Las Vegas and gamble because why not?

Routine

Wake up. Work is done before noon. Work out. Take a nap. Play some video games. Is this how people live? Holy fuck kill me.

It took Alicia two weeks being back home before she agreed we should sell the house and get the hell out.

Being a digital nomad comes with a cost

I didn’t know that when I left on our round the world trip that I was burning bridges with my past life. I actually thought that I could just pick up where I left off. But when we got “home”, it was immediately obvious that we were different. We no longer fit in our previous life.  And there was no going back.

What no one tells you about running your own business

doomed

Here is what no one tells you about running your own business.

Always on the clock

Alicia and I were recently celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary in Curacao. On the day of our anniversary we held a client call. Because when you own a business, there are no days off. Every day blends between work and not-work.

Entrepreneurship is like chewing glass while staring into the abyss. The abyss fades, but the chewing glass never does. – Elon Musk

Clients won’t pay on time

Regular people have to pay their bills monthly. Clients will pay their bills whenever they damn well feel like it. That could be this month. That could be 6 months from now. Imagine not getting paid for 6 months. This is standard for businesses.

You can be fired at will

While normal employees can be fired at will as well, there are still laws that dictate the employee must be warned beforehand and given a chance to change. Your clients do not have these laws restricting their foot up your ass.

Even good things that happen can get you fired, like having your client contact be promoted. When the new contact comes in, they might just bring in a new company to work with and kick your company out.

You’ll get used to the feeling of being near-fired every week. Or you’ll not have a business anymore.

Accounting

There is a stupid amount of paperwork to file every year. Forms with the government, IRS, and clients will eat up free time and energy. It never goes away and there’s no one else to do it.

15% additional income tax

Did you know that self-employment also comes with an additional 15% income tax on top of everything you already pay?

Starting a business is already one of the harder endeavors. That’s why so few people do it. Now take all the stress, long hours, and uncertainty and pay the government 15 cents more on every dollar you make.

Tax laws

Before you start a business, you’ll know next to nothing about taxes. After starting a business, you’ll quickly be an expert. You’ll know what percentage of your home is deductible, what purchasable items are deductible, and what tax breaks to take advantage of.

Yes there are a lot of deductions, but they are to help offset the ridiculous 15% self employment income tax increase. The end result is that you’ll still pay more in taxes than the average person. And in addition, it’s a lot more work.

The buck stops here

The average employee gets to say “it’s not my job!”. As the owner, everything is your job. You’re now a marketer + engineer + designer + customer service + HR + manager.

It’s not only 6x the responsibility, it’s 6x the blame.

Eat what you kill

Paul Graham calls it “default alive or default dead”. If new customers or clients are constantly coming in through the door, your business is default alive. If not, your business is doomed at some point in time.

Anxiety

One client fired you + Other client hasn’t paid $30K invoice + Other client numbers look terrible this quarter = oh god I fainted.

Few Mentors

People will no longer be able to relate to your problems. No shoulders to cry on. No sage advice given.

Other people get paid every two weeks like clockwork. You haven’t been paid in months.

Other people clock out and forget about work until Monday. You’re in a hotel in Mexico on your supposed vacation taking care of an emergency.

Other people complain about a co-workers drama. You’re wondering how you’ll survive this month.

No road map

There’s no instruction book. The only qualified people to teach how to succeed are busy with their own businesses.

How do you know you’re doing well? You stay in business for another month. How do you know you’re doing poorly? You’re out of business.

The only constant is change

The world is changing so fast that what was true a year ago is no longer true today (yet another reason college is a scam). Over the next few years, the taxi and trucking industry will cease to exist due to self-driving cars. The hotel industry is facing heavy competition from Airbnb. Neither travel nor real estate agents saw the writing on the wall when the internet ravaged their industries. Cable companies see dwindling subscription numbers as the public chooses Netflix and Hulu. Manufacturing is forever-gone due to advances in robotics and 3D printing.

On top of all the headaches of owning a business, you also have to change your business with the times or die.

