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Lessons from an Errant Rocket Ship

From time to time, it's good to be reminded of your insignificance. Last week provided an opportunity in the form of a Chinese rocket that was falling to the earth.

Perhaps you heard about it. Thankfully, all was well in the end, but until it landed, no one knew where the rocket would touch down. It could have been anywhere on earth! Just think about it: for all the advances of science and technology, we had no idea where on the entire planet a rocket would decide to return.

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Regret Is an Unreliable Emotion

I have long believed that thinking about regret is a powerful motivator for action. When you're feeling indecisive, trying to figure out if a particular step is a good one, consider how you'll feel if you don't take the step. Often this leads you to what seems like the right direction.

But while mental models can be helpful, most of them also have limits. Lately I've realized there's a flaw in the logic of focusing your attention on the avoidance of regrets. Simply put, regret is an unreliable emotion.

Think about that for a moment—what does it mean?

It means, in short, that regret is both difficult to anticipate and even harder to characterize in retrospect. If you feel certain about your choices in either direction—either looking back or looking forward—you may be basing your interpretations on selectively chosen information.

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The Greatest Story Ever Sold 💵

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how money mistakes are temporary. My main argument was that unlike other kinds of mistakes, money mistakes rarely have permanent consequences.

I'll return to that in this post, but first let's consider a few things that have happened this month:

  • We've all been hearing about NFTs, also known as "non-fungible tokens," also known as digital art that can be reproduced over and over but sells for a ton of money. The NBA has sold $230 million on these intangible "items." An artist sold one for $69 million the other day, and I'm sure that record will be broken soon.
  • The price of a single Bitcoin, another modern invention, has risen to more than $60,000. Like NFTs, Bitcoin is also completely digital. There is no such thing as "a Bitcoin" you can carry in your pocket or store in your safe deposit box at the bank. Everyone who trades Bitcoin or other digital currencies simply accepts that it exists.
  • The U.S. government has passed a law enacting a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Put another way, the U.S. government has printed $1.9 trillion more dollars. This was on top of another $2 trillion they printed last March. And presumably there's more where that came from!

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Money Mistakes Are Temporary

A common TV trope features someone who's down on their luck and forced to borrow from someone with questionable moral scruples: a loan shark, the Mafia, a representative from Wells Fargo.

As fate would have it, they fall further and further behind, until they're in an even greater bind. Soon they're being pursued by the loan shark, who threatens to break their legs, or by Wells Fargo, which forces them to remain on hold for hours. The rest of the story unfolds as the protagonist desperately tries to resolve their dilemma. What will they do? How will they get the money? 

"Getting the money" makes for a good plot foundation, since money is something that everyone wants. And when you don't have it, it becomes all that you think about.

But what if you didn't have to "get the money"? What if you just decided to not care?

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Thank you, 2020. It was terrible and wonderful.

I started writing this note by trying to take stock of a few things about this year that were good.

The process was easier than I expected. Sure, 2020 has been a dumpster fire year in many ways. But when I really stopped to think about it, it wasn't hard to identify several things in my life that wouldn't have happened were it not for the world coming to a stop.

It's always possible to find silver linings, and in a brief examination I found several.

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What Would You Say If You Could Go Back in Time?

Welcome to the beginning of the strangest year the modern world has ever known. You don't realize it now, but life as you know it is about to change drastically.

Remember how you've been talking to everyone about "working from anywhere" for the past decade? Well, now the entire workforce will be leaving their offices and telecommuting. One problem: they can't actually go anywhere. Working remotely usually implies freedom, but in this case it points to constraint. Simply put, the workforce is working remotely because it's not safe to work together.

Most of the world's borders will have closed, though if you want to visit the Maldives, you can buy an unlimited pass to a luxury hotel for all of 2021.

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We did it. Now what? 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

Friends and readers, we did it. It actually happened!

I'm reminded of the quote that's attributed to Winston Churchill: "You can always count on America to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other options."

The monumental U.S. election results won't change everything, but they do send a clear signal of most Americans' wish for change. We have slain the dragon, for now.

When I wrote about the election a few weeks ago, I got more response than anything I've shared in years. In fact, in ten years of writing online, I don't think I've ever had more negative comments (though, fortunately, the positives outnumbered the negatives 3-to-1). Well, here we are now, and the world is a very different place.

