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.

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.

How does Donald Trump win?

the-world-against-trump

How does Donald Trump win? The media portrays him as a bumbling moron. But he keeps on winning, so there must be something to his success. This isn’t a political post, it’s a human behavior investigation. Please put down your pitchforks. You can still hate him and enjoy reading.

Many people say Donald Trump is lucky rather than talented. But it seems pretty hard to believe that he got incredibly lucky at all these things:

  • becoming a billionaire
  • best selling author several times over
  • have a hit TV show that ran for 15 seasons straight
  • raise a good family
  • overthrow the Republicans/Democrats/Special Interests/Media arrayed against him all at once
the-world-against-trump
Honestly, I just like the goofy over-the-top symbolism of this image. Both sides of the political spectrum can get pretty fervent over their candidates.

Does anyone really believe that someone could be that lucky? Over 40+ years? There are less than 3,000 billionaires in the world at any given time (out of 7 billion people), there are less than 10,000 authors with multiple best sellers, a few hundred TV shows that have lasted over a decade, and he’s the only person to win against the entirety of the main stream media and political machine determined to take him down. It seems unlikely that it’s luck.

Hijacking the media

A study done in March 2016 suggested that Donald Trump received 2 billion dollars in free media. Traditional politicians have to pay, but he gets it free? But the media hates him! How does he do it? Trump actually tells us in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal.

…if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you. – Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal (1987)

The media is always hungry for a story. Trump gives them endless things to write about. First he takes the facts. Then he layers on 20% bravado.

The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. – DONALD TRUMP, THE ART OF THE DEAL (1987)

Let’s see how this works in practice:

How much is Donald Trump worth?

Warning: NSFW language in the video below.

Donald Trump has said he’s worth $5 billion, $7 billion, and $10 billion. In the same month. That seems weird, right? But he does this all the time and we’re going to see why he does it. His critics will claim that he’s just a pathological liar, but the reality is that Donald Trump needs his critics to spread his message. He uses his critics as his free media machine!

There are 47 million Google results for the search “how much is Donald Trump worth“. I haven’t seen a single article agreeing with his estimate of being worth $10 billion. Not one. And that’s the point! $10 billion is too high on purpose!

Here’s why it works.

No one on the planet cares if he’s worth $5 billion or $10 billion. It’s like arguing who is the better quarterback: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. While the discussion might keep you and your buddies entertained for 20 minutes, at the end of the day it’s a pointless discussion around two all-time greats. In this case, all anyone remembered after the discussion was that Donald Trump was rich and running for president.

Here’s how powerful that is:

I first heard about Donald Trump from a friend (Democrat) talking about how Trump wasn’t worth $10 billion. At the time I couldn’t even have named a single Republican candidate running. And there were 17 of them. Someone who would never vote Trump was spreading Trump’s message.

Then Alicia and I went to New Zealand and Thailand for Q1 2016. They were talking about Donald Trump’s net worth! Jeb Bush had spent $150 million on his campaign by this point and dropped out before I even knew he was running. Donald Trump had spent nothing and hijacked the MSM to tell the entire world he was running for president. Just by saying “10” instead of a realistic “5”.

His message was spread by the people who either would not or could not vote for him.

If you have talked about, shared, or liked any article talking about how Donald Trump isn’t worth $10 billion: congratulations! You were working for the Trump campaign and you didn’t even know it.

Trump secured the most primary votes in GOP history, against 16 opponents, and was 8th place in total spending.

“Fact Checking”

The media hates Donald Trump with a white hot flame and is quick to point out any of his  inaccuracies. Just like no one cares about $5 billion vs $10 billion, Trump creates mini controversies to get the press to report on what he wants to talk about.

Trump has said Hillary Clinton has used acid, bleach, and hammers to destroy the 33,000 emails that the FBI wanted for evidence in a criminal investigation. Just like he said 5, 7, and 10, Trump gave three different ways Hillary destroyed evidence. On purpose. But only one could be correct.

Here’s what happened: he got “fact-checked” by the media who thinks they are smarter than him.

Did you catch that? By “fact checking” the specific process, NBC News told the world that Hillary Clinton was guilty of destroying evidence! By purposely being wrong on the details of how she destroyed it, Trump hijacked the media to talk about the crimes Clinton committed.

