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Archive for February, 2010

(what to change)

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While I am on the subject of dead hands on the political levers (Career Politics), I will just take a moment to examine that idea a bit closer, albeit from a particular perspective.

There are some jobs where you really only get a limited time in which to participate, succeed, mark your mark and then retire gracefully as a senior statesman of the game. Professional sports is one example, and it can even be rather alarming just how short the competitive live of an athlete may be. Female gymnasts are over the hill by twenty. Many other sports aren’t much better and if you blow out a knee or some such then it can all be over much quicker than that too. But while sports is a rather extreme example, it is by no means unique. Frontline fire-fighters, frontline soldiers, and even builders are the sorts of occupations that are described as a young mans game. With good reason too, even if you can find the odd middle-aged holdout still gamely hanging on, these jobs will give you a hammering and there is only a limited time when you will have the skills, capacity and endurance to competently perform. Teaching is another good one, and interestingly so is Politics. The specific combination of qualities that are needed to be are star performer are really only given to us for a short time. Realistically, 10 years is the best you can expect to get in order to make a mark.  There may be time spent leading up to the years of peak performance, and some years spent coasting on your glory afterwards, but history would suggest that ten years is the best you get to be the leader.

The proof is in those leaders who hang on too long. Robert Mugabe, Lee Kuan Yew, and no shortage of other rather more despotic dictators. While they may have achieved some great things in their prime, by the time they got into their second and then third decades, they had forfeited a lot of their honour and virtue. It is hard of course for a dominant leader to surrender power to others. From the perspective of the top, how can it be seen as anything other than handing over to lesser lights. Let alone any other considerations such as there may well be some retribution coming if and when the previously excluded are raised to prominence. The longer a leader has been at the top the great the numbers of enemies they will have made. No-one is going to be in any hurry to put their head in a noose. In general, that is one benefit of democracies, political leaders are likely to be eased out before too big a head of pressure has built up, and there is history and precedent for peaceful transitions of power.

But for all that, the salient point is that for a myriad of reasons, even the best and the brightest only can only shine for a while. In New Zealand a political term is 3 years, and so a brilliant career will amount to at most three terms at the top. It has happened a couple of times in our country, but no-one has gone longer. By the end of those nine years, the electorate is ready for a change, any change, and the incumbent has gone. That is what happened here with our previous prime minister. Helen Clark relatively gracefully moved on when time was called on her after nine years. There were enough small hints that she wasn’t entirely happy to be retired by the electorate, but at least she was smart enough to know when to cut her loses, move on to fresh fields and in general retain a good reputation. In contrast, John Howard in Australia remained Prime Minister for 11 years and that was one or two years too many. He had definitely over stayed his welcome by the time he retired. Both of these two leaders however are commonly accepted to have been amongst the greatest leaders of their countries. That they neatly bracket my ten year definition, I don’t believe is a co-incidence. If you prefer ancient historic examples, consider Alexander the Great. Or for something more modern; Margaret Thatcher also lead for 11 years and was about as popular as John Howard at the end. And French President Francois Mitterrand was hugely popular for his first seven year term, which was probably unfortunate because it meant he got elected for a again. By the end of that, the scales had swung just as far in the opposite direction. Once again that ten year mark proved to be the ‘used by’ date.

What this means is that a smart and wise leader would recognise the absolute constraints they are obliged to work within and dealing with. While your political career may be rather longer, you aren’t going to be at the top for more than ten years. Within that time you are going to have to have achieved whatever you set out to do. And might I suggest you should also have developed a good succession strategy as well. The powerful though don’t like to be succeeded of course, and there lies the quandary. Not only do they get used to the perks of office, they get used to having people do what they tell them to do. They also get comfortable in having things done their way and in the conceit of their ego. If you know you are good, and ipso-facto your position demonstrates you must be, why would you stop doing what you are the best at? The ultimate and unassailable answer to that is; because you were the best – ten years ago. Not only are you older, but the world has moved on too. Whether we want to admit it or not we are on a bell curve. When we hit our peak, the only way from there is down, very slowly at first, but ohh so assuredly and with ever increasing speed. Sports stars are typically very aware of this dynamic and when they hit the backside of the curve they move on, or are moved on, in pretty quick order. Unfortunately the problem with politics and power is that there often isn’t really any easy process to remove the deadwood. They have the incentives, power and ability to hang on to their positions.

