Wow. So dense with wisdom that I wanted to highlight almost every paragraph. Instead, I skipped Part 1, about his background, because in the intro he recommends you skip it. I also skipped Part 3, about work principles, since they were all collaborative group-stuff, and I’m not working with anyone now. So here are my notes just from Part 2, “Life Principles”, which were so good I’ll probably re-read this book again next year. Caveat: it’s mostly so high-level — (“Decide what is true, then decide what to do about it.”) — that they’re more like koans to spark your own thoughts, instead of specific “do this” type advice.
An approach to life based on principles helps me find out what’s true and what to do about it.
Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life.
They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.
Operate by principles that are so clearly laid out that their logic can easily be assessed and you and others can see if you walk the talk.
Without principles we would be forced to react to all the things life throws at us individually.
Instead, classify these situations into types.
Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything you need to know.
My success has more to do with knowing how to deal with *not* knowing.
Consistently operate with principles that can be clearly explained.
1) what you want
2) what is true
3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2
In relationships with others, your principles and their principles will determine how you interact.
People who have shared values and principles get along. People who don’t will suffer.
Know how to both strive for a lot and fail well.
To make money in the markets, one needs to be an independent thinker who bets against the consensus and is right.
That’s because the consensus view is baked into the price.
To be a successful entrepreneur, the same is true, which means being painfully wrong a fair amount.
“How do I know I’m right?”
Man’s most distinctive quality is our singular ability to look down on reality from a higher perspective and synthesize an understanding of it.
While other species operate by following their instincts, man alone can go above himself and look at himself within his circumstances and within time.
People to confuse what they want to be true with what actually is true.
Seeing things from the top down is the best way to understand. Find the one code/law that drives them all.
To understand the world accurately it’s worth having a bottom-up perspective.
You need both.
By taking a bottom-up perspective that looks at each individual case, we can see how it lines up with our theories about the laws that we expect to govern it.
Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are.
Whenever I observe something in nature that I (or mankind) think is wrong, I assume that I’m wrong and try to figure out why what nature is doing makes sense.
Nature optimizes for the whole, not for the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them.
Don’t call something good or bad in an absolute sense based only on how it affects individuals.
To do so would presume that what the individual wants is more important than the good of the whole.
Memory-based, conscious learning produces less rapid progress than experimentation and adaptation.
Things (toys, bigger houses, money, status, etc.) don’t supply anywhere near the long-term satisfaction that getting better at something does.
It is the evolution, not the rewards, that matter.
The need to have meaningful work is connected to man’s innate desire to improve.
To gain strength one has to push one’s limits, which is painful.
Develop a reflexive reaction to psychic pain that causes you to reflect on it rather than avoid it,
Go to the pain rather than avoid it.
If you choose the healthy route, the pain will soon turn into pleasure.
Life doesn’t give a damn about what you like. It’s up to you to connect what you want with what you need to do to get it and then find the courage to carry it through.
First-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences.
First-order consequences of exercise are the pain and time spent.
Second-order consequences are better health and more attractive appearance
Food that tastes good is often bad for you and vice versa.
The first-order consequences are the temptations that cost us what we really want.
Nature throws us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizes those who make their decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.
It is much more important that you are a good designer/manager of your life than a good worker in it.
Most people operate emotionally and in the moment; their lives are a series of undirected emotional experiences, going from one thing to the next.
You shouldn’t be upset if you find out that you’re bad at something - you should be happy that you found out, because knowing that and dealing with it will improve your chances of getting what you want.
Imagine all the areas in which Einstein was incompetent.
When encountering your weaknesses you have four choices:
1. You can deny them (which is what most people do).
2. You can accept them and work at them in order to try to convert them into strengths (which might or might not work depending on your ability to change).
3. You can accept your weaknesses and find ways around them.
4. Or, you can change what you are going after.
Which solution you choose will be critically important to the direction of your life.
The worst path you can take is the first.
Believable parties are those who have repeatedly and successfully accomplished something - and have great explanations for how they did it.
I recommend Richard Dawkins’s and E. O. Wilson’s books on evolution. If I had to pick just one, it would be Dawkins’s River Out of Eden.
1. Have clear goals.
2. Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of your achieving those goals.
3. Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes.
4. Design plans that will get you around them.
5. Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results.
You will need to do all five steps well to be successful and you must do them one at a time and in order.
For example, when setting goals, just set goals. Don’t think about how you will achieve them or what you will do if something goes wrong.
When you are diagnosing problems, don’t think about how you will solve them - just diagnose them.
Blurring the steps interferes with uncovering the true problems.
The process is iterative: Doing each step thoroughly will provide you with the information you need to move on to the next step and do it well.
Prioritize: While you can have virtually anything you want, you can’t have everything you want.
Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by all the choices. You can have much more than what you need to be happy. Make your choice and get on with it.
Don’t confuse goals with desires.
A goal is something that you really need to achieve.
Desires are things that you want that can prevent you from reaching your goals.
Typically, desires are first-order consequences.
Great expectations create great capabilities.
If you limit your goals to what you know you can achieve, you are setting the bar way too low.
View painful problems as potential improvements that are screaming at you.
Once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it.
Design a plan.
a. Go back before you go forward.
