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Power vs. Force by David Hawkins


  1. Man thinks he lives by virtue of the forces he can control, but in fact, he’s governed by power from unrevealed sources, power over which he has no control
Key Takeaways
  1. Behavioral kinesiology, first discovered by Dr. John Diamond, deals with a person’s muscular microresponses to stimuli. All things, people, symbols, food, thoughts, etc. have either a strengthening or weakening effect on the body. The more aware you are of these, the more you can surround yourself with things which strengthen rather than weaken you
  2. There is too much evidence of shared knowledge, a shared consciousness to ignore
  3. Man’s issue has always been that he has mistaken his own intellectual constructs for reality but they are merely an arbitrary point of view
  4. This power can be recognized only through inner awareness
  5. There is a meaningful coherence amongst everything
  6. This book attempts to create an energy field to outline the hierarchy of consciousness
  7. It is not life’s events but how we react to them which determine if they have positive or negative effects on our lives
  8. When force meets power (truth), force is inevitably defeated
  9. They key to happiness is the unconditional kindness to all of life, including ones own – compassion 
  10. Energy level 250 is Neutrality and at this point you can see past dichotomies, are not tied to outcomes or positions and are much more flexible in your point of view and opinion. These people are easy to be around, roll with the punches, are self confident, don’t judge or try to control others and don’t like to be controlled
    1. Willingness
    2. Acceptance – understand source of happiness within oneself, balance in life
    3. Reason – great at understanding intricacies between relationships, science, knowledge and education are heavily emphasized
    4. Love – true love is unconditional, unchanging and permanent. Forgiving, nurturing and supportive. Is completely inclusive and loves every form of life, dissolves negativity by re-contextualizing instead of denial or adaptation
    5. Joy – arises from within and is always present
    6. Peace – distinction between subject and object disappears, these people often remove themselves from the world as their state of bliss precludes ordinary activities. Infinite silence in the mind as it has stopped contextualizing and sees everything as one, interconnected and infinite
    7. Enlightenment – these people influence all people forever (Krishna, Buddha and Jesus), have grace which can be described as ineffable peace, body is merely seen as a tool for communication and transportation of consciousness
  11. One single experience of pure love, joy and peace can completely recalibrate ones life and lead to a continuous search for this state again
  12. Suffering simply stems from attachments and once one recognizes this one can live fully, without fear and with pure joy and love
  13. True teacher never tries to control the pupil’s life in any way. They simply show the way and let the pupil decide
  14. Simple self kindness is the most transformational act you can take. There is no downside as it increases ones own power without extracting any sort of toll. Cannot practice self kindness while expecting some sort of reward
  15. Recognizing the false dichotomy of good and bad eliminates fear
  16. Power arises with meaning and truth. It appeals to that we call nobility and equality, that which emboldens and builds up.
  17. Force always succumbs to power in the end. Force always creates a counterforce where power stands by itself and requires no outside energy and makes no demands. Power creates life and energy where force sucks it away
  18. Truth is a manifestation of consciousness itself
  19. You cannot compromise on principle and keep power
  20. The most successful and enduring companies align with attractor forces and have heart. They may take actions which don’t make pure economic or rational sense but give them a huge competitive advantage because employees love working there and customers love their product or service
  21. People who are truly great are always humble. pride and egotism are always downfalls and must be protected against 
  22. The great are revered as they exemplify the dedication and hard work needed to transcend oneself to reach excellence
  23. True success enlivens and supports the spirit. The truly successful realize that success comes from within and therefore have power. Those who believe that success and happiness and joy come from without are powerless
  24. There are very few at the top but those fighting for mediocrity have intense competition and the bottom of the pyramid is extremely crowded.
  25. Success in every area of life indicates proper alignment with these powerful forces and attractors
  26. Absolutely every thought and action reverberates throughout the universe and effects everything. There are no random events although we may not see how they are connected 
  27. The ability to hold a gaze and look into others eyes is correlated to higher levels of consciousness
  28. Awareness is the all encompassing attracting power equivalent to life itself
What I got out of it
  1. Every thought, feeling and action have consequences. Be aware of things which strengthen or weaken you, this can be food, people, thoughts, actions, beliefs and more. Definitely a bit out there but I think the concept of aligning with power/truth over force is a good one to live by

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow


  1. Chernow’s goal is to make Washington as close to the living, breathing figure he was to his contemporaries, rather than the lifeless role model he is today to most people. He was only able to achieve so much because he could bottle and funnel his intense emotion to his noble cause
Key Takeaways
  1. Washington always sought to conceal his feelings and not express too much emotion. He was a master at controlling his emotions but when he cracked, he was full of great wrath. Opacity was his means for influence and shaping events. He commanded respect from all because people knew how emotional and passionate he was, yet how well he managed these emotions. He possessed the gift of listening and self command but only after work hard at attaining these traits
  2. Washington’s great grandfather was a successful military man who later came to possess thousands of acres in Virginia and this wealth would be eventually passed down to George. Washington’s father remarried to Marry Ball after his first wife died and she would have a tremendous influence on George. She was a very moral woman who stood strong in times adversity but had a temper. Washington’s father died young and forced Washington to take much responsibility at a young age. His mother was tough and they did not have a loving relationship. She made George uneasy with criticism and emotionally closed. His older brother Lawrence was a great influence on him and pushed him to pursue a military career
  3. Washington is an incredible case of self improvement as he had little to no formal education but was self taught through books and experience. Washington is a story of self construction. Washington was also a physical specimen – taller than 6′ with almost comically large hands and feet, athletic, graceful and a good dancer
  4. Washington’s first job was as a land surveyor and this would influence his future love of land and land speculation
  5. Already by the age of 22 Washington had distinguished himself militarily and politically but a skirmish with the French almost ruined his reputation. However, he acted bravely and his reputation was soon restored. He learned early on the effectiveness of guerrilla type warfare that the Native Americans fought. Washington had to learn to mask his ambition as he too often butted heads with more senior leaders. He often felt slighted by the British military traditions and was sometimes passed for deserving promotions
  6. Early on Washington decided it was of utmost importance to have a loyal and well trained army. He was able to take a ragtag group and instill some training and order into this already courageous group. He came to love his men and through his leadership and courage on the battlefield, his men came to love him too – was able to get the most out of his men 
  7. Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a short, wealthy widow with a warm, even temperament. She had two children, Jackie and Patsy, who Washington adopted. The oldest son, Jackie, was a jet setter and ignored the education Washington so badly wanted as a youth. Patsy died young and caused her parents much grief but it gave Washington a sizable inheritance which helped a lot with his large debt and to expand Mt. Vernon. He had no children of his own
  8. Washington was strict but relatively fair and humane with his slaves
  9. Washington was extremely prompt and believed a judicious and efficient use of time was a sure path to success
  10. The Tea Party was a seminal moment as it furthered the colonists’ aversion to taxation without representation. Washington, having been out of the military since his glory days of the French and Indian War, took an important political position at this time and much frustration with the British began bubbling over in him and advocated a petition of British goods and perhaps even military action. Washington was soon elected to the First Continental Congress. He was soon after unanimously elected to be the commander in chief of the continental army once it was assembled. His wealth and self command made him a popular choice. His ragtag army from every corner of the colonies was difficult to unite and train but they showed more courage and will than any other army. There were many other obstacles too such as lack of gunpowder, fewer fit men than he had anticipated and much more. His self command was vital at this time in order to keep his men optimistic even though he knew how dismal the situation looked. Secrecy and deception were key tools he used throughout the war. Washington saw the war as a struggle of good vs evil and urged his men to treat POW humanely and to be a model citizen for all the colonies. Creating a draft was not politically possible at this time and Washington eventually decided to bar slaves from serving but free blacks were allowed in
  11. Washington was careful but a bit unorthodox in his selection of high ranking generals. General Greene had almost no military experience and General Knox was very overweight. Washington bucked his aristocratic streak and gave promising men the opportunity to rise and learn although they didn’t seem to have the credentials. Nearly all the men he chose performed admirably. Washington excelled as a leader because he was able to select the men he saw as most able and then get the most out of them. After the war, Washington assembled one of the most impressive and effect cabinet members in history, notably Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury and Jefferson as Secretary of State
  12. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense energized a demoralized American army and the populace for American independence
  13. Washington was able to win back Boston from the British by setting up cannons in the middle of the night and scaring the British. This was a great victory with no deaths and Washington was praised the country over
  14. The American army were getting beat early but Washington pulled some military magic and got some much needed victories at Trenton and Princeton. Washington portrayed a mystique and energy which won him over the admiration and respect of every man under his command
  15. Hamilton was very young when he became Washington’s aide de camp and helped extensively with any written correspondence. They made a great team but their very different personalities often clashed
  16. Horatio Gates rose through the military ranks and while he won several important battles, he butted heads with Washington as he tried to blacken his name and remove him from his position as general
  17. Marquis de Lafayette became Washington’s protege and one of the key commanders of the American Revolution. Baron Von Steuben introduced order and uniformity across the army
  18. It is to Washington’s credit that he studied England’s weaknesses but also her strengths in order to determine what practices to exploit and which to emulate. With Hamilton’s influence, Washington established the national debt and national bank
  19. Washington had full faith in Benedict Arnold and was shaken and distraught when he found out he had a betrayed his country
  20. Washington greatest achievement laid in cobbling together unifying and motivating a dove verse group of people who had to come over substantial odds to be the British army
  21. Washington’s view on abolition softened over his tenure and throughout the war
  22. After the United States Britain the prospect of keys was difficult for Washington too. He was worried about exerting his own influence and speaking his mind on what he used to be the correct course of action for the United States after gaining independence. Washington ceding his power after the war was one of his most important and meaningful acts. He understood his power to be “on rent” and returned it as soon as it was appropriate to do so. Washington had a very busy public life, entertaining thousands of people who wanted to see and meet this great hero. Washington was nominated to be president a couple years later which again but him in a non partisan role
  23. Washington left Martha and Mt. Vernon for over 4 months to join the Constitutional Convention which drew up the Constitution. As the Constitution was ratified, Washington was expected to put it into action as the first President. This expectation was likely a major cause for the great support the Constitution received. That Washington willingly gave up his military power after the war, was seen as reluctantly accepting the presidential nomination and the fact he had no children added to people’s desire for him to lead. His no children made it less likely that power would simply be handed down
  24. Washington never lost his stylish desire and lived quite lavishly although he faced significant financial worries
  25. Washington saw the VP as the head of the legislature which diminished Adam’s role and influence
  26. After having the capital in Philadelphia for a temporary 10 year stint, Washington, Jefferson and L’enfant chose the site and designed America’s new capital in Washington DC
  27. It was vital that Washington serve as president although he was reluctant to step back into the public light. He was sure he’d retire after his first term but there was much fraction and his continued tenure was necessary for the success of the new nation
  28. Washington rose even higher in people’s minds when he willingly gave up political power after his second term. Washington’s farewell address touched on many important political points and took a clear Federalist stance. He thought there should be commercial over political ties and that a strong central government was important for the future success of the country. His just actions and influential decisions forever shaped the presidential role and proved that a republic could be run without absolute authority and that the leader is an extension of the people. His biggest failings lay in not abolishing slavery and the poor dealings with Native American uprisings 
  29. Adams became the second president and Jefferson the VP
  30. Washington was able to put his conscience at ease once he revised his will and freed all the slaves he owned once he passed away
What I got out of it
  1. Learning about Washington the man was really interesting to me. His desire to keep learning, his like of English fashion and at times extravagant spending, how indebted he became during the war, his relationship with Martha which was more friendly than loving and the raging temper which was buried beneath his icy interior