There are very good reasons for generational change. On the face of it, you could look on the young and say; what do they know, they are babes in the woods and are too foolhardy and ignorant to be trusted with important decisions. There is even some truth to that. And yet millions of years of life and evolution have decided that the older members of a population need to be removed to make way for their children. Certainly knowledge and wisdom may be passed down, but the staid and ossified older personalities need to pass away. The young are ignorant of much, but they don’t just bring youthful energy, they also don’t carry much of the old baggage. They will take things as they find them, not as they remember them. Life moves on – so to speak. Politics needs to do that too. Both politics and people are of a time. As a generation moves into adulthood and into power, then they need to address the issues of their own time, which actually typically means the issues that their parents bequeathed to them by their own failings.  While that may sound a bit harsh, because yes in general everyone does the best they can with what they’ve got, unfortunately that’s not necessarily saying much either. Often the solving of one problem simply raises another. And unfortunately in politics also, doing your best can often mean the best for themselves for as long as they can get away with it. That has a logic that can work to exclude any other logic.

I am suggesting that “of their time” in politics means up to ten years, and even that is dependant on markedly superior leadership. So enter in to the arena, do your ten years max, do the specific job that is relevant to your time and place, and then move aside. There are others that need their time in the sun too in order to achieve what needs to be done. It is a bit of a zero sum game in many ways. If one generation stays around too long, it means they have eaten into the time of the next generations. To hang on in politics too long is to eat your young. From my perspective that is substantially the position we find ourselves in now. It is all fine and good for a while but eventually you will find that there is no-one left who can do those little things like pay for your pension. Again, one of those little signs and tell-tails that the system on so many levels is bankrupt. Yes, I know the problems of the world and the financial system has to do with more than just political generational change, but politics and power are a complex nexus and you would be surprised how many old faces and actors are moving behind the scenes. Either you have “appropriate” systems to deal with this sort of issue, or you have to rely on death to eventually sort out the playing field one way or the other. That has a tendency to be all a bit distressingly random.

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(what to change)

All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. ~ J. Caesar

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Politics, as we practice it currently, is an interesting business. Particularly in regards to it being a career. By one theory it really shouldn’t and couldn’t be. And yet there are plenty of examples of politicians effectively spending their whole lives working in government. These aren’t civil servants working in the bureaucracy, these are elected representatives. How is that possible? Why is it possible? Are these people so beloved of their electorate and constituents that neither can bear to be parted from the other? Even with half a moments analysis that makes no rational sense. More to the point it makes for quite a dangerous situation where the status quo is maintained beyond its use by date. There are a whole lot of reasons why a politician will keep getting elected time after time which have to do with human nature and human relationship, and I wont go into any of that with this post, what I want to explore here is why this shouldn’t happen.

There is a saying about politics that anybody who is interested in being a politician should be barred from ever being one. Like all such aphorisms, there is an element of truth to the expression. In this instance it is due to the rather unfortunate tendency towards conflation with that other common maxim, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The attraction of politics of course is the lure of Power, why else would you get involved? As for why they would stay involved for year after year, that is down to the politician finding a nice little sinecure where they can enjoy the perks of power, get treated (mostly) with respect, and even get to swing a bit of influence and patronage. Not everyone can be the big chief after all, but even in the lower ranks there can still be a very nice little living to be made. But it is in the top tier of power brokers and power movers that the real attraction lays. Now I suppose it can be argued that anyone who manages to make it to the top in politics has patently demonstrated particular cunning and guile talent and ability, to do so. Although it could equally be argued that what it mostly demonstrates is the appalling mediocrity of the average politician.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lived and worked with politicians and even have a grudging respect for them. There is no shortage of rivalry, determination and competitiveness between them. it is all quite a ruthless game. The losers get ejected unceremoniously and the winners never look down or backward as they climb over any and all obstacles. They are also perforce, good at personal relationships and public relations. So it comes down as much as anything to what you are measuring. But it also comes down to what exactly the end objectives are too. Mostly what happens is the original motives and objectives get lost in the exigencies of the moment and the game overtakes the ideals. To get elected and stay elected requires a style and a commitment of time and effort that becomes an end in itself. What time and energy are left over, often gets swamped by the mundane and procedural, and often also by the stupid and the inane. Dealing with the general public inevitably brings the lunatic fringe out of the woodwork, they almost deserve a medal for having to deal with that. On the other hand, that is the deal they signed up for and they knew it, every job has some crap you have to deal with. I was always surprised however just how big a gap there was between the best of the politicians and the general herd. Why would so many no-hopers get elected in the first place, it didn’t really make any sense. Likewise, after a politician had been in office for a couple of terms and is demonstrably going nowhere, doing nothing, how was it they could end up getting re-elected yet again?

