Shooting for the wrong stars will land you in the gutter of Hollywood Boulevard

Theme of post: If you don’t change direction you might end up where you’re heading

Reading time: 2-5 minutes, depending on how long you spend on my list of role models

Floyd and Maria (Sharapova)

Choose your role models carefully

If your favorite celebrities are Floyd Mayweather, Messi, Ronaldo, Djokovich or Tiger Woods, the odds that you are going anywhere relevant are not ever in your favor. The same goes for U2, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Actually, Justin Bieber is the one to emulate if anyone. However there can be only one Biebernator.

If you keep staring at the opposing traffic lane, you risk ending up there.

If you actually did become the next sports or music superstar all would be well. However, you’re more likely to end up in the suburbs of LA handing out free ass passes. Come to think of it, it’s not that different from JBs life as I imagine it.

A financially or spiritually rewarding occupation, which is more important?

We all want to have fun, be happy and feel fulfilled. But money is also nice, given it serves a different purpose than making others envious.

Peter Diamandis asks his students at Singularity University what they would do with a billion dollars – if they couldn’t spend it on themselves (or friends, family, conspicuous consumption and so on).

Coveting fame for fame’s own sake is something you should seek professional help for. Wanting money to buy fame is a symptom of an even worse personality disorder. Pursuing wealth to gain personal freedom or to make the world better, however, is something else altogether.

Think hard about your priorities; what life will look like in the retrospect if you take a certain path. Then choose the right role models, the ones that will act as a magnet on your life’s course.


From negative role models to positive

I wish I had had more guidance on things like this. My list came about as I realized that certain people already were doing what I thought I had to be the one to do to get it done. I always felt relieved every time I found a worthy master of an area, since it meant I could leave it to them.

One of the more important was David Simpson and his book series (heptology?) Post-Human. After reading the first few books in that series, I knew I didn’t have to bother with writing Singularity Fiction, since the best was already done.

Then I found the blog Wait But Why by Tim Urban, but this time, rather than dancing naked in the streets of joy that I didn’t have to try to write a really good blog about this and that, I just felt inspired to do something equally good.

Gradually I realized I had at least one role model in every interesting area of life. I still sometimes think of them in ‘negative’ terms, i.e., that I don’t have to do what they have already mastered. Mostly however, they just inspire me to be better and not be afraid give it a try even in their particular areas of expertise.

That’s it really for this time. Try listing your own role models. Do they feel right? Are they in the relevant areas for you? Perhaps you should look for others? Before you leave, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter (you’ll get a useful and somewhat fun eBook, for free, about how investment decisions were really made at the Hedge Fund Of The Decade 2000-2009)

Here is my list: 

Role models

Overall: Richard ‘Dick’ Feynman (physicist, bongo drummer, safe cracker, womanizer, Nobel Prize winner, teacher, the first Nanotechnologist [in 1959!]). He has done it all and is among the smartest and simultaneously most humble people alive. Always curious, never giving a damn about what other people think about him, always investing.

Economics (sub category Pedagogy): Peter Schiff. I hope to write a similarly pedagogical and readable book on an as highly relevant and important topic as Schiff’s How An Economy Grows…, and Friedrich Hayek for his important, readable, clarifying and entertaining book “The Road To Serfdom” about socialism.

Finance: Klarman (psychology of investing), Hussman (historically informed investing without resorting to technical analysis), Howard Marks (risk deconstructed), Faber (pragmatism on crazy markets; there is always an opportunity somewhere; inspired the quattro portfolio), Spitznagel (losses are gains [in knowledge]; a kind of investment Zen [or Dao]), Grantham (bubbles defined)

Visionaries: Kurzweil (technological predictions, entrepreneurship, pattern recognition), Diamandis (doer extraordinaire, longevity research)

Technology: Drexler (nanotechnology revived 30 years after Feynman), Venter (artificial biology, non-fossil fuels)

Writing: Michael Lewis (finance fiction documentaries), David Simpson (Singularity Sci Fi), Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy which is just so much fun and still surprises me with its insights)

Artists: Julia Louis Dreyfus (billionaire heiress cum funny girl in Seinfeldt and Veep)

Philosophy (and writing): Ayn Rand (objectivism, every man is an island, from each according to his ability to each according to his ability), Taleb (black swans, risk, tail hedging)

Science, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, string theory: Edward Witten, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Brian Cox

Robotics: Google/Boston Dynamics (though, not that impressed yet – too little integration, I still nourish dreams to get involved in the robotics space to connect the technological ‘islands’)

Life optimization: Tim Ferriss (just damn impressive)

Blogging (writing): Tim, Wait But Why (so fun, so readable, so informative: numbers, procrastination, Fermi’s paradox)

Mobility: Kelly Starrett (repaired himself, then became the world’s foremost mobility expert. Forget splits and focus on functional mobility)

Gym blogging: Styrkelabbet (A swedish site on strength training -and some hypertrophy; informative, readable, straight to the point, all the most recent research presented for the layman and practiced by himself as a budding power lifter and strongman)

Copy (marketing/writing): Gary Halbert (but what do I know? I know nothing about writing copy or marketing. This seems to be the guy to emulate though)

Corporate leaders: Mark Zuckerburg (I mean, wtf?! How did he do that? How did he see it, how did he avoid temptations to sell, how did he kill off competition? Who starts Facebook when MySpace already owned the niche?)

