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The Eight Guiding Principles of Successful Investors [Personal Finance #1]

Eight guiding principles for successful investing in personal finance

“Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q. once you’re above the level of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”
* Warren Buffett

I have invested in stock markets since I was sixteen. Largely, I have been quite a successful investor, if you disregard the current slump in the financial markets. Over the years, primarily though my mistakes, I have learnt several invaluable lessons that have shaped my personal investing philosophy. Here is a summary.

  1. Do not invest money you cannot afford to lose. Know your limitations and own a mix of asset classes that are just right for you. Understand your ability to tolerate the hurts of losing money.
  2. Personal finance » Buying a stock is the easy part. Knowing when to sell is difficult. Buying a stock is the easy part. Knowing when to sell, especially in the case of hot stocks, is challenging. Do ample research before buying stocks or mutual funds. Establish a few criteria for selling and have the discipline to sell when a stock meets your criteria.
  3. Invest; do not speculate. You cannot try to outsmart the market by trying to time the market or day trade. You cannot be right on every trade and every stock that you lay hands on — research has shown that even the best investors are right in about five of every eight stock purchases.
  4. Do not fret about missing an opportunity. Opportunities abound in every market — bull or bear, short-term or long-term.
  5. Do your own research. Stock research is indeed hard work, yet indispensable. Monitor stocks frequently. Pay attention to price-to-earning ratio (PE,) price-to-earning-to-growth ratio (PEG,) revenues and cash flow. Learn how to read company balance sheets and other financial statements.
  6. Follow each company’s fundamentals carefully. Consider vital changes to the company’s operations, competitive landscapes, and industry prospects. Pay attention to macro-economic factors that may influence the industry.
  7. Financial markets » Be skeptical of too much optimism and hype. Be skeptical of too much optimism and hype. Do not pursue past performance and buy a stock or mutual fund, possibly after a period of high returns. Watch out for stock analysts and investment advisors touting stocks after good news and playing down stocks that have already fallen. Understand that financial advisors may promote mutual funds that pay them high commissions and not necessarily get better returns for you.
  8. Never lose sleep over your investments. Never let your emotions guide your investments transactions. Money is, after all, not the most important thing in your life.

Books I Read in 2016 & Recommend

Personal Finance: Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door summarizes anthropological research from the ’90s on the attributes of unassuming wealthy Americans. The authors discuss the fancy trappings of affluence and the high cost of maintaining social status. They explain that prosperous individuals prioritize financial independence over a high social status. Key takeaway: It’s easy to get rich by living below your means, efficiently allocating funds in ways that build wealth, and ignoring conspicuous consumption. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Taking Advice' by Dan Ciampa (ISBN 1591396689) Decision-Making / Problem-Solving: Dan Ciampa’s Taking Advice offers an excellent framework on the kind of advice network you need on strategic, operational, political, and personal elements of your work and your life. Taking Advice offers important insights into a seemingly obvious dimension of success, but one that’s often neglected, poorly understood, or taken for granted. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Creativity / Decision-Making / Teamwork: Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats describes a powerful problem-solving approach that enriches mental flexibility by encouraging individuals and groups to attack an issue from six independent but complementary perspectives. Key takeaway: The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method can remove mental blocks, organize ideas and information, foster cross-fertilization, and help conduct thinking sessions more productively than do other brainstorming methods. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Presentation / Communication: Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint argues that presentations reduce the analytical timbre of communication. In other words, presentation slides lack the resolution to effectively convey context, “weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.” Tufte contends that, by forcibly condensing our ideas into bullet point-statements, phrases, and slides, we break up narrative flow and flatten the information we’re trying to convey. Key takeaway: Well-structured and succinct memos can convey ideas comprehensively, clearly, and meaningfully. {Read my synopsis in this article. Also, learn about Amazon’s ‘Mock Press Release’ discipline and Procter & Gamble’s ‘One-Page Memo’ practice to communicate ideas.}

