Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Elvis and “You can eat my Vindaloo.”

If we had ads like these I wouldn’t fast forward thru the commercials.  I’d also buy me some New Walkers Poppadums.  Bet you can’t watch it just once:

My pal Trish is a whip smart, drop dead gorgeous international entrepreneur.  She’s lived and traveled all over the world.  She fled the Iranian revolution with the clothes on her back only to settle in Liberia as that country went up in political flames.  The first night her new home was invaded by machine-gun toting rebels.  I still remember a line from one of her letters written during the monsoons:  “Never in my life have I seen so much vertical water.”

Trish’s self portrait

I met her when she and Wolfgang kidnapped me in Ireland. Now I come to find out she’s an artist to boot.  Who knew such an intense life could lead to such graceful drawings each with its own little tale:

Her eldest son is a film maker.

La Nina del Desierto

  I see shades of the Coen Brothers in this one:

Always had a soft spot for Ms. Blondie:

Good advice sung by an angel:

Life is beautiful that way:

Life can be tough, brutish and harsh.  When it gets that way for me I listen to this guy:

Israel Kamakawiwo ‘Ole

No matter what your political views this is worth the five minutes it takes.  Laugh out loud funny political animation even if you have to laugh at some of your own guys:

Let take a ride on the Space Shuttle.

Crank up your volume so you can hear all the spooky sounds.  Oh, and just to make it interesting, let’s ride on the outside:


The 1975 novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, is set several hundred years after our civilization has annihilated itself in a nuclear Armageddon.

The survivors have been reduced to the stone age and have slowly begun to rebuild. Monks now keep and try to decipher the scrapes left. The most precious of all is a bit of writing, the only such to survive. Truly, they believe, the key to the past and its secrets are here.
Endless hours of scholarship are invested in its study.  Towards the end the author shares it with us. It is a grocery list: Bread Milk Cheese Beer.  Think I’ve just ruined the ending for you?  Read the book.  And remember, anything you write could all that’s left when we’re gone.

I’ve been planning a post on Gold for a while now.  My pal Mr. 101C beat me to it.  You can read his thoughts and a couple of my comments here:

It has been awhile since I’ve written a purely business post. Shilpan’s got it covered:

His insights on the business of life make him one of my favorite bloggers and here’s another reason why:

One of my few regrets in life is that my career never led to an international posting.  With any luck my retirement will.  Mr. Stoic provides some inspiration here:

Here’s a unique take on how to tell your body, “Hey!  I’m not ready to die yet!”:

The recent mega-lottery had the hopeful in a tizzy.  Let’s do a little quick math.  The jackpot was 640m.  Assuming you took the cash option, that would be cut in half:  320m.  Then the tax man takes his share(s).  The Feds will want 40%.  State and local depends on where you live, but let’s call it 8%.  That leaves you 52%:  166m.  No small sum, but not the half a billion everybody was throwing around.

Anyway, Mr. MM asks:  What would you do with way more money in his always insightful style.  Be sure to read thru the comments.  I haven’t done the calculation but, excluding those who would invest it, my guess is you’d be hard pressed to spend even 10m meeting every desire listed.

Every young person starting on their fiscal journey should read this:

“There is no good excuse for anybody to not retire a millionaire.  It is not that hard to save $2,000 per year.”

Finally, in the comments section of this post you get to see jlcollinsnh called a “totally wrongheaded ultra-naturist.”  I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, but this is a first.  Kinder than most, too.  Oh, and the post is a great read.

 Maybe I’ve been watching too much Discovery Channel.  I’ve been thinking about Armageddon lately.

All these programs on asteroids or super volcanos or global warming or viruses or alien invaders or an ice age or the reversal of the magnetic poles or AI robots or nanobots or maybe Zombies taking us out.  Well, relax.  It ain’t gonna happen.  At least not on our watch.

 (Except, of course, The Walking Dead.

For my part, I’m still working on whether to throw my lot with Rick or Shane….)

(Opps.  Looks like Shane would have been a bad bet)

The Earth’s been around for some 4.5 billion years.  Multi-celled life has been running around on it for about 1/2 a billion years or so.  Major Armageddon extinction events, like the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, have happened about five times.  So that’s about one every 100 million years or so.