As I have said, that isn’t the direct subject of this post, rather it is a demonstration of the forces and actuality involved in politics. They don’t have to make sense, they just have to be true. They are because they can be. At this point then there is a very strong case to be made that we need to look at making sure that some such things no longer can be possible. Term limits is rule that is practised in some jurisdictions. And I am inclined to think that something like that does need to be implemented. Politicians though, being what they are, are inevitably going to look at finding some way around any restrictions. It is almost like the mentality of the gambler – “I don’t care what the rules are, I just want to win…!” What was I saying earlier about those who want to be in politics should be automatically excluded from doing so? The trouble of course is that you have got to work with what you have got.  That is always going to be a problem in that good people don’t need rules and laws to constrain them, and with bad people, no laws or rules will constrain them. Then there is the vast middling masses who aren’t either the great and the good, or the slimy bottom feeders, but are just those who basically end up waving where the wind blows. A comment I heard (from a politician as it happens) is that the official name for parliament was the House of Representatives and it is essentially true; if there are crooks, liars, fools and blowhards out there in the wider community, then they are just as equally represented in the House.

That being the case, is it even possible to separate people and human nature from the process of politics? Well, no is the basic answer to that. You cannot abstract and separate people from relationships. But you can minimise the harm that it is possible to create in a political, administrative and government system by how you structure the environment within which all this works. The problem at this point is that the structural environment within which all this works is the statis-quo. Unless that falls over then there is no chance of building anything different. There are too many entrenched interests with a stake in maintaining things as they are. Until the established order starts hurting too many people and organisations, they are not going to be of a mind to seek or welcome change. The encouraging thing however, is that the changes needn’t be too dramatic or radical – albeit I suppose that depends upon your perspective. Things like term limits, job prescriptions, transparency requirements, separation of powers etc, etc, are all good and worthy measures to be sure and should probably be implemented as far as they go.

But I question whether democracy as we know it is redeemable. There is plenty that is desirable, has merit and should be retained, but there is plenty too that is corrupted and dangerous. A two party state like we currently have has evolved into something little better than a one party state. History will tell us just how undesirable that is. The problems are different problems, but they are just as fatal. There are all sorts of pithy sayings along the lines of; a democracy will last right up until the majority learns it can vote itself largess from the public purse, etc, etc. Another way of say that is that the ideals you start with are fine and dandy right up until people figure out how to game the system. And then, eventually, the only games going on are the ones that play the system. Why work for a living when you can get the system to save your arse from anything, even your own stupidity. Why expose yourself to the rigors and disciplines of a market if you can come up with a cosy little relationship that will change the rules as necessary to save you. The thing is of course, what is the point of having power if you can’t use it to arrange things to your benefit? That is just human nature of course isn’t it. “ I prefer things this way, I have the ability to make it so… so I will. I don’t know what the whole cost of this decision are, but I don’t care what the costs are either, because I can make it so that I don’t have to pay them – you do!” And so we go on making one bad decision after another because it is possible to get away with it. Right up until it isn’t possible anymore, and the only decisions left you can make are bad ones. Which would be where we are up to about now wouldn’t it.

The point here is that power is useful because it means you can use it to create benefits for yourself. If self interest is blind to anything but itself, then the logical conclusion to draw is that it is fairly imperative that vested interests don’t have a say in how decisions effecting them are made. Achieving that totally is practically impossible, and probably undesirable as well, in so far as people who are going to be effected by policy decisions do need to have a voice in the process. But they mustn’t be the only voice, or even the biggest voice. If a system leaves open the possibility that a cabal of self-interest can dominate proceedings, then it is only a matter of time until it does. Our present political system is just such a beast and the career politician is the proof of it. Like a canary in a mine, if you want an early warning that the system has gone bad, look no further than the dead hands on the levers of power. There is likely plenty of sound and fury, but it signifies nothing. For all the noise that politicians make, nothing changes, least of all them. Effective change at the very least involves removing them and the system that puts and keeps them there.

There is a word for this, the word is – Recision.

