The Inner Game of Tennis – W. Timothy Gallwey

The Inner Game of Tennis

The Inner Game of Tennis – by W. Timothy Gallwey
Date read: 5/1/18. Recommendation: 9/10.

I'm usually skeptical of anything that remotely resembles using sports as a metaphor for life, but this a tremendous read. It's less a book about tennis (although there are a few sections) and more about the art of relaxed concentration. It's a simple but profound concept that suggests the secret to performing your best is in developing a quiet confidence, and most importantly, not trying too hard. Gallwey draws a line between Self 1–the conscious teller, and Self 2–the doer. He advocates developing greater trust in Self 2, which helps to cultivate effortless concentration (flow), instead of a more tense, overly controlled approach which creates an unnecessary obstacle. Gallwey also offers an insightful perspective as he digs deeper into concepts including judgement, awareness, ego, and mindfulness, which adds another dimension to the book. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews. 

 

My Notes:

The inner game: This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation.

The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. He aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at once with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again.

The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less the how-to's of the doing.

The skill of mastering the art of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to. 

Self 1 – the conscious teller (does not trust self 2)
Self 2 – the doer, natural capabilities

It is the constant "thinking" activity of Self 1, the ego-mind, which causes the interference with the natural capabilities of Self 2. Harmony between the two selves exists when the mind is quiet and focused.

Effortlessly alert – cat stalking a bird, effortlessly alert, gathering his relaxed muscle for the spring.

Judgments are our personal, ego reactions to the sights, sounds, feelings and thoughts within our experience....it is the initial act of judgment which provokes a thinking process.

In its process of developing, our tennis game gains a great deal from errors.
Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.

*Student/teacher reciprocal relationship: I had learned and he had learned, but there was no one there to take credit.

Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are–undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm. 

Acknowledgment of and respect for one's capabilities support trust in Self 2 (*and self-confidence). Self 1's judgments, on the other hand, attempt to manipulate and undermine that trust.

Native language of Self 2 is not words, but imagery. Avoid how-to instructions.

It is as if we would like to think of ourselves more as an obedient computer than as a human being. As a consequence, we are apt to lose access to the direct pathway to the muscle memory that carries a more complete knowledge of the desired action.

In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties. 

Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.

Relaxation happens only when it is allowed, not as a result of "trying" or "making."

As one achieves focus, the mind quiets. As the mind is kept in the present, it becomes calm. Focus means keeping the mind now and here. Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it.

The most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle...notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins. *Effortless and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled.

When the mind is fastened to the rhythm of breathing, it tends to become absorbed and calm. Whether on or off the court.

It is perplexing to wonder why we ever leave the here and now. Here and now are the only place and time when one ever enjoys himself or accomplishes anything. Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment.

The need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt. Only to the extent that one is unsure about who and what he is does he need to prove himself to himself or to others.

It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.

Stability grows as I learn to accept what I cannot control and take control of what I can.
 

Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now – by Steven Pinker
Date read: 4/28/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

As the title suggests, Pinker makes the argument for reason, science, humanism and progress–the four themes that tie together thinkers of the enlightenment. He focuses on all the ways the world is improving, stating the case for optimism in a similar vein as The Rational Optimist (Matt Ridley) and The Moral Arc (Michael Shermer). It's a refreshing dose of perspective in a world that seems increasingly convinced that the end is near. Using statistics to back his position, Pinker tackles a range of subjects including inequality, political ideology, wealth, happiness, morality, and religion, to name a few. All this is not to suggest that progress is utopia, we should always strive to improve, but we should also appreciate how far we've come. The only drawback to the book is its density, which makes its ideas less accessible than I had hoped.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

As a sentient being, you have the potential to flourish. You can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through the arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. You can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world.

Obliviousness to the scope of human progress can lead to symptoms that are worse than existential angst. *Cynicism that institutions of modernity have failed and every aspect of life is in a deepening crisis turns us toward atavistic alternatives.

"Optimism is the theory that all failures–all evils–are due to insufficient knowledge." -David Deutsch

Thinkers of the enlightenment sought a new understanding of the human. Four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism, and progress.

"If triangles had a god they would give him three sides." -Montesquieu

[Enlightement] was an escape not just from ignorance but from terror. The sociologist Robert Scott notes that in the Middle Ages "the belief that an external force controlled daily life contributed to a kind of collective paranoia."

The invention of farming around ten thousand years ago multiplied the availability of calories from cultivated plants and domesticated animals, freed a portion of the population from the demands of hunting and gathering, and eventually gave them the luxury of writing, thinking, and accumulating their ideas.

Axial Age: Around 500 BCE, several widely separated cultures pivoted from systems of ritual and sacrifice that merely warded off misfortune to systems of philosophical and religious belief...It was not an aura of spirituality that descended on the planet but something more prosaic: energy capture. *Agricultural and economic advances provided more calories per person and shifted focus from short-term survival to long-term harmony. 

To take something on faith means to believe it without good reason, so by definition a faith in the existence of supernatural entities clashes with reason.

Political ideology undermines reason and science. It scrambles people's judgment, inflames a primitive tribal mindset, and distracts them from a sounder understanding of how to improve the world.

Availability heuristic: people estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind. *Why news distorts people's view of the world.

Two other illusions mislead us into thinking that things ain't what they used to be: we mistake the growing burdens of maturity and parenthood for a less innocent world, and we mistake a decline in our own faculties for a decline in the times. As the columnist Franklin Pierce Adams pointed out, "Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

*American journalism defines "serious news" as "what's going wrong" which has led millions to quit believing in incremental system change and instead seek revolutionary, smash-the-machine change.

In the mid-18th century, life expectancy in Europe and the Americas was around 35, where it had been parked for the 225 previous years...By 1950, it had grown to around 60 in Europe and the Americas.

For an American woman, being pregnant a century ago was almost as dangerous as having breast cancer today.

For most of human history, the strongest force of death was infectious disease...but starting in the late 18th century with the invention of vaccination and accelerating in the 19th with the acceptance of germ theory of disease, the tide of the battle began to turn. Handwashing, midwifery, mosquito control, and especially the protection of drinking water by public sewerage and chlorinated tap water would come to save billions of lives.

"We are led to forget the dominating misery of other times in part by the grace of literature, poetry, romance, and legend, which celebrate those who lived well and forget those who lived in the silence of poverty. The eras of misery have been mythologized and may even be remembered as golden ages of pastoral simplicity. They were not." -Nathan Rosenberg

In two hundred years the rate of extreme poverty in the world has tanked from 90 percent to 10, with almost half that decline occurring in the last thirty-five years.

National income correlates with every indicator of human flourishing...*longevity, health, nutrition, peace, freedom, human rights, and tolerance.

Not surprisingly, as countries get richer they get happier; more surprisingly, as countries get richer they get smarter.

"From the point of view of morality, it is not important everyone should have the same. What is morally important is that each should have enough." -Harry Frankfurt

The confusion of inequality with poverty comes straight out of the lump fallacy–the mindset in which wealth is a finite resource...which has to be divided up in zero-sum fashion. [But] since the Industrial Revolution, it has expanded exponentially. That means when the rich get richer, the poor can get richer too.

In 2011, more than 95 percent of American households below the poverty line had electricity, running water, flush toilets, a refrigerator, a stove, and a color TV. (A century and a half before, the Rothschilds, Astors, and Vanderbilts had none of these things.) *50% had a dishwasher, 60% computer, 66% washing machine, 80% air conditioner and cell phone.

Inequality is not the same as poverty, and it is not a fundamental dimension of human flourishing. In comparisons of well-being across countries, it pales in importance next to overall wealth.

In some ways the world has become less equal, but in more ways the world's people have become better off.

Ecomodernism:
-Some degree of pollution is an inescapable consequence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. When people use energy...they must increase entropy somewhere in the environment in the form of waste, pollution, and other forms of disorder.
-Industrialization has been good for humanity. It has fed billions, doubled life spans, slashed extreme poverty.
-The tradeoff that pits human well-being against environmental damage can be renegotiated by technology. 

Dematerialization: Progress in technology allows us to do more with less...forty consumer products replaced by a single smartphone...the sharing economy.

Half of the world's homicides are committed in just twenty-three countries containing about a tenth of humanity, and a quarter are committed in just four: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela...The lopsidedness continues down the fractal scale. Within a country, most of the homicides cluster in a few cities...Within cities, the homicides cluster in a few neighborhoods; within neighborhoods, they cluster in a few blocks; and within blocks, many are carried out by a few individuals. 

Horse-drawn era: The engine of city mayhem was the horse....hose-associated fatality rate was ten times the car-associated rate of modern times.

As indefensible or unworkable ideas fall by the wayside, they are removed from the pool of thinkable options, the political fringe is dragged forward despite itself. That's why even in the most regressive political movement in recent American history there were no calls for reinstating Jim Crow laws, ending women's suffrage, or recriminalizing homosexuality. 

Although the world remains highly unequal, every region has been improving, and the worst-off parts of the world are better off than the best-off parts not long ago.

"The entire concept of retirement is unique to the last five decades. It wasn't long ago that the average American man had two stages of life: work and death...Think of it this way: The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51." -Morgan Housel

Mindless consumerism? Not when you remember that food, clothing, and shelter are the three necessities of life, that entropy degrades all three, and that the time it takes to keep them usable is time that could be devoted to other pursuits. 
*Housework fell almost fourfold from 58 hours a week in 1900 to 15.5 hours in 2011. Laundry alone fell from 11.5 hours in 1920 to 1.5 in 2015.

In 1929 Americans spent more than 60 percent of their disposable income on necessities; by 2016 that had fallen to a third.

Happiness is the output of an ancient biological feedback system that tracks our progress in pursuing auspicious signs of fitness in a natural environment. We are happier, in general, when we are healthy, comfortable, safe, provisioned, socially connected, sexual, and loved.

Goal of progress cannot be to increase happiness indefinitely...but there is plenty of unhappiness that can be reduced, and no limit as to how meaningful our lives can become. 

We now know that richer people within a country are happier, that richer countries are happier, and that people get happier as their countries get richer. 
*But none of us are as happy as we ought to be, given how amazing our world has become.

Not every problem is a crisis, a plague, or an epidemic, and among the things that happen in the world is that people solve the problems confronting them.

[AI] advances have not come from a better understanding of the workings of intelligence but from the brute-force power of faster chips and bigger data, which allow the programs to be trained on millions of examples and generalize to similar new ones. 

Progress it not utopia...there is room–indeed, an imperative–for us to continue that progress.

"We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason...On what principle is it, that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?" -Thomas Macaulay, 1830

Populism comes in left-wing and right-wing varieties, which share a folk theory of economics as a zero-sum competition: between economic classes in the case of the left, between nations or ethnic groups in the case of the right. Problems are seen not as challenges that are inevitable in an indifferent universe but as the malevolent designs of insidious elites, minorities, or foreigners. 

Education instills a respect for vetted fact and reasoned argument, and so inoculates people against conspiracy theories, reasoning by anecdotes, and emotional demagoguery. 

We are a cognitive species that depends on explanations of the world. Since the world is the way it is regardless of what people believe about it, there is a strong selection pressure for an ability to develop explanations that are true. Reasoning thus has deep evolutionary roots. 

Certain beliefs (i.e. climate change) become symbols of cultural allegiance. People affirm or deny these beliefs to express not what they know but who they are. We all identify with particular tribes or subcultures...make an enormous difference to the respect the person commands in his or her social circle.

Engagement with politics is like sports fandom in another way: people seek and consume news to enhance the fan experience, not to make their opinions more accurate.

A challenge of our era is how to foster intellectual and political culture that is driven by reason rather than tribalism and mutual reaction.

Philosophy grows out of the recognition that clarity and logic don't come easily to us and that we're better off when our thinking is refined and deepened. The arts are one of the things that make life worth living, enriching human experience with beauty and insight.

Historical scholarship has amply demonstrated that holy scriptures are all-too-human products of their historical eras, including internal contradictions, factual errors, plagiarism from neighboring civilizations, and scientific absurdities.

Today, of course, enlightened believers cherry-pick the humane injunctions while allegorizing, spin-doctoring, or ignoring the vicious ones, and that's just the point: they read the Bible through the lens of Enlightenment humanism.

Atheism is not a moral system. It's just the absence of a supernatural belief, like an unwillingness to believe in Zeus or Vishnu. The moral alternative to theism is humanism.

People are vulnerable to cognitive illusions that lead to supernatural beliefs, and they certainly need to belong to a community.

The problem begins with the fact that many of the precepts of Islamic doctrine, taken literally, are floridly antihumanistic...Of course many of the passages in the Bible are floridly antihumanistic too. One needn't debate which is worse; what matters is how literally the adherents take them.

The stranglehold of the Islamic religion over governmental institutions and civil society in Muslim countries has impeded their economic, political, and social progress.

Islam is not a race...Religions are just ideas and don't have rights. Criticizing the ideas of Islam is no more bigoted than criticizing the ideas of neoliberalism or the Republican Party platform.

Remember your math: an anecdote is not a trend. Remember your history: the fact that something is bad today doesn't mean it was better in the past. Remember your philosophy: one cannot reason that there's no such thing as reason, or that something is true or good because God said it is. And remember your psychology: much of what we know isn't so, especially when our comrades know it too.

Keep some perspective. Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is the End of this, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era. 

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield
Date read: 4/15/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

Worth the investment for any creative. It's a short read and a manifesto that many hold dear. Pressfield cuts through excuses which embody what he defines as Resistance. He offers blunt advice to eliminate distractions and get on with the work you should be doing. The only thing that matters is sitting down and putting in the effort, every single day. The more you're able to remove your ego from that equation, the less interference there will be. We've all struggled with Resistance in some form–procrastination, fear, low self-confidence, rationalization. The War of Art is a call to overcome that and move yourself into a higher sphere by dedicating uninterrupted time to your craft. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews. 

 

My Notes:

A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center.

How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don't do the thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?

Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity...will elicit Resistance.

The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher.

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.

Anything that draws attention to ourselves through pain-free or artificial means is a manifestation of Resistance. 

A victim act is a form of passive aggression. It seeks to achieve gratification not by honest work or a contribution out of one's experience or insight or love, but by the manipulation of others through silent (and not-so-silent) threat.

The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place...The fundamentalist cannot stand freedom. He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past. 

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery.

If you find yourself criticizing other people, you're probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

The professional takes on the assignment that will bear him into uncharted waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself...the professional turns down roles that he's done before. He's not afraid of them anymore. Why waste his time?

Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They're the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.

Rationalization keeps us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.

The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. 

A pro views her work as craft, not art.

Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all compromise the ground over which the campaign must be waged. The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven.

The professional is prepared at a deeper level...His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily and steadily as he can.

The ancient Spartans schooled themselves to regard the enemy, any enemy, as nameless and faceless. In other words, they believed that if they did their work, no force on earth could stand against them.

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist's Code or the Warrior's Way. It's an attitude of egolessness and service.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now." -Goethe

Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

An individual who defines himself by his place in a pecking order will:
-Seek to elevate his station by advancing against those above him
-Evaluate his happiness/success/achievement by his rank within the hierarchy
-Act towards others based upon their rank in the hierarchy

Qualities of a territory:
-A territory provides sustenance
-A territory can only be claimed alone
-A territory can only be claimed by work
-A territory returns exactly what you put in

When – Daniel H. Pink

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – by Daniel H. Pink
Date read: 4/11/18. Recommendation: 6/10.

Easy read with a few interesting takeaways regarding the science of timing. You'll get most of the value this book has to offer within the first 50 pages. Pink details how everyone experiences the day in three stages–a peak, trough, and rebound (not necessarily in that order). Each has a unique impact on our cognitive abilities. The key is to develop a greater awareness of when we should perform certain tasks by identifying our own personal chronotype – individual biological clock that affects performance and mood. Anyone who's dialed in to their own mental and physical abilities has likely built a natural awareness and routine around this, but it's always worth the reminder.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

All of us experience the day in three stages–a peak, a trough, and a rebound. And about three-quarters of us (larks and third birds) experience it in that order.

Emotional balance (happiness, warmth towards others, enjoyment) rises in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and rises again in the evening.

Juror Experiment: Mental keenness, as shown by rationally evaluating evidence, was greater earlier in the day. And mental squishiness, as evidenced by resorting to stereotypes, increased as the day wore on.

3 key findings from studies on the effect of time of day on brain power:
-Cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day.
-Daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realize (daily low point can be equivalent to the effect of drinking legal limit).
-How we do depends on what we're doing (best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task).

When we wake up, our body temperature slowly rises. That rising temperature gradually boosts our energy level and alertness–and that, in turn, enhances our executive functioning, our ability to concentrate, and our powers of deduction. For most of us, those sharp-minded analytic capacities peak in the late morning or around noon. 