Here’s another one: Trump claimed ISIS was “founded” by Obama and Clinton. The premise is obviously hyperbole. But the media loves to talk about how Trump is a dummy and they are so smart. So the media spent a week discussing how it was wrong. Here’s the problem: by talking about it, the media reinforced to the country how ISIS didn’t even exist until Syria was destabilized by the Obama and Clinton administration. Not a single person believed that Obama and Clinton literally founded ISIS, but the media made it national news that the largest terror threat to our country happened on Obama and Clinton’s watch. That was the point. Scott Adams has a great article on it.

Tone it down as the media ramps it up.

When everything is quiet, Trump is outrageous. Then the people around him (and the media) get amped up and start saying crazy things. That’s when Trump pulls it back. What happens is that the average person hears all these things about Trump and decides to check into a rally or speech. What do they see? A perfectly normal, if bombastic, person. Not nearly the devil the media portrayed him to be. At that point, the viewer realized the media lied to them (more on this later).

Back in March, the media had gotten so worked up that they were saying Trump was “literally Hitler”. So Trump pulled it back. Viewers didn’t see “literally Hitler”. Viewers were probably disappointed to see a normal person.

Would “literally Hitler” let Jimmy Fallon do this? Of course not. And that was the point of why Trump let Fallon embarrass him on national TV.

The second debate saw Donald return with the energy after showing people he could turn up or turn down his personality at will.

Confirmation Bias

Human brains are wired to see things we want to see. An example of this similar to “glass half-full vs glass half-empty”.

What most people don’t realize is that you can prime someone to see things they wouldn’t normally see. For example, the next time you are driving in your car you will see a yellow car or truck and think of this article. It will just pop into your head. You won’t be trying to look for a yellow vehicle and then remember I said this, but it will happen. You’ve been primed.

Trump says the media are liars. This is priming people’s minds to look for the media lying. And the media has printed many lies about him. Not everything the media has said about him is wrong, of course. But when a person recognizes the media is grossly mis-portraying Trump (“literally Hitler!”), the person remembers Trump saying the media would lie about him. Then the person is more inclined to believe Trump over the media.

Here’s how fast that can affect things: CNN went from #1 to #16 in ratings in the span of a month. People are leaving in droves after they have been primed to spot the lies. Now the people follow the person who helped them spot the lies: Donald Trump.

When Trump said that he could shoot someone and not lose voters, it’s because people have been insulated to ignore whatever the media says about him. The boy cried “wolf” too many times.

Anchoring

Our minds tend to remember something if it’s new.

“Low Energy” Jeb(!) stuck in everyone’s minds because it hadn’t been said before in the political spectrum. And next to Donald’s wild hand gestures, Jeb looked pretty tame. The voters couldn’t picture Jeb standing up for them when the times were tough.

“Build the Wall” was simple, catchy, and repeatable. “Drain the Swamp” is similar. They are new phrases never used before in politics. Trump was running against 16 opponents and needed catchy positions. Does anyone remember a policy by Carly Fiorina or Ted Cruz? I don’t.

Talking past the sale

“We’re going to build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it.”

This is a typical car salesman trick. By talking about the color of the car, the buyer isn’t focusing on whether or not they actually should buy the car. They instead imagine the car as already theirs, which warms them up to the idea of purchasing it.

How powerful is this? It took Obama 6 years to convince the country to pass Obamacare. It took a month or two to convince the country that a wall would be built if Trump is president.

If you think this would never work on a world leader, well, you’re wrong. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox spoke about how “Mexico wouldn’t pay for that fucking wall“. Even funnier, a month later Fox apologized to Trump and said there would be a compromise on the wall. The current Mexican president suggested Mexico might even build it themselves.

Reframing

Reframing is adding new information to make people look at old information differently.

As Trump says in Art of the Deal:

When a reporter asks why I build only for the rich, I note that the rich aren’t the only ones who benefit from my buildings. I explain that I put thousands of people to work who might otherwise be collecting unemployment, and that I add to the city’s tax base every time I build a new project.

The story changed from “Trump only builds for the elite” to “Trump employs thousands of people”. That’s reframing, and Donald does it all the time to deflect criticism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxBYii5qQJs

“Make America Great Again” is pretty hard to twist into a negative. People have tried saying America was never great, but no one believes that.

On the other hand, the Clinton campaign has changed their slogan around quite a few times because the Trump campaign kept blowing them up. Finally they settled on “I’m with Her”. At his next rally, Trump said: “I’m with you“. This makes “I’m with Her” look self-serving in comparison.

