The Barbell Strategy

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Recent grads and fellow people in your 20’s, this post is directed at you. We all need a wake up call. This existing employment structure is beginning to crumble and many of us are blindly putting all our eggs in one basket. Technology is taking jobs away from us left and right. It’s getting risky…no matter what you decide to do with your career. Sure, there is plenty of advice out there, but I’ve weeded through enough of that to last a lifetime. My conclusion – 99% is bullshit. So guess what I did? I made a decision to follow my own advice. And to tell if it is right or wrong would be ignorant of me. I just want you to start questioning a few things.

So let’s explore some options.

To play it safe or to go for it? Or both?

Let’s first talk about what playing it safe looks like.

You look on Careerbuilder, Monster, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and maybe go to some career fairs in search of a job.

You heavily rely on your resume, which is most likely filled with a bunch of big, meaningless words and a lot of non-relevant experience. Maybe you’re even lucky enough to know someone within a company who hooks you up with an interview. This will get you in the door somewhere.

You dress up like someone important. Suit. Tie. Shiny Shoes. Maybe a briefcase.

You sit in a small room, where someone asks questions when most are just looking to see if they like you or not.

You go after the highest paying job offer – assuming you get an offer.

You maybe get a cubicle and put your 8 hours in.

You get your paycheck. Pay off your debt. Pay off the essentials. You spend the rest on going out on weekends, putting some away in your 401k and maybe even saving for a nice house.

Your spare time after work consists of mostly watching tv or browsing the internet for hours.

Then you repeat.

Now don’t get me wrong, money is a hugely important aspect of our society. I love money. I want more of it. That is why I decided to work an 8-4 job. I now have the freedom to live on my own, eat healthy, exercise, have a car, and have a little extra spend how I like. This is where I want to hit on. This disposable income is what can make or break your future.

This is where I’m at. I’m working my day job to pay the bills and working on my startup on the side. This is The Barbell Strategy in the works.

The Barbell Strategy is a commonly used bond-trading strategy, but like anything, it can be applied in many different forms. A traditional example would be to put 90% of your assets in a very safe investment and 10% into a RISKY (probably lose time, money, etc) low-downside, high-upside investment. By low-downside I mean you will lose a minimal amount of time, money, etc in the grand scheme of things. By high-upside I mean there is a great potential for monetary or other valuable benefits.

In my case, I am applying this to my working life. I have my safe job that provides me with the money and benefits I need, while at the same time, I’m working passionately on a side project. I am dedicating a decent portion of my side income and spare time into this. It’s something I believe in. It’s giving me a purpose. It is calculated risk-taking.

There are a great amount of benefits associate with this strategy:

  • If my side project does not work, I lose very little money in the grand scheme of things.
  • I am developing skills on the side that no one else is.
  • My mind is becoming sharper.
  • It is teaching me the value of patience.
  • There is a high upside of my side project.
  • I am still making a steady living and don’t have to necessarily worry about money.

Going all-in on a startup idea out of college is a bold move…one too risky for me. I’ve been through the hardships of a first-time startup. You think you know what you’re doing, but reality eventually wakes you up. There are so many unforseen variables in play. It’s just too risky for my liking. My advice is make that move once you begin to see good results ($) and have reason to see it in the future.

For now, The Barbell Strategy is my best risk-taking option. It may be yours as well. Maybe you don’t want to put in the time to start a side project like me, but try to find a hobby or skill that you are 100% drawn to. It can be something as simple as drawing or reading. Remember: think low downside and high upside. Do this on the side.

Your future-self will thank you.

If you want more info about The Barbell Strategy, follow Nassim Taleb’s work.

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Work Less, Play More

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You know when you look at a little kid without a care in the world? I want that.

You know why?

Because I had it. All of us did.

Growing up is a tricky thing. We graduate grade school, which is the end of the period where we had really no responsibility. Sure we had to do an hour or two of homework a week to pass our classes. But we chose the additional activities in our lives, whether it be sports, music, or dance. We then moved onto high school. Things got a little more serious. We had to pay a little more attention to our grades because they will affect which college we would get into. The sports and extracurricular activities became a little more important to us. We possibly had to get a side job to make a little extra money, since we were now driving and spending a little more. Once high school ended and college began, we noticed things became even more complicated.  We didn’t necessarily treat it this way, as this was probably one of the best periods of our lives. We met a ton of friends. We partied. We slept in till 12. But still, those grades mattered at the time. Our work on the side became more important to get by. We had more responsibility.

Now, being in the “real world”, things continue to move in that direction. More responsibility. Less social life.  More work.

I’ve noticed in myself that I have a very addictive personality. I tend to really fixate on different aspects of my life, which often consumes my attention much more than I would like it to. Many of these issues are not important in grand scheme of things. But still, they may affect my mood – sometimes for the whole day – without me understanding what’s going on. This fixation on things has led me to take things more seriously and try to fix them in a systematic way. I became more serious and calculated. I focused on these problems with more intensity than ever. My schooling conditioned me to do this. My personal life soon became a job in itself, beyond 9-5.

I’ve recently discovered that the more you focus on something, the more power that specific problem/issue has over you. It’s a very odd dynamic. I was noticing that many of the problems I was trying to overcome couldn’t be solved the way I was attacking it. The solution wasn’t more focus and problem solving. Instead, it was changing my attitude. 

As I mentioned, I find myself thinking too much about certain problems – and this has haunted me in the past. I don’t know if I will ever be able to simplify my wandering mind. But one thing I can change is how I approach the problem. My goal going forward is to treat the experience in front of me less like a job and more like an adventure. I can begin to treat going to the gym as a personal challenge instead of something I have to do to stay healthy. I can be compassionate and even laugh at my failures. Instead of attacking my fears and worries with more thinking (which compounds the effect), I can face them head on with a positive energy and loose, playful attitude. This will have no effect on the pride of my work or my work ethic. This is only a shift in attitude.

This will be a challenge it itself for me. But there’s no going back…I just made my decision.

Time to play.