Danish standardized tests:
-Four years of results for two million schoolchildren showed a direct correlation between hours tests were administered and performance. Each hour later in the day, scores fell a little more. Students scored much higher in mornings.

Human beings don't all experience a day in precisely the same way. Each of us has a "chronotype" – a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology. 

Larks (early risers) = 14% of population.
Third birds = 65% of population.
Owls (late risers) = 21% of population.

Chronotypes are influenced by multiple factors:
-Genetics accounts for at least half of the variability...larks and owls are born, not made.
-Age also plays an important factor...young children are generally larks, puberty transitions to owls, return to lark as grow older.

Biological clocks affect our performance, mood, and wakefulness. 

Corporate, government, and education cultures are configured for the 75 or 80 percent of people who are larks or third birds.

Figure out your chronotype, understand your task, and then select the appropriate time.

Whatever you do, do not let mundane tasks creep into your peak period.
*If you're a lark or a third bird and happen to have a free hour in the morning, don't fritter it away on email. Spend those sixty minutes doing your most important work.

Wait to drink that first cup of coffee an hour or ninety minutes after waking up, once our cortisol production has peaked and the caffeine can do its magic. If you're looking for an afternoon boost, head to the coffee shop between about 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., when cortisol levels dip again.

Typical worker reaches the most unproductive moment of the day at 2:55 p.m.

Judges were more likely to issue a favorable ruling in the morning (65%) than the afternoon (almost zero). But also after they took short breaks.

Breaks: Short breaks are effective and deliver considerable bang for their limited buck...Regular short walking breaks in the workplace also increase motivation and concentration and enhance creativity...Tech-free breaks increase vigor and reduce emotional exhaustion.

Beginnings
Long-term negative impact of graduating from college in a bad year often took the unlucky graduates two decades to catch up to the lucky ones who graduated in robust times. Total cost, in inflation-adjusted terms, of graduating in a bad year rather than a good year averaged about $100,000.
*Negative impact on students who graduated during 2010 and 2011 was double. Those who begin careers during such weak market may see permanent negative effects on their wages. 

"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood." -Margaret Atwood

Midpoints
Wellbeing seems to slump in midlife. Why does this midpoint deflate us?
-Disappointment of unrealized expectations
-Learn that we're lousy forecasters, in youth our expectations are too high.
-Biological? See same trends in apes.

"Punctuated equilibrium" – evolution's path wasn't a smooth upward climb. The true trajectory was less linear: periods of dull stability punctuated by swift explosions of change.

Analysis of 18,000 NBA games and 46,000 NCAA games over fifteen years showed teams that were ahead at halftime won more games than teams that were behind. However, the only exception to this rule was that teams that were behind by just one at halftime were more likely to win. Being down one was more advantageous than being up one (encouraged team behind to exert more effort). 

Endings
Every Pixar movie has its protagonist achieving the goal he wants only to realize it is not what the protagonist needs. Such emotional complexity turns out to be central to the most elevated endings. 

One reason we overlook poignancy is that it operates by an upside-down form of emotional physics. Adding a small component of sadness to an otherwise happy moment elevates that moment rather than diminishes it. 

The best endings don't leave us happy. Instead, they produce something richer–a small rush of unexpected insight, a fleeting moment of transcendence, the possibility that by discarding what we wanted we've gotten what we need. 

Nostalgia, research shows, can foster positive mood, protect against anxiety and stress, and boost creativity.

Like poignancy, nostalgia is a "bittersweet but predominantly positive and fundamentally social emotion." Thinking in the past tense offers a "window into the intrinsic self," a portal to who we really are. It makes the present meaningful.

Writing is an act of discovering what you think and what you believe.

I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them.

Quiet – Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking – by Susan Cain
Date read: 3/27/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

Quiet is a bible for introverts. Cain struck a chord with a massive, often overlooked audience, with an insightful look into the place of introversion in our culture that has come to hold extroversion as the highest ideal. But it's an important book for introverts and extroverts alike. For introverts, it offers a resource and the reassurance to be authentic, put yourself in the right lighting, and use your natural strengths. Cain also digs into concepts like restorative niches, soft power, self-monitoring, and deliberate practice–all familiar concepts to introverts. She also gets a bit more granular and discusses the difference between temperament and personality, nature vs. nurture, and the evolutionary benefits to each personality type. As Quiet suggests, the goal is to identify your own preferences along the spectrum introversion/extroversion so you can spend more time in your sweet spot and get the most out of your life. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions–from the theory of evolution to van Gogh's sunflowers to the personal computer–came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.

I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for introverts to take stock of their own talents, and how powerful it is when finally they do.

Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don't socialize enough.

Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration...They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation...Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. 

On extroversion becoming the cultural ideal in the past century:
How did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?

In the United States, Don [Chinese American] feels conversation is about how effective you are at turning your experiences into stories, whereas a Chinese person might be concerned with taking up too much of the other person's time with inconsequential information.

We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types–even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.

We don't need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.

Introverts as leaders:
Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their lack of inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions....Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity. Team members perceive introverted leaders as more open and receptive to their ideas, which motivated them to work harder.

"I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork...for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding." -Albert Einstein

Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation. Solitude is key to creativity for introverts (and the most creative people are typically introverts).

While extroverts tend to attain leadership in public domains, introverts tend to attain leadership in theoretical and aesthetic fields.

Deliberate Practice:
It's only when you're alone (as proven by top students and elite athletes) that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone because it requires intense concentration, deep motivation (often self-generated), and involves working on the task that's most challenging to you personally. 

"You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind...That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around when one writes, why even night is not enough." -Kafka

Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix.

I'm prone to wild flights of self-doubt, but I also have a deep well of courage in my own convictions. I feel horribly uncomfortable on my first day in a foreign city, but I love to travel.

"Many high-reactives become writers or pick other intellectual vocations where 'you're in charge: you close the door, pull down the shades and do your work. You're protected from encountering unexpected things." -Jerome Kagan

The heritability statistics derived from twin studies show that introversion-extroversion is only 40 to 50 percent heritable. This means that, in a group of people, on average half of the variability in introversion-extroversion is caused by genetic factors.

The parents of high-reactive children are exceedingly lucky, Jay Belsky told me. "The time and effort they invest will actually make a difference. Instead of seeing these kids as vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as mealleable–for worse, but also for better." Ideal parent: "Someone who can read your cues and respect your individuality; is warm and firm in placing demands on you without being harsh or hostile; promotes curiosity, academic achievement, delayed gratification, and self-control; and is not harsh, neglectful, or inconsistent."

Rubber band theory of personality: We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.

Over-arousal doesn't produce anxiety so much as the sense that you can't think straight–that you've had enough and would like to go home now. Under-arousal is something like cabin fever. Not enough is happening: you feel itchy, restless, and sluggish, like you need to get out of the house already.

Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality–neither overstimulating nor understimulating, neither boring nor anxiety making. You can organize your life in terms of what personality psychologists call "optimal levels of arousal" and what I call "sweet spots," and by doing so feel more energetic and alive than before.

"There is no single best [animal] personality, but rather a diversity of personalities maintained by natural selection." -David Sloan Wilson

Scientists have found that nomads who inherited the form of a particular gene linked to extroversion (specifically, to novelty-seeking) are better nourished than those without this version of the gene. But in settled populations, people with this same gene form have poorer nutrition.

"Extroversion consists in a high rate of fertility, with low powers of defense and short duration of life for the single individual; the other [introversion] consists in equipping the individual with numerous means of self-preservation plus a low fertility rate." -Carl Jung

Introverts also seem to be better than extroverts at delaying gratification, a crucial life skill associated with everything from higher SAT scores and income to lower body mass index.

Introverts are "geared to inspect" and extroverts "geared to respond."

If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent.

"It's not that I'm so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer." -Einstein

We tend to overvalue buzz and discount the risks of reward-sensitivity: we need to find balance between action and reflection.

The key to flow is to pursue an activity for its own sake, not for the rewards it brings.

Flow often occurs in conditions in which people "become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself." -Csikszentmihalyi

"Success in investing doesn't correlate with IQ. Once you have the ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing." -Warren Buffett

Though Eastern relationship-honoring is admirable and beautiful, so is Western respect for individual freedom, self-expression, and personal identity. The point is not that one is superior to the other, but that a profound difference in cultural values has a powerful impact on the personality styles favored by each culture.

"Soft power" – Leadership by water rather than by fire.

"Soft power is quiet persistence. The people I'm thinking of are very persistent in their day-to-day, person-to-person interactions. Eventually they build up a team." -Preston Ni

Free Trait Theory: fixed traits and free traits coexist. We are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits–introversion, for example–but we can and do act out of character in the service of "core personal projects."

Self-monitoring: Introverts who were especially good at acting like extroverts tended to score high for a trait that psychologists call "self-monitoring." Self-monitors are highly skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation.

The highest self-monitors not only tend to be good at producing the desired effect and emotion in a given social situation–they also experience less stress while doing so. 

Three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects:
1) Think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not. 
2) Pay attention to the work you gravitate to.
3) Pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth.

"Restorative niche" – The place you go when you want to return to your true self.

Understanding introversion changes one's parenting style. The key is to expose your child gradually to new situations and people–taking care to respect his limits, even when they seem extreme. This produces more-confident kids than either overprotection or pushing too hard.

The school environment can be highly unnatural, especially from the perspective of an introverted child who loves to work intensely on projects he cares about, and hang out with one or two friends at a time...Worst of all, there's little time to think or create. The structure of the day is almost guaranteed to sap his energy rather than stimulate it.

People flourish when, in the words of psychologist Brian Little, they're "engaged in occupations, roles or settings that are concordant with their personalities."

The way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives.

Those who live the most fully realized lives–giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves–tend to find meaning in their obstacle. 

Where we stumble is where our treasure lies.

"Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discourage the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again." -Anais Nin

Love is essential; gregariousness is optional. Cherish your nearest and dearest. Work with colleagues you like and respect. 

The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting...Use your natural powers–of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity–to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.

Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to...Read. Cook. Run. Write a story. Make a deal with yourself that you'll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.

Don't mistake assertiveness or eloquence for good ideas. If you have a proactive work force, remember that they may perform better under an introverted leader than under an extroverted or charismatic one.

Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches. To possess such a key it to tumble like Alice down her rabbit hole. She didn't choose to go to Wonderland–but she made of it an adventure that was fresh and fantastic and very much her own.

How Google Works – Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works – by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Date read: 3/11/18. Recommendation: 9/10.

Fascinating read and tremendous resource for anyone working in a startup and/or the tech industry. How Google Works offers an insightful look into all the elements that have contributed to Google's success in recent years, as well as the initiatives that have come up short. The core tenets of the book emphasize the importance of creating great products, attracting smart creatives, and cultivating an environment where you can succeed at scale. Many of these contradict the way massive corporations work–Google values user experience over revenue, transparency at all levels, less ego, more freedom, fewer meetings, and smaller teams, to name a few. As a side note, make sure you grab the latest edition of this book, as it contains an interesting addition that discusses how Alphabet (Google's parent company) works.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

The core principle: The only way to succeed in business in the twenty-first century is to continually create great products, and the only way to do that is to attract smart creatives and put them in an environment where they can succeed at scale.

But a start-up, or any venture that is trying to do something big and new, favors the chaos. Start-ups don't run on process, they run on ideas, passion, and a common set of goals. They don't wait for the meeting to make decisions.

The best products are still the ones that are based on technical insights, those unique ideas that apply one or more technologies in a new way to solve big problems.

We have long felt that the start-up model, with small, autonomous teams located in one office led by passionate founders, is the most effective way to achieve remarkable new things (or fail quickly in the effort).

Business leaders should be constantly asking themselves the question, What could be true in five years?

Hire as many talented software engineers as possible, and give them freedom.

"In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts." -Jeff Bezos

Since the industrial revolution, operating processes have been biased toward lowering risk and avoiding mistakes. These processes, and the overall management approach from which they were derived, result in environments that stifle smart creatives.

A smart creative has deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of her trade, and plenty of hands-on experience.

Smart creatives, though, place culture at the top of the list. To be effective, they need to care about the place they work.

In the Internet Century, a product manager's job is to work together with the people who design, engineer, and develop things to make great products.

We invest in our offices because we expect people to work there, not from home. 

The Bezos two-pizza rule: teams should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas.

At the most senior level, the people with the greatest impact–the ones who are running the company–should be product people. 

MBA-style business plans are always flawed in some important way. This is why a venture capitalist will always follow the maxim of investing in the team, not the plan.

So although your plan might change, it needs to be based on a foundational set of principles...The plan is fluid, the foundation is stable.

Google Principles: Bet on technical insights that help solve a big problem in a novel way, optimize for scale, not for revenue, and let great products grow the market for everyone.

A technical insight is a new way of applying technology or design that either drives down the cost or increases the functions and usability of the product by a significant factor. The result is something that is better than the competition in a fundamental way.

Market research can't tell you about solving problems that customers can't conceive are solvable. Giving the customer what he wants is less important than giving him what he doesn't yet know he wants.

The best product had achieved their success based on technical factors, not business ones.

When you base your product strategy on technical insights, you avoid me-too products that simply deliver what customers are asking for. (Henry Ford: "If I had listened to customers, I would have gone looking for faster horses.") That sort of incremental innovation can work very well for incumbents....but for a new venture, it's not enough.

*Never prioritize revenue over growth. Do the opposite. Focus on creating the best user experience.

A workforce of great people not only does great work, it attracts more great people. 

Passionate people don't wear their passion on their sleeves; they have it in their hearts. They live it. (And the truly passionate don't often use the "P-word.")

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." -Henry Ford

Google focuses on hiring "learning animals" who have the smarts to handle massive change and the character to love it.

Favoring specialization over intelligence is exactly wrong, especially in high tech...A smart generalist doesn't have bias, so is free to survey the wide range of solutions and gravitate to find the best one.

Rules of well-run meetings:
-Single decision maker
-Manageable in size (no more than eight people)
-Attendance is not a badge of importance – if you aren't needed, leave, or better yet excuse yourself ahead of time.

Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue.

"Power comes not from knowledge kept but from knowledge shared." -Bill Gates

In all effective communication, reinforce core themes (At Google: putting users first, thinking big, not being afraid to fail).

Golden rule for management: Make sure you would work for yourself.

When you start a new position, for the first three weeks don't do anything. Listen to people, understand their issues and priorities, get to know and care about them, and earn their trust. So in fact, you are doing something: You are establishing a healthy relationship.

The more inclusive definition–innovation isn't just about the really new, really big things–matters because it affords everyone the opportunity to innovate, rather than keeping it the exclusive realm of those few people in that off-campus building whose job it is to innovate. i.e. Google self-driving cars vs. search engine improvements (core business with over 500 improvements/year).

Google[x] Venn diagram to determine if it will pursue something:
1) The idea has to be something that addresses a big challenge or opportunity
2) They have to have an idea for a solution that is radically different from anything currently in the market.
3) The breakthrough technologies that could bring that radical solution to life have to at least be feasible, and achievable in the not-too-distant future.

"Innovative people do not need to be told to do it, they need to be allowed to do it." -Udi Manber

Innovation has to evolve organically...Along the way, stronger ideas accumulate believers and momentum, and weaker ones fall to the wayside. There is no process by which to implement this evolution; its defining characteristic is its lack of process. think of it as a natural selection for ideas.

UX vs. revenue:
-Google Instant – immediate search results when you start typing. A few weeks before launch, no one had performed a detailed financial analysis. The product was obviously great for the user, so we all knew that launching it was the best business decision.
-Google has launched features that improve UX but hurt revenue a little (Knowledge Graph, side panel for people/places/things).
-Gmail – just concentrate on making it great and worry about revenue later.

Google knows that in the Internet Century user trust is just as important as dollars, euros, pounds, yen, or any other currency. Product excellence is the only way for a company to be consistently successful, so our prime directive when it comes to product strategy is to focus on the user.

There are rarely conflicts between [partners and customers], but when there are, our bias is toward the user. It has to be this way, regardless of your industry. Users are more empowered than ever, and won't tolerate crummy products.

Bigger challenges attract big talent. There is a symbiotic relationship between big challenges and highly smart, skilled people: The challenges get solved and the people get happy.

A good OKR should be a stretch to achieve, and hitting 100 percent on all OKRs should be practically unattainable.

70/20/10: 70 percent of resources dedicated to the core business, 20 percent on emerging, and 10 percent on new.

"If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions, and you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have tow in, otherwise good people don't stay." -Steve Jobs

The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn't the products and features that get created, it's the things that people learn when they try something new.

Create a product, ship it, see how it does, design and implement improvements, and push it back out. Ship and iterate. The companies that are the fastest at this process will win...Leadership's job must to feed the winners and starve the losers, regardless of prior investment.

