The Good life Summary

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Author: Rolf Dobelli

Rolf Dobelli shares 52 heuristic for life.

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The Good life is a very light book about few mental models and heuristic to live a good life. In a sentence, its a mixture of Stoicism and cognitive Psychology.


5 key takeaways

  • Avoid negative emotions like envy and self-pity for a good life.
  • Raise your standard for content consumption. Prefer paid over free.
  • You are much more luckier than you think. (Never underestimate Randomness)
  • Every hour invested into your circle of competence is worth a thousand spent elsewhere.

Favourite Quote

Once you hit thirty, life’s too short for bad books.


1. Mental Accounting

  • Don’t worry about small things (Parking Ticket, Broken car, Broken glass, Broken Pressure Cooker) - You look small, and you end up losing sleep
  • Mental accounting = a logical fallacy - People treat money differently depending upon the origin of money. - > if you find money on the street, you treat it more casually and spend it more quickly and more frivolously than money you’ve actually earned
  • Living a good life has a lot to do with interpreting facts in a constructive way - Examples - Add 50 percent to prices in shops and restaurants.
    • It means taking income tax into account.
    • If a glass of wine costs 10 dollars, I’ll have to earn 15 in order to afford it - pay taxes with equal nonchalance.
    • After all, I can’t upturn the taxation system single-handed. So I compare what I get in return for my money in the lovely city of Bern with cities like Kuwait, Riyadh, the jam-packed concrete wasteland of Monaco or the surface of the moon—all places without income tax
  • Marcus Aurelius: (Mental Accounting at its best) - You’re basically already dead, and everything that follows is a gift.

2. The Fine Art of Correction

  • we overestimate the role of the set-up and systematically underestimate the role of correction
  • Example: Immune System - There’s no master plan, because threats are impossible to predict. Hostile viruses and bacteria are constantly mutating, and our defenses can only function through perpetual correction
  • partnerships have to be consistently nurtured.
  • Our school system is largely geared toward the set-up: the emphasis on factual knowledge and certifications makes people believe that setup works best. No, people who self-correct lead the way.

The more complicated the world becomes, the less important your starting point is

3. The Pledge

  • Be inflexible with your core values.
  • Makes you consistent - Increase reputation
  • Have Commitments, pledges, unconditional principles and fulfill them.

4. Black Box Thinking

  • Dealing with reality requires 2 things.
  • a) radical acceptance and b) black box thinking and c) Rectifying your mistakes
  • Radical acceptance requires accepting the present and past as it is.
    • Radical acceptance of defeats, deficiencies, flops—how does that work?
    • Other people can read us better than we can.
    • Find a friend or a partner you can rely on to give you the truth. Even then, your brain will do its best to soft-pedal the facts it doesn’t like. With time, however, you’ll learn to take seriously the judgments of others
  • Black box thinking
      1. write down what’s going through your mind—assumptions, trains of thought, conclusions
      1. Analyze them after some time to self-correct decisions which went dud.
      • If you can’t identify your mistake, you either don’t understand the world or you don’t understand yourself.
        • To put it another way, if you can’t spot where you put a foot wrong, you’re going to fall flat on your face again.
      • Persistence in your analysis will pay off.
  • C) Rectify your mistakes
    • Rectify your mistakes which they are still manageable.
      • Warren Buffter: If you won’t attack a problem while it’s solvable and wait until it’s unfixable, you can argue that you’re so damn foolish that you deserve the problem.”
      • Don’t wait for the consequences to unfold.
      • “If you don’t deal with reality, then reality will deal with you,” ~ Alex Haley

The key is to discover why it happened and tackle the issue at its root.

5. Counterproductivity

  • Car don’t save much time considering their costs benefit analysis.
  • Technology wastes more time than it saves in the long run.
    • The hidden costs of counterproductivity come into play, in the form of millions of hours squandered on learning the software, installing endless upgrades and, finally, designing and prettifying the slides.

    • To counter that, Author does
    • No TV, no radio, no gaming consoles, no smart watch, no Alexa.
  • Good life Rule: if it doesn’t genuinely contribute something, you can do without it. And that is doubly true for technology.
  • Notes: Uncle never bought motorcycle. He used bicycle all his life.

