How to solve ‘black box’ problems.

Today’s post is also available in podcast form on Soundcloud and iTunes:

New skills to pay new bills.

One of my favorite online thinkers is Penelope Trunk, entrepreneur and home-schooling mother.* She wrote “Search is the most important academic subject today,” and explained:

“So instead of wasting years teaching kids to memorize answers, why not move on to teaching kids to ask better questions? Because that’s what searching is, ultimately:  learning to phrase a smart question.”

This idea – teach skills not facts – has bubbled up elsewhere too. Cal Newport, Tyler Cowen, and  Peter Thiel all advocate for this approach in their respective books. Being able to use your brains and a computer’s brawn will be a good skill to have.

One way to do that is Fermi-izing.


Before we start.

Keep these 3 questions in mind:

  1. How much data does Google have?
  2. When will I die?
  3. Will the Cleveland Cavaliers win more than 57.5 games this year?

We’ll use these questions to apply Fermi-thinking.


Not Furby, Fermi.

Introduced to me in Superforecasting, Philip Tetlock explains Fermi-izing as technique to solve hard (black box) type problems. “What information,” Tetlock writes, “would allow me to answer the question?”

Questions about Google, death, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are all “black box” types of questions. The answers aren’t easily knowable. You can’t Google answers about Google’s data. That doesn’t mean we can’t answer these questions. We just need to work a little harder.

We need to take the lead bullet approach.

In his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz writes about facing the challenge of his company’s web server being too slow. It wasn’t like he could go to the Apple store and upgrade (a silver bullet/ non-black box type of problem.

Rather, Horowitz had to take a lead bullet approach and solve one small problem after another. He broke his big ugly problem into smaller ones.

Fermi-izing requires a similar approach. Another way to understand it is to apply Warren Buffett’s approach to investing, it’s simple but not easy.

It’s the same for breaking down black box problems, simple but not easy. Lots of lead bullets rather than silver ones.


Before we start, get in the right mindset.  

How much data Google has is a complicated problem. I keep 16GB of data with Google. But what about you? And schools? Plus Google Photos, plus data centers Ugh, this is getting complicated already. How do we figure this out?  We think of it like a puzzle.

A lot of really successful people do this. Chris Dixon says it’s like a maze. Ray Dalio imagines gems waiting for problems he solves. Griffin use the puzzle analogy. In Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman , Richard Feynman said he couldn’t “do” good physics. But when he decided to “play with physics,” “it was like uncorking a bottle.”

Think of black box problems like riddles to unravel. Rather than obstacles, think of them as opportunities.


How to start.

Tetlock writes “What (Enrico) Fermi understood is that by breaking down the question, we can better separate the knowable and the unknowable,” and “that’s a huge advantage.”

If something isn’t Googleable, then we need to figure out what parts of it are. The breaking down the question part is what will allow us to figure out what we can figure out.  


How much data does Google have?

Luckily we don’t have to do all the work, just search for someone else who did (remember that search is the most important academic subject).

In his 2014 TED Talk, Randall Munroe (creator of ‘what if?’ comics)* tried to figure out this question; how much data does Google have?

Munroe broke the problem down into knowable parts. Here’s part of his talk, emphasis is mine.

“There are a few things that I looked at here. I started with money. Google has to reveal how much they spend, in general, and that lets you put some caps on how many data centers could they be building, because a big data center costs a certain amount of money. And you can also then put a cap on how much of the world hard drive market are they taking up, which turns out, it’s pretty sizable. I read a calculation at one point, I think Google has a drive failure about every minute or two, and they just throw out the hard drive and swap in a new one. So they go through a huge number of them. And so by looking at money, you can get an idea of how many of these centers they have. You can also look at power.”

Munroe goes on to figure out how much square footage Google has, how many server racks fit into a square foot, and so on. He came up with an estimate of 15 exabytes of data. More he says, than the NSA.

We get an answer to a black box question once we break it down.


When will I die?

An impossible question. Maybe.

“In 1982, at age forty, I was diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare and ‘invariably fatal’ form of cancer,” writes Stephen Jay Gould in Full House. As an academic Gould jumped into learning more

“All the literature contained the same brutal message: mesothelioma is incurable, with a median mortality of eight months following diagnosis.”

Gould had eight months to live, maybe.

Gould’s book precedes Munroe’s talk by a decade but he applies the same break-this-problem-down-into-smaller-parts.

Is 8 months a hard diagnosis, like the departure time for a flight, or something else? Gould thought it was something else. Emphasis again mine.

“I realized that all factors favored a potential location on the right tail – I was young, rarin’ to fight the bastard, located in a city offering the best possible medical treatments, blessed with a supportive family, and lucky that my disease had been discovered relatively early in its course.”

In the same way that Munroe collected variables like “money spent, drive market size, and power consumed,” Gould collected variables like age, location, and timing to update his answer. For someone with those variables the mortality timetable expanded. Gould lived for twenty more years.


How many games will the Cleveland Cavaliers win?

Before the 2015-2016 NBA season the betting number was 57.5 games. On his podcast Bill Simmons said it was a “lock” that they would win less than that. Why? Emphasis again, is mine.

“It scares me a little bit when guys in the NBA have bad shoulder injuries,” Simmons says about Cavalier Kevin Love. “I went under because of the injuries, because Lebron is now in year 13… what’s it going to take to get the #1 seed in the east, 52 wins?” “There were two straight years of his teams in the low to mid 50’s (wins) with Lebron playing like Lebron.”

Simmons breaks down the complicated problem to more manageable ones; will the team stay injury free, what does the competition look like, and what does the historical data say?


Don’t make predictions, find facts.

Each of the examples above, Munroe, Gould, and Simmons follow the same process.

First, they break black box problems down into smaller questions and they answer those questions with facts.

  • Munroe does computations with the dimensions of a server rack.
  • Gould reads medical journals about mortality rates.
  • Simmons finds past season win totals.

Charlie Munger said, “[Projections] are put together by people who have an interest in a particular outcome, have a subconscious bias, and its apparent precision makes it fallacios. They remind me of Mark Twain’s saying, “A mine is a hole in the ground owned by a liar.”