Happiness / Relationships: Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries. For one year, Kaplan maintained a gratitude journal and wrote down three things that she was thankful for each day. She also decided to “find one area to focus on each month—whether husband, family, friends, or work—and … see what happened when I developed an attitude of gratitude.” Key takeaway: A grateful heart is a happy heart. Stop whatever you’re doing, take stock of your blessings, and be grateful for everything you have in life. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankl (ISBN 1846042844) Psychology: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. When subject to brutal treatment at Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Frankl changed his initial reaction from ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why is this happening?’ to ‘What is life asking of me?’ Such profound shifts in thinking, Frankl argues, could help you find meaning in life, regardless of what is happening on the outside. Key takeaway: The one power you have at all times is the freedom to choose your response to any given set of circumstances. Uncover a sense of purpose in life and you can survive nearly anything. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Psychology: John Tierney and Roy Baumeister’s Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The book’s central theorem is the much-debated “muscle metaphor” of self-control, which states that willpower is like a muscle that tires out—or runs out of energy—as you use it, but can be replenished and purposely fortified through practice. Key takeaway: Budget your willpower and spend it where and when you need it the most. Eliminate distractions, temptations, and unnecessary choices. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) Biography / Leadership: Sam Walton’s Made in America is the Walmart founder’s very educational, insightful, and stimulating autobiography. It’s teeming with Walton’s relentless search for better ideas learning from competitors, managing costs and prices to gain competitive advantage, asking incessant questions of day-to-day operations, listening to employees at all levels of Walmart, and inventing creative ways to foster an idea-driven culture. Takeaways: ten rules of management success, learning from failure, cost and price as a competitive advantage, and Walton’s ‘Ten-Foot Rule’ to become more likeable.

Biography / Leadership: Deborrah Himsel’s Beauty Queen: Inside the Reign of Avon’s Andrea Jung offers an insightful tale of the spectacular rise to the top and the tumultuous fall from grace of the former Avon CEO. Jung initially led six consecutive years of double-digit growth and then presided over a series of operational missteps that led to her resignation. “Her story is a cautionary tale, one that suggests the critical importance of being aware of your weaknesses and how they can sabotage you.” Key takeaway: Spectacular success, especially those attributable to external circumstances, can often conceal on organization’s or an individual’s flaws. When the tide turns, the deficiencies are exposed for all to see. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'The HP Way' by David Packard (ISBN 0060845791) Biography / Leadership: David Packard’s The HP Way recalls how Bill Hewlett and David Packard built a company based on a framework of principles and the simplicity of management methods. In addition to their technical innovations, Bill and David established many progressive management practices that prevail even today. Starting in the initial days, the HP culture that Bill and David engendered was unlike the hierarchical and egalitarian management practices that existed at other corporations of their day. Key takeaway: The essence of the “HP Way” was a strong and clear set of values, and a culture of openness and respect for the individual. {Read my synopsis in this article. Also learn about management by walking around and Bill Hewlett’s ‘Hat-Wearing Process’ for decision-making.}

Leadership: Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas’s Geeks and Geezers. The authors posit that all potential leaders must pass through a “leadership crucible” that provides an intense, transformative experience. Only after they “organize the meaning” and draw significant lessons from their “crucible experiences” can they become leaders. Key takeaway: Find your “leadership voice” by reflecting on transformative experiences in your life and examining what you’ve learned from them. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Look at my articles on how to process a pile of books that you can’t seem to finish, and on how self-help books bring hope that change is possible.

Also, see a list of books I read in 2015 and 2014 and recommend.

Man Who Retired at 30 is Ridiculously Happy

Financial Independence “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
Bob Dylan, American Musician

Early in my professional life, I pursued an ambition to attain wealth—not because I sought after luxury, but because I wanted to realize a financial foothold that could help me become financially independent and invest in a meaningful life. I’ve been “retired” for two years now, work very hard on my true pursuits, and live life on my own terms. I might fancy a change in the future; for now, I am living the dreams and I couldn’t be happier.

Money is a False God

Most people spend the better part of their adult lives chasing the almighty dollar in an ostensible pursuit of success and happiness. Wealth, characteristically manifested in the acquisition of things, becomes so defining of their success that it becomes their primary measure of accomplishment. Later in life, they wake up to the distressing fact that everything they’ve earned isn’t bringing them the wonderful life it was supposed to.

Pursuit of riches becomes such a trap because many people easily appraise life in terms that are defined by others.