6. The Negative Art of the Good Life

  • As long as I keep the downside at bay, the upside will take care of itself.
  • If you earn enough, you won’t have to suffer the downside.
  • Negative theology—the negative path, the way of renunciation, of omission, of reduction. (Similar to what Taleb Said)
  • Buffett: “Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them

7. The Ovarian Lottery

  • The ovarian lottery doesn’t end with your country of origin. You weren’t just born in a particular nation, but in an area with a particular postcode and into a particular family. None of that is within your control. You have been given values, behaviors and principles that help or hinder you in everyday life, and again these are beyond your control. You were slotted into an educational system with teachers you didn’t choose. You got sick, suffered fortune’s slings and arrows (or were spared them), and were responsible for absolutely none of it
  • what proportion of your success would you ascribe to your own achievement?. The logical answer is zero percent
  • stay humble—especially if you’re successful. The greater your success, the less you should toot your own horn. Modesty has fallen out of fashion these days, and there’s nothing we like better than showing off on social media.

8. The Introspection Illusion

  • don’t use it to navigate your life. You won’t find the good life through introspection. Psychologists call it the introspection illusion—the mistaken belief that we can learn what we truly desire through sheer intellectual contemplation
  • Introspection is nothing but a job interview with yourself—highly unreliable. - Research has shown that such interviews are useless, and you’re better off analyzing the candidate’s track record
  • What you should be exploring is your past. What are the recurring themes in your life? Examine the evidence, not your subsequent interpretation of it
  • From an evolutionary perspective, it’s far more crucial that you be able to read the emotions of others
  • best bet is to ask a friend or a partner what’s going on inside your head
  • Because our emotions are so unreliable, a good rule of thumb is to take them less seriously—especially the negative ones
  • I do, however, believe we need to cultivate a new relationship with our inner voices, one distanced, skeptical and playful

9. The Authenticity Trap

  • We expect a certain degree of propriety, of manners, of self-control—of civilized misrepresentation. Face-to-face, at least. Online we’ve long ago devolved to Lisa’s level. If you’re not sharing your innermost feelings in an online video before you go to bed, you’re considered stuffy and insincere. Yet fundamentally even the most authentic of these displays on social media remains artificial, stage-managed. And the users know it
  • there’s the simple fact that we don’t really know who we are
  • Authenticity has a role to play in a romantic relationship or a very close friendship, but it’s out of place in a casual acquaintanceship, and certainly in public
  • People are respected because they deliver on their promises, not because they let us eavesdrop on their inner monologs
  • On a psychological level, authenticity just means you’ve given up on this barrier. You’re practically inviting people to exploit you. You’re making yourself not just silly but vulnerable
  • This second persona isn’t a contrived pose; rather, it’s a professional, consistent, and reliable outward-facing stance that leaves no room for doubts, frustrations or disappointments—those are for your diary
  • pillow. I recommend you take a cue from Eisenhower and adopt a second self of your own. Restrict authenticity to keeping your promises and acting according to your principles. The rest is nobody else’s business
  • self-doubt. You want a secretary of state who keeps promises, acts according to agreements, behaves professionally, avoids gossip, limits whining and stays polite

10. The Five-Second No

  • tit for tat
  • reciprocity
  • chimps aren’t conscious of “thinking” strategically; rather, evolution has made this behavior innate
  • We value arguments above time—an error in reasoning, because there is an infinite number of arguments and a decidedly finite amount of time
  • using Charlie Munger’s five-second no as a counter-tactic
  • I’d prefer to systematically turn down most requests and risk unpopularity than the other way around

11. The Focusing Illusion

  • If you compare Buffett’s life minute for minute with yours, the effect of his wealth is negligible

13. Fuck-You Money

  • Economists call this diminishing marginal utility
  • how much would you have to earn per year in order to feel that additional income would no longer have any effective impact on your perceived wellbeing? Write down the figure in the margin before reading on (75000)
  • This revelation has been termed the Easterlin paradox: once basic needs have been met, incremental financial gain contributes nothing to happiness
  • Money is relative. Not just in comparison to others, but in comparison to your past. If you earned $50,000 per year during the first half of your career and today you earn $75,000 you’ll be happier than if you first earned $75,000 and now earn just $60,000. This is despite the fact that, averaging the figures, you come out better off overall in the second scenario
  • So if you haven’t saved up your fuck-you money yet, keep your fixed costs low

14. The Circle of Competence

  • Skills are domain specific.
  • Alongside the impulse to step outside your circle of competence is the equally powerful temptation to broaden it. This temptation is especially great if you’re successful within your current circle, if you’re entirely comfortable there. Resist it.
  • Skills don’t transfer from one arena to another.
  • Example. - A master chess player isn’t automatically going to be a good business strategist.
  • A brilliant programmer isn’t just twice as skilled as a good one, nor three times or even ten times; a brilliant programmer would solve the same problem in a thousandth of the time it would take a programmer who was merely “good.”
  • Ditto for lawyers, surgeons, designers, researchers, salespeople. Inside versus outside the circle of competence—we’re talking about thousandfold differences
  • Stop beating yourself up over your deficiencies. If you’ve got two left feet, forget the salsa lessons.
  • A single outstanding skill trumps a thousand mediocre ones.
  • Every hour invested into your circle of competence is worth a thousand spent elsewhere.

