Mind blown

I started reading Debt by David Graeber yesterday. I am still making my way through the second chapter and I am already mind blown.

In the first chapter, he made me questions my pre-conceived notions about debt. And, in the half of second chapter so far, he’s begun methodically taking apart the story we’ve been told about money evolving from the barter system.

After years of thinking about barter as the origin of money, I’ve begun to appreciate the flaws in this explanation brought to light by years of rigorous anthropological study.

Again, mind blown.

A decade ago, I remember reading a note about reading in a Robin Sharma book (ha – very meta) that resonated. The idea (paraphrased) was – “Somewhere out there is a book that will change your life. You just don’t know which. So, keep reading”

A decade later, the only quibble I have with this quote is that it grossly underestimates the impact great books can have on our lives.

Books have changed my life multiple times over the years. And they have done so at a frequency that has been unmatched by any other source of learning.

Frequency of home runs

A few years ago, Correlation Ventures shared a chart that showed the distribution of US venture capital returns with data between 2004-13.

65% of venture capital investments either went bankrupt or returned less money than what was invested. An additional 25% gave a 1-5x return on investment.

The hits came from the remaining 10%. 6% returned 5-10x. 2.5% returned 10-20x and 1.5% returned 20x+.

Home runs, in essence, happen <5% of the time. But, they drive the bulk of venture capital returns.

I like thinking of this graph because this is a good way to think about projects in our careers too. A vast majority of things may either not work out as well as we hoped or work out just fine.

But, assuming we’re learning/developing our skills and making thoughtful bets, we’ll give ourselves the opportunity to hit the occasional home run.

So, don’t get discouraged if things are going well right now. You never know if a good day is a good day anyway.

All it takes is for a home run or two to work out… in time.

Getting scammed

I came close to getting scammed today. The whole episode was dumb and embarrassing.

I got a text saying my Apple ID was being used for a payment in an Apple Store and that I should call a number to sort it out. Apple support asked me to install the support/Teamviewer app to help me solve the problem. Embarrassingly, I said yes.

To their credit, they said the right things here. We kept going for three extra minutes until they tried convincing me to buy an Apple gift card so they could remove an unauthorized device from their server that I wasn’t able to see on my phone.

My honest response to myself after some frantic password updates after the call was – What the fuck*? How did I get so fooled? How did it take me so long to catch on?

In retrospect, it was a combination of things. It always is a combination.

I have been working away at upgrading my passwords. I was getting close to the end of this multi-week project and knew my Apple ID password hadn’t been updated. Confirmation bias.

I was in the midst of doing something else at a store. That led me to miss a few tell-tale signs.

I attempted to triage this while taking care of that something else. In that process, I missed more tell-tale signs. When the hell did Apple have a security support number? Don’t I always get alerts when my Apple ID is being accessed?

I finally caught on. But, I’m still cringing at how naïve I was. No amount of acknowledging this was embarrassing will be good enough for the next couple of days.

Scammers succeed because they focus on areas that we tend to be sensitive about – credit cards, taxes, identity theft, etc. But, the signs are nearly always there – text messages/weird sounding voicemails, poor grammar, Nigerian or Indian guys (sadly), weird procedures, etc.

When you’re dealing with suspicions of fraud, pay attention to these signs and stay safe. At the very least, I hope you’re smarter than I was in this instance.

I, on the other hand, will be focused on the words of wisdom from the wise Rafiki – “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

There’s no running from this.

Here’s to learning from it.

*I rarely use expletives on this blog. Writing about this scolding to myself, however, did feel appropriate. Sorry if it offended you!

Want it or need it?

Before I make a purchase*, I’ve learnt to ask myself the question – “Do I want it or need it?”

Wants are fleeting and rarely lead to purchase satisfaction after the fact.

Needs, on the other hand, have high return-on-investment.

Differentiating between our wants and needs has the potential to step change our post-purchase satisfaction and happiness.

It certainly has done that for me.

*This question tends to be most helpful for purchases on the internet because of how easy it is to part with your money. :-)

Reflection season 2020

Over the past few years, I’ve begun calling the period between Thanksgiving and new year “Reflection Season.”

This is a special time of year for me – one I really look forward to. The days leading up to Thanksgiving serve as a reminder to give thanks – to the people who’ve had a positive impact on my life, to non profit organizations I’m grateful for, and to products and services I love.

The next phase is a slow down of activity at work followed by time off in December. This time is focused entirely on self-care and family.

It is the time I get to ask interesting questions, triage some long overdue admin tasks, prioritize rest, and renew commitments to things that matter. As part of this process, I hope to reflect on what I’ve learn this year and synthesize these lessons in time for 2021.

2020 has been a unique year for all of us. And, if you, like many others, haven’t found time to catch a break and have the luxury to afford it, I hope you’ll prioritize some time at the end of the year for reflection and rest as well.


Assiduity means constant or close attention to what one is doing.

I chuckled when I heard it is one of Charlie Munger’s favorite words thanks to his literal sounding interpretation of its meaning – “Sit down on your ass until you do it.”

Here’s wishing all of us some assiduity today.

Fixing the pedal

My wife and I were attempting to fix the pedals back on our kid’s bike today. We struggled and fumbled around for about two minutes.

Despite all our efforts, the pedals just didn’t seem to be going in.

Then, my wife spotted that we were each attempting to fix the pedal designed for the opposite side.

30 seconds after exchanging pedals, we were all done.

It was a good reminder that applying a lot of effort in wrong direction can never compensate for taking the time to think through the right direction.

Spend more time figuring out how to do the right thing vs. doing the thing right.

Making sentences

Why are we talking about sentences?
Why no talk about the work as a whole, about shape, form, genre, the book, the feature story, the profile, even the paragraph?

The answer is simple.
Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Most of your time will be spent making sentences in your head.
In your head.
Did no one ever tell you this?
That is the writer’s life.
Never imagine you’ve left the level of the sentence behind.

| Verlyn Klinkenborg in Several short sentences about writing


They form the basis of any and all expertise we build.

“Never imagine you’ve left the level of the fundamentals behind” is an important reminder – no matter the craft.

The amateur player pool table conundrum

An amateur player on a pool table faces one particular choice often – do I focus on just hitting this ball in? Or, do I try to hit it while setting up the next shot?

(Image credit: Unsplash)

There are trade-offs either way.

If I focus on just the ball in front of me, I could hit it in a way that makes it impossible to land the next.

And, if I’m focused on landing the next, I could make a mistake with the ball in hand.

There is no right answer to this question. It depends on the context – the state of the game, how confident you feel, how focused you are, and so on.

Either answer could be right – depending on the context.

Much like life.