Simon Black

We have entered what I call the Age of Turmoil, a time that is marked by rapid change and fluctuating crises. The old system of debt and consumption that gave us great salaries, generous benefits, stock market and housing appreciation, and a high standard of living is gone forever.

What’s happening right now is a major sea change: the game is being reset, and the rules are being rewritten.

I’m not being pessimistic, and this is not a cause for fear. We shouldn’t be afraid of the Age of Turmoil, but rather prepare for it by becoming more self-reliant. Those who are prepared will survive, thrive, and be well-positioned for the enormous opportunities that await.

Conversely, those who cling to their faith in the old system, desperately hoping for a return to the carefree days of the past, will have their lives turned upside down.

This is because all the major elements of the old system — our political process, our money and financial institutions, the job market, police forces, etc. — only function as long as the system is operating normally.

Think about how things work under the old system — people are effectively given pre-packaged options for the major decisions in their lives. Do you want to be a doctor? Follow this career template. A pilot? Follow that one. Investing your money? Select from these mutual funds.

I call these ‘limiting choices,’ and they are a staple tradition in our modern society. Our realities are defined by people and regulations which govern our thinking, restrict our options, and constrain our creativity.

When you walk into a bank, for example, no one is going to sit down with you and say ‘hey I think you should protect yourself from a depreciating currency, let’s talk about gold allocation and taking some options in the renminbi.’

No, instead you get two limiting choices that are jammed down the throats of millions of customers: the generic savings account, or the generic checking account.

Even the political process is full of limiting choices. How many times have you gone to the polls and been forced to decide between two equally vapid, insipid candidates? In the end, you vote for the limiting choice who is ‘less bad,’ the lesser of two evils.

These limiting choices work just fine as long as the system is functioning properly… they’re efficient and help maintain order. Human nature is such that most people abdicate the power of choice in their lives, and limiting choices provide basic direction, making it easy to follow the herd.

The trouble is, limiting choices are not designed to help you survive when the system collapses.

Limiting choices like the standard career template of racking up huge university debt, or investing in index funds, or holding cash in a savings account, or relying on social security, etc. were all successful tactics over the last 20 years. In the Age of Turmoil, they’ve become destructive.

As soon confidence cracks and the system starts to fail, everything unwinds… and people whose realities are defined by limiting choices will have their lives turned upside down.

The way out, the way to survive and thrive in this turmoil, is to reject limiting choices and define your own reality through what I call universal choice. In fact, I consider “defining your reality” to be the first pillar in achieving self-reliance in the Age of Turmoil.

This entails being actively engaged in the major problems and decisions we face in life, and developing the independent mindset to design our own paths from an entire universe of possibilities, not just limiting choices.

Planting multiple flags is a great example of cultivating this independence and defining your own reality. Instead of the limiting banking choices provided by your hometown bank, you can open a foreign bank account in alternative currencies, or store gold in a private vault overseas.

Instead of the limiting investment choices provided by your broker for standard blue chip stocks and index funds that have yielded negative returns for a decade, you can invest in alternative assets like foreign companies or international real estate based on out of the box trends that you identify.

Instead of limiting career choices provided by the guidance counselor that will result in massive student loan debt and little else, you can learn valuable skills that solve people’s problems, or head to thriving economies overseas looking for more interesting opportunities and adventures.

The key theme in defining your reality is to think creatively beyond the limiting choices that the old establishment puts in front of you. In fact, when you consider many of the world’s greatest historical figures, the main factor they all shared was a common rejection of limiting choices.

People like the Wright Brothers, Gandhi, Bill Gates, and Ayn Rand all dismissed convention and defined their realities based on possibilities that they conceived. I’m absolutely convinced that the greatest outcomes await those who can take this step.

Simon Black
Whiskey & Gunpowder

October 20, 2010

Simon Black

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, and free man.

  • Desertrat

    “The old system of debt and consumption that gave us great salaries, generous benefits, stock market and housing appreciation, and a high standard of living is gone forever.”

    Maybe because I come from an earlier era, I mostly missed all that. Debt is a tool to be used for profit, not a way of life. Consumption? “Use it up, wear it out. Make it do or do without.” Housing appreciation? Okay, if it happens it happens, but the important part is that it’s affordable, comfortable living–emotionally as well as physically. Heck, you can take the buy-price of a house, subtract some equivalent rent and if that’s your sale price you’re breaking even. Same with a car. Drive it a long time, figure some equivalent usage value and walk off and leave the keys in it. No real loss.

    Ever watch somebody working and figure, “I can do better than that!”? Next thing you know after a decade or so, you can rebuild a car or build a house. BTDT.

    I dunno. I never defined myself by my job or my possessions. Way too many other things are part of me, so I don’t worry about a whole helluva lot. I figure that good times or bad, I’ll figure out some way to do whatever it is that I want to do. No point in following the herd; they generally don’t know where they’re going.

    Maybe my summary is that I never let anybody else define my reality for me.

  • Linda Brady Traynham

    Dear Simon:
    You wrote, “This is because all the major elements of the old system — our political process, our money and financial institutions, the job market, police forces, etc. — only function as long as the system is operating normally.” PROMISE?! If I just soldier on gallantly will the time come when we Jose Ortega y Gasset pioneer types can resume full responsibility for our actions and the outcomes, unhindered by senseless rules, regulations, and confiscation backed up by overwhelming force? The Nanny State does not offer one single thing I want and it is very much in the way of competent people who set their own goals, weigh their own risks, and should be left free from governmental interference to reap the rewards. I’ll take villains I can defy with sword and long gun over smothering, punitive ukases any day. LBT

  • Linda Brady Traynham

    Adam! The SPAM filter ate my replies to ‘Rat and Simon.