Similar to Taleb’s argument: Classroom skills are mostly non-transferable to real world.

15. The Secret of Persistence

  • Who’s more successful—speculators or investors? There are winners and losers on both sides, but the giants among the winners are to be found only on the side of the investors. Why is that? One central difference: investors take advantage of long timespans; stockbrokers don
  • Our brains love short-term, spasmodic developments. We react exaggeratedly to highs and lows, to rapid changes and jarring news—but continuous changes we barely notice. As a result, we systematically overemphasize doing above not-doing, zeal above deliberation, and action above waiting
  • Because our brains have no instinct for duration, they also have no feel for exponential growth
  • Darwin, after going round the world, spent the whole of the rest of his life in his own house
  • Perseverance, tenacity and long-term thinking are highly valuable yet underrated virtues
  • You don’t have to be brilliant,” as Charlie Munger says, “only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time

16. The Tyranny of a Calling

  • Father of Monks
  • concept of a calling is one of the greatest illusions of our age
  • One of the symptoms of approaching nervous break-down is the belief that one’s work is terribly important,” wrote Bertrand Russell. This is precisely the danger of a calling: that you take yourself and your work too seriously
  • You can pursue a craft with love, of course, and even with a touch of obsession, but your focus should always be on the activity, the work, the input—not on the success, the result, the output
  • Build on the skills you actually have, not on some putative sense of vocation. Luckily, the skills we’ve mastered are often the things we enjoy doing. One important aside: other people have also got to value your talents

17. The Prison of a Good Reputation

  • liberate yourself. - 3 Reasons - 1. you’ll be spared the emotional roller coaster. In the long run, you can’t manage your reputation perfectly anyway. - 2. concentrating on prestige and reputation distorts our perception of what makes us truly happy. - 3. it stresses us out. It’s detrimental to the good life
  • Facebook likes, ratings, followers; they all transmute instant, quantifiable feedback into status—which isn’t even your actual status
  • Don’t Google yourself, and don’t crave recognition. Instead, accomplish something

18. The “End of History” Illusion

  • Proof of the end of history illusion and the instability of our preferences
  • Motivation for personal change must come from within. Neither external pressure nor rational argument will work
  • Avoid situations in which you have to change other people
  • Attitudes cannot be altered, at least not in a reasonable amount of time, and certainly not by external pressures. Skills can
  • Only work with people you like and trust
  • One recommendation: every year on December 31 my wife and I write down on slips of paper the names of people who aren’t good for us and whom we no longer want in our lives. Then we cast them solemnly into the fire, one by one. It’s a therapeutic and salutary ritual

19. The Smaller Meaning of Life

  • There can be no good life without personal goals. Seneca figured that out two thousand years ago: “Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in mind
  • Why do goals work? Because goal-orientated people put more effort into accomplishing them
  • Leave your goals deliberately a little vague

20. Your Two Selves

  • While the experiencing self is profligate (it throws almost everything away)
  • the remembering self is remarkably error-prone—and it leads us to make the wrong decisions.
  • Because of our remembering self’s miscalculations -> we tend to prize brief, intense pleasures too highly and quiet, lasting, tranquil joys too little:
    • Example: Bungee jumping instead of long hikes
    • thrilling one-night-stands instead of regular sex with your partner
    • attention-grabbing YouTube videos instead of a good book (great topic)
  • So which one matters, your experiencing self or your remembering self? Both, of course.
  • Nobody wants to miss out on great memories.
  • Yet we tend to overvalue the remembering self, living with one eye on the aggregation of future memories, instead of focusing on the present.
  • Guard against this impulse.
  • Decide what’s more important to you: a fulfilled moment-to-moment life or a full photo album.