Websites: zerohedge (fun, fast, provocative, biased, amazing), Khan Academy (world changing knowledge resource and teaching), KurzweilAI (find the future today), Clarifying Concepts (on Facebook; difficult scientific concepts explained for the layman, brain gymnastics)

Pod casts (for inspiration, for knowledge, for fun, but also for finding future role models): TED Radio Hour, Minute Physics, Gastropod, Freakonomics, Brain Science

What areas do you care about? How are you going to play a part, and who are your role models that can pull you from today’s point A to where you want to be in the future, point B?

P.S. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail address to get my eBook and future newsletters (spam free, about one a week)

Free TIP: Check out TIC! It's the distillation of my 30 years as a finance professional


In just 6 weeks of online studies of videos, text documents, screen captures & spreadsheets, The Investing Course teaches you how to Identify, Analyze, Invest, Optimize, Evaluate investments and asset portfolios. It's thorough, pedagogical, easy and fun (well...) for any motivated student.

Join the waiting list to be the first to know when it launches

P.S. As an early TIC member you will have access to all future updated and enhanced material that will be added to each new class of The Investing Course, as well as the private TIC online forum,

13 Replies to “Shooting for the wrong stars will land you in the gutter of Hollywood Boulevard”

  1. You got a number of mine (Taleb, Feynman, Rand)

    Additions for me:
    Religion/Philosophy: CS Lewis
    Writing: Thomas Sowell, Theodore Dalrymple
    Politics: FA Hayek
    Business: Jeff Bezos
    Powerlifting/Strength: EliteFTS (Dave Tate), L-R-B (Paul Carter), Ed Coan.

  2. I never thought of it like that. It only makes sense that you have a role model for every quality of life you want to be good at.

    I used to be baffled as to why someone as ridiculously smart/intelligent/accomplished would speak so highly of someone like Kanye West with a history of public outburst of stupidity.
    I guess he admires some one particular quality of KW, what that is I’m not entirely clear.

    Question: Taleb and Ray Kurzweil are supposedly polar opposites (in Taleb’s words). How do you make synthesis of the thesis and the antithesis here?
    Are futurists telling us anything of real value as Taleb doubts? Are we focusing only on their successes in assessing their track record? Or is Kurzweil a notable exception? Also whats the deal with Kurzweil taking a gazillion pills a day?

    I’m only asking since I don’t know enough on the topic.

    1. Sorry for the late answer. I’ve been away a couple of weeks

      Kurzweil and his pills may or may not be crazy. I mean, I take omega3 oil. His 298 pills or whatever is the same thing -just taken to its extreme (and probably wrong)

      Humans are intelligent. We are made of something that other things can be made of too. If we make them bigger or faster, or both, they can probably in their turn help make things qualitatively better too (not just quantitatively). So, Kurzweil is right about the endgame of ubiquitous AI (just not perfectly sure whether it will be good or bad)

      Taleb: he just says things can go wrong, and that technology will most likely not save us from all things bad

      I think AI is coming. Inevitably. I also think increased intelligence means increased understanding and empathy. On the other hand I don’t really care who lives in the future, machines or humans. I only care that I personally live for a very long time, be it as a machine

  3. Role models are nice, but there’s a limit on how much one can learn from them.
    I used to try to learn from role models how to do music production in my teens.

    Sure, a few tricks here and there were picked up, but I would’ve been better off learning from an accomplished producer that is actually accessible.
    That would be better than trying to emulate Hans Zimmer all day, with the bits and pieces I could find on him.

    Same was true for Basketball.
    I learned more from amateur players than I ever did from Pistol Pete Maravich.

    To be frank, I don’t think I even have role models now.
    Just numerous people that I listen to, have respect for, and follow for advice.

    It’s not just the lack of accessibility and the limit of information on how they do what they do, it’s also about putting them on a pedestal.

    I noticed that I put them up so high in regard that I didn’t see their flaws, their humanity.
    Furthermore, it limits you in your own improvement, because you limit yourself to that person’s style, approach, and method.

    Your strengths and weaknesses may differ from his.
    Ultimately you may end up being a cheap copy of your role model, if you take it too far.

    To paraphrase Bruce Lee, ”keep what works, discard what doesn’t.”
    Your role model is going to be a complex gestalt of numerous influences and role models as well.

    Don’t limit yourself to one role model in each field.
    Have many and mix it up.
    Became more than the sum of each part.

    I read all Hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy books in my teens, thought I was the only one who knew about them.

    Eat some peanuts and bring a towel, you’ll need them.
    Maybe your new slogan?

    1. >>> Role models are nice, but there’s a limit on how much one can learn from them… I learned more from amateur players than I ever did from Pistol Pete Maravich. <<<

      In my opinion if you are focused at becoming very good in one area what you say is spot-on. If you are digging in to learning a particular art or science, you will learn more from accessible 'amateurs' than you will celebrities.

      However if you have a variety of interests or are broadening your horizons, then role models become very useful as they give you the '10,000 ft view' of an area where you'll never dig down into. I have probably 50 different things I'd claim as 'interests' but only 2-3 of them get time and attention week over week, the others come and go. For those 2 or 3 what you say is true, for the others relying on role models as 'filters' is a useful heuristic.


    2. A towel and peanuts are what I usually pack. The nutritional and energy content of peanuts is unmatched by anything.

      I agree completely with your view of role models

  4. I care mostly about my spiritual life and Catholic Church’s saint are my role models. I’ve read about 20-30 of their books and they are an amazing bunch.

    A few years ago I started taking care about entrepreneurship and personal finance. My role models here are Jim Rohn, Pat Flynn and Aaron Walker.

  5. You are my new role model!

    Just started to read your blog, and I must say wow, very good insghts :)

    Thanks Man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.