Mental poverty.

I have been fascinated with the debates the past couple of weeks.

They are at once edifying and traumatizing. I can’t bear to look at any of the participants for too long lest my heart break into a million pieces over and over at remembering that no one is the leader I imagine this country should have.

It’s sad, to have no choice but to make a poor choice.

I am not the only one saying this, and that makes it even sadder.

I’m not sure what is to be done about it but the level of dialogue in the debates reeks of mental poverty at best. They have the pull of ambiguous roadkill. On one side, decades of experience, a law degree, and surely at least some introspection about the nature of democracy and about its future. On the other, at least an appreciation for the value in keeping people awake and trying to make a point.

But she isn’t allowed to fully express her intelligence nor have a concrete opinion and he is unstable and probably doesn’t even want to be president.

The Vice Presidential debate was closer to a real conversation but Mike Pence was blatantly lying about Trump not having said things, a tactic which kept the issues from getting much airtime.

The second debate might be more nourishing intellectually. We might really hear some ideas about the future, clear and pragmatic. And a discussion that is more dialogue than a nearly physical attack.

There is so much promise in this country. I’m not saying I would do better but someone would. Or the people running can step up to the plate more.

May all be fulfilled.


Reading is a lifelong adventure

I own a small truck worth of things and half of it is books – maybe more.

Boxes and boxes of books, neatly tucked away, the best books in the world, ready for me to gobble them up.

I tend not to buy jewelry. Books are a good priority. Some of them are more valuable than jewelry. One good thought in a book is kind of priceless, I have found. There is that moment when such a thought stops one and illuminates one’s conception and experience of life. Jewels do that, too, but it is so much more unexpected to find amazement in some ink on a little bound pile of paper.

I am currently taking courses in world literature (apparently Goethe coined the phrase) and Dante’s Purgatorio. I will be reviewing The Odyssey and Gilgamesh and finally getting around to The Arabian Nights, in addition to the Dante. I’m sure I will have the good fortune to encounter a few precious gems and I am looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity.

May All Be Fulfilled*

*Happiness is more short-lived and it’s easy to confuse satisfying greed with happiness

Is risk really such a good thing?

“Life has become too cosy for many, who have their lives mapped out by parents and teachers. It’s all a bit, well, comfortable: off you go to university to study a course. Land a good job, get a mortgage, find a nice girlfriend, boyfriend, partner. It’s a solid life – a good life in many ways – but when was the last time you took a risk?” – Richard Branson, Business Stripped Bare, p. 282

I don’t see the problem with people having comfortable lives. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of years developing society so as to have comfortable lives. I think Branson’s problem is with people selling themselves short. He has a greater sense of possibility and adventure, and an inability to stifle himself, that relatively few people have. So it’s not about taking risks so much as it actualizing one’s possibilities.

A relatively risk-free life could be really amazing – a nice job that is rewarding, a house that maybe one designs oneself, hobbies, a partner, whatever else – kids. That kind of life with a really solid execution could be a work of art.

Am wondering if this business that I’m starting [more soon] is an excessive risk – I’m going to be starting a fairly large business while working full-time. I don’t think so. It is a risk and it will involve stress but it’s not the kind of risk that will be a horrible addition to my life – it won’t mess things up irreparably. And it rounds out the rest of my life.

I could also just become a professor of accounting or business but who wants to study under someone who has no experience? Nobody except the poor suckers who show up not knowing what they could have in a real education.

I think Branson has another quote, or maybe it was Bill Coperthwaite, about how education needs to address whole people – different facets of the life of the human being. I agree with that idea, too. Education can be very empowering to youth and empowered young people have a lot of time and energy to do a lot of good for society, and in turn themselves.

Bernie Sanders won a bunch of primaries. He probably has a lot more energy than I think he does. I wonder if he will secure the nomination.


“Socially responsible” business: oxymoron?

“Bill Ackman said the goal of the program is to encourage social entrepreneurs. ‘Big problems need big thinkers and courageous entrepreneurs,’ he said. ‘We hope to draw upon a broader range of entrepreneurial young people as we work to identify young leaders who wish to make a difference in the world,’ he added.”

From an article about funding for social entrepreneurship programs. Social entrepreneurship is an interesting idea but I am still with Joseph Steig about just making money. It’s a straightforward way to plan and to measure success. Handling social problems is for other aspects of society and a well-run business would already take the well-being of its stakeholders into account. You can’t effectively maximize performance while having a second mission.