You can still hate Trump if you want

He’s loud, outrageous, and has offended more people than I can list in this space. Maybe you hate his policies. Maybe you don’t like these techniques. But I don’t think he is simply “lucky”. And he’s certainly no buffoon.

If you underestimated him, don’t worry. So did everyone else in the video below.

(Like this post? You’d love my book Meme Magic: How Stupid Pictures of Badly Drawn Frogs Influenced the 2016 Election)

Fear Isn’t Useful

inside-out-fear

Fear isn’t useful in modern society. It helped our ancestors survive tiger attacks and that’s why we have it. Non-fearful people got eaten. But now tigers are in the zoo, and we are afraid of ghosts.

inside-out-fear
That little purple guy is an asshole. Kick him out of the group. (Inside Out, Pixar, Disney Pictures)

What is fear?

Fear is a tiny chemical reaction in your brain. It’s gone in a few seconds. You can’t even prove your fear is real. No one can touch it, see it, or hear it. To other people, your fear is literally imaginary.

Yet this thing that doesn’t even exist stops people from living the lives they want.

I can destroy your fear from across the internet

Think of the thing you fear the most. It could be death of you or a loved one, embarrassment, not living up to your potential, whatever. Concentrate on it for a moment and feel it.

Got it? Feel the fear?

Now spend 2 minutes here and come back.

Your fear is gone. Sure you can summon that fear again by concentrating on it, but why would you do that? Any time you feel the triggers of fear, steer your brain to something else. Wallowing in your fear doesn’t help anything.

How to solve your fear: plan for the worst case scenario

Our brains like to fantasize about what COULD happen. But reality is actually quite boring. If we plan for the worst case scenario, we can stop our brains from creating horror movies in our minds.

Example: Ask that guy/girl out on a date.

Our brain starts the horror movie:

  • I’ll get turned down
  • He/she will laugh at me
  • He/she will laugh at me with all their friends and co-workers
  • He/she will tell my boss and I’ll get fired
  • I’ll be depressed forever
  • Can’t get a job because of depression
  • Cats, lots of cats to comfort sorrows
  • Die

Here’s what will actually happen if you get turned down: small chemical reaction in the brain makes you blush and feel like a dumbshit for 2 minutes and a few future conversions with this person will be slightly awkward. The End.

See? Reality is so fucking boring. That’s why your brain tries to liven it up with make-believe of how your life will be destroyed forever because you think someone is attractive.

But what about the upside? What if that person said Yes and you spend the rest of your life with them? Alicia turned me down the first time I asked her out. I would have missed out on my life partner because of a tiny chemical imbalance in my head.

What are you missing out on because of something that doesn’t even exist?

Inside Out memory balls
Here, Joy is looking at all of the thousands of chemical reactions that happened THAT DAY. Chemical imbalances happen when you eat, sleep, talk with someone, or actually do anything. And one of these little things is stopping you? (Inside Out, Pixar, Disney Pictures)

Here’s another one where you quit your job to pursue another job/career/company.

The horror movie starts in your head:

  • New job doesn’t work out
  • Never find employment again
  • Spouse leaves you
  • Children disown you
  • Heroin addiction
  • Cats, lots of cats to comfort sorrows
  • Die

The boring reality of the situation is that if the new job fails, maybe you’ll have to move in with your parents for a few months while things get sorted out. There’s literally billions of jobs out there and you need ONE. But our brains prefer to dream up ridiculous nonsense.

And consider the upside: what if things work out and your dreams come true? Our brains frequently leave out this part.

Baby steps

Another way to kill fear is to expose yourself to it. Slowly.

I had really bad social anxiety when I was a teen and early 20’s. Like I would wait to walk 50 feet to the bathroom until the hall was empty because making eye contact with people in the hall was too much for me. A few years later, I’d be able to meet people anytime, anywhere. There were a few steps in between.

I started small. I’d walk around the Mall of America making eye contact with women. At work I’d speak up in small groups to get practice speaking in front of an audience. When I first started, I’d blush so hard I could feel the heat radiating from my face. But every time got easier because my mind couldn’t keep making up horror movies. There was too much evidence that everything would turn out fine and my mind was overreacting. The blushing stopped. The fear went away.

