Million seconds, billion seconds

A million seconds is 12 days from now.

A billion seconds?

32 years.

That difference surprised me as it wasn’t what I expected. A billion is significantly bigger than I had imagined.

Chip Heath and Karla Starr use this example in “Making Numbers Count” to drive home the point that we don’t have an intuitive understanding of big numbers. The implication is that we need to make the effort to always put numbers in context for the people we’re presenting to.

It is a point well made.

Investing truisms

Amidst the ongoing market meltdown, there were some emotional stories shared in the Reddit among investors in the ill-fated terraUSD Stablecoin. Many talked about losing significant amounts – including house down payments and life savings. Some threads speak of folks contemplating suicide.

Reading the thread reminded me of two investing truisms. The first is that everybody looks like a genius in a bull market. When the tide is in, we don’t have to paddle.

And the second is that we can afford to not be great at investing. But it is very costly to be bad at it.

A good reminder to all of us to stay safe out there.

Integrity and momentum

Our integrity is our ability to make and keep commitments.

The fascinating thing about integrity is the way it accelerates the good and the bad. If we keep one commitment, we feel the momentum to keep the next. And the next. Until it becomes unthinkable to break a commitment.

And vice versa.

The implication is that the simplest way to build our integrity is to keep a small commitment – e.g., I will sleep 7 hours today. The momentum from that will build onto bigger commitments – e.g., I will do a strength workout every weekday – before we know it.

The related opposite implication is that we ought to be very careful about making exceptions on our values/principles. As the late Clay Christensen put it beautifully, we’ll all discover before long that life is an unending stream of extenuating circumstances.

The Power of Regret

I enjoyed reading Dan Pink’s “The Power of Regret.” He recently shared a summary of the book in a few paragraphs in a short “graduation speech.” Below are my cliff notes:

Foundation regrets: “The first of the big four regrets is what I call Foundation regrets. Foundation regrets emerge from small choices we make earlier in life that accumulate to negative consequences later in life.

We spend too much and save too little. We don’t eat right, sleep enough, or exercise
regularly. We apply only grudging effort on the job – or, yes, in the classroom”

“Foundation regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the work.”

Boldness regrets: “All regrets begin when we’re at a juncture. And with this category, the juncture presents a choice: Play it safe – or take the chance? And when we don’t take the chance – not all the time, but most of the time – we regret it.”

Boldness regrets sound like this: If only I’d taken the chance.

Moral regrets: “Once again, we’re at a juncture. We can take the high road
or we can take the low road. And when we choose what our conscience says is the wrong path, most of us – most of the time – regret it.

We hurt others. We break our word. We degrade what ought to be revered. And while at first the decision can feel fine – even exhilarating – before long it eats at us.”

“Moral regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the right thing.”

Connection regrets: “These are regrets about all the relationships in our lives. Partners. Parents. Children. Siblings. Cousins. Friends. Colleagues. Classmates.
A 45-year-old woman, from the District of Columbia, offered this: “My brother died
suddenly at forty-one. I regret not saying, ‘I love you,’ more.””

Connection regrets sound like this: If only I’d reached out.

That brings us to the reverse image of a life well lived.

A decent foundation – enough stability so that life is not precarious. Boldness – a chance to learn and grow and do something meaningful during the vanishingly short time we’re alive. Morality – being good and decent and just. Connection – having people we love and who love us.

Or put differently.

Do the work.

Take the chance.

Do the right thing.

Reach out.

And ignore the rest.

Thanks for the excellent summary, Dan.

14 years

This blog turned 14 years old on Wednesday. On one hand, 5115 days and 5960 posts does feel like a lot.

On the other, it still feels early – I’m excited about all the learning ahead in the next 14.

What is undeniable however is that the act of writing every day has completely transformed me – by infusing a focus on learning in how I think, act, and live.

I’m grateful to this practice and to all of you for the support and encouragement over the years.

Muchas gracias. :-)

This or that?

We often find ourselves thinking through important decisions with a “this or that” frame.

Rent or buy?

Manager track or individual contributor track?

Sell or hold?

Start-up or big company?

And so on.