And don't stigmatize the team that failed: Make sure they land good internal jobs. The next innovators will be watching to see if the failed team is punished. Their failure shouldn't be celebrated, but it is a bade of honor of sorts.

Antifragile: Management's job is not to mitigate risks or prevent failures, but to create an environment resilient enough to take on those risks and tolerate inevitable missteps. 

"Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment." -Mulla Nasrudin

Among your stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise at another company?

10% Happier – Dan Harris

10% Happier – by Dan Harris
Date read: 2/27/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

If you're skeptical of meditation and mindfulness, this book was written for you. Harris questions everything and cuts through the inane and fanciful self-help industry–including the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. Instead, he focuses on practicality and offers a more rational approach. Harris entertains through his personal narrative, while discussing the importance of concepts like impermanence, insecurity, and the power of negative thinking. Each of these elements play a role in cultivating mindfulness–an ability to recognize what's happening in your mind right now without getting carried away by it. For Harris, despite his skepticism, this was the difference in becoming a less stressed, and more secure, collected version of himself.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

I was always hurtling headlong through the day, checking things off my to-do list, constantly picturing completion instead of calmly and carefully enjoying the process.

Some of the only times I could recall being fully present were when I was in a war zone or on drugs.

"Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quit right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is a continuous stress." -Eckhart Tolle

I envied Ted [Haggard]–and not in a patronizing, I-wish-I-were-stupid enough-to-believe-this-stuff way...I had read the research showing that regular churchgoers tended to be happier, in part because having a sense that the world is infused with meaning and that suffering happens for a reason helped them deal more successfully with life's inevitable humiliations.

The Buddha's main thesis was that in a world where everything is constantly changing, we suffer because we cling to things that won't last.

Unlike many of the faiths I'd come across as a religion reporter, the Buddha wasn't promising salvation in the form of some death defying dogma, but rather through the embrace of the very stuff that will destroy us. The route to true happiness, he argued, was to achieve a visceral understanding of impermanence, which would take you off the emotional roller coaster and allow you to see your dramas and desires through a wider lens.

Dr. Mark Epstein (psychiatrist and practicing Buddhist) developed an immediate and abiding interest in the dharma, which resonated with him after a lifelong struggle with feelings of emptiness and unreality, and questions about whether he really mattered.

Epstein et al. argued that the only way to tame the monkey mind, to truly glimpse the impermanence and defeat our habitual tendency toward clinging, was to meditate. 

3 instructions to meditation:
1) Sit comfortably
2) Feel the sensations of your breath as it goes in and out
3) Whenever your attention wanders, just forgive yourself and gently come back to the breath.

My [meditation] efforts began to bear fruit...I started to be able to use the breath to jolt myself back to the present moment–in airport security lines, waiting for elevators, you name it. 

The net effect of meditation, plus trying to stay present during my daily life, was striking. It was like anchoring myself to an underground aquifer of calm. 

Mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now without getting carried away by it.

I spent so much time, as one Buddhist writer put it, "drifting unaware on a surge of habitual impulses."

Buddhist analogy – Picture the mind like a waterfall, they said: the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions; mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall.

If anything, mindfulness brought you closer to your neuroses, acting as a sort of Doppler radar, mapping your mental microclimates, making you more insightful, not less. It was the complete opposite of the reckless hope preaches by the self-helpers. It was the power of negative thinking.

What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, "respond" rather than simply "react."

It's not that we can't enjoy the good stuff in life or strive for success. They key is to not get carried away by desire; we need to manage it with wisdom and mindfulness. [Joseph Goldstein]

The slipping away is the whole point. Once you've achieved choiceless awareness, you see so clearly how fleeting everything is. Impermanence is no longer theoretical. 

The Buddha's signature pronouncement–"Life is suffering"–is the source of a major misunderstanding...The Pali word dukkha doesn't actually mean "suffering"...What he really meant is something like, "Everything in the world is ultimately unsatisfying and unreliable because it won't last." 

As Goldstein points out, "How often are we waiting for the next pleasant hit of...whatever? The next meal or the next relationship or the next latte or the next vacation, I don't know. We just live in anticipation of the next enjoyable thing that we'll experience."

"Hedonic adaptation" – When good things happen, we bake them very quickly into our baseline expectations, and yet the primordial void goes unfilled.

"But when you find yourself running through your trip to the airport for the seventeenth time, perhaps ask yourself the following question: Is this useful?" -Joseph Goldstein

"Is this useful?" It's okay to worry, plot, plan, he's saying–but only until it's not useful anymore.

Until we look directly at our minds we don't really know "what our lives are about."

How do you translate that into your daily life? When you start to lose your hair, or when somebody you love dies, or when your favorite baseball starts to not be so good anymore, you don't suffer?
"I would say that the amount of suffering in those situations has diminished enormously. It's not that I have different feelings, but I don't identify and attach to them–or make them a huge drama. You allow your emotions to come through with ease." -Joseph Goldstein

What's the worst case scenario? I lose my job? I still have a wife who loves me–and the only person that can ruin that is me. *That's insight because you're not clinging to success so seriously.

The point of getting behind the waterfall wasn't to magically solve all of your problems, only to handle them better, by creating space between stimulus and response.

We live so much of our lives pushed forward by these "if only" thoughts, and yet the itch remains. The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.

The brain, the organ of experience, through which our entire lives are led, can be trained. Happiness is a skill. 

"Practice of compassion is ultimately benefit to you. So I usually describe: we are selfish, but be wise selfish rather than foolish selfish." -Dalai Lama
*Don't be nice for the sake of it, he was saying. Do it because it would redound to your own benefit.

Wisdom of insecurity: the "security" for which I had been striving was an illusion. If everything in this world was in constant decay, why expend so much energy gnashing my teeth over work?

There's a reason why they call Buddhism "advanced common sense"; it's all about methodically confronting obvious-but-often-overlooked truths.
 

The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – by Nassim Taleb
Date read: 1/28/18. Recommendation: 9/10.

A strong case could be made that Nassim Taleb is one of the most original minds of our time. It's well worth reading every book of his Incerto series, which includes: Antifragile, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, and Fooled by Randomness. Taleb defines Black Swans as events with the following three attributes: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. He discusses how the root of our inability to understand Black Swans lies in mistaking a naive observation of the past to be representative of the future. The book details specific themes that arise from our blindness to the Black Swan, including: confirmation bias, narrative fallacy, human nature, silent evidence, and tunneling. Taleb sets out to make us more aware of the biases in our logic as it relates to Black Swans so that we might better embrace our own humanity (that's part of it!) and avoid large-scale harmful predictions that might hurt our future. He advocates the "barbell" strategy and positioning ourselves to take advantage of positive Black Swans (lose small to win big) and situations where favorable consequences are much larger than unfavorable ones.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Black Swan–an event with the following three attributes: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.

The reason free markets work is because they allow people to be lucky, thanks to aggressive trial and error, not by giving rewards or "incentives" for skill.

The problem lies in the structure of our minds: we don't learn rules, just facts, and only facts. Metarules (such as the rule that we have a tendency to not learn rules) we don't seem to be good at getting.

The bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty. Its nickname in this book is GIF, Great Intellectual Fraud.

History is opaque. You see what comes out, not the script that produces events, the generator of history.

Financial distress could be more demoralizing than war (just consider that financial problems and the accompanying humiliations can lead to suicide, but war doesn't appear to do so directly).

"F*** you money" is a psychological buffer: the capital is not so large as to make you spoiled-rich, but large enough to give you the freedom to choose a new occupation without excessive consideration of the financial rewards. It shields you from prostituting your mind and frees you from outside authority.

It is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love with works of art for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they belong to a community. By imitating, we get closer to others–that is, other imitators. It fights solitude.

There are traps built into any kind of knowledge gained from observation. A turkey before and after Thanksgiving. The history of a process over a thousand days tells you nothing about what is to happen next. This naive projection of the future from the past can be applied to anything.

Mistaking a naive observation of the past as something definitive or representative of the future is the one and only cause of our inability to understand the black swan.

Other themes arising from our blindness to the Black Swan:
-Error of confirmation: focus on the seen and generalize to the unseen
-Narrative fallacy: thirst for distinct patterns
-Behave as if the Black Swan does not exist: human nature is not programmed for Black Swans
-Distortion of silent evident: history hides Black Swans
-Tunnel: focus on a few well-defined sources of uncertainty

The sources of Black Swans today have multiplied beyond measurability. In the primitive environment they were limited to newly encountered wild animals, new enemies, and abrupt weather changes. These events were repeatable enough for us to have built an innate fear of them.

Narrative fallacy: vulnerability to over-interpretation and our predilection for compact stories over raw truths. It severely distorts our mental representation of the world; it is particularly acute when it comes to the rare event.

The more random information is, the greater the dimensionality, and thus the more difficult to summarize. The more you summarize, the more order you put in, the less randomness. Hence the same condition that makes us simplify pushes us to think that the world is less random than it actually is.

Myths impart order to the disorder of human perception and the perceived "chaos of human experience."

We continuously renarrate past events in the light of what appears to make what we think of as logical sense after these events occur.

Events that are nonrepeatable are ignored before their occurrence, and overestimated after (for a while).

The way to avoid the ills of the narrative fallacy is to favor experimentation over storytelling, experience over history, and clinical knowledge over theories.

Our intuitions are not cut out for nonlinearities...We think that if, say, two variables are casually linked, than a stead input in one variable should always yield a result in the other one. Our emotional apparatus is designed for linear causality.

In a primitive environment, the relevant is the sensational...Somehow the guidance system has gone wrong in the process of our coevolution with our habitat–it was transplanted into a world in which the relevant is often boring, nonsensational.

The nonlinear relationships are ubiquitous in life. Linear relationships are truly the exception; we only focus on them in classrooms and textbooks because they are easier to understand.

The problem of silent evidence: tablets with portraits of worshippers who prayed then survived a shipwreck. Where were the pictures of those who prayed, then drowned? They would have a lot of trouble advertising their experiences from the bottom of the sea. This can fool the casual observer into believing in miracles.

My biggest problem with the educational system lies precisely in that it forces students to squeeze explanations out of subject matters and shames them for withholding judgment, for uttering the "I don't know." Why did the Cold War end? Why did the Persians lose the battle of Salamis?

I am not saying causes do not exist; do not use this argument to avoid trying to learn from history. All I am saying is that it is not so simple; be suspicious of the "because" and handle it with care–particularly in situations where you suspect silent evidence.

Gambling = sterilized and domesticated uncertainty.

In real life you do not know the odds; you need to discover them, and the sources of uncertainty are not defined.

Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions; nudge System 1 (the heuristic or experiential system) out of the important ones.

Our human race is affected by a chronic underestimation of the possibility of the future straying from the course initially envisioned.

The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will formulate along the way, and the worse off they will be. They see more random noise and mistake it for information...Once we produce a theory, we are not likely to change our minds–so those who delay developing their theories are better off.

Remember that we are swayed by the sensational. Listening to the news on the radio every hour is far worse for you than reading a weekly magazine, because the longer interval allows information to be filtered a bit.

We attribute our successes to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control, namely to randomness. We feel responsible for the good stuff, but not for the bad.

Anchoring: lower your anxiety about uncertainty by producing a number, then you "anchor" on it, like an object to hold on to in the middle of a vacuum.

Epistemic arrogance: tendency to tunnel and think "narrowly."

Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making.

In order to predict historical events you need to predict technological innovation, itself fundamentally unpredictable. (Karl Raimund Popper's central argument)

Someone with a low degree of epistemic arrogance is not too visible, like a shy person at a cocktail party. We are not predisposed to respect humble people, those who try to suspend judgment.

Prediction error: buy a new car but do not anticipate that the effect of the new car will eventually wane and that you will revert to the initial condition, as you did last time. If you had expected this, you probably would not have bought it. You are about to commit a prediction error that you have already made. Yet it would cost so little to introspect!

Overestimate the effects of both pleasant and unpleasant future events.

We cannot teach people to withhold judgment; judgements are embedded in the way we view objects. I do not see a "tree"; I see a pleasant or an ugly tree. It is not possible without great, paralyzing effort to strip these small values we attach to matters. Likewise, it is not possible to hold a situation in one's head without some element of bias.

Be human! Accept that being human involves some amount of epistemic arrogance in running your affairs.

What you should avoid is unnecessary dependence on large-scale harmful predictions. Avoid the big subjects that may hurt your future: be fooled in small matters, not the large. Do not listen to economic forecasters or to predictors in social science (they are mere entertainers), but do make your own forecast for the picnic.

American culture encourages the process of failure, unlike the cultures of Europe and Asia where failure is met with stigma and embarrassment.

"Barbell" strategy: be as hyperconservative and hyperagressive as you can be instead of being mildly aggressive or conservative.
-85-90% in extremely safe investments
-10-15% in extremely speculative bets (venture-capital style)

Negative Black Swan businesses: military, insurance, homeland security–face only downside.
Positive Black Swan businesses: movies, publishing, scientific research, venture capital–lose small to make big.

Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like an opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think.

Put yourself in situations where favorable consequences are much larger than unfavorable ones.

The 80/20 rule is only metaphorical...in the U.S. book business, the proportions are more like 97/20.

Although unpredictable large deviations are rare, they cannot be dismissed as outliers because, cumulatively, their impact is so dramatic.

I worry less about advertised and sensational risks, more about the vicious and hidden ones. I worry less about terrorism than about diabetes.

You have far more control over you life if you decide on your criterion by yourself...It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself. In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.

We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions...So stop sweating the small stuff. Don't be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom.

Reducing volatility and ordinary randomness increases exposure to Black Swans–it creates an artificial quiet.

Living organisms need variability and randomness...Organisms need, to use the metaphor of Marcus Aurelius, to turn obstacles into fuel–just as fire does.

Black Swan events are largely caused by people using measures way over their heads, instilling false confidence based on bogus results.

A Black Swan for the turkey is not a Black Swan for the butcher.

Do not confuse absence of volatility with absence of risk. Trend towards lower volatility but greater risk of big jumps. It has fooled entire banking system and will fool again.

Using leverage to cure the problems of too much leverage is not homeopathy, it's denial. The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it's a structural one. We need rehab.

For Seneca, Stoicism is about dealing with loss, and finding ways to overcome our loss aversion–how to become less dependent on what you have.

The man had reached the Stoic self-sufficiency, the robustness to adverse events, called apatheia in Stoic jargon. In other words, nothing that might be taken from him did he consider to be a good.

Seneca ended his essays with vale. It has the same root as "value" and "valor" and means both "be strong (i.e., robust)" and "be worthy."

A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger

A More Beautiful Question – by Warren Berger
Date read: 1/19/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

I first heard Warren Berger on The Knowledge Project podcast, then purchased this book in an effort to improve my own questioning ability. While it is a great resource for asking better questions, this book offers so much more than that. It's an insightful look into the role of inquiry in modern life. Berger suggests that as the world becomes more complex and dynamic, questions become more valuable than answers. He offers a framework to formulate and ask better questions. But he also digs deeper into topics such as the age of adaptation, design thinking, our education system, and the reasons people avoid fundamental questioning. As an added bonus, there are some brilliant questions Berger challenges us to consider for ourselves along the way. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

To encourage or even allow questioning is to cede power–not something that is done lightly in hierarchical companies or in government organizations, or even in classrooms, where a teacher must be willing to give up control to allow for more questioning.

If the questions from leaders and managers focus more on Why are we falling behind competitors? and Who is to blame?, then the organization is more likely to end up with a culture of turf-guarding and finger-pointing. Conversely, if the questions asked tend to be more expansive and optimistic, then that will be reflected in the culture.

With all that's changing in the world and in our customers' lives, what business are we really in?

The Age of Adaptation: To keep up, today's worker must constantly learn new skills. "I went to school, got a degree, picked up a skill, gained expertise in my field–I established myself over the years. Why should I have to start over?"

When the world moved at a slower pace and things weren't quite so complex, we spent the early part of life in learning mode. Then, once you became an adult, you figured out what your job was and you repeated the same thing over and over again for the rest of your life. Today, that rinse-and-repeat approach no longer works as well...the comfortable expert must go back to being a restless learner.

As the world becomes more complex and dynamic, questions become more valuable than answers.

To navigate today's info-swamp, we must have, "the ability to evaluate risk, recognize demagoguery, the ability to question not only other people's views, but one's own assumptions." -Leon Botstein

But eventually, all doctors–and all the rest of us, as well–will have access to some form of cloud-based super-search engine that can quickly answer almost any factual question with a level of precision and expertise that's way beyond what we have now. Which reinforces that the value of questions is going to keep rising as that of answers keeps falling.

Einstein on looking up his own phone number in a phone book – no reason to fill his mind with information that can so easily be looked up.

