Persian Jewish American Businessmen

 

In 1979, Iran underwent a revolution that was very Islamic-themed. Now, in case you don’t know, Islamic-themed revolutions are not particularly appealing to Jewish people. Whenever a Jew comes across an Islamic revolution, he thinks, “This does not appeal to me.” 100% of Jews have that reaction. At no point has a Jew ever encountered an Islamic-themed revolution and been all like, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay! My, oh, my, what a wonderful Islamic revolution.”

So, starting in 1979, quite a few Jews left Iran and headed to various less Islamically revolutionized places, including the US. Nowadays, there are about 75,000 Persian Jews in America.

Do you know what these people do for a living? Business. They are VEB. Very Effective Businessmen. As in, they’re the type of businessmen who, if you drop them off shirtless and penniless in the middle of Wyoming, they will find their way back to Beverly Hills, and within five years they’ll own half of the city.

So, to reiterate, we’re talking about some VEB: Very Effective Businessmen. By now you might be wondering: “How are they so effective at business?” The answer is AAW. And no, I’m not talking about All-American Wrestling or the American Association of Woodturners. I’m talking about Aggression, Acumen, and Workaholism.

Let me break it down for you.

First of all, if you owe rent money to a Persian man and you’re one day past due, he won’t give you a phone call. He will come to your door and have a confrontation, and he’ll seem like the kind of guy who just stepped out of the jungle after strangling a bunch of zebras and gazelles. He’ll be ready, willing, and able to fight you to the death and then eat your esophagus as a snack. That’ll be his attitude, even if he’s a billionaire and you owe him the whopping sum of $850. He’ll still go after you.

That’s how Persians do business. Through aggression. And also through business acumen. As in, there’s this guy named Manuchehr or Parviz or Kamran or Jamshid or Hamid or Abbas, a few years ago he bought a garbage dump in foreclosure for $82,517, and he made some changes to it, and now it’s a building with 150 luxury condominiums, and Ariana Grande is moving in, and there’s an Apple Store and a Whole Foods Market and a Tesla dealership that just opened nearby, and George Clooney is shopping for a car that runs on half electricity and half sunflower seeds, and you’re looking at all of this, and you’re like, “What exactly happened to this neighborhood? Three years ago, it was chock full of poor people urinating on every street corner.”

So, yeah. Persian businessmen are smart. They’re also knowledgeable. Sort of. The thing is, some of them are knowledgeable in general, and others are knowledgeable just when it comes to business. The ones in the second group are actually the most impressive to me. There’s a Persian guy, he doesn’t know how to use a computer, he doesn’t know which one is the Pacific Ocean and which one is the Atlantic Ocean, he hasn’t read a book since the 1979 Revolution, he cannot beat a second grader in a game of Trivial Pursuit, he only knows 25 pieces of information total—and he uses those 25 pieces of information to make more money in one year than a Harvard professor makes in seven decades. He leads the league in Annual Dollars Earned per unit of Information (ADEI).

This is not a fictional example. I know this Persian man. I’ve talked to this man. I’ve also talked to a Harvard professor. Some guy whose ADEI is not particularly impressive. As in, he’s the kind of person who accumulates 170 pieces of knowledge for every post tax nickel that goes into his pocket. He knows way too much information relative to how much money he makes. One time, this professor started educating me on the topic of Shakespearean allegorical devices and their influence on 19th century American poetry. So I told that professor to shut his educated mouth. I said, “Listening to you is costing me money. You don’t have the millionaire mindset. If I want to have that mindset, I need to be as ignorant as a Persian businessman who’s worth $153 million.”

By the way—all Persian Jewish men are businessmen. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Well, I know this Persian Jewish guy, and he’s a doctor.” No he’s not. He’s a doctor and a businessman. He’s involved in the business of jewelry, textiles, or especially real estate. All Persian Jewish men are involved in real estate.

In Persian Jewish society, if you’re a doctor, you also do real estate, and you integrate career A into career B. As in, you have this patient named Faramarz, you tell him to relax as you take his blood pressure, he tells you about an apartment building that he’s thinking of buying, you give him a prescription for Lisinopril, he gives you…

The rest of this article can be found in the book What I Think of Various Places and People  by Rodney Ohebsion

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1 Cent Stamps

These days, the post office sells stamps that have no denomination listed on them. You buy a stamp for 47 cents–and even if the rice of a stamp goes up to 48 cents next year, you can still mail a letter with the stamp you bought for 47 cents.

