A Few Things...

August 1 2019

1. Emotional Equations….Chip Conley built a huge hotel business in San Fran with $250mm in sales, won the best CEO award and then wrote a bunch of books before being hired by AirBnb to be their global head of Hospitality & Strategy. I first heard of him on Tim Ferriss’ podcast where he was discussing the Elder Academy.

After suffering the loss of a few friends, Chip started to read books like Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning and began to distill the wisdom found in books down to simple equations.

For example Man’s Search For Meaning became:

Despair = Suffering - Meaning

In other words, despair is what results with suffering has no meaning. Grow your meaning and so reduce your despair.

Another way to look at Frankel’s book would be to say:

Event + Reaction = Outcome

He summarized his findings in his book: Emotional Equations and discussed in this TED talk in 2010 on Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile. The book is really about the emotions we feel and how we can use them to make our life work better for us.

Some equations that resonated with me and have helped:

Envy = (Pride + Vanity) / Kindness

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

Authenticity = Self-Awareness x Courage

Happiness = Gratitude / Gratification

Curiosity = Wonder + Awe


2. We all need to have Difficult Conversations from time to time, with our kids, partner, colleagues, parents, friends…. This Farnam Street podcast by Sheila Heen, who lectures at Harvard Law School and has authored two great books was useful.

I’ll share a few quick ideas you can apply, and encourage you to check out the podcast. It has also got some ideas on dealing with your kids better.

A. As we go about life, we often revert to negotiation strategies which proved to be effective for us as children - think about that for a second…..

B. “We assume persuasion is about talking, but actually the most persuasive strategy you could take is to listen well”.

C. In a difficult conversation, you have to shift your thinking away from being focused on what you’re right about, to trying to understand the other person’s point of view (even if you know they’re wrong). An important conversation skill – the ability to listen for the feelings beneath what your conversation partner is saying.

D. In difficult conversations, it’s effective to state the emotions you’re feeling.

E. “It’s not just that people have difficult conversations in their relationships, those conversations are the relationships”. If you handle them well – the relationship thrives. If you handle them poorly – the relationship starts to deteriorate. Instead of aiming to resolve conflict through conversation, aim to understand. This lowers the stakes – “Not figuring out a solution isn’t failing. Failing is not learning anything new about the other person.”


3. The Yale Happiness Class, Distilled -- The "most popular class ever" at Yale, offered on Coursera, really can be boiled down into some simple, powerful thoughts:

  • People adjust to everything. Newfound wealth becomes ordinary. Pain and trauma are overcome. In short, people are adaptable, but they underestimate that adaptability when forecasting their future levels of happiness. Beware the hedonic treadmill.

  • Practice gratitude. A conscious effort to be grateful -- particularly for all the easy-to-forget bad things that did not happen -- is very successful in generating well-being. To go further, deprive yourself temporarily to get the gratitude rolling. 

  • Comparisons kill happiness. Whining about the weather, scrolling best-life Instagram posts, stalking real estate listings for that bigger house across town -- all a recipe for misery. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

Thanks Phil Ordway.


4. A few things worth reading, watching or listening:

A. Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures (Indeed, Zynga, Twitter, Stripe, Coinbase…) discussing World after Capital @ Rise of AI conference 2019. Also worth checking out his online book.

B. Brian Christian (author of Algorithms to Live By) was on the Invest Like the Best podcast, discussing How To Live With Computers and what the future holds.

C. Raoul Pal was on the Hidden Forces Podcast discussing The Fourth Turning (book by Howe & Strauss) - and a concept popularized by Steve Bannon.

D. Your Work Peak is Coming Much Sooner Than You Think by Albert Brooks.

E. Two books I’m reading now are: Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan (thanks David Huyette) and Debt by David Graeber (thanks Nikhil Kalghatgi).

What’s the most impactful thing you have read this year, please share. I’ll compile an anonymous list and share with everyone here.


5. Quote I am thinking about:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”

- George Eliot