Spending money where we spend our time

One of the better pieces of advice I’ve received when it comes to spending money was – “Money well spent is generally spent either on experiences or where you spend your time.”

The second half of the advice has been particularly helpful over the years as we’ve made purchase decisions. Investments in a nice mattress, comfortable daily wear clothes and shoes, nutritious food, and ergonomic work equipment tend to have a high return-on-investment.

The uhm ah project – unconscious popularity

A quick update on my quest to remove filler words like “uhm,” “ah,” and “like.

As I’ve been attempting to dial up my awareness for when I (and others) do it, I’ve noticed something interesting – I’ve been in a few conversations where these words were among the most frequently used words.

Isn’t it amazing that a collection of words which are used unconsciously can be the most dominant words used in a conversation?

The default setting is powerful.

Awareness of base assumptions

As time passes, I am learning to be more aware of my base assumptions.

By default, I wouldn’t notice a few things in my day – a peaceful night of sleep, functioning limbs, food when I’m hungry, a bathroom when I need it, water, and fresh air.

And, yet, if any of these were in doubt, my whole world would crumble.

It may not be realistic to be constantly aware of these base assumptions. But, I’m learning to remind myself to be more aware.

That means starting with taking a few seconds to be thankful for a peaceful night of sleep on a comfortable bed. It continues with a few more seconds feeling aware of my (mostly) functioning limbs. And, it means continuing to take a few seconds at different points of the day to appreciate the small things more.

The impact that a few seconds of such awareness has on me is amazing.

I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do more of this.

Work hard now so you can have it easy later

“Work hard now so you can have it easy later.”

The problem with that idea is that it places overdue importance on some arbitrary milestone – a certain promotion or some net worth number.

As long as we’re focused on solving problems that matter, we are never set. We don’t ever get to rest easy.

But, with some luck and accumulated privilege, putting in the work now does make it easier to create the sort of optionality that enables us to direct that hard work onto areas that feel less like work and more like play.

Puzzles, not problems

Tom Tunguz shared a note on his blog from a survivor of the class of 1943 in the alumni magazine –

“Imagine-75 years ago-our Commencement date was listed as January 1, 1943. Our “last supper” date was December 12, 1942. It was in the main dining room. President Hopkins and Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, president and publisher of the New York Times, were the keynote speakers. No pomp, no valedictorian, no honorary degrees, no cap and gown, no family. The dinner ended with hugs and tears eyes. We scattered in different directions the next morning. We were facing World War II in its darkest moments…91% of the class was headed for the armed forces.”

He went on to share the poignant experience of reading his grandfather’s diary from WWII and his gratitude at waking up every day to solve puzzles, not problems.

Puzzles, not problems.

It is easy to forget that as we roll from one day to the next.

I share that gratitude.

Ambiguity and over-communication

Leverage, the verb – using something to maximum advantage, is key to operating with effectiveness. A useful way to generate leverage is to invest energy in activities that produce disproportionate return. And, a reliable way to do that is to find causes and effects with exponential relationships. For example, one such relationship is that between a project’s level of ambiguity and the degree of communication required.


Highly ambiguous projects benefit disproportionately from over-communication. If there’s inherent uncertainty and a lack of clarity in how you are trying to solve a problem, the team benefits greatly from regular check ins, status updates, and forums in which they can communicate. In such projects, we would do well to encourage the stupid question or redundant comment as they often help us understand sentiment, concerns, and may even show us the way forward.

At the other end of the curve is the reason why most folks complain about weekly status meetings. Most projects don’t have the level of ambiguity required to justify a weekly status meeting. The early stages may have justified a regular check in – but, the costs far exceed the benefits as time passes.

All this leads to the question this curve inspires – on the projects you are working on, does the intensity and frequency of communication match the level of ambiguity?

Replacing guys with folks

My go-to greeting to address a group of people has been “guys” for the past decade. It isn’t gender neutral and it definitely isn’t the most inclusive.

I conducted an informal poll among a few colleagues looking for potential replacements. We concluded that the two best candidates were “y’all” and “folks.” As saying “y’all” was not going to work for me, I decided to get to work on changing my default greeting to “folks.”

A few weeks in, I’m pleased to report some progress. I’ve probably replaced “guys” with “folks” 50% of the time. The rest is a mixed bag between catching myself after the fact and not.

I’m shooting for a 100% replacement by June.

Here’s to that.

The Hatch Baby Rest example

A good friend gifted us a white noise machine called “Hatch Baby Rest” after we had our second baby. It was a timely gift and one we’ve been very grateful for. For the uninitiated, a white noise machine generates ambient noise to ensure kids are less disturbed during their naps/sleep. This device also doubles up as a night light.

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve noticed a small issue with the manual controls on the Rest. However, since we can still control it via the app, we’ve managed just fine. There wasn’t time or bandwidth to troubleshoot further.

Then, we saw this unprompted email from the Hatch Baby team this morning.

Hey there,

Nap time, bed time, and night time can be some of the most crucial (and trying!) times with kids. We get it – we totally know how important your sleep routine is – so we wanted to check in about your Hatch Baby Rest.

When your Hatch Baby Rest app connects to Rest, it runs a quick diagnostics check to make sure everything is working correctly. When running this routine check on your Rest named “Hatch Rest”, we were alerted to a problem with the sound on your device.

You may not have even noticed it – but we’d like to send you a free replacement. It’s so important to us that your family’s sleep routine stays on track. Please enter your shipping information on the form below and we will send a replacement Rest ASAP.

You can keep your current Rest and continue using it, if you’d like. If the sound does have a problem, the night light function will continue to work properly. Please accept our sincere apologies; we want your Rest to work perfectly every time you use it.

We’re also sending a big thank you for being a Hatch Baby customer. Our goal – always – is to make life easier for parents. We love to hear your feedback and are constantly trying to improve. If you have any suggestions along the way, let us know!

If you’ve already received this email or believe you have received it in error, please disregard!

The power of great customer service is that it creates experiences that live on for a long time. Thank you, Hatch Baby team, for setting an inspiring example.

Long term games with long term people

Investor Naval Ravikant had a great tweet storm on “How to get rich” (his notes on extrinsic success) a few months back. He has since been publishing a great series expanding on the various ideas he tweeted about on his blog. And, yesterday’s post resonated deeply as it contains powerful life advice – “Play long term games with long term people.”

The summary –

(1) Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people. Long-term players make each other rich. Short-term players make themselves rich.

(2) All returns in life come from compound interest over many turns of long-term games—and they usually come at the end.

(3) People do right by each other when they know they’ll be around for the next turn of the game. And friction goes down, so you can do bigger and bigger things together.

I think the implication of his first point – “Long term players make other rich” – is key and extends well beyond money. When we are in relationships for the long term, we end up investing deeply in the richness of the lives of those around us. Thanks to the way compounding works, those investments pay off incredibly well the long term for everyone involved.

So, become someone who thinks and plays long term games. Then, find partners, friends, and colleagues who are in it with you. It is a powerful combination.