Yesterday I asked you to think in, "A Brain Teaser With a Right Answer" -
What’s the difference between a person who is genuinely very useful and a person who just does useful things for people all the time because he wants to appear to be very useful?
I got a bunch of good comments and perspectives. A couple people nailed the answer I'd give dead-on, or wrote similar -
"There isn't one."
It's always interesting for me to see how people weight intentions and results.
All over the place, there's a bunch of little good deals.
Mostly I ignored these for years - and I think it's smart to not go chasing little things at the expense of bigger things. If you've got some creative or business skills, there's almost certainly some better use of your time than cutting coupons.
Starting about a year ago, though, I became a much more serious student of marketing. I'd paid plenty of attention to marketing in the past, but 'round about a year ago, I started systematically paying attention to it.
Part of that was just interacting more with the world - including actually checking out the numbers on all sorts of offers, things I'd have normally ignored.
Some of them are pretty bad. A loyalty card where you buy-10-get-1-free isn't a very good deal. It's basically just a 10% discount, but worse because you might not get the discount, could forget or lose the card, means you've got to carry more junk in your wallet or bag, and so on. It can be an okay thing, maybe, if it doesn't change or inconvenience your spending habits - but that's why they create the things, so you do go to the inconvenience of going to their place more often and spending more there.
Meditate on this for a moment -
What's the difference between a person who is genuinely very useful and a person who just does useful things for people all the time because he wants to appear to be very useful?
I think there's a correct answer to this one.
Hint: It's three words.
I was just mixing an instant coffee and thinking about life.
Man, it's pretty good huh? It's easy to take for granted and forget the ridiculous amazing technology that we use all the time that gives us access to almost all of the information ever uncovered in human history. We can talk long distances for free to anyone with an internet connection. You can get high quality everything for damn cheap by historical standards.
That's not even getting into the general beauty of seeing a cat bat a little ball around, or how the world smells after a rainstorm, or trees, or eating raw sliced pumpkin (try it), or whatever.
And then there's so many people in the world you can connect with, building good friendships, working with people, improving things, building more, reading books.
Life's really good.
The smoke seemed to have a mind of its own. Filtering from the owner's cigarette one table over, it conjures images of a snake-charmer playing a flute. It seems to defy physics in how it dances through the air.
The bar was ever-so-slightly slightly too dark for what we were trying to do, the main source of light filtering through Chinese-style red paper lanterns as we were poured through the financial ledgers.
A long pause sets in, we're almost done and getting through the last 10% is taking an effort.
The waiter tells me that the coffee machine is broken and that they're out of chicken pies. Okay, water is fine then, thanks.
We finish going through the ledgers. I'm tired, but not like my two long term friends here. They're both entirely worn out.
More Dalio. From Principles -
201) Make sure all the “must do’s” are above the bar before you do anything else. First, distinguish between your “must do’s” and your “like to do’s”. Don’t overlook any “must do’s,” and don’t mistakenly slip the “like to do’s” onto the list. Then, get all the “must do’s” above the bar. Then get all the “must do’s” excellent. If you have time, turn to the “like to do’s” and try to get them above the bar. Only if you have time (though you certainly will not if you are thinking broadly), turn toward making things perfect. Chances are, you won’t have to deal with the unimportant things, which is better than not having time to deal with the important things. I often hear people say, "Wouldn’t it be good to do this or that,” referring to nice-to-do’s rather than must-do’s that have to be above the bar. Chances are, they are being distracted from far more important things that need to be done well.
1. Distinguish between "must do" and "like-to-do"
2. Double-check that every "must do" is on the must-do-list, and that you aren't sneaking "like-to-do's" onto the must-do-list.
Yesterday, I quoted a passage from Heart of Darkness about the Roman legions and officials in Britannia. I thought it was interesting, and mentioned at the end that it's free on the Kindle.
Today I wanted to point out the Kindle for PC (or Mac) readers. It's very nicely designed and pretty to read on - it stacks up favorably with a PDF.
Most importantly, it's easy to get a lot of out of print books for free. Here's how:
1. Go get the relevant program:
Kindle for PC
This passage from the beginning of Conrad's Heart of Darkness struck me. This passage happens on the Thames river - and at the height of the British Empire. Keep that in mind for context, the swamp rivered to as the very end of the world is the Thames -
His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow--"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day . . . . Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries--a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too--used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina--and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death--death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes--he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga--perhaps too much dice, you know--coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." He paused. "Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower--"Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force--nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind--as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . . ."
Amazing how things change, eh? You read about the Roman legions and various officials in Britannia, and it's very possible to wonder what the heck they felt like when they were there. You could interpret it all sorts of ways, but it's fascinating to think that the "end of the world" - Britannia - eventually became the British Empire, with its "The sun never sets on the British Empire."
I was going through some writings and and analysis of Aristotle's work recently and came across the most fascinating distinction - exoteric and esoteric knowledge.
There's a few different meanings of the words, but exoteric can mean "external / outside / knowledge that's easily ascertained by anyone" and esoteric can mean "internal / secretive / knowledge that's not easily ascertained."
One thing I've started doing in the last year that I've gotten a lot of gain from is trying to find writing by authors and people I respect that were written for a friendly audience.
There's a huge difference in the tone and content of friendly-audience writing (which can be more esoteric) and general-purpose writing (which is frequently exoteric).
Exoteric writing tends to be more sanitized, more generalized, more politically correct, laying out basic premises and assumptions more (instead of assuming skill/background on the part of the reader), and frequently aims to be less offensive.
Last month, I had a unique opportunity - I was able to sit down with two guys who had done high end sales in the past, and have now since moved on to running their own companies.
I met them separately about two weeks apart. One used to sell high end audio equipment, the other raised money from accredited investors for some kind of fund.
Sales is one of those things that's crucial to everyone's lives, but rather hard to nail down. There's lots of literature available on it, but much of it is outdated - or was never even correct in the first place.
I asked both guys their favorite books on sales. Both of them replied, right away, with "SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham" - they each had separate other recommendations, but when the first book recommended on a topic by two people who have succeeded at a really high level in unrelated parts of the same field... well, you're probably on to something.
I got a copy, read it, and I'm blown away. I'm also kicking myself - Judd Weiss gave me a copy a few years ago and recommended it to me then, but my reading list was too long and I didn't get to it. Man, reading this earlier would have saved me a lot of trouble.