I don’t align with this (yet), but I think about it a lot.
By October 1, 2023– Published on
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In my Sunday essay, I study the way that humans interact with each other.
I am an investor and an entrepreneur. However, I have learned that trying to understand trends in money flow and markets before understanding human nature puts the cart before the horse.
Human nature is the cause of macroeconomics, geopolitics, and finance. All of this occurs as a consequence of how humans are with each other.
So, every Sunday, we spend some time discussing our behaviour.
If I have a secondary mission with this letter, it is to challenge any and all absolute truths and dispute all common narratives. I lean on history, culture, philosophy and psychology for lessons on the past and present.
I love writing it. Let’s jump in.
I am currently reading The Book of Ecclesiastes and meditating on some of the core principles. The author of this book is actually a subject of debate, but King Solomon often gets the credit, which would put its “publishing” some 3000 years ago, near 970 B.C.
I am sharing a few quotes I am thinking about this weekend - all of which are italicized for credit.
The main message of the book is repeated 38 times: “Hevel, hevel, everything is utterly hevel”
Hevel, is the Hebrew term signifying 'smoke' or 'vapour'.
In the context of the book, hevel is not used in the literal sense but symbolically, meaning that, like smoke, life is enigmatic.
Our life assumes a form, but before we understand it, it becomes another.
It is real and appears before us, yet we cannot grasp it and hold on.
When in the thick of it, we lose clarity.
It can be beautiful but dangerous.
It is fleeting.
Once gone, it is gone forever.
“Hevel, hevel, everything is utterly hevel”
All of life is smoke.
“The eye is not satisfied by seeing nor the ear by hearing.”
We set goals, and they excite us. But when we catch them, their allure vanishes - often diminishing minutes after we prevail.
We live in pursuit, while reward is the tomorrow that never comes.
When I was in my twenties, I wanted to be a millionaire. When I became a millionaire, I wanted to be in my twenties.
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
This challenges the belief that we control our destiny and are solely responsible for our success or failure. Despite our best efforts, it is time and chance that determine who we become.
I don’t align with this, but I think about it a lot.
I know many people who earned their success. They were disciplined and made sacrifices. They kept their integrity and their focus. Life rewarded them with fortune.
But I also know rich men who are lazy and dishonest. And I know good, hardworking people with nothing.
So, do we misunderstand fate, and how we acquire? Or, do we misunderstand wealth - and what we acquire?
The above quote suggests we misunderstand one of these.
I credit my discipline and focus for when I am “successful.” But I know that the harder I work, the fewer people I have to talk to - so I exchange social wealth for financial wealth.
But there is another question about the value of financial wealth.
When we are young, money has no value. On our deathbed, money has no value. Therefore, money exists on an arc of value - and there will be an optimal moment of value in our life as it builds, peaks and descends.
We won’t know when that moment is, but it is worth thinking about.
“Everything is utterly hevel”… value assumes one form, yet swiftly becomes another.
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten”
Every day we sit at the table and play for chips. One day, we will be tapped on the shoulder and told that our game is over, mid-hand, and we must get up and leave.
Our chips will go back to the centre of the table - back to the game. They will be played for by generations that we will never know, and who will never know of us, or that those were once our chips. We will have been long forgotten.
We worry over legacy and what we leave behind, yet I know almost nothing of my great-grandfather. In three generations, we are diluted among our descendants to the point of having barely existed.
“Hevel, hevel, everything is utterly hevel.”
This sounds depressing, but I encourage you to consider it the opposite.
Tomorrow, I cease to exist. Any memory of me will be forgotten. Therefore today is the last day on earth - what is left but to go for broke, and live fully into every experience?
I may not change anything in my activities. I may still work too hard, sleep too little, and fight for too much - but I will do so knowing that this ride is all there ever will be.
I will go to the grave with no bullets left in the chamber. If there is nothing to save for, then I should die with zero.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the philosophical gymnastics, and have an epic Sunday.