Tren Griffin writes in his book about Munger, “Effective (Benjamin) Graham value investors are like great detectives. They are constantly looking for bottom-up clues about what has happened in the past, and more importantly, what is happening now. Graham value investors like Munger stay away from making predictions…What Munger looks for is a business that has a significant track record.”

Mellody Hobson said that when her company bought Madison Square Garden some people undervalued it because the basketball team playing inside wasn’t good. That’s not finding facts. “There may be a perspective,” Hobson said,  “of ‘they’re winning or not winning’ but we can look at the data like season ticket holders buying every year.”


Summary: 3 steps summary to fermi-ize well

1- Don’t be overwhelmed by complexity, just take things one bite at a time. Imagine your problem is just a giant Lego castle and the pieces need sorted.

2- Filter out what is knowable and what is unknowable and focus on the former. Separate the two piles.

3- Find factual answers for questions in your knowable piles.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter. If you liked this post you can donate a few bucks here.

* I hate giving titles like “entrepreneur and homeschooling mother” or “billionaire” but I don’t know a better way to share that a person is awesome.




Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein (@EzraKlein) joined Erik Torenberg (@ErikTorenberg) on the Product Hunt podcast to talk about new media, college graduates, and lady luck.

Rather than a storytelling post like Amy Schumer’s heroes journey or Brian Koppelman‘s advice on how to write a great TV show. This post will be a rapid fire, summary post.



1- See it to believe it. Klein recalls reading Matt Yglesias’ blog and thinking, “if this college kid can do it, I can at least try.”

Penn Jillette said the same thing about going to clown college. Wow, Jillette felt, there are people who want to analyze jokes. This is amazing. B.J. Novak said, “the biggest advantage (to the Harvard Lampoon) is to not think it’s crazy to be a comedy writer or to be a writer at all.”

Even Michael Lombardi felt this when he saw Vince Lombardi coaching football. Although there’s no relation, it still made Michael believe that a career in the NFL was possible.

Sometimes we just need to see someone else doing it to believe that it’s possible.


2- Lady luck strikes again. We’ve seen lady luck bless (and curse) many people. Seth Godin and Mark Cuban both said they were lucky timing the stock market.

Neil Strauss and Morgan Housel were both unlucky with their timing (for a book release and job hunt).

Howard Marks said he was lucky to invest in high yield bonds before they became popular. Jason Zweig said that his writing career has been a string of lucky breaks. We will add Klein to the list.

“So much of my particular path is one lucky break after another,” Klein says. Part of it was his timing with blogs – like Marks’ with bonds. Early on there was no way that Klein – or anyone else – thought blogging would be a career. Now it is.

Why does luck come up so often in the interviews? I think it’s because admissions of luck are an antidote to the disease of hubris.

In the Greek myth, Icarus gets wax and feather wings and a warning – do not fly too close to the sun or ocean. Icarus, of course, does not.

Admitting luck – like the guests above do – is an admission of wax and feather wings. Chris Sacca articulated this when he said that being born male, white, and in the United States is an advantage. It’s good luck.


3- Low overhead. Besides getting lucky, Klein also says that he was able to take advantage of those lucky breaks because his overhead was low. When an internship opened up at the Washington Monthly, Klein was able to take it. He tells Torenberg that other people couldn’t because the pay was too low.  They couldn’t afford the opportunity.

Jay Leno told Judd Apatow that he took any job, no matter the pay. Leno could play anywhere and get experience rather aim for money because he required only a little and his day job (a mechanic) covered that. Sarah Silverman mentions the same idea in the same book. “I’ve always kept my overhead low so I could do whatever I wanted.”

This low overhead mindset is one of optionality. Sticking with Apatow’s book we can flip to Jerry Seinfeld’s section and see the same approach.

“Quality. That’s my only real consideration. It could be anything, as long as the people are trying to do something good. I don’t want to do a piece of junk. I’m not starving you know.”

Each of these comedians tells the same story that Ezra Klein advocates. “Trade prestige for opportunity,” Klein writes, and “letting someone pay you a bit of money to become a journalist, or even pay you nothing at all, is better than paying a j-school a lot of money to become a journalist.”

Tim Ferriss took this approach to getting his faux-MBA. Rather than follow in the footsteps of Scott Adams at the Haas School of Business, Ferriss began angel investing.

What if, Ferriss asked himself, I take the money I would have spent on an education and invested it. Either way, in two years I’ll have learned something, made connections, and am moving on to the next things. With investing I may hit it big.

If you want to have options (to make a show like Seinfeld, to angel invest, to write for the Washington Monthly) you have to have minimal resource (time and money) commitments.


4- Availability bias in education and podcasts. The conversation between Torenberg and Klein starts with a brief history of Klein’s schooling and it was great to hear that he wasn’t some tortured genius. He was a slacker.

When asked if he felt that education needed to change, Klein said “yes,” but not especially because of his experiences. If you wanted to get the most bang for your buck, says economist Bjorn Lomborg, “it needs to be something that we know how to do and we know how to do fairly cheaply and it will do a lot of good.”

That wasn’t Klein’s situation.

First, Klein said he was a slacker, but he didn’t think it was odd. Popular culture is full of slackers. Ferris Bueller, Jeff Spicoli, and the Breakfast Club could have all been influences for Klein. Lots of kids are like this, Klein thought.

Second, Klein notes that the people who come on podcasts may not be the most representative population for coming up with a consensus about how to fix education. “There are an unusual percentage of people who get to go on podcasts who have this particular schooling experience,” Klein says. To put it another way, smart kids that were bored with school are probably on a lot of these podcasts. Now we can dig into the availability bias.

We have a tendency to overestimate the frequency of things we easily see or remember.

We need to take active steps to avoid these biases. You can use Twitter well or read something you’ll disagre with.

The best advice comes from Richard Feynman:


5- Path dependence (specific to newspapers and general for careers).

Klein talks about the ways that media has changed, most notably the medium change. For print the question was, “how do you pack the most information into this space,” says Klein. Paper and black ink were the cheapest combination to convey information – so that’s what we used.

With the internet the restrictions of space and cost are gone. The marginal cost for a Vox Snapchat explainer (what a description, eh?)  is nil. Plus, Vox gets to tell stories in the ways people prefer to learn – visually.