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant


  1. Will and Ariel Durant, arguably some of the best historians ever, provide a concise recount of history, covering major themes, events and people.
Key Takeaways
  1. History captures how man has behaved for 6,000 years and learning this will help protect you and avoid poor decisions
  2. Through much war and tragedy man has survived and prospered – one of the main lessons to take from studying history
  3. Man competes with each other and pushed himself, others and groups as a whole to become better. This competition helps man reach new heights and learn new things. Life needs to breed in order to pass down these competitive advantages to future generations. Competition is inevitable and necessary as only the fittest survive
  4. History is only a fraction of biology
  5. History is a humorist
  6. Throughout the ages man has changed his behavior but cannot change human nature, his instincts
  7. The role of having character developed in people so they could rise to the occasion
  8. Moral codes adjust and adapt to the prevailing social conditions
  9. At one point, every vice was a virtue. Sexual promiscuity secured survival but today seen as a vice, etc.
  10. There are many more things that should enter a man’s thoughts and decisions than just reason – sentiment, tenderness, mystery, affection. Reason is just a tool but character is based on instincts and intuition and reason can therefore not be the sole defining characteristic of man
  11. Freedom is a trial, it is a terrific test. When we made ourselves free (through reason) we forgot to make ourselves intelligent
  12. Nature does not agree with man’s definition of good and bad. For nature, that which is good is what survived and that which is bad goes under
  13. Morality is dependent upon religion and religion gives man hope that he can survive life, that he can bear reality
  14. Insanity is the loss of memory
  15. God is a creative force in any way He appears. God is love too, but love is only one of many creative forces
  16. “Economics is history in motion” – Karl Marx
  17. Socialist states have been around for thousands of years – the Incas and the Chinese being the most successful
  18. The essence of beauty is order. Must balance order and liberty to have a successful state
  19. Peace is not unrealistic but you are fighting an uphill battle against history. War doesn’t really solve anything but replaces one set of problems for another
  20. Civilization is social order leading to cultural creation – human relationships, trade and commerce, art, government, etc.
  21. History repeats itself at large, but not in detail. All civilizations decay either from internal strife or lack of trade and commerce
  22. Durant is not an optimist and not a pessimist but a realist about the future. Hard to say if progressing or regressing – simply changing
  23. Progress is glacially slow and human nature has hardly changed in thousands of years. Progress means attaining the same ends (sex, wealth and health) through more efficient means
  24. If humans are different today than 50,000 years ago it is because our accumulated social culture is stronger and more refined than before, not because our biological nature has changed
  25. History is philosophy teaching by examples
  26. The excess of anything leads to its opposite reaction. (e.g., the excess of liberty leads to slavery)
  27. Every generation rebels against the preceding one
  28. If youth but knew and old age but could
  1. Pound for pound may have the most wisdom of any book. An amazing summary of history’s major events and themes. Social order leading to cultural creation is one of man’s defining accomplishments and without it we might still be living in caves. Also, the idea of history being philosophy in motion I thought was a great way to think about it

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport


  1. Deep work – professional activities performed in a state free of distractions which push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate. This state is totally necessary to maximize your potential 
Key Takeaways
  1. A commitment to deep work usually entails short term sacrifice for long term outperformance and is found in nearly all great accomplishments
  2. Montaigne, Jung, Woody Allen, Bill Gates and others took deliberate time out to chunk, think deeply and about big things. This is especially important today with so many distractions. Chunks of time with no distractions is vital in any line of work. Those who recognize the importance of this depth of thinking have a humongous competitive advantage – it is becoming rarer just as it is becoming more vital. This tactic allows you to learn faster, think deeper, make more connections than shallow, distraction filled thinking does
  3. Add friction to people accessing you – less social media, don’t give out email freely, no spam…
  4. This type of work allows you to compress and accelerate your productivity – 4-6 hours per day, 5-6 days per week can accomplish extraordinary things
  5. Helps you be totally present and grateful and comfortable being bored
  6. As barriers are removed, competition intensifies as it becomes easier for the average person to access resources and learn, making more fields a winner take all type environment.
  7. Those who can work intelligently with machines, those with access to capital and those who are the best at what they do will vastly outperform others – world becoming more ‘winner take all’
  8. Ability to master hard things quickly and produce high quality work quickly are two vital characteristics in order to succeed
  9. Many corporate pressures to be always connected but has shown to lead to lower quality work. Most of these habits can be broken with habits which promote deep work
  10. Clarity for what matters gives clarity into what doesn’t 
  11. Deep work goes hand in hand with awareness and attention which are strongly correlated with happiness 
  12. Flow, challenging tasks are inherently important for a happy life but just as important is what you choose to put your energy into
  13. Need to develop own routines and philosophy for Deep Work. Some may set aside a certain time every day for deep work, some may fit it in wherever they can and still others might try to remove all distractions for constant Deep Work with regular breaks
  14. Having a set time and location when you do certain types of work helps save some willpower and eliminate certain decisions
  15. Mason Curry spent 5 years studying great thinkers and their routines
  16. Great, creative minds think like artists but work like accountants – can’t wait for inspiration to strike, must have great routines
  17. Grand gesture – radical change to normal environment with big effort of time or money with the goal of improving the deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task and reduces procrastination and increases focus and energy. Bill Gates’ think week, JK Rowling staying at a 5 star hotel, $4,000 for round trip flight solely to do deep work and Michael Pollan’s writing cabin with no internet or phone are some examples. Dominant force is the psychology to get you completely committed to deep work
  18. Hub and spoke model – the hub is what you do deep work on but also expose yourself to serendipitous ideas, people, meetings and interactions
  19. White boarding effect – sometimes doing Deep Work collaboratively is more effective than solo Deep Work
  20. Focus on the wildly important (less but better and deeper), act on elite measures (both lag and lead measures), keep a compelling score card of elite measures, create a cadence of accountability and plan weekly reviews of how much and how effective your Deep Work is
  21. Productive meditation – think of your deep work task during some mindless physical activity such as walking the dog or going for a run. Beware distractions and looping of things you already know
  22. Being able to memorize a deck of cards will help you stay concentrated for long periods of time
  23. Quit social media as much as possible
  24. Craftsman’s approach to tool selection – determine key things that will determine your success and happiness and only use tools which help you get substantially closer to achieving these goals. Focusing as much of your time and energy on tools which bring disproportionate rewards is the best way to leverage your time
  25. A minimalistic, simplistic lifestyle is helpful to stay focused and do Deep Work
  26. Be very deliberate about how you spend your leisure time before it begins 
  27. Most people hit a mental block with deep work after about 4 hours
  28. It can be a helpful and insightful exercise to try to plan out your day by half hour chunks and see how closely you can follow it and to clearly see where and how you spend your time. This is more about establishing thoughtfulness to your schedule than constraints and rigidity
Why I got out of it
  1. Scheduling your life to create time to be able to think and work deeply for a couple hours everyday will compound over time and give you more success and happiness than you could ever imagine