  • Linda Brady Traynham

    I saved this one, so let’s try again:
    WELL said, ‘Rat! As always. One of us ought to adopt the other. We set our own goals and standards, solve our own problems, know at least enough about almost everything to accomplish our ends–or know where to find the information, which is on hand, not buried in the Internet–rely on our own judgment, and would be ashamed of having to “call the man.” We read Jose Ortega y Gasset over 50 years ago and said, “Yeah! We don’t need anyone to set us tasks or be certain we do them.” Dear Charles and I consider it completely normal that there isn’t anything we can’t do (or explain and supervise for those now beyond my physical strength) on the ranch. Chuckle…you and we would love being pioneers! I would much rather face a banth with a sword than a DA bulletin telling me I can’t plant peanuts or cut down some trees without a full-fledged “environmental impact study.” I didn’t even WANT to plant peanuts until told I am not allowed to do so. (Skippy and Jif are worried I might make my own peanut butter, I suppose.) I’ve been preventing erosion on my land since 1949 and I know a great deal more about it than a bunch of city-slicker bureaucrats. We break our own hosses, kill our own snakes, and don’t want anything whatsoever from the government except to be left alone.This is because all the major elements of the old system — our political process, our money and financial institutions, the job market, police forces, etc. — only function as long as the system is operating normally.

  • Desertrat

    Spam filters hate brilliant thoughts…

  • Wizzles in SA

    Not disappointed.
    Please continue with your thought-provoking and realistic outlook.

  • Linda Brady Traynham

    Smart ‘Rat! I started by suggesting one of us adopt the other.

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  • Cheri


    (I mean that as affectionately as one can make Rat sound.)
    Truely words of wisdom, sadly not how much of the American society/mechanisms operate. Making money off the differential has lead WAY too many people to abandon the main thrusts, hence the “Age of Turmoil” defined as rapid changes in conditions. Gamblers eventually end up owing the house. My fear is since “the house always wins” more entities, banks, insurance, government and Wall Street are setting themselves up under the Casino model. They pull you in with bright lights, buffet tables and give-a-ways. You are left wandering what happened. Native Americans are way ahead of us on this.
    The “straight and narrow” aka hardwork and prudent planning are the only shields and even they don’t hold all the time. You can bet that when practicality and prudence are rediscovered those that lead us astray will promote it as a NEW thing and their idea.


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  • Desertrat

    Hey, turmoil is easy! WW II military brat. Four different high schools. Three different universities. Somewhere around four or five careers in dramatically different fields, although the first two were merely the one-year, fresh-out-of-college stuff. Two years in Europe. A tad over two years in Asia. I’ve been lucky: Travelled steerage a bunch, but dined and rubbed elbows with the mover-and-shaker crowd.

    “Change has been my only constant.”

  • Lynne

    I hope you store what you need first. You will need food, I lived for over 2 months on what I had stored because of a big vet bill. It was pretty easy until my inner snacker broke free. I’m pretty easy to satisfy a few Ritz crackers some cheese dip and maybe some popcorn I’d have been good. Guess what I did’nt have? None of the above. So once I paid off the vet bill I got 12 pounds of popcorn, and went searching for cracker recipes.
    Now ia a great time to buy candy and save it for the year to come. I got my tootsie rolls 2 bags worth and will get another couple of bags.
    Ask yourself or do a test and not go shopping for a couple of weeks or a month. How long you last before any shopping trip is your food storage. Sorry Sparky no shopping for eggs, or milk for the month. No 7-11 no starbucks no nothing but what you make at home. Could you do it? Or riddle me this you have only 1 shopping day to get what you need for your family for the next 3 months. What do you buy?and you must pay in cash. The line at the ATM is long and folks are getting angry.

  • Desertrat

    “Ask yourself or do a test and not go shopping for a couple of weeks or a month.”

    When you live in Terlingua and the nearest SuperDuper store is in Odessa, bi-monthly is a way of life. Milk and bread are weekly, locally.

  • steverino

    mr. black has some good points, here.
    if you want to think for yourself, you’ll either have to avoid or re-interpret the conditioning which rules it out.

    then, i agree, you can be responsible for yourself in some wonderful ways: financial, health, education, personal, and so on. so many people tend to “trust joe” or “trust the doctor”, as a way to avoid responsibility.
    almost everyone i know who has “trusted the doctor” is now dead. people who trusted the broker are broke.
    people who didn’t think past what the teacher wanted them to learn are—-dummies? teachers?

    we all have certain “blind spots” too, usually around avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, and so on—-what fun!!!—-and, we ALL just love to hear about our very own shortcomings so we can face up to the pain we may cause others, as if they even matter…, really! hey! can i get some attention here…?

  • Desertrat

    “The trouble is, limiting choices are not designed to help you survive when the system collapses.”

    The problem is twofold: First, socio-economic systems don’t collapse with any regularity. Second, there is no single way that it can collapse; there are several.

    There is thus little impetus within any one lifetime for a person to try to plan on dealing with a collapse. Next is trying to plan to cope with a collapse which could come from war, disease or failure of a monetary system.

  • Sorry to say

    Steverino, give your Mom a call, she may care.

  • Essie Feldhacher

    Steverino, if your mama ain’t still with us…I’ll adopt you. Although I’d hafta get in tussle with dear Linda for that honor, LOL.

    Some of what Sorry To Say no doubt picked issue with is some unvarnished truths that reflected the brightest light of understanding for this ol’ battleaxe.

    Sorry to Say…but Sorry to Say added nothin’ to this good discourse. (Sign…) That’s something quite unusual where often the input from the Usual Gang of Beloved Suspects and Screen Names is even better than the article sparking responses.

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