How much I know

As we experiment with teaching our kids letters and numbers, I find myself reflecting on my identity as a student growing up. A big part of this identity – as a “good student” – revolved around how much I knew.

It took me years to unlearn that idea and focus instead on how well/quickly I learn.

I’m obviously hopeful we’ll be able to set the example and focus on learning right off the bat for our kids.

But, as I’m learning from these experiments, it is so easy to default to a fixed mindset.

It is much easier to celebrate good answers vs. good questions.

Greetings Mass Email

I chuckled when I saw this email in my inbox this morning. The honesty in the email “Greetings MASS EMAIL” was unintentional. But, it was representative of the quality of the rest of the email.

Mail merge functionality has made it easy to incorporate the illusion of personalization.

But, no amount of mail merge can save us from not caring.

It always shows.

The highest forms of wealth

I’ve shared Morgan Housel’s posts a few times over the past months and years. I think of his content from time to time – his ability to source/share memorable stories is best-in-class.

One post that has stuck with me in the past months is “The Highest Forms of Wealth.” He calls out 3 forms of wealth – here are the excerpts.


1. Controlling your time and the ability to wake up and say, “I can do whatever I want today.”

Five-year-old Franklin Roosevelt complained that his life was dictated by rules. So his mother gave him a day free of structure – he could do whatever he pleased. Sara Roosevelt wrote in her diary that day: “Quite of his own accord, he went contently back to his routine.”

There’s a difference between working hard because you want to and working hard because someone else told you you had to, and how to do it, and when to do it. Even if you’re doing the same work, the independence of doing it on your own terms changes everything in the same way that sleeping in a tent is fun when you’re camping but miserable when you’re homeless.

To me, the highest form of wealth is controlling your time.


2. When money becomes like oxygen: so abundant relative to your needs that you don’t have to think about it despite it being a critical part of your life.

There’s a scene in the documentary The Queen of Versailles when the son of a man whose ability to make money was exceeded only by his desire to spend it, causing a family fortune to shrivel near the edge of bankruptcy:

On my wedding day my father gave a speech, and he looked at my wife and he said, “You will never have anything to worry about in your life.”

But now we worry every day.

A high form of wealth is avoiding that mess. And it isn’t necessarily tied to how much money you have.

Keep two things in mind:

  • Desiring money beyond what you need to be happy is just an accounting hobby.
  • How much money people need to be happy is driven more by expectations than income.

A thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some of the wealthiest people think about money all the time – which is obvious, because it’s causation. But it’s an important observation because most people, despite aspiring to become one of the wealthiest, actually want something different: the ability to not have to think about money.


3. A career that allows for intellectual honesty.

This includes: Being able to say, “I don’t know” when you don’t know. Being able to speak critical truths about your industry without fear of retribution. The ability to make reasonable mistakes, and be open about them, without excessive worry. And not pretending to look busy to justify your salary.

There are high-paying careers that allow all those things. But there are so many that don’t, and a lot of what people pass off as “hard work” and “grinding” is just finding ways to bury the truth. A job that lets you be open and honest pays a bonus that’s hard to measure.


All 3 notes resonated deeply.

Before it becomes urgent

In the long run, our ability to be consistently productive is dependent on our ability to habitually prioritize the important before it becomes urgent.

Getting something done before it becomes urgent saves us time and energy because it helps remove stress and stress-related mistakes.

It helps to get things done before we’re forced to.

Haircuts and hairlines

I was getting a haircut the other day. The kind lady showed me the finished cut and asked me if it looked good. I thought it looked great.

Seeing myself in the mirror, I half-joked about my receding hairline. To this, she said – “You know that only you notice it right? Nobody cares.”

She reminded me of a powerful truth that day – we all overestimate how often others think about us.

Reacting to executive feedback on documents

One way to improve our learning curve on writing good documents (or creating good presentations) is to stop being overly reactive to executive feedback.

A better approach, instead, is to use executive feedback to better understand what good looks like. We can do that by digging into the why behind their feedback or by asking them. When we repeatedly do that, we’ll hone our gut for what makes a good doc. That’s most of the battle.

So, the next time you find yourself asking – “Will this doc work for x executive?”, consider the reframing the question to – “Is this doc clearly laying out my argument for someone who isn’t as close to the problem as I am?”

If the answer to the latter is yes, the former follows as the byproduct of a good product.

Re:stacks

A few years ago, a then-good friend shared Bon Iver’s “re:Stacks” with me. She shared the song at a chaotic time. And, somehow, the song brought calm. A reminder to simply recharge. Then begin again.

I think I might have looked up the lyrics once in the years since. I can’t remember them. As I can’t parse Bon Iver’s accent either, I have no idea what the song actually says or means.

Nor have I bothered to look it up. Many a time, it isn’t about what a song says. It is about how it makes us feel.

So, on days when everything around me feels chaotic or out of control, I just sit with Bon Iver playing in the background.

And, as it has consistently done over the past 6 years, it reminds me to keep calm.

Then begin again.

Indra Nooyi on mentors

“Mentors pick you, you don’t pick them. They pick you because they see something in you that they want to hitch their wagon to.” | Indra Nooyi, Pepsico’s former CEO.

I’ve seen many attempts at describing the process of finding mentorship over the years. The good ones drive home the idea that asking people to be our mentor isn’t how it works.

This, however, flips the message and, in doing so, describes reality so beautifully.

It resonated.

So much magic

I played music on our speakers using Airplay the other day.

It was amazing to think about all that happened in that one moment.

I thought of a song I liked, pulled out a phone from my pocket, found that song, played it thanks to wireless internet, and then transferred it over to a speaker to play it for everyone in the room.

So much magic.

So easy to take for granted.