In the old days, the post office had a different stamp policy. Back then, if you bought a first class stamp for 30 cents, and then the post office increased the rate to 31 cents, you had to participate in this bizarre ritual where you’d use your 30 cent stamp and you’d affix an additional one cent stamp right next to it. And you’d do the math. You’d be like, “30 plus 1 equals 31.  There we go. Postage.”

What I’m wondering is, let’s say someone sent out a letter with just the 30 cent stamp. What did the postman do when he saw that one cent shortage? I’ll bet his heart rate tripled–then he got on the phone and called the police. “We got a 7-3-3 in progress! I repeat–a 7-3-3!” “Um. What exactly is a 7-3-3?” “Didn’t you read the postal rule enforcement manual? A 7-3-3 is the most serious postal crime there is.” “And what crime is that?” “Attempted one cent larceny! Someone is attempting to larcen a penny from the post office! I’m looking at the envelope right now, and I got all the evidence I need to put this guy away for life. The perpetrator’s zip code is 81394. I think it’s safe to assume he’s armed and dangerous. I’m gonna need some backup. Send over a SWAT team!”

Direct arguments don’t directly influence people

Accurate facts and good reasoning have never influenced anyone when it comes to anything. Direct arguments don’t directly influence people. Sometimes they do, though. But most of the time, they don’t.

An individal or society as a whole might follow accurate facts and good reasoning at times–but all in all, accurate facts and good reasoning are not dominant. They only influence 8% of what you see in the world. Don’t look at the 8% and think it represents most of the other 92%.

Sometimes you see a skinny guy eating three chicken sandwiches for lunch. Does that mean that generally speaking, he eats that much food? No.

Sometimes you see facts and reasoning influencing others. Does that mean that generally speaking, people are influenced by facts and reasoning? No.

You have to practice distinguishing between the 8% and the 92%.

Don’t pay attention to the way people are portrayed in movies, on TV, in biographies, in historical accounts, etc. Those portrayals have a high concentration of fiction.

Do a hundred rounds of practice distinguishing between the 8% and the 92%. Disregard the misleading representations of people that are circulated by the public.

Don’t look down on people while doing the rounds of practice. This isn’t a matter of looking down on people. It’s a matter of looking at them as actual people. It’s not disrespectful to consider people to be 8%/92%. It’s disrespectful to not consider them so.

College

My father went to college in the 1960s. That was back when college degrees were valuable, and very few people had them. My father got his degree and went back to his hometown–and they were so impressed with him, that they immediately made him their new mayor. Which is interesting, considering how my father majored in physical education. As the mayor of his hometown, all he did was make people get physical. His chief of staff said, “Uh. Mayor Ohebsion. What should we do about the budget?” And then my dad told him, “We should run 25 laps, and then wrestle each other for an hour.” “And what about the renovation of City Hall?” “200 push ups, 300 jumping jacks.”

So like I was saying, my father got a good job because of his college degree. And the way–here’s how much he paid for tuition: $83.15 per semester. I know. He showed me the receipt. $83.15. Imagine paying for college with the cash in your wallet. You could do that in the 60s. It was a casual transaction. Like going to 7-11 and saying, “Let me get a hot dog, and a pack of Marlboros, and a college tuition, and a cherry Slurpee. Here’s $100. Keep the change.” But over time, a college education has gotten more expensive, and less valuable. My friend’s brother graduated from college a few years ago. It cost him $387,000 to get a Master’s degree. And nowadays, he works at 7-11. People say things to him like, “You have a Master’s degree in nuclear physics? Interesting. Anyways, like I was saying before you interrupted me, let me get a pack of Camels, and a Slurpee.”

I read somewhere that in 2007, Bill Gates delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. Which is kind of weird, considering how Bill Gates dropped out of that colege in 1975. So what exactly did he say in 2007, to the thousands of new Harvard graduates in attendance? “Uh. Hey guys. I’m Bill Gates. I’m very impressed with those robes and tassels you’re wearing. I’m a college dropout. I didn’t earn a robe and tassel. I don’t have those things. All I have is a measly $83 billion. I really admire you guys. By the way–if any of you need a job, I’m willing to hire you for $12 an hour.”