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

  1. Stone attempts to describe the Amazon story, its founder and how Wall St. and the world’s perception has changed these 20+ years
Key Takeaways
  1. Bezos is a visionary who has redefined customer service and runs his company like a chess grandmaster. He is extremely difficult to work for, intense and micromanaged but casts a reality distortion field and paints a vision people who work at Amazon are passionate and committed to
  2. The idea of an everything store which would serve as an intermediary between producers and consumers was hatched during his time at DE Shaw, a technologically advanced hedge fund
  3. Regret minimization framework – put yourself on your deathbed and imagine what you’d regret. If you’re facing a difficult decision, this exercise is very helpful to gain perspective
  4. Bezos recognized early on the importance of having transparent customer reviews in order to gain trust and provide a better shopping experience
  5. Focus on customers, not competitors
  6. Bezos is frugal about his operations but can be very aggressive and bold with acquisitions or new lines of business when he feels it is appropriate
  7. Always take and implement the best ideas from those who came before you, even if not in your direct field
  8. Had a pretty clear vision from the beginning of being the starting point for people’s shopping experience as they trusted Amazon would have pretty much anything you could want
  9. 6 core values – customer obsession, frugality, innovation, bias for action, ownership, high bar for talent
  10. It is the goal of nearly every tech company to become a platform others can/need to use. Amazon achieved this with its distribution system, marketplace and later through AWS
  11. Leadership – have backbone; disagree and commit; be vocally self-critical; think big; bias for action
  12. Bezos learned a lot from Walmart execs about the finer points of retailing and distribution and about every day low prices and customer loyalty from Costco. There are retailers who work to figure out how to charge customers more and those who work to try to charge customers less. Amazon is the latter
  13. It is almost always harder to be kind than clever
  14. Has had the dream of colonizing and traveling through space since he was a child and took his first step with his company, Blue Origin who’s mission is to create an enduring human presence in space. Many people close to Jeff say he is accumulating wealth in order to pursue his space dreams
  15. Jeff Wilke was brought in in 1999 to revamp amazon’s distribution and logistics network which would one day be the most automated and efficient system of its kind
  16. AWS is an incredible business which allows individuals or companies of any size to rent computing capacity. It scales infinitely and while the margins are slim it is incredibly profitable. It helps give start ups and individuals a more equal footing to established players. It has helped spur innovation as this once large fixed cost has turned into a variable cost which can scale in proportion to your business
  17. Influenced by a book called Creation by Steve Grand. Instead of trying to predict what people want, offer the smallest amounts of infrastructure to developers, get out of the way and see what happens and then iterate. AWS helps startups, individuals and companies achieve this business strategy
  18. Far better to cannibalize yourself than have somebody else do it. This belief along with Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma fueled Bezos and co. to dive fully into developing an ebook reader which would control the customer’s entire reading experience, much like Apple did with music and its iPod. As Amazon grew and its scale and influence increased, it sought more favorable terms with book publishers for physical books and also to begin growing the online catalogue for ebooks. Amazon aggressively pressured both large and small publishers and created some bad karma with suppliers. Many inside the company were also unsure of these new tactics as those who were onboard with Bezos’ vision and ruthless enough to achieve it whatever the costs were promoted while others were phased out
  19. Start with the customer and work backwards
  20. Many people talk about the truth but Bezos actively seeks it out and embraces it. He is also not tethered to conventional ways of thinking – only the laws of physics limits him and everything else is open to discussion
  21. Zappos was at first not interested in being acquired so Bezos and team created endless.com which pressured Zappos enough for them to reconsider. Zappos built great relationships with its suppliers like Nike who was afraid of putting their goods on Amazon because they were afraid their newest and most expensive styles would immediately go into the “bargain bin” because of Amazon’s focus on low prices. This was very much the same worry book publishers had with the switch to ebooks and their $9.99 price tag
  22. Successful Companies tend to be loved (whole foods, Costco, Disney) or feared (Microsoft, Goldman Sachs). Bezos wrote a memo describing how he wants Amazon to act in order to be more loved – polite, risk taking, winners, inventing, empowering others, conviction, authenticity, thinking big…
  23. Bezos believes truth arises when different perspectives and beliefs are argued transparently, even sometimes explosively
  24. The question “will amazon enter this area or do this…” Is almost inevitably yes, eventually. It may just move from the everything store to the everything everything
  25. “We don’t have any single big advantage, but we do have thousands of small advantages
What I got out of it
  1. Bezos is a visionary who is difficult to work for but gets the most out of his people in order to bring about the most customer obsessed company in the word to keep expanding and innovating. Fascinating culture and company and will be interesting to see how the company fares in the future and which markets they try to penetrate
“Amazon.love” memo
  • Rudeness is not cool.
  • Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  • Close-following is not cool.
  • Young is cool.
  • Risk taking is cool.
  • Winning is cool.
  • Polite is cool.
  • Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  • Inventing is cool.
  • Explorers are cool.
  • Conquerors are not cool.
  • Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  • Empowering others is cool.
  • Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  • Leadership is cool.
  • Conviction is cool.
  • Straightforwardness is cool.
  • Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  • Hypocrisy is not cool.
  • Authenticity is cool.
  • Thinking big is cool.
  • The unexpected is cool.
  • Missionaries are cool.
  • Mercenaries are not cool.” – Jeff Bezos