Are we really arrogant enough to think it’s going to happen in the geological eye-blink we’ll be around?  That we’ll be the ones to witness it?  Not likely.

But if it did owning gold, the most popular end of days choice, isn’t going to help you.  People aren’t going to care about a fairly useless, in a non-technology world, metal.  If they do, someone bigger and stronger is just going to take yours.  But then, no other investment will help either.  We’ll be beyond investment considerations.  Guess I’ll stop blogging then.

Time to stop blogging

If Armageddon — that is the real collapse of worldwide financial, social, moral and political structures — ever does occur, what’s in our portfolios will be the least of our concerns.  Here’s what will matter:  Your practical skills.  Can you fix the machinery? Plant new crops? Build shelter?  Get water flowing?  Get the electricity back on?

In the post apocalyptic world, should I be one of the few survivors, I imagine us all sitting around the fire.

Know any good postapocalyptic campfire songs?

“You know,” someone will say, “we should go around the circle here and take an inventory of what skills we all have.”

“I’m a carpenter,” the 1st guy might say.  “I can help us rebuild.”

“I’m a chef.  I can prepare the food we gather and the game we hunt.”

“I’m a farmer.  I can get our crops planted and nurture them to fruition.”

“I’m a hunter.  I can provide meat and protect the camp.”

“I’m a fisherman.”

“I’m a mechanic.”

“I’m an electrician.”

On and on they’ll go listing useful skills until, at last, they come to me.  “Ah, well let’s see now,” I’ll say.  “I can publish our “Armageddon Today” newsletter…”

Guess who’s gonna be dinner when things turn tough?

I’ve always admired folks who can actually do stuff.  Not only are they more self sufficient, if they’re good they’ll have people like me lined up to pay for their services.

My now-not-so-little girl said to me recently, “When I buy a house, I want to be rich enough to pay people to keep it in good repair.”  Hey, that was my plan! Trouble is, it is as much work finding people who are willing and able as it is to do it yourself.  If you expect quality work at a reasonable price, it’s damn near impossible.

Here’s a cool post:

My pal Serge is a retired master carpenter.  He does, on a selective basis, jobs that interest him or that help his friends.  That my house hasn’t crumbled to dust is largely his doing.  So is our gorgeous  kitchen and master bath.  But he is accepting less and less work these days.  Time to sell the house.

Develop these skills, treat your customers fairly, and it’s like money in the bank.  You’ll always have the freedom to choose your path.  Even if Armageddon doesn’t come.

But if it does and if we’re ever around the campfire together, remember I’m old and the meat would be tough.

Today let’s take a break and visit some of the more interesting items that have come my way of late.

This is too funny.  Wish I’d had this to give you all on Valentine’s Day.  Wish even more I had this kid’s style:

You think you’re tough?  Think you’re resourceful?  Think you’re a minimalist?  Think you’re a badass?  Think again, bucko.  This Inuit and his shit knife at the end of this talk?  That’s the real deal.

The real badass deal

Story goes this old Inuit guy is left to die in the sub-zero arctic wilds.  He is left stripped of his weapons and tools.  He has only his two dogs for companions.  Rather than despair and freeze, he deficates into his hand.  He then forms the poop into a blade.  As it freezes into shape, he takes a bit of saliva to give it a razor’s edge.

He then slaughters one of the dogs.  He saves the meat and uses the skin an sinews to form straps.  The rib cage he makes into a sled he harnesses to the other dog.  Shit knife in his belt he disappears into the night.

and we worry about investments.

You’ll find this story at about minute 19 on the link below.

Oh, and for those of you who have an interest in the world and it’s wonderfully diverse culture, the rest of the video is well worth your time:

Looking for a good book?  I always am and here 101 gives us one.  Good post, too: list.

I can only wish I’d been smart enough to do this when I was coming up:

One of the big deathbed regrets is reported to be not having taken more chances with your life. At the end we don’t regret what we did but what we didn’t do.  Avoid debt, live on less than you earn, invest the difference and you are free to accept the luck that flows past you.  Then:

Here’s an interesting reminder that we now have a new generation of investors who have yet to see a bull market.  Trust me, it’s coming.

This one started slow for me, but it is short and definitely worth considering.  We never know the impact we have.

Dark Matter

Speaking of having impact consider Dark Matter.

Gentlemen, listen up:

and now for a bit of magic:

Here’s a little thought experiment.

