Being ruthless earns a certain type of respect.
By September 24, 2023– Published on
Welcome to the surge of new subscribers that joined us this week. I am very honoured to have you here.
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.
Last week, a headline about a youth arrested for a hit-and-run accident caught my eye. Allegedly, he had hit a bicyclist while driving a car and sped away. The bicyclist died from his injuries. The incident was caught on camera.
After apprehension, the youth in question made some callous statements and demonstrated an offensive lack of remorse. He was allegedly goading the police officers who detained him; he shrugged off the victim's death and stated that because he was a minor, a hit-and-run would get him a “slap on the wrist.” He would be back on the street in no time.
His statements in the context of an innocent man losing his life were vile—no question about it.
The conversation and comments surrounding the story were filled with outrage, justifiably. Many called for a Hamurabi’s Code punishment - an eye for an eye.
I am no saint. I can be quick to judge and am often blind to my own biases.
But I looked at the picture of this 16-year-old kid and tried to ask myself some questions.
Fourteen years ago, this young man was a toddler.
I’ve raised a few toddlers.
Anyone with a sound moral compass feels compassion for an infant in a high-risk environment. Unfortunately, we can’t save every disadvantaged child, and as a consequence, many grow up surrounded by violence, abuse and danger. If they survive, they become young men and women.
We feel compassion for the disadvantaged child. We feel no compassion for the adults that disadvantaged children become.
Where are you coming from?
Children all begin the same way - they present their feelings honestly. They are vulnerable. They have little emotional control - if they feel it, they show it - anytime, anyplace, as every parent has experienced.
But as we grow up, we learn how to control our emotions in response to our environment.
But everyone learns these lessons differently.
I learned to control my anger and withhold judgment. I learned that smiling at someone often makes them smile back. I learned that negotiation has higher utility than making blatant demands.
But I also learned that sometimes, it can be dangerous to show weakness. I learned that appearing tough can discourage trouble from coming my way. I learned that being ruthless will earn a certain kind of respect.
Gratefully, for the majority of my life, I found myself in environments where the former skills had a higher value than the latter. This has made me better equipped to navigate the world in what society deems civilized.
But this easily could have been reversed.
And if so, my default mode may have been a cold stare and a middle finger. Maybe I wouldn’t show emotion because life taught me that weakness is taken advantage of. Perhaps I wouldn’t see strangers as possible friends but as probable threats. And maybe I’d learned that no one could be trusted.
A lifetime of experience taught this young man that in the face of a homicide, he should brush it off and glare at the camera.
We can condemn the youth that killed this man. No doubt we will, and maybe we should.
Anyone who knows me knows the value I place on personal responsibility and accountability.
But we all begin our human journeys the same way - tiny and dependent. Those we depend on craft who we become.
I don’t have a better solution for the ails of society. I don’t write this because I know how to fix poverty, violence or addiction.
But I can temper my reaction to it.
Violent crime is often a reaction of anger. Therefore, reacting to crime with anger - is the definition of the pot calling the kettle black.
I have been on the receiving end of violent crime. I have lost family members to violent crime. I understand that reacting with patience is not easy. But it’s worth thinking about.
Why did I write this letter?
I wrote this week's letter because, on Friday, I published an essay to my paid subscribers about trends in foreign direct investment. I spent much of the time reflecting on shifts that have occurred since the Russia / Ukraine War.
My letter triggered some readers. This may have been because wars are triggering. But more likely, it was because we have become increasingly easy to trigger over the last few years.
If we can temper our reactive nature, we can improve the quality of our lives.
Here is a life lesson that I have learned:
When I react - I often regret.
When I pause, think and then act, I am more likely to align with my best interest.
On Sundays, I write about human nature.
On Fridays, I take the next step and write about money and power.
For a sample of last Friday’s letter, click here.
That’s it for this week, have an epic Sunday.