Enjoy a Life of True Wealth

I admire anyone who is self-disciplined and is willing to live their life on their own terms. Last year, The Washington Post carried an interesting interview with a man who had retired at the age of 30, not caused by extreme wealth but by living with less. Mister Money Mustache realized early that the pursuit of material things could lead to a persistent sense of emptiness. Rather than being unfulfilled, his family’s live-with-less way of life has made them “ridiculously happy.” Here is an excerpt of the interview.

Mister Money Mustache Q: You describe the typical middle-class life as an “exploding volcano of wastefulness.” Seems like lots of personal finance folks obsess about lattes. Are you just talking about the lattes here?

A: The latte is just the foamy figurehead of an entire spectrum of sloppy “I deserve it” luxury spending that consumes most of our gross domestic product these days. Among my favorite targets: commuting to an office job in an F-150 pickup truck, anything involving a drive-through, paying $100 per month for the privilege of wasting four hours a night watching cable TV and the whole yoga industry. There are better, and free, ways to meet these needs, but everyone always chooses the expensive ones and then complains that life is hard these days.

With Needs, Without Wants

Contentment is worth more than riches. Having few desires and feeling satisfied with what you have is vital for happiness.

Be Happy with What You Have

In a This I Believe essay, Marianne Bachleder of San Francisco reminisces about consumerism and about being conscious of how much she already has:

We forget to be happy with what we have and in our forgetfulness we spread the infection of discontent. It’s a mistake easily made in a world where everyone is expected to pursue every want—the newest gadget, the latest update.

I may want shiny things, but I don’t need them. What I do desperately need is the peace of mind found in moments of contentment and gratitude. I need to identify each of my wildcat urges to purchase or possess as either “want” or “need.” My needs are basic, predictable, manageable. My wants are chaotic changelings, disturbers of the peace that can never be satisfied.

I will tend my needs, I will whittle my wants, and I will say often, “I’m happy with what I have.”

Thrift to Wealth

'The Little Book of Main Street Money' by Jonathan Clements (ISBN 0470473231) Jonathan Clements, personal finance columnist at Wall Street Journal and author of ‘The Little Book of Main Street Money’ and the forthcoming ‘Money Guide 2015’, spoke of thrift and the wealthy in an interview with Vanguard:

Over the years, I have met thousands of everyday Americans who have amassed seven-figure portfolios—and the one attribute shared by almost all of them is that they’re extremely frugal. When I was at Citi, I used to joke to the bankers that they would know a couple was wealthy if they pulled up to the branch in a second-hand Civic, wore clothes from J.C. Penney, and asked to have their parking ticket validated.

Shop at Amazon & Support a Noble Cause

Gyaana Prawas : Science/field trip for tribal kids in South India / Aapatsahaaya Foundation Dear readers, during this holiday season, if you succumb to the urge for the latest and the greatest or if you are shopping for gifts for friends and family, please consider shopping at Amazon.com using this link or clicking on a recommended book on the right sidebar of this website.

With no additional cost to you, 100% of the referral fees earned by this blog from the international Amazon Associates program support the education of underprivileged kids in South India. Our philanthropy partner is Aapatsahaaya Foundation, Bangalore. In 2013, your purchases funded part of a science/field trip for tribal kids.

John Bogle’s “Little Book of Common Sense Investing” [Leadership Reading #2]

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, John Bogle “In investing, the winning strategy for reaping the rewards of capitalism depends on owning businesses, not trading stocks,” argues John Bogle in making a strong case for low-cost index funds in his text, “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.” With statistics and graphs, Bogle rationalizes that low-cost index funds outperform most investment professionals and offer better-than-average returns for investors over the long term.

John Bogle is the legendary founder of the investor-owned Vanguard Group, currently the world’s largest mutual fund company by total assets under management. Over the course of 25 years at the helm of Vanguard, until his retirement in 1999, he focused the efforts of Vanguard on offering cost-conscious investment choices to the masses. John Bogle is the bestselling author of many other books on investment advice.

Superiority of Low-Cost Index Funds

John C. Bogle, Founder of The Vanguard Group John Bogle founded the world’s first index mutual fund, the Vanguard 500 Index Fund in 1975. Since then, “Saint Jack” (as critics labeled Bogle mockingly) has untiringly promoted the virtues of low-fee, no-load, low-turnover, passively-managed index (or more precisely, index-tracking) mutual funds. Investing in such funds, he contends in “The Little Book,” is the simplest and most effective way to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and profit from earnings growth of businesses and the dividends they yield.

