Saturday, December 18, 2010

Empire Building, Yogurt and Parenting

There was another life lesson from the food poisoning that's been resonating in my head that I didn't address in the last post but feel is equally important to my life trajectory. But before doing so I should provide some background.

People that work in the financial industry tend to get paid a lot. Whether or not its justifiable is an argument that exceeds the realm of my journal. While ultimately I do think it is justifiable due to some quirky laws of economics and psychology (scale and fear), from my perspective I'm already too biased to listen to, as "who's bread I eat, his song I sing."

But continuing about workbee's in the financial field, overtime you can make even more money if you can successfully compound. Obscene amounts of money or as the industry calls it, "fuck you money." This has raised my following internal struggle:

"If in 20 years I have 5X (X being whatever I need for retirement), why should I stay in the field?" I'm not saying I'm going to achieve this, as I readily recognize that I can be laid off tomorrow and start day 1 of a long career as an underpaid bank teller, but it is nice to think about the upside as well, especially when I spend most of everyday thinking about compounding.

While the obvious answer is that I'm passionate about the game and that alone will make it worthwhile, a secondary answer that's been building in my head for the last few months is that it's nice to build empires. It's nice to dream about how big and influential you can become. Wouldn't it be nice to create a company, charity or foundation that could last for generations? Hob nob with the rich and famous? Many choose this path, and given the Ritz and glam, it's understandable.

But then I got sick. Albeit, only a day or two, but it was enough open to my eyes a little. Late into the second evening of my food poisoning, my Dad came over and asked if Wife or I had bought yogurt for my stomach. The reason why I needed yogurt, as retold by a financial analyst who knows zilch about the human body, is that yogurt has good bacteria that I had lost with my food poisoning. Wife and I told him no, and he immediately left to Safeway (SWY, a cheap stock that I own with a cost basis around $19.50 per share) to buy 4 different varieties of yogurt.

It was an eye-opening moment. My dad is retired after a 30 year career as a psychiatrist. He now spends most days relaxing. Reading a good book, bike riding with my Mother, and watching whatever netflix (NFLX - an expensive) has arrived. He's enjoying leisure, and yet he's not looking to build an empire. He was there for me, when I needed him. He wasn't looking to build things he didn't need, he was looking to take care of the ones he loved. It was a moment I realized that I'd rather be the Dad who provides the invisible hand of a happy, and well-functioning family, than to strive to be an empire builder.


As I'm writing this, I'm in a rush to get over to my in-laws house for lunch when my Mom came in "asking for a favor". My immediate response, under the influence of being late and in a rush was "I can't right now as"...and then I thought for a second about what I'm writing..."I'm sorry Ma, what can I help with?" My Mom asked if I could try a french pastry she just baked for a party tomorrow and give her my opinion.

Wow. Maybe I need to spend some more time internalizing this post and less time trying to compound.