“But it’s a dry heat”

It crossed 100 degrees a couple times this week in the East Bay. It’s a dry heat. If it’s 100 degrees with no humidity, what temperature do you think that equates to if you had 75% humidity?

About 80 degrees! I know this because I coach Zak’s soccer team, so I learned about the “heat index”. It basically allows you to compare desert heats with NYC-subway-platform-in-August-heat.

This chart is courtesy of NATA

I think I forgot what humidity feels like. This shows that 70 degrees with 90% humidity has a higher heat index than 102 with no humidity.

Finally, if you are in HS it’s two-a-day season. Good luck with that.


I was curious so I did a super dirty scatterplot of state heat index vs midpoint rate of each state’s income tax rate range. The R-squared is zero. Nothing to see here.

source for calculating heat index: NOAA and CurrentResults
source for 2019 state income tax rates: Money-Zine
(If interested I can share the details of how I compiled the data. Like I said, it’s dirty, but a more accurate approach in the same vein is unlikely to yield a relationship. I have ideas for other approaches that might, but I’m skeptical there’s any relationship here after seeing this. I thought to do it b/c I’ve heard CA people think higher state taxes were somehow justified by the climate. My gut response from my open-outcry floor days is a double-tomahawk overhand sold!)

HS Advice: Saved By The Bell vs Dazed and Confused

“All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life – remind me to kill myself.”  – Randy “Pink” Floyd

If you don’t know who that is, you don’t know the inspiration for the title “Moontower”. Immediately stop reading and go stream Dazed and Confused. I’ll venmo you the money if cash is tight, just don’t let this ignorance remain untreated.

Permanently memorable quotes, casting so good it can only be described as lucky, a signature dad-rock soundtrack, Austin Texas, and a story that unfolds over the last day of school. Linklater delivered a pure shot of joy with this film. If you want to Ebert the movie you could dissect its themes of puberty, responsibility, and what it means to be cool. But it will all come back to the multi-faceted characters. The few who can travel between the worlds of nerds, jocks, and stoners. If you infiltrated those camps, the way these spirits could pass through clique walls, you’d find a truth common to the rest of their cardboard cut-out friends:

They yearn to defy sorting. Quarterback. Valedictorian. Come on, we’re more than that.

A bored Randy “Pink” Floyd, the king of his H.S., knows this is a fake place. He knows you can’t wear a varsity jacket to your first job. Maybe he’s read Asimov. “Past glories are poor feeding”. Dazed and Confused tormented its characters with the knowledge that there was going to be a future.

Contrast this with Saved By the Bell. You knew everything that was going to happen. That was the beauty of the show. It always resolved to the chord your ear expected. Zack and Kelly would always find a way. Chuck Klosterman described it as the “ultrasimplistic, hyperstereotypical high school experience” . As long as the writers suspended consideration of post-HS life the saccharine storylines and eye candy justified keeping the show on in the background.

  • If you are a fan of Saved By the Bell, you should check out Chuck Klosterman’s clever essay Being Zack Morris in his 2003 book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. He goes into the Tori Paradox, a phenomona you are sure to recognize.
  • Freaks and Geeks is a top 5 favorite TV series. A cast of future stars, epic 70s soundtrack. I was sad when it ended. The oral history of the Judd Apatow show.

Why do I care about high school this week?

Local public schools started this past Tuesday in our summer-hating district. This reminded me that there’s a Paul Graham essay I like to share with HS students. I wish I would have read it the same year I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. The HS kids I’ve shared it with feel like it’s horizon-expanding advice.

School authorities never let Graham give the talk. It inverts the advice of the typical graduation speech. He is matter-of-fact about what is fake and corrupt about HS. He is more interested in what the student can do in spite of the system’s flaws. He wastes no time with blame. It’s a call to action. A call to higher standards than good grades and conformity.

You don’t need to be a teen, parent or have any other qualification to benefit from reading it.

