Happiness in the midst of the muck

One thing that’s changed for me in the last year is that I’ve become a little less interested in what spiritual leaders have to say, and more interested in what spiritual laymen have to say. Don’t get me wrong, leaders are great in many ways, but they don’t have bills to pay, and don’t have spouses or children. I’m far more interested in what a spiritual person has to say when they’re in the midst of struggling to pay their bills, and they have jobs, spouses, children, and neighbors.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a headline about Charlie Munger giving advice on how to be happy. I’ve read a lot of Charlie Munger quotes and he seems like a very nice person, but he’s been a billionaire for decades, and that skews your thinking. Based on my own experience, when you have a lot of money and you don’t have to worry about your health, paying your bills, noisy neighbors, or family problems, life is easy, so your advice is tainted. These days I’ll take “advice on happiness” from someone who is truly happy while living in the midst of the muck. In retrospect, this feeling is one thing that drew me to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning when I was still a teenager.

On asking a waitress a stupid question

I’m reminded of this story today:

Back in 2005 I used to walk over to a bar that was across the street from my apartment. One night I was talking to a waitress and wondered out loud whether I’d be happier working a job that I enjoyed that might only pay $30K to $40K per year — as opposed to my current job, which paid a lot more but wasn’t making me happy.

She said, “Don’t look at me honey, I don’t make that kind of money,” then turned and walked away.

Notes from February 4, 2018 (decision journals, Mayan civilization, more)

Farnam Street has been an interesting blog lately, including this post about keeping a decision journal, and this post about the rules of the road of investing.

In other news, reports that researchers have found a sprawling Maya network discovered under a Guatemalan jungle. has a nice pie chart that shows how Apple makes its money (hint: 70% comes from the iPhone, 7% from the Mac). has this article, 21 questions Amazon asks its job candidates.

Finally, here’s a series of tweets where Alastair McAlpine “asked some of my terminal paediatric palliative care patients what they had enjoyed in life, and what gave it meaning.” (Highly recommended reading.)

This is a page from my book, “A Survival Guide for New Consultants”

Hire well

“I thought you were a blind dog, but I see you are a keen-eyed lion.”

Zen Master Seung Sahn

One of the most valuable lessons I learned when I created Mission Data was to hire well. Phrases like this have become more popular recently when people learned of the Steve Jobs quote, “A players hire A players, and B players hire C players,” and other similar quotes. Guy Kawasaki, who was there during the early Apple days, expanded on this quote with his own thoughts:

This is a page from my book, “A Survival Guide for New Consultants”

How I started my consulting career

“The beginner’s mind should never be lost.”

Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki

If you're a new consultant thinking about going to work for a small consulting company, I'd like to share what I went through in the first three years of my consulting life, in particular my thought process about the revenue I was trying to generate. Hopefully there are some valuable lessons in what I went through way back then.

This is a page from my book, “How I Sold My Business: A Personal Diary”

Saturday, September 17, 2005

As the last few days progressed, we all realized we'd be in no shape to have a serious discussion about selling my shares to the LLC partners. Some emergency issues came up at work, and we were all tired, but David, George, and Cooper still wanted to meet for about ninety minutes.

We met at the office at 10 a.m., and I began by telling them that just a little while ago Rob looked like he might come back on the scene with a higher offer than what he came up with a long time ago, but then he took a completely different tact and agreed to a transfer out of the country.

This is a page from my book, “How I Sold My Business: A Personal Diary”

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 (Part 1): Financial records for the broker

Wow, getting business financial information together for a business broker could be a real problem at many companies. The financial records Marty has asked for are what I expected based on the "How to Sell Your Business" books I've read. The list is very detailed, and includes:

Work ethic, income, advancement, and business ownership

Just saw this: “Never let your boss convince you that ‘work ethic’ is working extra hours for free. It’s the same as writing a check to the business owner.”

Technically that’s true, a good observation, and I can’t argue with it.

Conversely, when I got out of college, my wife’s grandfather told me the phrase, “If you do more for what you’re paid to do, you’ll eventually be paid more for what you do.” As an employee, I made a lot of money with his philosophy, rapidly doubling and tripling my income.

Later, as the owner of a small business, I didn’t mind it when employees didn’t work overtime – and we always paid for overtime. I respect people who want to work forty hours a week and have a balanced life. But I also knew that those people would never become partners in our business. I never thought of it as good or bad, just a fact of business life.

Consulting: Working late and overtime pay as a consultant

One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that managers treat your time with respect. As a regular salaried employee, managers will say, “I need you to stay late tonight,” with the implication being, “suck it up.”

As a consultant who’s paid by the hour, when a manager says “I need you to stay late tonight,” you can always say, “No problem, I don’t mind staying if you don’t mind paying double time (as stipulated in the contract).”

In reality you rarely have to say anything like that. Good managers realize that when they ask you to work overtime they’re also saying that they’re going to pay your overtime rate. But if you’re dealing with a first-time manager you sometimes have to say something to that effect to make sure they understand what they’re asking for.

I can’t tell you how many times a manager told their regular employees that they had to stay late, and then they’d look at me and say, “Not you. You go home.” You might think the salaried employees would be angry at you for this preferential treatment, but I’ve always found that they understand that it’s part of the system. Back in the day when I was a regular employee I wasn’t angry with the consultants, I just found myself being envious about their situation.

(I write more about lessons like this in my book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants.)