the dollar vigilante blog

How To End Up Somewhere Totally Unexpected: The Weekend Vigilante January 11, 2014

Hello from beautiful Acapulco Bay,

Normally I have some interesting stories about what I've done for the last week but it is pretty tough to have really interesting stories when you've barely left the house all week!  I think I left once for a one-hour meeting all week... so, I thought I'd get introspective on this edition of the Weekend Vigilante and talk about some of the choices I have made in my life that led me here.

"How did I end up here?" This is exactly what I found myself wondering this week.  Certainly, if when I was 14 you let me look into a crystal ball and told me that this is a glimpse of your future nearly thirty years from now and I looked in and there was a fairly confident, decent looking guy, with a beautiful Mexican wife, living in Acapulco with five amazing dogs and two beautiful kids, speaking Spanish with them... I would have certainly have called the fortune teller a fraud!

I always had a sense that I had the ability to do "something" in my life.  I knew that I was not going to be a plumber (no offense to plumbers who provide a great service!) somewhere in Canada for all my life.  I always had the innate sense that I could and would do anything I wanted.  Where that all came from I don't know... but I think most people at some point feel that way... usually when they are very young, before they have their dreams and aspirations beaten out of them by society.

In this sense, I think my saving grace was the personal computer... the Apple II+ that I discovered when I was about 12.  

After that point, so enthralled by the potential, nary a day has gone by in 31 years that I haven't been nearly connected at the hip to a computer.

I looked at public skool, to which I was forced to go despite finding it a total waste of time, and thought, "Why would I want to be there?"  This, what I am doing on my computer, is the future!  This beats chalkboards and wooden chairs, stupid teachers and being regularly picked on (until I began karate, kungfu and boxing around 14) I thought.  Not to mention countless teachers who kept telling me I would not end up being anything because of my inability to conform.  I'd tell them things like, "there should be at least a computer course in school."

That was always met by looks of confusion and dismissal, "That is ridiculous and will never work," they said.

I really rarely went to school from that point on and if I did I was at the back of the class daydreaming on computer code... and girls of course.

That was the real driving force, girls.  As anyone who has been a 14 year old boy before knows those emotions and drives are powerful!  I looked into the mirror with thick glasses, acne, weighing 120 pounds soaking wet and my ribs sticking out through my shirt and knowing I was so shy to even talk to anyone, much less a girl, that if I didn't make a lot of changes that I would not get anything that I desired (which was girls mostly... I was 14).  I decided to make some changes in my life.  Changes that still to this day have not stopped.

First of all, I've got to get over this brutal shyness, I thought.  I was so shy I would shake thinking about going to the store and even having to ask the cashier for gum.

I still have much the same personality today as I did back then and I thought in order to get over this incredibly egregious bout of shyness I should do the most extreme thing possible.  Forget slowly moving forward.  I like to rip the bandaid right off!  So, I looked around at the world and rap music had just come out and I loved it.  I'll become a rapper!  That way I'll have to go on stage and be forced to not be shy, I thought!

My friends all laughed.  "First of all, you are white... secondly, you've never rapped before!  It'll never work," they said.

By the time I was 18 I was the number two white rapper in Canada.  

Number one, by the way?  Tom Green, the actor, and his group Organized Rhyme.

In fact, still to this day Tom Green is a great rapper.

So, the market had spoken.  I wasn't good enough.  The closest I came to fame was being booked to open for MC Hammer in my home town of Edmonton, Canada in 1989 but the concert was cancelled and I decided to move on.

It was all good though because I had somewhat lost most of my shyness through the whole experience... so I was improved.

So, I was 19 and a bit lost.  My mom, however, was worried about me... "he never really went to school and he was doing this ridiculous rap music," she thought... and she ended up convincing me to go to college.  I complained about it a lot but she looked through a list of courses and asked me if there was any that had any interest to me.

I saw one, "Media & Advertising".  Something about that I thought I liked so I agreed.

The teaching staff seemed to think they were gods of media and advertising but I found everything they said to be incredibly mundane.  And, I would constantly have to tell them how to use their computers often embarrasing them in front of the class.