John Bogle methodically discusses every theme relevant to successful investing: the myths of speculation and market timing, inflation, frictional costs (fees charged by brokers and investment advisors, costs of transactions, front-end and back-end loads,) and the effects of compounding and taxes. He then convincingly counters arguments against investing in total market index funds through easy-to-follow quantitative appraisals of investing in individual stocks and bonds, actively managed funds, hedge funds, and sector-specific funds. At the end of each chapter, Bogle reinforces his position with words of wisdom from some of the greatest minds in economics and investing: Ben Graham, Warren Buffet, John Maynard Keynes, Peter Lynch, and the like.

Invaluable Insights for Investors

The majority of people do not have the time, energy, determination, or aptitude for understanding economics, examining investments, managing risk, and building wealth for themselves. They are either overly cautious, or they invest heedlessly, submit to market trends, or engage in speculation. In reading John Bogle’s authoritative book, modest investors will recognize that low-cost index funds offer them broad diversification, reasonably good returns over the long-term, and the ability to outperform a majority of investment professionals.

Informed investors will find, notwithstanding many drawn-out discussions, a great reiteration of John Bogle’s now-familiar, commonsensical ideas on the merits of index investing.

Leadership Reader’s Bottom-line

The Easier Way to Build Wealth

“Work a lot, spend a little, save the difference, invest it wisely, leave it alone. It’s not that hard. We just make it harder than it needs to be. Paying too much attention to the details of markets is a chief culprit.”
Morgan Housel in Motley Fool

The Easier Way to Build Wealth It is amazing that most people just do not seem to accumulate enough wealth despite making a comfortable living. Many live from paycheck to paycheck, even with steadily rising incomes. Borrowers often fall behind on their mortgage payments. Credit card and consumer debt is growing at an alarming pace. Employees in the prime of their lives are not setting aside anything significant for retirement. As a result, many baby boomers cannot stop working at the usual retirement age because they are not ready to fund the rest of their lives.

Every Dollar You Make Equals LESS than a Dollar for You to Spend

Building Wealth Are you sometimes disappointed at not realizing your dreams of building wealth or becoming financially secure? The overwhelming odds are that at the root of your feeling of financial insufficiency is how you tend to spend.

A common folly is to assume that every dollar you make equates to a dollar you can spend. In reality, you need to make much more than a dollar to spend each dollar. Apply the following some simple arithmetic to calculate the true purchasing power of your income.

  • Suppose that you are employed in the United States and you are in the 28% tax bracket. If you pay 6.2% in Social Security deductions, 1.45% in Medicare deductions, and your state income tax rate is 4%, then your total deductions are 39.65% of your income. On every $1 you earn, you pay $0.3965 in deductions. Therefore, for every $1 you make, your purchasing power is just $0.6035. In other words, you have to earn $1.65 (1.65 = 1/0.6035) to spend every $1. For instance, you would have to earn $3,811 to buy a 47″ flat screen TV that costs $2,300.
  • When you invest your money, you do not pay Social Security or Medicare deductions on dividends and capital gains. If the tax rate on long-term gains and dividends is 15% and your state income tax rate is 4%, you will retain $0.81 of every $1 you make in long-term gains and dividends. Even then, you have to earn $1.23 in dividends and capital gains to spend $1.

Harness Your Purchasing Power

“Anything you do to make yourself more valuable will pay off in real purchasing power.”
Warren Buffet

Harness Your Purchasing Power There are only two ways to get rich: make more money and spend less. The first method is relatively difficult: it is never easy to get a significant raise or a better job at a better place, win the lottery, take a second job, sustain a secondary source of income, or consistently make sizeable gains in the capital markets. It is easier to build some discipline in your spending habits.