As we enter this new age of journalism Klein says that he’s hiring like crazy. “I’ve found that you can teach journalism,” Klein says, “but you can’t teach that kind of obsessive deep love of a subject.”

Our big idea in this section is about path dependence, one sequence of doing things is different from another. When you make a salad, it doesn’t matter what order you put on the tomatoes and onions. When you make nachos, it does matter what order you put down the chips and cheese. Knowing how path dependent a situation is can help explain how you got here and where you are headed. 


6- Listen to your audience. Klein says that the shift to Vox from the Washington Post was due in part to what he was hearing from his readers. “When I looked at reader email that (about the nitty gritty details) was very rarely the question they were asking, they wanted to know things that were much more fundamental,” Klein says.

B.J. Novak had a similar experience writing jokes for the office. He and Mindy Kaling would kick things around to see what was funny. They would try bits at local clubs. They asked friends. Nobody is smarter than the audience (even in music ).

Right now the identity oriented content blows up Klein says. To know that and create that content means that Klein is listening to his audience.

Thanks for reading. If you want more advice from Klein, check out his Advice to Young Journalists.

I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.

Want to catch up on the posts, The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available here. You can also donate a few bucks here.

Morgan Housel

Morgan Housel (@TMFHousel)  joined Aaron Watson (@AaronWatson59) on the Going Deep with Aaron podcast to talk about writing, forecasting, and how to get ahead in investing. Plus Housel predicts the perfect stock for 2016!

Wait a second, that last part isn’t true. There are no get rich quick tips for stocks – or anything, really.

Comedians are often interviewed because they need to promote something (or enjoy talking). They universally tell the story that great things are the formula of time and effort.*  Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow, and Phil Rosenthal all specifically mention long days and hard work as part of their careers.

Whether you want to pick winning stocks, write great jokes, or do anything in life, you have to do the work.

Housel’s interview with Watson was shorter than some other, but packed with a lot of good information. Ready?


Warning, your dreams warts.

Housel said that when he was in school at the University of Southern California he wanted to be an investment banker. That does sound good, except, investment banking stinks. “It was a crashing disappointment,” Housel says about his experience actually working at the bank. “It was the culture that turned me off.”

Housel isn’t the only one to experience this.

Austin Kleon  said “every job is still a job.” Jon Acuff said that even though he has his dream job, he does a lot of things that aren’t dreamy. Both Peter Thiel and Robert Kurson left their (well paying) careers in law.

This career analysis brings up the idea of inside/outside thinking. Some points on this blog get too esoteric (  like using Colonel Blotto game theory to explain the entertainment sector ) but this one you can immediately apply.

We make better decisions when we consider both the inside view (what we know) and the outside view (what others know). Bill Simmons is a superforecaster because he is both a “Boston sports homer” and “well connected analyst.” That’s inside and outside thinking.

Daniel Kahneman experienced it and experimented on it. In Thinking Fast and Slow he wrote that his research team failed to take both the inside and outside view.

We can apply inside/outside thinking to our careers. Rather than thinking if telecommuting or travel or a promotion really is better, we can talk to people who do it. We can combine our perception of the job (outside view of the job) to what someone else says about it (inside view of the job) and make a more complete decision.


You’ll be up all night and you won’t get lucky.

Butchering of Daft Punk lyrics aside, sometimes you won’t be lucky. Housel was unlucky. He says that he was looking for a banking job in 2007, and there weren’t that many. This happens. Neil Strauss released his book the same weekend that Hurrican Katrina landed. It crushed his promotion schedule.

When faced with a negative outcome, Michael Mauboussin suggests we figure out how much of the outcome was due to luck. He gave three criteria:

1- It could happen to you or your business.

2- It could be good or bad, but not necessarily equally.

3- Another thing could have happened.

When we look at luck that way we see that Housel and Strauss did indeed have bad luck. It’s easy to imagine the economy not tanking and Housel finding a job or Hurricane Katrina turning to see and Strauss promoting his book.

More often the case is that luck is harder to tease out.  Michael Lombardi said spoke to this difficulty in the NFL.

Tim Ferriss also had a nebulous luck/skill situation. When his fully filmed TV show failed to be aired it was a bit of bad luck, but also a bit of skill. Ferriss admits to the bureaucracy at the network as stopping his show, something that was expected.


Writing the same thing over and over.

A lot of what Housel writes is the same thing over and over again. “Most professions get easier with time,” Housel says, “writing might be the opposite because you start running out of things to say.” Jason Zweig said the same thing:

“My job is to write the exact same thing 50-100 times a year in such a way that my editors and my readers will never think I’m repeating myself.”

What Housel and Zweig have done is try to find new ways to say the same thing, and I think this same story, new characters approach is more valuable than Housel conveys in the interview.

When Derek Sivers spoke with Tim Ferriss he said that he doesn’t review books as “good” or “bad” anymore because it matters when you read it. Certain books will change your life if they catch you at the right moment.

For me, I failed to read Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile on three separate occasions. It wasn’t the book, it was me. Eventually I finished (and loved it) after hearing an interview with Taleb and reading Fooled by Randomness.


Writing is a form of thinking.

Housel joins the list of other writers ( Michael Mauboussin, Maria Popova, Charlie Munger ) who note that writing is a form of thinking.


Finance is more than numbers.

Both Housel and Watson mention that finance is more than numbers and Housel paraphrases Dean Williams, explaining that finance is like physics. On the one hand we can predict how land a rocket on the moon. On the other hand we can’t know what the weather will be in four days.

It’s why we advocate for Garrett Hardin’s 3 questions as a way to look at complex situations.

1- What are the words and what do they mean?

2- What are the numbers and do they compute?

3- And then what will happen?

Finance, Housel and Watson note, fits this framework. Other things do too:

– In the Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons post we used the 3 questions to evaluate the value of professional sports stadiums.

– In the Tyler Cowen post we used the 3 questions as a model applied to Jared Diamonds work.

– In the Nick Murray post we used the 3 questions to explain Murray’s investment philosphy.


Forecasting non-weather events.

Housel tells the story of being ready to go on the radio when the producer pulls him aside to ask if he has his forecasts ready. “I don’t really do that,” Housel explains. “That’s okay,” the producer grunts, “you have 10 minutes.”