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli


  1. Dobelli lays out some of the most common and disastrous mental biases we are susceptible to. The cognitive biases and errors we make have been made by every generation for hundreds of years. Learning how to spot and eventually mitigate these risks can have great benefits for our lives, relationships and decision making
Key Takeaways
  1. The fallacies laid out here is by no means complete
  2. Recognize that many of these fallacies are interconnected and play off each other. Lessening one also often improves others
  3. Some cognitive errors are necessary for living a happy, normal life so we don’t want to remove every fallacy. Removing most, however helps avoid must large, stupid mistakes – less irrationality
  4. Survivorship bias – so easy to ignore failures and think odds of success much higher than reality. Guard against it by continuously studying ‘graveyards’
  5. Swimmer’s body illusion – Body a result of selection, not a result of swimming. Don’t fail to recognize factor of selection for results
  6. Clustering illusion – Brain seeks patterns and rules and simply invents them if can’t find any. Don’t fall into trap of seeing patterns when there are none
  7. Social proof – Herd instinct, causes us that the more people doing something the better of an idea it is – making it likely we follow suit. The evil behind investment bubbles, cults and more
  8. Sunk cost fallacy – don’t keep on doing something just because you have already sunk a lot of time, money, energy or love into it
  9. Reciprocity – Beware free gifts
  10. Confirmation bias – skewing new information so it fits what we already believe. Must constantly search for disconfirming evidence which is one of the hardest things to do (Darwin the master)
  11. Authority bias – Tend to blindly follow authority figures
  12. Contrast effect – Have difficulty with absolute judgments as we tend to always compare to something else. People awful at noticing small, gradual changes
  13. Availability bias – don’t think that examples that are most likely to come to mind are necessarily correct or most telling. We think dramatically, not quantitatively. People tend to prefer wrong information to no information (map is not the terrain)
  14. It’ll get worse before it gets better fallacy – A form of confirmation bias – upside for consultant either way (right if things stay bad or customer happy if things improve)
  15. Story bias – Stories simplify and distort reality as we build meaning into things only after the fact. Narratives often irrelevant but we find them irresistible. Be very aware of story teller’s intentions and incentives (you are often the story teller)
  16. Hindsight bias – keeping a journal helps keep you honest. All seems clear in retrospect
  17. Overconfidence effect – people are systematically overconfident in forecasts, knowledge, predictions and decisions on a massive scale. Experts suffer even more than laymen
  18. Chauffeur knowledge – do you truly understand something or simply surface? (Planck and chauffeur). True experts delineate their circle of competence and stick in it
  19. Control illusion – thinking we can sway an outcome when we can’t
  20. Incentive super response tendency – beware what you incentivize! Rat breeding example. People respond to incentives themselves and not the grander intentions behind them. Good incentive systems think of both intent and reward
  21. Regression to the mean
  22. Outcome bias – Never judge a decision by its outcome, rather judge the process
  23. Paradox of choice – less is more. Good enough is the new optimal
  24. Liking bias – will help or buy more from people we like, more similar the more we like them
  25. Endowment effect – liking something more merely because we own it
  26. Coincidence – most underestimate the role of chance in our lives
  27. Groupthink – reckless decisions made because social proof gets people to agree when they otherwise would not. In a tight group, speaking your mind even more important
  28. Neglect of probability – react to size or danger of event rather than likelihood of it happening. No intuitive grasp of risk
  29. Scarcity error – people more highly value what is scarce. Focus only on price and benefits
  30. Base rate neglect 
  31. Gamblers fallacy – dice do not have memory, play the probability
  32. Anchoring effect
  33. Induction – drawing universal conclusions from individual observations
  34. Loss aversion 
  35. Social loafing – individual effort and accountability decrease as we become one with the crowd. Smaller teams tend to be more effective
  36. Exponential growth – people cannot gasp the power of exponential growth
  37. Winner’s curse – highest bidders win but typically pay too much so lose. Competition and ambiguity of true value of things cause this
  38. Fundamental attribution error – Overestimate individual’s influence and underestimate the environment’s
  39. False causality – mistaking correlation, effect or coincidence for causality
  40. Halo effect – a single bright characteristic makes everything else seem better
  41. Alternative paths – all the outcomes that could have happened but didn’t. Don’t contemplate invisible or missing outcomes or info as much as we should
  42. Forecast illusion – people horrible at predictions, even experts
  43. Conjunction fallacy – when we think a subset seems larger than the entire set. We all have soft spots for plausible stories
  44. Framing – information is perceived differently depending on how it is presented
  45. Action bias – people want to look active even if it accomplishes nothing, accentuated in new situations or where you’re unsure
  46. Omission bias – inaction seems more admissible than action even if both lead to the same outcome
  47. Self serving bias – attribute success to ourselves and luck to others’
  48. Hedonic treadmill – we always recalibrate happiness and sadness to our situation. Avoid negative things you can’t get accustomed to, expect only short term happiness from material things, get as much free time, autonomy and deep relationships as possible
  49. Self selection bias
  50. Association bias – seeing connections where none exist
  51. Persian messenger syndrome
  52. Beginner’s luck – regression to mean always brings you back down. True skill lies in outperformance over long periods of time
  53. Cognitive dissonance
  54. Hyperbolic discounting – desire for immediate gratification causes us to make bad decisions for our long term interests
  55. Because justification – people accept reasons even if they don’t explain everything
  56. Decision fatigue – decide better when you decide less
  57. Contagion bias – things can get a negative connotation simply through association
  58. Problem with averages – often mask underlying distribution. Don’t cross a river which is on average 4 ft deep. Beware things which follow power laws (when extreme outliers dominate like Bill Gates’ wealth)
  59. Motivation crowding – surprisingly small monetary incentives crowd out other incentives (volunteering feels less good if we are compensated). Bonuses help more in jobs where people don’t get intrinsic fulfillment
  60. Twaddle tendency – excessive words hides lazy thinking or poor understanding. Jabber disguises ignorance
  61. Will Rogers phenomenon – accounting type illusions which make situations seem better but actually add no value
  62. Information bias – the delusion that more information helps us make better decisions
  63. Effort justification – overvalue things you put a lot of effort into (Ikea effect)
  64. Law of small numbers – much larger fluctuations with small numbers
  65. Expectations – raise expectations for self and those you love and lower it for things you can’t control
  66. Simple logic – scrutinize even simple sounding problems more closely
  67. Forror effect – why pseudoscience works so well, very general or flattering statements most people want to associate with
  68. Volunteer’s folly – giving your time is often not the most effective way to volunteer as using your skill to earn money and donate to a cause or to those who can perform the needed skill more aptly is often a better way to give
  69. Affect heuristic – emotional reactions determine risks and benefits, rather than expected value and probabilities. Substituting how we feel rather than what do I think
  70. Introspection illusion – internal reflection is not reliable and become overconfidence in our beliefs, nothing more convincing than own beliefs; become your own toughest critics
  71. Boat burning effect – remove options in order to become all in. Options and more choices have hidden costs and diminishes will power. Invert in order to determine what to avoid
  72. Neomania – new things always seem to shine brighter. Rule of thumb – whatever has survived for X years will survive for another X years
  73. Sleeper effect – forget source of information but remember message and how it made us feel. Don’t accept any unsolicited advice, avoid ads, remember source of all info you get
  74. Alternative blindness – fail to compare your best alternative to next best alternative(s). Consider all alternatives
  75. Social comparison bias – tendency to withhold assistance from people who might outdo you even if you’ll look like a fool in the long run (hire people who are better than you)
  76. Primacy and recency effects 
  77. Not invented here syndrome – tendency to fall in love with our own ideas
  78. Black swan – unthinkable events which affect every aspect of your life; profit from the unthinkable by trying to catch a positive back swan (entrepreneur or inventor or build something which scales) and avoid negative black swans by giving yourself margin in every aspect of your life
  79. Domain dependence – insights do not pass well from one field to another, especially from theoretical to practical
  80. False consensus effect – frequently overestimate the popularity in the general public of things we like
  81. Falsification of history – remove wrong past assumptions so you think you were right all along; adjust past views to present views. Safe to assume half of what you remember is wrong
  82. In group / out group bias – even small similarities can cause in group bias and anyone outside is a potential enemy
  83. Ambiguity aversion – difference between risk and ambiguity is that with ambiguity the probabilities of outcomes are unknown. Can make calculations knowing risk but not with uncertainty
  84. Default tendency – status quo bias, cling to way things are even if not the best option
  85. Fear of regret – those who don’t follow the crowd tend to feel more regret and therefore tend to act more conservatively. Last chances envoke panic
  86. Salience effect – outstanding features get much more attention than they deserve, can lead to prejudice and changes how we interpret the past and how we act, avoid jumping to the easiest conclusions
  87. House money effect – we spend and think about money differently depending on how we got it
  88. Procrastination – Self control drains will power – eliminate distractions, set self imposed deadlines for yourself, refuel your batteries
  89. Envy – most destructive sin as it is no fun in any way, different from jealousy as jealousy requires at least 3 people, tend to envy people similar to us, stop comparing self to others, determine circle of competence and work on mastery, be only envious of the person you want to become
  90. Personification – we empathize with other people but less so if we can’t see them or don’t know them, statistics don’t stir us but people do
  91. Illusion of attention – tend to only see what we focus on and miss everything else, think the unthinkable, try to spot the Black swans, Pay attention to silences as much as noises
  92. Strategic misrepresentation – exaggerate self or promises in order to achieve some goal, look at past performance and do a cost/benefit analysis to protect self from this
  93. Overthinking – paralysis by analysis, use your emotions and intuition strategically with simple matters or areas your are highly skilled in but use your reasoning for more complex matters
  94. Planning fallacy – people take on too much and is even worse in groups, we are not natural planners and underestimate role of outside events, use pre mortems
  95. Man with a hammer syndrome – locate shortcomings and try to add tools (mental models) to aid you in your life, thinking and decision making
  96. Zagarnik effect – seldom forget uncompleted tasks but immediately forget what we’ve finished, outstanding tasks gnaw at us until we have a clear and detailed view of how we will accomplish them, create step by step instructions with detail to complete tasks
  97. Illusion of skill – luck plays a bigger role than skill, in some areas skill plus almost no role
  98. Future positive effect – missing information much harder to appreciate than what is present, have problems perceiving non events and the absence of things
  99. Cherry picking – selecting and showcasing only the best characteristics and hiding or not mentioning the rest. Always ask about the failures and try to notice what is missing or not mentioned
  100. Fallacy of the single cause – no single factor causes any event but people want a single cause to explain an event
  101. Intention to treat error – failed events show up (unlike in survivorship bias) but in the wrong category. Always try to determine if failed events are not included in the study
  102. News – makes people well informed but ignorant, harmful in the long run
  103. Negative knowledge or knowing what to avoid is much more important than positive knowledge or knowing what to do – via negativa. Eliminate the downside and the upside will take care of itself 
  104. Today’s world, unlike our ancestor’s, rewards deep thinking and independent action. Due to our biology, this is very difficult 
What I got out of it
  1. A really complete and informative book which details some of the most common heuristics and mental biases which lead us to poor decisions or faulty thinking

