This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes — it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up.
— Marilyn Monroe
I spent much of my childhood in Los Angeles. I’m convinced that people in Los Angeles are more image obsessed than any other city in the world. This leads to a number of odd phenomena.
While the aspirational in the rest of the country are often house poor, for example, many in Los Angeles are what I’ll call “car poor” — guys making $30,000 per year driving a Porsche while living in a adobe microscopic concrete box with one window and no furniture.
A Porsche doesn’t do you much good in L.A. — after all, you can rarely break 30 MPH, what with the traffic and all. But we all know it’s not really about going fast. These guys aren’t even all that into cars, per se. They just want to look cool.
In short, in their heart of hearts, they don’t really want a Porsche. What they want is to be the guy who has a Porsche. That guy is cool. He gets invited to the hottest parties in town. He gets laid. And the car-poor guy wants you to think he’s that guy, even though he is in fact the guy who can barely afford a Kia.
We can laugh at the folly of the car-poor guy, but are the house-poor in the rest of the country all that different? We already know they don’t need a McMansion, but do they even want one? Or do they just want to be the family that has one? I wonder.
The same sort of thinking can land you in the wrong career, if you’re not careful. If you recall, I went to law school. It didn’t work out so well. When I look back on my decision to go in the first place, I wonder — Did I want to practice law? Or did I just want to be a lawyer? I honestly don’t know the answer, now — but I have my suspicions.
Life isn’t about what you “are,” or what you have. It’s about what you do. If you devote your life to being something, or owning something (or many somethings), chances are you’ll wind up disappointed.
Epilogue: The Challenge Comes to an End
I’ve dreamed all my life of being a writer, but did I actually want to write? Or did I just want to be a writer? To have written?
I embarked on this 30-day posting commitment in part to help answer that question once and for all. It’s been a challenge. I’ve written on nights when I was exhausted and really wanted to be doing something else. On a number of nights I struggled to decide what to write about. The quality of the posts was mixed, in my estimation, but I expected that going in.
The challenge ends today. And while I’m looking forward to a break, I think I have an answer to my question: I want to write.
Thanks to all of you who take time out of your days to read my ramblings.
“Confessions of an Index Investing Skeptic” will continue next week.