Dec

16

December 2018

Dear son:

At twelve years old you are on the verge of adulthood with many years of a productive life ahead of you. You are a good boy now and I want you to become a good man. I love you very much and are very proud of your many accomplishments and interests and wanted from my 75 years vantage point for you to have a permanent reminder from me as to guide lines as to how to make your life good for the future. While you may not find many of these points of immediate value, I hope you will go back to them from time to time and find them of value.

Perhaps most important is to realize that conditions are always changing. To be successful, you have to be ready to adjust your activities to take account of the changes that have occurred and  that will come in the future. In business, that means don't go with the same trades as the past. That means be ready to quit while you're far ahead. And never make the same trades two days in a row.

Books going back to Greek and Roman times and from around the world will show you that people have always had the same problems and opportunities as in the present.  The books will make you fly to different places and time thereby expanding your horizons You can and should learn from them by reading widely and often. There has always been a big library in the Niederhoffer families and I hope you will continue the tradition by reading, widely and often. You should maintain a big library of your own.

There are also certain books that you should read as a foundation and beacon that will be resonant throughout your life. You were named after a hero of Patrick O’Brian who was modeled after Nelson and Darwin. He is said to be the best historical novelist of all times and you have a complete set of his books and it is a good place to start. Atlas Shrugged is a good book to give you a grasp of what the world is like.

Any list of the 100 greatest books is good. Here are some of my additions that I have found useful and resonant Memories of My Life by Galton, The Good Old Boys by Elmore Kelton, Atlas Shrugged, The Selfish Gene by Dawkins, The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brien, Count of Monte Cristo, The Eye of the Needle, Gone with the Wind, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer, Triumph of  the Optimists, Don Quixote, I, Claudius, Les Miserables, stories by Chekhov, Moby Dick, Candide, Call of the Wild, Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, Gulliver’s Travels, The Aeneid, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Carnegie, The Power Elite by Mills, The Structure of Scientific Revolution by Kuhn, Tale of Two Cities. To learn about Asia read Wild Swans and Shogun.

I would recommend biographies of successful people as an inspiration and a model. Biographies of the following greats are a good place to start. Beethoven, Caesar, Carnegie, Churchill, Darwin, da Vinci, Edison, Einstein, Feynman, Franklin, Galton, Jefferson, De Kruif (Microbe Hunters), Madame Curie, Pasteur, Shoenberg (Life of the Musicians), Steinbeck, Twain, Vasari (Lives of the Artists), and Washington are all inspiring and educational.  You can always profit and be inspired by reading them again.

All areas are connected and in order to be a complete and competent person you should have a knowledge of and study textbooks in accounting, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, geography, investments, law, mathematics, music, physics, spatial relations, and statistics.

Try to learn as much as you can. You never know when you’ll be able to use a subject that you could have learned when you were young. You never can tell when a subject that you have learned will enable you to be productive and gain insights. Events tend to repeat and the same goals and problems arise whether in ancient or modern times so it’s good to know history. Historical novels are a good way to get a foundation.

Many of the things below are based on good and bad things that have happened in my life or those of my friends. I hope you will profit by avoiding the bad and emphasizing the good.

A good life should encompass a love of children, women, nature, books, music, sports, and art. To have a good life you should combine many areas of interest. Study computers and all of their aspects.

Don’t give up on things that you’re not expert on. Try to find a good mentor.

Listen and learn should be one of your guiding principles. Don’t argue about politics or religion.

Put in that extra effort when you’re good at something and emphasize it.

Take lessons from experts whenever you can. Research online to find out expert advice in fields you’re interested in.

It’s nice to have hobbies: checkers, chess, food, music, shells, a sport like squash or tennis, trees, mechanical things are good ones.

Read. Read a lot. Lots of topics, fiction as well as non-fiction. When in doubt, read.

At a fairly young age read L'Amour’s Education of a Wandering Man, Churchill (My Early Life) and Richard Feynman’s What Do you Care What Other People Think?

HEALTH:

Exercise every day. Keep your blood pressure down with a systolic below 110. Get a CEA test at 40 years old. Brush your teeth and waterpik twice a day. Don’t eat smoked food. Eat four times as much fish as meat. Get out in the sun at least 30 minutes a day. Get to sleep before 12 midnight. Don’t eat food after 9 pm. Try to get up with the sun when possible. Don’t be tempted to smoke or do drugs. A little exercise in the morning to start your day will make you more productive and healthier. Keep your weight down to under 3.4 pounds per. Cut down on eating red meat. A mile a day of exercise every day should be your goal. When traveling jog in a park or in the hotel exercise room.

Find a good doctor and treat him/her very well so that you receive special attention and advice.

Learn to breathe and run properly, especially on the balls of your feet.

PERSONAL:

Be good to Susan and your mother, be guided by Roy, and try to be friendly and appreciative with all your sisters.

Never count on friends when you are in a crisis.

Stay away from hoodoos.

Romance Advice:

Marry a woman who you like in everyday things. Be solicitous to your romantic partners. Always let your partner have a climax first. Never force your partner to do something she doesn’t want to do. All romance should be at least 10 minutes. When the brain in your penis and your head differ, go with your head. Always give your girlfriend more than she gives you. A good test of a girlfriend is to think about how you think she’ll behave in adversity. Never say anything bad about a friend’s girlfriend.

Look at your girlfriend’s mother before marrying her to see what her character and looks are when she’s 50 or 60.

Don’t spend more than an hour a day on computer games.

The best friends you’ll have are your relatives. They are the only ones you can count on.

