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A Few Things: Making Better Decisions, Compounding Over Long Periods, The Power of Focus, Time Management for Mortals, Enlightenment Now......
August 18 2022
I am sharing this weekly email with you because I count you in the group of people I learn from and enjoy being around.
You can check out last week’s edition here: A Few Things: The Ways The World Works, Building A Good Life, Mauboussin on Investing, The Case For Optimism
Quotes of the week:
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
- Steven Covey
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
- Nelson Mandela
“Beware the bareness of a busy life”
“It's never too late to give up your prejudices.”
A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:
Here are a couple of ideas I got out of it and your can read a broader summary from Podcast Notes:
A. Insights and new ways of doing things are disorienting since they make you change the way you think; organisations think they want insights and innovation, but in reality, they don’t, because insights force them to change. So it’s important to set up funnels knowing that ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. Where are ideas being blocked in your organisation? How can you make doing experiment frictonless?
B. He’s a big of using scenario analysis to understand people’s processes and whether they understand the complexity of the system they live in. When things don’t go according to their plan or predictions, what do they do with their surprise. The right response is to investigate where and when their predictions broke.
C. Two tools you can use when making decisions are: (i) using decision journals documenting the thought process and analysis at the time (why you thought what you thought and did what you did) and (ii) doing pre-mortem - “I have a perfect crystal ball and it tells me that this project or decision has failed, why was it?” By thinking about what can go wrong and could derail the project today, you can make it more likely to succeed. As Munger would say: “Invert, always invert”.
2. William Thorndike the author of “The Outsiders” and founder of Housatonic Partners, a PE firm focused on building enduring businesses, was on Invest Like The Best a few weeks back discussing the power of long holding periods, on how the best serial acquirers deliver outsized returns, and what he's learned about developing conviction. The content is very different from his book that many of you have likely read already.
A bunch of big ideas, but my favourite were:
[00:06:29] - His interest in long-term holding periods and dealing with multi-decade time horizons
[00:09:42] - Shared characteristics among compounding machines
[00:23:43] - Evaluating culture and its ability to propagate forward in the public equity markets
[00:42:36] - The crossover between public and private investing and the virtues of each sector
[00:53:43] - What he can teach us about deep research on companies with analysts
Thank you to Ronnie W for recommending.
3. Ravi Gupta, Partner at Sequoia was on Invest Like The Best discussing the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing, why the best leaders are both demanding and supportive, and how mentorship works within Sequoia's culture.
It’s a really detailed discussion on the power of Focus when it comes to building a business or your life.
A lot of great ideas here, but my favourite was at the start when he discussed Clayton Christensen’s book: How Will You Measure Your Life.
The book was a great discussion on finding fulfilment using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses. One idea that has stayed with me is knowing what I am solving for in life and then don’t disregard that in pursuit of more immediate goals.
For example, he discusses that most people want to have a great family and strong relationships with their children, but many successful people focus on money and fame, title for most of their life and then in their later years try to work on what they really wanted. Often it’s too late.
To quote Steven Covey again:
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Here’s Christensen’s TED talk with 1mm views.
Thank you Hank B for flagging it.
4. Stephen Kotkin, American historian and author was on the Lex Fridman show discussing Putin vs Stalin, Putin vs the West, Putin’s plan for war. Probably one of the best discussions of Russia covering its history and geopolitical motivations.
Thank you Brian B for flagging.
5. My favourite book of 2021 was: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. He recently did a set of classes for Sam Harris on “Time Management for Mortals”.
The book helped me a lot and I re-visit it often.
Here are my notes from the class:
Admit that you will never have time for everything and so you must choose. It’s by missing out and savouring a few things that makes life matter. This means you must say no more often and stay in the moment. It’s easy to pull out your phone and look for and fall for distraction. Allow yourself to feel the unease. Develop patience as a superpower.
Don’t let “productivity and work” permeate every minute of your life, only 3-4 hours of real work is possible in a day. Sometimes the productivity gurus just want to focus on individual productivity and the “grind”, but what is that? That’s just being lonely. Magic happens together with others. Come together and create together. Belong to something and be part of something bigger than you.
Be here. Don’t live in the future, some future date when things will be better. There is only a now. Decide what is important to you, just one thing today and do it now. You are cosmically insignificant, what you do doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things and whatever you do will be forgotten soon.
6. Business Breakdowns is a great podcast series to dive into businesses, they did a tweet storm covering all their episodes.
B. Enlightenment Now:
Last week we discussed the case for optimism and Rosling’s book: Factfulness. This week I want to cover Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now.
Steven Pinker is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, psycholinguist, popular science author and public intellectual. He’s currently a Professor at Harvard and has authored 9 books.
The book has three simple messages: (i) Everything that is not forbidden by laws of nature is achievable, given the right knowledge (ii) the world is progressively getting better (iii) Reason, science as humanism are the tools by which we continue our enlightenment.
An important quote:
Optimism (in the sense that I have advocated) is the theory that all failures—all evils—are due to insufficient knowledge. . . . Problems are inevitable, because our knowledge will always be infinitely far from complete. Some problems are hard, but it is a mistake to confuse hard problems with problems unlikely to be solved. Problems are soluble, and each particular evil is a problem that can be solved. An optimistic civilisation is open and not afraid to innovate, and is based on traditions of criticism. Its institutions keep improving, and the most important knowledge that they embody is knowledge of how to detect and eliminate errors.
A great quote pushing back on the Zeihan thesis about a zero-sum world:
Despite half a century of panic, humanity is not on a irrevocable path to ecological suicide:
If you just want a quick flavour check out his few mins with Bill Maher:
For a more detailed discussion, he did a great presentation at the Cato Institute:
Which button would you press and would it change if the amounts were divided or multiplied by 10?
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