Stansberry Radio Interview Series: Bill Bonner: The most valuable secret you’ll ever hear
Welcome back to the Stansberry Radio Interview Series.
Every weekend, the Stansberry Radio Network brings you the most valuable ideas from the most intriguing guests from all of our shows.
This week we’re sharing highlights from Porter Stansberry’s interview with his longtime friend and mentor, Bill Bonner, the founder of S&A’s parent company, Agora.
Porter tells his listeners:
I want you to listen very carefully to what Bill says. He’s the wisest guy I’ve ever met. He put me personally on the path to enormous wealth and success. And there’s a secret behind the way he does business, the way he has built his family, the way he manages his friendships and his affairs. I truly believe it’s the most important and valuable secret you’ll ever learn.
Bill’s brand-new book, Hormegeddon, explains this secret in the context of everything that is going on in America today… so you can see exactly how it applies to the world around you.
And it all boils down to one key idea. To find out what it is, read on…
Stansberry Radio Network
The following is adapted from Episode 172 of Porter’s weekly Stansberry Radio podcast
Porter Stansberry: Bill, let’s talk about your new book, Hormegeddon. In an email I sent to you several months ago, I said, “Is it too late to change the title?” ‘Cause I couldn’t imagine publishing a book that sounds the way your book title sounds.
Bill Bonner: This is not about some devastation of the prostitution industry. This comes from hormesis, which is this phenomenon of biochemistry where you give somebody a little dirt or something and it actually helps them, but if you give them any more it kills them. It’s the same phenomena we know as declining marginal utility. You give somebody a little of something, it’s good. You give them more and it’s less good. The end of that process is when you give them too much and something terrible happens.
Stansberry: It’s the whole nature of technology. It’s the same with fire or sword. Right?
Bonner: With everything. It’s the way life works. It’s hard to find an exception.
Stansberry: It’s the way life works, and the way that we have been trying to explain the book – it’s not so easy selling a book called Hormegeddon, by the way, Bill.
Bonner: Oh, well. Sorry.
Stansberry: I’ve been explaining to people that this book is part of the big secret that you taught me. I met you for the first time in Delray Beach in 1996… And you started teaching me lessons then about the way the world really works… about the way marketing works, about the way people work, relationships, marriage… and I would say the essence of this secret that you’ve taught me over time is that people frequently act in their own self-interest – but it’s always how they define their self-interest. And frequently that is irrational and illogical.
So if you want to be successful in life, what you really have to do is figure out what the other guy really wants out of the deal and give it to him.
Bonner: Yeah. That is a little-appreciated difference between civilization and barbarism, if you’ll allow me to go a little bit far on this.
Before the advent of civilization – and most of our time on the planet was spent in a world which was not civilized – you did not get a return from doing that. You did not get a good return necessarily. It didn’t work because the world was not a reciprocal world. There was reciprocity in it, but people got an advantage usually by using force. All of the prehistory that we know is the history of one group conquering another group, and somebody killing somebody and taking his property, and so on.
That’s not all that happened, but it was a big part of it.
Stansberry: It seems like Vladimir Putin hasn’t gotten the memo yet about the nature of civilization.
Bonner: He’s playing his own hand there, and that’s a very different hand, but it’s only recently, in the last few thousand years, and especially in the last few hundred years – with the advent of capitalism – that it really pays to think about what other people want.
Because now, in order to get what you want, you have to give other people what they want. So it’s fundamentally a trade or an exchange of goods and services, and you have to figure out what goods, what services people want, how to offer it to them, and so on.
If you don’t do that, you’re thinking in a very more primitive way, which a lot of people do.
Stansberry: Yeah, they’re not hard to find.
Bonner: Go to the U.S. government. Go to Washington. Nobody in Washington believes in reciprocity. They believe in taking things from people and figuring out what to do with them.
Stansberry: They’re complete sociopaths.
Bill, you taught me that you have to figure out what’s in it for the other guy and you have to make sure he gets it. Of course, everyone will say, “Well, that’s obvious and how’s that a secret?”
The real secret is that what the other guy wants is very multifaceted, and often what he really wants is not what he says he wants at all. And I’ll give you an example of that…
At Agora, Inc., Bill, your holding company, there’s a health group, and part of what the health group sells from time to time of course is weight loss strategies. But the science of weight loss is purely mathematics. It’s absolutely simple. There’s no mystery to it at all, right? You take in less calories. You burn more calories. You will lose weight every time. If you don’t do those things, you will not lose weight.