The text with my highlights is here.

Some themes

  • School won’t tell you, but you must focus on doing hard things. Find out what that means.
  • He applies the computer science term premature optimization to HS. I’ve previously mentioned this is supported by research (snapshot from my David Epstein notes)
  • Obedience is stupid. So is rebellion. I’ll rephrase Graham loosely: you need to see through the contrived experience. He offers practical advice to do this.

Most importantly, his essay gives students more credit than our cultural expectations do. He wraps:

Your life doesn’t have to be shaped by admissions officers. It could be shaped by your own curiosity. It is for all ambitious adults. And you don’t have to wait to start. In fact, you don’t have to wait to be an adult. There’s no switch inside you that magically flips when you turn a certain age or graduate from some
institution. You start being an adult when you decide to take responsibility for your life. You can do that at any age.

This may sound like bullshit. I’m just a minor, you may think, I have no money, I have to live at home, I have to do what adults tell me all day long. Well, most adults labor under restrictions just as cumbersome, and they manage to get things done. If you think it’s restrictive being a kid, imagine having kids.

The only real difference between adults and high school kids is that adults realize they need to get things done, and high school kids don’t. That realization hits most people around 23. But I’m letting you in on the secret early. So get to work. Maybe you can be the first generation whose greatest regret from high school isn’t how much time you wasted.

This is the advice Randy “Pink” Floyd yearned to hear.

If you are interested in more on this topic:

  • screenshot of author David Epstein (who I’ve discussed before) explaining how Michelle Obama’s “swerve” advice to her daughters is supported by research. The whole letter is here.
  • If you want to get practical about Graham and Obama’s advice then Taylor Pearson’s idea of “optimizing for interesting” will calibrate your compass so you can get started. It reaffirms your faith in your “gut feelings” while subjecting it to the “focus on your outputs” test. Here it is with my highlights.

“Number Neighbors”

The NY Post wrote about the phenomenon of having text conversations with your “number neighbor”. It’s what it sounds like. Someone whose phone number is different than your own by a single digit. Before you dismiss this as the latest evidence of dystopian estrangement I’ll share a story. Several years ago, I was hanging out with Ben and one of his close college friends, Ryan. We were trying to decide on where to eat and suddenly Ryan texts the 2 choices to someone else who settled the question.

Me to Ryan, “Who the heck was that?”

The response came matter-of-factly, “Carlos”.

Umm, ok, who the f is Carlos.

Turns out Carlos is the guy he texts whenever he needs to break a trivial tie. You see, several years earlier, Ryan was trying to decide on a TV to buy and texted a friend who knew about such things. Well, he texted the wrong number but still got a response. “Samsung”. Ever since then, Ryan texts that number which belongs to Carlos.

So, of course, I can’t let Ryan hog this knight who promises to joust decision fatigue on a stranger’s behalf. He gave me Carlos’ number and the rules: Keep it simple, 2 choices.

I relied on “Carlos the Question Man” as he’s labeled in my phone for years, throwing him a question every few months. Carlos never asked my name. I haven’t texted him in years but the “number neighbor” article made me think of Carlos. So as I write this on Friday nite I texted him. I just realized it’s after 1am in the 617 area code and now I feel bad.

In case you’re curious about the text, here you go.


Last week’s description of our friends’ homeschooling adventure in Europe was a bit of a dog whistle. The idea of “worldschooling” or homeschooling has crossed several of your minds. Especially just to try it for a year. I’ve been poking around homeschooling websites the way the curious might browse Ashley Madison. Kinda naughty. But, unlike swipe right or whatever you do on AM, the promise of homeschooling is constructive.

Its advocates will say it’s a better match for a modern world where information is free and conformity is increasingly expensive. Its detractors will scream “socialization” as soon as the word “home” is followed by the “sc” syllable.

