You Inc.


Photo Courtesy of Thomas Hawk

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Hawk

What’s the most valuable thing you own? A suite of delectable baubles from Van Cleef and Arpels? A first edition of Gaborabilia? A hundred shares of Apple?

Actually, it’s none of those things. It’s you. Yes, you. You’re the most valuable asset of You Inc.

You’re a spin-off from Parents Inc. For 20-plus years, You Inc. is a highly speculative investment. It might be a ten-bagger, (a return ten times the original investment). It might be a total write-off. Parents Inc., is optimistic about its little spin-off and adopts a buy-and-hold strategy.

At some point before never You Inc. gets its act together and begins the process of converting some of its human capital into financial capital. This could last for 50 years or more. Gradually, however, You Inc. tapers off production. By the time You Inc. winds down, any remaining capital is disbursed to benefactors and the tax man.

But what happens when a You Inc. does an about-face and, instead of diligently investing human capital to generate financial capital, it buggers off to Margaritaville? A splendid mini-documentary from The New York Times looks at one such You Inc.

Dr. John Kitchin, a psychiatrist and neurologist, had a booming practice, a mansion on a hill, fancy cars and watches, and even an exotic animal zoo. He was also a suicidal asshole. (So he says, anyway.)

The onset of a physical handicap made it impossible for him to continue practicing medicine. He wondered what to do next. Then he remembered a conversation he had had in the hospital cafeteria decades before.

Kitchin had jokingly asked a 90-year-old man in the cafeteria line next to him, what was the secret to a long life. The man answered, “Do what you want.”

“Do what you want.”  The phrase strikes fear into the hearts of all hardworking, conventional, responsible people.  That’s exactly what Kitchin did and, by the way, he calls himself Slomo now.

Kitchin/Slomo is in the enviable position of probably having a lot financial capital to convert back to human capital. Today, he appears very happy, not suicidal and, proudly claims to no longer be an asshole. He lives very simply on the outside and richly on the inside.

What about you and You Inc.? How much of your time is spent pouring your human capital into money?  And how much of that money goes back into feeding your human capital, in terms of developing yourself intellectually, spiritually, physically, emotionally— supernatural or otherwise.

Don’t let things get too lopsided. If all you do is make money, you risk becoming a bore. If all you do is “self-actualize” you’ll hit the skids, be forced to think about money all the time and become a stressed-out basket case.

Like a good cook, taste as you go. A little dash of human capital, a dollop of financial capital, back-and-forth until it tastes just right.

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