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 as 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.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
Editor’s Notes: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, and free man.