21. The Memory Bank

  • The longer we live with a memory, the greater the value it accrues
  • The things we experience in the present are also much more forceful, more intensely flavored and colorful than our fogged-up recollections. You don’t have to experience a parachute jump or the perfect sunset to enjoy the moment. Even if, like now, you’re sitting on a chair reading this chapter, you will (I hope, anyway) experience a series of enjoyable chunks of time
  • hospital, prison or the grave in next to no time.
  • Part of the good life is making provision for the future, recognizing dangers early and giving them a wide berth
  • instead of worrying about future memories. Savor the sunset instead of photographing it
  • One day you’ll be on your deathbed, and your account will be permanently closed

22. Life Stories Are Lies

  • Eighty billion brain cells sounds like a lot, but it’s a far cry from what we’d need to store everything we see, read, hear, smell, taste, think and feel. So the brain has developed a data-compression trick: the story
  • How does the brain weave facts into memories? By binding them into a compact, consistent and causal story. - Compact, consistent, causal—the three Cs. Compact: the stories are short, simplified and devoid of holes. Consistent: they’re contradiction-free. Causal: there’s a clear connection of cause to effect—A leads to B leads to C, and the developments make sense
  • we change more rapidly than we think
  • Perhaps this person won’t want a holiday home any more, and will look back uncomprehendingly at your heart attack and the seventy-hour weeks you spent working for anonymous taskmasters and shareholders
  • Second: our life seems more amenable to planning than it actually is.
  • Chance plays a far greater role than we’d like to think
  • The end result is that we’re walking around with a false self-image, believing we’re less multi-layered, conflicted and paradoxical than we truly are
  • A realistic self-image can only be gleaned from someone who’s known you well for years and who’s not afraid to be honest—your partner or an old friend.

23. The “Good Death” Fallacy

  • Your remembering self produces systematic errors. It tells tall tales
  • Contemplating your hour of death is unproductive, and will only distract you from the good life
  • duration neglect
  • James Dean effect
  • . Depending on the extent of your afflictions, your level of moment-by-moment happiness will

24. The Spiral of Self-Pity

  • Self-pity is one of the most useless responses to life’s trials.
  • Self-pity doesn’t change anything.
  • It does the opposite, in fact, because self-pity is an emotional whirlpool, a spiral that sucks you deeper down the longer you’re bobbing around in it
  • If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging
  • African Americans are still experiencing the effects of slavery and segregation, and colonialism still casts a long shadow across the African continent
  • Accept the wrongs of the past and try to either manage or endure the hardships of the present
  • This is problematic in two respects. One: blaming other people, especially your parents, has an expiry date. If you’re still holding your parents liable for your problems at the age of forty, then one can argue that you’re so immature you practically deserve them
  • Far more decisive than our history are our genes—and their distribution is sheer chance
  • If you can’t, then put up with the situation. Complaining is a waste of time, and self-pity is doubly counterproductive: first, you’re doing nothing to overcome your unhappiness; and two, you’re adding to your original unhappiness the further misery of being self-destructive.

25. Hedonism and Eudemonia

  • Every experienced moment has two components: a pleasurable (or hedonistic) component and a meaningful component(Eudemonia).
  • I recommend you strike a balance between enjoyment and meaning. Avoid the extremes.

26. The Circle of Dignity—Part I

  • I would never badmouth my family or friends to anybody, even if I had a reason to—which has never happened. Analogously to the circle of competence
  • with time—for most people, by middle age. This process of crystallization is an indispensable step toward becoming a mature adult
  • Commitments are so sacred that by nature they should be rare,” warns Warren Buffett
  • So be highly selective in your choice of non-negotiables—the principles you refuse to abandon
  • The circle of competence—that’s ten thousand hours. The circle of dignity—that’s ten thousand wounds

27. The Circle of Dignity—Part II

  • If you don’t make it clear on the outside what you believe deep down, you gradually turn into a puppet. - Stockdale injured his head with a stool (outside reflection of thoughts in action). - Those who braced themselves to make it through the day—and the next, and the next—increased their chances of survival step by step.
    • At some point every imprisonment is ended

    • You just have to persevere, assuming that’s possible. And only someone who refuses to break, within or without, will be able to do that. Someone who never gives up, who cherishes their own will, no matter how tiny their leeway
      • Similar to What Shewtab said about winning. [[notes:blueprint:failure|Blueprint : Failure]]
  • Why is society bombarding you with arrows? Because its concerns are not your concerns. Society cares about cohesion, not about the private interests of a single member

28. The Circle of Dignity—Part III

  • Ask yourself the following question: are there things you hold so sacred that you wouldn’t sell them for any price, even a billion dollars? Write down your answer in the margin
  • Meanwhile, banks routinely invest in pensioners’ life insurance. The earlier the pensioners die, the more money the banks earn

