Saturday, September 1, 2018
The movie Mr. Nobody examines the core belief that we can find happiness if we make the right choices in life. We can't; it's impossible. But the belief that we have real choices that can bring us what we want is cherished by the ego because it keeps us locked into a never-ending quest of looking for happiness where it can't be found.
-David Hoffmeister, Quantum Forgiveness: Physics, Meet Jesus
Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. Their whims, fancies, and ambitions are thwarted at every step, but their inmost thoughts and desires are fed with their own food, be it foul or clean. The "divinity that shapes our ends" is in ourselves: it is our very self. Man is manacled only by himself: thought and action are the jailers of Fate - they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom - they liberate, being noble.
-James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
The important qualities you need are intelligence, patience, and interest, but the biggest thing is to be rational. In ‘97-8, people weren’t rational. People got caught up with what other people were doing. Don’t get caught up with what other people are doing. Being a contrarian isn’t the key, but being a crowd follower isn’t either. You need to detach yourself emotionally. You need to think about what is going on around you. Being in Omaha helps me in that regard. When I was in NYC, I had 50 people whispering in my ear before noon. It’s hard sometimes, like when the Internet craze hit. Nobody likes to see their neighbor doing stupid things and getting rich. It was like Cinderella’s ball, I think I’ll just have one more dance, it’s not midnight yet. Sounds simple – but it is hard to leave the party. The problem with stocks is they don’t have clocks. You don’t know when it will be midnight so you can leave the party. My partner Charlie Munger and Tony Nicely at Geico are always rational. 160 IQs can say stupid things that sound good. People do silly things, whether they have 120 IQ or 160. You can always improve your rational thought. Rationality is the only thing that helps you. One thing that could help would be to write down the reason you are buying a stock before your purchase. Write down “I am buying Microsoft @ $300B because…” Force yourself to write this down. It clarifies your mind and discipline. This exercise makes you more rational.
Warren Buffett, from here
Friday, August 31, 2018
“The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard.”
Relationships bring us everything from joy to sadness to angst - sometimes the same relationship on the same day can bring all those! Give your relationships attention and they will be the better for it: more joy, less haste; more up times, fewer difficult times. As organic, messy human beings we cannot predict the consistency of our relationships, nor should we try and control them. We should simple do our best to care for them.
-Nicholas Bate, as excerpted from here
The most bizarre part of the whole story is that having done what we intended to do in our narrow, purist teenage brains at the time, which was to turn people on to the blues, what actually happened was we turned American people back on to their own music. And that's probably our greatest contribution to music. We turned white America's brain and ears around. And I wouldn't say we were the only ones - without the Beatles probably nobody would have broken the door down. And they certainly weren't bluesmen.
American black music was going along like an express train. But white cats, after Buddy Holly died and Eddie Cochran died, and Elvis was in the army gone wonky, white American music when I arrived was the Beach Boys and Bobby Vee. They were still stuck in the past. The past was six months ago; it wasn't a long time. But shit changed. The Beatles were the milestone. And then they got stuck inside their own cage. "The Fab Four." Hence, eventually, you got the Monkees, all this ersatz shit. But I think there was a vacuum somewhere in white American music at the time.
-Keith Richards, Life
Start with a small circle of competence, things you can understand. [Look for] things that are selling for less than they’re worth. Forget about things you can’t understand. You need to understand accounting, which has enormous limitations. [You need to] understand when a competitive advantage is durable or fleeting. Learn that the market is there to serve you, not instruct you. In the investing business, if you have an IQ of 150, sell 30 points to someone else. You do not need to be a genius. You need to have emotional stability, inner peace and be able to think for yourself, [since] you’re subjected to all sorts of stimuli. It’s not a complicated game; you don’t need to understand math. It’s simple, but not easy.
-Warren Buffett, from here
Thursday, August 30, 2018
..................................that the veneer of civilization is mighty thin.
"Hammurabi and the American Founding Fathers alike imagined a reality governed by universal and immutable principles of justice, such as equality or hierarchy. Yet the only place where such universal principles exist is in the fertile imagination of Sapiens, and in the myths they invent and tell one another. These principles have no objective reality."
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
"No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don't have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have."
-Seneca, Moral Letters, 123.4, as quoted here
“Students learn corporate finance at business schools. They are taught that the whole secret is diversification. But the exact rule is the opposite. The ‘know-nothing’ investor should practice diversification, but it is crazy if you are an expert. The goal of investment is to find situations where it is safe not to diversify. If you only put 20% into the opportunity of a life-time, you are not being rational. Very seldom do we get to buy as much of any good idea as we would like to.”
-Charlie Munger, as quoted here
..............................................self-reinforcing evolutionary spiral:
1. We went from on independent thinker who wanted to achieve audacious goals to a group of independent thinkers who wanted to achieve audacious goals.
2. To enable these independent thinkers to have effective collective decision making, we created an idea meritocracy based on principles that ensured we would be radically honest and transparent with each other, have thoughtful disagreements, and have idea-meritocratic ways of getting past our disagreements to make decisions.
3. We recorded these decision-making principles on paper and later encoded them into computers and made our decisions based on them.
4. This produced our successes and failures, which produced more learnings, which were written into more principles that were systemized and acted upon.
5. This process resulted in excellent work and excellent relationships that led us to having well-rewarded and happy employees and clients.
6. That led us to be able to bring n more audacious independent thinkers with more audacious goals to strengthen this self-reinforcing upward spiral.
We did that over and over again, which produced the evolutionary looping behind Bridgewater's forty-plus years of success.
-Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of myth.
-Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Two men passed under the wooden arch that led into Campo Santo Stefano, their bodies harlequined by the coloured Christmas lights suspended above them. Brighter light splashed from the stalls of the Christmas market, where vendors and producers from different regions of Italy tempted shoppers with their local specialities: dark-skinned cheeses and packages of paper-thin bread from Sardina, olives in varying shape and colour from the entire length of the peninsula; oil and cheese from Tuscany; salami of all lengths, compositions, and diameters from Reggio Emilia. Occasionally one of the men behind the counters shouted out a brief hymn to the quality of his wares: 'Signori, taste this cheese and taste heaven'; 'It's late and I want to go to dinner: only nine Euros a kilo until they're gone'; Taste this pecorino, signori, best in the world.'
-Donna Leone, Blood From A Stone
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
"An individual human existence should be like a river - small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being."
-Bertrand Russell, from his essay How To Grow Old from here
A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his conditions, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.
Law, not confusion, is the dominating principle in the universe; justice, not injustice, is the soul and substance of life; and righteousness, not corruption, is the molding and moving force in the spiritual government of the world. This being so, man has but to right himself to find that the universe is right, he will find that as he alters his thoughts towards things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him.
-James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let's consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighboring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism.
Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experience as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routines, leave behind the familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can 'experience' the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about 'how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life'.
Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better.
Romanticism, which encouraged variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite 'market of experiences', on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences.
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Monday, August 27, 2018
Sunday, August 26, 2018
"Whatsoever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind into it and held it there until that was done. That makes men great almost anywhere."
-Russell Conwell, discussing Abe Lincoln in his Acres of Diamonds lecture
"If you show up and show up and show up, and care enough to learn to connect, you will have a skill for life."
-Seth Godin, as culled from here
"People should learn to deal with a world, which since the Fall of Man has been demonstrably imperfect. They should 'cultivate their gardens.'"
-David Warren, as extracted from this Too Big to Succeed essay
subsidiarity defined here