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Photo by Greg Hill on Unsplash

Today marks the end of the daily practice I’ve deeply loved for the past eleven months. Some might call it a blog but I try to view it as a service. There were standards to maintain. Deadlines to meet. I had to deliver the very best article I could write every business day and finish every Friday with a weekly review of the best books I’ve read on the topics I love. I had to stick to the very best books, even when they were difficult to unpack, and had to curate my list of favorites with deliberate care.

Why? Why do all this? Good question. …


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Anything You Want

By Derek Sivers

Rating: 10/10

Best Line #1: Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?

Best Line #2: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well.

This book is special to me. I want to gush about it. So I will. Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want stands atop all the other business tomes I’ve read. And I’ve read at least a hundred such books. That’s not a brag; it’s a confession. Truly.

For years, I have been so insecure in my knowledge of business, so lost in the complexities and theories and arguments, that I read constantly to find every piece of every puzzle. It took me down the rabbithole. I overwhelmed myself with contradictory advice at every turn. And that’s just the books. Mix in the podcasts, articles, and interviews and it just gets ridiculous. …


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Photo by William Warby on Unsplash

We measure ourselves in many ways. Every day. Our body weight. Our net worth. Our social media. Our status amongst peers. We think about these and other things often. We use these things as part of a perpetual performance review. And like all bad performance reviews, we’re often very inconsistent in our rationale and criteria.

But don’t blame the measure. It’s only a number. Blame the judgement we use to interpret those numbers. Measurement is often consistent. Judgement not so much.

In school, tests are typically measured on a 100-point scale. People react to those measurements very differently. There are physics students who express pure joy when they get a 75/100 on an exam. Then there are accounting students who feel crushed when they get a 92/100. These feelings are not the product of the test. …


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Photo by Samrat Khadka on Unsplash

In reviewing Scott Adams’ brilliant book on self-improvement, I came to really admire the idea offered below about simplifiers and optimizers:

Some people are what I call simplifiers and some are optimizers. A simplifier will prefer the easy way to accomplish a task, while knowing that some amount of extra effort might have produced a better outcome. An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if the extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems.

I want to take this at face value and start categorizing people in these two camps. But I can’t. It’s not that neat and clean. The truth is that no one is wholly a simplifier or wholly an optimizer. We are both. We each possess the ability and desire to simplify in some situations and optimize in others. …


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Image by lamsongf, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There’s a hiring freeze at the tech company called Basecamp. I guess they must be struggling. After all, you only do hiring freezes when your budget is flat, projections are low, and the future is uncertain. Which is why this freeze is so surprising. Basecamp has such a great product. And even better leadership. How could they find themselves falling on such hard times?

They’re supposed to be growing. Successful businesses always grow in size. Because growth is what business is all about. Bigger is better. More, more, more.

Sarcasm aside, there is a legit hiring freeze at Basecamp. It’s been going on since January. …


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Image by klimkin from Pixabay

There must be some misunderstanding. Business is not about money? Really? There was a time I would have doubted that.

I grew up with images of Scrooge McDuck, the quintessential cartoon businessman, swimming in a giant vault of gold coins, loving his money more than just about anything. Later on, it was Gordon Gekko. In fact, for all of childhood and a lot of adulthood, the prevailing image of business people made me think they were either greedy tycoons or trying to become one.

In this old, conventional view, every business is looking to become Big Business. Maximize profits. Blitzscale. …


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Principles

By Ray Dalio

Rating 10/10

Best Line #1: Before I begin telling you what I think, I want to establish that I’m a “dumb shit” who doesn’t know much relative to what I need to know.

Best Line #2: To be principled means to consistently operate with principles that can be clearly explained. Unfortunately, most people can’t do that. And it’s very rare for people to write their principles down and share them. That is a shame.

Books are a special, timeless thought technology. At their best, these books change the way you think by giving you better tools for the job — new frameworks, concepts, processes, and commands. Read enough great books and you’ll have a lot of tools in your mind. …


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Photo by Fahrul Azmi on Unsplash

We have a lot of acronyms in the English language. TGIF, FBI, LOL, YOLO, USA, etc. It’s enough to make one join the AAAA group — the Anti-Acronym Association of America. But there is one acronym that is both clumsy and strained that I still love and think about often. It comes from the great psychologist and author Daniel Kahneman: WYSIATI. It stands for “What you see is all there is.”

For all the other acronyms out there, this is the one that we should all remember. Though, admittedly, it’s not as memorable as FOMO, IMO, OMG, or NFL.

In fact, if I can help even a single person embed this wonderful idea of WYSIATI, I’d be thrilled. I originally featured it as part of the week-long study of Kahneman’s instant classic Thinking Fast and Slow (review here). The idea behind WYSIATI is that we all have a tendency to “thin-slice” a decision problem by making quick decisions on limited information. …


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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

One of the major themes in Ray Dalio’s Principles is the push towards radical transparency and open-mindedness. He calls these two behaviors the secret to all his success and I believe it. These two qualities can lead a person to a near-antifragile mindset that is rare, powerful, and profoundly uncomfortable to cultivate. And as hard as open-mindedness is, I think transparency is the hardest, most unnatural behavior to develop.

Don’t Ask Me Why

It’s hard because most people are unaware of their own inner-workings. As an example, I think a lot of adults are perfectly willing to tell you why they do the things they do. …


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Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash

There is a distinct conflict that seems to always rise up between the high performance of an individual and that person’s harmony with others. History gives several examples of cloistered geniuses who made their masterpieces in the confines of their own homes, away from the maddening crowds and without many friends. Nikola Tesla comes to mind. J.D. Salinger. And Isaac Newton.

Were these people introverts? I don’t know. I think some of it was a matter of practicality. For example, Tesla advised the following:

Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.

There’s some real wisdom to this. Neil Gaiman has said, numerous times, that his strategy for writing a book is to become so bored that there’s just nothing else to distract or inspire. …

About

Norm Wright

Trying to provide the most useful thing you’ll read on any given day. Target success rate: 51%. More at www.strivingstrategically.com

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