So it’s amazing that there can be such an enormous publishing industry built around this idea, which is completely black and white and very simple. And yet, Bill, as you know, the people who are buying weight loss products don’t necessarily want to lose weight. What they are really looking for, of course, is the excitement and the hope of losing weight, and what they want is someone who can hit that emotional button for them again and again and again and again. That’s why there’s a new fad diet every four to six years, because that’s how long it takes these products to work their way through the population.
Bonner: Yeah, that’s right. It’s really much more complicated and, in a way, more simple than people realize. When you get right down to it, everybody wants to be the hero of his own story, and being the hero of your own story is not nearly as simple as losing weight or making money.
We see that all the time, that people come to us and we think they want to make money, so we’re offering moneymaking ideas as much as we can, and making money is like losing weight in a way. You just have to work at it really hard and get lucky, but people don’t want that. They want something else, and often really they want to be the hero of a story that involves themselves and their spouse, and so they need to do something or to learn more or to understand an idea in a way that other people don’t understand.
Ultimately, it’s just not as simple as people want more money, to weigh less, or whatever it is. It’s really very complex.
Stansberry: Yeah, I’ll give you, well, one last good example of that before we’ll go on to talk about some of these secrets that are in your new book.
I recently wrote a series of nine S&A Digests, and I did so because Sean Goldsmith, my writing partner, was on vacation, and, honestly, Bill, I don’t think my staff thought that I could do it anymore – so the old dog had to come in and sort of pee on the corners and make sure that the space was still his. I sat down and I thought, I’m going to try to write the best nine essays I’ve ever written in my career that tell everything I really have come to believe over 20 years in finance.
And the first essay I wrote was, “If all you want to do is make more money, here is it. You buy these seven ETFs. You pay next to nothing to own them. You allocate equally to them every year for 20 years and you’re done. There’s nothing else to it. This is all you have to do.” And the ETFs, Bill, you can understand. It’s simple. It’s shareholder yield. It’s global diversification.
Bonner: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stansberry: It’s all straight finance. There’s nothing tricky to it at all. So if all you wanted to do is make more money, you didn’t have to read any of the other essays. It’s all in the first one. And then the next eight were all stuff that speak to exactly what you’re talking about – becoming a hero of your own story. Learning how, for example, to master insurance stocks, which are very complicated, but great ways to make money over the long-term.
The people who are reading our newsletters or listening to this podcast, they’re not just interested in making more money or in losing weight. They really want to have a better, deeper understanding of the world around them, and they want to become, like you said, the hero of their story.
Bonner: Yes. Porter, I read those essays that you wrote. I thought they were very good. I felt I learned something from every one of them.
Stansberry: Oh, thank you, Bill. I thought I was about to get your usual compliment, which is, “They’re as good as anything else you’ve ever written.”
Let’s talk now about your new book. What are a couple of the core multifaceted secrets that you delve into in this book? What layers of the onion are you peeling back for us?
Bonner: Well, I think where I’ve really made progress is better understanding the nature of government and the role that it plays in our lives. Government at the command of certain people does certain obvious things. People think of government as a force for progress or to change. They have these mottos they come up with during elections, like “change,” but government is the last organization to ever want change because government represents fixed capital interests.
The people who give money to the government, give money to politicians, they’re the people who have money. They’re the people who are threatened by change. They’re not the people who are going to benefit from change. And all those retirees who are retiring, they don’t want change at all. They want to make sure that the system that’s set – that was set up and they contributed to for all those years, they want to make sure that system survives and that they get not only what they’ve got coming to them, according to the rules that’s set up over the last 50 years, but they want to get more.
And there are more people retiring, more people voting, and all of them have the same interests, which is to hold on to what they’ve got. Those are the people who control elections and control government. But really the future, the interests of the future, is very different.
The future is unknown. The people that are born today, we don’t know what kind of world they’re going to live in, what kind of challenges they’re going to face, or what they’re going to need. Right now, just taking one little element, which is the U.S. federal debt, that is a claim on what those people are going to earn 25 years from now, and it really is shameful the way it’s done.
But what I’ve tried to do [in the book] is explain how government is always a reactionary force, always controlled by certain groups of people, and those groups of people always want to maintain order as it is. There are some exceptions that have happened by accident really, but that’s the way it works, and that opens up a better understanding of how these terrible disasters happen – when a government backing some particular idea gets into play, and things all start lining up in favor of more and more of a certain kind of program, until we end up with this “hormegeddon” where things go wrong in a big, big way.
