Category Archives: Opinion

How a Trip to Antarctica Can Show You How Not To Spend Your Time

Some people spend upwards of 60% of their young lives working in a job that they don’t enjoy with the purpose of making alot of money.

These people may be exchanging time for the ability to purchase products and services now, or perhaps to achieve status or secure future riches for retirement. If you fall into one of these categories and don’t enjoy what you’re doing, consider thinking about the following. If you enjoy what you’re doing, this probably isn’t very relevant.

Your Hypothetical Trip to Antarctica

Imagine you have been given an offer. If you choose to accept the offer, you’ll be taken on a hypothetical trip to Antarctica and you’ll be given an endless supply of  money. However, as with most hypothetical amateur thought experiments, there is a catch. Three in fact. They are as follows:

  1. There are no other people in hypothetical Antarctica and you are not allowed to communicate with any people back in the hypothetical country you live in. No internet, Facebook, Twitter, Forums, or communication of any kind
  2. Hypothetical Antarctica has a limitless supply of your favourite brands, products, property, and services (and you have endless money to purchase with)
  3. You cannot visit hypothetical Antarctica, save some money and return to the country you are from.

Do you accept the offer?

My guess is that most people would not and I think there are a range of reasons why. Boredom, no interaction with people, no purpose in life, no sex, and no ability to have children all come to mind (and I’m sure there are many i’m not thinking of). However, if you exclude most of these reasons and just think about the loss of interaction with people, one issue becomes pretty clear for me.

Brands, products, expensive cars and status would all shrink heavily in value with no one around to witness them. For me, only truly useful goods would hold their value. As much fun as driving a Lamborghini through a crevasse in Antarctica might be, if people had to give up time with their friends to make it happen, selling one-way tickets on the hypothetical Alaska boat  would become alot harder.

To me, this illustrates that our friendships are ultimately more important than our desires for material possessions, status, and future riches (if given the choice of having one or the other). Yet, some people choose to work 60+ hours a week during the best years of their life doing something they don’t enjoy while their friendships suffer and the years of their life tick away. What they are saving for and who will share it with them is anybody’s guess.

There are so many what ifs and other rebuttals that come to mind that could weaken this argument and I might be completely off the reservation here but I think the basic gist is interesting. So, if I find myself not enjoying large chunks of my time on a regular basis and effectively find myself sacrificing something I enjoy (like time with friends) for material possessions that are not useful, status or future riches, I’ll think of Antarctica.

The Expert Dilemma – Just Google it

It doesn’t come as any surprise to most of us that from time to time, we all seek the help of experts.  But, how would a cave man have felt about needing to consult another cave man about his sore back or needing to attend a popular cave convention to improve his hunting skills?

Between now and whenever then is, something has changed. The caveman was in control of his own destiny.

So what’s changed?  We now have very different living standards. I’m typing this in an apartment 60 odd metres off the ground on a windy night and I’m quite comfortable. And warm. Would I know how to build this shelter for myself if relied upon? No. Am I happy someone knows how to? Yes.

The obvious answer is specialisation. Knowledge specialisation if you like. Certain people I know know more about molecular biotechnology or Russian literature respectively than the caveman probably knew about the world around him. But could they survive if left in the jungle? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to try.

But why write this now? Wondering this myself, I questioned what made me think about the issue. Everyday, people seem to be looking to others for the answers to problems that they should probably try to solve themselves. I think this is more the case now than 10 years ago but realistically my 16 year old self probably wasn’t the best judge.

I notice myself doing it these days. More so than I used to. Thinking back again, the caveman probably still learnt some skills from a small group of others but to imagine him needing to spend 5 years studying before he felt competent to go about his life is a little unbelievable. Similarly, 50 years ago I’d say people still sought out the confirmation of experts. In a book called Influence, the author labels one of his 8 main tools of persuasion as authority. So there is evidence that people have a tendency to both seek and submit to the authority of experts.