If the idea strikes a nerve, perhaps the pang feels something like:

  • You have a vague sense that school hasn’t evolved as much as the world around us.
  • It feels like a compromise between cost and scale that ends up serving none of its students especially well.
  • The default option’s tyrannical grip on the education menu is out of proportion to its proven merit.
It’s like being dropped off at JFK with the mythical around-the-world ticket only to find all flights lead to Orlando. All the interesting flights depart from Terminal 4 but everyone else is robotically boarding for Florida. Oh screw it, I’m sure Disneyworld will be nice in August.
Well, you and I know it’s gonna be muggy, with long lines and overpriced rooms. Welcome to the education system. You chose It’s A Small World over the real thing.

When I wonder aloud about homeschooling, someone always seems to pull the “you went to regular school and turned out great”. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but

a) I might be the way I am in spite of my schooling


b) Your observation of my external circumstances is nothing but a projection of your own values. That is a validation of my school experience for you, not me. And again see “a”. I’m a size seller of the cause-effect relationship.

Personally, school assassinated my will to learn. Maybe if I spend $300 an hour talking about it on a leather couch I can discover why. And I’m not even suggesting homeschooling would have been a better outcome, whatever that means. But we know kids are born learners. To murder that is an unreported crime. I’d hate to spend more time thinking about what car to lease than what the default meaning of education is where I live.

When I was young, I thought it was about getting As. Let’s be blunt. That’s a low bar for being educated. Perhaps necessary, definitely insufficient.


With all that in mind, I’ll share Bryne Hobart’s essay which struck a nerve by putting words to my feelings better than I can. It also reminds you that the reversibility of the choices means the risks are controlled. Important when you can’t shake the feeling that you are gambling with beloved young lives.

Of interest to finance folks or quant-inclined might be the fact that Byrne is an investor at SAC Capital, didn’t graduate from college, and has a cool essay framing a “barbell approach” to education using portfolio theory to value alt-degrees and substitutes for credentials. Check it here.

Deceiving Your Kids

So I asked a colleague who is due to have a baby in the next 2 months if she found out the sex. She called my question with the gender and raised me with the little guy’s name. I’m not sure what my reaction was but I’d venture it was somewhere between raised eyebrows and gaping jaw. With as much grace as a person can conjure to deflect the impression that they are not a serial killer, she quickly added that they aren’t into secrets or surprises. This isn’t the first time I’ve been dealt the name of a womb’s resident, but it’s unusual, and she, no doubt having encountered dumb faces like mine, had her defense set to hair-trigger. The exchange naturally turned to my presumption that this same child would not know Santa. He won’t.

I confided that this was a minor source of conflict between Yinh and I. Minor only because Yinh was mildly against lying to the kids about St. Nick, while I was prepared to die on that hill. So I got my way and now she calls me Griswold. Our kids believe in Santa but she forces me to have skin in the game.

This raises the more serious questions about the lies we tell our children. We all do it. We all had it done to us. Adolescence is like an extended episode of Mythbusters where we get our worldview debunked for about 10 years straight without commercials. Paul Graham brilliantly reminds us that while we must lie to the kids we should understand the costs. We should understand which rationalizations are really about protecting ourselves. Finally, recognize that “most [of us] go through life with bits of packing material
adhering to [our] minds and never know it.” 

Shedding it all is an active process I see people struggling with right into old age. I still discover residue in my mental desk hinting at a bigger mess in the back of its drawers.

If lies are the drug, Graham teaches us what they are indicated for but doesn’t sugarcoat the side effects. Here’s the red pill.

Negative Energy in Physics and in Your Life

Elon Musk is certain we live in a simulation. Neil de Grasse Tyson thinks it’s also pretty likely. Cutting to its heart, the argument boils down to statistics:

  • The universe is vast. So vast it rounds up to infinity vast.
  • You’re laughably overconfident to think there aren’t plenty of species more advanced than our own.
  • Those alien species would have access to computers powerful enough to run huge numbers of simulations which are as detailed as our actual existence. And they would have an interest in doing so.
  • The number of simulations running in parallel would dwarf the population of its organic creators.  Just think of how each of us humans has a many-to-one relationship with software. Code, like any language, is free once it exists. We can all have every app. My having an app doesn’t preclude you from having it.
  • The ratio of code to humans is incalculable, just as the ratio of simulated beings would be to the number of original beings.
  • The chance you are one of the originals is effectively zero.