It’s also confusing to try to do so. A company that has to clean up after itself is already failing. Does the company make a profit or clean up its oil spills? If it were making a real profit, it wouldn’t have social aims to achieve to make up for its externalities.

I agree that competition can be harsh but it also weeds out people who want to be participating in it, as opposed to building their own system and succeeding there. Business is about making the best thing or providing the best service. Most of the fair trade, socially responsible stuff that I see is also of poor quality.

An African woman who asked Richard Branson for $300 and then returned his investment is a good example. She just wanted the money and knew exactly what she was going to do with it, and she provided a return that she clearly defined after making a decent product. There weren’t excessive emotional strings and there wasn’t a narrative about how awful her life was – charity was unnecessary. [From Business Stripped Bare.]

Two bad things happen when we mix business and charity:

  • Business fails to deliver the best output that it can;
  • Business takes over sectors of society and of nature that it has nothing to do with other than what that relationship would be if the business created real value.

Stakeholder management prevents both of these things from happening. If a business defines its success in a way that includes accountability to stakeholders – not a separate mission but just not creating externalities – it performs optimally and its profits are real value that it has created for human beings. Stakeholder management also prevents business from taking up too much space, and for assuming stewardship or ownership over things that it has no right to and has historically mismanaged.

EPS should include stakeholder management considerations and businesspeople should abandon narratives about helping or about being enlightened. Business and the paradigm in which it exists already to some extent caused the suffering that microfinancing is trying to alleviate. You can’t take someone’s land and then call yourself a friend for giving back 1% of it at a 5% return to yourself.

Business involves a different kind of fairness, one that works well within appropriate boundaries and that otherwise cheapens human relationships when it tries to seem more about them than it is.

Workaholism and the constant compulsion to be busy – and a desperate need to seem to have lived a life – are behind “socially responsible entrepreneurship.” Instead of having real friendships, we’ll buy the trust and love of people who have no choice but to give it to us.

So I remain profit-oriented and I prefer to evolve business using the tools already in it – financial reporting and the decision making of management.


[I’ve changed MABBH to May All Be Happy because it’s shorter and snappier.]


“Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives, or it’s simply not worth doing.” – Richard Branson

Got a bunch of entrepreneurism books out of the library. Grace Jones is due tomorrow but Richard Branson was sitting in my bag next to me and I’ve wanted to learn more about what he does for a long time. So I’ve started that. It’s a great quote, preceeding a section on how difficult it is to change organizational cultures.

So anyway, I thought it was a great quote. He obviously knows what he’s talking about. I liked it because he doesn’t say you have to make people’s lives better, he says that their lives have to be enriching and rewarding – there are way more meaningful standards in what he is saying. Better means impoverished in one way or another, depressed, but slightly better off than before. He is talking about a fundamentally more effective and sane way of approaching success. Does a culture create whole people, or at least support them in becoming a whole person? Or does it help them to slowly die?

I don’t think my role as an employer is to completely take responsibility for someone’s life nor their development, but if someone is going to be at work for eight hours a day, or if it’s even going to be a significant part of their lives, it has to be a positive influence. They have to get where they are going as a being and I at least can’t hold them back from doing so.




It’s been ages.

Hello again!

In the bazillion years since my last post, I have:

  • Nearly completed my Master’s in Accounting;
  • Started studying for the CPA exams;
  • Landed a job with a major accounting firm;
  • Moved to Northampton, MA – one of the nicest towns in America;
  • Spent significant time playing with cats;
  • and watched massive amounts of the Food Network.

It’s been a time of massive growth in my understanding of Iron Chef. I will post more often.

Also, Twitter completely consumed my internet self-expression.


Peter Drucker…?

Hello Business World:

I got a bunch of Drucker books from DuBois Library and could not get into them.

He consulted for companies but did not actually work for any nor hold management positions? Is that right?

I decided to return the books because I did not see the value in advice from someone with no experience.

Ricardo Semler was super-easy to read for the opposite reason, and with better ideas. The best of what Drucker suggested is in Semler’s actual work. Better than the best, actually.

I am going to read Drucker’s work on the origins of totalitarianism but I’d have to get some guidance on what, if anything, else to read.