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(what to change)

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I got interested in politics about 20 years ago, it has been an on-again, off-again thing ever since. Along the way you learn something new about it every so often. I started off thinking it was all about policies and planning and making decisions based on the best information etc. I slowly come to the realisation It is none of those things essentially. They may crop up a bit by accident, but that’s not what politics is really about. I read some graffiti a couple of years ago that said; “if voting made a difference, they would make it illegal”. Well, that’s a sort of cynical and funny commentary on democracy, but in a way it sort of makes my point too. That there are all sorts of appendages and practices to politics; we describe our system as this-or-that, but none of it is really the truth. Deep down the truth is that politics is exactly the same as it has always been. Whether we call it monarchy or democracy – or any other ‘..ocracy’ that we may like, they are all just ephemera that hide what is really going on. Politics is about people, and getting enough people all working and pulling in the same direction to make a change, or to make something happen – or more commonly to stop anything changing and to preserve the established privileges. It matters not in the least how you manage to get that to happen, and it doesn’t even need that many people either, it just needs enough.

The magic and mystery of politics is just what constitutes enough? The mystery comes from the objective being an obscured and moving target, the magic is being able to hit the target. That is where elections are kind of useful, but not for the reasons you might imagine. If you have a bunch of guys who get together and come up with a scheme that would arrange things in their best interests (and screw everyone else), then what they need is some way of measuring the political currents and keeping track of where the pivot of political power is. If they run a survey(election) every couple of years then that tells them what they need to know in order to maintain a sufficiently large coalition of mutual interests to ensure that they retain control of proceedings.

Whether it is ever quite conceptualised as such, this is never the less what is going on.  The core reality of politics is people, and more specifically, people who know people. The people who you might imagine (from listening to the standard meme and received wisdom) are bitterly opposed to each other and often really aren’t. And the people you might imagine aren’t really involved in politics, really absolutely are. You would think that the two opposed parties in a democracy are implacable enemies, but that is all a sham and a charade. They are Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. They are the opposite sides of the same coin and the coin doesn’t change. They need each other for the system to work and they need the system in order to keep track of where the political currents and mood of the population is at. (they are perfectly aware they rely on the compliance, acquiescence, even somulance, of the general public. It is all a self correcting, self aligning mechanism for preserving the status quo. When a party loses an election, there are a couple of MP’s who will lose their jobs and a couple who will get new ones. But the majority of them will stay exactly where they are, they will remain in parliament and continue to draw a government pay cheque. Their network of Party affiliates will continue to fill the bureaucracies and the easy flow of the revolving door will shuffle the political players in and out of public sector to the private sector and back again. That is because the world of politics and power is a small one where everyone knows anyone who is anybody and they all have subtle and widespread linkages to each other.

It is no accident that the wealthy industry leaders make equal political contributions to both Parties. They have to, and they have to be involved, albeit from deep behind the scenes if possible, it isn’t seemly to be seen to be buying political influence. Whether all the players are completely aware at all times of what the true nature of the situation is doesn’t really matter, so long as they play their part appropriately. The Rich pay the way, or should that be “pave the way” for the politicians to perform their parts in the theatre of illusion. The politicians in consequence inevitable end up having a close relationship with the wealthy and powerful. It is who they meet every other day in the course of their work. They go to the same events and dine at the same restaurants. They invite each other to their functions, they end up scratching each others backs. It is human nature and it is what people, any people, do. And it is inherently corrupt, or at the very least corrupting. Not in any evil or malicious way, but in mundane and ordinary ways. If you talk to the same people all the time you end up talking about the same things and thinking the same way. Anything from the outside is inherently resisted. The generic name for it is system-capture, meaning you get captured by the system and end up serving it. Even with the best will in the world you end up being a functionary of the larger machine.

It is designed that way, or it has evolved that way (it makes no difference), everybody’s interests are served by keeping the system rolling along. Everybody that is, who is a part of the elite power structure. If you do not personally know the Prime-Minister and get invited to functions that he goes to then that means by definition that you are definitely not part of the club. And the club is not the slightest bit interested in you either. They have got a system worked out that serves them well and if it doesn’t serve you at all then quite frankly they don’t care. Because anyone who is anyone is already a member. If you are not, then that means ipso facto you are nothing and nobody, you are ignorable. They have co-opted anyone who might challenge their position and in fact they largely have the whole social and economic environment structured in such a way that in order to succeed you will have automatically aligned yourself with them too.

