In this rare interview, activist investor Bill Ackman reveals the lessons he learned growing up, what drives him, overcoming failure, investing, and so much more.

It’s time to Listen and Learn.

Bill Ackman and Shane Parrish

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

I think of philanthropy as something that is not genetic, it is learned, and it was something that my dad reinforced pretty much from the time I was a kid.

I’ve always had this view that success is not a straight line up. If you read the stories of successful people, almost every successful person has had to deal with some degree of hardship, whether that hardship is personal hardship, health-related hardship, or a business issue. …

Parenting expert and best selling author Barbara Coloroso shares her three foundational principles of child-rearing, how to get kids to be accountable for their actions, and what we can do as parents to raise confident, happy children.

Barbara Coloroso ©2018 Farnam Street Media Inc.

Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

I came up with three basic tenets. One, kids are worth it. I believe they’re worth our time, energy and resources to help them become all they can become. Second, I won’t treat them in a way I, myself, would not want to be treated. …

illustration by shane parrish

Was I in a master’s program or grade school? Some days, I couldn’t tell. And yet that is where everything changed for me.

When I came across Charlie Munger’s 1995 Speech, The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, I realized that I could learn more from him than my MBA. So I spent the next few years reading and researching about cognitive biases and how we mislead ourselves. Munger showed me the world had more to offer than just computer science and business, the two disciplines I’d spent the most time in.

Munger opened up a world of mental models, which is just a fancy schmancy word that means thinking tools. A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks. Whether we realize it or not, we then use these models every day to think, decide, and understand our world. …

The quality and shape of human decision-making is taking a profound leap forward thanks to new partners: artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Many intelligent people view AI with alarmism, but not Pedro Domingos, the University of Washington professor working at the cutting edge of machine learning. He wrote The Master Algorithm, which I swallowed whole and have been digesting every since.

I was fortunate enough to have a long and fascinating conversation with him over dinner one night which I hoped would never end — but that ended up leading to this interview, in which we explore new sources of knowledge, why white collar jobs are easier to replace than blue collar jobs, centaur chess players, and so much more. …

© Farnam Street Media Inc. May not be used without permission.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with FS reader and Stripe CEO Patrick Collison. In our two hour conversation we talk about the biggest mistakes he made in the early days, how he scaled stripe from 2 to over 1,000 employees today, why he values velocity over correctness, his unique approach to reading and so much more. In the powerful excerpt below, Patrick explores the culture of stripe and what he’s looking for when hiring.

You can find full audio, show notes, and a pdf of the entire transcript here.

How would you describe the culture at Stripe? What do you actively try to achieve with that?

Research shows that knowing what you want to accomplish is more important than performance … at least at the start. But once you know where you’re going, you can accelerate progress by religiously implementing these steps.

1. Routines

The first tip comes from Tony Schwartz author of The Power of Full Engagement and Be Excellent at Anything. In his contribution to Maximize Your Potential, he recommends harnessing the power of a ritual.

A ritual is a highly precise behavior you do at a specific time so that it becomes automatic over time and no longer requires much conscious intention or energy.

Willpower and discipline are over-rated. Systems matter more. …

Adam Grant, the most thoughtful had a lot of amazing things to say during our interview for the Knowledge Project but I wanted to show you this excerpt on intentional parenting.

Shane Parrish: As a father, what do you do to nurture creativity in your kids?

Adam Grant: So, I think that most of the time, nurturing creativity is mostly about getting out of the way. I think it’s really hard to raise a creative child. It’s really easy to thwart a child’s creativity. So, the data show that having too many rules is one way to do that. If you look at highly creative high schoolers, for example, on average they had about half a rule in their household. …

How is it we become better at thinking? How is is we learn to make better decisions? And if we can’t make better decisions how is it we learn to avoid stupidity.

A while back I came across an irreverent billionaire named Charlie Munger who taught me how to think better. I learned about behavioral biases but more than that I learned how the big ideas of the world can help you understand problems. I also learned that I needed to prepare to make good decisions in the first place.

When it comes to thinking too many of us focus on the way we think things should be and not enough on the way things are. …

We spend hours consuming news because we want to be well informed. But is that time well spent? News is by definition something that doesn’t last. And as news has become easier to distribute and cheaper to produce, the quality has decreased.

Rarely do we stop to ask ourselves questions about what we consume: Is this important? Is this going to stand the test of time — say, in a week or in a year? Is the person writing this someone who is well informed on the issue?

“[W]e’re surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the never-ending pressure of trying to keep up with it all.”

— Nicolas Carr

There are several problems with the way we consume news…


At Farnam Street, our tagline is “Mastering the best of what others have already figured out.”

That means if somebody…anybody has a leg up on how to make life a little easier, more productive, and more enjoyable, we want to know about it.

One of the best ways I’ve found that people transmit their knowledge to others is through books.

Books contain the life experience and wisdom of the world’s most accomplished thinkers and doers. It’s a blessing that we have such deep wells to draw inspiration from.

The question is, which wells deserve our time?

With so many millions of books out there to choose from, it can be tough to decide where you want to invest your reading hours. …


Farnam Street (Shane Parrish)

Understand how the world works | @farnamstreet | The Knowledge Project Podcast

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