Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ubuntu Is The Rich Man's OS X

I tweeted that I was considering making my next box an Ubuntu machine, rather than OS X. One of the many responses:

This was probably intended as praise, but I think it's actually a very significant mistake, and the truth is precisely opposite.

In 2010, from Feburary to around October or November, I worked for nobody but myself. I went back to working for other people after some painful business fumbles, and of course I'm planning my return to free-range status. As part of this process, I'm doing a lot of research into money management and the experiences of successful entrepreneurs in order to identify my mistakes and put together an accurate post-mortem to inform my next moves.

Dr. Thomas Stanley wrote a pair of terrific and very relevant books. If there's one thing I just don't have time for, it's opinion delivered without research to back it up. Stanley approached the issue of wealth-building scientifically, by surveying large numbers of millionaires.

When he first began, he encountered several surprises. One came when he arranged a small focus group made up entirely of decamillionaires, which is to say, individuals with eight-digit net worth. He and his research team acquired caviar, fine wines, and expensive cheeses in order to make the decamillionaires feel comfortable. It did not make the decamillionaires feel comfortable at all. The first guy there told Dr. Stanley, "I only drink two kinds of beer: Bud, and free." Every single decamillionaire in attendance that day showed up in working-class clothes, driving a cheap, crappy car. None of them touched the fancy cheese.

If I'd read Stanley in 2009, I might still be working only for myself. Here's an excerpt:

I have never interviewed one successful business owner who is not cost-sensitive. It matters little if it's a retail hardware operation, a legal practice, or a junkyard...paying very close attention to expenses is the foundation of productivity.

Stanley found that the overwhelming majority of American millionaires are extremely thrifty. The #1 car driven by millionaires in America, for instance, is the Toyota Corolla. Most millionaires do not drive luxury cars, and most drivers of luxury cars are not millionaires.

In fact, the negative correlation with luxury goods is, in Stanley's opinion, the main reason why most American millionaires have made their wealth in blue-collar businesses rather than white-collar ones. While he has encountered many millionaire lawyers and doctors, Stanley reports that millionaire blue-collar business owners outnumber them by at least an order of magnitude, and he theorizes that the savvy investment which characterizes millionaires cannot happen in the context of an upper-middle-class lifestyle, with the luxury spending and expensive trinkets such a life involves.

This is an awkward thing for me, because I do enjoy my expensive gadgets, and I'm not actually decided on Ubuntu - I might go for a Hackintosh instead - but there's no question in my mind after reviewing the relevant research that choosing Ubuntu over OS X is the rich man's (or woman's) move.