It is about people – the people who are running things are the people who own everything or are in charge of it and who make the decisions and hire and fire and promote or recommend. They have relationships and connections and their story and version of reality is what gets published, disseminated and taught. Even if you are not a part of the elite, you will still be a part of the system. It has been selling its version of reality to you since you were a child. What you heard on TV, what you got taught at school, what gets published as news is all part of the program. And it is political, whether you see and understand it, or not. The way the mind works, they way we think and act is what makes our social behaviour and society the way it is. We do things because we are people, we are human, but also because we are trained that way. Politics is all about dealing with people, manipulating and influencing them. The greatest practitioners of the art of politics are those charismatic figures who can instinctively speak to our hopes and desires. The best of them can speak across divides of religion, culture, race and creed and build a common sense of community and purpose, regardless of the fact that it is all hot air and puffery. It is what Barrack Obama was able to do when he won the US presidency. It’s an amazing talent and ability and I dont deny it, it is truly a rare and extraordinary thing. That is the reason why the Money Men buy them.

Just like they would hire and accountant or a lawyer or any other specialist, Big-Money buys politicians too. Why would they not, it would be stupid to do otherwise. They fund the political party that has congruous aims to themselves and then finance the election campaign of the most likely looking candidate. By likely looking, I mean compliant to the party line and telegenically attractive to the electorate. But just in case their first horse can’t get over the line ahead, then they just cover their odds by donating money to the second runner as well. Heads you win, tails you also win – in Vegas that would be called a rigged game or a stacked deck, and yes, that’s exactly what it is. That’s why so much money is spent on advertising, campaign managers, public relations training, market research and opinion polls. Much as youpersonally may be interested in what such polls say, that isn’t what they are there for.  It isn’t to find out what the general public want, it is to find out what buttons to push in order to get the desired result. It is about shaping the battlefield before the battle, or to use another analogy, tilting the playing field in your favour. The results and finding are for determining and planning the propaganda campaign, to pre-empt and capture the public debate.

There is an old saying in politics, don’t go into a meeting, contest or vote without knowing what the result will be ahead of time. It means building your coalition of interests and allies before hand. That way when you get to the decision point, the decision is a forgone conclusion and the proceedings are just a rubber stamp formality. In many ways that is how it has to be, anyone who has ever been on an organising committee will know exactly what I am talking about. In order to actually get anything done, it inevitably falls to a small core minority to conclave and dictate in order to get the job done. It is the Pareto principle again of course. That is fine if there is altruistic motives involved and no hidden agendas, but that’s not what happens in the big bad wide world.

The Rich are subject to the Pareto principle as much as everybody else and the dodgy element is an even smaller component still. In the grand scheme of things, the numbers of people who are in charge of our lives are a vanishing small minority. So what does it matter? Well, be aware – their interests are not your interests. They however are in a position to shape events and your life. The public political dialog is so captured by the status quo that it has devolved into a pointless debate over Left and Right, Blue and Red, Conservative and Liberal. They are meaningless labels attached to meaningless distinctions, inspite of the deeply felt tribal loyalties to the respective colours. The reality on the ground is that nothing changes, the machine just keeps grinding on, and you are the grist being ground in the mill. A tiny part of our society is running the show in a way that is directly and immediately harmful to the majority interests. Stop listening to their media propaganda and look around you for a moment, we are living in a constructed environment that is corrupt, bankrupt, exploitative and dangerous.  The redeeming benefit is that it funnels wealth and power to the wealthy and powerful. Well to them at least that’s of benefit, it is no benefit to you at all.

Under the normal course of events, the elite is so entrenched and established that there is no possibility that their position in society could be overturned or transformed. These are not normal times. The financial chicanery, expedient politics, budget deficits, peak oil and the growth of bureaucracies and entitlement cultures means we are in for a extended period of adjustment during “the long emergency”. Change in some form is coming whether we like it or not (and of course we wont like it), but we can choose a preferable path from the available options. It is possible for things to be organised differently, even if it may be hard to envisage. In many ways things needn’t change too much on the surface and in a day-to-day ways. But in the first instance we need to change the people. We have had the same faces and the same cliques in charge for far to long. It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for America; the lie has now been put to that conceit at least, but that attitude is still prevalent with Elites everywhere. Those who have been in charge for too long assume the attitude that what is good for them is also in the public good. Their interests are not ours and are often times directly in opposition, albeit they are very careful not to advertise that fact. Also, they are a very slim minority, they can be excised easily enough with the will and the awareness. Nobody is irreplaceable, and if politics is people then the politics can be changed with a changing of personnel.