What a joke. It reminded me of the story Lewis Howes tells about being on reality TV and the producer asking him to play scenes a certain way. Financial forecasts, reality TV, and candy. The triad of “limited quantity consumables.”

It takes a lot of work to be a good forecaster, but Philip Tetlock has explained how.


When you know enough to be dangerous.

Financial education is generally good, Housel says, but sometimes it can be bad. We can get into the know enough to be dangerous territory.

Housel says that some people take an introductory finance class and suddenly think they are George Soros. That’s not good (you don’t have Soros’ back). Luckily that won’t happen to you and I because we have a model for novel.

In Gut Feelings, Gerd Gigerenzer outlines a system for dealing with new and normal situations.

-In new situations we should go with our gut and favor simple solutions.

-In normal situations we should go with our brain and can have more complex solutions.

Gigerenzer writes: “An intuitive ‘shortcut’ will typically get them where they would like to be, and with a smaller chance of making grave errors.”

For example, conventional wisdom says not to spend more than 25% of your paycheck on mortgage payments. That’s a simple rule that works for people that don’t want to learn the nuances of real estate prices, the rollercoaster ride of flipping houses, or time-value of money calculations. If you are more enterprising (read: risk-taking) then that 25% figure wouldn’t apply. What you don’t want is to be someone that acts like they know a lot, when they don’t. Except that happens.

Housel cites resarch by Lauren Willis at Loyola University who wrote:

“Objective observers generally admit that research to date does not demonstrate a causal chain from financial education to higher financial literacy, to better financial behavior, to improved financial outcomes.”

Rephrased, unless you dive deep into something, use simple models.


How to get ahead in finance (or in anything).

“To get ahead in investing you have to do something other people can’t do or won’t do.” – Morgan Housel

We’ve seen the “be different” mantra applied other areas too.

Ken Fisher applied this mantra to investing.

Judah Friedlander applied it to comedy.

Michael Mauboussin applied it to business.


Bust your biases with books.

Watson asks each guest what challenge they have for other people and Housel says, “read things you know you’re going to disagree with.” It’s advice we’ve seen before. Remember, you’re not right about everything.

“A reasonable person believes each of his beliefs is true, and that some of them are false.” W.V.O. Quine

Some of the best thinkers have warned us about our biases well before Housel.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” said Richard Feynman in Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman.

You can use Twitter for this. You can also read things, like this post. Thank you.

Thanks again for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.

* Time, effort, and luck.

Want to catch up on the posts, The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available here. You can also donate a few bucks here.

Malcolm Gladwell & Bill Simmons

Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) joined Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) on his podcast to talk about NFL stadiums, NFL owners, and Colonel Blotto game theory.

Whenever Gladwell and Simmons get together I’m reminded of the time in college when I saw a poster advertising Lewis Black coming to campus. “Wow, Lewis Black is coming here!?!?”  It was amazing to me that Black would stop at a small college in Northwest Ohio.

That’s how these Gladwell and Simmons conversations feel. It’s amazing that two great thinkers come together and we get to listen.

The podcast is good and is worth a listen. These notes will be a short(ish) summary of some deeper ideas that weren’t fully fleshed out.

If you want more, you can read why Bill Simmons is a superforecaster and Malcolm Gladwell’s advice to writers.

Ready to learn stuff via pop culture?


Power law distributions.

Power law distributions are everywhere. United States cities are explained by power laws.


Digital song downloads are explained by power laws.


Stadium concerts are explained by power laws, and this is where we jump into Simmons’ and Gladwell’s conversation.


They’re talking about why it’s silly to build a football stadium and think you’ll have a bunch of stuff in it. Simmons asks, “Why build a stadium if you’re San Diego?” The simple answer is that you shouldn’t. But you won’t hear that. Instead there will be promises that it will REVITALIZE the area and BRING JOBS and PROVIDE A BOOM FOR THE ECONOMY. It will do nothing of those things.

If you understand that a few get rewarded by a lot, in this case, a few stadiums get a lot of the concerts you can start to puncture erroneous stories. In the podcast Gladwell laughs at the fall off from most to second most popular.

A new stadium sounds good, but that’s deep enough thinking.

In his book, Filters Against Folly, Garrett Hardin writes that we should look at any situation with three filters:

1- What are the words?

2- What are the numbers?

3- And then what?

If we use these filters to the question about a new stadium, we get some interesting follow up questions.

1- What are the words? When someone says “revitalize” what does that mean? What does “inspiring a generation” mean? What does it mean if they say they are “committed?” Were the owners in Seattle or St. Louis “committed” before they moved the teams?

2- What are the numbers? How many concerts will there be? (see above to see the odds against anything more than a handful). How much will it cost? No, really, how much will it cost?

3- And then what? What happens after you build it? (Will people come?) What about in London which promised low income housing? Did that work?  Judge for yourself.


Colonel Blotto game theory as explained by television/Netflix.

Simmons and Gladwell note that it’s harder to create a stand out television show. “Even Game of Thrones is watched by a fraction of people who watched Melrose Place at its height,” Gladwell says. Thanks to Michael Mauboussin, we can explain why.

In his podcast with Shane Parrish, Mauboussin introduced Colonel Blotto. Wikipedia explains it like this:

“Blotto games (or Colonel Blotto games, or “Divide a Dollar” games) constitute a class of two-person zero-sum games in which the players are tasked to simultaneously distribute limited resources over several objects (or battlefields). In the classic version of the game, the player devoting the most resources to a battlefield wins that battlefield, and the gain (or payoff) is then equal to the total number of battlefields won.”

This YouTube video via Scott E. Page also explains Blotto well.

The conclusions from Blotto are:

– If you are in the stronger position (entrenched company, imperial power), you favor fewer battlefields.

– If you are in the weaker position (startup, guerillas), you favor more battlefields.

Peter Thiel hints at this framework as a business strategy in Zero to One.  Mark Cuban applies the strategy to how he chooses basketball players. We can look at it through the screen of TV.

Today’s entertainment environment has many more battlefields. In two generations we’ve gone from three networks to infinite options.

Blogs (including this one) is one battlefield. Podcasts are another. YouTube channels a third and on we go. Blotto theory predicts that the weaker position players (startups, guerillas) will gain a larger share of the overall when there are more places to compete.