Consider all the people you’ve known for a moment.  Now focus on the five who have been least successful and the five who have achieved the most.  Ask yourself, what is their attitude regarding luck?  In my experience the contrast is striking.  What I notice is this:

  • Less successful people attribute a large part of their situation to (bad) luck.  They tend to use it as an excuse and as a tool of their envy. It allows them to be content with their position while dismissing the achievements of others.
  • More successful people tend to dismiss luck altogether.  They focus on their own blood, sweat and tears.  They see their achievements as theirs alone.  They fail to give the blessing of luck its due.

If you play poker you know it is a game of skill.  No surer money making opportunity exists than having a player sit down at the table and announce that the winners will be chosen this night by the capriciousness of Lady Luck.  That happens, I can already feel their money in my pocket.  Talk about luck!

Will you cowboy up when you meet her?

But you also don’t play poker long, or with success, before learning some times the cards run with you and some times they run bad.  Ignoring these runs of luck is a dangerous and arrogant mistake.  Expensive, too.

I can remember one long poker night with Johnny,  and for all his formidable skill he couldn’t catch a break.  Every strong hand he pulled only won him the right to come in second.  A very costly proposition that.  Lord protect me from second best in a poker hand.

Around 3am he pulled a hand with 4 Fours. I’ve played a lot of stud and draw poker over the years and I can count the number of times I’ve seen four-of-a-kind on one hand.  It is as close to a sure thing as you can expect to get.

Several players were contending hard and the pot was huge.  When the dust settled one guy had a straight (and what the hell was he doing still in the hand?).  There was a flush and a full-house.  Each waiting to kneel before Johnny’s beautiful 4 Fours.

Then the last player rolled over his cards.  4 Queens.

Johnny tossed in his hand and turned to me.  “Ya know,” he said, “when you can’t win with four-of-a-kind it’s time to pack it up and go home.”  Better luck next time.

Since business entertaining was always a key part of my career, over the years I’ve found myself attending about half a dozen professional basketball games.  Inevitably we would be sitting in the best best seats in the house.  Equally inevitably I be sitting there wishing I could be home (to steal a wonderful phrase from Brave New Life) throwing rocks at trees.  Not my sport.


As my mind would wander boredom would morph into meditation and the same few thoughts would occur each game:

  • This primo seat is tragically wasted on me.
  • There are people in this arena, maybe all of them, for whom sitting here would be the realization of a life’s dream.
  • Damn, those players are big.
  • Damn, that court is small.
  • The players put in the absolute least effort possible for the first 7/8ths of the game.
  • Even I can appreciate the intensity of the last few minutes.
  • These guys are getting paid millions to do this?  Really?

But the thought I dwell upon most is just how exceptionally lucky these guys are.

This is not to take anything away from their remarkable athletic talent, or the hard work it surely takes to play at this level.  Rather, how incredibly lucky these guys are to have this talent combined with those unique body types right now and in this place.

we’ve been looking for luck a long time

Until this moment in history and in this particular country, those same skills would have had zero economic value.  Had they been born at any other time in the last 200,000 years or so Homo Sapiens has been roaming the planet, nobody would have cared.  But today, in this golden moment, they are worshiped and showered in gold.  Not hard to see the luck in that.

This is not to pick on ball players.  The same is true for all of us if we have the humility to look for it.

One day in 1992 a venture capital pal of mine, Chris, gave me a call.  I had been searching for businesses to buy and he had an interest in backing me in the effort.  A guy in Kentucky needing cash to take his company to the next level had reached out to him.  Chris asked me to take a look, and that’s how I met Mike Whitaker.

Over the course of the next three months, working closely with his team, we developed a detailed business plan to guide them forward and secure the venture capital needed.  We got to know each other well and one night over dinner, at my request, he told me his story.

Mike was a South Illinois country boy growing up near the Kentucky border.  He loved his rural roots and home.

In the 1970s, as he came of age, the CB Radio craze began sweeping the country.  These things were the cell phones of their day.  Suddenly every motorist on the road was chattering away, CB in hand, irritating the hell out of truckers who’d been using this tool forever.

Ten-four, good buddy

Mike found himself making a pretty good living selling the things until this fad, as fads will do, disappeared even more quickly than it had arrived.  Suddenly unemployed he had some thinking to do.  Living in South Illinois, he was not exactly surrounded by other options.

