This Week I Learned #57

Go to bed smarter than when you woke up
— Charlie Munger

Top learnings from the quarterly review for Q2 below:


  • Wise: Shane Parrish's Farnam Street podcast on mental models. Key learning was perspective that the power law is a convex model where the more people use something it gets better. Most believe in this because its optimistic. It also shows human hubris because the pessimist POV would be linear growth. But linearity is dangerous. It requires constant innovation of sorts. Most models are concave in nature. The more people use it or the more there is, it has diminishing returns. Like a fund that gets too big. Its ability to outperform will diminish but the more money it accumulates the more likelihood it'll get more money for future. Just easier. So there is that inverse relationship within a single business model.


  • “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” - Larry King


  • Bezos' 2018 Amazon letter -

    • The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

    • No one asked for AWS. No one. Turns out the world was in fact ready and hungry for an offering like AWS but didn’t know it. We had a hunch, followed our curiosity, took the necessary financial risks, and began building

    • No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.” Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices.

    • As I said in the first shareholder letter more than 20 years ago, our focus is on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees who can think like owners. Achieving that requires investing in our employees, and, as with so many other things at Amazon, we use not just analysis but also intuition and heart to find our way forward.


  • Tim Ferriss didn't write the Four Hour Work Week until he was 28. He was still wrestling with what to do with his life and was travelling around Berlin and Ireland on a budget. It's a continuous journey of trying to figure things out. It just made things so much more relatable to hear him talk about himself when he was 27 by being 27 myself. Even when I read his books at 23/24 it didn't click. Funny how a few years can make such a difference.


  • Inspiring story: "For instance, while the field of software coding favors the young and fluid, managing projects and the business can shift the needed skills to an older profile. Consider the career of Diane Greene, who spent her 20s and early 30s organizing windsurfing races and working for Coleman, the camping equipment company. At 33, she earned a master’s degree in computer science and pronounced herself ready for a “grown-up’s job.” In 1998, at age 43—late by Silicon Valley’s youth-centric standards—Ms. Greene co-founded the software company VMware and then led it for a decade. In 2015, Google acquired another company she started and, at age 60, put her in charge of one of its most important businesses, Google Cloud (a position from which she stepped down in January)."


  • "It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death's final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it... Life is long if you know how to use it." - Seneca


  • "Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune's control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately." - Seneca


  • Seth Godin on how our job is to make art. 1) You are already prepared but you will never be ready. 2) Guttenberg made the printing press while only 6% of the world was literate 3) When Mercedes needed the king to sign off on his car invention because it wasn't legal to drive a car on the road yet. 4) Saulto Mortale => Italian phrase for taking the dangerous leap into the void. Nothing is more affirming and makes you feel more alive than leaping. You will never be ready and the world won't be ready either. 5) The question isn't whether you are successful, it's whether you matter. 6) Competence is no longer a scarce commodity. Anything with a manual or path or steps will make you into a mere copycat. No one cares about copycats. 7) We make art to instill one thing. Change.


  • Podcast interview with Sports + Science writer David Epstein and Patrick O'Shaughnessy on Specialist vs. Generalists: 1) Sports analogies are skewed because many sports elements are fixed environments where you know the range of possible outcomes and many of the variables can be controlled to a certain extend. Most things in the real world are wild environments where causation and correlations are still vastly uncertain with tons of random variables 2) Tiger vs Roger: Tiger is the specialist case of learning to golf at age 1. The poster child for Anders Ericsson's 10k hours. Roger (Federer) didn't specialize much later and focused on playing all kinds of other sports and explored. His mother was a tennis coach who constantly pushed him away from the sport and advised he explore. 3) Most people who succeed in sports or other fields have had to go through periods of exploration early in life to understand who they are and what their strengths are. The 10k rule only really works for people who also have strengths aligned to that area of choice. 4) To learn effectively: i) test ii) space iii) interweave = i) once tested before we are ready, we are more likely to learn that stuff because its relevant and applicable ii) leave space between bouts of practice. Studying same topic nonstop can give sense of short term progress but spacing learning with at least a one month break can lead to 200%+ greater retention long term of topic; one spaced learning group remembered 250% more 8 years later than the group that did not do spaced. iii) learn different topics to allow for conceptual weaving. Mix up things you want to learn and this can help build abstract models in your mind.


  • "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson