Rules, razors, and realizations

On Personal Growth

Hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold others.

Define the limits of your knowledge. Be clear about what you know and don’t know.

Stress yourself, but not too much. A low dose of something can have the opposite effect of a high dose.

Remember opportunity cost.

Sometimes, you can improve your life by taking things away

Identify obvious failure points, and steer clear of them.

Utility> novelty

It’s called fishing not catching

On Creativity

The Internet rewards people who are unique. Strive to be the only person who does what you do.

Secrets are Hidden in Plain Sight. The best ideas can come from things that are so well-known that they aren’t well-seen.

Look for Things That Don’t Make Sense. Big opportunities won’t make sense until it’s too late to profit from them.

The most interesting ideas at a conference never come from the main stage. They come from the hallways and the bar after sunset

The Map Is Not the Territory. If you want to find an advantage, look for what the map leaves out.

On Incentives

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available.

What gets measured gets managed.

Goodhart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Society is good at training talent but terrible at cultivating genius. Talent is predictable, genius is unpredictable.

People tend to focus on easy-to-understand ideas at the expense of important but hard to talk about ideas.

An idea will gain traction once it enters the mainstream, not because it’s true but because it’s popular.

On Systems

Systems are about simplicity:

Gall’s Law: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. ****

Hock Principle: Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.

Systems are about balance:

A system is only as strong as its weakest point, so find bottlenecks. BUT, if you break down the entire system and optimize each component individually, you’ll lower the effectiveness of the system. Optimize the entire system instead.

When things interact, they often birth new, unpredictable forms.

On Markets

Demand Curves Slope Down: The harder something is to do, the fewer people will do it.

People’s behavior totally changes once an action costs money. If sending an email cost you $0.001, there’d be way less spam.

The Invisible Hand: Rising prices signal falling supply or increased demand, which incentivizes an increase in production. The opposite is true for falling prices. Prices are a signal wrapped in an incentive.

The Paradox of Abundance: Markets of abundance are simultaneously bad for the median consumer but good for conscious consumers.

On Strategy

Be Specific: Differentiation is free marketing.

Competition is for Losers: Avoid competition.

Observe Base Rates: The average outcome for an event over time.

If you want to win, pick an easy table and nail your execution.

If you want to be lucky, look for opportunities with big upsides and low downsides.

Large gaps between accelerating technologies and stagnating social norms create lucrative new business opportunities. But they are only available for a short time.

Most marketing strategies have a short window of success.

What best serves the customers, should also best serve the product. (Flowers must be sold the same day. Books have to last forever.)

Mimetic Theory of Desire: We don’t know what we want, so we imitate each other.

Baker’s Dozen: The key to good hospitality is to delight your guests with an unexpected gift.

The Medium Is the Message: We pay too much attention to what is being said. But the medium of communication is more impactful.

Price is a story

On Decision Making

When it comes to the human condition, the deepest truths are often counter-intuitive. When you find two opposites that are both true, start exploring.

Occam’s Razor: If there are multiple explanations for why something happened and they are equally persuasive, assume the simplest one is true. Trust the lowest-complexity answer.

Hickam’s Dictum: The opposite of Occam’s Razor. In a complex system, problems usually have more than one cause.

Unanimous agreement leads to bad decisions.

Hanlons Razor – Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence.

On Culture

Social Media Pulls us away from age-old wisdom, by trapping us in an endless cycle of now.

Preference Falsification: People lie about their true opinions and conform to socially acceptable preferences instead.

Doublespeak: People often say the opposite of what they mean, especially in political language. It allows people to lie while looking like they’re telling the truth.

Russell Conjugation: Journalists often change the meaning of a sentence by replacing one word with a synonym that implies a different meaning. For example, the same person can support an estate tax but oppose a death tax — even though they are the same thing.

Overton Window: You can control thought without limiting speech. You can do it by defining the limits of acceptable thought while allowing for lively debate within these barriers.

Horseshoe Theory: Extreme opposites tend to look the same.

Mimetic Theory of Conflict: People who are similar are more likely to fight than people who are different.