Recision will happen when there is enough people aware who want it to happen.

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As I have been writing this, I have been watching the first race of the 33rd Americas Cup being sailed off Valencia, Spain. The irony of my thesis is that if you reined in the excesses of the Robber-Barons then there exists the possibility that wouldn’t be the mega-rich tycoons who could afford such magnificent obsessions. I am amazed and enthralled by this clash of the Titans between the two such spectacular sailing machines currently underway. The world would be a much poor place if these boats had not been built and raced. In such a contest also, the drive, energy and determination of their Billionaire backers is critical to making it happen. These men are the movers and shakers of the world.

Perhaps if it was possible to channel their energies within a social, political and economic structure that was not as bankrupt as our current system, then they could and would still succeed and exceed on such a scale. The encouraging thing is that both Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli have come from business backgrounds with companies that do actually produce useful and productive goods and services. They are not parasite Financiers and Banksters, they don’t run Hedge-funds. Likely that is not just a coincidence either. They have spent their lives actually building real things, rather than just shuffling money around in shell games. For them, what they have chosen to do with their wealth and power is to build bleeding edge technology yachts on a scale never seen before, concentrate world class talent on their teams, and strive to the utmost to WIN.

That sort of combination of qualities can only be applauded and respected. That is also the spirit that always needs to be encouraged and given space to grow and succeed. We all need the entrepreneurs in society to strive and succeed in their dreams, ambitions and endeavours. We are all the richer for their success, so long as the political economy in which they work is not corrupted and skewed towards rewarding morally and economically bankrupt schemes and processes. We could have our cake and eat it too, but the political system needs to be sufficiently in control and sufficiently independent and wise to not end up captured and corrupted.

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BTW:

Congratulations BMW Oracle Racing – amazing job.

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Wing Bowl

How do you know an empire is in its last days?

How about this?

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/wing-bowl-2010-philadelphia-philly-competitive-eating-contest-joey-chestnut.html

http://www.philly.com/philly/photos/Scenes_from_Wing_Bowl_18.html

Seriously… people pay money to go and see this. What’s more it is covered on TV.

And they say Rome fell due to decadence…

Unbelievable!!!

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This Post is a reflection on Time and the impact it has on us personally, socially and economically. We get our four score years and ten, but even this is still not so straightforward. What we actually get is essentially a bunch of discrete decades. 1-10 we are children, 10-20 teenagers, 20-30 young(single) adults, 30-40 young parents, 40-50 prime of life, 50-60 senior management, 60-70 senior statesman, 70-80/90 retired and waiting for the grave. Inspite of exceptions to the rule, and whether we recognise it or not, these are the stages of our lives, we need to recognise, manage and make the most of them. I suggest most of us fail to recognise the structural reality of our lives and don’t make the most of them either. I know for certain that to date I haven’t.

As a kid, 1-10, you get what you get in any case, our ability to either know what we should be doing, or being able to do anything about it is completely constricted. In the event it falls to parents to determine the path of our first decade. If all goes well them we turn out as well socialised, optimistic and full of potential. Conversely, it matter not a jot if some starving child somewhere might have been the next Einstein, if they have been malnourished as an infant or severely dehydrated then their mental capabilities are now crippled for life. Only well-feed and well nurtured babies grow up to become “Great”. I had the immense benefit of a good childhood (mostly, haha) and that did set me up well for the rest of my life. But on the other hand, unless you keep the program on track you can still end up lost.

The teen years are going to be tough anyway. There is a lot happening and in general just surviving them is a pretty good achievement. But that is not the same as making the most of them. Looking back in my own example, I certainly didn’t mess up my teens, but I certainly wouldn’t say I aced them either. I finished them not having a clue what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. There is a cute saying about some of the most interesting people you will meet didn’t know what they wanted to do when they left school – and they still don’t… Yes, I understand what the meaning of that is, but it is disingenuous too.