Design thinking:
-Framing a problem and learning more about it (why)
-Generating ideas (what if)
-Prototyping (how)

Connective Inquiry: Connecting existing ideas in unusual and interesting ways. One of the primary sources of creativity. Involves both connections and questions.

Do kids stop questioning because they've lost interest in school, or do they lose interest in school because their natural curiosity (and propensity to question) is somehow tamped down?

Project-based or inquiry-based schools get students to ask introspective questions such as What's interesting to me? Nobody's ever asked them that before. Entire curriculum is based around big questions.

The emphasis on letting students explore, direct their own learning, and work on projects instead of taking test–can also be found at Montessori schools. Montessori alumni include Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google).

Students find it really liberating to have a teacher say, 'I don't know the answer–so let's figure this out together.'

Every time you come up with a question, you should be wondering, What are the underlying assumptions of that question? Is there a different question I should be asking?

Contextual inquiry: Asking questions up close and in context, relying on observation, listening, and empathy to guide us toward a more intelligent, and therefore more effective, question.

Think of the brain as a forest full of trees. Some of those trees are closer together than others, and the branches communicate with each other. As this happens, neural connections are formed, which can produce new thoughts, ideas, and insights. (via Dr. Ken Heilman, Professor of Neurology)

The more eclectic your storehouse of information, the more possibilities for unexpected connections. (Heilman points out that people who are well read and well traveled, those who have diverse interests and a broad liberal arts education, and developing "a whole series of different modules that can enable more connectivity and more creativity.")

Divergent thinking–which calls for trying to generate a wide range of ideas, including offbeat ones, in the early stages of creative problem solving. Idea is to force your brain off those predictable paths by purposely "thinking wrong"–coming up with ideas that seem to make no sense, mixing and matching things that don't normally go together. Jarring effect on creative thinking. In neurological terms, when you force yourself to confront contrary thoughts or upside-down ideas, you "jiggle the synapses" in the brain. Goal is not to generate lasting ideas on the spot. It's to think differently and consider a wide range of possibilities by connecting ideas that don't normally go together.

"A prototype is a question, embodied." -Diego Rodriguez

"The trick is to go from one failure to another, with no loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill

Brainstorming: Generating questions instead of ideas. Allows us to think more freely and creatively. Peer pressure is reduced as answers tend to be judged more harshly than questions.
-Focus on coming out of a session with three great questions that you want to explore further (should provide a sense of direction and momentum)
-"How Might We" approach

What if a job interview tested one's ability to ask questions, as well as answer them?

Reasons people avoid fundamental questioning of much of what they do in their lives:
-Questioning is seen as counterproductive; it's the answer that most people are focused on finding, because the answers, it is believed, will provide ways to solve problems, move ahead, improve life.
-The right time for asking fundamental questions never seems to prevent itself; either it's too soon or too late.
-Knowing the right questions to ask is difficult
-What if we find we have no good answers to the important questions we raise? Fearing that, many figure it's better not to invite that additional uncertainty and doubt into their lives.

Since most schools teach us to prize answers over questions, while also generally teaching that most problems have one "right" answer, small wonder that our habit is to think that the answers we need are out there–just waiting to be "found," stumbled upon, looked up, acquired, purchased, or handed to us.

There is no substitute for self-questioning.

Is there something else you might want to want–besides what you've been told to want?

The "deferred-life" plan: ambitious young entrepreneurs devote themselves entirely to making money in the present, so that at some later point they'll have the means to pursue what really matters to them (once they take the time to figure out what that is).

Part of being able to tackle complex and difficult questions is accepting that there is nothing wrong with not knowing. People who are good at questioning are comfortable with uncertainty.

Appreciative inquiry: focus on what is working in our lives–so that we can build upon that and get more out of it. Strengths and assets. Gratitude is a shortcut to happiness. People who value and appreciate the basics tend to be a lot happier.

"When you're in a bookstore, what section are your drawn to?" -Carol Adrienne

-Why do I seem to "shine" when doing certain things? (What is it about those activities/places that brings out the best in me?_
-What if I could find a way to incorporate these interests/activities, or some aspect of them, into my life more? And maybe even into my work?
-How might I got about doing that?

"What's truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?" -Chris Guillebeau

Articulating a personal challenge in the form of a question has other benefits. It allows you to be bold and adventurous because anyone can question anything. You don't have to be a recognized expert; you just have to be willing to say I'm going to venture forth int he world with my question and see what I find.

Questions (the rights ones, anyway) are good at generating momentum which is why change-makers so often use them as a starting point.

How do we continually find inspiration so that we can inspire others?

What do you want to say? Why does it need to be said? What if you could say it in a way that has never before been done? How might you do that?

Zero to One – Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Zero to One – by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters
Date read: 1/12/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

I had high expectations for this one, considering it has become a sacred text for many startups and entrepreneurs. But Zero to One did not disappoint. The core of the book emphasizes that there is no single secret to innovation and entrepreneurship. But Thiel explains that if we want to to create a better future, we can't wait around, we have to go out and actually build it. He touches on concepts like vertical progress, opposite principles, monopolies, luck, venture capital, and the importance of getting the founders right when launching a new startup. The first half of the book is particularly brilliant. If you're an entrepreneur or working in technology, there's a reason this book is so highly rated.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative.

Successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

"What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"

Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

Horizontal or extensive progress:
-Going from 1 to n
-Taking a typewriter and building 100
-Globalization (China)

Vertical or intensive progress:
-Going from 0 to 1
-Taking a typewriter and building a word processor
-Technology (Silicon Valley)

Spreading old ways to create wealth around the world will result in devastation, not riches. In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable.

Focus on building from small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission: It's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it's even harder to do it by yourself. Small size affords space to think.

Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble.

Opposite principles that are more correct than common startup lessons:

- It is better to risk boldness than triviality (instead of making incremental advances)
- A bad plan is better than no plan (stay lean and flexible)
- Competitive markets destroy profits (improve on the competition)
- Sales matters just as much as product (focus on product not sales)

To build the next generation of companies, we must abandon the dogmas created after the crash (dot-com).

The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

Under perfect competition, in the long run no company makes an economic profit.

If you want to create and capture lasting value, don't build an undifferentiated commodity business.

Competition is an ideology–the ideology–that pervades our society and distorts our thinking.

Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking.

If you can recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value, you're already more sane than most.

The value of a business today is the sum of all the money it will make in the future.

Every startup should start with a very small market. Always err on the side of starting too small. The reason is simple: it's easier to dominate a small market than a large one.

The perfect target market for a startup is a small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors. Any big market is a bad choice, and a big market already served by competing companies is even worse.

"Victory awaits him who has everything in order–luck, people call it." -Roald Amundsen

The strange history of the Baby Boom produced a generation of indefinite optimists so used to effortless progress that they feel entitled to it. Whether you were born in 1945 or 1950 or 1955, things got better every year for the first 18 years of your life, and it had nothing to do with you...A whole generation learned from childhood to overrate the power of change and underrate the importance of planning.

Instead of working for years to build a new product, indefinite optimists rearrange already-invented ones–bankers, lawyers, management consultants.

In an indefinite world, people actually prefer unlimited optionality; money is more valuable than anything you could possibly do with it. Only in a definite future is money a means to an end, not the end itself.

But indefinite optimism seems inherently unsustainable: how can the future get better if no one plans for it?

But leanness is a methodology, not a goal. Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum, but it won't help you find the global maximum.

Darwinism may be a fine theory in other contexts, but in startups, intelligent design works best.

Long-term planning is often undervalued by our indefinite short-term world.

A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random.

Vilfredo Pareto – In 1906 discovered the "Pareto principle," or the 80-20 rule, when he noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land in Italy–a phenomenon that he found just as natural as the fact that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.

The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a successful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined.

VCs must find the handful of companies that will successfully go from 0 to 1 and then back them with every resource.

Venture-backed companies create 11% of all private sector jobs. They generate annual revenues equivalent to an astounding 21% of GDP. Indeed, the dozen largest tech companies were all venture-backed.

An entrepreneur makes a major investment just by spending her time working on a startup. Therefore every entrepreneur must think about whether her company is going to succeed and become valuable.

The power law means that differences between companies will dwarf the differences in roles inside companies. You could have 100% of the equity if you fully fund your own venture, but if it fails you'll have 100% of nothing. Owning just 0.01% of Google, by contrast, is incredibly valuable (more than $35 million as of this writing).

A conventional truth can be important–it's essential to learn elementary mathematics, for example–but it won't give you an edge. It's not a secret.

If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.

Bad decisions made early on–if you choose the wrong partners or hire the wrong people, for example–are very hard to correct after they are made.

Anyone who doesn't own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned...That's why hiring consultants doesn't work.

You need people who are not just skilled on paper but who will work together cohesively after they're hired.

If you've invented something new but you haven't invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business–no matter how good the product.

PayPal: Needed smaller niche market segment with a higher velocity of money–found this segment in eBay "PowerSellers." There were 20,000 of them. Because eBay's solution to the payment problem was terrible, merchants were extremely enthusiastic early adopters.

If you can get just one distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don't nail one, you're finished.

The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.

The most valuable companies in the future won't ask what problems can be solved with computers alone. Instead, they'll ask: how can computers help humans solve hard problems?

Companies must strive for 10x better because merely incremental improvements often end up meaning no improvement at all for the end user.

Apple's value crucially depended on the singular vision of a particular person. This hints at the strange way in which the companies that create new technology often resemble feudal monarchies rather than organizations that are supposedly more "modern." A unique founder can make authoritative decisions, inspire strong personal loyalty, and plan ahead for decades.

We cannot take for granted that the future will be better, and that means we need to work to create it today.

The Inevitable – Kevin Kelly

The Inevitable: Understanding 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future – by Kevin Kelly
Date read: 12/27/17. Recommendation 7/10.

Kelly is a great teacher when it comes to helping others think beyond the realm of current possibilities. I often find myself fighting the inertia of the way things currently are, instead of looking at the inevitable trends and determining what's next. The specific forces he outlines become a bit repetitive, as there is significant overlap to each. But as a whole it's a great exercise in reminding yourself to take your thinking to the next level. Kelly is also refreshingly optimistic about the future of technology. He suggests that while we have little control over the inevitable technological forces on the horizon, we do have influence over their character and how symmetrical those relationships end up being. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Everything, without exception, requires additional energy and order to maintain itself. I knew this in the abstract as the famous second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is falling apart slowly...Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance.

Most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented.

Technology is taking us to protopia...a state of becoming rather than destination. It is a process. In the protopian mode, things are better today than they were yesterday, although only a little better...This subtle progress is not dramatic, not exciting.

The revolution launched by the web was only marginally about hypertext and human knowledge. At its heart was a new kind of participation that has since developed into an emerging culture based on sharing.

The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous.

Coming out of the industrial age, when mass-produced goods out-performed anything you could make yourself, this sudden tilt toward consumer involvement is a surprise. We thought, "That amateur do-it-yourself thing died long ago, back in the horse-and-buggy era."

But the web in 2050 won't be a better web...It will have become something new, as different from the web today as the first web was from TV.

The AI on the horizon looks more like Amazon Web Services–cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything, and almost invisible except when it blinks off.

The business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI. Find something that can be made better by adding online smartness to it.

"AI is akin to building a rocket ship. You need a huge engine and a lot of fuel. The rocket engine is the learning algorithms but the fuel is the huge amounts of data we can feed to these algorithms." -Andrew Ng

If AI can help humans become better chess players, it stands to reason that it can help us become better pilots, better doctors, better judges, better teachers.

Nonhuman intelligence is not a bug; it's a feature. The most important thing to know about thinking machines is that they will think different.

Because of a quirk in our evolutionary history, we are cruising as the only self-conscious species on our planet, leaving us with the incorrect idea that human intelligence is singular. It is not.

One of the advantages of having AIs drive our cars is that they won't drive like humans, with our easily distracted minds.

Industrial revolution eliminated all but 1 percent of farming jobs, but automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields.

Third age of computing: prime units are flows and streams. We've moved from batches or daily, to real time.

The union of a zillion streams of information intermingling, flowing into each other, is what we call the cloud...The cloud is the new organizing metaphor for computers. The foundational units of this third digital regime, then, are flows, tags, and clouds.

A universal law of economics says the moment something becomes free and ubiquitous, its position in the economic equation suddenly inverts. When nighttime electrical lighting was new and scarce, it was the poor who burned common candles. Later, when electricity became easily accessible and practically free, our preference flipped and candles at dinner became a sign of luxury.

Deep down, avid audiences and fans want to pay creators...But they will only pay under four conditions that are not often met: 1) It must be extremely easy to do; 2) The amount must be reasonable; 3) There's a clear benefit to them for paying; and 4) It's clear the money will directly benefit the creators.

Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screening encourages rapid pattern making, associating one idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day.

Ownership is casual, fickle. If something better comes along, grab it. A subscription, on the other hand gushes a never-ending stream of updates, issues, and versions that force a constant interaction between the producer and the consumer.

Bitcoin:
-The most important innovation in Bitcoin is its "blockchain," the mathematical technology that powers it.

-When I send you one bitcoin, no central intermediary is involved. Our transaction is posted in a public ledger–called a blockchain–that is distributed to all other bitcoin owners in the world. This shared database contains a long "chain" of the transaction history of all existing bitcoins and who owns them.

-A new transaction like ours must be mathematically confirmed by multiple other owners before it is accepted as legitimate. In this way a blockchain creates trust by relying on mutual peer-to-peer accounting.

-A number of startups and venture capitalists are dreaming up ways to use blockchain technology as a general purpose trust mechanism beyond money. For transactions that require a high degree of trust between strangers, such as real estate escrows and mortgage contracts...

As we increase dematerialization, decentralization, simultaneity, platforms, and the cloud–as we increase all those at once, access will continue to displace ownership. For most things in life, accessing will trump owning.

The need for some top-down selection would only increase in value as the amount of user-generated content expanded...Facebook and Twitter's algorithm to sort your feed, Wikipedia's veteran editors. You don't need much of them, just a trace.

I have learned that in collaborative work when you share earlier in the process, the learning and successes come earlier as well.

The more powerful the invention or creation, the more likely and more important it is that it will be transformed by others. In 30 years the most important cultural works and the most powerful mediums will be those that have been remixed the most.

How we handle rewards for innovation, intellectual property rights and responsibilities, ownership of and access to copies makes a huge difference to society's prosperity and happiness. Ubiquitous copying (and tracking) is inevitable, but we have significant choices about its character.

The fastest-increasing quantity on this planet is the amount of information we are generating. New information is growing at 66 percent per year, doubling every 18 months, which is the rate of Moore's Law.

In our everyday lives we generate far more information that we don't yet capture and record...Taming this wild information will ensure that the total amount of information we collect will keep doubling for many decades ahead.

Metadata is the new wealth because the value of bits increases when they are linked to other bits.

Ubiquitous surveillance is inevitable. Since we cannot stop the system from tracking, we can only make the relationships more symmetrical.

Bitcoin transparently logs every transaction in its economy in a public ledger, thereby making all financial transactions public. The validity of a transaction is verified by a coveillance of other users rather than the surveillance of a central bank.

There is a one-to-one correspondence between personalization and transparency. Greater personalization requires greater transparency. Absolute personalization (vanity) requires absolute transparency (no privacy).

If today's social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species, it is that the human impulse to share overwhelms the human impulse for privacy...Vanity trumps privacy.

If anonymity is present in any significant quality, it will poison the system. While anonymity can be used to protect heroes, it is far more commonly used as aw ay to escape responsibility. That's why most of the brutal harassment on Twitter, Yik Yak, Reddit, and other sites is delivered anonymously. A lack of responsibility unleashes the worst in us.

Like all trace elements, anonymity should never be eliminated completely, but it should be kept as close to zero as possible.

Wikipedia works because it turns out that, with the right tools, it is easier to restore damaged text (the revert function on Wikipedia) than to create damaged text (vandalism).

No one would have believed 30 years ago that there was an $82 billion business in answering people's questions for cheap or for free (Google).

Part of the increasing ease in providing answers lies in the fact that past questions answered correct increase the likelihood of another question. At the same time, past correct answers increase the ease of creating the next answer, and increase the value of the corpus of answers as a whole. Each question we ask a search engine and each answer we accept as correct refines the intelligence of the process, increasing the engine's value for future questions.

A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
A good question challenges existing answers.
A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.
A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither is silly nor obvious.

Question makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that generate new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can explore. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering.

Tribe of Mentors – Tim Ferriss

Tribe of Mentors – by Tim Ferriss
Date Read: 12/20/17. Recommendation: 8/10.

