The jar of marbles

A good friend was a swimmer on his high school team. Every time someone on the team seemed out of sorts in practice, the coach used to tell them a story about a jar of marbles.

Every competitive swimmer has a jar of marbles, he said. Every time you came into practice and didn’t give it your best, you take out one marble out of the jar.

If this happens a few times, you won’t notice it when you compete. Losing a marble or two doesn’t make you much worse – not immediately at least.

However, if that becomes a habit, you will lose half the marbles in your jar over time. And your competition will destroy you in an actual meet as you’ll be competing against swimmers with full jars, those who’ve given it their all in every practice.

The marble jar story had a simple moral – “Don’t half-ass things. Whole-ass things.”

A good lesson for life.

The self-love-care paradox

 “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius.

It is incredibly challenging to build a sense of self-worth that balances self-compassion, self-love, and self-confidence while still remaining open enough to feedback to sort out what we can learn from the rest.

This challenge has clearly remained so for thousands of years.

It is age old wisdom for a reason.

Resetting macro expectations

There are lots of hot takes about what to expect in the economy at the moment. The US stock market just fell again – down 9% this month.

If we look at the trend over the past 4-5 months, there’s been a fair bit of volatility. All of this is a result of speculation around inflation and the impact of rising interest rates.

I keep going back to 3 simple charts. The first is that inflation is high – very high – in many of the world’s largest economies.

The second is that inflation greater than 5% takes 10 years on average to return to 2%.

And the third is another Bridgewater chart that shows that the equity market only hits the bottom a bit AFTER we hit peak interest rates. This means markets consistently fail to consider second order impacts.

I don’t think we’re close to hitting peak interest rates as things stand. We’ve probably got at least 1 or 2 major hikes coming in the next few months.

TLDR – I expected we’re in for a lot more volatility in the next year. There’s no easy path out of this.

Attempting to explain something complex in writing

Every bit of writing that attempts to explain something complex needs to be written at least twice.

It first needs to be written in a way that makes sense to us. This version will be logically sound – but, by necessity, it will be more detailed and comprehensive than it needs to be.

It then needs to be written in a way that is easy to consume. That will require us to put ourselves in the shoes of a reader, simplify dramatically, and solve for clarity over comprehensiveness.

The tension that forces learning

Today was long. Another one in a long week. On a day like today, I get to the dishes in the evening with a few questions – “Do I have anything to share? Did I learn anything new? Did I get reminded of something that is worth writing about?”

The truth, of course, is most days are like today. There’s that tension that surrounds finding something worthy to write about. The tension that flows from having made a daily commitment.

On some days, the result of that tension is something deeply insightful. On others, it is relatively mundane.

But, regardless, that tension forces learning because it pushes me to focus on the process and think deeply about what I might be learning.

It is why creating great learning experiences requires us to create tension. The tension created by an activity to be done in limited time, by a twist that surprises, by a framework that pushes everyone to revisit how they operate, by a fact that challenges a long-held assumption, or by an unexpected moment of vulnerability from someone in the room.

No tension, no learning.

Make your bed

A couple of years ago, I read and then watched “Make Your Bed” – Admiral William McRaven’s commencement speech. There are so many great stories in that speech. However, one that has stuck with me is the story about the title of the speech.

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Two nuggets have stayed with me since I first read this. The first is the sense of accomplishment at completing the first task of the day. That has a powerful snowball effect and applies to so many other things we do.

The second is his note that it is a reminder that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things.

It resonated.