"You realize that most of the stuff you are teaching is anachronistic right?" I'd say to them.  "Things will not be done this way in the near future.  You should be more focused on digital media," I said.

"Change our entire program to a more digital focus," they said, "That's crazy.  It'll never work," they said.

Finally, the teacher for "Media 101" had had enough of me showing up late, not caring, and making fun of his lack of knowledge of the digital age and, right in class, kicked me out of the class and college!

Ten years later to the day I was the CEO of a media company called Stockhouse.com that was worth $240 million at the peak of the tech bubble and had 300 staff in eight countries around the world.

This meme I saw recently rang very true for me personally.

My main problem with school, in general, is that 99% of all teachers aren't very good at what they do in the actual marketplace... that's why they teach.  If they could actually do it, they'd do it.  And they like to bring down their students to their level... anyone who shows any aptitude for something new and ground blazing is usually derided.

In any case, sticking to the theme of changes I made in my life which led me to where I am today, I also tried to improve myself in other ways... including physically.  I was one of the first people to ever get LASIK eye surgery, in 1996... so no more glasses.  I then decided to try to put on some weight.  I was 6 feet tall and weighed about 135 pounds by the time I was in my early 20s and tried everything but nothing worked... except steroids.

All within a few months, with my eyes laser repaired and heavily on testosterone injections I went from this:

To this:

While steroids were fun they came with way too many side effects and negative things for my liking so I eventually went off them... but something funny happened, by the time I was in my mid 30s my body finally developed naturally and at my peak I actually weighed about 20 pounds more than when I did on steroids, all in muscle... with a fair amount of gym work of course.

So the physical side of things was coming nicely into place.

But to backtrack a bit, one of the biggest decisions and changes I ever made happened in 1994.  I was working at a bank as an investment advisor at 23 years old and I had moved up so rapidly (through a lot of work and studying) that one day the bank was abuzz.  The regional manager of the bank was flying in just to meet with me and the rumor in the air was that I was going to be one of the youngest to be offered the "coveted" branch manager position.

It turned out to be true and I found myself in an office with the regional manager and she said, "This is a big day, Jeff, you are the youngest we have ever offered the position of branch manager too!  You must be very excited!"

I wasn't really... the thought of spending the rest of my life at a bank was very scary to me. In fact, my next question was, "How much does branch manager make?"

She excitedely stated, "$40,000 per year!" as though I had just won the lottery.

I had already started Stockhouse.com out of my apartment and knew it was going to be a success... even in its early days.  So, I looked around, looked at her, and then fairly non-chalantly said, "Well, thanks, I appreciate it but I think I am just going to quit."

It was like a nuclear bomb had been dropped on the bank.  No one could believe it.  Many of the older ladies who had been bank tellers their entire lives tried to talk me out of it.

"Jeff, to be branch manager at 23 is a huge opportunity!" one said, "You have a tremendously bright future here... You'll have job security for life, how can you turn it down?"

I told her that I considered "job security" to be something to be avoided at all costs and I was going to take a chance on a little thing called "the internet".  "I want to create a global financial site where regular people can finally get access to financial information just like the brokers and insiders do today," I continued.

"That's crazy, that'll never work," she said.

Her last words to me as I was packing my stuff was, "You realize you get free dental if you work here right?"

I looked at her like she was speaking another language.  I think in the twenty years since I left the bank the total amount of money I have spent on dental work is about $300... all in cleanings.  Most of which were in Mexico or Thailand where teeth cleaning is about $15.

Stockhouse went on to be a big success but after the tech bubble collapsed I was stressed out and tired... it had been eight years of non-stop work and a wild rollercoaster ride.  By 2002 I decided I was just going to sell the company.

Many people were exasperated again.  "What?  You could just sit on this forever and make easily hundreds of thousands of dollars per year even if it never grew again."

"No thanks," I said,  "I never have any intention of doing anything forever."

"So, what are you going to do instead?" I was asked endlessly.

"I don't know, maybe buy a boat, try to sail around the world and figure out what is really going on," I said.