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin


  1. Through real life examples, many of them centered around Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Peter Bevelin helps the reader learn how to think better, make fewer misjudgments and understand ourselves/others better. Discusses mental models, human fallibilities/instincts and human psychology
Key Takeaways

  1. Peter Bevelin lives in Malmo – visit when go to Sweden
  2. Main goal is to understand why people behave the way they do. “This book focuses on how our thoughts are influenced, why we make misjudgments and tools to improve our thinking. If we understand what influences us, we might avoid certain traps and understand why others act like they do. And if we learn and understand what works and doesn’t work and find some framework for reasoning, we will make better judgments. We can’t eliminate mistakes, but we can prevent those that can really hurt us.”
  3. Learn from other’s mistakes
  4. Learn the big ideas that underlie reality and develop good thinking habits (namely, objectivity)
  5. This book is a compilation of what Bevelin has learned from reading some of the works of the world’s best thinkers
  6. Book is broken down into 4 parts – what influences our thinking, examples of psychological reasons for misjudgments, reasons for misjudgments caused by both psychology and a lack of considering some basic ideas from physics and mathematics and lastly describes tools for better thinking
What I got out of it
  1. Seriously good read if you’re at all interested in understanding how and why we make decisions (both bad and good) and how we can go about improving our thought processes and tools. Fantastic read and couldn’t recommend more highly
Part 1 – What Influences Our Thinking?
  • Brain communicates through neurochemicals and genes are the recipe for how we are made
  • Behavior is influenced by genetic and environmental factors
  • The flexibility of the brain is amazing as it can change due to our thoughts and experiences
  • Mental state (situation and experience) and physical state are intimately connected – beliefs have biological consequences, both good and bad
  • World is not fixed but evolving – evolution has no goal
  • Pain (punishment) and reward (pleasure) have evolutionary benefits with pain avoidance being our primary driver
  • Hunter-gatherer environments have formed our basic nature – competitive, access to limited resources, many dangers, self-interest, ostracism = death
  • Cooperation leads to trust, especially amongst relatives
  • Fear is our most basic emotion and it guides almost everything we do. Repeated exposure lessens instinctual reactions
  • Novelty is always sought out
  • Reputation, reciprocation and fairness are big human motivators
  • Very painful to lose anything, especially status, once obtained. Higher status linked to higher health and well being
  • People learn their behavior from their culture
  • Assume people will act in their self-interest
  • Don’t blindly imitate/trust others – think rationally and form your own opinions
Part 2 – The Psychology of Misjudgments
  • Outlines 28 reasons for misjudgment. These are never exclusive or independent of each other. Many of these echo similar sentiments to Cialdini’s Influence
    1. Bias from mere association
    2. Underestimating the power of rewards and punishment
    3. Underestimating bias from own self-interest and incentives
    4. Self-serving bias
    5. Self-deception and denial
    6. Bias from consistency tendency (only see things that confirm our already formed beliefs)
    7. Bias from deprival syndrome (strongly reacting when something is taken away)
    8. Status quo bias and do-nothing syndrome
    9. Impatience
    10. Bias from envy and jealousy
    11. Distortion by contrast comparison
    12. Bias from anchoring
    13. Over-influence by vivid or the most recent information
    14. Omission and abstract blindness
    15. Bias from reciprocation tendency
    16. Bias from over-influence by liking tendency
    17. Bias from over-influence by social proof
    18. Bias from over-influence by authority
    19. Sensemaking
    20. Reason-respecting
    21. Believing first and doubting later
    22. Memory limitations
    23. Do-something syndrome
    24. Mental confusion from say-something syndrome
    25. Emotional arousal
    26. Mental confusion from stress
    27. mental confusion from physical/psychological pain, the influence of chemicals or diseases
    28. Bias from over-influence by the combined effect of many psychological tendencies working tougher
  • Behavior can’t be seen as rational/irrational alone – must have context
  • People can take bad news, but we don’t like it late
  • Evaluate things, people and situations by their own merits
  • Past experiences are often context dependent. Just because some stimulus caused you earlier pain, doesn’t mean that is still the case today
  • Create a negative emotion if you want to end a certain behavior
  • Good consequences don’t necessarily mean you made a good decision and bad consequences don’t necessarily mean you made a bad one
  • Frequent rewards, even if smaller, feels better than one large reward
  • The more “precise” people’s projections about the future are, the more wary you should be
  • Munger looks for a handful of things in people – integrity, intelligence, experience and dedication
  • Recognize your limits. How well do you know what you don’t know/ Don’t let your ego determine what you should do
  • Bad news that is true is better than good news that is false
  • People associate being wrong as a threat to their self-interest 
  • Labeling technique – when somebody labels you, whether you agree or not, you are more likely to comply and behave in ways consistent with that label
  • Avoid ideology at all costs
  • “There is nothing wrong with changing a plan when the situation has changed.” – Seneca
  • Base decisions on current situations and future consequences
  • Don’t fall in love with any particular point of view
  • Know your goals and options
  • Remember that people respond to immediate crisis and threats
  • People favor routine behavior over innovative behavior and similarly, people feel worse when they fail as a result of taking action than when they fail from doing nothing
  • Deciding to do nothing is also a decision. And the cost of doing nothing could be greater than the cost of taking an action
  • People give more weight to the present than to the future. We seek pleasure today at a cost of what may be better in the future
  • “We envy those who are near us in time, place, age or reputation.” – Aristotle
  • “The best way to avoid envy is the deserve the success you get.” – Aristotle
  • How we value things depends on what we compare them with
  • Sometimes it is the small, invisible changes that harm us the most
  • Accurate information is better than dramatic information. Back up vivid stories with facts and numbers
  • We see only what we have names for
  • Always look for alternative explanations
  • We see available information. We don’t see what isn’t reported. Missing information doesn’t draw our attention
  • A favor or gift is most effective when it is personal, significant and unexpected
  • Always try to see situations and people from their POV
  • People tend to like their kin, romantic partners and people similar to them more as well as those who are physically attractive. We also like and trust anything familiar
  • Concentrate on the issue and what you want to achieve
  • The vast majority of people would rather be wrong in a group than right in isolation
  • “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • When all are accountable, nobody is accountable
  • Being famous doesn’t give anybody special expertise – beware ads with celebrity endorsements
  • “We don’t like uncertainty. We have a need to understand and make sense of events. We refuse to accept the unknown. We don’t like the unpredictability and meaninglessness. We therefore seek explanations for why things happen. Especially if they are novel, puzzling or frightening. By finding patterns and causal relationships we get comfort and learn for the future.”
    • Consider how other possible outcomes might have happened. Don’t underestimate chance
  • Any reason, no matter how flimsy, often helps persuade others
  • 5 W’s – A rule for communication – must tell who was going to do what, where, when and why.
  • Memory is very selective and fallible – keep records of important events
  • Don’t confuse activity with results. There is no reason to do a good job with something you shouldn’t do in the first place
  • “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” – Plato
  • Awareness of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom
  • When we make big decisions, we could compare our expected feelings with those of people who have similar experiences today. In that sense, we are not as unique as we think we are
  • Understand your emotions and their influence on your behavior. Ask – Is there a reason behind my action?
  • Hold off on important decisions when you have just gone through an emotional experience
  • Cooling-off periods help us think things through
  • Stress increases our suggestibility
  • Stress is neither good nor bad in itself. It depends on the situation and our interpretation
  • “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain
  • People tend to overestimate personal characteristics and motives when we explain the behavior of others and underestimate situational factors like social pressure, roles or things over which there are no control
  • The less knowledgeable we are about an issue, the more influenced we are by how it is framed
  • Advice from Munger – can learn to make fewer mistakes than others and how to fix your mistakes faster when you do make them. Were the factors that really govern the interests involved, rationally considered and what are the subconscious influences where the brain at a subconscious level is automatically doing these things – which by and large are useful, but which often mis function. And, take all the main models from psychology and use them as a checklist in reviewing outcomes in complex systems
Part 3 – The Physics and mathematics of Misjudgments
  • 9 Causes of Misjudgment/Mistakes
    1. Systems Thinking
      • Failing to consider that actions have both intended and unintended consequences. Includes failing to consider secondary and higher order consequences and inevitable implications
      • Failing to consider the likely reactions of others
      • Overestimating predictive ability or using unknowable factors in making predictions
    2. Scale and limits
      • Failing to consider that changes in size or time influence form, function and behavior
      • Failing to consider breakpoints, critical thresholds or limits
      • Failing to consider constraints – system’s performance constrained by its weakest link
    3. Causes
      • Not understanding what causes desired results
      • Believing cause resembles its effect – a big effect must have a big, complicated cause
      • Underestimating the influence of randomness in good or bad outcomes
      • Mistaking an effect for its cause
      • Attributing an outcome to a single cause when there are multiple
      • Mistaking correlation for cause
      • Drawing conclusions about causes from selective data
      • Invert, always invert! – look at problems backwards
    4. Numbers and their meaning
      • Looking at isolated numbers – failing to consider relationships and magnitudes. Not differentiating between absolute and relative risk
      • Underestimating the effect of exponential growth
      • Underestimating the time value of money
    5. Probabilities and number of possible outcomes
      • Underestimating the number of possible outcomes for unwanted events. Includes underestimating the probability and severity of rare or extreme events
      • Underestimating the chance of common but not publicized events
      • Believing one can control the outcome of events where chance is involved
      • Judging financial decisions by evaluating gains and losses instead of final state of wealth and personal value
      • Failing to consider the consequences of being wrong
    6. Scenarios
      • Overestimating the probability of scenarios where all of a series of steps must be achieved for a wanted outcome. Also, underestimating the opportunities for failure and what normally happens in similar situations
      • Underestimating the probability of system failure
      • Not adding a factor of safety for known and unknown risks
      • Invest a lot of time into researching and understanding your mistakes
    7. Coincidences and miracles
      • Underestimating that surprises and improbable events happen, somewhere, sometime to someone, if they have enough opportunities (large enough or time) to happen
      • Looking for meaning, searching for causes and making up patterns for chance events, especially events that have emotional implications
      • Failing to consider cases involving the absence of a cause or effect
    8. Reliability of case evidence
