Hey all -
I noticed that I have been reflecting more in the past year than over any other one-year period, and this highly correlates with how much I spam my friends with emails (be they about ideas, awesome readings or puppy photos). Spamming is annoying so I’m trying to do less of that.
I decided that I’ll just aggregate all my thoughts into a single, structured email every 2 weeks or month, rather than the historical scattershot status quo. Which means it’s basically a newsletter now.
Whenever I read something (such as the news, blogposts, books), I tend to immediately extract mental models and concepts. So I figured a newsletter I’d like to read is one that just distills concepts and backs them up with related readings. Terminology plus a fairly comprehensive description of what it means and why it matters - not for some esoteric domain like programming - but instead for life (admittedly grandiose). These concepts and frameworks would include things like optionality, simulated annealing, criticality, mindfulness, the Campbellian monomyth or biases & heuristics.
Shane Parrish is much better at this, so if you only want a single newsletter, I’d go for his.
I’ll repeat this again the end, but this is the last email you’ll get unless you opt-in at this link (since I’m really trying to figure out who I’m spamming versus who is interested). All previous newsletters will be saved on my blog here.
Ok: so what would a newsletter look like? Basically the following:
Dialectical thinking: Joe Lonsdale, the co-founder of Palantir, gives a great explanation of dialectical thinking and why it matters. In short, it’s the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in equal measure in your brain and rationally consider which is more right (it originates from Socrates’ “dialectic”). For example, consider the reasons for your stance on climate change (whatever it may be) - they’re probably pretty good. Now consider the reasons for the opposite stance. Do they have any merit? Can you see why the other side may argue differently? The better you are at this, the more you will be able to open your mind to unorthodox (but sometimes right) ideas, viewpoints and solutions to problems. You will also be more agreeable, meaning people will share more ideas with you. Jon emphasizes, as I would as well from other readings, that this is an absolutely critical skill for any leader. (referred by: HN) Memento mori: “Remember that you must die.” Ok - we all know we’re going to die, but equally I wouldn’t encourage everyone to quit their jobs and become a drug-fueled rockstar. How do we make this salient yet realistic? Tim Urban achieves this here. Don’t just think about how many days you have left on earth - no “normal” day is salient because.. it’s normal; it’s not memorable! But how many times do you have left to see your parents? Or reach out to that professor who changed your life? Or go skydiving? You may be surprised, upon reflection, that it’s much fewer than you think (sometimes even zero). I knew memento mori before, but Tim Urban presents it in an extremely profound and moving way. (referred by: Khe Hy)
The 60/40 rule: I thought I invented this, but of course one quick Google search immediately destroys any premature self-congratulations. What’s the 60/40 rule? For any 50/50 relationship (friends, roommates, partners, etc.), do 60/40. Why? Because you don’t see everything the other person did (so if you saw them do 40%, they may have actually done 50%). Similarly, due to cognitive biases, you may think you did 50% and it may be perceived as 40% (they misestimate), or you actually only did 40% (you misestimate). I tend to like 70/30 (though I admit that’s a harder bar to uphold), but I highly recommend viewing any division of duties as explicitly 50/50, implicitly 60/40 for both sides. (no referral)
Tax avoidance: You can get taxed at a marginal income/corporate tax rate of ~25-40%, or a capital gains tax rate topping out at 20%. Obvious math is obvious: we want to make our money via capital gains (ie. investments). So what does Jeff Bezos of Amazon do? Let’s not even pay corporate tax - instead, let’s drive our net income (profit) to zero so that there is no corporate tax. We drive our expenses and capital expenditures up so highly into growing our business that the only thing that rises is our valuation (AMZN stock). What happens? Our stock price (an investment) rises and we only ever pay the capital gains tax (and a nice side-benefit of indefinite tax-deferral). (referred by: Andras)
I think people think I read a lot (which is true). But I definitely don’t read most of the material my eyes scan over - I skim like crazy, hunting for concepts and associations to other things I know. I skim almost everything that people I know send me, and then end up actually reading when I see things which catch my interest (aka. breadth over depth, at least initially). If I rate a concept/reading highly, I’d definitely recommend at least skimming it - then evaluating on your own terms if it is actually worth reading.
Feedback (i.e. respond to this email) would be super helpful - it is a huge reason why I’m doing this. Above are my syntheses, which are often wrong and incomplete. I really appreciate being corrected when I write something that is surprisingly ignorant.
Finally, if you want to receive this in the future, you have to opt-in here.