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A Love Letter to Trump Supporters ❤️

john-silliman-yoZWr8iQ93o-unsplash I’d like to speak to any of my readers who have supported the current U.S. president in the past, or who are planning to do so again this year. There aren’t a lot of you, but you tend to be very vocal—and believe it or not, I’ve been trying to understand where you’re coming from.

I wrote and rewrote this post at least three times before figuring out what I wanted to say. I knew that if I insulted you, you wouldn’t listen—which is fair, because I don’t tend to listen to people who insult me either.

One of you wrote to me recently to say that I must think everyone who supports Trump is a moron. But that’s not true, I replied. I think a lot of them know exactly what they’re getting with their candidate.

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Feeling Depressed in 2020? It’s Not Just You 😔

When we all went into this thing in March, I tried to remain as positive as possible. I still believe everything I said before, about how I want to come out of this time better than I was when it started, etc. We can only worry about what’s within our control. And of course, let’s try to be kind to one another.

But then the spring turned to summer, and the summer to fall (at least in my part of the world). And nothing really got better! Quite the opposite, in fact.

Now we’re all setting low expectations for standards of wellbeing. “Hope you’re hanging in there” is the new “Hope you’re doing well.” And let’s face it, lots of people aren’t doing well.

So, finally, I’ve come to the point of feeling defeated about the whole year—and I know it’s not just me.

Day-by-Day

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The Steps Before the First Step

If you try to tackle a big project and end up getting stuck somewhere along the way, it might mean that some steps are missing.

Imagine trying to complete a difficult, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Even though it has a thousand pieces, finishing the puzzle requires to complete more than a thousand steps.

You need to spend time sorting, grouping, and looking for edge pieces. You also might have to undo some parts of your work as you go along—which adds more steps, since now you need to override previous tasks that you thought had been completed.

This is all logical enough, but a) it takes time, and b) if you haven’t ever done a large puzzle before, you might get frustrated. You might give up along the way, leaving your puzzle half-finished and sitting on the kitchen table for weeks. Finally, you push the pieces back into the box, swearing off puzzles until the next family holiday gathering or global pandemic.

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The Courage to Change Your Mind

Here's a helpful filter to know when to worry: does something sound too good to be true, or does it sound so bad that people give up and stop thinking for themselves?

Either way, when everyone around you agrees, it's worth asking some questions. Questions like: "What’s really going on here—and who is threatened by disagreement?"

Consider it an opportunity! When it comes to Coronavirus life, an astounding amount of groupthink is currently taking place. It’s as though everyone is taking the collective temperature (no pun intended...) before deciding what they believe and how they should act.

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If You Find Yourself Dreading Appointments You Made Long Ago, Start Asking “Would I Do This Tomorrow?”

You know the feeling you get when an appointment approaches on your calendar and you’re not looking forward to it? Maybe you’re even dreading it?

Ugh. I totally forgot about that, you think. But I guess I need to to do it, since I agreed long ago.

We've all been there. Some of us find ourselves there all the time. The good news is, there’s a trick to make that happen less and less.

It comes from understanding that when someone asks you to do something you don't really want to do, you’re more willing to agree if it takes place far into the future. You tend to think, “Oh, that’s a long time from now. I’m not thrilled about the idea, but sure, I can do that.”

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The Real Imposter Is the Part of You That Hesitates

Hesitation What holds people back from making a bold choice or following a dream?

When you ask, often they’ll point to the lack of knowledge. They simply aren’t sure what to do, so they wait for someone to give them a step-by-step plan.

Other times, they mention a lack of resources or some kind of access—perhaps they need money, or maybe they're holding out on a specific connection or certification.

After writing and sharing online for more than a decade, however, I’m pretty sure that these cases are the minority. Instead, the thing that stops more people than anything else is internal resistance.

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Big News: The Money Tree Is Out Today!!

Buy Now: Amazon | BN | Audible | Apple Books | Indie Bookstores

Greetings, friends and readers!

A very quick note to say ... my new book The Money Tree is out today! 💰🌳

My new book is all about Finding the Fortune in Your Own Backyard. I hope it will help people who are navigating difficult financial times, especially anyone with debt or those who are struggling during this time of chaos and turmoil.

The-Money-Tree-Book-cover-indoors

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