29. The Book of Worries

  • Without the burden of worry, neither you, dear reader, nor I, nor any other human being would exist. Over millions of years, constant anxiety has proved itself an excellent survival strategy
  • Perpetual anxiety leads to chronic stress, which can take years off your life.
  • Stoicism: Determine what you can influence/control and what you can’t. Address the former. Don’t let the latter prey on your mind
  • Two: take out insurance. Insurance policies are a marvelous invention. They’re among the most elegant worry-killers. Their true value is not the monetary pay-out when there’s a problem but the reduced anxiety beforehand
  • Three: focused work is the best therapy against brooding. Focused, fulfilling work is better than meditation. It’s a better distraction than anything else

30. The Opinion Volcano

  • You don’t need to develop opinions on complex topics.
  • The human brain is a volcano of opinions. It spews out viewpoints and ideas nonstop.
  • The second mistake: we spew out opinions on unanswerable questions
  • The third mistake: we tend to give over-hasty answers to complex questions—like those at the beginning of this chapter. This mistake is the most serious of the three
  • It’s immensely liberating not having to hold an opinion on all and sundry
  • Opinionlessness is an asset
  • It’s not information overload besetting our era—it’s opinion overload
  • Select your topics of interest very carefully. Why should you let journalists, bloggers or tweeters dictate what’s on your mind
  • You’ll find, astonishingly, that the world keeps spinning even without your commentary
  • when you do want to form an opinion, how should you do it? Set aside some time to write about it in peace
  • Imagine you’re invited onto a TV talk show with five other guests, all of whom are committed to the opposite standpoint from yours. Only when you can argue their views at least as eloquently as your own will you truly have earned your opinion

31. Your Mental Fortress

  • The best attitude to have is that all of them are on loan to you, and may be taken away at any time. By death, if nothing else
  • what can’t be taken from you are your thoughts, your mental tools, the way you interpret bad luck, loss and setbacks. You can call this space your mental fortress
  • If you read Primo Levi, you’ll be amazed how stoically he recounts his experiences in the concentration camp
  • . Moreover, the more complex and interconnected the world becomes, the greater the likelihood of radically new and totally unexpected blows of life.
  • The greatest trials of fate you’ve already overcome. Think of the improbability of your conception, of the thousands of agonizing births your mother, your two grandmothers, your grandmothers’ grandmothers and so forth had to endure (some of them bleeding to death) just to bring you into the world.
  • You won’t find happiness in status, in expensive cars, in your bank account or in social success

32. Envy

  • time. It’s the most pointless, useless and toxic of all emotions. It’s envy
  • Envy has a bigger impact on your life satisfaction then physical affliction or financial ruin, and the ability to manage it is fundamental to the good life
  • Stop comparing yourself to other people and you’ll enjoy an envy-free existence
  • The internet has turned jealousy into a modern-day epidemic. So after you withdraw from social media, you should try to minimize the urge to compare yourself with others in everyday life, too
  • Golf. In doing so you’re overestimating their importance on your life satisfaction
  • Remember, the things you envy are all far less important than you think
  • If none of that works and you’re still seething with jealousy, it’s time to bring out the big guns: deliberately identifying the worst aspects of the person’s life and imagining them struggling with those problems. It’ll make you feel instantly better. Admittedly, it’s not a very noble solution, but it’s something to fall back on in an emergency
  • The greatest challenge of success is keeping quiet about it, as they say

33. Prevention

  • wisdom isn’t identical with the accumulation of knowledge
  • Wisdom is a practical ability
  • Why? Because successes achieved through prevention (i.e., failures successfully dodged) are invisible to the outside world
  • Prevention isn’t trivial. In his book The Most Important Thing, the American hedge-fund manager Howard Marks tells a story about a gambler. “One day he heard about a race with only one horse in it, so he bet the rent money. Halfway around the track, the horse jumped over the fence and ran away.” Henry Kissinger referred to these mistakes as a “lack of imagination
  • Those unavoidable disasters can be mitigated by facing up to reality and tackling problems straight away

34. Mental Relief Work

  • You can’t kill the war in the world alone. - Stop overestimating yourself.
    1. Donate money not time
    • Voluntary work is a waste of your time which is more useful if spent on your circle of competance.
    1. Cut the news. - drastically restrict your news consumption—especially when it comes to humanitarian catastrophes
    • Being “interested” in global tragedies is nothing more than voyeurism.
    • Watching War documentaries does not help anyone at all.
    1. Accept that evil is universal.
    1. You are not responsible for the state of the world.
    • Richard feynman: Social irresponsibility.
      • don’t feel bad for concentrating on your work instead of building hospitals in Africa
      • Same as Dad’s advice.
        • You are never responsible for your friend’s life but your own actions, time and focus of life.