Tribe of Mentors is built around a set of 11 questions that Tim set out to answer for himself by asking some of the most brilliant people (100+ in this book). Most of the questions are the same as the rapid-fire questions he uses in his podcast, "what book have you gifted the most?" and "what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?" There are a few nuggets of eye-opening wisdom, but the brevity kept things fairly shallow for me. I prefer Tools of Titans which covers a wider range of ideas in greater depth, and includes more of Tim's own notes and insights. For me, the most valuable part of Tribe of Mentors was its wealth of book recommendations.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

What would this look like if it were easy? It's easy to convince yourself that things need to be hard, that if you're not redlining, you're not trying hard enough.

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." –Anaïs Nin

The most fulfilled and effective people I know look at their life's journey as perhaps 25 percent finding themselves and 75 percent creating themselves.

"In the world of writing, everyone wants to succeed immediately and without pain or effort." –Steven Pressfield

"Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something–the book you're writing, the album, the movie–and staying there for a long, long time." –Steven Pressfield

Finnish word, "sisu" – the mental strength to continue to try even after you feel you've reached the limits of your abilities.

"Intelligence is like following a GPS route right into a body of water until you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, decides not to follow it, then finds a new, better way. Wisdom reigns supreme." –Terry Crews

"If you let yourself off the hook for not doing something for any reason, you won't ever do it." –Debbie Millman

Paraphrasing Debbie Millman's interview with Dani Shapiro: Overly confident people are annoying, arrogant, and compensating for some type of internal psychological deficit. Dani declared that courage was more important than confidence.

Naval Ravikant:
"Suffering is a moment of clarity, when you can no longer deny the truth of a situation and are forced into uncomfortable change."

"The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower...The means of learning are abundant–it's the desire to learn that's scarce. Cultivate that desire by reading what you want, not what you're 'supposed to.'"

"Memory and identity are burdens from the past that prevent us from living freely in the present."

"Ignore: The news. Complainers, angry people, high-conflict people. Anyone trying to scare you about a danger that isn't clear and present."

"Ignore the unfairness – there is no fair. Play the hand that you're dealt to the best of your ability. People are highly consistent, so you will eventually get what you deserve and so will they."

"By focusing inward on yourself as a writer instead of outward on what you think readers will want to read, you'll end up creating the best most original work, and that one-in-a-thousand person who happens to love it will up finding their way to you." –Tim Urban

"It's not how well you play the game, it's deciding what game you want to play." –Kwame Appiah

"Integrity is the only path where you will never get lost." –Mike Maples Jr.

"The best advice I have seen comes from people who don't try to tell me the answer...instead they give me a new approach to thinking about the question so that I can solve it better on my own." –Mike Maples Jr.

"Too often, aspiring artists put pressure on themselves to make their creative work their only source of income. In my experience, it's a road to misery." –Soman Chainani

"The education system, by and large, gears everyone up to adhere to set industry standards. While this a foolproof way to get a job and live a normal life, very few people can break out of the cycle of the mundane to be adventurous, inventive, selfless. The safety net of regular job is too comfortable." –Richa Chadha

"Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however is for those who are substantial enough to move on." –Criss Jami

"The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting." -Walt Disney

"My advice is to choose a profession that is really easy for you to do and that also allows you to be creative. If it is easy for you to do and somewhat difficult for your peers to do, you will not have to work too hard to be successful and you will have enough spare time to enjoy life...If, on the other hand, you have to work long hours all the time just to be competitive, you will burn out and not enjoy life." -Lewis Cantley

"If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time." –Chinese Proverb

"Creating is a better means of self-expression and possession; it is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed." -Vida Dutton Scudder

"Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life." -Jerzy Gregorek

"To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a bit better...to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded." –Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The struggle ends when the gratitude begins." -Neal Donald Walsch

"Our culture puts such a premium on the notion of originality, but when you really examine just about any 'original' thought or work, you find it's a composite of previous influences. Everything's a remix. Of course, there's such thing as being overly derivative, but I tend to mostly value sincerity over originality. I think I perform better when I focus less on being original and more on being honest." -Joseph Gordon-Levitt

"When something goes badly, I don't automatically assume I did something wrong. Instead I ask myself, 'What policy was I following that produced the bad outcome, and do I still expect that policy to give the best results overall, occasional bad outcomes notwithstanding?'" –Julia Galef

"One distraction I've learned to avoid is consuming media that's just telling me things I already know and agree with (for example, about politics). That stuff can be addictive because it feels so validating–it's like venting with a friend–but you're not learning from it, and over time, I think indulging in that impulse makes you less able to tolerate other perspectives." -Julia Galef

"Do what you love, do it in a way that you love, and pour your heart and soul into every moment of it. Do not be subject to inertia." –Josh Waitzkin

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." -Theodore Roosevelt

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau

"Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns." -Warren Buffett

"Focus on your writing skills. It's the one thing I've found that really helps people stand out. More and more communication is written today. Get great at presenting yourself with words, and words alone, and you'll be far ahead of most." –Jason Fried

"Remember that you'll always have less attention than time. Full attention is where you do your best work, and everyone's going to be looking to rip it from you. Protect and preserve it." -Jason Fried

Scaling: "No, don't scale. Start small, stay small as possible for as long as possible. Grow in control, not out of control." -Jason Fried

Raising capital: "No, bootstrap. As in life, we form business habits early on. If you raise money, you'll get good at spending money. If you bootstrap, you'll be forced to get good at making money." -Jason Fried

"Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success." -Arianna Huffington

"Macro patience, micro speed....Everybody's impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I'm not worried about my years, because I'm squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days." -Gary Vaynerchuk

"Courage over comfort." -Brene Brown

"If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions." -Einstein

"Always take jobs for which you are not qualified; that way you will inevitably learn something." -Esther Dyson

"I started my first business with $200...I learned far more about business from than $200 than from a debt-inducing MBA." -Kevin Kelly

"Be polite, on time, and work really fucking hard until you are talented enough to be blunt, a little late, and take vacations and even then...be polite." -Ashton Kutcher

"When 99 percent of your life is your work, either you are really bad at what you do or you are completely off balance with the rest of your life; neither is something to be proud of." -Jérôme Jarre

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise, instead, seek what they sought." -Matsuo Basho

"Have the moral courage to live in the gray, sit with uncertainty but not in a passive way. Live the questions so that, one day, you will live yourself into the answers.." -Jacqueline Novogratz

"Don't worry all that much about your first job. Just start, and let the work teach you. With every step, you will discover more about who you want to be what and what you want to do." -Jacqueline Novogratz

When feeling overwhelmed: "I go for a very long run and remind myself of the beauty of the world, that the sun will rise again tomorrow, that what matters is to be in the arena." -Jacqueline Novogratz

"Don't try to be something you're not. Be confident in the skills you have, as they may be make-or-break for the journey you pursue." -Steve Case

"If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together." -Steve Case

"No society in human history ever suffered because its people became too reasonable." -Sam Harris

"Those who are determined to be 'offended' will discover a provocation somewhere. We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt." -Christopher Hitchens

"The real measure of a good life is 'How happy and satisfied am I with my life right now?'" -Mr. Money Mustache

"You are free for life once you have 25 to 30 times your annual spending locked up and working for you in low-fee index funds or other relatively boring investments. If you save the standard 15 percent of your income, this freedom arrives roughly at age 65. If you can crank that up to 65 percent, you're free just after your 30th birthday, and you often end up a lot happier in the process." -Mr. Money Mustache

"A high savings rate (or 'profit margin on life') is by far the best strategy for a great and creative life, because it's your ticket to freedom. Freedom is the fuel for creativity." -Mr. Money Mustache

"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." -Leonardo Da Vinci

"Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation." -Evan Williams

Pursuing your passion: "For many, that is terrible advice. In your 20s, you may or may not really know what your best skills and opportunities are. It's much better to pursue learning, personal discipline, growth." -Chris Anderson

When feeling overwhelmed or unfocused:
"Have I had enough sleep? Have I eaten? Would it be a good idea to go for a short walk?
And once those have been answered, or fixed, if there's an actual situation that's overwhelming:
Is there anything I can do to fix this? Is there anyone who actually has information or advice about this that I can call and talk to?" -Neil Gaiman

"Top down (macro thinking) means I consider the big picture issues before the small when making decisions...For example, I invest in real estate where smart people want to live." -Adam Fisher

"Just learn how to learn. Then you can always figure out the next thing that you will need to know." -Adam Fisher

"Choose opportunities based on the quality of people you will get to work with." -Scott Belsky

"You can do so much in ten minutes' time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good. Divide your life into ten-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity." -Ingvar Kamprad

"Asking myself the question, 'When I'm old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment I'm experiencing right now?' This simple question puts things in perspective and makes you grateful for the experience you're having right now versus being lost in thoughts about the past or future.

Responses to problems: "Most likely, the problem won't be around in a year, but my reputation of how I dealt with it will." -Whitney Cummings

"No one is qualified to tell you how you experience the world." -Vlad Zamfir

"Discipline equals freedom." -Jocko Willink

"Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued...Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it." -Viktor E. Frankl

"The player of the inner game comes to value that art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers the true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard." -W. Timothy Gallwey

Excellence is in the next five minutes, improvement is in the next five minutes, happiness is the next five minutes.

The power broker in your life is the voice that no one ever hears. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality.

Focus on what's in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

Feeling as though you are trying too hard indicates that your priorities, technique, focus, or mindfulness is off. Take it as a cue to reset, not to double down.

The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds – by Michael Lewis
Date Read: 11/26/17. Recommendation: 9/10.

A fascinating look into the unlikely relationship and original contributions of two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Together they examined how people make decisions and predictions, and uncovered the systematic bias and errors that are inherent to each. They found that the human mind replaced laws of chance with rules of thumb–what they referred to as "heuristics," including availability, representativeness, anchoring, and simulation. Each heuristic reveals itself in the form of a cognitive bias (hindsight, recency, vividness, etc.). The papers of Kahneman and Tversky have had widespread positive implications, helping to educate experts in various fields (economics, policy, medicine) of their own biases, and ultimately leading to the creation of "behavioral economics."

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

"Your mind needs to be in a constant state of defense against all this crap that is trying to mislead you." -Daryl Morey (GM, Houston Rockets)

It seemed to him that a big part of a consultant's job was to feign total certainty about uncertain things.

His main question to NBA scouts he interviewed, "who did you miss?" Wanted to find some degree of self-awareness.

But this raised a bigger question: Why had so much conventional wisdom been bullshit? And not just in sports but across the whole society. Why had so many industries been ripe for disruption? Why was there so much to be undone?

Danny Kahneman's defining emotion is doubt. An outsider who was displaced by WW2.
Amos Tversky was the quintessential Israeli and thrived in the role of a fearless hero. Self-assured.

The question the Israeli military had asked Kahneman–Which personalities are best suited to which military roles?–had turned out to make no sense. And so Danny had gone and answered a different, more fruitful question: How do we prevent the intuition of interviewers from screwing up their assessments of army recruits? Remove their gut feelings, and their judgments improved.

Walter Mischel's "marshmallow experiment" inspired Danny to study "the psychology of single questions."
-A child's (3-5 years old) ability to wait turned out to be correlated with his IQ and his family circumstances and some other things. Tracking them through life, found the better they were able to resist temptation, the higher their future SAT scores and sense of self-worth, the lower their body fat or likelihood that they would suffer from some addiction.

"It's hard to know how people select a course in life. The big choices we make are practically random. The small choices probably tell us more about who we are. Which field we go into may depend on which high school teacher we happened to meet. Who we marry may depend on who happens to be around at the right time of life. On the other hand, the small decisions are very systematic. That I became a psychologist is probably not very revealing. What kind of psychologist I am may reflect deep traits." –Tversky

Economic theory, the design of markets, public policy making, and a lot more depended on theories about how people made decisions.

By changing the context in which two things are compared, you submerge certain features and force others to the surface. "The similarity of objects is modified by the manner in which they are classified." –Tversky

Danny thought, this is what happens when people become attached to a theory. They fit the evidence to the theory rather than the theory to the evidence. They cease to see what's right under their nose.

"Belief in the Law of Small Numbers"
Teased out the implications of a single mental error that people commonly made–even when those people were trained statisticians. People mistook even a very small part of a thing for the whole...They did this, Amos and Danny argued, because their believed–even if they did not acknowledge the belief–that any given sample of a large population was more representative of that population that it actually was.

If you flipped a coin a thousand times, you were more likely to end up with heads or tails roughly half the time than if you flipped it ten times. For some reason human beings did not see it that way. "People's intuitions about random sampling appear to satisfy the law of small numbers, which asserts that the law of large numbers applies to small numbers as well."

The failure of human intuition had all sorts of implications for how people moved through the world, and rendered judgments and made decisions.

The entire project, in other words, was rooted in Danny's doubts about his own work, and his willingness, which was almost an eagerness, to find error in that work...It wasn't just a personal problem; it was a glitch in human nature.

Oregon researchers (with Lew Goldberg) asked doctors to judge the probability of cancer in 96 different individual stomach ulcers by looking at a stomach X-ray. Without telling the doctors, researchers mixed up the duplicates randomly in a pile so they wouldn't notice they were being asked to diagnose the exact same ulcer they had already diagnosed...Doctors' diagnoses were all over the map: The experts didn't agree with each other. Even more surprisingly, they rendered more than one diagnosis for the duplicates–couldn't even agree with themselves.

"Belief in the Law of Small Numbers" raised obvious next question: If people did not use statistical reasoning...what kind of reasoning did they use?

"Availability: A Heuristic for Judging Frequency and Probability"
The mind did not naturally calculate the correct odds...It replaced the laws of chance with rules of thumb. These rules of thumb Danny and Amos called "heuristics."

Four Heuristics: availability, representativeness, anchoring, simulation.

Representativeness: When people calculate the odds in any life situation, they are often making judgments about similarity.
-You have some notion of a parent population: "storm clouds" or "gastric ulcers" or "genocidal dictators" or "NBA players." You compare the specific case to the parent population.

The smaller the sample size, the more likely that is is unrepresentative of the wider population.

Availability: Any fact or incident that was especially vivid, or recent, or common–or anything that happened to preoccupy a person–was likely to be recalled with special ease, and so be disproportionately weighted in any judgment.

"The use of the availability heuristic leads to systematic biases." Human judgment was distorted by...the memorable.

The bias was the footprint of the heuristic. The bias, too, would soon have their own names, like the "recency bias" and the "vividness bias."

"We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible, because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that could cause it to occur. The defect, often, is in our imagination."

The stories people told themselves, when the odds were either unknown or unknowable, were naturally too simple.

It's far easier for a Jew living in Paris in 1939 to construct a story about how the German army will behave much as it had in 1919, for instance, than to invent a story in which it behaves as it did in 1941, no matter how persuasive the evidence might be that, this time, things are different.

Simulation: Power of unrealized possibilities to contaminate people's minds. As they moved through the world, people ran simulations of the future.

Danny wanted to investigate how people created alternatives to reality by undoing reality. He wanted, in short, to discover the rules of imagination.

Imagination wasn't a flight with limitless destinations. It was a tool for making sense of a world of infinite possibilities by reducing them. The imagination obeyed rules: the rules of undoing...
-The more items there were to undo in order to create some alternative reality, the less likely the mind was to undo them.
-"An event becomes gradually less changeable as it recedes into the past." With the passage of time, the consequences of any event accumulated, and left more to undo.
-In doing some event, the mind tended to remove whatever felt surprising or unexpected.

"On the Psychology of Prediction"
People predict by making up stories.
People predict very little and explain everything.
People live under uncertainty whether they like it or not.
People believe they can tell the future if they work hard enough.
People often work hard to obtain information they already have. And avoid new knowledge. –Tversky

Man's inability to see the power of regression to the mean leaves him blind to the nature of the world around him.

When they wrote their first papers, Danny and Amos had no particular audience in mind...They sensed that they needed to find a broader audience. Began targeting high-level professional activities, economic planning, technological forecasting, political decision making, medical diagnosis, and the evaluation of legal evidence.

They hoped that the decisions made by experts in these fields could be "significantly improved by making these experts aware of their own biases, and by the development of methods to reduce and counteract the sources of bias in judgment."

That is, once they knew the outcome, they thought it had been far more predictable than they had found it to be before, when they had tried to predict it–"hindsight bias."

In his talk to historians, Amos described their occupational hazard: the tendency to take whatever facts they had observed (neglecting the many facts that they did not or could not observe) and make them fit neatly into a confident sounding story:
"All too often, we find ourselves unable to predict what will happen; yet after the fact we explain what did happen with a great deal of confidence. This "ability" to explain that which we cannot predict, even in the absence of any additional information, represents an important, though subtle, flaw in our reasoning. It leads us to believe that there is a less uncertain world that there actually is, and that we are less bright than we actually might be."