We won’t see another Friends, much less another M.A.S.H.. When Friends ended 52.5 million people watched. Over 105 million tuned in to watch M.A.S.H. Today’s greatest hits (Simmons and Gladwell mention Serial (40M) and Game of Thrones (6M) and Book of Mormon and Hamilton) have too many battlefields to compete on. The most popular show for the 2014-2015 television season was The Big Bang with 21 million viewers.

Our screen time is dispersed (but still follows the power law mentioned above) and will continue to be.

As a final example, take Simmons’ former employer ESPN. For a long time the “competition” battlefield was owned by them. Then video games became popular, accessible, and available and kids could watch people play those games instead of other games. The battlefields have increased and ESPN numbers are falling.


Timing matters.

Timing matters a lot. Seth Godin and Mark Cuban both admit their luck timing stock sales. Amy Schumer said she was about to quit before she met a woman on a train who unlocked a great joke. B.J. Novak told Tim Ferriss that The Office was lucky because iTunes and iPods with video helped keep the show alive early on.

Simmons and Gladwell say that David Bowie and Dire Straits got their timing right too. Both groups, as compared to The Rolling Stones or Billy Squier, did MTV right.

“If MTV comes along 7 years later, it’s a completely different thing,” Simmons says. “It wouldn’t have caught this collection of unforgettable people at awesome points in their career.”

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter. Want to catch up on the posts, The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available here. You can also donate a few bucks here.

Want to hire me for work? Let me know.

Brian Koppelman & David Levien

Brian Koppelman (@BrianKoppelman) and David Levien(@DavidLevien) joined James Altucher (@JAltucher) to talk about the creative process, power lunches, and making Billions (their new Showtime show).

Not until I found myself taking notes did I realize how much I enjoyed Koppelman. He’s movies are good, but it’s his podcasts that I really like. He’s talked with Altucher twice before (here and here) but has also done some great interviews of his own like this one with Seth Godin and this one with Amy Schumer.

These notes will aim to answer: how do you write a great television show? Koppelman and Levien are on to promote their new show and talk about the creative process, so it makes sense that we approach it from that angle. Remember though, the point of the notes is never just literal. This isn’t about just making a great television show. It’s about making anything.

How you write a great television show is just a proxy for how you make a great anything.

Amanda Palmer wrote that we’re all creators of one kind or another. Your creation is similar to Koppelman’s and Levien’s in more ways than you know.


1- Partner up.

Koppelman and Levien have been writing partners for a long time, and have worked together on Rounders, Ocean’s 13, and The Illusionist. Koppelman says that the partnership pays off when they’re writing and need to switch parts or challenge each other. Someone will be stuck on something, they’ll switch, and the problem gets worked.

This happened while writing Billions. One episode script came in that wasn’t as good as the duo hoped, and they had to punch it up at the last minute. The work wasn’t easy, but there’s a thrill in doing it with others. Other smart people also suggest a partner:

Philip Tetlock found that good forecasters were even better in groups.

Seymour Schulich wrote, “the key to a successful partnership is mutual veto power. If you cannot agree on a major proposition, you don’t do it.”

Charlie Munger said, “I hardly know anybody who’s done very well in life in terms of cognition that doesn’t have somebody trusted to talk to.”

Peter Thiel said, “a lot of these companies aren’t solo efforts of a god-like person that does everything.”

It’s easier not to go it alone – and you’ll do better work.

Once you find someone to work with, you both need to build career capital.

2- Build career capital.

“Career capital” comes from the Cal Newport book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and is the idea that rare and valuable jobs require rare and valuable skills.

Koppelman and Levien have the career capital to create a show like Billions. They’ve put in the time and effort to have the money and experience that allowed them to write the show. Koppelman notes that they’ve worked with Paul Giamatti on The Illusionist in 2006. If they didn’t do good work then, would Giamatti work with them now? That’s one unit of career capital.

This model for career capital is everywhere. B.J. Novak worked with Bob Saget and “stunk” at stand-up for 18 months before getting hired for The Office. He earned career capital. Casey Neistat made movies and tv shows before vlogging. He earned career capital.

Newport writes that once you get career capital you can spend it on career parts you want. More/less travel. Flexible hours. Location. Koppelman and Levien used their capital to write a TV show for Showtime.

If career capital is something you want, I’ve got good news. It only takes two things. Time and effort.

3- Start early because it takes time.

It takes time to create something, so you may as well start now.  Levien says that they started working on Billions in 2013 (which was only possible because of the years of career capital they built before that). It’s been three years of writing, filming, and – now – promoting and they still don’t know if more than one season will be made.

As the Tom Petty song goes, “the wait is the hardest part.”

“It feels brutal when you’re toiling away in obscurity,” David Levien said in his first interview with Altucher. Amy Schumer looked around and wondered why her friends were getting the good offers and she wasn’t. (James Corden had this exact same experience.)

Phil Rosenthal worked odd jobs around New York City before producuing Everybody Loves Raymond. Gary Vaynerchuk uses the metaphor jab, jab, jab, right hook to explain that it takes time. Give, give, give and then ask, explains Vaynerchuk.

Things take time, and you can’t rush that. Charlie Munger was once asked, “how can I become like you, except faster.” You can’t Munger replied. Instead you need to “slug it out.”

As you start this process, start to “write more than words.”

4- Write more than words.

“The struggle in the writing room, is getting people not to write just words.” – Garry Shandling.

“These are not just jokes.” – Steve Carell to B.J. Novak.

Consistently doing good work requires deep understanding. “(The story should) communicate the themes in every way,” Levien says about the different parts you see on screen.  

Altucher says he saw this when he was on the set. He noticed that the director was shooting a car scene over and over again and then it clicked. The director wanted the car to come out of the parking lot a certain way because the person driving it would do that. Ditto for how he shot wide or tight.  

Novak was surprised when Carell said, “these are just jokes.” “Yeah,” Novak told Tim Ferriss, “that’s what do, we write jokes.” Only later did he get it. It wasn’t just the jokes. It was more than that.

Stephen King addresses this (vis a vis authentic dialogue) in On Writing:

“The Legion of Decency might not like the word shit, and you might not like it much, either, but sometimes you’re just stuck with it – no kid ever ran to his mother and said that his little sister just defecated in the tub.”