      • Overweighing individual case evidence and under-weighing the prior probability considering the base rate or evidence from many similar cases, random match, false positive or false negative and failing to consider relevant comparison population
    9. Misrepresentative evidence
      • Failing to consider changes in factors, context or conditions when using past evidence to predict likely future outcomes. Not searching for explanations to why past outcome happened, what is required to make past record continue and what forces change it
      • Overestimating evidence from a single case or small or unrepresentative samples
      • Underestimating the influence of chance in performance (success and failure)
      • Only seeing positive outcomes and paying little or no attention to negative outcomes and prior probabilities
      • Failing to consider variability of outcomes and their frequency
      • Failing to consider regression – in any series of events where chance is involved unique outcomes tends to regress back to the average outcome
      • Postmortems – Record your mistakes! Instead of forgetting about them, they should be highlighted
        • What was my original reason for doing something?
        • What were my assumptions?
        • How did reality work out relative to my original guess? What worked and what didn’t?
        • What worked well? What should I do differently? What did I fail to do? What did I miss? What must I learn? What must I stop doing?
Part 4 – Guidelines to Better Thinking
  • This section helps provide tools which create a foundation for rational thinking
  • 12 Tools for rational thinking
    1. Models of reality
      • A model is an idea that helps us better understand how the world works. Helps explain “why” and predict “how” people are likely to behave in certain situations
      • Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to make my whole mental process work better? And I [Munger] would say that the habit of mastering multiple models which underlie reality is the best thing you can do…It’s just so much fun – and it works so well.”
      • A valuable model produces meaningful explanations and predictions of likely future consequences where the cost of being wrong is high
      • Considering many ideas help us achieve a holistic view. No single discipline has all the answers – need to consider mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, psychology and rank and use them in order of their reliability
      • Must understand how different ideas interact and combine
      • Can build your own mental models by looking around you and asking why things are happening (or why things are not happening).
    2. Meaning
      • Truly understand something when “without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language.”
      • Meaning of words, events, causes, implications, purpose, reason, usefulness
      • “Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.” – Niels Bohr
      • Use ideas and terms people understand, that they are familiar with and can relate to
      • We shouldn’t engage in false precision
    3. Simplification
      • “If something is too hard, we move on to something else. What could be more simple than that?” – Charlie Munger
      • Make problems easier to solve. Eliminate everything except the essentials – break down a problem into its components but look at the problem holistically – first dispose of the easy questions
      • Make fewer but better decisions
      • Dealing with what’s important forces us to prioritize. There are only a few decisions of real importance. Don’t bother trying to get too much information of no use to explain or predict
      • Deal with the situations in live by knowing what to avoid. Reducing mistakes by learning what areas, situations and people to avoid is often a better use of time than seeking out new ways of succeeding. Also, it is often simpler to prevent something than to solve it
      • Shifting mental attention between tasks hugely inefficient. Actions and decisions are simpler when we focus on one thing at a time
      • Some important things we can’t know. Other things we can know but they are not important
      • Activity does not correlate with achievement
    4. Rules and filters
      • Gain more success from avoiding stupid decisions rather than making brilliant ones
      • Filters help us prioritize and figure out what makes sense. When we know what we want, we need criteria to evaluate alternatives. Try to use as few criteria as necessary to make your judgment. Then rank them in order of their importance and use them as filters
      • More information does not mean you are better off
      • Warren Buffet uses 4 criteria as filters
        • Can I understand it? If it passes this filter then,
          • Understanding for Buffett means thinking that he will have a reasonable probability of being able to assess where the business will be in 10 years
        • Does it look like it has some kind of sustainable advantage? If it passes this filter,
        • Is the management composed of able and honest people? If it passes this filter,
        • Is the price right? If it passes this filter, we write a check
      • Elimination – look for certain things that narrow down the possibilities
      • Checklist procedures – help reduce the chances of harm (pair with Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto)
        • Should think about – different issues need different checklists, a checklist must include each critical item necessary for “safety” and avoiding “accidents” so we don’t need to rely on memory for items to be checked, readily usable and easy to use, agree with reality
        • Avoid excessive reliance on checklists as this can lead to a false sense of security
    5. Goals
      • How can we make the right decision if we don’t know what we want to achieve? Even if we don’t know what we want, we often know what we don’t want, meaning that our goal can be to avoid certain things
      • Goals should be – clearly defined, focused on results, concrete, realistic and logical, measurable, tailored to individual needs and subject to change
      • Goals need target dates and controls stations measuring the degree to which the goal is achieved
      • Always ask – What end result do I want? What causes that? What factors have a major impact on the outcome? What single factor has the most impact? Do I have the variable(s) needed for the goal to be achieved? What is the best way to achieve my goal? Have I considered what other effects my actions will have that will influence the final outcome?
    6. Alternatives
      • Opportunity cost – every minute we choose to spend on one thing is a minute unavailable to spend on other things. Every dollar we invest is a dollar unavailable for other available investments
      • When we decide whether to change something, we should measure it against the best of what we already have
    7. Consequences
      • Consider secondary and long-term effects of an action
      • Whenever we install a policy, take an action or evaluate statements, we must trace the consequences – remember four key things:
        • Pay attention to the whole system, direct and indirect effects
        • Consequences have implications or more consequences, some which may be unwanted. We can’t estimate all possible consequences but there is at least one unwanted consequence we should look out for,
        • Consider the effects of feedback, time, scale, repetition, critical thresholds and limits
        • Different alternatives have different consequences in terms of costs and benefits. Estimate the net effects over time and how desirable these are compared to what we want to achieve
    8. Quantification
      • How can you evaluate if a decision is intelligent or not if you can’t measure it against a relevant and important yardstick?
      • We need to understand what is behind the numbers
        • Buffett says that return on beginning equity capital is the most appropriate measure of single-year managerial performance
    9. Evidence
      • Evidence helps us prove what is likely to happen or likely to be true or false. Evidence comes from facts, observations, experiences, comparisons and experiments
      • Occam’s Razor – if we face two possible explanations which make the same predictions, the one based on the least number of unproven assumptions is preferable, until more evidence comes along
      • Past record is the single best guide
      • The following questions help decide if past evidence is representative of the future – observation (will past/present behavior continue?), explanation (why did it happen in the past or why does it happen now?), predictability (how representative is the past/present evidence for what is likely to happen in the future?), continuation and change (what is required to make the past/present record continue or to achieve the goal?), certainty and consequences (how certain am I?)
      • Falsify and disprove – a single piece of evidence against something will show that it is false
      • Look for evidence that disproves your explanation and don’t spend time on already disproved ideas or arguments or those that can’t be disproved
      • Engage in self-criticism and question your assumptions
      • Find your mistakes early and correct them quickly before they cause harm
      • The mental habit of thinking backward forces objectivity – because one way  to think a thing through backward is by taking your initial assumption and say, “let’s try and disprove it.” That is not what most people do with their initial assumption. They try and confirm it.
    10. Backward thinking
      • Avoid what causes the opposite of what you want to achieve and thinking backwards can help determine what these actions are
        • Should also make explicitly clear what we want to achieve
      • “Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of the fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.” – Cato
    11. Risk
      • Reflect on what can go wrong and ask what may cause this to turn into a catastrophe?
      • Being wrong causes both an actual loss and an opportunity cost
      • To protect us from all unknowns that lie ahead we can either avoid certain situations, make decisions that work for a wide range of outcomes, have backups or a huge margin of safety
    12. Attitudes
      • “Life is long if we know how to use it.” – Seneca
      • Know what you want and don’t want
      • Determine your abilities and limitations. Need to know what we don’t know or are not capable of knowing and avoid those areas
      • Ask – what is my nature? what motivates me? what is my tolerance for pain and risk? what has given me happiness in the past? what are my talents and skills? what are my limitations?
      • Be honest – act with integrity and individuality
      • Trusting people is efficient
      • Act as an exemplar
      • Treat people fairly – must be lovable
      • Don’t take life too seriously – have perspective, a positive attitude, enthusiasm and do what you enjoy
      • Have reasonable expectations – expect adversity
      • Live in the present – don’t emphasize the destination so much that you miss the journey. Stay in the present and enjoy life today
      • Be curious and open minded and always ask “why?”
Munger Harvard School Commencement Speech 1986
  • Avoid drugs, envy, resentment, being unreliable, not learning from other’s mistakes, not standing on shoulders of giants, giving up, not looking at problems from different POVs, only reading/paying attention to information that confirms your own beliefs
  • Be objective
  • “Disraeli…learned to give up vengeance as a motivation for action, but he did retain some outlet for resentment by putting the names of people who wronged him on a piece of paper in a drawer. Then, from time to time, he reviewed these names and took pleasure in nothing the way the world had taken his enemies down without his assistance.”
Wisdom from Charles Munger and Warren Buffett
  • Appeal to other people’s interests over your own
  • Institutional imperative – tendency to resist change, make less than optimal capital deployment decisions, support foolish initiatives and imitate the actions of peer companies
  • Board of directors have few incentives (unless large owners) to replace CEO
  • Type of people to work with – need intellectual honesty and business owners must care who they sell to
  • Need role models early on
  • Emulate what you admire in others but also be aware of what you don’t like
  • Know your circle of competence
  • Use all available mental models, not just what you’re comfortable with
  • Scale extremely important – efficiencies, information (recognition), psychology (fit in), and in some industries leads to monopolies and specialization
    • Disadvantages of scale – specialization often leads to bureaucracy
  • On what something really means – ask “and then what?” to truly get at somethings core
  • There is a certain natural tendency to overlook anything that is simple and important
  • Avoid commodity businesses
  • Deal only with great people and you will avoid 99% of life’s headaches

