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Caste, Meme Coins, & Startups

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do”
~ Seneca

Greetings from LA and Hawaii.

This week we read Enough by JCB, share 100 life tips and a weekly newsletter full of well-funded startups, and discuss meme investing and America’s caste system. Our challenge is for you to join a new group where you can meet new people.

Enough by JCB

Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life by John C. Bogle (the man who founded the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group and created the first index mutual fund) is a book that examines how “destructive an obsession with financial success can be” as well as what having enough in life and in business really looks like.

It’s an approachable book with steadfast wisdom. The final pages and their accompanying exhortations hit particularly hard:

“In our financial system, we focus our expectations on the returns that the financial markets may deliver, ignoring the exorbitant costs extracted by our financial systems, the excessive taxes engendered by record levels of speculative trading, and inflation borne of a government that spends (our) money beyond its means, grossly devastating these returns. We engage in the folly of short-term speculation and eschew the wisdom of long-term investing. We ignore the real diamonds of simplicity, seeking instead the illusory rhinestones of complexity.

In business, we place too much emphasis on what can be counted and not nearly enough on trusting and being trusted. When we should be doing exactly the opposite, we allow — indeed we almost force — our profession to behave more like businesses. Rather, we ought to be encouraging companies and corporations (the enterprises that create products and services) to regain the professional values that so many of them have cast aside. We have more than enough of the fool’s gold of marketing and salesmanship and not enough of the real gold of trusteeship and stewardship. And we think more like managers, whose task is to do things right, than as leaders, whose task is to do the right thing.

In life, we too often allow the illusory to triumph over the real. We focus too much on things and not enough on the intangibles that make things worthwhile; too much on success (a word I’ve never liked) and not enough on character, without which success is meaningless. Amidst the twenty-first-century pressures for immediate satisfaction and amassing information on demand, we’ve forgotten the enlightened values of the eighteenth century. We let false notions of personal satisfaction blind us to the real sense of calling that gives work meaning for ourselves, our communities, and our society.”

He concludes…

“Over the course of these remarkably blessed 79 years of life that I have enjoyed to the fullest, I have… arrived at some strong opinions on money, on what we should be proud of and ashamed of in our business and professional callings, and on what are the false and true treasures in our lives. I offer those opinions here in the hope that, to borrow one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite lines, I might poison your mind, dear readers, with a little humanity.”

100 Life Tips

Pulling advice from various sources, LessWrong published an article titled 100 Tips for a Better Life. Here are some of our favorites…

  • “When buying things, time and money trade-off against each other. If you’re low on money, take more time to find deals. If you’re low on time, stop looking for great deals and just buy things quickly online.”
  • “History remembers those who got to market first. Getting your creation out into the world is more important than getting it perfect.”
  • “If something surprises you, again and again, stop being surprised.”
  • “Defining yourself by your suffering is an effective way to keep suffering forever.”
  • “In relationships, look for somebody you can enjoy just hanging out near. Long-term relationships are mostly spent just chilling.”

These anecdotes are short, full of wisdom, and remarkably practical. You might even consider reading a few every morning over the next month.

America’s Caste

In Berlin, Germany, on June 5th, 1934, during the early stages of the Third Reich and before the world knew what was coming, a group of Nazi bureaucrats sat behind closed doors to discuss their options for creating a society that would isolate Jewish people and glorify Aryans — what laws would be useful for building such a caste system? Their decisions would later become known as the Nuremberg Laws.

They had researched other countries’ caste systems and were anxious to discuss their findings. The first item on the agenda was the United States and its marginalization of African Americans, a country from which they took much inspiration.

Isabel Wilkerson, the author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, further explains Hitler’s admiration of the United States and its caste system:

“Hitler had studied America from afar, both envying and admiring it, and attributed its achievements to its Aryan stock. He praised the country’s near genocide of Native Americans and the exiling to reservations of those who had survived. He was pleased that the United States had ‘shot down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand.’ He saw the U.S. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 as ‘a model for his program of racial purification,’ historian Jonathan Spiro wrote. The Nazis were impressed by the American custom of lynching its subordinate caste of African-Americans, having become aware of the ritual torture and mutilations that typically accompanied them. Hitler especially marveled at the American ‘knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass death.’”

Many Americans don’t think of America as having — or even having had — a caste system. But Isabel Wilkerson argues to the contrary quite convincingly:

“We in the developed world are like homeowners who inherited a house on a piece of land that is beautiful on the outside, but whose soil is unstable loam and rock, heaving and contracting over generations, cracks patched but the deeper ruptures waved away for decades, centuries even…

Our immediate ancestors may have had nothing to do with it, but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation. We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now.”

It might be uncomfortable to admit, but it’s important to understand: the roots of American society are burrowed into a caste system that no one alive today created. Consider that in 2000 — only 21 years ago — Alabama finally did away with legislation that made interracial marriage illegal (and 40% voted to keep it). Similarly, according to 2002 Gallup Research, 29% of Americans said they opposed marriages between blacks and whites.

And here’s a disturbing 3-minute video that provides further evidence for America’s biases.

We’ve come a long way since the founding of America in terms of equality, but we haven’t come all the way. And while there will always be unkindness in the world, it’s important for each of us to be self-aware and do away with our own personal (and perhaps unseen) biases.

Meme Investing

Dogecoin was created as a meme — it’s a cryptocurrency that was literally meant as a joke. But then Elon Musk talked about it and it soared, making early investors quite a lot of money.

It’s a representation of today’s bizarre investing landscape; one that many people (Alec and I included) don’t know what to do with — do we invest? Do we not invest?

Recently, we’ve simply ignored it.

But Fred Wilson had some interesting insight about “meme investing” in his recent article. Here it is:

“It is easy to dismiss meme investing. The market capitalizations that these meme assets trade at make no sense on any fundamental analysis. But, as I’ve come to understand, that is not the point.

Memes are fun and memes are also something to come together around. Speculating on the popularity of memes and their staying power is no different than any other form of speculation.

I’ve decided that I am going to stop ignoring and dismissing meme investing and start trying to understand it better. I think it is not something that is going away anytime soon and may turn into something even more interesting.

That said, I am not suggesting that anyone invest their retirement money or their savings for their kids’ education into memes. I believe it is more appropriate for speculating right now. That may change. Or it may not. That is yet to be determined.”

And here’s another article with tips for “meme coin investing.”


We recently discovered a weekly newsletter called GrowthList — every week, it sends out a list of “well-funded tech startups you can do business with.”

The idea is this: well-funded startups need help growing their businesses and they have the money to do so. GrowthList gives you a list of these startups along with their contact information so that you (the entrepreneur or service provider) can pitch your services to them.

It costs $49 per month… but that seems like money well-spent if you need additional clients!

And no, GrowthList is not a sponsor — we just think their weekly email is genuinely useful.

This Week’s Photo

Themba Hadebe / AP

“Soccer players play a friendly match on a dusty soccer field in Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 2021.” via The Atlantic

Extra Stuff

Here are some other articles that caught our eye this week…

The Weekly Challenge

Meeting new people and making new friends is an important human experience. It might be a little uncomfortable, but the more we do it (a la exposure therapy), the more natural and enjoyable it becomes. Our challenge this week is for you to try out a new group — maybe it’s a get-together at your Church, a book club, a pick-up game of ultimate frisbee, or a meet-up for entrepreneurs.

Until next week,

Mike & Alec

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