Washington and Romulus

Looking for something to entertain myself with while I packed, I came across Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome. With short episodes (most about 15 min) and a depth of knowledge I quickly became hooked.

His 2nd episode, Youthful Indiscretions, covers the “life” of one of the mythical founding brothers of Rome, Romulus. Towards the end he highlights how Romulus likely wasn’t an actual person and yet so much of Rome’s beginnings are told as if this individual the key contributor

Mike relates this to George Washington, in how Washington’s fame has replaced our awareness of other important figures in US history. Such as Horatio Gates, who according to Mike, helped secure French support and thus a critical contribution to the fledgling nations success in the revolution.

Would we one day only remember Washington? In place of even other famous founding fathers like Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson?

Could, one day, US history look like Roman history? Where we no longer know The “whos”, “what’s” and “whys” of history and only know of the legendary hero Washington, who in a single crossing of the Delaware River, wrote the complete Constitution and upon landing grew the first great US cities from a handful of seeds of a fallen cherry tree?

Maybe we’re already on our way considering how little we seem to know about our own history. There’s much we could take away from this, but in the least, I’d hope we’d recognize that we don’t know as much as we think we do. We should be slow to assume we know the answer, and be willing to research before we react. It might be better to first assume No One Knows, and be more comprehensive in our understanding of past and present events.

Giving freely: Experimenting Basic Income in Kenya

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

I remember a post a couple years back by Daniel Norris where he talked about the practice of handing cash to the homeless or marginalized. The common response by most is “I don’t want them to spend the money on alcohol (or the likes), so I’d rather just give them food”, but Daniel challenged that perspective reminding us that the most valuable thing you can give isn’t cash, but trust and respect.

The human and inspirational element of this isn’t the only consideration for this method of giving, as there’s also a growing movement for it on economic grounds. This movement is widely referred to as Basic Income, and is explained as “giving periodic cash payments delivered to all on an individuals basis, without means-test or work requirement.”

While entirely theoretical, there are a handful of quasi-experiments built on this idea. One that is particularly interesting, due to it being a non-profit (and thus using voluntarily given funds, as opposed to tax based) and run by a group of economists is the GiveWell. The GiveWell initiative in Kenya is like Basic Income in their giving of funds directly to the extreme poor for spending entirely at their discretion.

There’s plenty of skepticism around the idea, and for good reason due to it’s entirely unproven concept and complexity of execution, but it is an interesting idea worth exploring. Whether you buy into this or find yourself waiving it away as preposterous, there’s still plenty of reason for supporting a good cause in giving to GiveWell. Aside from helping to explore this idea, your minor gift can have a disproportionate impact on the extreme poor.

Jack Bogle rings an alarm on index funds

The passing of Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, resulted in an abundance of articles highlighting his massive contributions to the financial world. The vast majority of them celebrated his creation of the Index Fund due to how it has lowered costs for the common investor. It’s particularly interesting then, to read Jack Bogle express concerns with the risk his own invention created.

His concerns are like another WSJ article written a year earlier, Index Funds Are Great For Investors, Risky For Corporate Governance.

At the heart of both articles is the concern of how, as index funds grow, institutional investors (State Street, Vanguard, etc) gain power governance of the companies invested in, but don’t necessarily carry the same incentive or capacity to contribute responsibly as voting members.

Historically, most financial catastrophes the US has suffered through have come about by not preemptively problem solving when risks are identified. Currently, this issue has only been raised by a handful of thought leaders within the financial industry. Beyond sharing this message to raise awareness, you can act directly by contacting the SEC.

John Bogle, an investment innovator

John Bogle, the pioneer of index funds and the founder of Vanguard group, died at 89 yesterday. Those in the investment world, and largely in business too, appreciate his innovation and the impact it had for the common investor.

In an age where technology can solve everything and things of the past are treated as “outdated”, it’s worth pausing to recognize that the Index Fund is like robo-investing (e.g. Robinhood, Wealthfront) in it’s innovation.

Except, where robo-investing has potential, index funds have results.

RIP Jack.

p.s. An early 3-part series posted here on TILT was largely influenced by Jack’s index funds. You can read post 1 here.

