The Inevitable Great Reckoning: An American Story and A Personal One

Marvin Liao
3 min readMay 4, 2022


As a long time student of geopolitics, it’s been distressing watching the slow decline of my adopted country the USA. As a hyper power, it strode like a colossus across the world during the 90s: dominant on the military, economic and soft power spheres. Fast forward 30 years, the USA is a very different place. Due to disastrous wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, bad central bank and regulatory policies; with a damaged reputation, tired & inward looking while we see the rise of peer competitors. Yet, this country is still either in “Cope” mode or living the dreamland of the US being the clear number 1 in the world. We are Number 1 for now but clearly declining.

We’ve had it so good for so long that we’ve gotten weak. Comfort & complacency are literally killing us. Diabetes and obesity as well as the stupid cultural wars happening are diseases of luxury and prosperity aka #Firstworldproblems. This happened in Spain in the 1600s at their peak. This happened to France during the 1700s & early 1800s. The British in the early 20th century. Heck, it happened to almost every major empire in the world.

I think a lot about my career and life prior to 2020. It was a dreamland, I had the luck and fortune to be in the tech industry during its rise to prominence and dominance. I loved what I did but frankly I was living mostly paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I had a high net worth and assets but I was Illiquid and over reliant on single source of income with a stupidly high cost structure and limited reserves. I was very over-geared.

I knew all this but due to things getting better every year for most of my career prior to 2020, I was complacent and locked in a loop. But as the saying goes, “Life is like a credit card, It’s all fun using it until you get the bill.”

Despite a wonderful start in the first 2 months of 2020, the pandemic and reality hit me hard. I highlighted some of this in previous posts such as 2020 ripped open and exposed the flaws in my thinking & the system that I had built (or lack thereof). Talk about a wake up call.

The point is that you can’t hide from reality. It always catches up to you. You literally reap what you sow. If you have bad eating habits and don’t exercise, you will pay for it with your health later. If you don’t manage your money well, you will face economic challenges eventually. You don’t invest the time in nurturing your relationships, why would anyone look to help you when you need it?

I learned all this in 2020. And as usual, it was all self-inflicted and due to my lack of imagination and courage. The situation was so bad, I literally could not hide from it anymore. Pain, whether emotional or physical, is Information.

So while 2020 sucked, it did force me to completely change my mindset, my attitudes & habits. Pretty much my entire life. I had no choice. Adapt or die. In fact, it helped me understand why so few people succeed in life.

It’s because they are unwilling to take the hard decisions they know they need to make. They are also unwilling to consistently do the hard work. All this stems from too much comfort and an unwillingness to face their reality. They don’t want to take the upfront pain needed to make the transition.

But unfortunately as per Socrates famous dictum: “An Unexamined Life is not Worth Living.” This is incredibly true in this day and age. At the National level and even in our own lives right now. And there is no way to hide. You have to take personal responsibility for fixing your own life immediately or else you face an eventual reckoning. And like the compounding interest of a credit card bill, the longer you put it off, the more painful it will be.



Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!