That’s more than words. It’s the stuff below the surface.

There’s a great part (25:30) of the podcast where Koppelman and Levien tell Altucher about a dinner with a billionaire. They pick a restaurant and the guy changes it to his favorite place at the last minute. The place is pricy. Then they order wine, and it gets really pricey. Their dinner bill is over $2,000. “This was a guy smart enough not to do anything on accident,” Levien says. Koppelman adds, “for many of these people each exchange has a winner and a loser… most of us don’t think of winning a dinner.”

Their interviewee needed to “win dinner.” He felt (they speculate) that because he was giving access, he needed to get something in return, and it needed to be good.

This person, Koppelman adds, isn’t “bad” or “good.” They’re a person. They contain multitudes.


Koppelman says, look at someone like Mark Cuban or Marcus Lemonis. Those guys are rich and take over businesses, but we don’t see them as “bad” – why? That’s the question Koppelman and Levien want to unearth.

Ideally as you write, “you want the people leaning left and go right,” Koppelman says. B.J. Novak said this too, that his goal is to have the punchline right in front of you the whole time.

To do good work you have to understand more than just the work. You have to know the why and how. The psychology of a person and macroeconomics of the economy.

If you can build valuable career capital by doing good work over a long period of time then you have an option about options.

5- If you can, keep your options.

Levien and Koppelman have career capital (#2), that means they can have optionality. For Billions they wrote the script on spec. They had two options.

  • Someone could buy it and make the pilot. or
  • No one would buy it.

In the interview the duo note that if they had even more career capital, they could have had actors attached to the script and then they could have a third option:

  • Someone could buy it and make an entire season.

This spectrum, (maybe, one episode, one season) is important to Koppelman. There’s the financial compensation and there’s the I made this, I said something compensation. “The work felt important and satisfying,” Levien explains.

It reminded me of what Marc Maron told Judd Apatow,  quoted in, Sick in the Head:

“When you see a movie that Sean Penn directed, you realize he’s not fucking around. It’s like listening to a Nirvana record or something. This is not a job. They have something to say. And in comedy, the people that we like the most, when they score they have something to say that’s important to them. And to me, that’s what I’m always looking for.”

If you have optionality in your career then you can have the financial and personal rewards.

But you don’t always get this option to say what you want to say. You have to work for some options.

Chris Dixon maintains optionality with prorata rights. Scott Adams keeps optionality with his friends. Ryan Holiday keeps optionality by not signing a book deal with a publishers. If you can, keeping your options open is good advice.

There’s one final step to make a great show.

6- Work (really) hard, and pray.

As with anything else, for Billions to succeed Levien and Koppelman need some luck. Altucher says the show is good, and Koppelman and Levien are proud of it, but luck matters.

Mellody Hobson was lucky with her purchase of Madison Square Garden. Cliff Asness never rules out the role of luck. Kevin O’Leary said, “life is very serendipitous.” 

That’s all it takes.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter. Want to catch up on the posts, The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available for purchase here. You can also donate a few bucks here. Also, get in touch if you want to work together. I’m looking for some creative partners.

Michael Covel

Michael Covel (@Covel) joined Barry Ritholtz (@Ritholtz) to talk about trading, trending, and Thailand. Okay, not just Thailand,but it starts with ‘T’ and I’m a simple writer.

Covel – and Ritholtz – fall into the category of “good talkers” and I listen to at least part of all of their podcasts. Get them together and you get two solid hours of conversation.

This podcast wasn’t as into the weeds I know about but provided lots of superficial anecdotes about things I don’t know like the experiences of working in Japan, what it was like to see economic ideas change, and how capital is like Gap t-shirts.

One final personal note, Covel challenges my ideas on his podcast. Whether it’s something I don’t understand or something I’m not interested in – but I try to listen anyway. One of the ways to use Twitter for good is to bust your biases. That’s something true for podcasts as well.


Greats are made, not born.

Covel was influenenced by Richard Dennis(wiki) and the Turtle traders. The story goes, and Covel says he has no reason to doubt this, that Dennis and fellow trader William Eckhardt saw Trading Spaces (Eddie Murphy). Eckhardt said that could never happen. Dennis said it could, and he’d prove it. A bet was made.

Dennis recruited a group of – mostly average – applicants how to trade on a trend-following strategy that he created. This group of ‘Turtles’ turned out to be widely successful.

The application is true with regards to the podcast itself. Covel made himself into a great trader, writer, and podcaster. Ritholtz admits this too, that radio didn’t come naturally to him and that there was a learning curve. He’s gotten pretty good at it.

This is true for so many people, especially comedians.

Comedians are – sometimes sadly – not very good at anything. A lot of the art from people like Phil Rosenthal or Judd Apatow comes from places of pain or darkness.

Even people like Amy Schumer or  B.J. Novak weren’t born as comedians.

In his interview with Rithotz, Ken Fisher noted that even though his dad was a great writer, he wasn’t.

Ritholtz compliments Fisher’s work and says, “you’ve obviously inherited your dad’s writing skills.”

“Not true,” replies Fisher, “because if I had inherited them they would have come to me very naturally, but I worked hard to learn how to write.”

Except in rare, physical domains like sports, you can be good (or great) with some work.

Jack Canfield cautioned Tim Ferriss about pegging “being great” on only one thing. He tells the story of a family friend who wanted to be in the NBA. Of course, the guy wasn’t good enough to play professional basketball, so he took another route. He worked to get in the front office. He’s in the NBA, just in a different form than he first imagined.

It’s trend-following, not trend predicting.

As a simpleton (n00b), I didn’t really know what “trend-following” was. Covel set me straight when he said:

“If you’re a trend following trader you don’t have a mindset or prediction where any particular market is going to go. So when it starts to move, you’re just following the crowd.”

Later in the interview he adds, “nothing can be predicted.”

I was thankful to hear this because predication is hard. Like, really, really, really hard. It seems to me that Covel (trend-following) champions non-prediction. This is paramount for complex systems (trading, ecosystems, a college classroom). There will be some outcome, but not any particular one. Mathematicians explain it regarding birthdays, so I will too.

Imagine you’re in a room with 25 other people. Mostly strangers, none who you know well. One of them is me, and I approach you with a bet.