The Movie Theater

The other day, I was at a movie theater concession stand, and I saw a sign that said if you order a large popcorn and a large drink, they’ll charge you $15.50 instead of the full price of $16.00. I stared at that sign for ten minutes straight. I thought to myself, “Forget the movie. This is more entertaining.” When you think about it, that sign is really insulting. It would be like a burglar telling you, “I got a good deal for you. Now, my normal policy is to pick your lock when you’re not home, and steal everything in your kitchen. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll cut you a deal. If you leave your door open for me, I’ll steal everything in your kitchen except for your spatula and your can opener.” The movie theater has got some nerve, posting a sign about their full price of $16.00 and their combo rate of $15.50. They’re definitely not advertising that as a discount. No way. They’re just rubbing in the fact that they’re ripping you off. As in, “Popcorn. $9. Coke. $7. Is that too much? You want a discount? OK. Fine. Here are two quarters, you idiot. You can use your 50 cent savings to make a down payment on a box of Jujyfruits.”

I paid $16.00 for the popcorn and drink. I refused the discount. It was a matter of dignity. I gave the guy $16, he tried to give me back two quarters, and I said, “Don’t insult me with a 3% discount. Just give me the $9 popcorn and the $7 Coke–and then when I’m in the theater and the previews are playing, I’ll take out my phone and leave a Yelp review where I’ll instruct an angry mob to come down here, take all your popcorn, and shove it down your throat.”

So I bought the popcorn and drink. Then I went into the theater, and I watched the movie Fantastic Four. It’s some movie. My favorite part is the part where I was unconscious. Here’s how the moviegoing experience works for me. If I’m ten minutes into a movie and I come to the conclusion that the movie is boring, my body automatically falls asleep, just like how a grizzly bear automatically hibernates in the winter. When I say that to people, they tell me, “But a movie ticket costs you $9. Don’t you want to get your money’s worth?” Well. Here’s my counterargument. Let’s say you have $9 worth of rotten milk in your refrigerator. Does that mean you should pour the rotten milk on your Cinnamon Toast Crunch? That explains how I look at movies. Most of them are the equivalent of $9 worth of rotten milk. They should have that as their title. You go to the theater and say, “Two adults for $9 Worth of Rotten Milk.” “OK. That’ll be $18.”

The News

On some days, a lot of stuff happens. On some days, not that much stuff happens. Either way, when you turn on the 5 o’clock news, they give you 30 minutes worth of news. You flip it on one day, and they’re talking about the Cubs winning the World Series, and your local government declaring bankruptcy, and Neil Armstrong coming back to life and flying to Uranus, and the President getting really drunk and selling Wyoming to Uzbekistan. Then another day, the news has to fill up another half hour, and they’ve got nothing. No legitimate news. So what they do is, they send a reporter out on the street, and he spends five minutes talking about something that no in their right mind should spend one second listening to. “Clarissa. I’m here on Oak Street in the San Fernando Valley, where dozens of local residents have noticed something truly astounding: there’s an entire bunch of bananas lying on the sidewalk. Estimates for the the number of bananas have ranged from five all the way to six, and the consensus is that the bananas are just hours away from ripening. These bananas have sparked outrage among the community’s Latino voters, and pretty much everyone else as well, being that Latino voters and non-Latino non-voters have a similar attitude towards a bunch of bananas on a sidewalk.”

Google

Yesterday, I wanted to Google “blueberry muffin.” Now, as we all know, Google has low standards when it comes to spelling. You just put your fingers on the keyboard like a maniac, you type in some jumbled mess that kind of resembles English, and then Google says, “Did you mean ‘blueberry muffin?'” So I went through step one of that process. I was looking for “blueberry muffin”–and I typed in “vkuebutty miggomd.” And believe it or not, Google was unable to solve that mystery. It told me, “Your search – ‘vkuebutty miggomd’ – was not even close to matching anything on the internet. And keep in mind that we used our $8 billion worth of technology to try and figure out what you meant by ‘vkuebutty miggomd.’ But we still have no clue what that’s supposed to mean. You’re gonna have to meet us half way. Try to get at least one of the letters right.” So then I did some regoogling. I cracked my knuckles, I got on that keyboard, and I went to work. And I typed in “c;twberru ?yffo[.” It was a pretty good effort. I got the berr in blueberry, and I even got the double f in muffin. It was some of my finest work in my entire career as a Googler. And then Google told me, “OK. Here at Google headquarters, we just started a betting pool on what you’re trying to search for. Larry Page put $5,000 on ‘blueberry muffin.’ Sergey Brin put $3,000 on ‘bumblebee tuna.’ And Eric Schmidt bet $15,000 on ‘Pocahontas shampoo.'”