35. Focus

  • Focus, time and money are our three most important resources.
  • Anything that takes your attention is a debt.
    • Friend sends something.
    • Cousin sending food updates.
    • Breaking news
    • Most e-mail
    • Social Media
  • Focus Rules
      1. Avoid taking what is new with what is relevant.
      • Every new item(Book, Video, Social media status) needs an audience.
      • So, We are bombarded with massively advertised and massively shared.
      • The value of the content is known after the a while so let the new trend/sensational/buzz go intentionally avoiding the trend.
      1. Avoid free content.
      • Ads, newsletter, Youtube Videos provide less value for your time (very generalized content)-> Time waste.
      • Prefer professionally crafted courses so you can get more value for your time.
      1. Prefer written form over web-pages
      • You can focus more on written form.
      1. Focus can never be divided like time and money.
      • The attention given to friends newsfeed is the attention taken away from your family and self.
      1. Five: Have high standards for consumption of content like medicine.
      • Decide what you want to consume.
        • Our brains are evolved to detect minute change and respond to it.
          • Was good in previous generations(keeping safe from spider)but it does not serve well today.
    • Be critical, strict and careful when it comes to your intake of information

36. Read Less, But Twice—on Principle

  • Once you hit thirty, life’s too short for bad books
  • We’re reading wrong. We’re reading neither selectively nor thoroughly enough (less critically).
  • Read fewer books but read each one twice. - Heuristic: A book earns ten minutes of my time, maximum, then I give my verdict—to read or not to read.
  • Immersion—the opposite of surfing
  • You’ll sharpen your powers of judgment, too, which will enable you to be drastically selective later

37. The Dogma Trap

  • knowledge illusion. - we think we understand these things reasonably well until we’re forced to explain them.
  • Second-order effects. - You’ve got to account for the effects of the effects of the effects
  • Thinking through the chain reaction properly would take days, weeks, even months, and who’s got the time or the energy for that
  • Tell me what specific facts you’d need in order to give up your worldview. If they don’t have an answer, keep that person at arm’s length. You should ask yourself the same question, for that matter, if you suspect you’ve strayed too far into dogma territory.
  • An example: don’t talk about “the people” when your party means only one specific social group.
  • Avoid slogans and overgeneralizations.
  • Be especially wary when speaking in public.
  • Defending a dogmatic position in public has been shown to beat it even deeper into your brain.
  • It becomes virtually ineradicable.

38. Mental Subtraction

  • People get habitual of gratitude habit. They don’t feel good for it.
  • mental subtraction is an effective way of tricking your brain into valuing the positive aspects of your life more highly.

39. The Point of Maximum Deliberation

  • entrepreneur won’t know whether a product will be successful until she produces it and launches it onto the market—no matter how much consumer research she’s done
  • If we want to go beyond the limits of our knowledge, we’ve got to forge ahead instead of standing still—we’ve got to act, not agonize
  • point of maximum deliberation
  • further—if you want new information, you’ve got to act
  • Theorists, professors, consultants, writers, bloggers and journalists like to imagine that the world reveals itself to them through contemplation. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Thinkers like Newton, Einstein and Feynman are exceptions
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted
  • To know what you want, it’s best to just embark on something

40. Other People’s Shoes

  • You have to step into their shoes and experience your opponent’s situation first-hand
  • Thinking and doing are two fundamentally different ways of comprehending the world, although many people confuse the two
  • Each level of management possesses intimate, practical knowledge about how it feels to be below that level. To become a bishop, you have to start at the very bottom, as a priest
  • Be the proverbial king who dressed as a beggar to mingle among his subjects
  • another recommendation: read novels. Being immersed in a good novel, accompanying the protagonist throughout both highs and lows, is an efficient workaround that sits somewhere between thinking and doing

41. The Illusion of Changing the World—Part I

  • We see ourselves not merely as citizens of the world but as its engineers
  • The notion that an individual can change the world is one of the greatest ideologies of our century—and one of its grandest illusions
  • focusing illusion
  • Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it
  • When you peer at a map through a magnifying glass, the areas you’re looking at are enlarged
  • Our attention functions in much the same way: when we’re engrossed in our campaign to change the world, its significance appears much greater than it actually is
  • We systematically overestimate the importance of our projects
  • intentional stance
  • we assume an intention behind every change—regardless of whether or not it was actually intentional
  • This supposition of intent is rooted in our evolutionary past. Better to assume too much than too little
  • Better, if you hear a rustle in the bushes, to imagine the source is a hungry saber-toothed tiger or an enemy warrior than the wind. There must have been a few people who regularly assumed it was the wind, saving themselves the energy of running away—but sooner or later they would have been abruptly and messily removed from the gene pool
  • That’s why we see intention and active agents even where there are none
  • The Evolution of Everything
  • We tend to give too much credit to whichever clever person is standing nearby at the right moment
  • Events are the accidental by-product of an infinite number of trends and influences. It works like traffic, not like cars
  • World history is fundamentally disorderly, fortuitous and unpredictable
  • most prominent figures in world history were simply puppets of their age
  • Key to the good life is not idolizing “great men”—and not clinging to the illusion that you can be one yourself

