Personal Organization for Degenerates

It’s a beautiful Sunday here in San Juan, but at the moment I’m tucked into my bed with the AC blaring.  It’s oddly comfortable to work in the bed when I stack my pillows up, but not ideal.  I still haven’t found the optimal place to write in my apartment.  The second bedroom is a good contender, but it’s just a little too cluttered for me right now.


This past week I did a healthy mix of cleaning/organizing my new place, writing, and my actual trading work.  The writing challenge I’ve been doing with my sister has been tough, and I’ve wasted a chunk of time every day in my journal questioning if I should keep going.  The writing itself hasn’t been painful to do (once I stop procrastinating and start), but it consumes all of my units of willpower.  After writing I feel a small bit of accomplishment, but I also need a break.  I can’t dive into the difficult parts of my computer science/trading work, and then I start to procrastinate on that too.  I thought I would want a break this month from it, but the momentum from the previous month has carried over, and I’ve got more ambition bubbling up than I realized.


The conclusion from my daily journaling so far is to stop overthinking things, and just push through for the month.  That’s what I’ve been doing for now; writing daily and trusting the gods that there is a reason behind it.  


I’ve been getting more grandiose visions for my trading.  I set up a new trading account to get market data from various exchanges all over the world, and plan to see if I can apply some of my new strategies beyond the shady little crypto world.  If I can do that, (I’m cautiously optimistic) then I can scale the size of my operation up which would be fun.  I had the fantasy of running a hedge fund in my youth, but never outgrew my Chicago office and 4 employees.  The awesome thing now is with code I can train employees that work 24 hours a day, and never make mistakes (except when I code them incorrectly, which I have a talent for).  One thing I’ve been mindful of is the endgame.  I like most aspects of my behind the scenes trading now, and wouldn’t want my life to turn into 20+ hours a week of meetings and memos.    


I read another great “book” this week.  I put it in quotes because I read it in about an hour on my Kindle, and am guessing it’s only around 40-50 pages.  I don’t mind though, and honestly prefer short things.  It was weird paying $10 for an hour read, but worth it. The book was “Personal Organization for Degenerates” by Brandon Adams.


I knew of Brandon from seeing him in high stakes poker, although I’ve never played with him.  He has a curious background, lecturing at Harvard without a PhD and a few other ventures, while also playing high stakes poker.  He’s usually categorized as a “businessman” on the poker shows, but after reading the book, I’m guessing he’s more pro than semi.  Just my guess though.  I’m sure if he made a lot of money from something else that isn’t public information he would rather keep it that way.  I’m the last person to cast judgment on unique backgrounds, and appreciate the multi-faceted career.  The way I discovered his book was a friend sent me a good podcast he did with Jason Strasser that led me to his website, and I read a few excerpts from his book.  Typical rabbit-hole stuff that usually wastes my life away, but fortunately this one paid off.


From the first page Brandon breaks things down as they truly are for those of us in the “degenerate” class of people as he defines it.  He labels degenerates as people who have a much higher preference for present-day novelty and excitement over future security and stability.  Poker players, traders, adrenaline junkies, etc. fit this mold, myself included. We’re likely to get hooked on stimulants, alcohol, and gambling, while also loathing to do simple but important things like making routine appointments.  


What I loved about the book was that the author doesn’t try to tell you to change or judge, but to accept reality, and have simple rules to minimize the harm that your personality will afflict on you.  One example he talks about is not going “all-in” financially on any investment, even though you’re completely immersed in it, and don’t see how it can fail.  The odds in life are that most things don’t work out over time, so you have to have a safety rule for yourself in place, even if you’re putting all of your time and effort into it to make sure it beats the odds.  


One of the best sections of the book is about health and aging.  I’ve never read any realistic advice on how to deal with the initial onset of age.  Most training and nutrition acts like you’re eternally 21, or to just give up and accept being fat and mediocrity.  The author talks about when he made a tradeoff for his health when he won a ton of money during a multi-week poker binge.  I thought naturally that it was worth it, you can go on a diet afterward, but he changed my opinion.


“This was a case of sacrificing health for other factors (money, mostly), and it’s almost never worth it. The problem is that health is ruled by vicious cycles, and while human psychology compels us to think that bad choices can be overcome by later good deeds, this is rarely true. The best predictor of current weight for most people is the highest weight they’ve ever been in their life. Like Peter Gibbons in Office Space, for whom “every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life,” most people you see on the street are having something close to the fattest day they’ve ever had in their life.”


That last part made me laugh, but also blew my mind.  I don’t think many people make a comeback after getting fat.  They might have a few battles and lose weight for a little while, but it gets so much harder as you age, and at some point you have to permanently change your lifestyle, or you’re just getting more fat continuously for life.  I know this firsthand.  I’ve made some big changes, but it’s hard to accept how consistent I have to be (one cheat weekend sets me back more than a week of eating right).  There’s always a level of trade-off (which the author talks about in this chapter, and pretty much every chapter), and I hope I can continue to go more towards the boring and simple diet lifestyle.  


I won’t give away the rest of the book (if I paste a few more quotes it will be a third of the book), but it’s mostly about trying to do things that have positive asymmetric rewards.  In your investments, your career, your hobbies, and just general daily living.  Don’t do things that have little positive benefit, but potential catastrophic consequences (running across a busy street, eating sugar), and look for things that can have a huge reward, but offer little downside if they don’t work out (joining a startup, starting to exercise).  


With that, I’ll get back to my degenerate life, and try to relax before the weekly grind starts up again tomorrow.  Leaving you with a cat that surprised me when he snuck through the bushes and invaded my favorite coffee shop apparently looking for an almond milk latte himself.




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