Marshmallow moods

Recap: Mood affiliation is when an attitude unduly influence our perception, for example cruise ships. Bayesian thinking is updating our beliefs relative to the information.

“The marshmallow study,” Andrew Huberman told Shane Parrish, “was when they gave kids the option to have one now or two if they wait. It’s fun to watch the videos where the kids sit there and use all sorts of distractions and strategies (to keep from eating the marshmallows).”

It’s enjoyable to like the marshmallow study.

We must discount it.

Being Bayesian means updating on new information and liking is information.

Selling is information too. I believe in meditation, vegetarianism, and exercise because they are hard to sell. If someone said: Sit a room and focus on your breathing and you’ll feel better, I would believe them because one of their incentives is NOT financial. Kinda. Health as a product: vitamins, beds, bells, rings, bands and so on, fails this test. Regulating my sleeping temperature (which Huberman helpfully explains) may be helpful, but the bar of persuasion is higher. That’s being Bayesian.

Deferred gratification works. It makes sense, it shows up in the lab though “the studies aren’t as robust as we once thought,” and “it’s obvious deferred gratifiers do better over the long pull than these impulsive children.” But we must raise the bar when when we want to like it – a form of deferred gratification itself.

Scar tissue/this time is different

The working model for ‘this time is different’ is that this time is different when the system changes. Our examples:

Usually TTID is used optimistically. Invest/do/act this way because this time is different! However, Marc Andreessen explains the opposite case. Someone learns the system’s rules but the rules change.

“One way to view your trajectory through life is touching hot stove after hot stove…a lot of people who work at startups that don’t work learn not to work at startups…It’s the most natural thing and it’s like scar tissue. So as you age you naturally build up this scar tissue of all these cautionary lessons and as a consequence your aperture of what you’re willing to explore shrinks.”

Marc Andreessen (The Knowledge Project, YouTube)

But things change! “What you see is that some kid shows up five, or ten, or fifteen years later and takes another swing at it and it becomes a gigantic success,” Andreessen added, “Webvan doesn’t work but now you have these giant successes in food delivery.”

It could be a sign of age, or just contrast, but throughout the talk Andreessen keeps calling them ‘kids’. Makes sense. What reveals more change than time?

Another, for Elon Musk, TTID was true for reusing rockets. But it is not true for traveling to Mars. Physics is law, everything else is just a recommendation, Musk noted.

Parenting advice about lacrosse

The best parenting advice for me has been small bits that, like train switches, change the outcome direction. This too shall pass as well as a few deep breaths does wonders. Resetting expecations closer to reality helps too. We’ll add another today.

Todd Simkin wanted to quit lacrosse. He wasn’t quite as good as the other kids, or as fast. It was hard. He was in high school. There were other things to do, not that Simkin knew what they were when asked. So, he told his dad over dinner we was quitting lacrosse. Then, Simkin went to bed. This is what his dad said the next morning.

“Come into the living room, I want to talk to you. I’ve been thinking about it all night and it’s really bothering me. I haven’t heard why you wanted to quit other than you’ve been frustrated with your coach. There’s not enough here. It doesn’t make sense. You have to explain it in a way that makes sense for me to be supportive of this.”

Another bit of parenting advice is to avoid unnecessary ultimatums. Pick that up or else you’re going to bed right now!! Though it’s the mad emoji feeling in the moment it’s the zen emoji we should strive for. That’s kinda what Todd’s father did.

“This was such great parenting. It wasn’t saying: this is what you have to do or, here’s what you can’t do. Instead it was: if this is a reasonable or consistent or rationale choice I’ll back you up on this. If it’s rash and has long-term consequences then there are implications here that require appropriate weight and thought.” – Todd Simkin, The Knowledge Project, September 2021

Todd didn’t have a great answer so he didn’t quit the team, but he also didn’t play the next year.

There’s a lot of empathy in this podcast episode. It’s about understanding where people are physically, mentally, emotionally and meeting them there and it’s fully of helpful advice for our personal and professional relationships.

Give someone a hug today. Digital or physical, doesn’t matter. 🤗

Slack, in the black

One way to think about how life works is that it’s a series of events in pieces of time. A business’s cash flow is one example. An operating business will succeed if their expenses are less than their incomes. If incomes were stashed away, then a business can weather moments of swelling outflows.

We looked at this with flooding too. Locales flood when the net additions outweigh the net subtractions. Florida’s coastal flood warnings occur during hurricanes, when an “exogenous” event shocks the local system.

Company culture can operate this way too:

“The key to making hard decisions at the top is being ‘in the black’ with your emotional bank account with the culture. As a leader you have to build that bank account and make deposits every day to build trust and credibility with the people who work there, knowing, there are days where you make a giant withdrawal because you’re going to screw up. And you will! It’s just too complicated, but you know that when you have that big withdrawal you’ll still be in the black.” – Doug Conant, The Knowledge Project, August 2021

Conant was head of Campbell’s Soup and at Nabisco during the KKR takeover. In his conversation he’s candid about how to achieve this emotional slack. This isn’t something everyone does all the time, or gets a certification for, but rather it is something that happens in bits in pieces every day.

Conant also frames this idea nicely. Much like a travel budget in time not dollars, Conant compares the cultural balance of an organization to the financial budget. These analogies help our understanding.

Slack is most important in systems with dynamic change. Driving is a physical system where slack is important: how much space is between you and the car ahead of you?Financial slack is having an emergency fund. Levies, barriers, and pumps are slack for flooding. Meditation, peace, or religion are all personal slack for stress.

Marc Andreessen had an interesting take on this idea of events in time. Water cooler conversations, he said, have never really worked well for him. Off-site events though, have been good. It’s a similar amount of interactions: five minutes, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, at the water cooler. That’s twenty-one hours, about one one off-site.

Slack is a way to change the balance of event in time.

Hurricanes are not really exogenous shocks. I mean, we have days where business don’t charge sales tax to encourage people to buy hurricanes supplies. But thinking about systems at different levels: the home, the community, the region, the nation, the world, can change the way we see things.

Free Meals

At the start of Dan Levy’s book Maxims for Thinking Analytically, a book about Richard Zeckhauser’s tools for thought, is this riddle: “Mary and Jim want to paint a room together. If Mary painted alone it would take her 2 hours, and if Jim painted alone it would take him 3 hours. How long would it take to paint the room if they paint together?”

It’s not 2.5 hours.

Zeckhauser’s first maxim is: “When you are having trouble getting your thinking straight, go to an extreme case”. We used this maxim to ask: was the Ohio vaccine lotto a good idea? And it probably was.

Danny Meyer uses a version of this maxim too. One of the most important factors for a restaurant’s success is the location. (Overall it’s a hard business). Meyer wants to avoid errors of commission. Even if a restaurant proves successful it is “stuck with” the location. So Danny explores many locations to find something that works and ask an extreme question:

“Sometimes a space says, don’t plant anything here, this place should not be a restaurant. The first question I ask myself when I look at a restaurant space is: would I want this even if it were free?” Danny Meyer, July 2021, The Knowledge Project

Another way to consider this kind of framing is the expression you couldn’t pay me to. One advantage to living in the south, where football rules the roost, is the access to football. If you like it that is. One friend uses you couldn’t pay me to to express her feeling about SEC football games, the same games where tickets can be hundreds of dollars.

Levy’s riddle is easy once we slow our thinking. Thinking fast we average the work, and get 2.5 hours. Thinking slow(er), like Zeckhauser, and we notice that Mary alone would take two hours. That’s the extreme.