42. The Illusion of Changing the World—Part II

  • Technology will find its inventors,” argues Ridley, “not vice versa
  • Volkswagen must have had outstanding CEOs. But who knows their names today? It’s not just that they’re interchangeable; even their companies’ strong results have less to do with their decisions than with market trends as a whole
  • Most CEOs are along for the ride, paid well to surf on the waves their employees create. [… ] The illusion that they are feudal kings is maintained by the media as much as anything. But it is an illusion
  • No matter how extraordinary your accomplishments might be, the truth is that they would have happened without you. Your personal impact on the world is minute. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are—as a businessperson, an academic, a CEO, a general or a president; in the great scheme of things you’re insignificant, unnecessary and interchangeable

43. The “Just World” Fallacy

  • Reality, I’m afraid, is not like that. The world isn’t actually just; it’s immensely unjust. What should we do with this disagreeable fact? It’s my belief that you’ll have a better life if you simply accept the unfairness of the world as fact and endure it with stoicism. In doing so you’ll spare yourself a lot of disappointments along the way
  • The English philosopher John Gray wrote that in ancient Greece, “it was taken for granted that everyone’s life is ruled by fate and chance… Ethics was about virtues such as courage and wisdom; but even the bravest and wisest of men go down to defeat and ruin. We prefer to found our lives—in public, at least—on the pretense that ‘morality’ wins out in the end. Yet we do not really believe it. At bottom, we know that nothing can make us proof against fate and chance
  • there is no just plan for the world. There isn’t even an unjust plan. There’s no plan at all. The world is fundamentally amoral
  • Part of the good life is to radically accept that. Focus on your garden—on your own everyday life—and you’ll find enough weeds to keep you busy
  • The things that happen to you across the course of your life, especially the more serious blows of fate, have little to do with whether you’re a good or a bad person
  • Treat incredible success and strokes of luck exactly the same

44. Cargo Cults

  • cargo cults
  • Feynman was pillorying a tendency that was encroaching even into the sciences: the adherence to form without a real understanding of content
  • Don’t copy Lully. Stay far away from any type of cargo cult. And be on your guard: the substanceless imitation of form is more common than we think
  • Don’t mimic the behavior of successful people without truly understanding what made them successful in the first place

45. If You Run Your Own Race, You Can’t Lose

  • Otherwise they run the risk of recycling old ideas or, worse still, of not being able to keep up
  • These niches are sprouting out of the ground like mushrooms. The inordinate speed at which they multiply is a first in human history
  • There were no specialists in stone ax design, stone ax production, stone ax marketing, stone ax customer support, stone ax training or stone ax community management
  • Hunters and gatherers didn’t have “professions
  • The profession was invented, the career, the field of expertise—and with it, the blinkered nerd
  • people can only survive as specialists, and as generalists they’d have no chance
  • It’s time we stopped romanticizing being a generalist
  • The “winner takes it all” effect led to stark income inequality
  • There’s an infinite number of winners,” Kevin Kelly has said, “as long as you’re not trying to win somebody else’s race
  • stop hoarding all the knowledge you possibly can in the hopes of improving your job prospects. Financially speaking, there’s no longer any benefit to that. These days “accumulating general knowledge” makes sense only as a hobby. So relax and read a book about Stone Age humans, if you’re genuinely interested. Just be careful you don’t become one yourself

46. The Arms Race

  • Many young people believe that going to university is a prerequisite for a glittering career, and starting salaries do tend to be higher for graduates than for those without a degree. Yet on balance, after discounting the costs and time invested, many students are no better off or even worse off than their less educated peers. So what kind of value does this expensive and time-consuming process add
  • If almost everybody has a college degree, getting one doesn’t differentiate you from the pack. To get the job you want, you might have to go to a fancy (and expensive) college, or get a higher degree. Education turns into an arms race, which primarily benefits the arms manufacturers—in this case, colleges and universities
  • When I set up the company getAbstract with some friends, one of our criteria was to avoid the arms race dynamic. In practical terms, this meant finding a niche where there was no competition, and for more than ten years we ended up being the only supplier of book abstracts—a fantastic situation
  • You need a niche in which you can operate smoothly and confidently, but also one that’s free of the arms race dynamic
  • The upshot? Try to escape the arms race dynamic. It’s difficult to recognize, because each individual step seems reasonable when considered on its own. So retreat every so often from the field of battle and observe it from above. Don’t fall victim to the madness. An arms race is a succession of Pyrrhic victories, and your best bet is to steer clear. You’ll only find the good life where people aren’t fighting over it