Prison & Policing: How to amputate society

Photo by Feifei Peng on Unsplash

With a Criminal Justice degree and an obsession with finding economically and socially beneficial solutions, a recent post by Daniel Bier at The Skeptical Libertarian caught my eye (shout out to Alex Tabbarrok Marginal Revolution). Daniel provides an interesting and open look at spending ratios for prisons vs police in the U.S. and Europe.

This isn’t the blog to suggest the “simple solutions” to the complex challenge of reducing crime (Alex provides some suggestions here), but this is the place to show a similarity and call you to action.

Emphasizing prisons (via spend) over policing is like emphasizing amputation over wound care.

Prison cuts off members of our society and carries a heavy cost to us as a society (and more so to those individuals), just as the loss of a limb would to the individual. What can you do to positively impact the criminal justice system beyond your own life?

Mentoring, at its best, is like dating

Part 3: Mentoring, at its best, is like dating
This is a 3-part post; you can find Part 1 here & Part 2 here

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

The first two posts on mentoring show its likeness to interviewing and coaching, a fairly common comparison. This final post focuses on an overlooked but important truth of great mentoring relationships. Despite having many mentoring relationships, including several good ones, its taken half my life and two recent great mentoring relationships to recognize this truth; mentoring, at it’s BEST, is like dating. There must be trust, shared interest/values, and chemistry for it work

Trust: If there isn’t trust in this relationship, you’ll never get deeper than surface level in your time together, and treasures are never buried at surface level. Just like in dating though, trust doesn’t start on day 1. It takes time for that to develop as you, mentor or mentee, grow more comfortable together and find the connections necessary to build that trust. This takes time, but it also takes a willingness to extend trust in how you share or recieve experiences.

Shared interest/values: It’s difficult to give or take advice to/from someone who you either don’t respect, or cannot relate to. This doesn’t mean that you should have similar demographics or careers, but there must be a common ground for you to build on together.

Chemistry: You could check the box on every single point made over the last three posts and yet there’s still just something not “clicking” in the mentoring relationship. You can ignore this factor, discredit it or even combat it, but it is there. Whether the timing just isn’t right or something else, you have to be willing to accept this. If mentoring relationship isn’t what it should be, the most respectful thing you can do, for both parties, is to let it go.

In my last two posts, my call-to-action was for you to begin mentoring through either Veterati or Big Brother or Big Sister, and while I still hope you consider mentoring I’m going to make a different ask today.

If you have a mentor or a mentee, write them a thank you note, expressing gratitude for the gift you both have in that relationship.

If you’re having difficulty making the most of a mentoring relationship, or difficulty in finding a way to start one, shoot me a note via my contact page and let’s try to solve it.

Mentoring, at its best, is like coaching

Part 2: Mentoring, at its best, is like interviewing
This is a 3-part post; you can find Part 1 here & 3 will follow tomorrow

Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Like all meaningful relationships, a lot goes into developing a strong mentoring relationship. While much of it can be organic, there are ways to be intentional and make the most of it. This 3-part series aims to shift and simplify the way you, as either mentor or mentee, think about mentoring. The first part is to treat the relationship as you would an interview, but we’ll limit the value of the relationship if we only take a formal view of mentoring; mentoring is like coaching in the need for there to be training, encouragement and accountability.

Training: A coach’s ultimate goal with a player is to help them improve, and that focus on improvement is just as important in worthwhile mentoring. If you’re not being intentional in using that time to learn and improve (yourself or your mentee) then its not mentoring, its “hanging out”.

Encouragement: You’re likely action and outcome oriented, which usually is accompanied with being your toughest critic. When the road to winning becomes bumpy and your trophy still feels a long way off, it’s common to become discouraged. This is where you may need a good mentor most, to remind you that they’re speed bumps, not mountains.

Accountability: Rarely, if ever, has a great coach been primarily described as being “nice”. That is because they’re willing to be tough when necessary to keep players accountable for doing what they need to do to improve. Set goals in your time together, and if you’re not following through on them, a good mentor will hold you accountable.

If you’re committing to building a mentoring relationship that has lasting impact, think about approaching mentoring as if you were a coach. Be intentional in training through the time together, share encouragement when the journey becomes difficult, and hold each other accountable to following through on the growth goals you set together.

Re-frame the idea of mentoring – one of the best ways to better gain from mentoring, is to give mentoring. Here are a couple good options outside of your office/church/etc:
-Mentor a veteran or find a mentor with Veterati
-Become a Big Brother or Big Sister