Buffett and Munger: A Study in Simplicity and Uncommon, Common Sense by Peter Bevelin

  1. A very interesting dialogue between Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, the “librarian” and the “seeker” of knowledge. The dialogue discusses how to live a successful, happy and fulfilling life, what to avoid in life and in business and how to improve mental biases and heuristics in order to make better decisions
Key Takeaways
  1. On fatal mistakes, prevention and simplicity
    1. Mistakes are a fact of life
    2. Don’t bother about mistakes that don’t actually matter
    3. Avoiding problems is better than being forced to solve them
    4. If we understand what works and not, we know what to do
    5. It is better to try to be consistently not stupid than to be very intelligent
    6. Thinking backwards is a great tool for solving problems
    7. Keep it simple and make it easy for yourself
    8. The secret is ignorance removal
  2. On what doesn’t work and what does
    1. Find and marry a lousy person
    2. Turn our body and mind into a wreck
    3. Only learn from your own terrible experiences
    4. Use a hammer as your only tool and approach every complex problem as if it was a nail
    5. Go through life with unreasonable expectations
    6. Only take care of your own interest
    7. Blindly trust and follow the recommendations of advisors and salesmen
    8. Mindlessly imitate the latest fads and fashions
    9. Overly care what other people think about you
    10. Let other people set your agenda in life
    11. Live above your means
    12. Go heavily into debt
    13. Go down and stay down when bad things happen
    14. When in trouble, feel sorry for yourself
    15. Be envious
    16. Be unreliable and unethical
    17. Be a jerk and treat people really badly
    18. Have a job that makes you feel miserable
    19. Work with something that goes against your nature and talent
    20. Believe you know everything about everything
    21. Associate with assholes
    22. Distort your problems so they fit your wishes
    23. Stick to, justify and rationalize your actions no matter how dumb they are
    24. Be an extreme ideologue
    25. Make it easy for people to cheat, steal and behave badly
    26. Risk what you have and need, to get what you don’t need
    27. Only look at the sunny upside (over stress the downside)
  3. On what else doesn’t work and what does in business and investing
    1. Invest your money in overpriced assets – preferably businesses without any competitive advantages or future and with lousy and crooked management
    2. If you are a businessman think like an investor and if you’re an investor, think like a businessman
    3. Investing is about where to allocate your capital
    4. Buy “wrongly” cheap productive assets you understand
    5. Things are often cheapest when people are fearful and pessimistic
    6. Be opportunistic and adapt and change when the facts and circumstances change
    7. Stick to businesses where you can assess that their economics is good and getting better
    8. Buy assets protected with a durable competitive advantage run by able and honest people
    9. Understand why it has a moat – the key factors and their permanence
    10. One test of the strength of a moat is essentiality and pricing power
    11. Go in a field, in which you have no interest, not any competence or talent for, no edge in and where the competition is huge
    12. Think about where the business is going to be in the future – not the macro factors
    13. Common sense is better than advanced math and computer models
  4. On filters and rules
    1. The right filters conserve thought and simplify life
    2. Never lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve or avoid
    3. The tune out “folly” filter
    4. The important and knowable filter
    5. The circle of competence filter
    6. The too tough filter
    7. The opportunity cost filter
    8. The “and then what?” filter
    9. The “compared to what?” filter
    10. Checklists help – assuming of we are competent enough to pick the key factors and evaluate them
    11. Have some avoid-rules
    12. Learning never stops
What I got out of it
  1. An incredible book on heuristics, mental biases, how to live, how to not live, what to avoid, the importance of thinking backwards. Highly recommend and will re-read many times moving forward
  • Buffett and Munger have an amazing ability to eliminate folly, simplify things and boil down issues to their essence and get right to the point and focus on simple and timeless truths. Succeed because rational and very seldom let extraneous factors interfere with their thoughts
  • Making better decisions helps avoid a lot of misery
  • Start out with failure and then engineer out its removal
  • Einstein’s razor – things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler
  • The more basic knowledge you have, the less new knowledge you have to get
  • Seeking Synthesis – always putting things in context and having a latticework mindset, linking the largest areas and using/always adding to your toolbox
  • The very successful say no to almost everything – you must keep control of your time
  • Consistently rub your nose in your own mistakes
  • Best way to avoid envy is to plainly deserve the success you get
  • Set up a system and environment which plays to strengths and minimizes weaknesses
  • Ignorance more often begets confidence than does knowledge
  • There is enormous efficiency in good character. If crooks new how profitable being honest is, they would be
  • Knowing what you ultimately want to accomplish makes it easier for you to decide what is and is not important
  • Good question for field you know little about – “can you give me a very simple example and explanation for what you’re talking about?”
  • To speak/write clearly is to think clearly – orangutan test
  • Iron rule of nature is you get what you reward for
  • No need for extra analysis – just know what you need to know
  • Attractive opportunities come from capitalizing on human behavior (fear, pessimism, greed)
  • Understanding a business should always be filter #1
  • Best way to understand moats and their key factors and permanence is to study companies who have achieved them
  • Almost always easier to figure out who loses (short horses rather than long autos)
  • Franchise – another word for moats, a product or service that: is needed or desired; is thought by its customers to have no close substitute and; is not subject to price regulation. These three allow a company to regularly price its product or service to earn high ROC. The test of a franchise is what a smart guy with a lot of money could do it if he tried. The real test of a business is how much damage a competitor can do, even if he is stupid about returns
  • Share of mind matters more than share of market
  • Best business by far has high ROC with little need of incremental capital to grow at high rates
  • If you had $1b, could you compete? – silver bullet question (ask CEOs if they could kill one competitor, who would it be and why?)
    • When speaking with management ask “If roles reversed, what would you ask if I were running your business?
  • Northern Pike Model – if you introduce a dominant species, they will soon take over (as WalMart did early on)
  • You don’t have to make money back the same way you lost it
  • It’s simple, to be a winner, work with winners – get great management and let them do their thing
  • if you can detach yourself temperamentally from the crowd, you’ll end up being very successful
  • What is important and knowable? Ignore the rest
  • Wall of Shame for things / investments that have been mistakes (don’t forget to include omissions!)
  • Always consider higher order effects and the implications 

