Here is some stuff I am reading and thinking about this weekend…
Book I’m Reading – The Black Swan
Black swan is a Latin expression, which was commonly used as a metaphor to describe something impossible or something non-existent. It came from the old-world belief that all swans are white since no one had seen a black swan before. Every time someone spotted a white swan, it was confirmation of their belief i.e., “all swans are white.” But this long held notion was invalidated the day first black swan was spotted.
A black swan event has following three attributes, writes Taleb in his book –
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact (unlike the bird). Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
Apart from the central theme of black swan, Taleb’s book is choc-full of mind stretching ideas. I’ll leave you with the very last passage from The Black Swan which I found remarkably comforting. Taleb writes –
I am sometimes taken aback by how people can have a miserable day or get angry because they feel cheated by a bad meal, cold coffee, a social rebuff or a rude reception…We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.
Imagine a speck of dust next to a planet a billion times the size of the earth. The speck of dust represents the odds in favour of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So stop sweating the small stuff. Don’t be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking the gift horse in the mouth – remember that you are a Black Swan.
Idea I’m Thinking – Regret Minimization Framework
Not many know of this but Jeff Bezos was a pretty successful person even before he founded Amazon. A Princeton-educated computer scientist, he had spent the early part of his career working in the investment banking industry and, at age 26, became the youngest senior vice president at the investment firm D.E. Shaw. Such early success, as he talked about later, made it difficult for him to leave his successful career in banking to pursue his dream of building an online business. It was after all a highly-paid and highly-regarded job that he was leaving, and for a highly-uncertain foray into Internet entrepreneurship.
In a speech “We are What We Choose” Bezos delivered at Princeton in 2010, he shared his discussion with his boss and what followed later –
I was working at a financial firm in New York City with a bunch of very smart people, and I had a brilliant boss that I much admired. I went to my boss and told him I wanted to start a company selling books on the Internet. He took me on a long walk in Central Park, listened carefully to me, and finally said, “That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job.”
That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot. I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all. After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I’m proud of that choice.
Bezos also said that his wife told him she was happy to support him either way, so she couldn’t be the deciding factor. So, what could be?
Bezos settled on the idea of a “regret minimization framework” that he described thus –
I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have,'” explains Bezos. “I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.
Bezos minimized his future regrets, went on to start Amazon, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Behavioural scientists tell us that we tend to regret actions not taken far more than we regret failed attempts.
I love this idea of working with a regret minimization framework – Safal Niveshak started that way – because it forces me to think beyond all the fears and doubts that I may be having today and instead fast forward into the future and assess things from that perspective. And when I do that, most of my fears and doubts seem hardly relevant in the bigger and longer scheme of things.
This idea worked brilliantly for Bezos, and I am sure this would work for most of us too.
Thoughts I’m Meditating On
We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Don’t get frightened by not knowing things. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything. There are many things I don’t know anything about. It doesn’t frighten me.
~ Richard Feynman
Articles I’m Reading
- Calibrating (Latest Memo from Howard Marks)
- I Became a Disciplined Investor Over 40 Years. The Virus Broke Me in 40 Days. (James B. Stewart)
- What a Bear Market Might Teach Us (Jason Zweig)
What Does a Price-Earnings Multiple Mean? (Michael Mauboussin)
- Behavioral Insights for Keeping Your Sanity While Working at Home with Kids (Ideas42)
- Naval Ravikant on Meditation (YouTube)
- Standing on the Shoulders of Solitude: Newton, the Plague, and How Quarantine Fomented the Greatest Leap in Science (Brain Pickings)
- Your Internet is Working. Thank These Cold War-Era Pioneers Who Designed It to Handle Almost Anything (Washington Post)
A Question for You
What are your “blind spots” – those aspects of your personality that are obvious to everyone but yourself? You can maybe find the answers if you care to, or more accurately, if you dare to. But first, do you accept that you have blind spots?
Stay safe, stay sane, and be grateful for this life,