But I think it is changing. Becoming further entrenched. Everything now needs to be backed up by a source. By an expert. By Google. Just Google it. At lunch today, instead of remembering the French translation of scallops (don’t ask), I nearly got my iPhone out and Googled it. When I was in Perth recently and the Budget car rental was out of Navmen, I was genuinely worried until my 14 year old self’s navigation skills kicked in.

So we’re super specialised. Super technologised. Yes, we benefit from it. I love being able to perfect my fruit ninja skills in my iPhone dojo on the bus home. But is it worth it? If asked to recreate the gadgets of the world we live in without the proprietary knowledge of the world’s biggest companies, I know I couldn’t. Cameras. LCD screens. Computers. Mobile Phones. Best of luck with that.

In my opinion, we’re now on more of a roller coaster ride than past generations used to be. Somewhat out of control but enjoying it. Less time to think for ourselves. We need degrees to say we know how to do something. To imply to others we’re worth listening to. People cling to intelligence like it is the passport to a secret cave of untold riches and happiness when it is available in spades.

I’m not necessarily saying that we’re not still in charge of our own destiny or that we’ve lost control. But I am saying that my preference over the coming years is going to be to understand things myself and rely on my own abilities. You get one life, I don’t think I want to spend mine following others.

Only comment below if you’re doing it from a prereleased iPhone 5 in the middle of a desert somewhere.

Careers Paths, Tough Decisions And Saving Sex Until Your Old Age

Finance just isn’t flowing through my proverbial veins this week, so I thought a slightly more personal and far less theoretical blog was in order.

Hopefully, this blog will serve the purpose of getting my regular readers (I know you’re out there) somewhat more acquainted with me and it may serve as a useful collection of thoughts for those in a similar situation to myself. That is, graduates with either a couple of years work experience ranging to very little experience who are considering their next steps.

If that fails, hopefully the odd header image will do the job. If you are new to my blog, you may prefer one of my more regular posts such as Options Trading Strategies, Technical and Fundamental Analysis, or Short Selling Strategies.

Having moved on from the job which has occupied my last two and a half years at a Sydney web design and development agency, and having recently graduated from Law at Sydney University, I have spent the last month collecting my many thoughts and considering the path forward.

It is certainly not an unenviable situation to find myself in but like many others in my position, I am somewhat overwhelmed by the number of choices and the desire to make my next move somewhere close to the correct decision moving forward.

The most apparent decisions open to me at the moment include training as an analyst or a lawyer at a reputable firm, starting my own business, working in a combined sales / marketing role at a small to medium sized company or going travelling.

The really tough decisions seem to arise where you exclude future options or careers as a result of choosing a certain path. The obvious example is putting a small barrier in front of a career as a lawyer or an investment banker by not getting in to one of the big firms as a graduate.

It is for this reason that choosing to not work out at least two years as an analyst at an investment bank or my two years as a lawyer in training at a law firm is somewhat of a tough choice.

Warren Buffett equates making choices purely based on the fashioning of your resume rather than pursuing what you are interested in to “saving sex until your old age” and I am somewhat inclined to agree.

However, I believe it would be hard not to benefit from the situations I would find myself in and the people I would work with at a leading Investment bank or law firm and thus the decision is somewhat blurred as I am always interested in exposing myself to situations that I can learn from.

In my opinion, the main difference between working in the ‘big firm’ situation above versus a smaller company or even in my own business would likely be the difficulty of the work and the repetitiveness of the tasks that I was assigned to in addition to their hierarchy in the greater scheme of the company.

I’m sure this is a decision many out there are faced with and if anyone wants to comment below with any thoughts, I would encourage it.

At this point, Whilst Descartes may recommend travelling as the ideal option, I am going to think about my steps begin helping out where I can at an investment analysis and advice company known as Intelligent Investor in a mixed role of analysis + legal assistace + sales and marketing (if they’ll have me).

I believe this combined role will give me a good introduction to working in Finance. As a bonus, I will be working close to great people that I can learn from; a very important factor for me.

Finally, I have decided to try and get some leading Australian executives to participate in interviews on career paths, different postgraduate degrees, key skills in finance and generally in a series of interviews that I plan to set up.