  • Track all your expenses for a month. At the end of the month, analyze your cash flow. Scrutinize your expenses in terms of ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ Happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs. Consider ideas for cutting costs and their consequences. Examine your discretionary spending. Scale down or dispose of unnecessary services or subscriptions, irrelevant utilities and features. Consider reprioritizing your expenditures with a medium- and long-term perspective.
  • Examine your spending instincts. Be mindful of the perils of consumerism and materialism. Do not let your rising income fuel increased spending. Simplify your life.
  • A one-time windfall, bonus, or tax refund is no excuse for indulgent spending. Be selective in your purchases without abandoning your plans for paying off debt, saving money or funding your retirement account.
  • Seek to be disciplined and prudent, not necessarily thrifty or frugal. Cultivate an appropriate financial discipline without hurting the quality of your life. Reward and treat yourself for your achievements. Invest in anything that makes you feel good, happy, or helps you realize your goals.

Inspirational Quotations by B. C. Forbes (#684)

Inspirational Quotations by B C Forbes Today marks the birthday of Bertie Charles Forbes (1880–1954,) American financial journalist and editor. Forbes was the founder of the Forbes business magazine and publishing empire.

Born a poor country boy in Scotland, Forbes started work as a printer’s apprentice at age 14. He soon became a financial journalist in England, and progressively graduated into the roles of reporter, editor, and publisher first in South Africa and then in New York. In 1916, he successfully started the Forbes magazine at age 36 and became famous for writing profiles of business leaders. By 1946, Forbes reached a circulation of 100,000 and was popular not only for its analyses of business and economic trends, but also for Forbes’personal style of business journalism.

Forbes wrote several books including Finance, Business and the Business of Life (1915,) Men Who Are Making America (1917,) Forbes Epigrams (1922,) and 101 Unusual Experiences (1952.)

Inspirational Quotations by B C Forbes

A price has to be paid for success. Almost invariably those who have reached the summits worked harder and longer, studied and planned more assiduously, practiced more self-denial, overcame more difficulties than those of us who have not risen so far.
B. C. Forbes

The man of fixed ingrained principles who has mapped out a straight course, and has the courage and self-control to adhere to it, does not find life complex. Complexities are all of our own making.
B. C. Forbes

Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious.
B. C. Forbes

The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down a failure.
B. C. Forbes

We must learn that to enjoy happiness we must conscientiously and continuously seek to spread happiness. Selfishness is suicidal to happiness.
B. C. Forbes

The real friend is he or she who can share all our sorrow and double our joys.
B. C. Forbes

The man without religion is as a ship without a rudder.
B. C. Forbes

Money, or even power, can never yield happiness unless it be accompanied by the goodwill of others.
B. C. Forbes

The incontestable truth is that America has been built up by optimists, not by pessimists, but by men possessing courage, confidence in the nation’s destiny, by men willing to adventure, to shoulder risks terrifying to the timid.
B. C. Forbes

Thomas Edison reads not for entertainment but to increase his store of knowledge. He sucks in information as eagerly as the bee sucks honey from flowers. The whole world, so to speak, pours its wisdom into his mind. He regards it as a criminal waste of time to go through the slow and painful ordeal of ascertaining things for one’s self if these same things have already been ascertained and made available by others. In Edison’s mind knowledge is power.
B. C. Forbes

Madame Curie didn’t stumble upon radium by accident. She searched and experimented and sweated and suffered years before she found it. Success rarely is an accident.
B. C. Forbes

The victors of the battles of tomorrow will be those who can best harness thought to action. From office boy to statesman, the prizes will be for those who most effectively exert their brains, who take deep, earnest and studious counsel of their minds, who stamp themselves as thinkers.
B. C. Forbes

Our future and our fate lie in our wills more than in our hands, for our hands are but the instruments of our wills.
B. C. Forbes

There is more genuine joy in climbing the hill of success, even though sweat may be spent and toes may be stubbed, than in aimlessly sliding down the path to failure. If a straight, honorable path has been chosen, the gaining of the summit yields lasting satisfaction. The morass of failure, if reached through laziness, indifference or other avoidable fault, yields nothing but ignominy and sorrow for self and family and friends.
B. C. Forbes

Whimpering never kept a leaking vessel from foundering. Vigorously manning the pumps has. Get busy with your head and hands, not your chin.
B. C. Forbes

Life is just an endless chain of judgements…. The more imperfect our judgement, the less perfect our success.
B. C. Forbes

Honesty is the cornerstone of character. The honest man or woman seeks not merely to avoid criminal or illegal acts, but to be scrupulously fair, upright, fearless in both action and expression. Honesty pays dividends both in dollars and in peace of mind.
B. C. Forbes