He sat with a beer and took inventory.  He wasn’t going to leave the place he treasured.  He wasn’t going to be able to replace the CR Radio job.  He wanted to make money doing something he loved.  What he loved was fishing for bass.

Big Business

Bass Fishing, as it happens, is big business.  At the time that business was dominated by an organization called B.A.S.S out of Atlanta, Georgia.  B.A.S.S ran big-time bass fishing tournaments all across the country. But they couldn’t be bothered with little old South Illinois.

Mike figured if he could organize a few local bass fishing tournaments each year, he’d live what he loved and maybe make 10 or 15 thousand a year in the process.  More than enough to meet his modest needs.  He figured correctly as it turned out, and Operation Bass was born.

Over the next several years he ran his tournaments, generated about 150k in revenue and took home the 10-15k he needed.  He got pretty good at it.  He fished whenever he pleased.  Life was sweet.

The money in bass fishing tournaments comes from two sources.  Equipment and boat manufactures pay to be associated with the event.  Prizes and bragging rights are awarded.  Contestants pay to enter, hoping to win them.

Mike reveled in being Master of Ceremonies.  Who needed CB Radios anyway?

two guys showed up one day

One day two guys showed up at Mike’s door.  They were from the Pinkerton Tobacco Company.  Among other tobacco products, Pinkerton owned the Redman Chewing Tobacco brand.  Guess what?  Bass fishermen are a key chewing tobacco demographic.  Pinkerton wanted a Bass Fishing Tournament.

Mike’s question was, of course, why would this national brand (and certainly a plum sponsor prospect) be interested in his little regional events?  Why didn’t they go to the national company, B.A.S.S?  Turns out they did.

But  B.A.S.S would only offer sponsorships in their existing tournaments.  Pinkerton wanted something more.  They wanted to sponsor a brand new national event.  They wanted it to be called The Redman Tournament Trail.   Would Operation Bass be interested in creating it?

“Yes,” said Mike, “we’d be interested.  But we simply don’t have the financial resources to do it.”

“We’ve already thought of that,” said the two Pinkerton Tobacco Company guys.  “You need to be bigger to do this for us. That’s why we are prepared to give you all this money.”  Then they figuratively pushed a huge bundle of cash across his desk.

“You take this, create the tournament and we’ll be your lead sponsor for as long as you are willing to run it.”

By the time I met him, Operation Bass was a multi-million dollar nationwide company.  The Redman Tournament Trail was a premier event in the Bass Fishing world.  He owned it lock, stock and barrel.  He was still doing what he loved and where he wanted to do it.  It had made him a wealthy man.

Mike did a lot of things right and deserves a lot of credit.  He analyzed his situation.  He followed his heart.  He looked for opportunity. He focused on what he knew. He set his goal.  He came up with a plan.  He created his tournaments.  He bootstrapped their growth.  He built a reputation.  He became precisely the one guy the Pinkerton Tobacco Company needed.  He delivered for them.  He earned it.

But what gave Mike his gracious aura was his unassuming humility and his cheerful recognition of the luck that had flowed his way.

even when we’re not looking it keeps on flowing

Working with guys like him, playing poker and watching basketball I’ve come to see luck as an ever present flowing stream.  Most of the time we are unaware of it, or maybe just not ready to reach in.  Our eyes are closed.  But sometimes we can be ready and sometimes our eyes are open.  Sometimes we recognize it and sometimes we know what to do with it.

It is said luck favors the prepared.  Seems it also is drawn to those who in failing, learn and keep trying.

It is seen by those who know when to step back to rest, reassess and look.

It is recognizable to those who pursue their dreams and what they love.

  • If life hasn’t been turning out the way you’d hoped, take a moment.  Look around.  Open your eyes.  There might just be some luck flowing past waiting for you to grab it.
  • If you are basking in the glow of your hard work, initiative and success, congratulations.  Now, when you’re done patting yourself on the back, take a moment and, like Mike….

…give a little thanks.

Post Script:

Unfortunately for me, ultimately Mike decided that as much as he wanted to expand into TV and magazines per our plan, he wasn’t willing to give up the ownership equity my VC backers would have required.  Bad for me, probably best for him. We parted friends and lost track of each other as too often happens.

