Warning – spoilers ahead.
After taking over a month to finish the Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons I was pleasantly surprised by the diminutive size of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Not only was it short, but compelling and easy to read. I decided to pick this one up based on a recommendation from the Tim Ferriss show, and I’m glad I did.
I love a good rags to riches story, which fuels a good deal of my fascination with biographies of famous business people, and How To Get Filthy Rich does not disappoint. Well, in a way I suppose it does. It’s not an instruction manual, but rather a first person narrative that begins on the dirt floor of a hut and chronicles the rise of an entrepreneur. It’s a fascinating perspective, especially for someone living in the cloistered world of suburban America like myself.
We love to bitch and moan about how “busy” we are, and how times can be tough. Well, it could always be worse. A lot worse as this story will show us. How to Get Filthy Rich shows to get ahead in rising Asia you have to be willing to overcome immense odds, staggering cruelty, be willing to engage in questionable business practices, and deal with a corrupt government, competition that will resort to physical threats and intimidation, and the odd twists that life throws at us all. It reveals an almost animalistic approach to business. The young man threads carefully through the shallows, avoiding apex predators. He scraps and scrabbles and slowly builds a small foothold. He catches a break and claws his way up the food chain. The hunted becomes the hunter, and now he is the predator, although bigger threats still circle ominously overhead. He builds his fortune, but never seems to find true fulfillment. In a ruthless world where we prey upon the sick and weak, the hunter eventually regresses back the hunted.
This is a powerful and startling account of life and death. There are some stylistic nuances that take a little getting used to. While I think it’s generally a beautifully written book with lots of powerful quotes, the author’s choice of language can be juvenile and puzzling at times. He also deviates from the story at the start of each chapter, and tells the reader that this is a self help book. He talks about him writing and you reading a lot. It didn’t bother me as we quickly settle back into the story, but I can see how it might irk some people.
Ultimately, I think the theme here for me is gratitude. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, if you are reading this from the United States then you have truly won the genetic lottery. It’s easy to dismiss that as most of us have not spent time in developing or third world countries, and we lead immensely sheltered lives, but the truth is most of us have cultivated little gratitude or empathy. I know that is true for me. A book like this gives you a window into another world, and it’s primal, shocking, and more than a little sad. The pursuit of financial independence is a privilege, especially if you don’t have to get ahead by paying bribes, engaging in morally dubious business practices, and hire armed guards in order to go about your day.
I don’t want to say much more, as it’s a short and simple book. Worth a read and especially so as I close the door on another weekend. And as I close that door I can’t help but feel a little anxiety for the work week to come. By the time Friday rolled around I was exhausted and could hardly think as the clock hit 4PM. My mind was numb and cottony yet still things were racing. I got home and laid in bed for a while and read. I tried a little meditation and I actually felt better. I should try to do that more often.
Saturday was mostly spent with family and looking at real estate. Fun but not particularly relaxing. Today I was able to hit the gym, run some errands and spend some time reading and lounging in the neighbor’s pool. I cooked some fat steaks for my girlfriend’s birthday and by the time everything was cleaned up it was 7. I finished off How to Get Filthy Rich and it left me in a reflective mood. One thing I didn’t do this weekend was write – until now. I didn’t get a cigar in either, which would have been nice. On the flip side, I also didn’t go into the office this Sunday for the first time in weeks, so I suppose you just have to take what you can get.
I’ve been going full steam for a while and feel myself wanting to take a more substantial break. It’s very hard to believe we are 3/4 of the way through 2016 already. Time is blurring by. Things are generally marching forward. It has been at least a couple months since paying off my student loans. Frankly it feels great not to have that looming over my head any more. It is one less thing to worry about. A goal completed.
I still have my small car loan (less than $4K) that continues to nibble at the edge of my mind, but I’m not in a huge hurry to take my cash and pay that off immediately. At this point in the loan most of the payments go to principal, so I’d rather just have the cash on hand. I want to keep some powder dry. Speaking of which, I have decided to divert some of my newfound excess cashflow to Vanguard funds in a brokerage account. An extra $300/week for the time being. I put it into Vanguards Target 2050 fund. I’ll write a post on my take on Vanguard Target funds one day. I like it for the time being, but also own their stand alone funds as well. I am looking at real estate, but everything on the MLS seems too high. It is disappointing but am OK with that. I’ll just bide my time and enjoy being mostly debt free for a while. I’ll be curious to see how quickly the cash piles up.
I also liquidated my small position ($2,000) in Vanguard’s total bond fund and put that money into a couple of high dividend stocks. More risky business, but I think holding bonds at this point is a little silly for me. I still have some bond exposure in my target fund so I’m alright with it. I’ll write more on that later. In the meantime I am going to start reading The Deep Blue Good-Bye by John MacDonald. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new opportunity. The Sunday blues quickly fade into a manic Monday, and there will be much to do this week.