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Painting by Naum Katsenelson

Resetting Defaults

January 2019

What I am about to share with you is somewhat random drivel about a topic that has been very important to me in 2018 – time. I am anything but an expert on it; and in fact, as you’ll see, this is something I fail in and am trying to fail less.

I recently read Make Time, written by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, two ex-Google engineers who worked on Gmail and YouTube. The book is written by geeks for geeks like me (and probably the majority of my readers). Jake and John provide very insightful tips of how to “make time.” Also, they made me look at technology companies and time from a slightly different perspective.

Think about Proctor & Gamble, Hershey, Nestle – the old giants of the late 20th century. If you were an engineer or chemist working for one of those companies, you probably loved your job, creating products consumers were delighted to spend more and more money on. Be it instant coffee, TV dinners, or exotic things covered in chocolate. The more successful you were, the more of your company’s products consumers bought and thus the more dollars they spent.

But today, the majority of products sold by Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are not sold in stores; and even more importantly, consumers don’t pay for them with dollars but rather with what is seemingly the cheapest commodity of all: time, which, ironically, is the scarcest commodity.

Google’s, Facebook’s, and Twitter’s business models are not much different from those of TV networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC: They provide you “free” content and you pay for it with your time, thus allowing Proctor & Gamble to pitch you its new soap. However, there are two distinct differences between TV networks and the Silicon Valley giants: First, there’s the question of privacy – technology companies know hundreds of times more about you than old media companies did. And secondly, TV networks may only have access to you an hour or two in the morning and four hours in the evening; but Google, Facebook, and Twitter are on your mobile device, which is with you 24/7 – they even follow you into the bathroom.

I don’t buy into rhetoric that these companies are evil; not at all, these companies are one ego trip away from turning into Myspace. They are certainly not as evil as Coke, which incessantly advertises that drinking its products will make you feel like a million dollars and help you get along socially, meanwhile turning the masses into caffeine and sugar addicts and contributing mightily to the global diabetes epidemic. But the Silicon Valley giants who employ engineers who love what they do definitely want to create products that you will be enticed to use and find quite addicting.

How much you are going to use is up to you – well, almost. (We’ll get back to this in a second). The better the product, the more time you’ll spend on it and the deeper you’ll get hooked. (Again, the currency here is your time).

I recently wrote an article about financial budgeting (I have yet to share it with my readers) where I discuss that the core of budgeting is just prioritizing what is important to you. Instead of spending your money on autopilot (mindlessly) on things you may or may not value, wise budgeting lets you proactively, mindfully prioritize what matters to you the most, whether it’s an extra vacation a year or a new car every three years (the answer here is very personal and will vary from person to person).

Our income, no matter how much money we make, can always be exceeded by our insatiable and ever-growing wants; but if you are mindful and thoughtful about how you spend money, it may actually bring you happiness by allowing you to fulfill your goals and dreams while also minimizing your anxiety (or despair).

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Vitaliy Katsenelson

I am the CEO at IMA, which is anything but your average investment firm. (Why? Get our company brochure here, or simply visit our website).

In a brief moment of senility, Forbes magazine called me “the new Benjamin Graham.”

I’ve written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. (I’m working on a third - you can read a chapter from it, titled “The 6 Commandments of Value Investing” here).

And if you prefer listening, audio versions of my articles are published weekly at investor.fm.

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