Diamonds are only lumps of coal that stuck to their jobs.
B. C. Forbes

Opportunity can benefit no man who has not fitted himself to seize it and use it. Opportunity woos the worthy, shuns the unworthy. Prepare yourself to grasp opportunity and opportunity is likely to come your way. It is not so fickle, capricious and unreasoning as some complain.
B. C. Forbes

J.P. Morgan, then past 70, was asked by the son of an eminent father why he (Morgan) didn’t retire. “When did your father retire?” asked Mr. Morgan, without looking up from his desk. “In 1902.” “When did he die? Oh, at the end of 1904.” “Huh!” snapped Mr. Morgan, “If he had kept on working he would have been alive still. Work is God’s best medicine. It is God’s medicine for man.”
B. C. Forbes

The human being who lives only for himself finally reaps nothing but unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies. Don’t put off the joy derivable from doing helpful, kindly things for others.
B. C. Forbes

The man who is intent on making the most of his opportunities is too busy to bother about luck.
B. C. Forbes

Lady Luck generally woos those who earnestly, enthusiastically, unremittingly woo her.
B. C. Forbes

Jealousy… is a mental cancer.
B. C. Forbes

Many a man thinks he is patient when, in reality, he is indifferent.
B. C. Forbes

You have no idea how big the other fellow’s troubles are.
B. C. Forbes

Tell me how a young man spends his evenings and I will tell you how far he is likely to go in the world. The popular notion is that a youth’s progress depends upon how he acts during his working hours. It doesn’t. It depends far more upon how he utilizes his leisure…. If he spends it in harmless idleness, he is likely to be kept on the payroll, but that will be about all. If he diligently utilizes his own time … to fit himself for more responsible duties, then the greater responsibilities-and greater rewards-are almost certain to come to him.
B. C. Forbes

Mediocre men wait for opportunity to come to them. Strong, able, alert men go after opportunity.
B. C. Forbes

Ambition means longing and striving to attain some purpose. Therefore, there are as many brands of ambition as there are human aspirations.
B. C. Forbes

Opportunity rarely knocks on your door. Knock rather on opportunity’s door if you ardently wish to enter.
B. C. Forbes

What you have outside you counts less than what you have inside you.
B. C. Forbes

It is when things go hardest, when life becomes most trying, that there is greatest need for having a fixed goal. When few comforts come from without, it is all the more necessary to have a fount to draw from within.
B. C. Forbes

Wealth and Status Are False Gods

Wealth and Status Are False GodsWhile it’s certainly one thing to know that money is a way to fulfill your requirements in life, it’s quite another when money becomes your primary motivation and measure of success, or when you come to equate happiness or worthiness with your wealth.

While there nothing characteristically wrong with material wealth or its pursuit, it’s easy to expect too much from money.

The New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10) reminds you to be aware of the difference between need and greed, “love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Money can push you to take on or keep you in unhealthy relationships and unsatisfying careers. It can lead you to neglect your social life and undervalue the importance of relationships. Besides, money can adulterate your soul, germinate dishonorable conduct, and make you unworthy regardless of the wealth you accumulate.

Status Is the Enemy of Passion

Prestige, cachet, status, wealth, and approval as dominant extrinsic motivators are appropriate and can be life-affirming in the short term, but they eventually confuse and undermine you from the things that do offer deeper rewards for a life well led. The British-American venture capitalist and essayist Paul Graham wrote in his stimulating 2006 article “How to Do What You Love” discussed the hollowness of pursuing “prestige”:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world.

….

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.

….

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.

Materialism is Shallow

Modern society is remarkably driven by statusAs a modern society, we are remarkably driven by status—because we regard ourselves more worthy of others’ respect if we possess a home in a status neighborhood, a vacation property, brand-name or even designer-label clothes, luxury watches, expensive jewelry, and so on. But the pursuit of a materialistic lifestyle comes at a high cost.

Writing about the shallowness of materialism, the Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias wrote in Recapture the Wonder (2003),

In a culture where the possibility of wealth and the acquisition of things is so defining of success, we end up pursuing things that, even if we are successful, can never deliver what we envisioned they would. The reason riches become such a snare is because we end up evaluating life in mercenary terms and being seen by others in such terms, and life is just not so.

