Always follow the money.
Don’t believe anything that anybody tells you, instead, follow where the money is flowing.
“Visionary” CEO who talks about raising human consciousness whilst self dealing in such a way as to receive a billion dollar payout simply to go away. That’s a fake, a fraud, a thief. Follow the money.
Start up CEO who wants you to work for a below market rate whilst paying themselves a good wage? Fake, fraud, thief. They don’t believe in their own vision so why should you? They get all of the upside while having none of the downside. It’s a bad trade.
The money never lies, it’s where people express their honest intentions about what is important to them.
Someone saying that they’re truly heartbroken by the plight of starving children in Africa but not devoting any resources towards them? Don’t enable their virtue signalling, particularly when it comes at zero cost. Anything meaningful requires a degree of sacrifice. It requires sacrifice and skin in the game as Taleb says.
Don’t let others place their downside on to you while retaining their own upside. Don’t play with loaded die. It’s a fools game and one that sociopathic individuals and fraudsters will manipulate in their own favour. Options are wonderful things but you don’t want to be the one holding the bag when everything goes to custard.
When you follow the money you can figure out if the game is rigged. Look at the advice you get, is the person giving it getting a kickback of some form? Are they real estate agents who are getting commissions for hawking a new development to a first time investor? Are they financiers trying to get you to be the bag holder on an exotic derivative? Are they a blogger who never posts anything without a referral link. Follow the money and answer the question for yourself.
We live in a post scarcity world where being rich is frowned upon, at least, it’s uncouth in public. Instead we have public individuals who virtue signal in order to prove their moral superiority over others. This is a status game. It’s one they win by convincing others of how great they are even though the relative cost of playing the game is low.
For example, a billionaire who donates a million dollars to a charity still has $999 million dollars remaining. At a rate of return of 7% this individual will expect to make $70 million from their wealth in a year by doing nothing. A million dollar contribution is thus 1.3% of their earnings purely from being wealthy and putting their wealth into index funds. Follow the money, where’s the real sacrifice here? Follow the money and put it in perspective, there’s a lot more wealth in the world than you think.
Following the money will lead you down interesting corridors, including some you won’t particularly like.
It will teach you about how your employers view the value of the work you’re doing and what role you have in an organisation. It can teach you about how your partner sees you and it can teach you about what you personally value.
Following the money is code for being sceptical of others statements and mindful of their actions. It’s code for thinking critically and learning to understand the motivations of others underneath their stated intentions. It’s code for being detail oriented and getting to the truth of the matter.
Specific steps that will help you follow the money:
- Identify how people are being compensated for an action, nothing is ever free
- Assess how large of an impact something is for a specific individual (what is significant for you may not be significant for them)
- Look for inflated promises that don’t pass the smell test, a basic understanding of both physics and expected financial returns helps here
- Look for contracts, don’t take someone’s word for it
- Look for inconsistencies in someone’s statements, these inconsistencies tell you that something is not quite right
- Look for incentive structures and assess how someone’s request helps their cause
- Look for statistical or numerical evidence, a companies accounts are usually a better reflection of a companies position than their CEOs statements
- Look for heads I win tails you lose scenarios. Someone who has abdicated themselves of downside risk is not to be trusted
- Look for weasel words, if someone is talking to you in vague half promises then chances are they are not being honest
Unfortunately, the list of potential ways people may hide their actions and attempt to deceive others here is endless. You will never be able to anticipate all of them. All you can bring to the battle is a dogged persistence and a sceptical attitude. Don’t be greedy, think situations through and you’ll probably be okay. Ask questions but above all else.
Follow. The. Money.