Do something tiny every day to whittle away at your fears.

On the other side of fear lies everything you want in life

What you’ll eventually come to realize is that fear is a spice. Roller coasters wouldn’t be fun if they didn’t feel dangerous. Some of the best memories you have right now are when you felt the fear and did it anyway.

Now I chase fear, risk, and pain because I know fear is an indicator of where the good stuff is. We got rid of our house, rental property, and stable lives. Do I know what is going to happen in the next few years? Not even remotely… and that’s why it’s fun.

Fear kept early humans alive from tiger attacks. But today’s tigers are Paper Tigers. It’s an ancient Chinese saying that implies something is scary on the surface, but in reality is completely harmless.

College is a scam, and Kanye West figured it out first

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With record unemployment, skyrocketing tuition, and stagnating wages, America has finally learned that college is a scam. But if you were paying attention, Kanye West called it out first back in 2004 with his debut album: College Dropout.

kanye-west

“The name of my album is called The College Dropout,” [Kanye] said of his debut. “All that’s saying is make your own decisions. Don’t let society tell you, ’This is what you have to do.’”
– Interview with MTV

Tuition went crazy high

Everyone believed that you needed college to get a good job. So the government started giving out huge amounts of money for college… with a catch: you could never get rid of that college debt by bankruptcy. So colleges knew they had what people thought was necessary, billions of dollars from the government, and the students had to pay it back no matter what. So colleges jacked up the price. Prices rose 300-400% over ten years.

What were people going to do? NOT go to college? All the successful people before them had gone to college. But people didn’t realize yet that the internet changed everything (more on this in a moment).

The actual degrees are useless

This nigga graduated at the top our class.  I went to Cheesecake, he was a motherfucking waiter there.
– School Spirit

A liberal arts, humanities, or gender studies degree qualifies you for a job at Starbucks. Ask the barista what their degree is in, and it’s almost never Computer Science or Engineering. Colleges are pretending like all degrees are equally valuable. Art degree graduates only make 29% more than high school diploma holders while engineering grads make 138% of what high school grads do.

is-phony-major
But everyone knew liberal arts degrees were useless. Here’s a quip from the Simpsons in 2000 that shows society wasn’t totally in the dark about terrible majors:
Dr. Hibbert:  Your playing days are over, my friend. But, you can always fall back on your degree in…
[reads chart]
Dr. Hibbert: communications? Oh, dear Lord!
Anton Lubchenko: I know! Is phony major. Lubchenko learn nothing. Nothing!
[cries]
No one cares about your college experience

Not a single person cares about your college experience after you get a “real job”. Even in our language, we refer to life after college as the “real world” because we all know college is nonsense.

As Kanye puts it:

after all the partying and crazing,
And don’t forget about that drug habit you picked up at school being around your peers!

– School Spirit (skit 1)

I’m 37. If I ever mentioned what I learned in college to a prospective client or employer, they’d rightly laugh me out of the room. No employer wants to hear about where you lost your virginity.

And it’s not just because that was 15 years ago either. I could talk about a programming project I had at my first programming job to illustrate how experienced I was.

Colleges love to sell the idea that you need even MORE college to succeed

You pick up all those books that you’re gonna read and not remember
And you keep it rolling man
You get that associates degree, okay?
Then you get your bachelor’s degree
Then you get your masters
Then you get your masters, masters
Then you get your doctrine
– School Spirit (Skit 2)

“But you need college to make money!”

  • Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft: Dropped out of college
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook: Dropped out of college
  • Steve Jobs, Found of Apple: Dropped out of college
  • Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter: Dropped out of college
  • Mark Cuban, Owner of Dallas Mavericks: Never went to college
  • Daymond John, CEO of FUBU: Never went to college
  • Evan Spiegel, CEO/co-founder of Snapchat: Dropped out of college
  • Kanye West: Dropped out of college

Sure some people went to college and succeeded. See if you can spot the trend:

  • Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal: B.A. Philosophy
  • Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla: B.S. Physics
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Founders of Google: B.S. Computer Science
  • Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon: B.S. Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
  • Brian Acton, Co-founder of WhatsApp: B.S. Computer Science
  • Pierre Omidyar, Founder of eBay: B.S. Computer Science

That’s right, our economy is run by college dropouts and computer nerds.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degrees are the only kind of degrees that are useful. For all the rest, read a book.

