Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pass(ing) Over Enough: The Futility of ‘Enough’

Pass(ing) Over Enough: The Futility of ‘Enough’

A man’s treatment of money is the most decisive test of his character – how he makes it and how he spends it
James Moffatt, Scottish Biblical Scholar

A nurse for a renown high earning (as well as trust baby) brain surgeon called again to tell me how the brain surgeon made $100,000 in a silver stock and was rubbing it again by the nurse practitioner (no trust baby with economic challenges) should have bought the stock with him. Forget their situations were very different – and for the brain surgeon to lose $10,000, $20,000 on a speculation was a drop in the ocean but $10,000 would be a lake for the nurse. These ‘I told you so’s’ have been often and repetitive. Forget that he reiterated that I (the nurse’s friend) ‘didn’t know what I was talking about’ (I’ve cleaned up the language). Forget that it is easier to make a great CPA, lawyer, even terrific brain surgeon than to make a good person as Dennis Prager would say. The real point is that of confusing not only speculation with investment, not even different circumstances of these individuals, but the cultural backdrop reinforcing ‘more’ at the expense of ‘enough’ in our collective mind set.

I am reminded of a story by a fee only planner many years again who had a physician client who, despite the planner’s admonitions and even the planner getting a signed statement from the doc that he was investing in this 10:1 multiple write off deal against his recommendation, did the deal. As predicted the multiple write off tax shelter several years later blew up resulting not only in past taxes due but with interest and penalties! The doc stormed into the planner’s office giving the what for to the planner. The planner calmly took out the piece of paper with the doc’s signature showing the planner had advised against this tax shelter deal. The doc stated, ‘that’s my signature, but I would never sign anything like this.’ (The doc was probably related to the brain surgeon above).

Exaggerated examples – on the tail end of the distribution curve? Unfortunately, that is not the case.

More, baked into the culture, seared into the fabric of everyday life, repeated ad nauseum in the 50,000+ advertisements we view, is ‘the’ indicator of our worthiness. A man of means is preferred to a man of meaning (besides that can be bought).
More – more money – means more things, experiences, being more than another – and greater happiness that ironically it rarely yields. Well off doesn’t mean well being or being well for the have (from birth, or and work), have not or have a little wants some more – former or present. As Bertrand Russell once, ‘when success comes, a man is already a nervous wreck, so accustomed to anxiety that he cannot shake off the habit of it when the need is past.’ (The Conquest of Happiness)

If this doc’s comment was unusual (and believe me I have been called worse – in particular on occasions too numerous assh**e such that I had a the following pat answers – ‘And…no, I was conceived that way – and you?)) that would be one thing. But his comment is the exaggeration of the vein of comments like:

• (if there was a loser) ‘we should not have bought it’
• (if there was a winner) ‘we should have bought more
• (and worse – client amnesia ©) I don’t remember my being ok with this (even when though it was a non discretionary account meaning they made the trade)

And these types of responses I still get after I’ve been out of practice 15 years and from friends who were not clients but have read my books.
By the way, I’ve never heard docs or otherwise brag about their losers which again reinforces more equals worthiness, less means dumb schmuck.

Only in 1987 and 2007 when things went to crap, is ‘enough’ valued – temporarily until there is reversion to the MEAN of more rather than the meaning of enough.

The real questions are and should be (least I partaking in ‘shoulding’), ‘am I on the road to enough and or do I still have enough?’ managing the goal not managing the asset.

The Hebrew word for money damin is also the word for ‘blood.’ (And Hebrew thought also believes that the blood carries the soul and that is, why, in part, blood is drained in Kosher slaughtering – not to be confused with Postville coverup slaughtering.) Blood is the soul – blood sustains. Money sustains but can be a blood sucker. Money (the current currency) is but a store of value representing an exchange mechanism for things and experiences. If money is devalued - paper or denominated in metals (which one can’t eat) where is the sustenance? Where then does ‘more’ money – silver, gold, paper – get one?

Thus, the real currency, and here I stipulate to my own belief, is first in God (Shaddai – ‘enough’) and secondly in the adaptability and resourcefulness each of us has exhibited (think of the difficulties you have overcome and yet devalue). With faith, adaptability and resourcefulness even those using Underwood typewriters in an IPAD world survive. But to thrive, to paraphrase Frankel in Man’s Search for Meaning, man can endure the how only as long as he has a why.’

That choice: a man of means or a man of meaning – meaning IN one’s life?
More is the former; enough enables and challenges the latter.

Guirjeff said that one should thank everyone (especially those who cause us difficulties) for the opportunity to work on oneself. However, I believe in the statute of limitations. On April 1, 2011, I applied for my Social Security so thank you and I’m retiring from Enough, p*ssing in the wind, and contemplating changing my middle name to Ecclesiastes.

Post Scripture: Speaking of ‘all is wind,’ pull my finger.