To wonder if this theory is true feels like it elevates the entire notion of truth to a stage it can’t compete on. As they say, it’s just “turtles all the way down”. Don’t bother.

But now that your mind is limber let’s back up to the first premise: the universe is vast.
Earth is part of a familiar solar system. That’s that model you made for 4th-grade science fair with toothpicks and styrofoam. And Pluto. That solar system is one of millions in the Milky Way galaxy.

As Nasa diagrams the situation to kids:

The Milky Way, as depicted by the Chinese throwing star in that diagram, is one of the billions of galaxies comprising the Laniakea supercluster:

Adding to this orgy of nested giant numbers, we can observe millions of superclusters.

The infiniteness of universe’s size translates to the infiniteness of possibilities. Suddenly the simulation idea doesn’t feel so absurd even if its veracity doesn’t matter.

Where did all of this even come from?

Scientists contend the Big Bang initialized the universe nearly 14 billion years ago. Stephen Hawking, the late scientist buried in Westminster Abbey between Darwin and Newton, walks us through it:

  • You need 3 ingredients to make a universe: matter, energy, and space
  • As Einstein showed humanity, E = MC^2. So matter and energy are 2 sides of the same coin.
  • We need to explain where just 2 ingredients came from. Space and energy.

Hawking warns us that common sense is going to be a poor guide since we don’t commonly encounter the creation of something out of nothing. So he draws an analogy:

Imagine a man wants to build a hill on a flat piece of land. The hill will represent the universe. To make this hill he digs a hole in the ground and uses that soil to dig his hill. But of course he’s not just making a hill — he’s also making a hole, in effect a negative version of the hill. The stuff that was in the hole has now become the hill, so it all perfectly balances out. The stuff that was in the hole has now become the hill, so it all perfectly balances out. This is the principle behind what happened at the beginning of the universe. When the Big Bang produced a massive amount of positive energy, it simultaneously produced the same amount of negative energy. In this way, the positive and the negative add up to zero, always. It’s another law of nature.

Negative energy?

Space is a battery whose metaphorical negative charge balances the universe’s positive charge — the mass and energy all around us.

Hawking reminds us that math, not intuition, is the relevant guide but if you want to pretend you are Christopher Nolan, researching relativity theory and black holes for a sequel to Interstellar, check out the rest of the amazing Maria Popova’s article here.

For the rest of us knuckle-draggers, we can recognize how negative energy works in our lives.

  • Jared Dillian posed the following proposition: Work, family, fitness, fun, sleep. Choose 3.
Maybe there are 6 things to choose from, maybe you can only choose 2. Not the point. Whenever you see someone who appears to have it all remember that there is a corresponding negative energy hole that was required to build the things you can see. Negative energy reminds us that nobody is immune from the laws of balance in the universe. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Maybe you live in sprints. Focus on 3 out of 5 for short bursts, then switch it up. Maybe you try to keep your slowest aspect much closer to the pack all the time. Whatever your strategy, it will not defy the physics of yin and yang.
  • Negative energy reminds us to be honest about how we use our time.
We are wired to be doing stuff. In motion. Professor Scott Galloway observes on a simple level, there’s a low-level ‘security camera’ inside your brain trying to figure out if you’re adding value to the world. We are vulnerable to Do Something Syndrome.

Movement teases us with the illusion of progress. Movement offers shelter from failure. When you’re in motion, you feel like you’re doing something. We convince ourselves that as long as we’re in motion, we can’t fail.