“This or that” feels simple. But it’s rarely as useful as recognizing that such questions don’t have simple answers. We make more progress when we take into account the nuance by shifting the frame and adding – “for me at this time in my life.”

So instead of asking “Is a start-up or a big company better?”, we ask “Is a start-up or a big company better for me at this time in my life?”

When the context changes, the answer changes.

Renewal emails and good copy

I got a renewal email from WordPress recently.

Except it didn’t feel like a renewal email. Below is the first paragaph.

Hi Rohan,

You’re getting closer to your anniversary — congrats! I wanted to thank you for being a valuable member of our community and remind you that your Personal plan for will renew in 30 days. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything; your renewals happen automatically.

It felt like a celebration of our relationship. It also reminded me that a renewal was coming up – but there’s nothing to worry, they’re on it.

I’ve seen so many renewal emails over the years. Many of them make me wonder if there is autorenewal and if it will, in fact, work as planned. Others just remind me it is going to be time to pay.

Very few make me feel good about renewing.

Good copy goes a long way in improving user experience.

PS: I did find myself thinking of other small touches. One easy improvement that would have been even nice would have been to say – “You’re getting closer to your 8th WordPress anniversary.” A nicer touch still would have been to add an asterisk and compare 8 years with some meaningful milestone or cool stat.

Burning Up

In his excellent Exponential View newsletter, Azeem shared a few powerful pieces of data about changes we’re seeing in global climate.

The latest data from NASA shows that the planet is heating up at record speeds.

This chart shows a trebling of the energy imbalance just since 2000 alone. That’s a lot of additional energy in the Earth’s system, available to heat oceans, land and atmosphere, melt ice and increase sea levels.

Our parents have been talking about the incredibly intense heat in India already. This is happening across the subcontinent. The forecast for Dadu in Pakistan over the next ten days is 48-49°C (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

Such heat is deadly and challenges a person’s ability to survive without the support of air conditioning. Three years ago, over 350 Magellanic Penguins living in the southern tip of Argentina died when the temperature hit 44ºC in the shade. We aren’t any different.

It is ominous.

Our transition away from Carbon can’t come fast enough. To that end, here are a few optimistic notes.

(1) California, which would be the 5th largest economy in the world if it was its own nation state, fulfilled 99.87% of its electricity demand with renewables for a period last weekend – two thirds from solar.

This is building off a recent milestone when clean energy powered 80% of energy in the UK.

Electricity is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse emissions.

(2) This week, NJR Clean Energy Ventures started construction on an 8.9-MW floating solar installation in Millburn, New Jersey. It will be the largest floating array in the United States. While floating solar is usually built on reservoirs, what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm was also begun this week, 125 KMs off the east coast of Yorkshire, England in the North Sea. The Dogger Bank Wind Farm will have an installed capacity of 3.6 GW.

While this is both great, large scale solar installations are way cheaper that wind.

(3) Australian and Chinese researchers have published about the development of an organic polymer-based rechargeable battery with double the energy capacity of previous models. This is pointing to a possible future with far less dependence on lithium and cobalt mining.

(4) 2 weeks ago, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shared plans to approve the construction of 39 utility-scale solar projects, totaling more than 29 GW of capacity on federal lands by the end of 2025. That’s more than twice France’s total installed solar capacity and will increase overall solar capacity in the US by 20%.

(5) This data from 2019 shows the scale of the problem – 84% of global energy comes from fossil fuels.

This is changing quickly – for example, in 2021, 10% of all electricity came from wind and solar. But the change can’t come fast enough.

(6) Nuclear is among the bigger non-fossil fuel sources. It is also among the safest and cleanest sources of energy.

We need a lot more innovation on nuclear energy. Seaborg technologies, for example, is working on providing nuclear energy on barges in industrial areas.

(7) The top 10% richest humans in any country (e.g., over $170K household income in the US) contribute a disproportionate amount of Carbon emissions. Even the middle 40% (I’d guess household income >$50,000) make a massive contribution to emissions.

The differences between the rich and poor within a country contributes to more emissions than between rich and poor nations.

Every one of us can and needs to act. There’s a lot riding on it.