Google tells me he sold the business in 1996 and the new owners executed an expansion in 2001 that sounds very much like our plan.  I take some satisfaction in that.


Here’s a great article on this whole luck v. skill v. effort balance:

How to Give like a Billionaire

Posted: February 8, 2012 in business, Life, Money

I know what you’re thinking.  For sometime now you’ve been wondering what exactly Mr. and Mrs. Jlcollinsnh have in common with Bill and Melinda Gates.  Here it is:

We both have Charitable Foundations

Now you’re thinking, “I knew it!  jlcollinsnh is a billionaire!”  In this you’d be, sadly I must say, mistaken.  More monk than minister, I’m afraid.

The Gates Foundation Building

Our foundation has no building at all

We talk a lot on this blog about investing and building your own F-you Money stash.  Very little time is spent on, well, spending it.  Since we  personally don’t much care for owning things we’ve not much to say.  We like travel.  We do spend on that.  Sending our daughter to college is money well spent, as she is so thoroughly embracing the experience.

But the money we’ve spent that has provided us with the most pure pleasure is that we’ve been privileged to give away.

In fact, I can specifically pin-point the $1200 that has given us the most satifaction return of all.  I hesitate telling this story as it will be easy to read it as bragging when it’s only meant to illustrate.  Hope you take it in that spirit.

Many years ago we attended a charitable auction held by the Catholic grammar school our daughter then attended.  We had always been impressed with the teachers and the Mother Superior who ran the place.

One of our favorite local restaurants was Parkers.  Parkers had donated for auction a gourmet dinner for ten.  On the spur of the moment we decided to win it and gift it to the school’s teachers.

Bidding was spirited but as the amounts reached the actual cost of dinner for ten at Parkers, the competition dropped off.  At around $1200 we were the winners.

When I gifted it to the Mother Superior I also gave her two obligations.  First, she would have to choose which ten, of the about 15, teachers would get to go.  Second, she herself would have to attend.  See, we know this Mother Superior and needed to head off her selfless ways.

Parker stepped up

When word spread a couple of very interesting things happened.  Parker stepped up and expanded his donation to dinner for 15 so everyone got to go.   Another bidder offered to foot the bill for the wine.

Well, you know what happens when you mix fine food, wine and Catholic school teachers.  Let’s just say, a good time was had by all, and leave it at that….

In addition to personal pleasure, one of the benefits of charitable giving is the tax deduction.  Of course, to gain this benefit you must itemize your deductions on your tax return.  But if you have less than $11,600 (Married and Filing Jointly.  $5600 if Single) in itemized deductions you are better off taking the standard deduction and saving yourself the effort.

Five or six years ago it occurred to me that two life changes were coming down the pike that would affect my personal tax situation.  We were planing to sell the house and I was planning to retire.  Without the house and it’s associated deductible costs we’d no longer be itemizing.  Upon retiring I’d be in a lower tax bracket.  Both these things would be lowering the tax advantage of charitable giving.  The solution:

The JJ Collins Charitable Fund

If you’ve been reading this blog much you already know I’m a big fan of Vanguard.  So it should be no surprise that in setting up our foundation we used The Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program.  Here’s why:

  • You don’t have to be a billionaire.  You can open your own foundation with as little as $25,000.  Fancy building not included.
  • You get the tax deduction in the year you fund your foundation.  So I got to take the tax benefits when they mattered most to me.
  • If you have stocks or mutual funds or other assets that have appreciated in value you can move these directly into your charitable foundation. You get the tax deduction for their full market value and you don’t have to pay any capital gains taxes on the gain.  Double tax win and more $$ for your charities.
  • You can choose a variety of investment options so your donation grows tax free while waiting for you to allocate it.
  • You decide what charities receive your money, how much and when.  You can set this up to happen automatically.
  • You can add more money to your foundation whenever you choose.
  • Because it is run thru Vanguard, expenses are rock bottom.
  • Now I can tell unwanted solicitors, “We only give thru our foundation.  Please send us your written proposal.”  We’ve gotten exactly zero proposals.
  • It keeps our personal names off the lists some charities sell to future solicitors.

