Hallå! Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans, I hope you are embracing the spirit of being thankful, and taking time off to comatize yourself with a patriotic combination of Skittles, frozen chicken nuggets, Easy Cheese, and pumpkin Oreos. Note: Comatize is my new verb for self-inducing a food coma, perhaps to avoid talking politics with your drunk in-laws. This week's digest is a special holiday edition, which means that I am copping-out and just sharing others' hard work. Enjoy!
ARTICLE - Learning vs. Doing - I am linking this article as an excuse to share a novel idea from my friend Greg. Greg, as a 'creator', has a key metric of input vs. output - if you want to create, his advice is to be 90% output / 10% input. This was a lesson learned the hard way - he spent months skewed the other way, 20% output / 80% input, before finding his groove. For me, this is an invaluable lens to evaluate how I spend my time. Based on Greg's advice and last week's Silence Experiment (i.e., cutting out a lot of 'learning' via content consumption), I am erecting firmer boundaries in my life to limit inputs and enable more output.
The fact that you can fool yourself, for the most part, into thinking that you have done something really valuable with your time is really dangerous.
ARTICLE - In defence of epistemic modesty - Very long, dense, and humbling. Even if you agree, there is still plenty of subjectivity in taking the 'modest' position, and there are times when you can't split the difference between opposing camps. That said, this piece served as an amazing lens for me to evaluate my 'non-consensus' views for logical coherence (vs. my personal bias and ego).
When I look at people who are touted as particularly good at being ‘correct contrarians’, I see at best something like an ‘epistemic venture capitalist’ - their bold contrarian guesses are right more often than chance, but not right more often than not. They appear by my lights to be unable to judiciously ‘pick their battles’, staking out radical views in topics where there isn’t a good story as to why the experts would be getting this wrong (still less why they’re more likely to get it right). So although they do get big wins, the modal outcome of their contrarian take is a bust.
If one happens to be a particularly successful contrarian one should follow the same approach: “I get these right surprisingly often, but I’m still wrong more often than not, so it might be worth it to look into this further to see if I can strike gold, but until then I should bank on the consensus view.”
In macro, it's important for people like me to always search for the truth, and reach conclusions about economic models in a way that is independent of the consensus model. In that way, I play my "worker ant" role of nudging the profession towards a greater truth. But at the same time we need to recognize that there is nothing special about our view. If we are made dictator, we should implement the consensus view of optimal policy, not our own. People have trouble with this, as it implies two levels of belief about what is true.
The truth is none of us know how much time we have in this life. And taking that fact to heart brings a kind of moral and emotional clarity and energy to the present, or at least it can. And it can bring a resolve to not suffer over stupid things.
You go to a party, and your mother's died, and nobody mentions it, because we don't want to upset you. And what we do is leave people isolated in their loss, in their experience of grief, by not engaging them. So just honesty, real conversation, that says something like, "I heard your mother died, I can't imagine how that is for you, but I'd like to hear." Be willing to listen. Listening is a beautiful act of love, it's the shortest distance between two people. And so just be real with people.
[Death] is the only thing really that is absolutely guaranteed to happen, and yet the experience of having it happen to others in one's life, and the experience of finding out that it will happen to you, is uniformly one of shock. We really are not well suited to understand our circumstance if the one guaranteed thing is almost universally met with surprise. If we are all in collusion around that, it's pretty difficult to face that.
it seems that our remedies are instinctively those which aggravate the sickness: the remedies are expressions of the sickness itself
the very thought processes of materialistic affluence are ultimately self-defeating. They contain so many built-in frustrations that they inevitably lead us to despair in the midst of “plenty” and “happiness” and the awful fruit of this despair is indiscriminate, irresponsible destructiveness, hatred of life, carried on in the name of life itself.
Technics and wisdom are not by any means opposed. On the contrary, the duty of our age, the “vocation” of modern man is to unite them in a supreme humility which will result in a totally self-forgetful creativity and service.
MOST FAVORITE FROM THE PAST
BOOK - Taming Your Gremlin (My full Kindle notes) - A thoughtful, actionable treatise on staying present and noticing our self-created bullshit. The key question this book plays with is - Does our current mental model of the world still serve our best interests? Below are my favorite bits. Enjoy!
Awareness and choice are the primary elements of simply noticing... I free myself not by trying to be free, but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself in the very moment I am imprisoning myself.
In every moment you are a devotee. In every moment you devote your life to something. You do so via your awareness... In each moment, consciously or unconsciously, you choose. It’s your choice. It’s your life. Your awareness can lead you or you can lead it. And that choice is with you here and now.
authentic, uncensored joy is powerful, beautiful, and contagious
bringing your fears into the light allows the natural you to reevaluate them “in light” of who you are today—not who you were way back when he convinced you to cement those fears in place
Your self-concept is faulty and self-limiting for one simple reason: you are more than a concept... True satisfaction and contentment have more to do with actualizing yourself than with actualizing your concept of who you imagine you are supposed to be.
Intimacy requires the ability to share the natural you with another and to experience his or her natural self. You cannot be intimate with another so long as your pure contact with him or her is interfered with by your act.
As you practice taming your gremlin by simply noticing, choosing and playing with options, shining a bright light on old habits and concepts, and experimenting with new behaviors, you will learn, or relearn, perhaps on a deeper level than before, that you are in charge of your life. It’s true. Like it or not you are, indeed, in charge. And if that realization has not left you shaking in your boots, then you have not fully had it.
Your gremlin wants you to believe that your happiness lies somewhere in the future as a reward to be granted once you have arranged your actions and the people and circumstances of your life into the right configuration... the simple truth that contentment is not a static state—not an entity to be captured. Rather, it is an experience that, like misery, is available and accessible within you.