Leaving your teens without a clue means drifting into your twenties with no direction and no plan, I know all about that, that was me to a T. Your twenties is the time for building your adult foundations – working hard, building a work history and reputation, learning about life and love, travelling and connecting with other young singles. This stuff is actually surprisingly critical. If you miss out on this stuff here you will likely only recognise later in retrospect what you missed.  This stuff matters and it matters specifically to this age group. By the time you are into your thirties, it is too late to do some of this stuff again. In our twenties, the other young people we are meeting are also single, ten years later they will not be.  All the “good ones” will be taken, what is left is problematic – I’ll leave it at that. The size of the pool has shrunken too, if you haven’t got the basic relationship game sorted already, you are left trying to swim in a bit of a desert. Interestingly, the further you get past your twenties, the less adaptable you are to the compromises involved relationships. In your twenties, you are still adaptable, learning and growing.

As for work, well it helps a lot if you understand what the game is, and what the rules are. And the rule is that you need to be building steps. One step leads to the next and then to the next, hopefully with a pretty clear plan of progression. Otherwise you do what I did, you have a go at this and that because it looks like it’s interesting, then move on when you get a little bored. But there is no binding theme and in the end it is not just you that doesn’t know what to make of it all, neither does anyone else. Your twenties is the time to be get experience, to actually learn how the world works, what sorts of scams and schemes are run, what sorts of people are out there, and for laying down an experiential knowledgebase. So that when you get into your thirties you can say “yes here’s my CV, I have spent three, or five, or seven years doing this and I am skilled and competent, I have a direction”. It’s called “doing your time” and it is actually very important. You need a plan and to stick at it. Which is kind of rich coming from me, seeing as I managed to avoid doing exactly what. However, if I have any regrets, that would be one of them. Particularly that I didn’t recognise what I was letting slip away. Your twenties is a time for getting some things done and ticked off the list, I simply didn’t understand. It’s not the end of the world if you aren’t on a plan, some people aren’t built that way, but you have just made things a whole lot more difficult down the line if you have to play catch-up.

Somewhere in your life will come the “block course”. This is the time when you will almost certainly need put in a solid 10 years doing the one thing. Whether that is raising a family or sticking at the same job in order to provide the security for your young family. For many people this happens in their thirties, for others it is their forties. It isn’t too critical one way or the other, but I will make one point. Raising kids and teenagers is not something that is going to get easier with age. If you have children between 30-35, you are essentially at your prime for health and fertility with strength and endurance. You will be able to keep up, and when your last child turns 21, you will 56. If your children are born when you are 40-45, then you are going to be in your sixties and trying to raise teenagers – best of luck. Again, there is no cast iron rule that says you have to be breeding in your thirties, but there are a lot of reasons why it is perhaps the optimal time. My point is, be aware of the reasons and rationales of all this, and of the chain of consequences involved. To have your first child at 30, for most people requires that they are already settled into a stable relationship, have an acceptable degree of financial stability and are working to a plan. Winging it without a plan means you have almost certainly made it harder for yourself. The trick to all this of course is to realise at about 25 that all this is relevant and proceeding with understanding.

Your Forties is perhaps the time of your best combination of skills and qualities. Interestingly, or perhaps that’s ironically, it is also the time for your mid-life crisis. You get to ask – what exactly and I doing and why? On the positive side, this should also be the time when you are most able to handle a major life change. You are mature, healthy and competent… except in all the ways that you are not. But that’s OK, you are still young enough to change and learn and grow. And you may not even have this problem at all, in which case you can just continue on securing your family’s security and prosperity. For nine out of ten people, this is their family time, your kids are turning into real people, and you can have something of a second childhood yourself, playing and spending time with them while they still think you are pretty cool. If we did but recognise it, this is likely the best time of your life, make the most of appreciating it. And recognise that what comes next is fifty and up, that is not something trivial or unimportant.

I suspect a lot of people get a bit of a shock when they turn fifty, it has kind of crept up on them while they weren’t looking and suddenly they just ARE. Fifty is middle aged. It means you will never be 20, or 30, or 40 again, inspite of what any number of middle aged men may wish to believe. It is why so many sports cars are sold and Bimbo’s bought. But more seriously, it is also a pivot point. What comes next, is critically determined by what came before. If before now you weren’t looking or thinking about the trajectory of your life, then you have just about run out of options to do anything about it now. All those openings for bright young things on their way up are locked out for you now. Many people find that being fifty means they aren’t going to get that next promotion, they will be passed over and sidelined. They just become a place holder, ticking away doing the same old, same old – right up until the next recession or restructuring when they are kicked into touch. It’s tough finding a good new job when you are nothing special and mid to late fifties. On the other hand, those people who did reach fifty on the fast track or with a business and a successful track record, they are now running the world. They are senior management and making a lot of money. They have the particular skills, contacts and knowledge that makes them the best at what they do, they can do the demanding in the whole supply and demand equation. But it’s not an accident; they got there through deliberate planning and understanding of the necessary steps. These are now the people planning and deciding for all the rest of us, this is their time and they have essentially the decade of their 50’s to make their mark and execute their ambitions