If you keep going into overtime you can never lose. Or win.

  • Negative energy honors others’ tradeoffs.

Scott Young observes how our own overemphasis on achievement is a bias which can be difficult to overcome when we deal with others who may appear more simple. The amazing elders in my life come to mind. Providing for and raising their children while enjoying simple pleasures is the extent of their ambitions. If we believe these goals to be somehow incomplete, we are probably miscalculating. Be wary of discounting seemingly quaint objectives. Young shows just how self-reinforcing achievement bias can be:

“If you don’t value achievement, and don’t get really good at writing, you probably won’t be very articulate arguing in favor of non-achievement as a virtue. I think this bias probably means we should consider non-achievers words more carefully, especially since those voices are rarer. It also means we ought to talk to more everyday people and not merely look up to the most famous and successful for all worldly wisdom.”

The Magic for Making Quantum Leaps

James Holzhauer put Jeopardy back in the spotlight this year. He almost broke Ken Jenning’s record cumulative winnings of $2.5 million in less than half the attempts. Putting his dominance in context would almost dehumanize him. His average daily win of $77,006.75 is higher than the previous single-day record of $70,000. He owns the top 16 highest daily wins ever with the record now set at $131,127.

Bobby Fischer was a good not great chess player at age 12. At age 13, he played “the game of the century”. A performance that would have been studied and marveled at if Fischer was an adult. At age 14, he won the world championship. He did all of this without a coach. (courtesy of the Adam Robinson interview I referenced last week).

Stephen Curry. Under-sized and under-recruited, the Warrior’s point guard has forced us to reimagine what we can expect from a shooter. In his 2015/16 MVP season, he dropped 402 3-pointers shattering his own prior record of 272, set 3 years earlier. The chart that circulated after the season showed just how obscene it was. As of this past October, Curry had 6 games in his career with 11 or more 3-pointer. That feat has only been recorded 7 times prior to him in NBA history. I took Zak to a game for the first time this season and it happened to be one of them. Curry scored 51 points in 3 quarters before calling it a night.

If you watch kids play basketball in the Bay Area they all emulate their hero. Chewing on their mouthpieces and chucking long 3s, these kids are innocent but naive. They see themselves as the next “baby-faced assassin” instead of Lebron who may as well be the Incredible Hulk. Curry is skinny and looks small on tv (he’s 6’3 so not exactly turning heads at Safeway either). I hate to say it, but sorry kids. Gladwell, you should cover your ears too. More went into reinventing the 3-pointer than just practice. Coach Steve Kerr, himself one of NBA history’s best marksmen not to mention a teammate of Michael Jordan, has called Curry’s eye-hand coordination the best he’s ever seen. Curry is an outstanding golfer and Kerr speculates that Curry would be a force on the pro tour if that was his focus (maybe we’ll get to find out when his ankles get too old for hoops). Curry’s younger brother plays for the Trailblazers and his father contributed enough to the Hornets early years to win a Sixth Man of the Year award. Pretty sure there was some mitosis involved with those skills.

Whether it’s a quantum leap in a game, discipline, or individual we demand a reason. Genes and genius can suffice but don’t satisfy. It’s more like magic.

I had zero mental model of how he created that piece in the same timeframe we all had…it seemed like the skills required were completely different. You could not simply scale up my abilities and get [his]…It seems to require completely different mental inputs entirely. The feeling I get, as a very good bodypainter looking at Sanatan’s work, is that I am looking at magic. And that, in fact, is my definition of magic – competence so much more advanced than yours…alien mental models [are at work].

– @utotranslucence

You feel like its magic because you are bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Using bodypainting competitions as a backdrop (I encourage you to google Sanatan’s creations) read her mental approach to getting better at anything. The intuition and counterintuition is worth exploring for yourself and it shows a possible door to extreme performance relative to whatever you may have previously considered possible.

Her essay.
Version with my highlights here.

And some of my thoughts inspired by and adjacent to her essay.