"Creeping determinism"–Sports announcers, political pundits, historians all radically revise their narratives so that their stories fit whatever just happened. Impose false order upon random events probably without even realizing what they were doing.

"He who sees the past as surprise-free is bound to have a future full of surprises."

Error wasn't necessarily shameful; it was merely human. "They provided a language and a logic for articulating some of the pitfalls people encounter when they think. Now these mistakes could be communicated.It was the recognition of human error. Not its denial." -Don Redelmeir

"So many problems occur when people fail to be obedient when they are supposed to be obedient, and fail to be creative when they are supposed to be creative." -Tversky

"The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours." -Tversky

"Selective Matching"
–Amos had collected data on NBA shooting streaks to see if the so-called hot hand was statistically significant...but the streaks were illusions...false patterns that people mistakingly assigned meaning to.
–"For arthritis, selective matching leads people to look for changes in the weather when they experience increased pain, and pay little attention to the weather when their pain is stable...[A] single day of severe pain and extreme weather might sustain a lifetime of belief in a relation between them."

Even though insurance is a stupid bet, you buy it because you place less value on the $1,000 you stand to win flipping a coin than you do on the $1,000 already in your bank account that you stand to lose.

By the summer of 1973, Amos was searching for ways to undo the reigning theory of decision making, just as he and Danny had undone the idea that human judgment followed the precepts of statistical theory.

"It is the anticipation of regret that affects decisions, along with the anticipation of other consequences." -Kahneman

People did not seek to avoid other emotions with the same energy that they sought to avoid regret. When they made decisions, people did not seek to maximize utility. They sought to minimize regret.

People regretted what they had done, and what they wished they hadn't done, far more than what they had not done and perhaps should have.

"The pain that is experienced when the loss is caused by an act that modified the status quo is significantly greater than the pain that is experienced when the decision led to the retention of the status quo. When one fails to take action that could have avoided a disaster, one does not accept responsibility for the occurrence of the disaster." -Kahneman

"Theory of Regret" (they soon left this behind and focused on "Risk Value Theory")
-Coming close: Nearer you come to achieving a thing, the greater the regret you experienced if you failed to achieve it.
-Responsibility: The more control you felt you had over the outcome of a gamble, the greater the regret you experienced if the gamble turned out badly.

"For most people, the happiness involved in receiving a desirable object is smaller than the unhappiness involved in losing the same object...Happy species endowed with infinite appreciation of pleasures and low sensitivity to pain would probably not survive the evolutionary battle."

"Risk Value Theory"
-Realization that people responded to changes rather than absolute levels.
-Discovery that people approached risk very differently when it involved losses than when it involved gains.
-People did not respond to probability in a straightforward manner.

A loss, according to their theory, was when a person wound up worse off than his "reference point." This could be wherever you started from, your status quo, or an expectation (i.e. annual bonus).

"Framing"–simply by changing the description of a situation, and making a gain seem like a loss, you could cause people to completely flip their attitude toward risk, and turn them from risk avoiding to risk seeking.

"I have vivid memories of running from one article to another. For a while I wasn't sure why I was so excited. Then I realized: They had one idea. Which was systematic bias." –Thaler

"Reality is a cloud of possibility, not a point." –Tversky

"The Conjunction Fallacy"
People were blind to logic when it was embedded in a story. Describe a very sick old man and ask people: Which is more probably, that he will die within a week or die within a year? More often than not, they will say, "He'll die within a week."

Amos created a lovely example. He asked people: Which is more likely to happen in the next year, that a thousand Americans will die in a flood, or that an earthquake in California will trigger a massive flood that will drown a thousand Americans? People went with the earthquake.

The force that led human judgment astray in this case was what Danny and Amos had called "representativeness," or the similarity between whatever people were judging and some model they had in their mind of that thing.

The work that Amos and Danny did together awakened economists and policy makers to the importance of psychology.

Richard Thaler–the first frustrated economist to stumble onto Danny and Amos's work and pursue its consequences for economics single-mindedly–would helped to create a new field, and give it the name "behavioral economics."

The Airbnb Story – Leigh Gallagher

The Airbnb Story – by Leigh Gallagher
Date Read: 11/15/17. Recommendation: 7/10.

Essentially a giant case study of Airbnb and its founders–Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk–which documents the evolution of their initial concept through its unprecedented growth. With regard to each of the founders, it was interesting to hear about their backgrounds and a great reminder that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a company. Chesky and Gebbia were resourceful and got things off the ground without the traditional "technical DNA" that most investors in Silicon Valley obsess over. Their art-school background ended up being an asset that helped set them apart from competitors (better user interface), along with a perfect wave of external factors including timing, price, and a shift in consumer preferences towards artisanal experiences. Gallagher also does a great job remaining objective and presenting both sides of the story–as Airbnb hasn't come without controversy. It's one of the most engaging success stories of recent years.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Airbnb tapped into something greater than low prices and an abundance of available inventory. It offered an experience that was special and different...It also opened up access to different kinds of neighborhoods than traditional tourist zones.

Founders:
Brian Chesky–most striking evolution since he lacked specific industry knowledge and tech skills. Developed a couple skills that were critical to his growth as a leader: 1) knack for ring-leading dating back to his college days, 2) near pathological curiosity + voracious reader. His solution to acquire the rest of the tools he'd need was to basically hack leadership by seeking out help from a series of expert mentors.

Joe Gebbia–design disrupter with bold ideas and knack for entrepreneurialism.
(^ attended Rhode Island School of Design together)

Nathan Blecharczyk–gifted engineer.

Origins: ICSID/IDSA World Congress (design conference) was coming to San Francisco, Chesky and Gebbia knew hotel capacity would be tight and rates would be high. Put together AirBed & Breakfast website, emailed design blogs and the conference organizers to ask them to help promote, and booked three guests (professional designers on a budget).

First Guest, Amol Surve: "It was a hack from both our sides. I was trying to hack and go to the conference, and they were trying to hack and make rent. It was, like, a perfect match."

Originally concept existed as a resource for finding rooms during sold-out conferences across the country. Went to launch at South by Southwest that year.

"If you launch and no one notices, you can keep launching. We kept launching, and people kept writing about it. We thought we'd just keep launching until we got customers." -Brian Chesky

Kept refining their vision, broader vision came into focus: website where booking a room in someone's home would be as easy as booking a hotel. *But this meant they had to build a sophisticated payment system.

Investors thought the idea of renting out space to strangers was totally weird and unbelievably risky. They were put off by Chesky and Gebbia's art school background; they thought they lacked the technical DNA.

2008 launched their site for a third time and targeted Democratic National Convention with hype around Obama and a massive shortage of housing in Denver for the event. Ran into issues with supply shortage.

Afterwards they were desperate for funds launched fictitious brands of cereal called Obama O's and Cap'n McCain's. It worked (Obama O's sold out in three days, were being resold for as much as $350/box).

They had made less than $5,000 from their core business and somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 from selling cereal.

Y Combinator: "If you can convince people to pay forty dollars for a four-dollar box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep in other people's airbeds. Maybe you can do it." –Paul Graham

Paul Graham taught them two important lessons:
1) It's much better to have one hundred users who love you than one million users who "sort of like you"
2) Go to your users (they ended up flying to New York and going door-to-door)

By going to their users in New York, they identified two major pain points: trouble pricing properties and photos. They decided to send professional photographers to each host's home at no charge (at first they were doing the photos themselves). Meeting directly with their users is also what gave them the idea to add the option for people to rent out their entire residence (and nix the breakfast requirement).

"If you are successful, it will be the hardest thing you ever do." –Nathan Blecharczyk

"I think hiring your first engineer is like bringing in DNA to your company." –Brian Chesky

Hacking Growth–Built backdoor into Craigslist to repost their listings on there.

Airbnb's business is fundamentally about leveraging a network effect: the more people who list, the more appealing it is to travelers. The more travelers who use it, the more appealing it is to hosts.

Figuring out how to get the right listings in front of the right people was and remains a complicated process. Every listing is unique, not just in its look, feel, location, and price but also in its availability, its host, and its host's set of rules and preferences.

During the first Internet boom, a trio of brothers in Germany–Marc, Alexander, and Oliver Samwer–started making a living taking the ideas of the most successful U.S. tech start-ups and cloning them abroad, then selling them back to the original company. Wimdu was their Airbnb equivalent. When they reached out asking if Airbnb was interested in buying them, the advisors to Airbnb all gave different opinions.

Chesky ended up taking advice from Paul Graham who told him the difference between Airbnb and Wimdu was that Airbnb owners were missionaries, and Wimdu owners were mercenaries. Missionaries, he told him, usually win. Decided not to buy for the above reason, also because he didn't want to absorb the Wimdu employees and thought best revenge would be to force Samwer brothers to actually run the company they had no interest in running.

"Uber is transactional; Airbnb is humanity." -Elisa Schreiber

Why Airbnb has caught on in the way it has is due to a combination of factors:
-Price (founded during recession in 2008, weakened spending power of consumers)
-Dissatisfaction with the mass commodification of large-scale hotel chains
-Desire for small-batch artisanal everything, want the same kind of imperfect authenticity in travel experiences.
-Hunger for anything that claimed to have a purpose or mission.
-Desire to seek out community in wake of the decline of human connection in today's complicated world.

Airbnb's data reveals that the average host makes around $6,000 a year.

Sharing economy: "Fundamentally, this model of business isn't going to have the same kind of protection that the hotels or the car-rental companies or the taxi commission provide. We always make a trade-off, and we'll start to make different trade-offs with the sharing economy." –Arun Sundararajan

Airbnb's experience in New York is a case study for the kinds of collisions that can happen when new ideas and technologies come out of nowhere to threaten the status quo and incumbent industries–and how the political realities on the ground aren't always as smooth as the ascending line on these companies' unfettered growth charts.

Airbnb Negatives:
-Inhibit quality of life for neighbors who didn't sign up for transient tourists
-Creates safety issues by providing access to residential buildings to strangers
-Removes housing from a market that is already in a serious affordable-housing crisis, driving prices up for everyone

"Belinda [Johnson] taught me that no matter how much somebody hates you, it's almost always better to meet them." -Brian Chesky

Home sharing has caught on is because it reinforces social contracts that have become frayed. It enables everyday people to be economically empowered. It brings people together.

When Airbnb came along, it was different from VRBO, HomeAway in a few significant ways:
-More user-friendly interface than anything that had come before it.
-Brough the owner and customer together in new, more intimate way (personalities, magazine-worthy photography)
-Self-contained system that handled payments, messaging, and customer service
-Sophisticated technological backend
-Instead of focusing on vacation destinations in resort areas, focused on cities.

After dismissing it for so long, the hotel industry slowly started to confront its Airbnb problem. (In 2016!)

"Sports is the only thing where you learn your limitations quickly." -Brian Chesky

The survival of a tech company depends on a willingness to branch into new categories.

Hooked – Nir Eyal

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – by Nir Eyal
Date Read: 11/11/17. Recommendation: 6/10.

Examines how to engineer user behavior, the moral implications, and how to leverage those findings to improve people's lives. Eyal documents each step of the "hook model," consisting of a trigger, action, investment, and variable reward. It's a short read and doesn't advance much past the basics, but if you're looking for an introduction to the startup mindset and how to begin building a product or service of your own, it's worth your time. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Habits = automatic behaviors triggered by situational cues

How did these companies engineer user behavior? What were the moral implications of building potentially addictive products? Most important, could the same forces that made these experiences so compelling also be used to build product to improve people's lives?

The Hook Model: Trigger, Action, Investment, Variable Reward

When harnessed correctly, technology can enhance lives through healthful behaviors that improve our relationships, make us smarter, and increase productivity. *Should be used to help nudge people to make better choices (as judged by themselves).

Hooks connect the user's problem with a company's solution frequently enough to form a habit.

Price Sensitivity: As customers form routines around a product, they come to depend upon it and become less sensitive to price.
*Rise of the freemium model

Users who continuously find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it. Frequent usage = brand evangelists who bring in new users at little or no cost.

Viral Cycle Time: the amount of time it takes a user to invite another user; and it can have a massive impact.

"Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new." -John Gourville
If you're building a new product, it can't just be better. It must be nine times better because old habits die hard.
*QWERTY keyboard vs. Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

"Are you building a vitamin or a painkiller?"
-Painkillers solve an obvious need, relieving a specific pain and often have quantifiable markets.
-Vitamins, by contrast, do not necessarily solve an obvious pain point. Instead they appeal to users' emotional rather than functional needs.

"If you want to build a product that is relevant to folks, you need to put yourself in their shoes and you need to write a story from their side. So, we spend a lot of time writing what's called user narratives." -Jack Dorsey

"5 Whys Method" – Adapted from the Toyota Production System. By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem and the solution becomes clear.

The more effort required to perform the desired action, the less likely it is to occur.

Fogg Behavior Model, B=MAT. Behavior = Motivation, Ability, Trigger.

Remove steps until you reach the simplest possible process...Any technology that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task will enjoy high adoption rates by the people it assists.

"Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time...Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps." -Evan Williams

The unknown is fascinating, and strong stories hold our attention by waiting to reveal what happens next.

Rewards of the tribe–gratification of others.
Rewards of the hunt–material goods, money, or information.
Rewards of the self–mastery, completion, competency, or consistency.

The escalation of commitment–makes some people play video games until they keel over and die. Has also been used to influence people to give more to charity.

The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that our labor leads to love. (IKEA effect)

The more effort we put into something, the more likely are to value it–rationalization.

Content increases the value of a service.

LinkedIn–Trick to getting people to return, getting them to initially enter just a little information.
Twitter–Following the right people.

Five fundamental questions:
1) What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (internal trigger)
2) What brings users to your service? (external trigger)
3) What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (action)
4) Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (variable reward)
5) What "bit of work" do users invest in your product? (investment)

The Hook Model can be a helpful tool for filtering out bad ideas with low habit potential as well as a framework for identifying room for improvement in existing products.

Poor Charlie's Almanack – Charles T. Munger

Poor Charlie's Almanack – by Charles T. Munger & Peter D. Kaufman
Date Read: 11/1/17. Recommendation: 9/10.

This is one of those must-read books because Munger's concepts are foundational to so many other authors and their ideas. To set expectations, the book is a monster. It took me months and multiple attempts to get through because there is so much there. It's comprised of 11 speeches given by Munger over the years. He details his now-popularized concept of "multiple mental models" and building a latticework of these models to improve cognition. Munger explains that adopting a more multidisciplinary approach is critical to achieving this, and cites Keynes when he suggests that it's better to be roughly right than precisely wrong. He also outlines "sit-on-your-ass investing" and the general approach that led to his success alongside Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. Poor Charlie's Almanack is one of those that you should sit with and reflect on so you can take it all in.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews. 

 

My Notes:

Lollapalooza: The critical mass  obtained via a combination of concentration, curiosity, perseverance, and self-criticism, applied through a prism of multidisciplinary mental models.

To Cicero, if you live right, the inferior part of life is the early part.

Cicero points out how silly it is to complain of reaching old age. According to Cicero, the best a young person can hope for is to get old before he dies, and it is not fitting to complain about getting the best outcome you could have ever reasonable wanted. 

"I've long believed that a certain system–which almost any intelligent person can learn–works way better than the systems that most people use. What you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And, with that system, things gradually get to fit together in a way that enhances cognition."

"Multiple Mental Models" serve as a framework for gathering, processing, and acting on information.

Just as multiple factors shape almost every system, multiple models from a variety of disciplines, applied with fluency, are needed to understand that system.

Sit on your ass investing (not buying or selling very often): "You're paying less to brokers, you're listening less to nonsense, and if it works, the tax system gives you an extra one, two, or three percentage points per annum."

It takes character to sit there with all that cash and do nothing. I didn't get to where I am by going after mediocre opportunities.

Reduce complex situations to their most basic, unemotional fundamentals, but avoid "physics envy," human craving to reduce enormously complex systems to one-size-fits-all Newtonian formulas.

"A scientific theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." –Albert Einstein

Charlie's methods could be summarized as, "Quickly eliminate the big universe of what not to do, follow up with a fluent, multidisciplinary attack on what remains, then act decisively when, and only when, the right circumstances appear."

It's kind of fun to sit there and outthink people who are way smarter than you are because you've trained yourself to be more objective and more multidisciplinary.

"If we have a strength, it is in recognizing when we are operating well within our circle of competence and when we are approaching the perimeter." –Warren Buffett

Few businesses survive over multiple generations.

Intellectual humility–Acknowledging what you don't know is the dawning of wisdom.

Understanding both the power of compound interest and the difficulty of getting it is the heart and soul of understanding a lot of things.

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.

Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.

It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.

One of the key elements to successful investing is having the right temperament–most people are too fretful; they worry too much.

