Saturday Reading Roundup

The importance of polymathism and the ongoing importance of optionality.

I (sort of) had a rare Saturday off from fire department activity today which gave me the chance to get a lot of reading done beyond my usual appointment with Barron's.

A college body shared an article on Facebook that concludes people who retire at 55 live to an older age than people who retire at 65 or older. There was not a lot of insight explored as to why this might be beyond less stress at older ages and less physical wear and tear that could be caused by working at an older age.

This idea goes against just about everything I have ever read on the subject. First, it is common for people younger than 60 to have their hand forced into retiring early for health reasons which statistically implies a shorter lifespan. Doing work you love (I realize many people are not this lucky) to an older age has been well documented to create purpose in life which promotes staying healthier for longer (longer healthspan). The adage that if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life rings very true for me. Quality of life skyrockets if/when you can get to that point.

For what it's worth, here's an article more consistent with what I have read on the subject. Ultimately, it boils down to our individual preferences and circumstances. I've been clear about what I think is the best path for me, that might not be right for anyone else but I will continue to pound the table on people doing what they can for maximum optionality regardless of what they think their retirement preferences are.

Shane over at Farnam Street had a long read about signaling and I am not quite sure what to make of it. It doesn't seem to be about virtue signaling, just signaling; projecting certain things we think are important or want to be known for. I probably need to read it again for a better understanding of what he means but if you haven't seen it yet it is worth reading.

The New York Times looked at The Zen of Weightlifting. I've probably lifted weights for 35 out of the last 40 years (started in Jr. High School). The metabolic and fitness benefits of resistance training with weight are almost endless and is a huge component to enhancing optionality. The other day at the gym, I had a quick convo with guy in his 70's who I have been seeing there for years. I mentioned something about cutting sugar consumption and he said that his two brothers both have type 2 diabetes but that he does not. Ding ding ding, he weightlifts and is healthier than his brothers. Weightlifting promotes insulin sensitivity which is a positive, versus insulin resistance which promotes several bad outcomes including T2D. Everyone knows on some level they should exercise more (like lifting weights) and should cut sugar consumption (the definition of sugar is broader than we might have realized).

The functional benefits of not getting tired so easily, being able to occasionally move heavy things as needed and being truly engaged with grand children are obvious as are the financial benefits of not spending a fortune on a dozen or more prescriptions.

The BBC had a long read about polymathism. Polymaths excel in multiple, disparate endeavors. The number of endeavors that makes someone a polymath seems to vary as does the level of achievement or "distinction." Although the term polymath is fairly new to me, this is a topic we've explored many times before. Achieving distinction seems to be more about external validation, is less interesting to me and probably not realistic compared to simply staying curious enough to pursue and learn about new areas of interest. The article makes a point that was obvious to me a long time ago which is that time spent problem solving in a secondary area of interest can help you be better in your primary endeavor. This has been the case for me with my biggest hobby (volunteer firefighting) and my day job. The article also talks about artistic endeavors helping to balance out the mind.

In the last few years I've become increasingly interested in photography. Maybe this started when I was about 40 and while to younger readers that might seem late, part of staying curious is finding new interests all throughout your life without wishing you had started earlier. You don't want to be X-years old and have nothing new to learn or take up.

The desire to learn in this context can create even more optionality in terms of meeting people you would have never otherwise met, doing things you would have never otherwise done and maybe even creating an income stream, a new option, that you were not expecting.

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