My father, James Balog Senior, often gave me sage advice growing up. Thankfully he still does. One such nugget, delivered with his gentle grace and down-home charm steeped straight from the dirty coal fields of Vintondale, in Western Pennsylvania: “You will use every bit of knowledge that you acquire over your life, without exception **. Much of it will seem insignificant at the time. But trust me, it will all come to significance in due time.” He added with a smirk, “And for your lessons? Please do yourself a favor and try and keep the ‘tuition’ to a minimum.”
I don’t recall if this gem was conveyed while cutting the grass, raking leaves, or picking out the seeming endless rocks of the Watching Mountains that had shortly before been hacked in a spark and clank of the power mower. I was fortunate to grow up in a home with a bright yellow power mower that had a hand controlled wheel gear release, making the pushing easier. This machine replaced the whirling manual rotor blade version, like a scaled down wheat field combine, which now sadly sat alone in the tool shed.
The simplified product transition from old ‘tech’ to new ‘tech’ might be what the Finnish today would refer to as, ‘curling parenting’. This delightful term refers to the process in curling of the broom sweeping the ice before the curling granite* (in this metaphor, the kids) gets to its final resting place with greater ease. [warm respectful shout out to Rami and Katja Ahonen]. In America, this would be the precursor to the modern term – helicopter parenting. Even back in the olden days, ‘the easy life’, referred simply to our levels of manual labor. And yes, it’s true, you can take my Dad out of the Ukraine, but you can’t take the Ukrainian out of my Dad.
Regardless, I did what every rebellious teen with raging hormones would do. A grumble, an eye roll, and a gratuitous deferential smirk in reply. But here’s the crazy part. He was right. And it wasn’t the first lesson, nor the last. Learning really is everything. And as much as my kids today say, “awwww Dad, another story, another lesson?”, I smile inside at their eye roll and grumble, knowing that somewhere in there, is a future tale to someone, perhaps even their own children, should they be as fortunate as me. And they’ll tell their kids about how tedious it was to transition from the iPhone 6 to iPhone 7.
So what is this blog about?
Learning. Risk taking. And learning to take risks. It’s about hearing all too often the scornful, “WHAT are you DOING?” And realizing that scorn often represents the winds of consensus. And in life, as with investing, the hard thing to do, and the right thing to do, are often the same.
The anti-question, the correct question is, “WHAT are you NOT doing? And WHY not?”
Lean into the wind.
(and so it begins…)
*Not just any rock: curling stones’ special granite comes from Scotland. Curling, perhaps the oddest sport at the winter Olympics, probably originated in Scotland. The stones used to play it are made from the granite of one tiny volcanic island there. The curling stone is specified by the World Curling Federation, which requires a weight between 38 and 44 pounds (17.24 and 19.96 kg), a maximum circumference of 36 inches (914.4 mm) and a minimum height of 4.5 inches (114.3 mm).
** Don’t worry, you’ll use it, even if it’s to win a beer from your mates.