Is starting a business right for you?

For me, it 100% was worth it. I enjoy the challenge and the ambiguity. Most people don’t.

The rewards are off the charts better than a typical office job. But that’s only if you succeed. Most people don’t. That’s why new businesses are being started at a 40-year low. It’s a hard road.

Lies Society Tells Us

lies-society-tells-us

Every society has lies that everyone agrees are true. They look at other cultures and think “that’s so weird!” without recognizing their own ridiculous views.

During the Salem Witch Trials, people burned women to death because of perceived sorcery. If you think society is so enlightened now, realize that people’s lives have been ruined if they dare to think outside the norm:

Here are some of the odd beliefs held today or relatively recently. Try telling these things to other people, and they might hunt you down like a Salem Witch too. Groupthink is strong.

We’ll start slow, and work our way up. I’m not trying to be a bastard by pointing these out. I’m trying to help. Many of these corrections can help you lose weight, save money, and live happier.

Lie: Smoking is healthy

There was once upon a time where smoking was seen as a healthy thing for adults to do. Science even backed it up… until people realized that the “science” was paid for by tobacco companies. Then the real evidence showed that smoking cuts ~8 years off of a person’s life.

Fun fact: smokers and obese cost the health care system LESS because they die so much earlier and suddenly.

Lie: Fruit Juice, Sports Drinks are healthy

Orange juice is experiencing a significant decline as people realize it’s nothing more than sugar water. Fruit juice of all kinds is just empty calories: just like soda pop. Drinking calories is strongly correlated with the obesity epidemic in the US.

Sports drinks are just sugar water too. “Electrolyte” is just a fancy word for sodium.

Lie: The United States is a Democracy

No I’m not talking about some conspiracy theory, I’m talking about the basic definitions of words. Did you know that the word “democracy” isn’t in the constitution? The US is a Republic: we elect officials to act on our behalf. A democracy would be if the public personally voted on every issue. Just like “literally” now means “figuratively”, the definition of the word “democracy” seems to have been lost.

Lie: Home Ownership is an Investment

Houses have not gained any value over inflation in the past 100 years. There is simply no way to prove mathematically that your personal home makes money. The people telling you that they are good investments are the same people selling the house/loan to you.

Lie: Having sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS

Some college friends did a study-abroad in Africa. They said it was a very common belief there that having sex with a virgin would cure the disease. Very sad.

Lie: Cardio is how you lose weight

You lose weight in the kitchen, you get fit in the gym.

An hour on the treadmill burns 500 calories. That’s the same amount calories in a Starbucks latte that takes 5 minutes to consume. You can’t outrun a bad diet.

Lie: 220 lbs for a 6 foot tall male is normal

Look at the pictures of me on the site. I’m 185 lbs, 6 feet tall. Wherever I go outside the US, I’m the fattest guy there. The US is so big that our idea of what’s “normal” is warped.

220 lbs at 6 feet tall is obese on the BMI scale.

Lie: Insurance helps

Go back and look at how much money you’ve spent in home/health/car/other insurance over the years. It’s a lot.

Now go back and add up all the money you’ve received from it. It’s… a lot less.

I think I got a few hundred dollars off some dentist visits. But I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars. To get nothing. People use insurance these days as a cash-flow smoother because they can’t afford a $500 surprise payment. But for that protection, they pay several hundred dollars more per month. For nothing.

When you make a claim, first you have to pay the deductible before insurance pays anything. Then your insurance goes up because you’re now high risk.

How to save money without feeling broke gives some advice on how to handle insurance.

Lie: Cellphones/Food Chemicals/Cleaning Chemicals cause cancer

Simple proof of why these are nonsense: 20-30 year-olds aren’t getting cancer despite using these products for decades. If the additives in food really caused cancer, then we’d see a big jump in young people getting it. But we don’t. It’s still [generally] people over 50 and with a family history of it that get cancer.

Between 2003 and 2012 overall cancer incidence rates continued to decrease among men and remain stable among women.”

