Here is some stuff I am reading and thinking about this weekend…
Book I’m Reading – Who Moved My Cheese
I read this little book multiple times before quitting my job to start work on Safal Niveshak in 2011. It is about, well, coping up positively with change. Who Moved My Cheese illustrates the simple fact that change will happen, whether we choose to accept it or not. The defining factor is how we deal with it; whether we allow ourselves to change or insist on staying the same.
The story involves four characters who live in a maze: the mice Scurry and Sniff, and two little people named Hem and Haw. They find a huge source of cheese in the maze. Hem and Haw move their houses to be near it and the cheese becomes the centre of their lives. But they do not notice that it is getting smaller, and are devastated when they arrive at the site one morning and find the cheese is gone. Having built their lives around the big cheese, they feel they are the victims of fraud. Yet this only makes things worse, as their clinging on ensures that they go hungry.
The mice Scurry and Sniff, on the other hand, quickly accept the loss of the cheese and go off into the maze in search of other sources. For them, the solution is simple: the situation has changed, so they must change.
The fable captures that moment and experiences we are all familiar with i.e., sudden, unexpected change. The author’s message comes out loud and clear and that is that instead of seeing change as the end of something, we must learn to see it as a beginning. Like, to make himself accept reality, Haw writes this on the wall of the maze –
If you do not change, you can become extinct.
Another of my favourite quotes from the book is –
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
And finally, here’s an advice from Haw that has helped me immensely at various stages of my life –
Sometimes, Hem, things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times. That’s life! Life moves on. And so should we.
Idea I’m Thinking – Visual Thinking
Here’s a note from Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk…
Visual thinking, which is a way to organise information in a visual way or to see words as a series of pictures, is a great way to understand complex or potentially confusing information, and also a way to organize your thoughts and improve your ability to think and communicate.
As a 15 year old, Albert Einstein dropped out of school because his teachers didn’t approve of visual imagination for learning, skills which became fundamental to his way of thinking. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein would say.
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge,” Einstein explained later in his career. He added, “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
In Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, Gary Klein writes –
At the age of sixteen, Einstein began to conduct thought experiments about beams of light. These thought experiments were mental exercises that helped Einstein appreciate properties of light and also helped him notice anomalies and inconsistencies. Einstein imagined different conditions and possibilities, pursuing these speculations for ten years.
Imagine someone talking to you, and starting with the word – “Imagine…” You are completely hooked, isn’t it?
Consider this excerpt from Richard Feynman’s The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, where his father helps him visualize about dinosaurs –
We had the Encyclopedia Britannica at home and even when I was a small boy my father used to sit me on his lap and read to me from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and we would read, say, about dinosaurs and maybe it would be talking about the brontosaurus or something, or tyrannosaurus rex, and it would say something like, ‘This thing is twenty-five feet high and the head is six feet across,’ you see, and so he’d stop and say, ‘let’s see what that means. That would mean that if he stood in our front yard he would be high enough to put his head through the window but not quite because the head is a little bit too wide and it would break the window as it came by.’ Everything we’d read would be translated as best as we could into some reality and so I learned to do that – everything that I read I try to figure out what it really means, what it’s really saying by translating.
Then consider how Warren Buffett visually convinced me why gold was a bad investment…
I will say this about gold. If you took all the gold in the world, it would roughly make a cube 67 feet on a side… Now for that same cube of gold, it would be worth at today’s market prices about $7 trillion dollars – that’s probably about a third of the value of all the stocks in the United States… For $7 trillion dollars… you could have all the farmland in the United States, you could have about seven Exxon Mobils, and you could have a trillion dollars of walking-around money… And if you offered me the choice of looking at some 67-foot cube of gold and looking at it all day, and you know me touching it and fondling it occasionally…Call me crazy, but I’ll take the farmland and the Exxon Mobils.
I’ve tried my hands at visual thinking through the illustrations I draw on my Wall of Ideas to think through things.
When it comes to investing, you can avoid yourself a lot of pain by just visualizing your life after you’ve lost a lot of money trading and speculating in the stock market. If the visuals unnerve you, don’t do anything that would get you into such a situation. That’s also the concept of inversion.
Thoughts I’m Meditating On
How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
~ Albert Einstein
When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.
~ Theodor Seuss Geisel
Video I’m Watching – Buffett and Gates on Success
Buffett on what matters more than IQ and talent: “How I got here is pretty simple in my case. It’s not IQ, I am sure you will be glad to hear. The big thing is rationality. I always look at IQ and talent as representing the horsepower of the motor, but the output — the efficiency with which the motor works — depends on rationality. A lot of people start out with 400 horsepower motors but only get 100 horsepower of rationality. It is way better to have a 200 horsepower motor and get it all in output.”
Buffett on regrets: “I never look back. I don’t worry about anything… You play the hand you get, you play it as well as you can… and you’re thankful.”
Gates on dealing with success: “You’ve got to enjoy what you do everyday. Every time I think I found a little success, I’m pretty careful not to dwell on it very much. The bar gets raised. People’s expectations change.”
Articles I’m Reading
- Knowledge of the Future (Latest Memo from Howard Marks)
- Jeff Bezos’ 2019 Letter to Shareholders (Amazon)
- The Practice of Value Investing, by Li Lu (Longriver)
- James Montier on Fear and Investment (Masters in Business Podcast)
- Unintended Consequences, Part II: What if LTCM Was Not Rescued? (Barry Ritholtz)
- How COVID-19 Is Wreaking Havoc On Our Ability To Make Things — Including Vaccines (Five Thirty Eight)
- Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates both do this mundane chore that may have significant mental benefits (CNBC)
A Question for You
If you were dying, what worries you won’t be worrying about that you are worrying about today?
We are all dying. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this question to enjoy living.
Anyways, before I end, here’s something from Winnie the Pooh –
“What day is it?” “It’s today”, squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day”, said Pooh.
Enjoy today. Stay safe. Stay sane. Be grateful for this life,