Sixty to seventy is a subtly different age to the previous one. Apart from the fact that nominal retirement falls in here somewhere, It should also be the point where you are nurturing the next generation. The high fliers are grooming their successors while they move into the chairman role. For everyone else it is the last stretch through til retirement. And for all of them, suddenly a decade doesn’t seem like very long at all. If you were going to do something or had a plan in mind, there is alarmingly little time to get it done.  If only because an alarming number of people fall off the perch around here. If you expected to retire and live another 15 to 20 years, think again. Almost all professions have statistics saying half of all their retirees are dead within about a year. I’m not sure I entirely buy that exactly, but the core of it is that there is a BIG mortality spike around the mid 60’s. Even if people aren’t dying, their health is almost certainly much more fragile. Once again, what you did in your younger days is increasingly benefiting or costing you. What you can do at this point is becoming less and less effective relative to what you have done in the past.

As we get older, somewhere or other we pass the point where we stop growing and start dying – where what can be done is less and less in our control, and our past is the increasingly rigid determinator of our present. From seventy to eighty (and longer for some) this is the all-too-quick dash to the finish-line of our 4 score and ten. This is where we get to wait for God, or the pine box, depending which expression you prefer. Actually it needn’t have to be as morbid as all that. If you are suffering from poor health then it might not be much fun, but on the other hand, accepting the limitations and welcoming the benefits means that this is still a stage of life offering meaning. Hopefully you have a say in what sort of legacy you leave and can work on that. The grandchildren can be enjoyed, spoiled and then handed back. There is still a life to be enjoyed, but undeniably it is also a consequence of what came before. Arriving here by accident means that you are very unlikely to have many choices available. And from here, there is no afterwards, this is the end of the line. No-one has ever got out alive. Your eight decades lived are the whole game.

I hope you enjoyed them all. I hope you realised, while you could still make a difference to proceedings, what the rules of the game where, and how late it really is. Yes, it all depends on what it is you want to make out of life, but even so, my estimation is that from the time we get half a clue about what is going on around us, we are pretty much playing catch-up. I wouldn’t say I am stupid, but I recognise now the extent to which I was late appreciating a whole lot of stuff about life. Being late means you have a lot of ground to make up later. A life is not really a linear thing however it may appear at the time. It does actually come in stages, and if you can manage to make the most of each stage as it offers you its opportunities, then you are very wise to do so. As I said though, the trick is to be wise when you are young. That’s no easy trick at all. I do sometimes wonder if the old were telling me all this stuff at the time, or if I just couldn’t hear.

Perhaps I can teach my own child this stuff, maybe she will even learn and understand it – in time to be useful. The world will still turn regardless, but I like to think it would be nice if we can pass along some wisdom and knowledge, and avoid having to repeat all the same old mistakes.

I will write a Post on that soon too I hope.

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Finally, thanks to Elizabeth for teaching me some of this stuff.  🙂

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Unaffordable

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Here is a very interesting little take away.

“New Zealand: Housing in New Zealand was severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 5.7, nearly double the historic maximum norm of 3.0. Housing had been affordable in the early 1990s, with a Median Multiple of under 3.0. Auckland is the least affordable larger market, with a Median Multiple of 6.7, while Christchurch (6.1) and Wellington (5.7) were also severely unaffordable.

Tauranga-Bay of Plenty was again the least affordable market, with a Median Multiple of 6.8. Five of the 8 New Zealand markets were severely unaffordable, while Palmerston North, Napier-Hastings and Hamilton were seriously unaffordable New Zealand had no affordable markets and no moderately unaffordable markets.”

From:   http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/02/least-and-most-affordable-housing-in.html

Logic would assume that; that which is not affordable, will ultimately not be afforded.

In other words, that which can not be done, will not be done.

Or in this case will be defaulted upon.

Expect mortgage foreclosures to keep on rising. All the Central Bank tricks in the world can not forestall reality forever. And as goes the New Zealand housing market, so goes the country.

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