Set forth below is the text of an e-mail from Jackie (owner of the The Debt Stuff blog) to me dated October 14, 2014, followed by my response:
Some of my (unasked for) thoughts:
– I think you could really benefit from an editor to make sure you aren’t focusing on the past but instead are getting your actual message across
– I think a simpler tone (like what I posted from your emails vs. the tone of what you originally sent me) is more readable
– Shorter paragraphs are more scanable.
– Shorter comment responses make you look helpful vs. over-doing it (Most people don’t respond to comments with multiple paragraphs; that gets overwhelming)
As a side note, your message reminded me a little of what http://dropdeadmoney.com/ talks about.
Your comments are 100 percent welcomed. I will also pledge to read yours over again several times and to try to let the message get past my protective radar.
The last comment (re overdoing it) is the one that hits home the most.
I once wrote a guest blog at Miranda Marquit’s blog that told a story about me that I think is funny today only because I have distance from it. Basically, I had a crush on a girl when I was in my 20s and it was clear that she liked me but it was also clear that she didn’t want to get more involved and it was driving me crazy for a long time. Eventually, she broke down and told me that I was “too intense.” I never would have come up with that one because in my mind intense is the best thing that a person can be!
I wrote only about saving strategies for several years and I was universally loved. I was the same person! It’s just that then I was being intense about a different subject, one that did not upset people. The name of my book about saving is “Passion Saving.” I don’t think that’s an accident. When people used to praise me, the common thread was that “he’s passionate about the subject.”
I care deeply about helping people. I saved like a crazy man for nine years because I couldn’t bear to do work that I did not love, no matter how much money I made doing it. It’s not my intent here to brag. I am saying that it is my nature to be intense. In some circumstances people love that trait and in some circumstances people hate it.
I am not sure that I am capable of being non-intense. There are circumstances in which one needs to pull in the reins to be effective, and, if that’s the way it is here, I need to work harder at doing that. But it really is something deep in my nature that drives that behavior. I don’t know how effective I can be if I deny my nature.
It may well be that the intensity has hurt me in many cases. I think there is a good bit of evidence that that is indeed so. But the other side of the story is that it has led me to good places on other occasions. I really do have my name on peer-reviewed research that I believe will be featured on the front page of the New York Times one day. That’s a pretty darn amazing reality given that I never studied investing in school. That happened because Wade Pfau contacted me because of my posts at the Bogleheads Forum. It didn’t bother Wade that I was banned for writing those posts. He saw merit in them and wanted to perform research that would show whether I was right or not.
I am hearing. I know that I am offering some pushback. But I am also at least TRYING to listen. We all have a hard time listening to messages that say we have long been doing something wrong in an important way.
I AM intense. There is no question that that is a reality. I am friendly and polite and warm. But I am intense and determined. And there is no question whatsoever but that that turns a good number of people off in my discussions with them. It makes the Goons go positively mad. But it causes at least some unease on the part of lots of people who are not at all goonish in their behavior.
I would be happy to rein it in if I believed that that would bring good results for everyone. But it amazes me that Shiller’s research has been out there for 33 years now and very few people have explored the implications of it in any great depth. I didn’t know that when this started. When the Goons started attacking me, I looked around for friendly sites and found that there was not at that time one site on the internet exploring the implications of Shiller’s ideas in depth (now my site is the one site that does that).
Think about Wade Pfau, the researcher who contacted me to work with him. He told me that he was learning new things from me on an almost daily basis. And he has a Ph.D. in Economics! It should not have been possible for someone like me to teach Wade anything. But I taught him lots of very important things, according to what he told me in the hundreds of e-mails we exchanged.
I see that as evidence that my intensity can be a positive in some circumstances. I could have folded up when the Goons attacked me and I never would have learned these things myself. I didn’t. I dug and dug and dug and dug. And I learned and learned and learned and learned. That’s what gives my work value, in my assessment. That’s the good side of my intensity.
The bad side of it is that it may turn some people off. I need to deal with that if that really is so (and I think there is a good bit of evidence that you are right on this point). I am not dismissing what you are saying. I am struggling with the puzzle of how to be intense when that is a good thing to be and to be more reserved when that is the better thing. The intense person is inclined to see the good in intensity and not the bad, even though seeing only the good may hurt him in some ways.
It’s very hard for me to write short responses. When I detect that someone has an interest in the ideas, I want to share EVERYTHING. Sometimes I write an absurdly long response and people complain about it and they don’t realize that I cut it in half before posting it because I didn’t want to upset people by going on too long. That really happens! There was one woman at Motley Fool who put up a thread about me that she called “Death by Verbosity.” So you are pointing to something real. I acknowledge that.
My challenge is to retain the good that comes from caring deeply without scaring people or turning them off. It’s my problem, not yours. I am grateful to you for trying to help. I am not agreeing 100 percent because I feel that I see good that comes from the intensity too. I don’t feel that I can apologize for caring so much. But my ultimate goal is to get the message out and, if you point me in a direction that makes me more effective in getting the message out, you are doing me a big favor.
Thanks for trying to break through my super-strong defenses!