How “Richer, Wiser, Happier” Inspired Me To Go After All Three

William Green's book, Richer, Wiser, Happier, taught me how I might be able to keep doing what makes me happy and wise—while getting rich(-er), too.


Just Missing the “Richer” Part

For the past few years, my “profession” has been writing, first on The Unconventional Route then, more recently, here on The Zag.

I get to explore my choice of fancy-tickling topics related to veering life in more unfollowably exciting directions, from fasting to shifting identities to fitness to peeing sitting down.

It’s fun!

It’s rewarding!

But it’s not lucrative.

You could say writing floats my boat, but doesn’t generate enough buoyancy to keep my wife, son, and me financially above water. The extra cushion that keeps us from sinking, and protects me from having to get a real job, are my “pretirement” savings—my stash from a 4.5-year career at Procter & Gamble. Thanks to lucky timing and being cheap, my investment of those savings has ballooned just enough to keep our heads above water.

But our financial situation’s like a little sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic. We’re screwed if a major storm hits.

I worry about this regularly. Not to mention, I wouldn’t mind having a bit more space to move around.

Enter Richer, Wiser, Happier by William Green. 

The blurb says the book’s about how “the key insights for building wealth apply to life as well.” But what I took away from reading it was the reverse:

The key insights for building a rich life apply to investing as well.

Maybe I’m going overboard in saying so, but I suspect this may be the answer to how to make my already happy and increasingly wise life financially richer, too.

Famous investors with me looking over their shoulders.
Pabrai, Sleep, and Greenblatt are way smarter than me, but we share other unusual traits.

My Type of People

In Richer, Wiser, Happier, William Green writes about the peculiar methods and mindsets of mega-millionaire money managers like Nick Sleep, Mohnish Pabrai, and Joel Greenblatt. I’d never heard of these guys before, but much of how Green describes them is surprisingly similar to what I preach and try to practice here on The Zag.

These super investors:

  • “…are not like other people. They are iconoclasts, mavericks, and misfits who see the world differently and follow their own peculiar path.”
  • “…are not afraid to question and defy conventional wisdom.”
  • “…don’t have that tribal gene so they don’t feel the urge to follow a tribe.”
  • “…are willing to be ‘short’ social acceptance and stand apart from the herd.”

And I could go on.

So I will!

The money managers Green profiles:

  • exhibit unusual amounts of patience;
  • live according to their own inner scorecards;
  • love learning;
  • seem unusually immune to emotion;
  • don’t chase fads; and,
  • “are not always endowed with an abundance of social skills.”

These profiles fit me so eerily well that I felt like I was reading my horoscope or something. 

As it happens, I had just resurfaced from a deep dive into the psychology of personality with a new understanding of how to win at life:

You can’t change how you’re wired, so you’re better off understanding and working with what you’ve got.

“Well,” I figured, “it seems these investors are wired like me. And they’ve found a way to get rich off it without sacrificing quality of life. Maybe I can, too?”

My Type Of Game?

One of investing’s grand poobahs, Charlie Munger, hammered this into my head with his advice to Green:

You have to play in a game where you’ve got some unusual talent. If you’re five foot one, you don’t want to play basketball against some guy who’s eight foot three. It’s just too hard. So you’ve got to figure out a game where you have an advantage, and it has to be something that you’re deeply interested in.”

Charlie Munger

I’m dozens of IQ points short of being a Giannis Antetokounmpo of investing like the geniuses in Green’s book, but I don’t think I’m some five-foot-one schlub either. I’m confident that I have enough of Munger’s requirements—talent and interest—to go semi-pro at the very least.

In any case, I don’t have the ambition to become a hall-of-fame-level billionaire investor who gets profiled in Green’s Richer, Wiser, Happier sequel. A cool ten million would suffice.

So maybe I should give the investing game more of my attention?

Cape Town family
Life is different now than when abandoned my investment career fifteen years ago.

This Time Is Different

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt the urge to get into the investing game.

Fifteen years ago, it was my chosen career path. I studied it in university, read books about it in my free time, studied for my CFA designation, and landed a job working for Deans Knight Capital Management in Vancouver.

But helping rich people get richer felt hollow to me. I wanted to make a difference, not make money off of people who do. And I hated having to wear a tie every day to work. So I quit.

This time is different, though.

And, yes, I’m aware those are the four most dangerous words in investing. But I think “this time is different” can be a profitable strategy in life. It encourages open-mindedness and optimism. And, in my case, the difference between me now and then is that focusing on investing won’t feel hollow anymore:

  1. My writing offsets it. I like to think I’m making a positive difference in the lives of some of the millions of people have read my posts and newsletters.
  2. I have a wife and son. They aren’t as content to live off 2 kg bricks of Costco cheddar cheese as I am, so money’s more important than it used to be.

This time, my investing efforts will also feel less hollow if I write about them. That way, you can learn from my experiences. Writing also improves my thinking, which ought to improve my investment performance. And if this attracts a bit more of an audience, it will open up more revenue streams. Triple win!

So I’m confident that focusing more on investing will make me even richer, wiser, and happier. And that’s thanks in large part to picking up William Green’s fantastic book.

Subscribe to see if I’m still thanking Green a few years from now:

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👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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