Saturday, November 7, 2009

David Foster Wallace on True Freedom

Back in 2005, writer David Foster Wallace gave a convocation address to Keyon High School. I have come across excerpts in a number of blogs, including in Justine Musk’s.

Excerpted below are bits that really resonated:
There is no such thing as not worshipping.
Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship...
If you worship money and things-- if they are where you tap real meaning in life-- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth.
Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you...
Worship power-- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on...
The really important freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

That is real freedom.
-- David Foster Wallace's convocation address to Kenyon College

The full address is well worth reading.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Essential for Early Retirement – A Networth File

Yes, there are no short-cuts, no easy one-size-fits-all solutions. But for anyone even remotely considering early retirement, I don’t know how it would be possible without a Networth File.

Your networth is simply the sum total of all your assets minus any liabilities (debts) you have. When I am discussing with people, I find that most are well aware of the concept of Networth. But when I pointedly ask them if they have a networth.xls file and whether they track it regularly, the answer is almost always No.

I don’t understand this reluctance given how essential and easy it is to track.

It could be tracked in a notebook, I suppose. Though tracking it in a spreadsheet (Excel) would be a lot easier. If tracked once a month it definitely won’t take more than 15 minutes to update. (There are automated web tools available, but I am old school enough to think that typing each number by hand helps you think about them.)

If your total networth is not growing steadily at the rate you want it to, that will force the right set of actions – increased savings, rebalancing to the right asset allocation mix for your age/circumstance, and perhaps even a job change.

If early retirement is a real goal, I cannot think of a more worthwhile activity than tracking networth regularly.