The Right Stuff

Carter Thomas
5 min readJan 13, 2023

Hello old friend. I hope you are well. Happy New Year. May 2023 bring life changing excellence to you. May you find the vein in your arm that is aching for an infusion and let the electricity of life pour in. May you wake up each day with clear eyes and a full heart, letting the warmth hit your face with the force of a thousand suns, filling you with a deep, quiet fire.

In 1979 Tom Wolfe released The Right Stuff, a book about fighter pilots and astronauts. While the story was about the people, the journey and the inevitable actions of these characters, what Wolfe was really talking about what The Right Stuff, a subtle yet unmistakable quality that each person had.

The Right Stuff comes without definition. It is more of a kinesthetic quality that one feels, both as someone who embodies The Right Stuff as well as the observer. If I had to describe it, I would say it’s a mix of edge and genius, pushed to the breaking point by a lack of fear. That guy who is able to find superior results, even in the face of bone crushing resistance, has The Right Stuff.

We all know people like this. We see it every day in professional athletes who come through in the championship game. We see it in movie directors who are able to turn their vision of a fantasy world into the greatest box office smash in history. We see it in traders who turn basic systems into generational wealth, unphased by the wildest of volatility.

At first it is easy to want to have The Right Stuff. To be the best of the best is rewarded reflexively in this world. Power laws have become a byproduct of technology and we are now run by technology. It is just as much natural talent as it is learned mindset — if you want The Right Stuff you can get it. If you are not predisposed to have it, your journey will be long and hard. But it is possible nonetheless.

In 2023, the year of the rabbit, I will be thinking a lot about The Right Stuff and I think you should too. If you haven’t already felt the effects of the Liquidity Tax (previous post), you will soon. And the most insidious thing that can happen to you is to feel those effects and still be operating at the same level you were all these years before. You will feel out of control and as a victim. You will obsess over the markets and blame the Fed for your problems. You will look in the mirror each morning and wonder why your muscles aren’t getting bigger, why your bank account is floundering and why you can’t seem to make any progress anywhere else.

In the past, we could let it slide and allow life to keep moving forward because let’s be honest, bull markets solve most problems in this world. Not just financial — emotional and spiritual as well. Growth and progress are what make us happy. If the world around us is doing the work, why should we?

But that has changed. Maybe you can feel it. I know I have. There is a slow and nuanced shift happening in the communities I hang out in. There is still a sense of waiting, a sense that confirmation is no longer coming. That is finally giving way to people realizing that work is required to maintain growth and, lo and behold, work can be hard. Especially the kind of work that leads to progress. Any work that’s comfortable isn’t going to get you anywhere meaningful. You need to step into the darkness. To maintain momentum, you must believe you have The Right Stuff.

Of course I am not saying that you or anyone should try to become a professional athlete or god-tier trader or unicorn founder. I’m not saying you should become a Navy Seal and try to be top of your class. What I am saying is that you should start acting like you are the kind of person who belongs in those categories. You should put in the hard work to be the best, not because you want to reap the rewards, but because there is no alternative. People who have The Right Stuff can’t process what it means to be normal or average. They live on a one-way street.

Many people reading this will be turned off by this idea. They will resist the idea of being great, citing the Ego and selfish tendencies. Instead they will look around and be grateful for what they already have and find a way to do enough to keep things going as they already are because, let’s be honest, it’s not that bad.

Don’t be like that, not this year. Don’t give in to the idea that it’s OK to sit back and let life continue the way it always has, letting the Gods of the decade direct your path. Ask yourself what it would feel like to have The Right Stuff. What it would feel like to walk down the street knowing you are one of the chosen, living above the matrix, fully in control of your destiny…but you must execute at the highest of levels to maintain this feeling.

Imagine this is not because you just decided to have The Right Stuff, but because you are actually living it. Your performance is backing it up. Each day you excel among your peers with confidence and focus. You go to bed each night humble and hungry for more. It is not an idea in your head, it is a full body Knowing. It’s something you cannot turn off.

There’s nothing about this should or should not motivate you. I don’t care what you do and no one else does either. In fact I hope most people gloss over this and continue doing what they’ve always done. That makes it much easier for the rest of us.

But something that has been plaguing me for a while now is this feeling that we will look back at 2023 as the year that fortunes were made. And all the opportunity is just sitting there right in front of us, waiting for the Top Guns to take it. The Right Stuff is a quiet, embodied energy. It will be hard to control. It will be the kind of thing that outsiders will say is limiting and isolating but you won’t be able to turn off.

There is a famous viral video on TikTok that says something like “what if this is the year that you finally decided to go for it? You finally went all in, did everything you always said you wanted to do and really gave yourself the chance to be great?” I think 2023 is that chance. I think you will see opportunities that can and will change your life more than any other.

From the book:

“For a test pilot the right stuff in the prayer department was not “Please, God, don’t let me blow up.” No, the supplication at such a moment was “Please, dear God, don’t let me fuck up.”

Good luck to those who have and want The Right Stuff. I see you.

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