Is loneliness a downside of connectedness?

  1. Go to google.com
  2. Type “How do I learn to”. Don’t hit enter.
  3. Take note of what the top 6 or 7 autocomplete options are.

Here’s mine:

Yours probably has some differences because, you know, Google watches you undress and all. But compare a bit closer. Is anything surprising?

I actually cheated and hid a result we have in common.

The cringey one. This one. Sobering when we consider that Google’s search box might be the world’s largest mind mirror. I came across this surprising result via Adam Robinson’s 4-hour interview on the Knowledge Project podcast. The link and my notes are here.

Is Adam just another Cassandra beating the drum of dystopian despair when he reminds us that we remain sad even though “the average person today lives better than the average king a couple of centuries ago”. Several recent bestsellers, notably promoted by Bill Gates, are packed with stats and facts celebrating undeniable measures of progress. Just scan this list and you will find plenty of intellectual antibodies to the pessimism disease going around the developed world.

Whenever humanity is disappointing you just refer to that list for an injection of technophilia straight into the vein.

Unfortunately. That may backfire.

You have just learned 50 more things that you should feel good about but perhaps do not. So if you were down, you can add guilt to your baggage. No wonder we can’t love ourselves. Progress and logic are objectively improving our lives yet emotionally we cannot keep pace. Mental health, opioids, suicide have all been followed by the word “epidemic”. I’ve hinted at the loneliness amongst men in a prior letter, but just this week I saw this article titled “The Loneliness Epidemic Is So Bad, World Leaders Have Been Forced to Intervene”. And to be honest a few friends have been courageously vulnerable about the reach of loneliness. Given its prevalence, you can be certain it is an especially concealed, unaddressed form of pain. As our boomer population ages, I don’t expect the trend to halt.

Adam, a veteran of his own battle with depression and no stranger to the ethical challenges that barnacle technology, offers his thoughts.

  • He does not think it’s an accident that Palo Alto has the highest suicide rate in the US. (I have some reservations on that since it’s not fact-checked and for the same statistical reasons as to why extreme cancer rates, both high and low, are always found in smaller population states).
  • Technology is engineered to hijack your attention. Incentives are to either confirm what you already believe or enrage you.
  • He quotes Gandi, “There’s more to life than making it faster”. You may recognize the modern-retro version.

So what works for him?

The paradox of life: to be happy, to find love, to be successful is to not look for these things. It’s to be fully engaged in your life. Only two places to direct your attention in life:

  1. the task at hand
  2. others
  • His metaphor is breathing. When he is home he is focused on his work. Breathing in. When he goes into the world, his focus is on others. Breathing out.
  • The problem with self-help books is they focus on yourself, but you find yourself in your value to others.
  • What does engagement in others mean to him: “Create fun and delight for others”. Lean into the moments. If this is your goal, you turn life into a fun game which holds unseen rewards for you and those around you.

My own thought:

It is possible to feel lonely around your family. You can feel lonely around old friends. You can feel lonely amongst the other parents. Don’t believe you are an outsider looking in at people who are into each other and don’t have room for another. They may not be that into each other. And they all just want the same real sense of connection you do.

Quoting George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”


Making Friends Offline and Online

Like anything else in life, you get back what you put in. If relationships and connection are our best medicines then chances are, we under-allocate mindshare to them compared to their potential rewards. If you have never thought methodically about relationships, and I don’t mean in some slippery realtor kind of way, here’s the manual: How to Make Friends 2.0.

Nikhil Krishnan’s amazing guide is built for modernity and employs the advances in technology to facilitate our most primitive needs for social connection.

  • “Social media is not actually catching up or knowing how someone’s doing, it’s the cherry-picked positive moments of their life. We need to carve out regular time and places to be vulnerable.”
  • Friendships require 3 steps: meeting, escalation, maintenance. His guide gives truly interesting, actionable advice for each step.
  • He’s also written the definitive presentation to using Twitter to make friends (h/t Taylor) called “Why Twitter is Dope And How to Use It”.