While incidence rates of cancer among children have gone up, it’s statistically insignificant: 16 cases for every 100,000 children in 1985 vs 18 cases per 100,000 people in 2012. Assuming an overestimate of 100 million children in the US, 200 extra incidents of child cancer exist per year (with an 80% survival rate).

Lie: Steroids are a miracle drug to becoming fit

People think you can get these bodies by magic if you take steroids, and it’s ridiculous. Steroids allow you to work out longer and recover faster (so you can work out even more!). Becoming that lean to see the muscle striations takes extreme care in eating habits. Getting bodybuilder physiques requires insane dedication.

Lie: College is necessary to succeed

College is a scam. Don’t be mad about this, I’m just the messenger. And I fell for it too, if that makes you feel better.

Most college degrees are useless. Colleges have saddled a generation with debt that will follow them for decades, and gave nothing in return. There are more ways to make money than ever before.

Lie: Rich don’t pay taxes

The top 1% pay almost 50% of all income tax while the bottom 60% of wage earners are expected to pay 2% of all income tax.

Alicia and I are taxed at 47% of every dollar we earn. We cut checks to the government that are more than people make in a year. Refund check? What’s that?

CEO’s especially are underpaid.

Lie: Teachers are underpaid

From the bureau of labor statistics:

  • Engineering professions: $83,000/year
  • Teaching professions: $53,000/9 months, $70,000/year
  • Health Care practioners: $77,000/year
  • Computer and Mathematical operations: $86,000/year
  • Business and Financial operations: $73,000/year
  • Sales: $39,000/year
  • Personal Care: $26,000/year
  • Protective Services: $44,000/year

Prorated to a yearly salary, teachers are among the highest paid professionals in the country, right there with Doctors, Engineers, and Programmers.

Before the teachers among you can scream “teachers work more than that!”, I’ll remind you that every other profession works unpaid overtime as well. My dad says that in the hospital ER, they hire the interns that have to be told when to leave work or they wouldn’t. I lived in the office for a month to complete a project.

Lie: 2008 Financial Crisis was all Wall Street’s fault

The fault is 50/50 with Wall Street and the American people. Wall Street collapsed because people didn’t pay back their loans. Was Wall Street guilty of giving people loans that shouldn’t have gotten them? Absolutely! But the people took on loans they couldn’t possibly afford.

ARM Loans and interest-only loans never made sense in the past 10 years which have seen historically low interest rates. If the interest rate is at historic lows (and it was, and is), then you have to lock in because there was nowhere to go but up! It’s an amazingly simple concept that people failed to grasp. And it destroyed people’s lives, and the economy.

Lie: mutual funds or picking stocks are good investments

Warren Buffet has a bet since 2008 that a simple index fund (like the Vanguard Index) will always beat a managed fund or stock picking. The reason is because a managed fund has management fees to take out. Picking stocks doesn’t work because the average investor is woefully under-informed compared to the competition. If you think you can compete picking individual stocks, remember that Congress can legally do insider trades. The system is rigged against the individual.

No mutual fund has ever beaten the market over a 10 year period. Ever. Two thirds of mutual funds won’t beat the market in any given year. Go look at your retirement account and realize with horror how much money you’ve been throwing away.

Lie: Macs are better than PCs

Apple computers run on PC hardware using a free Linux operating system. Apple developed none of it. They just slapped their logo on the box. It’s all marketing. To get that Apple logo and a computer that will run a tiny fraction of all available programs, you have to pay a 30%+ up-charge.

Apple computers are a weird religion.

Surprised?

I’m sure there’s more lies that society told me that I still believe. It’s hard to figure out because these lies have been told to us since birth. And people get emotionally attached to the lies. The lies become part of who we are as a person. Once someone starts saying things like “I’m a Ford guy” or “I’m a [political party]”, they emotionally attach themselves to that position. Then it becomes a heated debate void of all logic on silly topics like “Ford vs Chevy”, “Paleo vs Atkins”, or anything sports.

Let go of emotional attachment to the lies. Just be you.