TIL2017 – Know thyself

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

This post is part of the TIL2017 Summary Series.

Many podcast and book subjects have an elevated level of self-awareness. As Richard Feynman put it, “you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

In some ways this includes the advice to follow your passion. Ken Burns said to do what inly rejoices you. Many investors have said that investing only works if you enjoy the work. It’s too easy to hire hard work. Your competitive advantage is focused in areas where you’ll do extra work because you enjoy it.

Understanding yourself also means pointing a spotlight on your blind spots. For Jason Calacanis it was ignorance about Airbnb users. For Scott Fearon it was ignorance of California diners. For Alton Brown it was ignorance about his skills in front of the camera. Mistakes led to self-awareness.

Another moniker is “soft spots” which may be a weak spot in decision making. Daryl Morey had to move away from his soft spot for big men who hustled and rebounded. Marcus Lemonis had to move away from trying to fix the people in the business he bought. Gregg Popovich had to move away from one style of basketball.

Self-understanding is a true mirror, not a carnival one. Brad Gilbert wrote that he sees too many amateur tennis players get upset at themselves for missing shots. So what! You’re not Pete Sampras, writes Gilbert.

Without self-awareness, the heat of the moment can cook our choices. Some preempt this and make their decisions away from the fire. Wesley Gray said to plan in System Two, alluding to Kahneman’s personifications. Ray Dalio created a layer of filters to reduce emotion in decision making at his investment firm.

Even though people have struggled with this, two ideas from modern times can help; zero fucks and identity footprints.

Though rarely expressed with profanity, many subjects don’t care what other people think because they understand themselves. They know the goal better than anyone else – often as the founder – and work toward that.

Equally important is a limited identity footprint. Suffering, said the Buddha, comes from attachment. Or colloquially, disappointment is when reality doesn’t meet your expectations. The idea is the same; don’t be attached to unimportant things.

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