Howdy! Welcome to this week's digest. This is a very special "Scattered Showers" edition, because we touch a lot of different areas.

Source: Giphy
This week's topics include decision-making heuristics, the benefits of nature, difficulties with scientific consensus, the concept of relational equality, and re-visiting classic movies. Enjoy!

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"Too much information increases confidence not accuracy." ~ Shane Parrish
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (AKA I have a lot to learn from you)

Greg, replying to Figuring Out Where to Live
: Nice man - love the detailed thoughts re: choosing cities and excited for you to be back out east.  Those kind of calculations and moves are always so tough (at least for me), but obviously so influential.  Your notes about the SoCal weather/environment reminded me of that Paul Graham essay about choosing cities [and basically how he found going from Cambridge MA to Berkeley to be ultimately unrewarding largely because Berkeley is such a nice place to live that it attracts all sorts (vs. you only live in Cambridge if you have a pretty particular type of ambition)].  

That PG essay was definitely in the back of my mind, too. LA as a city / honing beacon just doesn't resonate with my core values, at least not as much as other cities, even if I can find individuals who buck the macro trends.

Jamie, replying to Figuring Out Where to Live: Thanks for being so open about your life and process. One thing you wrote below struck me though: "The work of our lives (well, my life at least ;D) is not about optimization." YES X100! Glad you have come to this realisation. This is what I was trying to say last time I replied, about your insane looking ideal daily schedule. Sometimes the old adages are the simplest and easiest to follow - friends and family are most important. Just follow your gut. IMHO constant optimisation is an indicator of inner discontent, often amongst high acheivers... I see it a lot with MBA / VC folks, constantly documenting their never ending travels to burning man, Africa burn, tech conf .... ad infinitum. Why do they document all this on Social Media? For external validation. Which, if they need it, suggests maybe they don't trust their own instincts. 

I very much agree with your point about the need for external validation... The kernel of my on-going therapy is self-love, and I've been fortunate to make a lot of progress this year (especially with the lens of unconditional self-esteem vs. externally or internally validated self-esteem). And as that has progressed, I've noticed less of a desire for the hedonistic aspects of life, and more of a desire for simply being there with loved ones to do meaningful work. And so even with the move, the work of life continues... I now have the fortunate opportunity to do the hard work of re-cultivating significant relationships back home.

Aaron, replying to Figuring Out Where to Live: Good luck with the move! Do you know where you're going to live yet? And if you're inclined to bake an apple pie, I have just the recipe for you.

That looks entirely too foodgasmic :D Should have plugged The Hungry Hutch ages ago.

TWEET STORM - Some heuristics to make decisions by Shane Parrish - Shane delivers yet again with a thoughtful synthesis of key decision-making heuristics! #15 and #20 (see below highlights) were some of my biggest weaknesses (i.e., I did not operate with these heuristics in mind) in my work at Bain and private equity.

My highlights:
  • 8. Look for win-win decisions. If someone absolutely has to lose, you’re likely not thinking hard enough or you need to make structural/environmental changes.
  • 10. The rule of 5. Think about what the decision looks like 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades.
  • 12. Avoid things the best version of yourself will regret.
  • 15. If you’re outside your circle of competence and still have to make a decision, ask experts HOW they would make the same decision not WHAT they would decide.
  • 16. Lean into (not away from) what’s making you uncomfortable.
  • 20. Too much information increases confidence not accuracy.
  • 23. Some warnings signs that increase the likelihood of stupidity are (environment, the pace of change, rushing, physically tired, hyper-focus, authority, consensus-seeking behavior).
Complement with Shane's other recent Twitter wisdom: "I've been testing a new response to whenever the kids complain. The formula is [acknowledge], [opportunity]. It’s incredible how well it works. Works on adults too."

ARTICLE - National Geographic: This Is Your Brain on Nature by Florence Williams - A fun overview of the benefits of being in and near nature! Back in Boston, to de-stress during work, I would take walks in the Boston Public Garden (when it was reasonable to walk outside :D). In Santa Monica, I walk to the ocean-adjacent cliffs, soak up the sun, and maybe hit the punching bag or push a heavy sled at the gym. It still surprises me how incredible a dose of sunshine and fresh air can make us feel.