Replay the story of where you have been (or what you have done) that led up to where you are now, and then visualize what you and others must do in the future so you will reach your goals.
b. Think about your problem as a set of outcomes produced by a machine.
Practice higher-level thinking by looking down on your machine and thinking about how it can be changed to produce better outcomes.
Someone other than you should be objectively measuring and reporting on your progress.
* Goal setting (such as determining what you want your life to be) requires you to be good at higher-level thinking like visualization and prioritization.
* Identifying and not tolerating problems requires you to be perceptive and good at synthesis and maintaining high standards
* Diagnosis requires you to be logical, able to see multiple possibilities, and willing to have hard conversations with others
* Designing requires visualization and practicality
* Doing what you set out to do requires self-discipline, good work habits, and a results orientation.
No one has all those qualities.
Have humility so you can get what you need from others!
Look at the patterns of your mistakes and identify at which step in the 5-Step Process you typically fail.
Everyone has at least one big thing that stands in the way of their success; find yours and deal with it.
Aristotle defined tragedy as a terrible outcome arising from a person’s fatal flaw - a flaw that, had it been fixed, instead would have led to a wonderful outcome.
Ego and blind spots are the fatal flaws that keep intelligent, hardworking people from living up to their potential.
You can’t put out without taking in.
Most people seem much more eager to put out (convey their thinking and be productive) than to take in (learn).
That’s a mistake even if one’s primary goal is to put out, because what one puts out won’t be good unless one takes in.
When two people believe opposite things, chances are that one of them is wrong.
It pays to find out if that someone is you.
Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees.
Open-minded people are more curious about why there is disagreement.
Closed-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions.
Open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong.
Open-minded people are always more interested in listening than in speaking.
Use feelings of anger/frustration as cues to calm down, slow down, and approach the subject at hand thoughtfully.
Record the circumstances in which you’ve consistently made bad decisions because you failed to see what others saw.
Write a list, tack it up on the wall, and stare at it. If ever you find yourself about to make a big decision in one of these areas, consult others.
Most people do not look thoughtfully at the facts and draw their conclusions by objectively weighing the evidence.
Instead, they make their decisions based on what their deep-seated subconscious mind wants and then they filter the evidence to make it consistent with those desires.
Can you point to clear facts (i.e., facts believable people wouldn’t dispute) leading to your view? If not, chances are you’re not being evidence-based.
Use evidence-based decision-making tools.
A decision-making computer that gives you logically derived instructions.
There are no greater battles than those between feeling and thinking.
It is so important to reconcile what you get from your subconscious with what you get from your conscious.
If you stick with a behavior for approximately eighteen months, you will build a strong tendency to stick to it nearly forever.
Your greatest challenge will be having your thoughtful higher-level you manage your emotional lower-level you.
The best way to do that is to consciously develop habits that will make doing the things that are good for you habitual.
Failing to consider second- and third-order consequences is the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions, and it is especially deadly when the first inferior option confirms your own biases.
Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored.
Getting an accurate picture of reality ultimately comes down to two things:
1. being able to synthesize accurately
2. knowing how to navigate levels.
Synthesis is the process of converting a lot of data into an accurate picture.
To synthesize well, you must
1) synthesize the situation at hand
2) synthesize the situation through time
3) navigate levels effectively.
No sensible person should reject a believable person’s views without great fear of being wrong.
One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of.
Listening to uninformed people is worse than having no answers at all.
Be an imperfectionist.
The marginal gains of studying even the important things past a certain point are limited.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
Logic, reason, and common sense are your best tools for synthesizing reality and understanding what to do about it.
Make your decisions as expected value calculations.
Think of every decision as a bet with a probability and a reward for being right and a probability and a penalty for being wrong.
Suppose something that has only a one-in-five chance (20%) of succeeding will return ten times (e.g., $1,000) the amount that it will cost you if it fails ($100).
Its expected value is positive ($120), so it’s probably a smart decision, even though the odds are against you, as long as you can also cover the loss.
Play these probabilities over and over again and they will surely give you winning results over time.
You can almost always improve your odds of being right by doing things that will give you more information.
Knowing when not to bet is as important as knowing what bets are probably worth making.
You can significantly improve your track record if you only make the bets that you are most confident will pay off.
The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.
Watch out for people who argue against something whenever they can find something - anything - wrong with it, without properly weighing all the pluses and minuses.
Such people tend to be poor decision makers.
Don’t mistake possibilities for probabilities.
People who can accurately sort probabilities from possibilities are generally strong at “practical thinking”; they’re the opposite of the “philosopher” types who tend to get lost in clouds of possibilities.
1. Slow down your thinking so you can note the criteria you are using to make your decision.
2. Write the criteria down as a principle.
3. Think about those criteria when you have an outcome to assess, and refine them before the next “one of those” comes along.
People who have common sense, imagination, and determination, who know what they value and what they want, and who also use computers, math, and game theory, are the best decision makers there are.
The value of a widely known insight disappears over time.
A lot of people vest their blind faith in machine learning because they find it much easier than developing deep understanding.
Because the same kinds of things happen over and over again, a relatively few well-thought-out principles will allow you to deal with just about anything that reality throws at you.
Don’t fall into the common trap of wishing that reality worked differently than it does or that your own realities were different.
Instead, embrace your realities and deal with them effectively.
Have principles and use them consistently.
Never stop refining and improving them.