Random Walks through Summer

Summer is a great time to catch up on my reading. I teach English, so I read all the time, but it is usually not exactly my favorite material: essays, stories, “paragraphs” from students. My favorite material needs to improve my life somehow, it needs to add something to what I know or feel about the world.

I finished “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” a few days ago–it was very easy to read considering the content. Burton Malkiel is a witty author with TONS of knowledge about his content. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re new to investing, or even if you’ve been doing it for a long time. “Random Walk” is enlightening and money-making, I’m sure.

So, What’s Next?

Like I said, I most enjoy books that add something to my life; I like learning about things that will actually impact me for the better (who doesn’t?). So surely my next book would be about investing again. Right?

WRONG! Nobody can go through life reading about only investing. In fact, investing, according to Malkiel (from “Random Walk”), should not be on your mind all the time: hopefully, you can setup a passive portfolio that runs itself.

Life is about variety. In turn, the book I’m reading now is “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek.

“Eat and Run”

I picked this book up for a few reasons. The first of two main reasons is that it is about running. I’ve read a number of books about running*, and they always help me get motivated to improve and persist day-to-day. Running is a VERY easy sport to improve on: all you have to do is run more. For the few who do continue to run and reach ecstatic states of elite-ness, there is surely more information to help you improve. For the majority of us, simply running more will help us get better.

The main issue with this philosophy is that it can be EXTREMELY difficult to persist day-to-day. Running consistently is much easier said than done. This is a lot like saving and investing money: there is no true, safe, and powerful gain unless it is long-term.

So, reason one for why I picked up this book: get inspired to simply continue.

More Eating than Running

Reason two for getting this book from the library: I think I’m becoming a Vegan…

A few nights ago, alone on the couch, I watched a documentary** about veganism. It brought to light various arguments for doing it: philosophical, ethical, humane, economic, health-related, etc. I began to get very curious about veganism. Could it help me save money? Could it stave off “genetic” diseases? Could it make me healthier?

While watching the movie, I remembered the book “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek was about combining his Vegan lifestyle with Ultramarathon running. I had to have it. Even if I was only running a marathon, I’m sure the message would apply. If you don’t know him, Jurek is one of the most famous, maybe even THE most famous, ultrarunners out there. He has won the Western States 100 miler 7 consecutive times!

If Scott freaking Jurek could be a Vegan AND amazing UltraRunner, then surely if I ate Vegan I could improve my running, too!

Halfway, All The Way

As of right now, I’m about halfway through the book (hopefully I’ll finish it this weekend.) As of right now, I’m also All the Way into becoming and trying to live as a Vegan.

Notice that I’m not saying “I am completely a Vegan.” I’m not going to say that because I’m sure I’ll slip up, I’m sure I’ll make excuses, I’m sure I won’t be completely Vegan ever in my life. I think it is important to realize that, like most things in life (investing and teaching included,) you’ll never be perfect or fully realized. In fact, part of why this pursuit interests me is that it mirrors teaching, and investing, and running: it IS a pursuit, something to constantly strive towards.

So, while I’m only halfway through the book, I’m all-in for the Vegan movement.

Bear or Gazelle?

There is an amazing chapter in “Eat and Run” that describes the running “styles” of bears and gazelles, a sort of tortoise and hare situation. Jurek argues that those who run as a bear, who run with confidence in the long-haul, with the not the end in mind but the journey, will outperform any short-sighted gazelle sprinting away.

I’m not completely sure this metaphor works all that well–why not just stick with tortoise and hare–but it does draw on a powerful life lesson: we should not aim only for the immediate. If we can learn to run, and live, and invest, and TEACH, with long-term success and power in mind, then we will surely succeed.

Another of the reasons I find this book so engaging, relatable, and well-suited for this blog discussion is the following epigraph from Chapter 13: “Of Bears and Gazelles”:

Don’t work towards freedom, but allow the work itself to be freedom. -Dogen Roshi

I think this is a powerful message that many FI-er’s tend to overlook. Many people tend to find the best-paying jobs so that they can get to Financial Independence as quickly as possible despite any emotional duress that accompanies.

Unique Situations

We teachers (and runners and investors) have a truly unique situation: we are lucky enough to be able to find freedom, self-expression, power, and meaning through our work.

Perhaps, for teachers, reaching Financial Independence is both about the end-goal AND the current pursuit. If we can apply Jurek’s running career to our work careers, then maybe just as he sought to find meaning and freedom from the run itself, we too can find meaning and freedom from our work too.

Thanks for reading.

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*I’ve read a number of great running books that I highly recommend:

  1. Born to Run by Chris McDougall
  2. Once a Runner by John L. Parker
  3. Again to Carthage by John L. Parker (sequel to Once)
  4. What I Talk about when I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami (who is, by the way, one of my favorite authors. Please check his work out; it’s amazing!)

**The documentary is called “What the Health.” It is currently on Netflix. It is a pretty good one, although there are a lot of new docs popping up about veganism.

***There are affiliate links in this article. If you click on them, then buy something, at no charge to you I will receive a minimal portion of the sale. If you do, you’re helping us both out! Thanks!

What do you think?