Jeff Bezos’s annual shareholder letters are always worth reading, and this year’s is no exception. My highlights:

  1. Resist proxies. For example, process often becomes a proxy for the outcome you want. You end up making sure you’re just doing the process right instead of looking at outcomes, and improving the process when it fails.
  2. Most decisions should be made with ~70% of the information you wish you had. If you’re good at course correcting (recognizing and correcting bad decisions), being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is expensive for sure.
  3. Use the phrase “disagree and commit.” A genuine disagreement of opinion AND a quick sincere commitment.

Book Notes: But What If We’re Wrong?

Takeaways

  1. Obsessives (who actively elevate culture) and amateurs (who have limited cultural attention) have an outsized impact on what history eventually considers “significant” culture.
  2. If mankind can believe something false for 2000 years (e.g. gravity), we shouldn’t assume our current “truths” will endure.
  3. Society is uncomfortable identifying specific truths that will be disproven, even if they agree with the inevitability of collective wrongness.

In A Perfect Universe, You Wouldn’t Exist

The Nobel laureate Philip Warren Anderson once said, “It is only slightly overstating the case to say that physics is the study of symmetry.” Because physics is the study of the behavior of the universe, Anderson’s statement implies that the universe is, to some degree, symmetrical.

But what does that even mean?

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Is it better to be loving than to be right?

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, in a New York Times interview:

Among many things that [my mentor Ray Chambers] has taught me are five rules for happiness. So the first one is living in the moment. The second is that it’s better to be loving than to be right, and if you’re in a relationship, you know how challenging that can be. The third one is to be a spectator to your own thoughts, especially when you become emotional, which is almost impossible to do. The fourth is to be grateful for at least one thing every day, and the last is to help others every chance you get.

The second rule stopped me: Is it really better to be loving than to be right?

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Singles Awareness Day

When I visited Seattle for the first time, I stayed with a friend of a friend named Jesse. It was kind of him to take in a stranger on such short notice, without knowing things like whether I shower ever. I’d decided to go to Seattle only a few days before and had no idea where I was going to stay. I half-seriously considered sleeping on park benches, thinking it would make a good story one day. I’m glad I didn’t do that because it rained.

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Meet in the Middle

You meet new people every single day, even though you aren’t formally introduced. You stand with them in elevators and walk by them on sidewalks. They serve you at restaurants and get in your way at the fountain drinks. They sit with you in traffic and cut you off while talking on their phones. Every day you pass potential friends or partners, maybe someone you could help or someone who could help you. They see you or you see them or sometimes both, but only for a moment and then they’re forgotten. Even though you miss these opportunities, you don’t care. You don’t even notice. You don’t mind that they remain strangers because you didn’t know them anyway and you’ll likely never see them again.

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What I’m thankful for

My dad

He embodies discipline, unsurprising since he almost became a priest. He often told me stories of his ambition as a student. How he was always #1 in his classes. How he would aggressively compete with his top classmates. But he can also be stubborn when he thinks he’s right. He was supposed to be a lawyer until he got into an argument with a teacher in front of his law school class and stormed out. His classmates tried to talk him into apologizing, but he refused to return to the class because he was convinced he was right. And yet somehow, he never loses his cool when we debate, despite my increasingly impatient tone.

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