A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers by Peter Bevelin

  1. Bevelin compiles Buffett’s investor letters as well as other good sources of value investing into a quick and easy-to-read investing manual
Key Takeaways
  1. What investing in financial assets is all about – laying out cash today in order to get more cash back in the future
  2. Valuation – follow the cash as it’s the only thing you can spend; rough approximations are enough
  3. The value of a business – beware optimistic predictions, accounting jargon
  4. Return on Tangible Invested Capital reflects the cash flow generating characteristics of the business – should be able to generate substantially more than $1 for every $1 invested
  5. Business characteristics
    1. The great – high returns, a sustainable moat and obstacles that make it tough for new companies to enter
    2. The good – earn good returns on tangible invested capital
    3. The gruesome – require a lot of capital at a low return business; I have to be smart every day businesses; fast changing industries;
  6. Past results as a guide – sometimes useful and sometimes dangerous
  7. The importance of trustworthy and talented management – integrity, talent and passion
  8. The importance of clear yardsticks to judge management performance
  9. Corporate governance – board’s most important job is to pick the right person to run the business and evaluate their performance
  10. Owners and management – just follow the golden rule; decentralization and trust and loyalty all pay off in multiples
  11. Management compensation – you get what you reward for. Incentives are a superpower
  12. M&A – dumb acquisitions cost owners far more than most other things
  13. A few management issues –  be honest and trustworthy and select people you can trust; look for companies with low HQ costs; clear communication
  14. How to reduce risk – prevention is much better than cure – keep it simple; know when you have an edge and buy with a margin of safety (fewer but larger bets); be conservative with debt; distrust biased advice; avoid mindless imitation and don’t be caught up in the latest fads and fashions; pay no attention to forecasting; have the right mental attitude towards market fluctuations
  15. Sometimes mistakes are made – do postmortems on dumb decisions; learn from others mistakes; see the world as it truly is
What I got out of it
  1. Incredible overview of Buffett’s investor letters and line of thinking. Highly recommend for anybody remotely interested in investing and how to properly manage a company

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

  1. Interesting biography on the philosopher/politician who was responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, instilling a belief in America of continuous improvement and more
Key Takeaways
  1. Can be considered one of the most successful political figures of The first 50 years of the American republic (1743-1826). His dynasty of similar thinking presidents was unmatched and their goal was the development and furtherance of a popular government – the will of an enlightened majority should prevail. The public is the hope and savior of the republic – opposite the view of the Federalists
  2. The greatest leaders are not dreamers nor dictators but those who understand the mechanics of influence and know when to change their minds. People are always torn between the ideal and the real. The true leaders know how to balance this tension. Jefferson’s combination of philosopher and politician is what helped make him so powerful
  3. His escape was Monticello and he was very well read and multidimensional in his talents and studies.
  4. Foes thought of him as an atheist, dreamer, womanizer, Francophile.
  5. Responsible for the rise of individualism, Louisiana purchase and the opening of the west, Lewis and Clark expedition, democratic move in America to check the power of established forces, gave the nation the idea of American progress and the future will be better than the past. Thought of as the designer of America
  6. Jefferson was very worried and perhaps paranoid about Britain and anything remotely resembling monarchy. He considered America in a perennial war and nothing in America to be secure
  7. Jefferson’s father was a rich and powerful farmer who taught him how to wield and handle power effectively. His father died when he was 14 but his mother was very impressive and held down the home
  8. Jefferson headed to William and Mary where he was exposed to the world of politics
  9. Jefferson considered sloth and indolence a sin and was known to spend 15 hours per day studying and reading. Believed history is philosophy teaching by example and spent a lot of time studying history to know how to respond when it repeats itself
  10. Jefferson married Martha Wales Skelton in 1772 when he was 28. His first daughter Jane died before her second birthday and was devastating for him and his wife
  11. Jefferson played a critical role in the second continental congress which was charged with prepping the country for war against Britain
  12. Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia at a very unstable time where Britain was threatening to attack and abolish slavery. Jefferson was not a great leader during this time and failed to react quickly enough to stave off Benedict Arnold, Cornwallis and the English. Soon after he retired from his post and spent much time at Monticello in an almost secluded manner. Although many were fascinated and awed by Jefferson, he considered himself a failure at this point in his life
  13. His wife died when he was only 39 and it caused him severe depression
  14. Jefferson took the post of US Minister to France and moved to Paris with his eldest daughter, Patsy. His goal was to study and adapt the best European inventions, designs and other ways of life for American use. He was enamored with the French culture and later criticized for being a Francophile. He was Franklin’s successor and promoted a strong and united America for Europe. He lived quite lavishly and became close friends with John Adams and his family until e moved back to the US to become Secretary of State
  15. After a contentious bill to abolish slavery was not passed, Jefferson decided it was not worth his political reputation to fight for an idea who’s time he believed had not yet come
  16. Sally Hemings was the slave Jefferson had sexual relations with and was in fact his wife’s half sister
  17. Jefferson butted heads with Alexander Hamilton who was Secretary of the Treasury and who wanted to fund a national debt, charter a national bank, absorb state debts and raise funds from tariffs on imports and liquor. They had a lifelong rivalry that would shape the nation      Republican vs Federalist. Populist vs monarchist
  18. The meeting of principles must often be undertaken away from the public eye
  19. Jefferson retired as Secretary of State but soon returned and won the VP nomination. He was instrumental during the quasi war with France which never escalated to full out warfare
  20. Jefferson was elected as the third president of the US with Aaron Burr as his VP
  21. Although a populist and widely believed in the will of the people, Jefferson was very aware of how important it was to have differing opinions and public discourse. To try to minimize that would lead to tyranny
  22. Tensions with Spain arose as Jefferson expanded and explored the continent westward. However, he decided a stance of neutrality would best serve the nation and did not sign any treaties with Britain
  23. Jefferson, like nearly all politicians, was forced to moderate and compromise his political ideals once he was actually in office
  24. Aaron Burr posed a bug threat for some time as he was thought to be building a militia in the west with possible hopes of either attacking or splitting off from America to form his own empire
  25. Time often resolves the problems of the hour
  26. An attack by a British ship on an American ship almost lead to war and in this time of crisis Jefferson greatly expanded the power of the executive branch. He enacted a very controversial embargo
  27. Jefferson retired after his second term to Monticello where he spent much time with family and studying. He eventually made amends with Adams and corresponded with him regularly
  28. Jefferson fought through old age and illness to make it to his last Fourth of July in 1826
What I got out of it
  1. After reading Hamilton and John Adams, I wanted to get a different perspective and Meacham provided that. Jefferson was a politician/philosopher who believed in the common people and instilled in the nation a sense of progress where the future can always be better than the past