“Would you wager $100 that two people in this room share a birthday?” I ask. Note, this is much easier on the internet because my poker face is terrible (and so is this bet).

“Hmm,” you think to yourself, “this seems like a good bet.” There are only 25 people in the room, and there are 365 days in a year. Chances are definitely against it. Right? “Sure,” you say, “I’ll take the bet.”

So you and I go around the room (with a paper plate) and write down birthdays until we get a match, and chances are that we will.

This birthdays bet (explained very well by John Allen Paulos in Innumeracy, and Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody) demonstrates the something will happen ethos that trend-following subscribes to. We can’t predict what birthday will match, only that one probably will. The math, very briefly, looks like this.

Trend-following lives in this same cul-de-sac of knowledge. There will be something that happens, and you can profit by acting when it does. (And now you have a bet for the next in-law family reunion)

Would you rather have a chance of 80% of yes or 20% of no?

Covel and Ritholtz touch a bit on Kahneman’s work on framing and loss aversion.

Look at the question above, it seems like they would be the same but Kahneman found that the responses people give are quite different.

If people are given a 40% chance on winning $100 or just to take $20, they’ll often favor the latter. The saying could go, $20 in hand is better than any psychology mumbo jumbo and rewards in the bush.

That’s well and good and unremarkable, except that people switch their choices around when the outcome is reversed. If people are given the chance to  a 40% chance on losing $100 or just to lose $20, they’ll often favor the former. People are risk seeking to avoid losses. This matters in trading because if you’re trying to get back to zero, psychology suggests you’ll take more risks.

Related to this is loss aversion, which Richard Thaler explains beatutifully with a pyramid analogy. Also in that post is how Josh Brown creates win-win situations from down markets.

The prostate test test.

Covel says that he and Ritholtz are at the age for getting a prostate test, but should think twice about it. The side effects may be higher than advertised and the payoffs lower. (Note above we just mentioned our tendency to seek risks – have the test and side effects – to avoid a loss).

Covel says that reading Gerd Gigerenzer has changed his view on this. Gigerenzer has been on this blog before. When Scott Galloway spoke with Rithotz he outlined his five aspects of great companies. His model is simple and we noted that that’s good because we don’t want models that fit too well. In Gut Feelings Gigerenzer writes, “In an uncertain world, a complex strategy can fail exactly because it explains too much in hindsight.” That could be part of Cove’s apprehension of prostate exams. The other part is bad math, which Covel also got from Gigerenzer.

Let’s explain.

Pretend that 14% of a population has a disease, and a screening tool exists that is 98% effective. If we have 1,000 people, how many will be correctly diagnosed? Much like our birthday bet, things are not as they first appear.

Let’s do the easy math first. If 14% of 1,000 people are sick, then we have a chart that looks like this:

Has disease Does not have disease
Total people: 1,000 140 860

Not so hard, and if we had a test with perfect prediction, then that would be the end of it. But our test is only 98% accurate.

Of our 140 sick people, we will correctly identify 98% of them, 137. Our chart gets updated.

Has disease (140) Does not have disease (860)
Tested positive 137 (98% of 140)
Tested negative 3

Then we do the same to the ‘does not have disease’ group.

Of our 860 not sick people, we will correctly identify 98% of them, 843.

Has disease (140) Does not have disease (860)
Tested positive 137 (98% of 140) 17
Tested negative 3 843 (98% of 860)


We see then that 20 (3+17) of our original 1,000 people will get the wrong diagnosis – 5% of the general population.

Now if you thought this was a bit murky math, you aren’t alone. Doctors miss this too.

Successful people have systems, and follow the rules.

“This is not a day to day guessing game,” Covel says. There’s not single point in the interview where I noted the emphasis on systems, but by the end it was clear. Covel is a systems advocate. When Dennis taught people, he taught them a system.

When Covel speaks about trend-following he explains it as a system with rules:

1- What’s the portfolio?

2- What will force you in?

3- How much will you be in for?

4- When will you exit for a loss?

5- When will you exit for a win?

Those questions are easy in hindsight, but hard in application. In part because it takes time and temperament.

Systems don’t have to be complicated either. Ritholtz says “never ask a room full of people what they want for dinner.” That’s a system too. Like a basic computer code or logic statement; if more than 8 people, then do not ask what people want for dinner.

Systems speak to us. Warren Buffett aims to avoid the “institutional imperative” at Berkshire. Scott Adams compares people to moist robots and has rules for that system.

Systems are good, but systems won’t be perfect.

Covel’s rule #4 (When will you exit for a loss?) is easy to state, but hard to act on. Ritholtz says that when he was a trader it was “okay to be wrong, but not okay to stay wrong.” You can’t reach and try to get back to even because you’ll take more risks getting there.

Some problems are too hard for any system. In his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz notes that for hard problems there’s no prescription.

“The problem with these books (about business) is that they attempt to provide a recipe for challenges that have no recipes. There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations.”

The best systems are ones where the big mistakes are eliminated (as best they can be, but never absolutely) and wiggle room is given for the small choices.


Beside Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, Covel suggests Blue Ocean Strategy, The Fountainhead, Linchpin, The Wisdom of Insecurity, and The Success Equation.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter. Want to catch up on the posts, The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available here. You can also donate a few bucks here. If you want to work together, please get in touch.

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson joined Ben Horowitz (@BHorowitz) on the a16z podcast to talk about business. Talk may not be a strong enough word. Lecture? Preach? Command?

Whatever it was, it was good. Her ideas, examples, and experiences are almost too good. These notes will not be good. I mean, I’ll do my best to write them, but the audio is so very good.

Have you ever been in a new city with a walkable area, and don’t know where to eat? Most of the places will have their menu outside and you can at least glance at it, guess if you want to eat there, and eventually pick something. That’s what these notes will be. In the non-stop online buffet, this is a menu advocating (begging) that you listen to Hobson and Horowitz.

One quick note, Horowitz is the author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things, a book I was surprised I liked. The book warranted its own post where I looked at: lead bullets vs. silver bullets, complicated vs. complex systems, and when to act.

Okay, ready for Hobson?

1- Keep your optionality.

Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments and tells Horowitz they recently bought Madison Square Garden (MSG).* That sounds like a good idea.

