2023 Annual Reflections and Review

That was a whirlwind of a year.

Career transitions at any age are difficult. When you’re approaching your mid-fifties, they can be downright terrifying.

There’s only one thing more terrifying than the transition… adhering to the status quo when the status quo is certain, life-destroying disaster… and you know there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

A former colleague reminded me of that often said cliché.

My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Luckily, I left corporate America with hopefully plenty of time left in this realm.

Life is short. Circumstances change. Those in “executive positions” at many companies aren’t nearly as intelligent as they think they are.

Or at all.

Reflections

When you wake up in the morning and the lunatics are in the hall

Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Pink Floyd collide.

Hilarity ensues.

The lunatics are in my hall…

Pink Floyd, “Brain Damage” from Dark Side of the Moon

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1

Lunatics come in all shapes and sizes. Some stand on street corners yelling at vehicles in motion, stalled in traffic or parked. Some are washed up former college football players living in a castle in the sky, spewing forth nonsense and calling it wisdom when it’s nothing more than the vomiting of undigested Instagram posts. Some are college professors who can’t comprehend a conductor’s baton in their hand makes them look like a pretentious moron.

Those are three general examples.

Anyway…

Lunatics are everywhere… but it doesn’t mean you should hand them the key to your home and let them roam freely up and down your halls.

After Marcus spends the entirety of Book 1 expressing gratitude for all those who molded, shaped and guided him, he kicks off Book 2 with that little gem of truth up above. Accept that lunatics exist and come in many forms. Then remember the words of Epictetus…

Who exactly are these people that you want to be admired by? Aren’t they the same people you are in the habit of calling crazy? And is this your life ambition, then – to win the approval of lunatics.

Epictetus, Discourses 21

You don’t need their approval.

You don’t need their presence in your life.

If there’s anything you focus upon in the coming year, “lunatic elimination” should be at or near the top of the list.

Your level of tranquility will exponentially increase. Your quality of life will rise to new heights.

And you’ll have a lot to laugh about.

Anti-Credentialism… Sort Of

On elitist fuckwits

aka A Skeleton Key to Deceased Democrat’s Wake

(With deep apologies to the ghost of Joseph Campbell)

Building a politics around the idea that a college degree is a precondition for dignified work and social esteem has a corrosive effect on democratic life. It devalues the contributions of those without a diploma, fuels prejudice against less-educated members of society, effectively excludes most working people from elective government and provokes political backlash.

New York Times, “Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice”

Yes, the opinion piece referenced above is from 2020. It remains true.

There’s a recently published book titled Where Have All the Democrats Gone?: The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes. Maybe I’ll read it. Maybe not. I already know part of the answer.

I’m not anti-education.

I’m anti-elitism.

Damn near half a century ago (and possibly more), Americans were told the success and prosperity required a college degree. Preferably, a four-year college degree. Preferably from an institution of great renown. It would be expensive, but would be worth it.

Damn near half a century later (and possibly more), the complex and massive American infrastructure we rely upon is crumbling. Finding individuals to repair and rebuild is more challenging than ever… because elitist fuckwits destroyed public education’s vocational/technical programs.

Those elitist fuckwits also helped destroy the respect or and dignity of trades work.

Am I against college education?

No.

Do I believe it should be required for some occupations?

Yes. I don’t want to be treated by a medical doctor who cites YouTube as their primary (or even secondary) source of training.

Do I think there should be a calculated, tangible return on investment within a reasonable period of time?

Absolutely.

Do I have hope that the proverbial tide is turning?

I do. A couple of cases in point…

In the past year, I’ve met both a young entrepreneurial landscaper and a young HVAC technician who both work with their hands. Each expressed their skepticism of the traditional four-year degree path. They’re both independent, thoughtful and knowledgeable. Both have a contrarian streak which makes me grin. They’re on the path to financial freedom by embracing those two fundamental concepts: 1) No debt and 2) Save and invest.

Math is math. It doesn’t lie. There are several metric tons of worthless paper out there sitting in picture frames hanging on walls.

If Democrats want to understand why a vast swath of the country doesn’t support them, they can start by respecting those who work with their hands. I think President Biden has helped with this… but three years doesn’t make up for decades of justifiable mistrust.

Don’t Need It, Don’t Want It

On Ruthless Elimination of the Superfluous

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

Here’s an exercise…

Create a list of everything that adds zero value to your life.

You’re inevitably going to start with stuff. That’s fine. We’ve all probably got more NVA (non-value adding) stuff than we realize.

This isn’t some exercise in minimalism. What is important to you may be trivial to me. You do you… but be honest with yourself. That seventy-fourth coffee cup in your cupboard upon which you have not glanced in seven years isn’t creating value for you.

After you pare that stuff down, you’ll start thinking about other… stuff.

Stuff like people. Places. Behaviors.

This second list is more important than the first. But you can’t get it until you create space. It shouldn’t work that way… but it does.

Don’t announce your intentions. This is a private task.

Just decide and act. Keep a running list. Take your time. If you need, take a year. I did.

At the end of the exercise… no matter how long it takes… you will feel something you have not felt in a very long time… a strange feeling… as if you are living on another planet… in another universe.

You may question your sanity.

Don’t.

You’re sane.

On the other hand, the locals are… by and large… batshit crazy.

Take heart… there are others like you wandering the landscape. More than you think. Look closely. You’ll find them… they’ll find you… you’ll be fine.

Oh yeah… that weird feeling?

It’s called freedom.

Review

The beginning of 2023 wasn’t great.

The year dramatically improved month by month.

August to December were the best five months I’ve experienced in a long, long time.

And the outlook for 2024 is a word not normally associated with my general mood and demeanor.

Optimistic.

I’ll take it for as long as it lasts.