While both of us were waiting for a bus at the Oakland Airport, Andrew Sutherland asked me where I was going. He was from New Zealand, on a two-week visit to America. I asked him what he did. “I’m working on retirement,” he said. He’s in his mid-forties.
When he was 18 years old, he bought his first house for $1000. It was in terrible shape but he was good at making things so he was able to fix it up. Later he owned a bunch of houses in Denedin, where the University of Otago is located, and rented them to students.
“What advantage did you have over your competitors?” I asked.
“The main advantage I had was ignorance,” he said. He didn’t know all the things that could go wrong. “I wasn’t afraid.” Someone who knew more would have been. Geoffrey Bateson said something similar: If I’d known how hard everything was going to be, I would never have done anything. This is the upside of the ignorance that Nassim Taleb talks about.