My highlights:
  • The three-day effect is a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield that occurs when we’ve been immersed in nature long enough... “On the third day my senses recalibrate—I smell things and hear things I didn’t before."... [David] Strayer’s hypothesis is that being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s command center, to dial down and rest, like an overused muscle.
  • What he and other researchers suspect is that nature works primarily by lowering stress... Measurements of stress hormones, respiration, heart rate, and sweating suggest that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance.
  • A 40- to 50-minute walk seems to be enough for physiological changes and mood changes and probably for attention,” says Kalevi Korpela, a professor of psychology at the University of Tampere. He has helped design a half dozen “power trails” that encourage walking, mindfulness, and reflection. Signs on them say things like, “Squat down and touch a plant.”
  • “Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost,” the researchers wrote in their paper. It exists, they continued, and it’s called “interacting with nature.”

ARTICLE - Scientific American: Why the Most Important Idea in Behavioral Decision-Making Is a Fallacy by David Gal - Sharing David's piece to highlight: 1) The subjective / social elements of scientific consensus; and 2) The general opportunity for each of us to have a more critical and accurate view of all of the relevant research on any topic, if we choose to dive in. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with David's views of loss aversion, I simply don't know enough to provide a thoughtful opinion.

Complement with Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (My full Kindle notes) to learn more.

My highlights:
  • If what I am claiming is true, why has belief in loss aversion persisted so strongly? An idealized view of science is that theories are accepted or rejected based solely on empirical evidence. In fact, science is not simply an objective search for truth, but also a social process, in which proponents of a theory must convince other scientists, through logic and argumentation, of how evidence should be interpreted. However, this process advantages incumbent theories over challengers for a number of reasons, including confirmation bias, social proof, ideological complacency, and the vested interests of scientists whose reputations and even sense of self are tied to existing theories.
  • In the case of loss aversion, contradictory evidence has tended to be dismissed, ignored or explained away, while ambiguous evidence has tended to be interpreted in line with loss aversion.
  • In sum, our critical review of loss aversion highlights that, even in contemporary times, wrong ideas can persist for a long time despite contrary evidence, and therefore, that there is a need to critically assess accepted beliefs and to be wary of institutional consensus in science and otherwise.

ARTICLE - Aeon: The respect deficit by Richard Reeves - Richard's wonderful piece surfaced two novel ideas for me: 1) Relational equality (and its importance, especially when considering redistributive public policy); 2) The psychological and relational issues inherently created by meritocracy.

My highlights:
  • ...there is a much deeper kind of inequality, caused not by a lack of resources, but by a lack of respect. You might be much richer or poorer than I am. But if we treat each other with mutual respect, we are, relationally speaking, equal.
  • Self-respect and mutual respect are tightly intertwined. If others do not respect me, it is hard to respect myself; and vice versa.
  • While the three variants of equality – basic, material and relational – are distinct, they often reinforce each other. Relational equality is usually a necessary precursor, for example, to laws ensuring equal rights.
  • But redistribution can also undermine relational equality, by inducing dependency or encouraging paternalistic attitudes towards the poor. This risk can be heightened not only by the fact of state support, but by the way it is provided. A policy might lessen income poverty but increase stigma or alienation... Policies designed to lessen resource inequality have to be designed and implemented in ways that are sensitive to their potential impact on respect, and therefore on relational equality.
  • Life in a meritocracy is psychologically comfortable for those who possess whatever particular kind of merit is valued. But it is hard for those who do not... when everyone can, at least in theory, be a CEO or a president or rich, your failure to do so must be your own fault... The loss of self-respect among some of meritocracy’s losers is accompanied and amplified by a loss of respect between classes – the winners and losers – too. Those who are economically productive and successful often do not see a broken labour market, which, after all, continues to work for them. They see broken people, making bad choices, who are less worthy of respect. Or they might simply be unable to imagine themselves in their shoes. The economic gap becomes an empathy gap, which becomes a respect gap.

- Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino - Not exactly an original pick. I've seen this about 200 times, primarily because my parents made a VHS recording of a censored version off the WB when I was little, and I'd watch that every time I was sick growing up (after The Price is Right :D). And then I was downright shocked when I got to see the uncensored version in my teens! The movie is often winding and philosophical, touching on topics like relationships, sex, meaning, and drugs; all of which piqued my interest in my teens and twenties.

Sharing this with you now because I rewatched a few weeks ago, and had a very different reaction to the last scene, where Jules talks about what he wants to do with the rest of his life. In particular, this moment. I used to resonate 100% with Vincent's perspective... and now I am starting to see the cracks in that worldview, as well as the potential wisdom in Jules' perspective. Much more to process on this, just something to earmark for the next time you watch this masterpiece.

My highlights:
  • That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.
  • There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you." Now... I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You'd be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.
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