I love simple heuristics. Here is one:
The Lindy effect is a concept that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.
In other words, the longer a product/company/idea already exists, the longer is its expected remaining lifespan.
A very simplified version might look like this:
- Something that exists 1 year is expected to exist another 1 year
- Something that exists 5 years is expected to exist another 5 years
- Something that exists 100 years is expected to exist another 100 years
This might be good news for something like Bitcoin, which just celebrated its 10th birthday. And it might be bad news for the startup next door that was founded last year.
I recently experienced this effect firsthand:
When going through some old online accounts, I realized how many of the services that I used 10 to 15 years ago are offline. I probably went through 50 accounts, and the vast majority was out of business! Most services were probably less than 5 to 7 years old at the time that I used them.
How many of the companies and services that we use today will be out of business 10 to 15 years from now?
Don’t ask your money manager for stock recommendations. Ask him which stocks he owns personally.
Don’t listen to the theories of your business school professor. Ask him about his own industry experience.
Don’t ask for advice. Ask for a demonstration of their methods.
Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do.
(This was a lesson from Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.)
Recently I watched this Q&A with Charlie Munger. Pure wisdom, and two hours very well spent.
He talked about a key principle of (value) investing: Deferred gratification
We live in a world of instant gratification. It’s very hard to get rich if you eat your seeds, instead of planting them.
That’s what makes value investors rich. And that’s what transformed China into a rich country: they had a savings-rate of 50% and applied this principle masterfully.
Charlie also joked that people who have mastered this concept enjoy it so much, that they never harvest their fruit. They keep deferring until they die.
Personally, I’d rather die a rich deferrer than a poor pleasure-seeker. Even better, I’d prefer to die a poor deferrer. Having given away the fruit to people and causes who need them more than I do.
Two cautionary tales:
- Theranos was a privately held health tech company, becoming infamous for its false claims to have developed blood tests that only needed very small amounts of blood. I recently read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, detailing this whole story. Pretty scary stuff.
- Robinhood recently announced a new Checking & Savings service with 3% interest, no fees, and free ATMs. Then it had to crawl back.
I know it’s tempting to exaggerate and overpromise. But it rarely works. When in doubt, strive for the opposite: underpromise, then overdeliver.
[Hat tip to Daniel Gladiš]
Simplify your life by using this powerful principle:
Remove something completely. Then add back what you miss.
- Instead of “I want to use Facebook less often”, remove it completely and then add the elements back that you miss.
- Instead of “Let’s keep this, because I might need it someday”, get rid of it now and add it back when you actually need it.
How many hours per day could you save by removing meetings, television, Facebook or Instagram?
Examples from my own life:
- I simply logged out from Facebook and Instagram and haven’t used it for months.
- When setting up this website, I got rid of all the pre-installed clutter (comments, tags, categories), and will only add them when I really need them.
- I stopped watching television when I was 16 and will never own a TV again. I only watch selected things on YouTube and Netflix.
- My computer desktop has been empty for 10+ years. Instead I use an “Inbox” folder.
- I sold my scooter with the idea of buying an electric one. I decided to wait a few weeks. The weeks have turned into months and I don’t want to buy one anymore.
How do you apply this principle? Let me know on Twitter.
[Hat tip to Seth Godin]
I love the idea of reinventing venture capital. Here are some great examples:
- Patagonia’s venture capital fund: invests in environmentally and socially responsible start-up companies, providing long-term, patient capital. I highly recommend reading Let My People Go Surfing by founder Yvon Chouinard.
- Y Combinator: invests small sums at the seed stage, but in large batches of startups, with hands-on mentoring. They were the first investors in AirBnB, Dropbox, Stripe, Coinbase, Reddit, and 1800+ more.
- Venture Kick: Switzerland’s largest startup accelerator program. Get up to 150’000 CHF for your project.
- indie.vc: 50% of the companies they’ve backed are led by female founders & the vast majority of them are based outside of the Bay Area or NYC
- Tiny: they start, buy, and invest in wonderful internet businesses
Know other examples? Let me know on Twitter.
As a fellow Mustachian, I am quite proud to not own a car. I save a ton of money and headaches. But I have my weak moments.
One such period was last summer. I convinced myself to buy a used Tesla Model S. I went through the whole process: research, comparison, test drive, negotiation.
Similar to this guy I wanted to approach it more intelligently. I had it all figured out: I would purchase the car through my company, gaining some tax advantages. I would share it on Sharoo to cover the expenses. I would have Free Supercharging for life. So I could use it whenever I wanted, basically for free.
But then I discovered all the hassles of owning and renting out a car:
- I’d need special insurance that covers third-party renting
- I’d need a parking space that is publicly accessible
- I’d need to install a wall charger
- I’d need to deal with all the pains and hassles of renting a car (renter support, cleaning, repairing damages, vomit incidents, …)
So I came full circle: I want to use a car, and not own one. Period.
I even sold my gasoline scooter. Today, I use a bicycle, Pick-e-Bike (use the code “kfbtm” to get 15 minutes for free), Mobility, Sharoo and Catch a Car.
Catch a Car recently added 30 VW e-Golf’s to it’s fleet. Not as cool as driving a Tesla, but still better than any internal combustion engine car. I’m now driving electric whenever I can!
I have to admit: There is a certain satisfaction in taking a Pick-e-Bike to a VW e-Golf and just driving off, without owning anything.
A passion is a “strong and barely controllable emotion”. The Late Latin word passio litteraly means “suffering” (from Latin pati “to suffer”).
Who enjoys suffering? I don’t.
The use of the word has been declining until 1980, with good reason. Then the trend reversed. It became a mantra of the tech/startup world. You’ve got to “follow your passion” and “be passionate”, they said.
That’s foolish, because passions are toxic.
Anger? Toxic. Overly intense desire for something? Toxic. Obsession? Toxic. Depression? Toxic. Anxiety? Toxic. The list goes on and on.
My aspiration is to live a good life, as proposed by the Stoics. A life in accordance with human nature and the laws of the universe. With a sense of freedom and peace of mind.
“But isn’t passion necessary to achieve great things”, you might ask. No, I don’t believe that.
You can aspire to be useful to as many people as possible. You can work hard and perform your duty. You can be fully engaged in life.
The important thing is to focus on your inner scorecard. And not be attached to things outside of your control.
Apply self-control and don’t become a victim of the emotional roller coaster. Being overly fixated on the past leads to depression. Being overly fixated on the future leads to anxiety. Avoid both.
How to innovate:
- Build a prototype, and then keep iterating.
- Each time, only change one single thing. Then you see exactly what caused the improvement or failure.
- That way you build a huge bank of knowledge, and after many iterations, end up with something unique.
James Dyson used this method to create over 5000 prototypes of his radically different vacuum technology.
What will you come up with?
It’s healthy to reflect on the nature of impermanence, especially our human mortality. The Stoics recommend to prepare for your own death every day.
During one of my daily reflections, I looked it up. Each day, 150,000 humans die. That means that in 2019, more than 50 million people will die.
It’s good to remember that one day, today will be our last day. And one year, this year will be the one on our grave stone.
Remember what Steve Jobs said:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Happy 2019, everybody! Don’t waste it.
(I use WeCroak for daily mortality reminders.)