I’m going to get super smart, so I, too, can die without money.
But I’ll be the smartest dead guy! When I’m dead, know what’s gonna keep me warm? That’s right, those degrees
– Lil’ Jimmy (Skit)

So how do you fix college?

The easiest way to fix college: let people declare bankruptcy. Tuition will come back down and the worst colleges will die off. And this solution is literally free to the country and takes 5 minutes for a vote in Congress. But it won’t happen because the dirty politicians got paid to implement these rules in the first place.

That leaves us, the people, with only one option: stop going to college unless it’s for a STEM degree. Your general education is available on the internet for a tiny fraction of the price. You can do anything because of the internet. Even get paid for drinking beer.

As Kanye says, you just have to pick up leave behind what is broken. And don’t look back.

Now let’s go, take them back to the plan.
Me and my Momma hopped in that U-haul van.  Any pessimists I ain’t talk to them, plus I ain’t have no phone in my apart-a-ment.
– Touch the Sky

And if your alma mater has the brass balls to call you and beg for money, lay into those fuckers. Colleges cheated an entire generation out of their future. And Kanye West knew it first.

I was a Professional Poker Player

6-table-pokerstars

I was a professional poker player for 2.5 years. My database had 3,000,000 hands of poker. I was Supernova on Pokerstars which is defined as the top 1% of the top 1%. My winnings are immortalized in that they bought my wife’s wedding ring and our destination wedding in Aruba. Here are my thoughts on poker as a profession.

These thoughts are going to be scattered, so feel free to jump around. If you feel I left something out, ask in the comments.

What does a professional poker player do?

Here’s what I looked at while playing every day:

6-table-pokerstars-large
Click for the large version

Here are some thing you might not know:

  1. My database was running in the background collecting data on everyone playing. This isn’t a cheat, it’s open to everyone. If you play online, it’s against people who will have this software. You’ve been warned.
  2. The numbers beside the players represent different ratings for common things someone might do, like bet, raise, or fold. These ratings can quickly show how someone acts in very complicated situations.
  3. Macros or scripts were used to determine bet sizing. If I right-clicked, the bet amount would be 2/3 pot (the money in the middle). If I clicked the mouse wheel, full pot. Rolling the wheel moved the bet up and down. It was important to do this because there were often several decisions to be made per second.

6 tables typically got through 400 hands per hour. That means at least I had several decisions per second, for hundreds of dollars per decision. It’s stimulating for sure.

Stakes

I played 2/4 ($400 buy-in) No Limit Hold-Em on Pokerstars. 6-tables at a time meant I had $2,400-$5,000 at risk at any given moment.

My bankroll for this was $8,000 which was built up over a few months prior to starting professionally. That career change wasn’t exactly planned. I was a verified winner for years prior to this, so don’t think I went from nothing to pro in a few months.

Truths about online poker

  1. There are X professionals at the table, where X is the table limit minus 1. So at a 10 handed table, assume 9 professionals… and you. Guess your odds of winning.
  2. The banking systems behind these companies are at risk of being shut down at any time because they are glorified mob transactions (see: Full Tilt)
  3. There are bots online capable of winning in heads-up play and some tournament structures
  4. ~70% of online poker players lose
  5. ~23% of online poker players break-even after bonuses/loyalty programs
  6. ~7% of online poker players actually win money
  7. Less than 1% of online poker players can make a living at it

Statistics gleaned from my 3,000,000 hand database and talks with other professionals and their huge databases.

Pros of being a professional poker player

  • Challenging and Rewarding
  • Get to shit-talk the losers AND take their money AND listen to them cry
  • No boss
  • Every month you’ll feel like you’re the best poker player ever

Cons of being a professional poker player

  • Everyone will treat you like a drug addicted child molester
  • Legality is debatable
  • No one actually believes you win money at poker, even when shown evidence
  • Can’t verify employment / credit history for apartments or loans
  • Everyone waits for you to go broke
  • High Stress
  • Rule/Rake changes can make beatable games unbeatable
  • Everyone will try and tell you about that one hand they lost 10 years ago that’s completely boring
  • Every month you’ll feel like you’re the worst poker player ever

A professional poker player’s day schedule

  • Wake up at 11 AM because I was up until 2AM
  • Log onto twoplustwo.com and read thoughts by other pros
  • Eat lunch
  • Work out early afternoon
  • Warm up session of poker around 4pm
  • Eat dinner
  • Play video games or read the internet
  • 8PM – ?? AM play poker

A poker player is on a weird schedule because your work time is everyone else’s leisure time. Playing in the day time is usually only against other professionals. That’s not exactly a good way to make money.