Money can buy lots of things that make us feel good and important. However, people preoccupied with money and status are never satisfied. Often, their desires and debts grow faster than their means. The more they have, the more they think they need. Discouraging gluttony and lavish spending habits, the great Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote (per Dialogues and Essays,)

Shun luxury, shun good fortune that makes men weak and causes their minds to grow sodden, and, unless something happens to remind them of their human lot, they waste away, lulled to sleep, as it were, in a drunkenness that has no end…. Although all things in excess bring harm, the greatest danger comes from excessive good fortune: it stirs the brain, invites the mind to entertain idle fancies, and shrouds in thick fog the distinction between falsehood and truth.

Idea for Impact: You are rich if you think you have enough

Put the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspectivePut the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspective. Feel rich and have a soft spot for certain indulgences. But, don’t get trapped in the spectacle of riches.

Being rich and seeking status can cost a fortune—the things that you may have to do to flaunt your wealth can cost almost as much as your wealth itself. As the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “The money you have can give you freedom, but the money you pursue enslaves you.”

You are Rich If You Think You Have Enough

You are Rich If You Think You Have EnoughMoney isn’t the most important thing in life, except when you truly don’t have enough of it. Nevertheless, virtually everyone at every income level seems to place too much importance on it.

The relationship between money and happiness is well established: money can buy happiness, but it can only buy less than most people think. Beyond a humble middle-class living, study after study shows that people with more money are no happier.

What Money Gets You

Wealth can actually give you three essential things.

Firstly, money can help establish a financial foundation. Money can reduce or eliminate the despair caused by poverty and debt. Once you amass a sufficient amount of wealth, financial troubles will not weigh on you so heavily. Money allows you to not only live a longer and healthier life, but also defend yourself against worry and harm. Further, a sizable wealth can give you independence from the entrapment of having to make money just to make money. Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman and Warren Buffet’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, “Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich, not because I wanted Ferraris—I wanted the independence. I desperately wanted it.”

Secondly, wealth can allow you to have vacations, gatherings, and spend meaningful time with family and friends. Many studies have shown that the tenor of your social life is one of the most significant influences on your emotional wellbeing. Folks with many deep social connections are less likely to experience loneliness, sadness, low self-esteem, and problems with eating, sleeping, and relaxing.

Thirdly, wealth can allow you to invest your time absorbed in activities that you’re passionate about. Happiness research is clear: people are often happier when they spend their money on life experiences rather than on purchasing material goods. We humans seek meaning. Therefore, life experiences—especially those involving other people—make us happy primarily because events often generate vivid memories that we can later recall with pleasure. In contrast, we quickly adapt to material goods we purchase. Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestselling Stumbling on Happiness (2006,) explained the pleasure from buying experiences as opposed to material goods in a 2011 paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology:

After devoting days to selecting the perfect hardwood floor to install in a new condo, homebuyers find their once beloved Brazilian cherry floors quickly become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath their feet. In contrast, their memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on an African safari continues to provide delight. Over time, {people exhibit} slower adaptation to experiential purchases than to material purchases. One reason why this happens is that people adapt most quickly to that which doesn’t change. Whereas cherry floorboards generally have the same size, shape, and color on the last day of the year as they did on the first, each session of a year-long cooking class is different from the one before.

Another reason why people seem to get more happiness from experiences than things is that they anticipate and remember the former more often than the latter. … Things bring us happiness when we use them, but not so much when we merely think about them. Experiences bring happiness in both cases …. We are more likely to mentally revisit our experiences than our things in part because our experiences are more centrally connected to our identities.

A final reason why experiences make us happier than things is that experiences are more likely to be shared with other people, and other people … are our greatest source of happiness.

Experiential Purchases Make People Happier Than Material Purchases.

Idea for Impact: You are Rich If You Think You Have Enough

Put the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspective.

Money is an opportunity for happiness. Money allows you to do what you please. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more money and more material goods will unavoidably make you more happy. A certain amount of money will surely make life easier and satisfied, but more money and more material goods bring more problems.

Feel rich, have a soft spot for certain indulgences, and invest in memorable experiences rather than in material objects.

Don’t get trapped in the spectacle of riches.

Don’t let money own you.