I stand by his Twitter playbook. I have made a host of new friends in real life via Twitter. I speak to several of them in private chats on a regular basis. I have advocated for it before. It has been one of the highest-yielding experiments I’ve undertaken recently. I can probably pull a dozen articles without much effort by others who have called it the highest leverage thing they have done for their careers. And there is definitely a cohort who would argue that their handle is more important than their college degree. This isn’t Instagram. None of these people is monetizing their Twitter handle the way influencers might. In fact, being overtly commercial is a faux pas in the communities I wander (mostly “fintwit”).

It’s not about numbers. I have a tiny following, but the followers are high quality — people with shared interests, talent, willingness to share and openness. You can choose who you select for by how you conduct yourself. Have a give-first attitude and you will be rewarded. You’ve seen my advice before.

It does get real

A final note on Twitter and relationships. Very recently an anonymous member of the fintwit community passed away. It is an open secret that he was in his late-30s. He was very smart, a straight-shooter in the full sense of the word, and one of my own favorite follows as well as many others. The digital and physical worlds collide in singular ways.

  • He was a central figure in a Twitter thread with another anonymous account that led to the launch of a WisomTree fund. Bright people openly sharing commercially viable ideas is an unexpected dividend. WisdomTree clearly had some open-minded staff that was listening to Twitter.
  • After news of his passing broke, a GoFundMe for his favorite charity raised 5 figures from the fintwit community quickly after it hit Twitter.
  • Despite his anonymity, I was very saddened by his passing because his character really showed through his interactions. The loss of a good person can be felt if you have never “met” just as we can mourn a celebrity whose life improved yours.
Jason Zweig is the top dog writer at the WSJ and he wrote a fitting memorial of @nonrelatedsense this week. In the spirit of the community, he gave a list of the best Twitter follows in the financial world at the end. The list is broken down by category. I follow everyone on that list and have interacted with many of them. And I’m nobody, which tells you how gracious a group it is. You could get an MBA for free just following them. If you want to level up your thinking on investing adding those folks is a great first step.

The title:

“Financial Twitter Loses a Source of Humility and Wisdom, but Good Voices Remain
An account called @Nonrelatedsense showed that some of the smartest minds in investing are learning, and having fun, on Twitter.”

The whole article here.

From talented consumer to an artist

This tweet grabbed my attention this week:


A “talented consumer?”

A clever turn of phrase. Multiply a negative connotation word by a positive connotation word and get a negative connotation expression. I’ll pause while you check if this word arithmetic holds more generally.

Back to our gut reaction to the tweet. There’s probably a spectrum of responses amongst you. I’d bracket the range between these boundaries:

  • Didactic and pompous. Screaming on the internet. Trying to sell a book (he is)
  • I need to watch less Netflix and get off my bum

Predictably, the truth is somewhere in the middle. There’s no reason to get aggro if you thought he was too preachy after all Twitter is a 280 character playing field. Nuance and caveats come after the game. The reason this tweet resonated with me is that it surfaced a tension I’ve always had:

Analysis vs action

I took a much broader view of his use of the terms “creation” and “consuming” than the tweet probably allows for. We consume for entertainment and for learning. There’s overlap. Love Island is more the former. Your latest hardcover is more the latter. Nature documentaries are a guiltless way to watch TV. Eating at Per Se or hitting a distillery tour can be rationalized to skew more towards learning than hedonism. Different strokes, no judgment.

For me the distinction of how I use my time isn’t concentrated on the value of what I’m consuming but whether I’m consuming or doing. Am I just onboarding, or am I deploying? There’s always a balance and you may feel that you aren’t in your sweet spot. Are you moving too fast and need to stop to backfill, or are you consuming too passively and need to make more impact? The tweet is a status check. I used the discomfort as a chance to locate myself on the spectrum.