How much poker I played per day

Depends on how the day was going. Some days not at all. Some days 3,000 hands. I 6-tabled and averaged roughly 400 hands per hour. Live poker averages 30 hands per hour.

Playing over 6 hours a day is almost impossible due to the lack of mental energy. 6 tables simultaneously means 1-2 decisions per second for several hundred dollars each. My winrate would severely decline after 4 hours of play that day, so I’d pass the time with World of Warcraft.

“What’s the best you’ve ever done?”

My best month was making $18,000. Typical months were between $4,000 and $8,000. At the beginning of my career it was closer to the former, and at the end closer to the latter.

My hourly rate looked awesome though: $100+/hour! Sadly, it was difficult to play more than 50-60 hours in a month due to mental fatigue and motivation. Sometimes when you get kicked in the nuts for a few grand you just have to take a few days off or you’ll waste your entire bankroll in rage.

“What is the worst losing streak I’ve ever had?”

I think I broke even for 40,000 hands but still came out ahead after bonuses. I had one month where I lost: that was my last month.

My worst dollar loss was $30,000 at 5/10 ($1,000 buy-in) over a month. Interestingly enough I actually made money because of this! Playing with better opposition propelled me to beat my regular games at a much higher rate.

No one wants to hear your bad beat stories. Especially not poker professionals.

I’ve played 3,000,000 hands of poker in my career. That means I got dealt pocket aces/kings ~28,000 times. Even with aces/kings in the hole, you’ll lose roughly a third of the time. So I’ve lost with aces or kings 9,000 times. That’s more hands of poker than most people will play in their entire lifetime.

Your average poker night with the guys will go through 100 hands. Let’s say you have a poker night every week and get aces or kings every single hand. You’d have to lose every hand of aces or kings for two straight years to reach my level.

Losing with a great hand to a perfect hand became routine: quads over quads, straight flush vs royal flush. You could even see it coming in some cases. I’ve lost in ways you didn’t even know were possible, like the US government seizing Full Tilt bank accounts including one where I had a $3,000 dollar check coming my way. But I’m not complaining: I’ve taken far more out of the game than the game took from me. Losing big sometimes was just part of the deal.

No one believes you win money

My barbershop was a real man’s man place with Playboy and Penthouse magazines on the rack. I can’t imagine these guys had ever cut a woman’s hair before. They were just a block away from my place so I went there often.

They were also problem gamblers. Blackjack at Mystic Lake Casino, mostly.

I went to them for two years, and each conversation we had they tried to figure out how I made a living. They’d ask I got money through tax deductions since they could deduct their substantial tax losses each year. I told them I didn’t even know that was possible to have a casino print out your total losses each year for tax purposes. They’d ask if I worked with a string of other professionals to work against the fish. Nope.

They simply could not comprehend how I made money. I thought they were alone in their thinking, and I was wrong. Everyone assumed some form of illegal activity (selling drugs) or just leeching off my parents or the government. There was literally one person on the planet who believed that I actually made money at playing the game of poker, so I married her. It meant a lot to me that she saw poker as a skill activity instead of a mental health issue.

“Do you still play poker today?”

No. As a hobby it would be too frustrating because I wouldn’t be as good as I was and as a money-making activity it pales in comparison to anything I can do with online marketing. That’s why I got out: the games were getting harder and there’s too much opportunity in business.

“Should I become a professional poker player?” No.

First, you’re not good enough. Before I went pro I had been playing for 5+ years, read a dozen books, and posted on forums for advice. As I mentioned before, I was listed as the top 1% of the top 1%. If you’ve never been in the top 1% of some measurable competition (grades, sports, income, hobby), you don’t have the skill. I’m not trying to be a bastard here. I’m trying to save you money and heartache.

Second, if you ARE good enough then there’s far better ways to make money. The top guys in the business make their money from licensing deals and investments, NOT poker. Poker players are very aware that they don’t make money when they don’t play, so at some point it becomes a job with an hourly rate. No one working for an hourly rate ever gets rich.