47. Making Friends with Weirdos

  • Although Spinoza hadn’t published anything by that point, the young intellectual’s freethinking views had put him on a collision course with the establishment. Today, Spinoza is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time
  • outsiders tend to be quicker and therefore earlier to make an impact than insiders
  • They don’t have to be politically correct for fear of expulsion, because they’re already on the outside
  • There’s a certain romance about the idea of living as an outsider—but don’t make the mistake of becoming one yourself
  • The forces of society will be arrayed against you. The headwinds will be pitiless and sharp
  • So what to do? Keep one foot firmly planted in the establishment. That way you’ll secure all the advantages of club membership. But let your other foot wander
  • Make friends with outsiders
  • Their fresh perspective will rub off on you—and help you on your way to the good life

48. The Secretary Problem

  • Be extremely receptive. Taste whatever fate dishes up. Read widely, because novels and short stories are excellent simulations of life.

49. Managing Expectations

  • Brain functions on expectations.
  • Fixed desires (Ex. I must, I should) leads to grumpiness, unpleasant person.
  • The sooner you can erase supposed necessities from your repertoire, the better
  • All your desires will not be fulfilled.
    • We have little control over most things.
  • Preferred indifferents (indifferent here in the sense of insignificant)
  • How do you foster realistic expectations instead?
    • 1: before every meeting, every date, every project, every party, every holiday, every book and every undertaking, draw a sharp distinction between necessities, desires and expectations.
    • 2: rate your expectations on a scale from 0 to 10. Are you expecting a disaster (0) or the fulfilment of your life’s dream (10)?
    • 3: deduct two points from your rating, then mentally readjust to that number. The whole exercise takes ten seconds.

Note: Pick your battles wisely.

50. Sturgeon’s Law

  • 90 percent of everything is crap
  • Recognize the difference between ideas and good ideas.

51. In Praise of Modesty

  • Modesty is compatible with reality.
    • Focus more on work instead of transmitting on social media.

52. Inner Success (similar to Stoicism)

  • Society steers the direction of your aim as required. It has steered women to have more kids when required.
  • Currently, it steers people to acquire materialistic good.
    • That is why most rich lists are more popular than most satisfied.
  • Material success is also 100 percent a matter of chance.

    • Many things are pre-determined in you. (Gene, place of birth, home environment).
  • To be successful is to be imperturbable(Calm), regardless of whether you’re flying high or crash landing - Note: Simiar to Stoicism
  • Every evening, take stock:
    • When did you fail today?
    • When did you let the day be poisoned by toxic emotions?
    • What things beyond your control did you let upset you?
    • which mental tools are required for self-improvement?
    • You don’t have to be the richest person in the cemetery—instead, be the most inwardly successful person in the here and now. “Make each day your masterpiece” was (action)


  • I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something


  • : “At Berkshire there has never been a master plan. Anyone who wanted to do it, we fired because it takes on a life of its own and doesn’t cover new reality. We want people taking into account new

Mental Models mentioned.

  • Mental accounting

    • Don’t worry about small things. Expect them and leave some money aside for them.
  • The 2 Selves

    • Remembering self(memories part) is error prone.
    • Experiencing self throws away most experience.
    • Remembering self’s miscalculations
      • we tend to prize brief, intense over tranquil, long lasting joy.
        • (Bungee jumping over Hiking)
  • Dichotomy of control (Stoicism)

  • Self-correction

    • You need 4 things to deal good with reality.
      • Radical acceptance
        • Accept past mistakes as it is.
        • Get feedback from a friend[facts].
      • Blackbox thinking(Journal or data collection)
      • Analysis(Identifying error in judgment, mistakes)
      • Rectify your mistakes.
  • Five-Second No (Charlie Munger)

  • Counterproductivity

    • Solve problem without technology when you can. Technology wastes more time than it saves in the long run.
  • Sturgeon's Heuristic:

    • 90% of the most things created is crap
  • The Circle of Competence (Charlie Munger)

    • skills are domain specific and don’t transfer.
  • Introspection Illusion

    • a mistaken belief that we can learn what we truly desire through sheer intellectual contemplation.

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