Stansberry: Before we wrap up today, let’s talk about the other thing that you and I are working on, which is your first-ever newsletter. I know that this has been a project long in the making. I’ve been pretty much begging you to write a newsletter for at least a decade, and you must have lost your senses one day ’cause you agreed to do it. How is it going?
Bonner: I think I had too much to drink because, well, somewhere along the way I woke up and realized that I had agreed to do this. Then I realized how much work it was, and yet I was on my way and also challenged by it. I must say you and your team have done a great job, and you’ve helped me to see how we can do much, much better in newsletters than we ever did. The idea of a newsletter has evolved with my whole career, because when I started it was something very, very different from what it is today.
And I see now that what I’m doing with your team of researchers and writers and editors and so on is much, much bigger, and it challenges me to come up with ideas. It challenges me to come up with proof, to stretch further than I ever thought I could, to find insights and ideas where they didn’t exist before.
So I think you have done a marvelous job, and that’s mostly what coaxed me out of almost a semi-retirement in that respect. But I’m very happy I did because now I’m finding that it’s quite an adventure.
Stansberry: That’s great. I thought that would happen. The people that we have working with Bill, by the way, are Amber Mason, who’s a long-time writer and editor for us, and a new guy, E.B. Tucker, who is part of my analytical team.
I wanted my subscribers to have the opportunity to know Bill in the way I have, and I didn’t see that in any of his previous books, and I didn’t see it in his “Daily Reckoning.” Now, here’s the idea…
Bill has a tremendous grip on the big themes that are driving politics and economics and society. Bill has this wonderful way of seeing the world as a Shakespearean play, and he knows that everyone has their role to play, and it never lines up with the facts, but the themes always end up winning out, and I’ve seen this again and again and again.
This is part of the big secret that he taught me, which is that people aren’t going to do what they say they’re going to do. They don’t do what they say they want, but they do act in their own self-interest, and usually what’s their interest is very convoluted. The government’s not looking out for the people. The government’s looking out for the people with fixed asset investments and understanding that they will always act that way makes it a lot easier for you to guide your own life, but particularly it makes it easy to guide your investments.
And so what I really wanted to do was pair up your enormous picture, your long-term thinking, with analysts like Amber and E.B. who could then get down into the granular. Take that big idea and then get down into the various sectors, the various markets around the world, and the individual businesses, and put your ideas into profitable action. And that’s really the whole point of the Bonner Letter.
It’s a monthly newsletter, and it has a recommendation. It has a recommended portfolio, you’ll be writing the overview and then Amber and E.B. are writing the investment side of it. I think it’s by far the best newsletter we publish, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how you guys do over market cycles. And I know, Bill, that this idea sort of terrifies you because I know you just generally don’t even believe in investing, but I know that you’re gonna do very well because E.B. and Amber are really smart, and your big picture ideas are always right.
Bonner: Well, I hope so. We’ll do the best we can. I have learned to be very, very modest and humble over the years. I was on the wrong side of the gold market for 20 years, so I hope that I’ve learned something from that.
Stansberry: You told me one time that the stock market is the world’s greatest humiliation tool, designed to humiliate the most amount of people for the most amount of time.
Bonner: Well, I think that’s right. It’s fundamentally a moral system. It’s a system that teaches you not to be too full of yourself and not to believe things that can’t possibly be true – like you can create wealth by printing money. It teaches you how the world really works, but you have to pay attention.
Stansberry: Bill, thanks so much for joining us, and thanks for writing the book. Again, I’m sorry for the title, but…
Bonner: Well, I’m sorry about the title, too, Porter, but we’ll rise above it, won’t we?
Stansberry: We will. So, folks, it’s Hormegeddon. If you go to this website we’ve set up, www.getbillsbook.com, you’ll get a much better offer for you than you can get anywhere else. You get the hardback copy of the book. You get the digital copy immediately. You get a full year of Bill’s newsletter at no extra cost, and you get Bill’s fantastic compendium, “The Idea of America.” It’s a great package, and definitely worth your time and interest.
Bill, thanks again.
Bonner: All right, thank you. Bye-bye.
Crux note: If you enjoyed today’s excerpt, be sure to listen to the full interview here.
Bill has a sort of wisdom that’s far beyond what others teach… what others even understand. And it’s made him, his partners, many of his employees – and many other people who have listened to him – rich. His new book is so important, Porter insisted we make copies available to readers before they’re available on Amazon or anywhere else.
But this offer may not be available for much longer… We’ve already sold more than 3,000 copies. To make sure you receive your copy before we run out – and to gain immediate access to Bill’s new letter – click here now.