Growing Up in a Recession




This recession is painful, but grow up — it is not nearly as bad as I remember the 1980s being. I went over old term sheets from that period and a deal with someone for $500k was a big deal; $2.5 million was a massive amount of money.

I grew up as a recession baby. I grew up in the mining business with a big crash for my father’s company when I was about 10. The crash was impactful, and I ended up very different because of it. Some of the things I do are classic recession baby stuff, others are irrational, but all of them are impacted by that period of my life. 

I would not trade that time for anything. Growing up with these issues taught me how to deal with the world — six weeks’ delay on something is no problem, market hiccup not a problem. Need to sell stuff…then remember it’s just stuff, not people. 


However, it taught me some interesting things:

Food: I always have 2-3 months of food in the house. I have three freezers full of meat, and when I run out of food, I panic. Every two years, my wife has to throw out a lot of stuff that goes bad, but I am just not comfortable unless I have enough food (that will last a while) around. 

Luxury items: I do not really crave them. I crave stuff that works, but I do not care what brand my jeans are; I want them to fit, and I want them to be minimally hole-y. I am happy with any decent dress shirt that fits; I went custom when that was the only option due to being fat with a long torso and short arms, but now that I am fit, a slim fit shirt from Costco is my go-to $18 shirt.

Hotel rooms/travel: It’s a bed; I want a door that locks, a bed that is not shared with bugs or rented by the hour and still warm, and beyond that I want cheap. If I am doing a mining conference, I am known to take an apartment so that I can do morning meetings in a quiet spot, but for the most part, the Hojo is my go-to. Mr. Hilton/Sheraton are not on my date list.

First class: If I have gotten an upgrade or only a $50 difference in fare, it’s a great value to get to work on the plane; otherwise, nope. 

Education: I spend everything I can on education as it is the only thing you get to take with you. I spend time learning stuff (thinking about stuff). I value both degrees and real learning. 

Office space: We spend $0.75-1.00 per square foot (including heat, electric, trash, parking…);  I would not want to live here, but working here is great. Cheap rent means lots of square footage. 

Speed: The world thinks it works on NYC time, but it really works much closer to Arctic time. Stuff happens when it is supposed to; if you are in a rush, it is not going to happen any quicker and, in fact, it is not going to happen as quickly. 

Spring kills: It’s not the winter that kills people/companies, it is the spring. The claws come out when there is two cents to go around and people thought they were owed five cents. 

Coffee: Buy a random guy in a suit a cup of joe (make a point of buying it). When you meet people, if you can afford it, buy the bloody coffee. Small things will make the pain bearable. 

Get stuff done: In conclusion, if you are not working on stuff now, when the recovery comes you will be behind the eight-ball. Figure out what you can do and do it. Don’t kill yourself, but do stuff EVERY DAY, even if you are not going to get paid for it. 

One thought on “Growing Up in a Recession

  1. Thanks! Always insightful…..and spot on. I guess I better get back to my “stuff”.

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