Stocks are valued partly like bonds, based on roughly rational projections of producing future cash. But they are also valued partly like Rembrandt paintings, purchased mostly because their prices have gone up so far.

If stocks trade more like Rembrandts in the future, then stocks will rise, but they will have no anchors. In this case, it's hard to predict how far, how high, and how long it will last.

Indexing can't work well forever if almost everybody turns to it. But it will work all right for a long time.

I think that, every time you see the word EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization], you should substitute the words "bullshit earnings."

"Abraham Lincoln once asked: 'How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.' Likewise, just because an actuary says you can earn 9% on pension-plan assets, it doesn't magically alter the reality of your future liability." –Buffett

The Importance of Mental Models: "You must know the big ideas in the big disciplines and use them routinely–all of them, not just a few. Most people are trained in one model–economics, for example–and try to solve all problems in one way. You know the old saying: To the man with a hammer, the world looks like a nail."

I don't know anyone who's wise who doesn't read a lot. But that's not enough: You have to have a temperament to grab ideas and do sensible things.

In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time–none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads–and at how much I read.

There's a lot wrong with American universities...You have these squirrelly people in each department who don't see the big picture.

Slug it out once inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day–if you live long enough–most people get what they deserve.

 

Talk One: Harvard School Commencement Speech (6/13/86)

Johnny Carson speech, said he couldn't tell the graduating class how to be happy, but he could tell them prescription for sure misery: 1) Ingesting chemicals in an effort to alter mood or perception, 2) Envy, 3) Resentment.

Charlie adds a few more prescriptions for misery: be unreliable, learn everything you possibly can from you own experience, go down and stay down when you encounter a reverse in the battle of life. 

Invert, always invert...many hard problems are best solved only when they are addressed backward.

Reliability is essential for progress in life.

 

Talk Two: The University of Southern California Marshall School of Business (4/14/94)

You can't really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try to bang 'em back. If the facts don't hang together on a latticework of theory, you don't have them in a usable form.

You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience–both vicarious and direct–on this latticework of models...And the models have to come from multiple disciplines–because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department.

So you have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don't, you're going to lose. And that's as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you've got an edge. And you've got to play within your own circle of competence.

Benjamin Graham's best idea was the concept of "Mr. Market"–not efficient, but manic depressive.

Spend less than you make; always be saving something. Put it into a tax-deferred account. Over time, it will begin to amount to something. This is such a no-brainer.

The wise ones bet heavily when the world offers them that opportunity. They bet big when they have the odds. And the rest of the time, they don't. It's just that simple.

Three Rules for Your Career:

1) Don't sell anything you wouldn't buy yourself. 2) Don't work for anyone you don't respect and admire. 3) Work only with people you enjoy.

You don't have to be brilliant, only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time.

 

Talk Three: Stanford Law School (4/19/96)

Heavy ideology is one of the most extreme distorters of human cognition.

Warren adored his father–who was a wonderful man. But Warren's father was a very heavy ideologue (right wing, it happened to be), who hung around with other very heavy ideologues (right wing, naturally). Warren observed this as a kid. And he decided that he was going to stay a long way away from it. And he has throughout his whole life. That has enormously helped the accuracy of his cognition.

You can have heavy ideology in favor of accuracy, diligence, and objectivity. But a heavy ideology that makes you absolutely sure that the minimum wage should be raised or that it shouldn't–and it's king of a holy construct where you know you're right–makes you a bit nuts...Being totally sure on issues like that with a strong, violent ideology, in my opinion, turns you into a lousy thinker. So beware of ideology-based mental misfunctions.

"What a man wishes, that also will he believe." –Demosthenes

Workers' compensation system in California: Trouble with such a compensation practice is that it's practically impossible to delete huge cheating. And once you reward cheating, you get crooked lawyers, crooked doctors, crooked unions, etc., participating in referral schemes...So you were trying to help your civilization. but what you did was create enormous damage, net.

So it's much better to let some things go uncompensated–to let life be hard–than to create systems that are easy to cheat.

Part of what you must learn is how to handle mistakes and new facts that change the odds. Life, in part, is like a poker game, wherein you have to learn to quit sometimes when holding a much-loved hand.

People go broke that way–because they can't stop, rethink, and say, "I can afford to write this one off and live to fight again. I don't have to pursue this thing as an obsession–in a way that will break me."

 

Talk Seven: Breakfast Meeting of the Philanthropy Roundtable (11/10/00)

And I also think that one should recognize reality even when one doesn't like it, indeed, especially when one doesn't like it.

Suppose all pension funds purchased ancient art, and only ancient art, with all their assets. Wouldn't we eventually have a terrible mess on our hands, with great and undesirable macroeconomic consequences? And wouldn't the mess be bad if only half of all pension funds were invested in ancient art? And if half of all stock value became a consequence of mania, isn't the situation much like the case wherein half of pension assets are ancient art?

Efficient Market Theory: Professors were too much influence by "rational man" models of human behavior from economics and too little by "foolish man" models from psychology and real-world experience.

"Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of–for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way you gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." –Socrates

 

Talk Nine: Herb Kay Undergraduate Lecture, University of California, Santa Barbara, Economics Department (10/3/03)

"If you would persuade, appeal to interest and not to reason." –Benjamin Franklin

The only antidote for being an absolute klutz due to the presence of man-with-a-hammer syndrome is to have a full kit of tools. 

But if you've got a full list of tools and go through them in your mind, checklist-style, you will find a lot of answers that you won't find any other way.

Practically everybody (1) overweighs the stuff that can be numbered because it yields to statistical techniques they're taught in academia and (2) doesn't mix in the hard-to-measure stuff that may be more important.

Too little attention in economics to second-order and even high-order effects...the consequences have consequences (it gets very complicated). 

All human systems are gamed, for reasons rooted deeply in psychology....The people who design easily gameable systems belong in the lowest circle of hell.

Are people who game systems bad or intrinsically dishonest? No. "They just don't think about what terrible things they're doing to the civilization because they don't take into account the second-order effects and the third-order effects in lying and cheating."

Keynes said, "It's not bringing in the new ideas that's so hard. It's getting rid of the old ones." And Einstein said it better, attributing his mental success to "curiosity, concentration, perseverance, and self-criticism." By self-criticism, he meant becoming good at destroying your own best-loved and hardest-won ideas. If you can get really good at destroying your own wrong ideas, that is a great gift.

What I've urged is the use of a bigger multidisciplinary bag of tricks, mastered to fluency, to help economics and everything else.

Keynes: Better roughly right than precisely wrong.

If you skillfully follow the multidisciplinary path, you will never wish to come back.

No matter how smart you are, there are smart people out there who can fool you if they really want to. So, be sure you can trust the smart people you work with.

 

Talk Ten: USC Gould School of Law (5/13/07)

Golden rule: You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end.

The acquisition of wisdom is a moral duty. It's not something you do just to advance in life. And there's a corollary to that idea that is very important. It requires that you're hooked on lifetime learning. Without lifetime learning, you people are not going to do very well. You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You're going to advance in life by what you learn after you leave here.

I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent. But they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were that morning. 

The way complex adaptive systems work, and the way mental constructs work, problems frequently become easier to solve through "inversion." (i.e. if you want to help X, ask how you can hurt X?)

Mozart was utterly miserable most of the time. And one of the reasons was that he always overspent his income.

Self-pity is always counterproductive. It's the wrong way to think. And when you avoid it, you get a great advantage over everybody else, or almost everybody else, because self-pity is a standard response. And you can train yourself out of it.

You particularly want to avoid working under somebody you don't admire and don't want to be like.

Intense interest in any subject is indispensable, if you're really going to excel in it.

In your own life what you want to maximize is a seamless web of deserved trust.

 

Talk Eleven: The Psychology of Human Misjudgment

Doubt-Avoidance Tendency is some combination of (1) puzzlement and (2) stress. And both of these factors naturally occur in facing religious issues.

Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency: The brain of man conserves programming space by being reluctant to change, which is a form of inconsistency avoidance. 

Also tending to be maintained in place by anti-change tendency of the brain are one's previous conclusions, human loyalties, reputational identity, commitments, accepted role in a civilization, etc.

And so, people tend to accumulate large mental holdings of fixed conclusions and attitudes that are not often reexamined or changed, even though there is plenty of good evidence that they are wrong.

Charles Darwin trained himself, early, to intensively consider any evidence tending to disconfirm any hypothesis of his, more so if he thought his hypothesis was a particularly good one. The opposite of what Darwin did is now called confirmation bias.

As he was rising from obscurity in Philadelphia and wanted the approval of some important man, Franklin would often maneuver that man into doing Franklin some unimportant favor, like lending Franklin a book. Thereafter, the man would admire and trust Franklin more because a nonadmired and nontrusted Franklin would be inconsistent with the appraisal implicit in lending Franklin the book.

"It is not greed that drives the world, but envy." -Warren Buffett

The standard antidote to one's overactive hostility is to train oneself to defer reaction.

Social-Proof Tendency: An automatic tendency to think and act as he sees others around him thinking and acting. 

Learn how to ignore the examples from others when they are wrong, because few skills are more worth having.

Learning is most easily assimilated and used when, life long, people consistently hang their experience, actual and vicarious, on a latticework of theory answering the question: Why?

 

 

 

The Lessons of History – Will & Ariel Durant

The Lessons of History – by Will & Ariel Durant
Date read: 10/22/17. Recommendation: 7/10.

A high-level look at the major lessons and themes throughout human history. The Durant's discuss race, religion, economics, capitalism, socialism, war, progress, and heritage, to name a few. They offer some interesting insights that are particularly relevant in today's politically-charged climate. They tackle the concentration of wealth, value of free enterprise, and increasing complexity of the economy. The Lessons of History also wisely reminds us to maintain a healthy level of skepticism as, "history is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances."

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Human history is a brief spot in space, and its first lesson is modesty.

Geography is the matrix of history, its nourishing mother and disciplining home.

Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.

Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way. Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity.

Probably every vice was once a virtue (necessary for survival)...Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.

Meanwhile history assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely (Greece, Imperial Rome took hundreds of years).

Does history support a belief in God? If by God we mean not the creative vitality of nature but a supreme being intelligent and benevolent, the answer must be a reluctant negative.

One lesson of history is that religion has many lives, and a habit of resurrection.

As long as there is poverty there will be gods.

The experience of the past leaves little doubt that every economic system must sooner or later rely upon some form of profit motive to stir individuals and groups to productivity.

The concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution.

The struggle of socialism against capitalism is part of the historic rhythm in the concentration and dispersion of wealth.

[The capitalist] can give the public a greater abundance of foods, homes, comfort, and leisure than has ever come from industries managed by politicians, manned by governmental employees, and supposedly immune to the laws of supply and demand.

In free enterprise the spur of competition and the zeal and zest of ownership arouse the productiveness and inventiveness of men.

The socialist agitation subsided during the Restoration, but it rose again when the Industrial Revolution revealed the greed and brutality of early capitalism–child labor, woman labor, long hours, low wages, and disease-breeding factories and farms.

The feat of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.

Monarchy seems to be the most natural kind of government...democracies, by contrast, have been hectic interludes.

All in all, monarchy has had a middling record...When it is hereditary it is likely to be more prolific of stupidity, irresponsibility, and extravagance than of nobility or statesmanship.

[In Greek states] The middle class, as well as the rich began to distrust democracy as empowered envy, and the poor distrusted it as a sham equality of votes nullified by a gaping inequality of wealth....27 B.C. Democracy ended, monarchy was restored; the Platonic wheel had come full turn.

Every advance in the complexity of the economy puts an added premium upon superior ability, and intensifies the concentration of wealth, responsibility, and political power.

If race or class war divides us into hostile camps, changing political argument into blind hate, one side or the other may overturn the hustings with the rule of the sword. If our economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it has created it, the road to dictatorship will be open to any man who can persuasively promise security to all.

War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization or democracy. In the last 3,241 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.

Peace is an unstable equilibrium, which can be preserved only by acknowledged supremacy or equal power.

Civilization = social order promoting cultural creation.

History repeats itself, but only in outline and in the large.

Since we have admitted no substantial change in man's nature during historic times, all technological advances will have to be written off as merely new means of achieving old ends–the acquisition of goods, the pursuit of sex by the other, the overcoming of competition, the fighting of wars.

We frolic in our emancipation from theology...[but] have we really outgrown intolerance, or merely transferred it from religious to national, ideological or racial hostilities?

History is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances.

We have said that a great civilization does not entirely die. Some precious achievements have survived all the vicissitudes of rising and falling states....They are the connective tissue of human history.

Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible.

If progress is real despite our whining, it is not because we are born any healthier, better, or wiser than infants were in the past, but because we are born to a richer heritage, born on a higher level of that pedestal which the accumulation of knowledge and art raises as the ground and support of our being.

History is, above all else, the creation and recording of that heritage; progress is its increasing abundance, preservation, transmission, and use.

Principles – Ray Dalio

Principles – by Ray Dalio
Date read: 10/14/17. Recommendation: 9/10.

Dalio offers a detailed analysis of his principles for life and work, which have led him to become one of the most successful investors of our time. He offers these lessons with a refreshing dose of humility–not what you'd expect from the founder of one of the world's largest hedge funds. I gravitated towards his life principles where he champions truth, the value of painful mistakes, and the importance of looking beyond first-order consequences. His work principles also offer great insight into human relationships, conflict resolution, and the importance of building a culture of transparency. 

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews. 

 

My Notes:

Whatever success I've had in life has had more to do with my knowing how to deal with my not knowing than anything I know.

By failing well, I mean being able to experience painful failures that provide big learnings without failing badly enough to get knocked out of the game.

Life Principles:
Truth–or more precisely, an understanding of reality–is the essential foundation for any good outcome.

Once we get the things we are striving for, we rarely remain satisfied with them. The things are just the bait. Chasing after them forces us to evolve, and it is the evolution and not the rewards themselves that matters to us and to those around us. This means that for most people success is struggling and evolving as effectively as possible.

Pain = Signal that you need to find solutions so you can progress.

If you're not failing, you're not pushing your limits, and if you're not pushing your limits, you're not maximizing your potential.

No matter what you want out of life, your ability to adapt and move quickly and efficiently through the process of personal evolution will determine your success and your happiness.

People who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects of second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision making. (i.e. exercise, first-order = pain, time, second-order = fitness, health).

Whatever circumstances life brings you, you will be more likely to succeed and find happiness if you take responsibility for making your decisions well instead of complaining about things beyond your control. Psychologists call this having an "internal locus of control," and studies consistently show that people who have it outperform those who don't.

Acknowledging your weaknesses is not the same as surrendering to them. It's the first step toward overcoming them.

Recognize that knowing what someone (including you) is like will tell you what you can expect from them.

Remember that there are typically many paths to achieving your goals. You only need to find one that works.

If you are too proud of what you know or of how good you are at something you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential.

Intuiting vs. sensing. Some people see big pictures (forests) and others see details (trees).

The biggest threat to good decision making is harmful emotions.

You need to weigh first-order consequences against second- and third-order consequences, and base your decisions not just on near-term results but on results over time.

First pitfall of bad decision making: subconsciously make the decision first then cherry-pick the data that supports it.

To synthesize well (convert a lot of data into an accurate picture), you must 1) synthesize the situation at hand, 2) synthesize the situation through time, and 3) navigate levels effectively.

The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don't have any cons at all.

Some decisions are best made after acquiring more information; some are best made immediately...You need to constantly evaluate the marginal benefit of gathering more information against the marginal cost of waiting to decide.

Work Principles:
Nothing is more important or more difficult than to get the culture and people right.

The essential difference between a culture of people with shared values (which is a great thing) and a cult (which is a terrible thing) is the extent to which there is independent thinking.

You have to work in a culture that suits you. That's fundamental to your happiness and effectiveness.

Speak up, own it, or get out...What you're not allowed to do is complain and criticize privately–either to others or in your own head.

Fairness and generosity are different things.

Treasure honorable people who are capable and will treat you well even when you're not looking.

Everyone makes mistakes. The main difference is that successful people learn from them and unsuccessful people don't.

Pain is a message that something is wrong and it's an effective teacher that one shouldn't do that wrong thing again.

It seems to me that if you look back on yourself a year ago and aren't shocked by how stupid you were, you haven't learned much.

Every mistake that you make and learn from will save you from thousands of similar mistakes in the future.

If you want to evolve, you need to go where the problems and the pain are. By confronting the pain, you will see more clearly the paradoxes and problems you face. Reflecting on them and resolving them will give you wisdom.

When there is pain, the animal instinct is flight-or-fight. Calm yourself down and reflect instead.

By avoiding conflicts one avoids resolving differences. People who suppress minor conflicts tend to have much bigger conflicts later on, which can lead to separation, while people who address their mini-conflicts head on tend to have the best and longest-lasting relationships.

