Proving yourself

The problem with attempting to prove yourself to others is that there’s no end to the stream of people you need to prove yourself to.

A better use of that energy is to simply use every available opportunity to learn, grow, and adapt to change.

The former isn’t an ineffective path – it tends to work rather well if all you are optimizing for is professional growth. It just isn’t a happy one.

Availability and site speed

I was about to take a (rare) taxi/rideshare the other day and decided to give Lyft a shot. And, not for the first time, the Lyft screen refused to move past the “Poor network connection” screen.

Uber, it turned out, worked just fine.

It reminded me that availability/up-time and site speed are among the most powerful user-facing features we can build into our products. Put differently, make sure the basic stuff works. And, try to make it work fast.

Sometimes, in the rush to solve interesting problems and add value, it is easy to forget that.

Warren Buffett on investing in yourself

I’ve been thinking about this excerpt from Warren Buffett’s 2002 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting on investing in ourselves. It resonated.


Let’s assume a genie appeared to you when you turned 16, and the genie said, “You get any car you want tomorrow morning, tied up in a big pink ribbon, anything you name. And it can be a Rolls Royce, it can be a Jaguar, it can be a Lexus, you name it, and that car will be there and you don’t owe me a penny.”

And having heard the genie stories before, you say to the genie, “What’s the catch?” And of course, the genie says, “Well, there’s just one. That car, which you’re going to get tomorrow morning, the car of your dreams, is the only car you’re ever going to get. So you can pick one, but that’s it.”

And you still name whatever the car of your dreams is, and the next morning you receive that car.

Now, what do you do, knowing that’s the only car you’re going to have for the rest of your life? Well, you read the owner’s manual about 10 times before you put the key in the ignition, and you keep it garaged. You know, you change the oil twice as often as they tell you to do. You keep the tires inflated properly. If you get a little nick, you fix it that day so it doesn’t rust on you.

In other words, you make sure that this car of your dreams at age 16 is going to still be the car of your dreams at age 50 or 60, because you treat it as the only one you’ll ever get in your lifetime. And then I would suggest to your students in Phoenix that they are going to get exactly one mind and one body, and that’s the mind and body they’re going to have at age 40 and 50 and 60.

And it isn’t so much a question of preparing for retirement, precisely, at those ages, it’s a question of preparing for life at those ages. And that they should treat the importance of taking care and maximizing that mind, and taking care of that body in a way, that when they get to be 50 or 60 or 70, they’ve got a real asset instead of something that’s rusted and been ignored over the years.

And it will be too late to think about that when they’re 60 or 70. You can’t repair the car back into the shape it was. You can maintain it. And in the case of a mind, you can enhance it in a very big way over time. But the most important asset your students have is themselves.

You know, I will take a person graduating from college, and assuming they’re in normal shape and everything, I will be glad to pay them, you know, probably $50,000 for 10 percent of all their earnings for the rest of their lives. Well, I’m willing to pay them 10 percent for — $50,000 for 10 percent — that means they’re worth $500,000 if they haven’t got a dime in their pocket, as long as they’ve got a good mind and a good body.

Now that asset is far, far more important than any other asset they’ve got, unless they’ve been very lucky in terms of inheritance or something, but overwhelmingly their main asset is themselves. And they ought to treat their main asset as they would any other asset that was divorced from themselves. And if they do that, and they start thinking about it now, and they develop the habits that maintain and enhance the asset, you know, they will have a very good car, mind, and body when they get to be 60. And if they don’t, they’ll have a wreck.


(H/T: Jana’s post)

Fear and mistakes

A periodic reminder about mistakes to self: Do not fear mistakes. Instead, if we must go down the path of fear, fear only –
i) the repetition of the same mistake because we didn’t learn from it and
ii) the absence of a creative, constructive, and corrective response to the mistake.

Moods and actions

Our default setting is to treat the relationship between moods and actions as unidirectional. Moods, after all, affect actions.

A big part of growing up is realizing that the relationship is bi-directional. The actions we take can change our moods.

Hiding behind a bad mood or a lack of inspiration is just that.. hiding.

Skyspring Hotel New York

Someone we know in India received an job offer from an acquaintance in the Middle East to work at a Skyspring hotel in New York. They needed to front $600 for the visa and he’d received instructions via an email.

They come from a modest background (his mother is a cook) and she asked my mother to help check if this was a real job – $600 is a lot of money after all. The “pay upfront to get this job” rang all kinds of alarm bells. But, it was hard to dismiss it outright since it came from someone they knew.

And, it didn’t help that Google had a very convincing looking card show up on search.

Of course, it all unravels the moment you spend more than a minute investigating. The hotel has no trace on Tripadvisor or Booking.com and the phone number doesn’t work. The email has a few typos (why do scammers not get that right?), was sketchy on details of the work visa, and it came from a questionable looking “@consultant.com” email address.

All in all, it was more sophisticated than the traditional Nigerian prince scam and it could have fooled someone who wasn’t discerning. I think the Google card was the most convincing piece of the scam and I couldn’t find a way to flag it on my phone (I found it on my laptop and did so).

It did get me thinking about how important it is to design products with scam/bad actor use cases in mind. It isn’t enough to just think of the happy path.

On my radar

An savvy investor colleague recommended “On My Radar” – a newsletter by a fund manager called Steve Blumenthal. It’s been a positive Friday read over the past 6 months for two reasons.

First, Steve shares a nice summary on his take on where we are at in the boom-bust cycle and what he’s taking away from analysis in his firm or elsewhere. That summary alone is educational.

Second, he shares a synthesis of 3-4 key pieces of analysis he’d like us to pay attention to. I only read this section from time to time. But, whenever I do, I’m not disappointed.

I don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about the markets. There was a brief period last year when I did as I was experimenting with some active stock investing. I realized quickly that I don’t enjoy it one bit and have automated the process. That said, I do like to have a pulse on what is going on. And, “On My Radar” does a great job helping me do that.

Here are the archives in case you are interested. If you do sign up, I hope you find it useful.