But realistically, no you’re not good enough. A 6-handed table will have 5 professionals playing on it and one fish. When the fish leaves, the table breaks up. So not only do you have to be good enough to beat normal people (you aren’t), you have to be good enough to not get your ass handed to you by other professionals. The skill level required is off the charts.

“Is online poker rigged?”

No it’s not rigged. There were some online card rooms that reported shady dealings, and people quickly fled.

Are there some card rooms with rake so high that a player can’t be profitable? Yes, but that’s a different question and it’s in no way underhanded.

“What was your worst experience?”

Playing live poker at Canterbury Park, MN. It was early on a Friday night so the table was mostly sharks waiting for the fish to arrive.

A guy sat down at the table, still in work uniform and with the permanently oil-stained hands that signified he was likely a mechanic. He didn’t really know the game and had to be helped by the dealer. Some people tried to spark up conversation with him and it became apparent he wasn’t “all there”. He lost $400 in 20 minutes.

I got up and left. I preferred not to know I was taking money from the mentally handicapped and played almost exclusively online after that.

“What was your best experience?”

Buying my wife’s engagement ring, her BMW x5, our destination wedding, and giving $1,000 to each bridesmaid/groomsman to come to Aruba.

Most people go into debt or have their family pay for their wedding, and it was nice that a “gambling degenerate lowlife” like myself could afford these things. It made me feel legitimate.

“Do people collude online?”

I’m sure some people do collude online. Overwhelmingly they do not. If you’re good, it will make no difference to you because of the concept of “implicit collusion“. From each player’s point of view, it looks like the entire table is against him/her because there can be only one winner.

There have been times where I suspected collusion, but that’s easy to combat: tighten your range (don’t play mediocre hands) and shove (go all-in) more hands. Since at least one of the other players is in the hand by decision and not by card strength, they will be forced to leave the hand. And if they don’t then you have a good enough hand to win.

Fact: two bad players colluding online still won’t win.

The card rooms also check for this behavior and ban players attempting it. For example, two people at the table playing from the same IP address would be banned. They also look for accounts that regularly play together.

“What is your starting range of hands?”

This is the least important question that gets asked over and over again. Against raise happy professionals I’m very tight. Against non-professionals I get asked if I’ve ever folded in my life.

I don’t believe in the stock market

Poker professionals always fantasized getting out of the game, especially in the rough stretches. Many went to Wall Street or became day traders. Wall Street liked poker players because they were in the same business: gambling. All our words like “bankroll” and “variance” and “rake” were just other words that Wall Street used with stocks.

Take it from a professional gambler: the stock market is 100% gambling.

“Will you play in my home game?”

I’ve done this before and it never ends well. I place in the money or win outright, all the while listening to people complain about how lucky I am. And people get really angry about losing their $20. Meanwhile, the money I win is meaningless to me and the challenge is non-existent since I’m used to playing 6 tables with 4 other professionals at each table. Playing a single table against terrible poker players is excruciatingly boring.

“Any regrets?”

Not really. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if I really tried to become great at the game instead of just grinding out money, but I was just a different person at the time.

My plan during my career was just to make it another month and stay out of the hell that is the modern office job. That’s actually still my goal. I’ll consider my life a success if I never have to go back to being a wage slave.

The best thing I ever learned in poker

Don’t gamble with the rent check

Seems weird that this is what I’d learn, right? How could I not gamble with the rent check when that’s how I made money?

Professional gamblers have a “bankroll”: a total amount of money used for gambling that can withstand the up and down swings of the game. The whole point of the bankroll is to make sure you don’t lose all your money gambling. The lower my bankroll got, the higher my stress became. Which in turn lowered the quality of my play… you can see where this is going. Bad days became bad weeks which became bad months spiraling out of control.

Today I keep a lot of cash on hand so I don’t have to worry about “OOPS” payments. I’m willingly losing money by not investing, just for this “feel good” mood. By knowing that my immediate future is secure, I can branch out into other things like growing our business or starting new ones.

Some of the early months in poker I was living hand-to-mouth, putting off buying necessary items until my check came. My stress levels were off the charts as could be seen in my face: stress brings out my Roseaca (adult acne).

If I could suggest one thing to people: get rid of debt and save up an emergency fund. The mental benefits are fantastic. It’s like being high all the time.

Despite the stress and being thought of as an addicted mental patient, I’d do it all over again

Because it’s too much fun to take some loudmouth’s money away from him.