In addition to the tax advantages this offers, it also plays into some of my conclusions regarding charitable giving:

  • It is best to concentrate your giving.  We have selected two charities.
  • Giving small donations to many charities might be satisfying to you, but it dilutes the impact and a greater percent of your gift is eaten up in the processing of it.
  • Many small donations also gets you on many mailing lists.
  • Never give to phone solicitors.
  • The more I see a charity advertising, the less likely I am to believe they are focused on delivering my cash to those they claim to serve.
  • You need to do your homework.  In addition to scams, lots of charities simply aren’t very efficient in delivering your dollars to those in need.  You can check them out here:


You don’t need a charity to help

There is also something to be said for giving outside the traditional, and tax deductible, places.  Helping your friends and neighbors directly isn’t deductible, but it has immediate benefits all around.  This is something I’ll be trying to do more of in the coming years:


Finally, while giving is a fine and pleasant thing, no one has an obligation to do so.  Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something, most likely the idea of giving to them and/or their pet projects.

As individuals we only have one obligation to society: To make sure we, and our children, are not a burden to others.  The rest is our personal choice.  Make your own and make the world a far more interesting place.

Go ahead, make my day

Posted: February 5, 2012 in business, Life, Money

Self portrait

Or maybe Clint Eastwood

A few days ago I received this email:

“Apreciado Jim:

Un real . You are over the top for a blog (lot’s of our age people don’t even know what that is) and I am blown away with all of the great stuff that you have on the site.

Are you getting funded properly? We both are not “Capitalists” but I want this to go viral.

There are many people like me.

In fact one of my fraternity brothers “not the billionaire” started a blog that got really popular and he just did a book. I will forward that piece.

However, you hit the heart of many people Jim. How can you take this Galactic, and why on earth did you spend so much time in the HVAC world?? Actually it is a great place to grow….



Holy smokes, Dave!  Thanks for the exceedingly kind words, and the permission to use your message in this post.

I have been basking in the glow ever since.

Dave is a business pal of mine from a previous life.  He is a senior international executive with a major US based company.  He was born and raised in Columbia and he knows I’ve been trying to learn Spanish.  Hence his intro in the email.

He is a guy for whom I have great respect and coming from him such kind words carry much weight.  I didn’t even know he was reading this stuff.  That got me thinking.

One of the odd things about blogging, at least for us beginners, is it’s like talking to yourself.  I get some nice feedback in the comments occasionally  but sometimes I wonder what, if any, readership it’s getting.  Wordpress allows me to see how many people visit and what articles they click on.   That number has been growing nicely.  Those who choose to comment are a tiny minority.  Of the others, I’m left to wonder if their reaction is like Dave’s or if they read a few lines and thought, “What a bozo!” before moving on.

Hopefully, more of you cast your vote with Dave.  If so you might be interested in some of the answers to his questions:

The good news is that it costs me nothing other than time and effort to do this.  So, no funding is needed.  The bad news is, there is also no money in it, at least not yet.  I’m not sure how to monetize it, but I think I need a much larger audience to attract advertising.

I did just learn that some of you may be seeing ads on the blog.  They never appear on my version.  Wordpress tells me they place these and it provides revenue to them.  That, in turn, provides their hosting service to me for free.  Works for me; hope they aren’t a distraction for you.

Converting some of this material into a book has been on my mind of late.  The blog is a nice discipline to keep writing in a way I never would otherwise.  Seems publishing a book has also gotten far easier, as this guy describes:

It would be great to see this blog it go viral!  If you are willing to help….

  • Anytime you see an entry that might appeal to your friends and associates, please send out an email with a link.
  • Encourage them to subscribe.  It’s free!  You, too, and all your family.
  • Please comment on the blog entries and click on the button that sends you emails when other comments are posted.   Slowly this is growing but it seems folks are afraid to be the early contributors.
  • If you have a blog and think something here would be of interest to your readers, by all means please link to it.
Psst.  Pass it on.
So go ahead, make my day!

Muk Finds Success in Tahiti

Posted: February 1, 2012 in business, Life, Money, Travels

Let’s run away together

One day, many years ago, I was having an especially bad day at work.  Late in the afternoon I called my not-yet-then-but-soon-to-be wife and said:

“I’m sick of this crap.  Let’s quit our jobs and run away to Tahiti.”  I’m not entirely sure I knew where Tahiti was at the time.

She said, “Sounds good.  I can get a deal on the airfare.”