Consuming is great and necessary but it scratches a different itch than seeing your efforts play out in the wild. I don’t mean that in a ‘give back’ kind-of-way since the impact may simply be on yourself. The point is that the ‘creating’ enzyme binds to a different receptor than the ‘consuming’ enzyme.

Watching Chef’s Table vs serving your own custom Manhattan cocktail. Listening to Hendrix vs trying your hand at ProTools. Reading Wired vs writing your own automation script. Attending a lecture at your community library vs hosting your own purposeful gathering.

The get-off-your-ass starter manual

If you have ever shared my pang of being too inward, too ‘in your own head’, too much ‘analysis paralysis’ then the antidote is to see your mental energy manifested in some physical outcome in the world. Maybe it will be a piece of art. Maybe it will be a financial plan with a spreadsheet. Maybe it will exist by proxy — you have planted a seed in someone else who in turn produces something you end up consuming. A virtuous, recursive loop that you set in motion.

If you want a push I strongly recommend Austin Kleon’s short book Steal Like an Artist. I read it on New Year’s Day 6 years ago and just re-read it on vacation (twice!) last week. It takes about 30-45 minutes to read. It’s the kind of book that every reader can really take something different from because the ideas apply to creations of all kind.

I don’t want to influence your own lessons if you choose to read it but if you were curious, I did post my own.

And going back to that original tweet for a moment — I could not help responding:

How I Use Twitter

Stay connected on your terms

With the ashes of the information explosion layered miles high, modernity rewards people who know the effective ways to search the soot for the surviving insights. Knowing a lot about something in demand secures you place in the machine (for now), there may be more leverage today in knowing how to know things. Supply and demand is the force of gravity in the non-physical world. If the supply of information is abundant the bottleneck is in the questions. Give thought to abstracting how you learn things. The direct questions are frontal attacks. Learn to flank.

Crowdsourcing is the peace dividend of interconnectedness. Curation via tokenized reputations and customer reviews. Google’s Pagerank algorithm crowdsources search by ranking links by how likely it matches what people were looking for. Nextdoor brings you into word-of-mouth conversations that you may have been missing out on before.Hands-on example: Twitter

  • Twitter is a fantastic platform to explore niches if you learn to use it effectively. I have learned so much from “Fintwit” (financial twitter) despite being a finance professional. Start following people that you like and as you read conversations you discover who else you like and before long you can, without their permission, find a tribe to teach and challenge you.
  • I have helped several people to discover and benefit from a thoughtful approach to Twitter. My 2 main techniques:
    • Use curated lists related to topics. You can subscribe to any of my lists and think of them as customized feeds. Make your own or find the lists of other “Tweeps” you may like.
    • On desktop use Tweetdeck. It uses your Twitter credentials and allows you to see column-based feeds filtered by a list, a hashtag, a user, or other dimensions. Here’s a snapshot of my Tweetdeck.
  • I don’t post much but I do engage conversations sometimes. Twitter is a very entertaining and clever ecosystem. If you want a field guide to the Twitter prairie, check out Alex Danco’s playful analysis. Learn what it means to “get ratio-ed”.
  • If you are able to generate a following, one of the greatest tools afforded to you is the ability to crowdsource the answer to questions from a sharp community. Remember, you can follow anyone, unlike LinkedIn. You can always @ someone’s handle but to DM somebody they must follow you. I have seen people expertly crowdsource insightful business questions. I recommend following people who exploit this power so you can “draft in their lanes”.
  • If you don’t have a following (I do not), remember that crowdsourcing skill can be best rewarded on Reddit. Why is Reddit better than most internet forums? The top entries on the page are not the most recent but the most “upvoted”. Unlike Twitter, you may not “know” the respondents so it can be difficult to calibrate the value of the replies. The trade-off is you don’t need a following, instead, you must ask the right question in the right way to get responses and upvotes. A game in itself.