A Few Things....

April 28, 2021

“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.”

- Michael de Montaigne

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.”

- Marcus Aurelius

“Do not wish for quick results, nor look for small advantages. If you seek quick results, you will not reach the ultimate goal. If you are led astray by small advantages, you will never accomplish great things.”

- Confucius

"The future is disorder. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It is the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong."

- Tom Stoppard, Arcadia.

"Not till we are lost....do we begin to find ourselves"

- Henry David Thoreau


A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out

Here is a link to last week’s email if you missed it.

1. How do we create positive black swans in our life? How do we have more luck and serendipity?

This Nautilus article argues that The Key to Good Luck Is an Open Mind.

He turned these findings into a “luck school” where people could learn luck-inducing techniques based on four main principles of luck: maximizing chance opportunities, listening to your intuition, expecting good fortune, and turning bad luck to good. The strategies included using meditation to enhance intuition, relaxation, visualizing good fortune, and talking to at least one new person every week. A month later, he followed up with participants. Eighty percent said they were happier, luckier people.

“I thought if Wiseman can train people to be lucky, you can certainly teach those skills to our kids, and they have other really good side effects too,” says Carter, like better social skills and a stronger sense of gratitude. She came up with a few basic strategies for parents to teach their kids, including being open to new experiences, learning to relax, maintaining social connections, and (yes) talking to strangers. All of these techniques had one theme in common—being more open to your environment both physically and emotionally.

Which reminds me of the question Dan Rose (20 years at Amazon / FB and now Chairman at Coatue Ventures) said about Jeff Bezos (great thread):

2. I’ve spent a lot more time with my kids in the last year and it’s been great. One of the books I read was:

The book is a manual for building a faster brain. It is an easy-to-use handbook of scientifically proven, field-tested methods to improve skills—your skills, your kids’ skills, your organisation’s skills—in sports, music, art, math, and business.

The product of five years of reporting from the world’s greatest talent hotbeds and interviews with successful master coaches, it distills the daunting complexity of skill development into 52 clear, concise directives.

This article narrows the already short book into 10 Favourite Tips from the book.

My top three for the kids:

Choose five minutes a day over an hour a week

Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake

Break every move down into chunks

3. And while we are talking about kids, here are some great questions I’ve started asking the kids instead of the ones I was used to asking.

My top three:

“What did you learn today?” vs. “What did you disagree with today?”

“You can’t do that.” vs. “What would it take to do that?”

“Did you make a new friend today?” vs. “How did you help someone today?”

4. Why Decentralisation Matters by Chris Dixon, an oldie but seminal to the world of blockchains.

5. What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. While the world is captured by greentech and climate change fever, this book by Steve Koonin. is timely.

Steve is a theoretical physicist and director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. He is also a professor in the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering.

The science of climate change has become, like almost everything else, a matter of political identity in 21st century America.

A recent Pew Research study found that Democrats are more than three times as likely as Republicans to say that dealing with climate change should be a top priority. And yet, if you ask people independent of party affiliation for their views on climate change and why they believe what they believe, most of them will struggle to give you a coherent answer.

In fact, very few people, and this goes for politicians, journalists, and even academics, have actually read the reports put out by organizations like the IPCC and others responsible for doing the actual research that we all cite when we talk about “the science.” And to be honest, can you blame them? After all, why would anyone want to spend a minute of their time learning about exactly why we are so screwed? About how we’ve destroyed the planet and “broken the climate?” 

We’ve read all the headlines. “Climate Catastrophe.” “Climate Disaster.” “The earth is burning!” But how true is this, exactly? Are we really facing a “Climate Apocalypse?”

Is climate science really “more reliable than physics,” something that journalist David Wallace-Wells said in a recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast?

Before you react to that very provocative book title, you should know that no one is saying climate change is a hoax or that anthropogenic warming isn’t real. The purpose of book and this conversation is to help inform those of you who either haven’t read the reports or are simply skeptical about just how bad the situation is and what’s required from us in order to solve it.

Steven and Demetri spend two hours working their way through the data, what it says, and what the models predict about not only future warming, but also the incidences of droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, climate-induced migration, and pandemics driven by a warming planet. 

6. Daniel Kahneman and Yuval Noah Harari in: 'Global Trends Shaping Humankind', a conversation moderated by Kara Swisher.


B. Deep Work

One of the books that had the largest impact on me was Deep Work by Cal Newport.

I have always been at risk for “shiny object syndrome” and “FOMO”, and while I was super skeptical on the way in, the book was helpful in really changing how I worked.

The basic premise is that we live in a knowledge economy, where the ability to think, learn & concentrate is critical, yet ‘shiny objects’ are plenty.

How do we do more Deep Work?

My three favourite tools are:

A. When dealing with emails – not everything needs to be read or replied to. When replying, think about how you can structure your response to avoid back & forth. For example in a meeting scheduling email, outline specific times you can offer, rather than saying ‘let’s meet 2nd week of December’, which will just lead to 2-3 back and forths.

When in doubt, remember the three D’s - Delete, Delegate, Defer.

B. Schedule time to do real work – literally schedule time that you commit to yourself to doing the ‘work’. This means focusing on two or three key tasks for the day.

To prevent living life on “autopilot” and mindlessly spending more time than you realise on the unnecessary, plan out every minute of your day. This schedule can be revised as your day goes on of course, but the idea behind this is to have a thoughtful say on how you spend your time.

C. Remove distractions & use leverage – Apply 80% / 20% to everything you do. Find the 20% of tasks that are responsible for 80% of your outcomes. Double down there. Remove the 80% of tasks / distractions that are only providing 20% of results.

Make sure that your tools are serving you, and you aren’t serving your tools - this means un-install all the social media apps from your phone, so they are harder to access. Not only do we have a self-inflated view of how important our online personas are to other people, but we have an overly heightened fear of missing out.


Never underestimate human ingenuity.