Try to stay close in business and personal life with people who good things happen to.

You are not what you eat, or what you drive or where you live. You are you. And if that is not working out for you, changing your diet or car or home will not fix the problem.

Video games may not make you violent, but they certainly do not make you a better son, student or friend. Play them sparingly.

You only get out of something what you put into it, so are you spending time now on something that will give you back what you want?

Sleep will not solve all of your problems, but not sleeping will create new ones.

Never let your sisters down, they are irreplaceable and will be your longest friendship in life and, one day, will be the only people who remember your childhood.

Be the kind of boss, teacher, father, and friend that you had, or wish you had.

Choose your friends wisely. If they are jerks, you will not be far behind.

Try to spend your time with friends that you admire                                                                                                         
Calling your parents for no special reason is always a good idea.

Never assume anything about another person’s wealth, health or happiness.  All too often one is mistaken.

Remember that other people are the same as you. They have the same feelings and the same thoughts.

There are bad people. Avoid them. Don't let them engage you. Walk away.

It’s not enough to be smart. Work harder than the next guy, practice more, try harder.  When you’re young and smart everything seems easy and it can breed complacency.

Clean up your own house before you start criticizing anyone else or the world.

Remember not everyone thinks the same way you do: This isn't about opinions. It's about the ability to process information, debate, discuss. It's important to remember your mind may work differently than everyone else’s.

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% in how you react. Be agile, open, and willing to understand that things don't end up how you might plan.

Don’t care what other people think. Live based on your value system and beliefs and ignore what other people think.

Pick a baseball team. Stay a fan through good, bad and ugly. Learn to love the game as it has much to teach you if your listen.

Be good. That’s what my father wrote to me on my 13th birthday. The Boy Scout creed, is a good place to start. Be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, cheerful, thrift, brave and clean. If you follow these guidelines along with the advice in this letter you will grow up to be a productive, healthy, and successful man.

FINANCE:

Never get in over your head. Never sell short. Buy and hold is the best strategy. Stocks have gone up 50,000 fold in the last 110 years so it’s a good place to put any savings. Get up early in the morning. Don’t do anything illegal. You’ll never be able to get restitution if you do. Always keep something in reserve. Beware of down Fridays. Count whenever you can. Be mindful of stopping when you have a good gain rather than what most people do in stopping at a big loss. Remember that you have to get out of an investment as well as getting in. That means that you have to take account of the liquidity of your position. When there is little liquidity the other side will often form pools and cliques against you. Take account of the vig or rake on all investments. That’s a constant. And you can’t overcome a big rake or vig of say more than 1/30 the of your expected gain or loss. Be mindful of ever-changing cycles. Read Bacon (Secrets of Professional Turf Betting). Remember deception is everywhere. Things are seldom what they seem. The spider and plants have a million ways of hiding the true or emphasizing the false. Human have all these deceptions plus what they have learned from nature, war, and politics.

Remember to put all deals in writing. Take account of the potential worst case scenarios and put what you’ll do (for example a buyout agreement) in writing.

Negotiate everything.

Don’t be concerned about the dollar or the clock but think for the long term.

When you lend money to a friend, don’t expect to get it back.

Don’t settle your disputes with litigation or lawyers as the bills will be greater than any expectation of recovery.

A good accountant is very helpful and knowledge of accounting is very useful.

When you buy collectibles as investments, always buy the best. Usually it pays to buy the more expensive items rather than the cheapest.

When you are way up, have a point where you would liquidate after you’ve lost a certain amount.

Make sure you value your time when taking into account the cost of any activity.

Learn about real estate as well as stocks.

Be generous and fair. Never cheat.

If a man can beat you, walk him, i.e. don’t play poker with a man named Doc.

Covering your tracks reveals a faulty character. Real men own up to their mistakes, apologize and try to put things right.

Boldness always trumps brilliance. Just make sure you can back it up – at least most of it.

It's okay to fail. Take lessons away from every failure and use it in future endeavors. All the best athletes have learned more from their defeats than their victories. See edspec on Lacoste for this.

Avoid local bias - remember that if two or three people tell you something, doesn't make it so.

Travel is good. It widens your perspective and give you new ideas. Leave the United States for at least a week every two years.

If you don't like your job, quit. Quit the moment you feel like you're only doing it for money. Don't waste your time and life (especially youth) on things that do not interest you. You'll find money elsewhere.

GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. Don't start any job without a contract with terms in place. If someone owes you a debt, get a promissory note. Hard lesson to learn because you'll probably get hit once or twice before you learn this one, as I did.

Always ask “What’s in it for me?” Saying NO leaves you more power than YES as you can change a no to a yes much easier.

It's okay to fail. Take lessons away from every failure and use it in future endeavors.

The one thing that is constant is change. Be ready to adjust.

Remember, even though it sometimes I expect too much of you, I am proud of you and I love you very much.


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4 Comments so far

  1. Estebiza on December 16, 2018 6:54 pm

    admirable !

  2. John on December 19, 2018 4:52 am

    Great list, needs to be retweeted; also hope this running draft with future updates.

  3. Andre Wallin on December 29, 2018 4:51 pm

    Blood pressure below 110?

  4. Ralph Di Fiore on January 4, 2019 6:47 pm

    Happy New Year Victor! Fabulous advice for your son and for any son or daughter. You were very lucky to have Artie as your father and Aubrey is very fortunate to have you as a father. If every father could come up with such sagacious advice humanity would be far better off. Keep up the great work and all the best to you and your family in 2019.

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