Thoughtful disagreement is not a battle; its goal is not to convince the other party that he or she is wrong and you are right, but to find out what is true and what to do about it.

Recognize that conflicts are essential for great relationships because they are how people determine whether their principles are aligned and resolve their differences.

Remember that every story has another side. Wisdom is the ability to see both sides and weigh them appropriately.

When you have alignment, cherish it. While there is nobody in the world who will share your point of view on everything, there are people who will share your most important values and the ways in which you choose to live them out. Make sure your end up with those people.

We value people most who have what I call the three C's: character, common sense, and creativity.

Personality assessments are often more objective and reliable than interviews.

Look for people who are willing to look at themselves objectively...People who lack that ability fail chronically.

Know that most everyone thinks that what they did, and what they are doing, is much more important than it really is.

Most people get caught up in the blizzard of things coming at them. In contrast, successful people get above the blizzard so they can see the causes and effects at play.

If you want to build great metrics, start with the most important questions and imagine the metrics that will answer them.

Remember that almost everything will take more time and cost more money than you expect. (multiply by 1.5X)

Mastery – Robert Greene

Mastery – by Robert Greene
Date read: 9/30/17. Recommendation: 10/10.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more profound, relevant book, no matter your position in life. If I had to recommend a single book of Greene's to get you started, this would be it. He begins by defining mastery as the sensation we experience when we feel that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves. The book offers a deep dive into every element of mastery–including insight for those just starting out and searching for their life's task. True to form, Greene also provides detailed accounts from some of the greatest masters in history–Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Paul Graham, and dozens more.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

Mastery–the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves.

For animals, time is their great enemy...To a remarkable extent, our hunting ancestors reversed this process. The longer they spent observing something, the deeper their understanding and connection to reality. With experience, their hunting skills would progress. With continued practice, their ability to make effective tools would improve. The body could decay, but the mind would continue to learn and adapt. Using time for such effect is the essential ingredient of mastery.

When we take our time and focus in depth, when we trust that going through a process of months or years will bring us mastery, we work with the grain of this marvelous instrument that developed over so many millions of years. We infallibly move to higher and higher levels of intelligence. We see more deeply and realistically. We practice and make things with skill. We learn to think for ourselves. We become capable of handling complex situations without being overwhelmed.

The basic elements of this story are repeated in the lives of all of the great Masters in history: a youthful passion or predilection, a chance encounter that allows them to discover how to apply it, an apprenticeship in which they come alive with energy and focus. They excel by their ability to practice harder and move faster through the process, all of this stemming from the intensity of their desire to learn and from the deep connection they feel to their field of study.

Powerful inclination towards a particular subject = reflection of a person's uniqueness. Those who stand out for their mastery experience this inclination more deeply and clearly than others.

This intense connection and desire allows them to withstand the pain of the process–the self-doubts, the tedious hours of practice and study, the inevitable setbacks, the endless barbs from the envious,. They develop a resiliency and confidence that others lack.

Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.

People who are passive create a mental landscape that is rather barren. Because of their limited experience and action, all kinds of connections in the brain die off from lack of use.

I. Discover Your Calling: The Life's Task
The first move toward mastery is always inward–learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force.

Leonardo da Vinci's mind worked best when he had several different projects at hand, allowing him to build all kinds of connections between them.

What we lack most in the modern world is a sense of a larger purpose to our lives. In the past, it was organized religion that often supplied this. But most of us now live in a secularized world...But without a sense of direction provided to us, we tend to flounder. We don't know how to fill up and structure our time...Feeling that we are called to accomplish something is the most positive way for us to supply this sense of purpose and direction. It is a religious-like quest for each of us.

"Become who you are by learning who you are." -Pindar

If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become–an individual, a Master.

A false path in life is generally something we are attracted to for the wrong reasons–money, fame, attention, and so on.

Ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others. Instead, direct yourself toward the small things you are good at.

This strategy applies as well to any setbacks and difficulties we may experience. In such moments, it is generally wise to stick to the few things we know and do well, and to reestablish our confidence.

II. Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship
"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." -Leonardo Da Vinci

Often in their Apprenticeship Phase (self-directed period that lasts 5-10 years), these types are not yet much different from anyone else. Under the surface, however, their minds are transforming in ways we cannot see but contain all the seeds of their future success.

The pain and boredom we experience in the initial stage of learning a skill toughens our minds, much like physical exercise. Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process. The pain is a kind of challenge your mind presents–will you learn how to focus and move past the boredom, or like a child will you succumb to the need for immediate pleasure and distraction?

It is better to dedicate two or three hours of intense focus to a skill than to spend eight hours of diffused concentration on it. You want to be as immediately present to what you are doing as possible.

The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.

You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.

There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.

You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests.

You see what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all cost. You move by trial and error. This is how you pass your twenties. You are the programmer of this wide-ranging apprenticeship, within the loose constraints of your personal interests.

In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom. The wide-ranging apprenticeship of your twenties will yield the opposite–expanding possibilities as you get older.

III. Absorb the Master's Power: The Mentor Dynamic
The knowledge that you need to become a Master exists out there in the world–it is like a base metal or dead stone. This knowledge needs to be heated up and come alive within you, transforming itself into something active and relevant to your circumstances.

The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field–they can train you to think on a higher level, and to make connections between different forms of knowledge.

IV: See People As They Are: Social Intelligence
Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. By moving past our usual self-absorption, we can learn to focus deeply on others, reading their behavior in the moment, seeing what motivates them, and discerning any possible manipulative tendencies.

In all Benjamin Franklin's interactions with people he would force himself to take an initial step backward and not get emotional. From this more detached position, he would focus completely on the people he was dealing with, cutting off his own insecurities and desires from the equation.

Naive Perspective: Tendency to project idealizations and distortions upon teachers, parents, and friends that reflect what we want and need to see. Our view of people becomes saturated with various emotions–worship, admiration, love, need, anger. If you use this lens, focus is on what other people have done to you and the mistreatments you have endured.*

*Instead you must turn this around and begin with yourself–how you saw in others qualities they did not possess, or how you ignored signs of a dark side to their nature. In doing this, you will be able to clearly see the discrepancy between your illusions about who they are the and the reality, and the role you played in creating this discrepancy.

Often it is the quiet ones, those who give out less at first glance, who hide greater depths, and who secretly wield greater power.

The personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery.

We are quick to discern the mistakes and defects of others, but when it comes to ourselves we are generally too emotional and insecure to look squarely at our own.

V: Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active
As your thinking grows more fluid your mind will become increasingly dimensional, seeing more and more aspects of reality...Such originality will bring you to the heights of power.

Original Mind: Quality of looking at the world more directly–not through words and received ideas. If we think deeply about our childhood, not just about our memories of it but how it actually felt, we realize how differently we experienced the world back then. Our minds were completely open.

Retaining a memory of this Original Mind, we cannot help but feel nostalgia for the intensity with which we used to experience the world.

We may seek to retain the spirit of childhood here and there, playing games or participating in forms of entertainment that release us from the Conventional Mind. Sometimes when we visit a different country where we cannot rely upon everything being familiar, we become childlike again, struck by the oddness and newness of what we are seeing.

Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.

Some people maintain their childlike spirit and spontaneity, but their creative energy is dissipated in a thousand directions, and they never have the patience and discipline to endure an extended apprenticeship. Others have the discipline to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and become experts in their field, but they have no flexibility of spirit, so their ideas never stay beyond the conventional and they never become truly creative. Masters manage to blend the two–discipline and childlike spirit–together into what we shall call the Dimensional Mind.

The Conventional Mind is passive–it consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms. The Dimensional Mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.

You must let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.

To negate the ego you must adopt a kind of humility towards knowledge.

We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming. Masters of the small reality we create.

"And this is the miracle of the human mind–to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity." -Albert Einstein

You do not look at the parts separately but at how they interact, experiencing what you produce as a whole.

Instead of a straight-line development from idea to fruition, the creative process is more like the crooked branching of a tree.

What constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. When we see or experience something we must be able to look at it from several angles, to see other possibilities beyond the obvious ones.

Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.

To create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

VI: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery
But the types of intuitions discussed by various Masters cannot be reduced to a formula, and the steps they took to arrive at them cannot be reconstructed.

Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole.

Fluid form thinking comes in flashes and insights as the brain makes sudden connection between disparate forms on knowledge.

The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don't simply absorb information–we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use.

Every moment, every experience contains deep lessons for us. We are continuously awake, never merely going through the motions.

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." -Albert Einstein

Whatever field of activity we are involved in, there is generally an accepted path to the top....But Masters have a strong inner guiding system and a high level of self-awareness. What has suited others in the past does not suit them, and they know that trying to fit into a conventional mold would only lead to a dampening of spirit, the reality they seek eluding them.

Inevitably, Masters make a choice at a key moment in their lives: they decide to forge their own route, one that others will see as unconventional, but that suits their own spirit and rhythms and leads them closer to discovering the hidden truth of their objects of study. This key choice takes self-confidence and self-awareness.

The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us.

It is easy to become enamored with the powers that technology affords us, and to see them as the end and not the means.

Although we tend to imagine Einstein as the ultimate abstract thinker, his way of thinking was remarkably concrete...If he had any qualities that were extraordinary, they were his patience mixed with his extreme tenacity.

In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing. Most people are perpetually locked in the present.

Ideal of the Universal Man–a person so stepped in all forms of knowledge that his minds grows closer to the reality of nature itself and sees secrets that are invisible to most people.

Your false self is the accumulation of all the voice you have internalized from other people...who want you to conform to their ideas of what you should be like and societal pressures to adhere to certain values....It also includes the voice of your own ego, which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths.

Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within.

It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.

The 50th Law – Robert Greene

The 50th Law – by Robert Greene
Date read: 9/12/17. Recommendation: 8/10.

Greene pairs up with Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) to offer a real-world look into the laws of power and perseverance. He details stories from Jackson's rise and dissects how he was able to evolve and create momentum to escape dire circumstances. The more interesting sections of the book examine the underlying themes in Jackson's stories, such as fearlessness, self-reliance, and persistence.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

 

My Notes:

If we go the opposite direction, cultivating a fearless approach to life, attacking everything with a boldness and energy, then we will create a much different dynamic.

We are all too afraid–of offending people, of stirring up conflict, of standing out from the crowd, of taking bold action.

The genius of Lincoln was his ability to focus intensely on reality and see things for what they were.

"Know the other, know yourself, and the victory will not be at risk; know the ground, know the natural conditions, and the victory will be total." -Sun Tzu

As an individual you cannot stop the tide of fantasy and escapism sweeping a culture. But you can stand as an individual bulwark to this trend and create power for yourself. You were born with the greatest weapon in all of nature–the rational and conscious mind.

[Socrates'] superiority, he realized, was that he knew that he knew nothing. This left his mind open to experiencing things as they are, the source of all knowledge.
^This position of basic ignorance was what you had as a child...Everything was a source of wonder. With time our minds tend to close off. Imagine that the world is still full of mystery.

If you have a long-term goal for yourself, one that you have imagined in detail, then you are better able to make the proper decisions in the present. You know which battles or positions to avoid because they don't advance you towards your goal.

Look at your most recent actions as if they were the maneuvers of another person. Imagine how you could have done it all better.

When you work for others, you are at their mercy...Instead you should have a greater fear of what will happen to you if you remain dependent on others for power. Your goal in every maneuver in life must be ownership, working the corner for yourself. When it is yours, it is yours to lose–you are more motivated, more creative, more alive. The ultimate power in life is to be completely self-reliant, completely yourself.

True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement.

We live in a culture that offers you all kinds of crutches–experts to turn to, drugs to cure any psychological unease, mild pleasures to help pass or kill time, jobs to keep you just above water. It is hard to resist. But once you give in, it is like a prison yu enter that you cannot ever leave.

You cannot get this requisite inner strength from books or a guru or pills of any kind. It can come only from you. It is a kind of exercise you must practice on a daily basis–weaning yourself from dependencies, listening less to others' voice and more to your own, cultivating new skills.

If we succumb to the illusion and the comfort of a paycheck, we then neglect to build up self-reliant skills and merely postpone the day of reckoning when we are forced to fend for ourselves.

If there is ever a choice–more money or more responsibility–you must always opt for the latter.

Your goal in life must be to always move higher and higher up the food chain, where you alone control the direction of your enterprise and depend on no one.

There are ideas unique to you, a specific rhythm and perspective that are your strengths, not your weaknesses. You must not be afraid of your uniqueness and you must care less and less what people think of you. This has been the path of the most powerful people in history.

An opportunist in life sees all hindrances as instruments for power. The reason is simple: negative energy that comes at you in some form is energy that can be turned around–to defeat an opponent and lift you up.

The greatest ancient Greek hero of them all, Odysseus, was a supreme opportunist. In every dangerous moment in his life, he exploited some weakness in his enemies left open to trick them and turn the tables.

As part of this new concept, you are replacing the old stalwart symbols of power–the rock, the oak tree, etc.–with that of water, the element that has the greatest potential force in all of nature. Water can adapt to whatever comes its way, moving around or over any obstacle.

Momentum in life comes from increased fluidity, a willingness to try more, to move in a less constricted fashion.

Model in any venture that involves groups of people: You provide the framework, based on your knowledge and expertise, but you allow room for this project to be shaped by those involved in it.

The inability to deal with what is inevitable in life is the cause of so many problems. We work to postpone or avoid conflicts, and when they reach a point where we can no longer play such a passive game, we lack the experience and the habit of meeting them head on.

If leaders are fearful, hesitant to take any risks, or overly concerned for their ego and reputation, then this invariably filters its way through the entire group and makes effective action impossible

Thinking ahead requires a particular thought process that comes with practice. It means seeing something practical and achievable several years down the road, and mapping out how this goal can be achieved. It means thinking in branches, coming up with several paths to get there, depending on circumstances.

The fearless types in history inevitably display in their lives a higher tolerance than most for repetitive, boring tasks. This allows them to excel in their field and master their craft.

We too could have some or all of that power by a patient immersion in any field of study. Many people cannot handle the boredom this might entail; they fear starting out on such an arduous process. They prefer their distractions, dreams, and illusions, never aware of the higher pleasures that are there for those who choose to master themselves and a craft.

"All of man's troubles come from not knowing how to sit still, alone in a room." –Blaise Pascal

The real secret, the real formula for power in this world, lies in accepting the ugly reality that learning requires a process, and this in turn demands patience and the ability to endure drudge work.

We are creatures who make things; we don't simply imagine them. To master any process you must learn through trial and error. You experiment, you take some hard blows, and you see what works and doesn't work in real time.

If you find yourself confronting an unjust and corrupt system, it is much more effective to learn its codes from the inside and discover its vulnerabilities. Knowing how it works, you can take it apart–for good.

Try to look at boredom from the opposite perspective–as a call for you to slow yourself down, to stop searching for endless distractions.

Your sense of who you are will determine your actions and what you end up getting in life...Ask for more, aim high, and believe that you are destined for something great....People follow those who know where they are going, so cultivate an air of certainty and boldness.

Conforming to people's expectations is safer and more comfortable, even if doing so makes you feel miserable and confined. In essence, you are afraid of yourself and what you could become.

When you raise your opinion of yourself and what you are capable of it has a decided influence on what you do. For instance, you feel more comfortable taking some risk, knowing that you are always able to get back up on your feet if it fails.

Free action has a momentum of its own.

The powerful learn early in life that they have the freedom to mold their image, fitting the needs and moods of the moment. In this way, they keep others off balance and maintain an air of mystery.

The higher your self-belief, the more your power to transform reality.

We cling to jobs, relationships, and comfortable positions, all to elude the feeling of separation. We grow overly conservative because any kind of risk might entail adversity, failure, or pain.

Whenever life feels particularly dull or confining, we can force ourselves to leave familiar ground. This could mean traveling to some particularly exotic location, attempting something physically challenging (a sea voyage or scaling a mountain), or simply embarking on a new venture in which we are not certain we can succeed. In each case we are experiencing a moment of powerlessness in the face of something large and overwhelming.

In the face of this undeniable reality, of this eternal expanse, how can we not feel the preciousness of the present? It is a miracle to be alive even one more day.

There are two kinds of time we can experience–the banal and the sublime variety.
-Banal time is extremely limited in scope. It consists of the present moment and stretches out to a few weeks ahead of us. See things as being far more important than they are, unaware that in a few weeks or a year, what stirs us all up will not matter.
-Sublime time we become aware that everything is in a state of flux; nothing is permanent.

Contemplating sublime time has innumerable positive effects–it makes us feel a sense of urgency to get things done now, gives us a better grasp of what really matters, and instills a heightened appreciation of the passage of time, the poignancy and beauty of all things that all things that fade away.