Quick review: Bench.co

I'm not super organized.

That's a weakness. Especially when running a business.

But I try to compensate. I like paying experts to do things for me—things I'm not good at—so I don't have to worry about those things.

Mostly, I do it so I can focus on what I'm good at. Focus on what brings the money in, not where the money goes or adding it all up at the end of the month.

That's why I use Bench (bench.co).

Bench is a remote bookkeeping service on steroids. Subscribe, and you get assigned a bookkeeper. You also get access to a cool dashboard that allows you to see how your business is performing from month to month. This works by linking to your bank accounts, and reporting data from there after your bookkeeper has cleaned things up.

What I really like is the way it prompts me to categorize expenses right in the dashboard. I don't have time to take a note of every expense, or photograph every receipt. I'd rather just categorize everything at the end of the month. That's what Bench does. At the end of the month, I get questions about the handful of expenses my bookkeeper doesn't know how to categorize, and it takes me maybe 5 minutes to clear them all at once (rather than having to worry about it for 5 minutes several different times in a given week).

I highly recommend it. Starting a business should be about you hyperfocusing on what you do best. On what brings in money. Not managing your books. Books are a necessary evil. You should not be spending more than an hour a week managing your books. These days, I spend maybe 10 minutes per week, at most. Because of Bench.

Yes, there's a cost. But it's unbelievably low. More than worth it. Anywhere from $100 to $300 per month, depending on your business's monthly expenses.

Of course, Bench isn't perfect, but mostly on account of what it chooses not to do—not because of what it tries, but fails, to do. It's not a full accounting system, and doesn't claim to be. You can't use it to create and send invoices, so tying revenues to particular projects can be a bit of a hassle.

Try it out. Link here.

An odd sort of risk aversion

We’re so risk averse.

I’d bet today’s Americans are more risk-averse than any previous generation.

But it manifests oddly. So oddly.

Young Americans engage in personal behavior that is riddled with risk. Sexually, financially, professionally. Multiple sexual partners, often in rapid succession. Borrowing more than we can earn in 10 years to get degrees in fields with terrible job prospects. Quitting jobs to “tour the world” on credit.

From that perspective, we’re the opposite of risk-averse.

But we simultaneously lend our unwavering support to policies and ideas designed to combat what we believe are systemic, existential threats on our way of life. We fear big things that haven’t happened. We worry so much about the “system” falling apart.

Take universal healthcare. Almost certainly unsustainable. Definitely inefficient. Sure, there might be ways of accomplishing universal healthcare that we’ve yet to try. But to dive into something this wide, this massive, with little or no evidence and almost no possibility of turning back ought to be something few people are willing to do.

But polls show that most young people are willing, because they fear these systemic, existential threats to society enough to justify almost any society-wide action to combat them. Even giving up their own freedoms—their own liberty to live as they wish. If it means we won’t all die of some disease, sure, I’ll give up 1% of my income. If it means no mass genocide, sure, I’ll give up another 2%.

This adds up. Fast.

What’s vexing about this phenomenon is that we really have no ability to curb these things. We can’t predict a Black Swan, and it’s the Black Swans that hurt the worst. But for some reason, we believe that enough resources guards against Black Swans, and that once we’ve set up those new defenses, we couldn’t possibly have been totally wrong, or things couldn’t possibly change so much that the old defenses are literally worthless.

Think Social Security. Medicare. Nuclear weapons. Most literally couldn’t imagine the world without these rather arbitrary defenses against exogenous shocks. Yet they are old programs that have really done little to combat the true, underlying problem. Indeed, the most contentious debates in Washington are perennially the same—how do we solve these “problems” that we’re supposed to have solved a million times before? Poverty. Healthcare. Defense.

These programs, and the miniscule (and shrinking) number of people willing even to consider that they might not work, are evidence of the risk-aversion I mentioned earlier. Big existential fears that literally paralyze our critical thinking, coexisting with lifestyles that seemingly belie a defeatist attitude about our prospects for long, happy lives.

Bottom line is we don’t fear the consequences of our actions as much as we fear exogenous shocks to the “system” that threaten our way of life. But ironically, it’s the former that is statistically proven to be vastly more influential to our well-being.

Our personal choices and their consequences are responsible for most of what happens to us, yet it’s precisely this we, today, do not fear. We fear what others might do. We fear what else might happen. Nuclear war. Worldwide pandemic. A breakdown of the “system.”

This is irrational. Why do we think this way?

Maybe we watch too many movies. Maybe we don’t know our history, or don’t take it seriously.

Whatever it is, it’s the cause of most of our problems. Bad thinking about our problems and what causes them. “Whataboutism” that ends any attempt (not just particular conclusions) to measure how much blame poor or unhappy people might have for their own condition.

But this isn’t doom-and-gloom. Yes, we have it all wrong. But getting this right in your own life will vastly boost your prospects for success—especially in your professional and financial life.

Think more about what you can do to change your circumstances. Think less about things you can’t control. Spend less on insurance, more on improving yourself. Take what you planned to put toward your retirement next year (especially if you’re under 35) and take a class—learn to program, join a gym, take a class in negotiation.

Your choices make the big difference. And they can improve the way you handle exogenous shocks.

Fear yourself the most.

When asked “What’s wrong with the world?”, GK Chesterton replied, “I am.”

Take that seriously, and apply it to your fears. What’s most likely to kill you before your time? Your choices. What’s the fastest way to get rich? Your own hard work on a good business idea.

You get the point.

Rules for writing well

What follows isn’t mine. It’s rules and guidelines from a random website I stumbled across.

Everything you write should be easy to understand. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. Take time to think about what you’re going to say, then say it as simply as possible. Keep these rules in mind whenever you’re writing on behalf of the studio.

Use small words. Using small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.

Use short sentences. Keep sentences short and get to the point. Readers might be interested in what you have to say, but don’t have much time to read.

Make clear statements. Every sentence should be a clear statement. If a sentence is incomplete or could easily be misunderstood, rewrite it.

Build clear stories. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements. Make sure every sentence adds to the statement that went before.

Don’t use jargon. Jargon makes writing less accessible. Technical terms should be used in their proper context; do not use them out of it.

Don’t use decoration. Don’t use decorative and flowery language. Focus on using only the words you need to communicate an idea clearly.

The standards for good writing are clarity and efficiency. You can develop good writing by editing with a careful eye to remove unnecessary words, decorative language, and jargon.