What I Learnt This Decade, How Will You Measure Your Life, What Are You Choosing?

December 30, 2020

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day-to-day living that wears you out.”

- Anton Chekov

“All your anxiety is because of your desire for harmony. Seek disharmony; then you will gain peace.”

- Rumi

“The problem is there’s a divide in our country between people who want to stay home with their kids and people who want to get back to the office to continue their affairs.”

- Overheard in a Westminster pub

A. What I Learnt This Decade

As the decade comes to a close and I reflect back on what I’ve learnt, firstly I have to look back and smile at just how stupid I was ten year ago. You may still feel this way about me :-) 

Secondly, it was definitely the hard times where the learning and growth happened and this decade had it’s fair share of them. 

Summarizing 10 Years of Life in to Three Points:

1) Hedonic Adaptation is Real: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades. What’s left is just you. 

So remember: This Too Shall Pass. Be happy with who and what you have today. The present is all there is.

2) Habits Are The Only Things That Matter: most of your day & life is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, your thoughts. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. 

Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to adjust it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.

3) To Change Your Life, Change Your Habits: The easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a perfect day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. 

For me the perfect day includes: positive social interactions where I learn something new, helping people, outdoor physical activity, making something (however small), problem solving, and some good old-fashioned hard work thrown in for good measure ;-).

This reminded me of James Clear’s quote on: Real Wealth Isn’t Money

Real wealth is:

-not having to go to meetings

-not having to spend time with jerks

-not being locked into status games

-not feeling like you have to say “yes”

-not worrying about others claiming your time and energy

Real wealth is about freedom. Money can help achieve these things, but there are plenty of people who make lots of money yet aren't free.

B. How Will You Measure Your Life

We lost a lot of people in 2020. Many names we will never know.

Some notables were: John le Carre, Chuck Yeager, Kobe Bryant, Sean Connery, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Eddie Van Halen.

The immediacy death made me think of Prof. Clayton Christensen’s book: How Will You Measure Your Life?

Prof. Clayton Christensen also died in 2020. Most people know him for books like Innovator’s Dilemma, Innovator’s Solution and Seeing What’s Next. He taught at HBS for decades and in 2010 he suffered a stroke and eventually succumbed to cancer on Jan 23, 2020. RIP.

The book was a great discussion on finding fulfilment using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses. 

The three best pieces of advice I picked up and carry with me are:

Try new things, serendipity can lead to a deliberate strategy.

Always ask what jobs your clients are hiring you to do ? Then do that. Not what you think is important or what you like. Understand before you seek to be understood. 

Children learn when they are ready; your job is as much to provide that learning, as it is to be around when they are ready to learn. 

That ties in well with Scott Galloway’s Algebra of Happiness.

C. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:

1. A number of you enjoyed Cathie Wood’s talk about technology last week. Brett Winton, is the head of research at ARK, and he was on the Value Hive podcast discussing the ARK research process.

The most thoughtful part was how to think about the optionality embedded into a business and hence what it could look like in five years. One to listen to twice. And if you wanted to go deeper into tech, ARK did their December webinar where they discussed both what could go wrong and what could go right.

2. Deep dive research is one way to build real insights about a business. Mario Cibelli at Marathon Partners is one of the best at building cornerstone insights. He was on the Invest Like The Best podcast discussing their unique approach and what he likes now.

3. You are going to be hearing a lot more about API companies in the next decade. This article will be useful in giving you perspective.

4. Jack Schwager has written the amazing multi-part Market Wizards series, where he has done long form interviews with traders like Bruce Kovner and Tudor Jones in the late 80’s, and more recently Michael Platt, Ray Dalio, Ed Thorp in 2012. I just finished his latest - Unknown Market Wizards book, which has a number of unknown traders with some very amazing track records and insights.

He was on the Market Huddle podcast discussing the book and what he’s learnt.

5. Mike Shellenberger, is an American author, environmental policy writer, co-founder of Breakthrough Institute and founder of Environmental Progress. He was named a Time magazine Heroes of the Environment (2008), winner of the 2008 Green Book Award, and he has now written one of the best books about Climate Change and it’s impact - Apocalypse Never.

I’m half way through the book and it’s been an eye-opener.

He recently tweet stormed in response to a speech Biden gave this week. It gave some critical perspective.

As a new decade and new year begins, remember what writer Laurie Buchanan said on the behaviors and life we don’t choose:

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing."

Speak to you next year !