40. Reflections on Investment & Scarcity & Risk
Sitting in the quiet, pre-toddler, dark; hesitant to type. Thinking about the cliché things I might avoid writing about on a milestone birthday.
I see that circle, like a hole or pit, signifying a multiple of ten. Or maybe it’s like a button. “You made it this far. Press it and keep going.”
What should I reflect on to help shape my future steps? I’m struggling with that, so obviously need some focused time on it (sounds like a typical 40 year old’s birthday gift request, haha.)
For now, I’ll just jabber on a little about what comes to the top of my mind.
I renewed the car insurance yesterday. It was a reminder that two years ago, I received a call on my birthday that the car dealership had found a a vehicle “Scrap-it” program ticket to help us pay for a new electric vehicle.
Until two years ago, and with the availability of that program that promoted taking older gas cars off the road to replace them with EVs, I had NEVER considered buying a new vehicle. I had always considered it stupid, given my financial context. I had to put myself through school, support a child, and I aimed to have housing security through ownership.
I also have a critical attitude toward luxury purchases, which stems from the wisdom and grit of my parents. We simply didn’t have the means to purchase things that get marketed to us for happiness. More, we knew we could experience happy moments without those things. Despite what those credit card ads tell you: you’re not entitled to those fancy things. You are welcomed to be a sucker, though.
When it comes to mobility, getting from one place to another does not need to include heated seats. For me, getting from one place to another was better if I warmed AND toned my rear end 🚴… I say “was,” because admittedly, I am no longer a daily rider. My default is not my bike because I can walk most of the time, and I’m often moving a child and his things (and 4 liters of milk) around. And… I do like the heated (and cooled!) seats. Though I am craving a regular return to the two wheels.
Purchasing an EV was a painful, long deliberated, spreadsheet-rich endeavor. Danton and I calculated multiple options. We discussed scenarios that would increase or decrease our mobility needs. We thought about future climate and safety and our ethics. We questioned the calculated daily cost of mobility with an EV, vs bus tickets, vs electric bikes, vs hybird vehicles, vs renting…
In the end, we drove off the Kia lot with a new Soul EV, laughing at ourselves, both proclaiming it was possibly the dumbest financial decision we’d ever made… And, after having driven 20 year old beaters that had no heat (never mind heated seats), and questionable sounds, we followed our laughter with sighs of relief.
Investment and Scarcity
The scarcity mindset is one I frequently harness and battle. Internally and externally. On a birthday, where time reminds me of it’s limits, it feels natural to examine this a bit.
I spend my days working in the public sector, where resources are claimed to be scarce, yet the luxury of spending a lot of time on things is often assumed. I’m impatient and bullheaded about finding the accountability mechanisms that free people from systems and processes and practices that have been marketed to them as acceptable, but that counter our aims. Investments or behaviors that slow us down or distract us from delivering outcomes really get me.
Oddly, I feel like the value I’ve found in my work is similar to the experience of cycling. It might be counter intuitive, but there is greater value in being exposed to the elements, minimizing the amount of energy not spent (i.e. gas to go-stop-go-park, or process to go-stop-go-approve), and being able to look into the eyes of other people out in the real world (neighbors and people we serve). Also, while it might be lower powered, I’m often faster on my bike than in vehicle traffic.
I think of this as more and less effort, all at the same time. Less outsourcing and externalities (pollution). Less dependence on inflexible systems. More direct and nimble. More attentive to surroundings and context. More human.
I guess to sum it up, I think I have a habit of seeing more in less. I think this enables me to not feel constrained, but it also limits me from asking for or expecting more (because I fear it to be unreasonable, or that it will weigh me down.) Something to inspect, I think.
When I think about going forward, what I care about, what I think is important for the future, and how I can be of service… all of this plays.
Big investment plays too, I’m learning. I think we need to put big, gritty efforts into important things, and those efforts can be maximized with appropriate spending.
For example: Seth Klein’s book about the Good War we have to fight for a livable climate (while also surviving the impacts we’ve already purchased) is about big investment on the right things, I think.
The Book - A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency by Seth Klein - Seth Klein
We did it for the Second World War. We can do it again. In (published by ECW Press in September 2020), Seth Klein…
There’s also a need to stop doing and spending on some things to get ahead or to achieve big or life advancing goals.
With the EV example, we weighed the value of having safe, low-carbon, enjoyable daily mobility (that could enable us to spend time with friends who have been forced to move out of town). We decided to limit ourselves to one car, and to opt out of planning air travel, and to enjoy where we live more. Less, and more. (It was a big investment though.)
Considering our life goals, there is a high probability that we will be very impacted by a variety of unexpected, at times very unhappy, disruptions.
To answer a recent question from a friend: “what contingency plans do you and your family have in a world that has gone amok?” (Which he admitted was decidedly dark… but I’ll entertain it):
Paying attention to where we live more, instead of distracting ourselves with Mexico or Maui, is also a strategic play. If/when shit goes sideways, we aim to be in tune with the resources, places, and people that we’ll rely on and contribute to for survival.
This factors into a variety of decisions we make, including the EV.
And, paying attention (and using tools like problem definition and mapping), is also a theme of the daily work I do. Having situational awareness melts away scarcity. It’s easier (with tools and access to information) and harder (with a barrage of information) than it has ever been. It requires grit.
How does this all compute?
I have a few tracks in my meandering reflections going on here. It’s all connected. How my philosophies about investment and scarcity and risk:
- Shape my daily behaviours and choices to maximize the richness of my and my family’s lives;
- Shape my expectations for the public service improvement/rescue work I do;
- Shape my observations and considerations for how I might contribute to broader societal sustainability.
With these reflections, I’m not sure I have the answer to what direction my next (hopefully) 40 years will go. It is pretty clear how big of a nerd I am, reflecting on investment, scarcity, and risk, when I should probably just be enjoying a tequila sunrise.
Whatever. Maybe I’ve teased out some assumptions of my own to challenge. Perhaps I’ve discovered some things that are working to double down on. At least I’m keeping up my desire to process through writing more.
It’s sunny outside in mid-November. Happy 40th to me, in these unprecedented times.
PS Thanks to my husband for toddler wrangling post sunrise so I could get this to some kind of complete ❤