Book Summary of “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!” by Nicholas Carlson

Over the holidays, I finished reading journalist Nicholas Carlson’s Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! This interesting book offers an account of Yahoo’s steady slide towards irrelevance and Marissa Mayer’s early tenure as CEO.

“Complex Monstrosity Built Without a Plan”

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) Carlson devotes the first third of the book to explaining Yahoo’s beleaguered history and how years of mismanagement and strategy negligence got Yahoo into the mess that Mayer inherited as CEO in 2012.

The second third is about Mayer and her brilliant career as employee number twenty at Google. In 2010, her career allegedly stalled because Mayer got sidelined after conflicts with other luminaries within Google. Relying broadly on anonymous sources, Carlson portrays Mayer’s intense nature and her personality contradictions: in public settings, Mayer is brainy, glamorous, confident, articulate, and approachable. However, in one-on-one settings, Mayer is a self-promoting, dismissive, calculating, tardy, inquisitorial individual who avoids eye contact. “There was nothing especially abhorrent or uncommon about Mayer’s behavior as an executive,” Carlson writes. “She was headstrong, confident, dismissive, self-promoting and clueless about how she sometimes hurt other people’s feelings. So were many of the most successful executives in the technology industry.”

The last third is devoted to Mayer’s initial efforts to turn Yahoo around. Within the first year at the helm as CEO, Mayer motivated Yahoo’s beleaguered workforce, launched the redesign of some of Yahoo’s major sites, and made acquisitions to make Yahoo relevant in the mobile, media, and social realms. Carlson also describes Mayer’s bad hiring decisions, habitual tardiness, tendency to micromanage, tone-deaf style of communication, and dogged devotion to establishing the universally-despised practice of tracking goals and stack-ranking employees.

Yahoo: The Fabled Legacy Internet Company on the Slide to Irrelevance

Yahoo: The Fabled Legacy Internet Company on the Slide to Irrelevance

Anybody who follows the internet content industry understands that the principal question regarding the then-37-year-old Mayer’s recruitment as CEO was never whether she could save Yahoo. Rather, the question was whether Yahoo can be saved at all.

Yahoo has been a mess for a long time. For early consumers of the internet, Yahoo’s portal was the internet—from the mid-1990s until the early 2000s, Yahoo was the number-one gateway for early users of the internet who wanted to search, email, or consume news and other information. Then, Yahoo floundered as the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft redefined the consumer internet and content consumption. Yahoo’s successive managements struggled to identify Yahoo’s raison d’etre and failed to set it apart from the up-and-coming websites. Yahoo’s management also fumbled on opportunities to harness the popularity of Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo Finance to get advertising revenues growing again.

Mayer’s Arrival Was Too Late for Yahoo

Marissa Mayer could not succeed in reviving YahooMayer came to Yahoo with extraordinary credentials, drive, technical savvy, celebrity, and charisma. Her tenure was centered on answering the single question, “What is Yahoo? What should become of Yahoo?”

The odds of Mayer succeeding to revive Yahoo as an independent internet content company were very bleak right from the beginning, because Mayer took on an increasingly irrelevant business with very little actual or potential operating value—either as an internet content company or as a media company. Carlson appropriately concludes,

Ultimately, Yahoo suffers from the fact that the reason it ever succeeded in the first place was because it solved a global problem that lasted for only a moment. The early Internet was hard to use, and Yahoo made it easier. Yahoo was the Internet. Then the Internet was flooded with capital and infinite solutions for infinite problems, and the need for Yahoo faded. The company hasn’t found its purpose since—the thing it can do that no one else can.

Since the publication of the book in December 2014, Mayer has dedicated her leadership to selling Yahoo’s core internet businesses and its patent portfolio. Yahoo is expected to then convert itself into a shell company for its investments in Alibaba (15.5% economic interest) and Yahoo Japan (35.5%.)

Recommendation: As a fast read, Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! is great. Beyond Nicholas Carlson’s gossipy narrative and his pejorative depiction of Mayer’s management style, readers of this page-turner will be interested in Yahoo leadership’s strategic and tactical missteps. Particularly fascinating are how Yahoo missed opportunities to buy Google and Facebook when they were mere startups, the rebuffing of an acquisition bid from Microsoft, a lack of strategic focus, the leadership skirmishes with activist investors, the revolving door at the CEO’s office, and an Asian-asset drama.