A year later when I sank my boat in El Salvador many people felt somewhat vindicated about their warnings of what a crazy idea it was.  But that experience of losing all my material possessions (I lived on the boat) and eventually ending up on a pier in some country I've never been in wearing nothing but board shorts was a very freeing moment.  I told my poor female companion, who had been scared to death at the time, that "This is the best I have ever felt in my life."

She asked me why and I said, "I really have nothing, have nothing to do... I am totally free.  Should I walk to the left?  Should I walk to the right?  It is all an exciting adventure now," I continued.

"You know what, that was the best thing that ever happened to me too," she said... much to my surprise.

"Why?" I asked.

And she said, "I thought I was going to die and it made me realize how many things I never did and all the small stuff I worry about felt meaningless... I too am now free," she said.

I just kept going for another five years and visited nearly 100 countries after that, almost totally spontaneously... constantly reading, learning and interacting.  Especially on Austrian economics and libertarian thought.

By 2008 I was tiring of the vagabond life, however, and yearned for a place to make home for a while.  I sat down and looked at the entire globe and thought about which place I loved more than any other during my entire travels.  The place was Acapulco.

So, I returned here, met my current anarchist wife and the rest of that story continues to this day.

Soon after meeting her in 2009 she asked me what I do.

"Nothing," I said.  "Other than just reading voraciously and learning as much as I can."

I had started a condo sales business (AcaCondos) and turned it into a hotel (Las Torres Gemelas Private Suites) but I was really just doing that for fun in my spare time.

By early 2010 I told her, however, "I have finally figured out what I want to do next."

"What?" she asked.

"I want to change the world and help people realize freedom through much of the knowledge I have learned in the last decade," I said.

"What is it going to be called?" she asked.

"The Dollar Vigilante," I responded.

I explained it a bit and a casual friend who was nearby said, "That'll never work."

I smiled at him, "I've heard that before."

BACK TO THE PRESENT

I never want to do anything forever but I feel like my role here at TDV is nowhere near finished.  If anything, all of the things I have been warning people about for the last four years have just begun to commence.

For this reason I am working as hard as ever trying to offer solutions to those who realize that some very dangerous financial and personal times are coming.  The latest is our TDV Wealth Management Crisis Conference in Panama from February 5-9th.  If you or anyone you know has significant assets still in the US and/or Canada and want to get them internationalized in an amazing non-taxable structure complete with seccession planning to keep the funds internationalized and safe for generations to come you should really take a look at coming.

THE EVOLUTION OF GARY GIBSON

Many have been wondering why Gary Gibson has not been writing at TDV recently.  I will leave it to Gary to tell you for himself what he is up to (and hopefully he will submit a goodbye article) but the short story is that Gary found writing regularly to be incredibly taxing and stressful... plus, he really has his sights set on making a lot of money... a lot more than we were paying at TDV.  So, he decided to go off into the world and hustle and make some money.  

We wish him the best and thank him for all the great writing he did over the years.

In his stead, Justin O'Connell is back after a bit of a reprieve and he'll be carrying a lot of Gary's weight going forward.  Justin, like Gary, is an incredibly interesting and illustrious fine young anarchist and we'll look forward to more from Justin over the coming months.

THE COMING WEEK

I will be writing to you next week from Vancouver, Canada where I am a keynote speaker at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 19th and 20th.  Considering my last presentation there was called, "Bitcoin, Bullion and Bullets" when bitcoin was at $35 (now near $1,000), quite a few ears might be perked up when I speak this time.

If you notice a person always with me, that is a writer from Wired Magazine.  He actually is flying down to Acapulco this week and then we are flying up to Vancouver together as he is working on a potential cover story expose on the shenanigans of the dollar vigilante!

Until next week!

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Anarcho-Capitalist.  Libertarian.  Freedom fighter against mankind’s two biggest enemies, the State and the Central Banks.  Jeff Berwick is the founder of The Dollar Vigilante, CEO of TDV Media & Services and host of the popular video podcast, Anarchast.  Jeff is a prominent speaker at many of the world’s freedom, investment and gold conferences as well as regularly in the media including CNBC, CNN and Fox Business.



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