Two weeks later a lovely Tahitian girl was hanging a welcoming lei around my neck and I was learning I’d need to be careful what I suggested around this woman I had proposed to marry.

Tahiti is actually a collection of islands in the South Pacific, each seemingly more stunning than the last.  On one of these we stayed for a while in a hut built over the crystal clear water.

a hut over the water, much like ours

One morning, lingering over coffee in the outdoor cafe on the grounds a trim, athletic fellow came up to our table.  He was barefoot and shirtless.  He introduced himself as Muk, one of the hotel owners.  An obvious American by his accent.

Exceedingly curious, of course we invited him to join us.  Muk is a great conversationalist and story teller.  He began by confessing he had noticed my not-yet-then wife lounging about the day before and had almost upbraided her for slacking in her duties.  She very much looks like a Tahitian.

Beautiful Tahitian, but not my wife

All very amusing, but not answering my burning question.

“So,” I said, “how exactly does a guy from the USA wind up owning a hotel in Tahiti?”

Turns out Muk and two of his pals had graduated from university somewhere in Michigan in the early 1960s.  From there they moved to California.  Casting about for something to do, one of them noticed a small classified ad offering a pineapple plantation for sale in Tahiti.  Dirt cheap.  Remember, Tahiti had yet to become a famous tourist destination.

They bought it sight unseen and began packing their bags.

I said, “Did you know anything about pineapple growing?”

“Not a thing,” said Muk.

“Did you grow up on a farm?”

“Nope.  We were all city kids.”

“But surely you worked on a farm while going to school?”

“Never even set foot on one.”

They get to Tahiti and go to work on their pineapple plantation.  Within a couple of months it becomes clear why it was dirt cheap.  Turns out you can’t actually make a living growing pineapples in Tahiti.  Broke and getting broker, stranded in paradise, they began to wonder about their options.  That’s when the local bank in Papeete invites them to a meeting.


Seems down the hill from the plantation, on the water, is a half-built hotel.  The builder has bellied up and given up.  Would Muk and his pals, the bank asks, be willing to finish it?  Generous terms, of course.

“Wait a second,” I said, “did you guys have any construction experience?”

“Not a bit.”

“But you’d run a hotel before then, right?”


“Worked in one?”

“Never.  But we had stayed in some occasionally.”

“So why in hell, and I mean this in the most pleasant possible way,” I said, “would a bank gift a half finished hotel and construction loans to you guys?”

“Their back was against the wall and we were Americans.  Americans had a reputation for getting things done.”

Muk and his pals lived up to that reputation.  Despite the lack of experience, they got the hotel finished and operating profitably.  Then they went on to build and operate others, including the one where we stayed.

Living in Paradise

By the time we met he was rich, barefoot, shirtless and getting richer.  Oh, and living in paradise to boot.

BTW, in writing this I got to wondering about Muk and Googled him.  Turns out he’s now 80 and going strong.  Some of his story details are different than I recall and have presented here, but clearly we weren’t the only ones upon whom he made an impression.

Here’s Muk Today @ 80 years

But Muk was not the only person in Tahiti we met who had managed to put life together on their own terms.

Nice beach to wander

One evening we wandered down the beach to a little place on the sand for dinner. Out in the bay there were several beautiful sailboats.

While we were having drinks a dingy detached from one of the boats and made its way to shore.  A couple about our age got out, walked up the sand and took the table next to us. We got to talking. Soon we were sharing a table and having dinner together. Unfortunately, I have forgotten their names, but I’ll never forget their story.

Sailboat in Tahiti

They had sailed over from LA and were spending four months roaming the South Sea Islands.  What, I asked, did they do that allowed for such a thing?

Turns out this guy had two partners and the three of them owned two things together: That sailboat and a business in LA. On a rotating basis two would be in LA running the business while the third would be out playing with the boat.

Clearly you’d need partners you trusted implicitly, but with that in place this might be the sweetest deal I’ve come across.

Since starting this blog, I’ve come across several others focused on achieving financial independence and embracing life on one’s own terms.  Here are a few worth checking out:

These are all written by young people intent on breaking the shackles of debt and consumerism and living free.  They, and their readers, are filled with ideas and courage.

This freedom, to me, is the single most valuable thing money can buy and it’s why I recommend building your own stash of F-you Money:

Enjoy your journey, wherever it may lead.