No. 456 — January 23, 2022
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We are not taught how to learn in school, we are taught how to pass tests. The spacing effect is a far more effective way to learn and retain information that works with our brain instead of against it.
“The nature of illusion is that it’s designed to make you feel good. About yourself, about your country, about where you’re going – in that sense it functions like a drug. Those who question that illusion are challenged not so much for the veracity of what they say, but for puncturing those feelings.”— Chris Hedges
“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” — Sun Tzu
This lesson goes beyond war.
I recently spoke with an architect about the problems another one of his clients was going through. While they had originally interviewed the architect for the project, they wanted someone right away and thought he was too expensive for what they needed. Unfortunately, they currently find themselves buried in costly problems that he’s now solving for them with overtime.
Was this a poor choice or just bad luck? If we play out the same scenario 100 times — where a couple rushes through the selection of an architect and builder, picking the cheapest immediately available option — how many times do you think it ends poorly? 80? 90? 95?
While most of us would never choose to play life on hard mode, that’s exactly what we do when we put ourselves in a bad position. One way to visualize this is through the lens of billiards. We become so focused on making the first shot that we fail to consider how we position the ball for the next shot. When we go to take the next shot, it’s harder than it had to be.
Consider a few simple ways we put ourselves in a bad position.
We borrow too much money. Everything works great until it doesn’t. When things inevitably change, we find ourselves ill-positioned. What seemed like an advantage becomes a nightmare.
We try to save money in the wrong places. We balk at the $500 an hour lawyer with years of relevant experience and opt for the $200 an hour lawyer who says the right things. Inevitably, we find ourselves paying for them to learn the lessons that command the $500 an hour. We do the same when it comes to purchases. Often, we opt for the ‘cheaper’ option only to realize our mistakes. As the saying goes, buy it right or buy it twice. Cheaper in the moment rarely works out to cheaper overall.
We win the moment at the cost of the decade. Examples of this are everywhere. For example, we skip necessary maintenance on core assets to juice returns, we accrue technical debt that goes unpaid, and we monetize buffers and margins of safety. In the process, the smallest shock can cause massive damage.
We fail to take care of ourselves. We don’t eat healthy, sleep right, or exercise enough. When problems come, we’re ill-positioned to deal with them.
We try to save time. We cut corners on a job and cringe when we have to fix our mistakes.
Being in a position to capitalize when times are bad requires doing different things when times are good. This goes against human nature — we don’t want to look like an idiot when times are good even if doing so offers an unstoppable advantage when times are tough. Good times eventually come to an end. As Warren Buffett says, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
The main lesson here is to always put yourself in the best position possible no matter the future conditions. Not only does this mean avoiding costly problems, as the couple above learned, but it also means putting yourself in a position to perpetually play offense.
Brilliance might appear to win in the short term, but positioning inevitably wins in the end.
Explore Your Curiosity
★ “For people who achieve great things, they often maintain a very ordinary mentality. In other words, if you keep an ordinary mind, accept yourself as you are, and do well for yourself, you can often do things well. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”
★ “There are three things you cannot buy. Fitness: You have to keep fit, whether you’re rich or not. Diet: You cannot pay someone to be on a diet for you. I think that diet is the biggest sacrifice in my life. Then, looking after your soul. No one can possibly treat your soul but you yourself. This is something you can do through culture and philosophy.”
+ A beautiful blanket octopus
+ The surprising history of the potato chip
+ The reason journalling makes you better
P.S. These obstacle avoidance skills.