“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
- Marcus Aurelius
“Wisdom flows into the humble man like water flows into a depression.”
- Lao Tzu
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
- Jerzy Gregorek
A. Invert, Always Invert
Charlie Munger, the business partner of Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is famous for his quote:
“All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”
That thinking was inspired by the German mathematician Carl Gustav Jacobi.
Jacobi often solved difficult problems by following a simple strategy: “man muss immer umkehren” (or loosely translated, “invert, always invert.”)
“[Jacobi] knew that it is in the nature of things that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward”
Inverting a problem often forces you to uncover hidden beliefs about the problem you are trying to solve.
For example, say you wanted to live a good & happy life. You could invert the problem by asking, “what could lead to a miserable and unhappy life?”. This would give you an idea of things to avoid in your life.
Inverting the problem won’t always solve it, but it will help you avoid trouble. You can think of it as the avoiding stupidity filter. It’s not sexy but it’s a very easy way to improve.
In that vain with the darkness of winter approaching and 2020 being a year in which we have had to confront the news of death daily, I was reminded of Bronnie Ware’s famous book, which is a beautiful exercise in inverting our lives.
Bronnie Ware was a palliative carer. Working with dying people and developing close relationships with them during their last weeks resulted in raw, honest conversations about life and death, including what the patients wished they had done differently.
Bronnie then honoured the requests of some of her dearly loved patients and shared the wisdom onwards. The book ended up being read by a million people and has been translated into 32 languages.
It’s a deep and touching book, and it taught me what I could do to minimise regrets in my life.
Here are the Top Five Regrets of the Dying:
How will you invert your life to minimise regrets?
And what can you today to start?
B. Tech Bubble?
C. A Few Things Worth Checking Out
1. The DealBook Online Summit was this week, with some interviews of note from Masayoshi Son, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Gates. [“My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away.” —Bill Gates]
2. Lux Capital Q3 Letter: Do Good Things
3. The Big Lessons From History - by Morgan Housel
4. Chamath was on the Knowledge Project podcast with Shane Parrish a few weeks back, discussing how to think in first principles, the psychology of successful investing, his thoughts on the best public company CEO’s and much more.
5. The documentary on George Soros premiered last night.
“You don't necessarily get it right the first time.... Henry Ford, as you may know, failed twice before he started the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The test isn't whether you get the greatest business idea in the world the first time out. The test is whether you keep learning as you go along what your strengths are, what you can do for your customers, what you can bring especially to the party. And to do that, you need...a genuine desire—day in, day out—to delight the customer.”
- Warren Buffett