But sounds good isn’t good enough.

Hobson explains that the investment in MSG was based on a confluence of factors; the “Dolan discount,” the NBA lockout, a retro-fit over budget, and upcoming TV contract negotiations. Hobson and Ariel were looking at a mess – and messes are good places to find optionality.

“Everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong,” Hobson explained. “You could not rebuild MSG if you tried…so we said, there’s a barrier to entry here that’s pretty significant.”

Hobson concluded that an investment in MSG was one with limited downside, and massive upside. She also got lucky, as Jeremy Lin joined soon after the purchase and “Linsanity” began.

Optionality is a fulcrum that many successful people use. Charlie Munger creates investments around it ( Chris Dixon does too). Judd Apatow interviewed Jerry Seinfeld who waited to start his career until he found optionality. If you can find yourself in situations with a big upside, you’ve found yourself in a very good place.

2- Of time & money – only one matters.

Hobson explains that she was hired by John Rogers who told her, “people undervalue time and over value money.”

Two thousand years ago, the stoic philosopher Seneca wrote much the same thing: “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

But we don’t get this. Charlie Munger might have given a hint why. “Well, practically everybody overweighs the stuff that can be numbered, because it yields to the statistical techniques they’re taught in academia, and doesn’t mix in the hard-to-measure stuff that may be more important.”

We know how to add dollars and think that’s the only equation we need. It’s not.

“The word ‘billionaire,’” wrote Seymour Schulich (who is one, no sour grapes), “is a very crude and inaccurate measure of how well I have played the game of life.”

Sometimes you don’t even need money. Kevin Kelly, Nicholas Megalis, and Tim O’Reilly all solved problems better with less money.

3- Get to second level thinking by reframing.

Second level thinking is to think not just about the actions or reactions but the reactions to the reactions. Both Ken Fisher and Richard Thaler explain it in terms of the “beauty contest.” Tyler Cowen displayed the thinking in regards to Harvard allowing more students.

Hobson says that her team has a lot of discussions, and the key to good discussion is to talk without going “toe to toe.” How does she do that? How does Hobson create discussions that get to the second level without getting petty or personal?

– “Would we do this, if we were private?”

What would happen if the price of a supply was cut in half?

In the first instance Hobson reframes the problem by redefining who they are. In the second she throws out a wild scenario to see how someone responds. Each of them gets to second level thinking by reframing the question.

Chris Dixon reframes startups as a maze. Dan Coyle reframes exercise repetitions as meditative. Stephen Dubner reframes shopping experiences so he’s marketed to less. Reframing is rethinking.

4- Dive deep.

If you’re going to do something well, Hobson observes, you need to have a deep knowledge of it. Her husband George Lucas, Hobson says, has a thick binder in his office for each fictional planet in Star Wars. It includes the name, people, customs, environment, and more. It’s deep.

To succeed you have to go deep.

Alex Blumberg was deep in radio before his startup Mark Cuban memorized user manuals before he sold anything. Gary Vaynerchuk knows the ins and outs of every social network. Dick Yuengling moved kegs throughout the factor to learn the ins and outs. You have to go deep to learn the most valuable parts. Hobson does this too.

She explains this using the company Bristow Helicopters.  Bristow is – among other things – an oil rig taxi service. Horowitz jumps to the conclusion that the stock was down because of low oil prices. You’re right, says Hobson (probably smiling), but the company has little to do with oil prices. The stock trades in tandem with oil, but the fundamentals are different. 

Hobson knows that Bristow is worth less on paper than liquidation value. bump That’s either Benjamin Graham rolling over in his grave or Charlie Munger slapping his head (because he missed this).

Hobson knows helicopters depreciate differently than other machinery and Bristow has other revenue streams.

Hobson has dived deep.

5- Observations > (are greater than) predictions.

When Hobson’s group purchased MSG, things didn’t look good, but only from the outside. “There may be a perspective of ‘they’re not winning,’” Hobson says, “but we can look at data like season ticket holders buying every year.”

Later in the interview Hobson applies the same thinking to hiring. If someone applies to work at Ariel Investments they can’t be seen as “job hoppers.” Those people won’t stay, Hobson tells Borowitz.

Sometimes it’s better to look at the history of something rather than think about the future. Point #4 of my Charlie Munger post gave examples. The past is often helpful because the future is very hard (maybe impossible) to predict.

Bill Simmons (former writer) – is a solid thinker and noted that the past isn’t all we want to look at.  You may not want a great pro athlete in the last year of his career over a much younger one, Simmons articulated in his trade value columns, and those were well before Kobe Bryant’s retirement tour.

6- The default is ‘no.’

Hobson says that “we like less is more,” and describes a colleague’s process this way, “she assumes she doesn’t want to own anything. Everything is a rejection.”

If no is your default then the burden of proof is on ‘yes.’

Michael Lombardi explained they evaluate football players the same way. “Scouting’s not about finding players,” Lombardi says, “Scouting is about eliminating players.”

Even though this switch is small, one tiny hurdle matters. Cliff Asness, Jason Zweig, Tadas Viskanta and Ken Fisher, all say that overtrading is a sure way to diminish returns. If you want to trade, make ‘no’ your default choice.

‘No’ doesn’t need to be limited to financial choices. We can apply this idea to our own lives. Dessert? ‘No.’ Watch TV? ‘No.’ Yell at the kids? ‘No.’

For whatever behavior you don’t want, try to make no your default response.

7- Skin in the game.

“We are looking for leaders who are aligned with the shareholder. If we see CEO’s that don’t own any stock that’s just not good. If we see CEO’s that pay themselves too much, that’s not good.” – Mellody Hobson

Without skin the game you’re playing with Monopoly money. Philip Tetlock demonstrated this in his book Superforecasting. Chris Dixon said that the a16z interests are in line with the entrepreneurs. Seth Godin compares it to being thirsty or not. If you aren’t motivated to do it, you won’t.  Tim Ferriss said that once he started playing poker with his own money the dynamics changed.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.

Want to catch up on the posts? The Waiter’s Pad: Volume 6 is available here. You can also donate a few bucks here.

* After multiple listens, I still wasn’t sure what exactly Ariel Investments bought when they bought MSG. Sorry for the lack of clarification.