The Anarchy – A review

Anarchy

The Anarchy is a popular history book on the East Indian Company(EIC) in 18th Century India. Dalrymple regale us the rise of the EIC from a Tudor privateering operation full of ex-Caribbean privates to an imperial power. Considering that the British were pretty late to the spice trade in India compared to the Portuguese, Dutch, and the French, their raise as an imperial power is extraordinary.

Rise of of the first Multinational Corporation:

East Indian Company(EIC) basically invented corporate lobbying, insider training and first corporate bail out, and all the other things we loathe about modern corporation. EIC developed a symbiotic relationship with the British Parliamentarians. Company men like Clive used the looted money from India to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats. The Parliament backed the Company with state power because many MPs were shareholders of EIC and any action against the company will affect their personal wealth.

Silk, Spices and Sepoy:

Thanks to the dwindling military and financial power of the Mughals, a huge military labor market sprang up all across India. Dalrymple describes this as one of the most thriving free markets of fighting men anywhere in the world- all up for sale to the highest bidder. Warfare become a business enterprise and substantial section of peasants spent part of their time year as mercenaries. EIC were better off financially and were able to pay the sepoys the promised wage on time than many local rulers. EIC were using as much as 80% Indian sepoyts in many of their battles. 

The British very really lucky:

Although popular theories propose that the success of the EIC can be attributed to the fragmenting to Mughal India into tiny competing states; the military tech of the Europeans and innovation of banking, taxing and administration of the Anglo-saxons, one of the recurring themes that I found is how lucky in the may of the battles. Yes, the above theories are probably true and East India Company troop were more disciplined than their Indian rivals; but its incredible how consistently lucky the British were.

Break the Rules:

Warfare in India were actually done in gentlemanly manner. The Mughals. Marathas and other local rulers pursued negotiation, bribery and paying tribute. In case of actual conquest, there are rules by which they abide by. The Company men, especially Robert Clive, who committed suicide at the age of 49(Hope someone soon writes a biography on this truly appalling character), constantly breaking the rules like attacking at night and attacking at thunderstorm etc.

Why we need to learn to negotiate?

Mughals were completely clueless about who corporation functions or how unsavory Clive operates as an Profiteer. Ghulam Hussain Khan says a sale of jackass would have taken up more time than the time taken for the Treaty of Allahbad.  Post Treaty of Allahabad, EIC used Indian tax revenue to purchase textiles and spies. Even at the time of famines EIC enforces tax collection to maintain their revenue and growing military expenditure. At the height of the famine, English merchants engaged in grain hoarding, profiteering and speculation.

North vs South India? 

Even after Battle of Plassey, Cavalry was the dominant form of warfare in northern India and continued to fight each other despite the growing domination of the British. However the south was every quick to copy and learn the military innovations of the Europeans. Haider Ali had a modern infantry and his troops were more innovative and tactically ahead of EIC. They mastered the art of firing rockets long before the English. Nana Phadnavus, ‘the Maratha Machiavelli’, after the Treaty of Wadgaon, proposed a Triple Alliance between the Marathas, Haider and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Indian Bankers love the Company:

The rise of EIC as an imperial power would not be possible with out the Indian bankers. The Indian financiers saw greater advantage in keeping the Company in power than they did supporting their own. By 1803, Indian bankers were competing with one another to back the company’s army.

In the end its the Company’s ability to mobilize money have them the edge over the Marathas and Tipu Sultan. It was no longer the superior European military technology.  Bengal alone was annually yeilding a steady revenue surplus of Rs 25 million at the time when Scindia struggled to net Rs 2 million.  The biggest firm of the period – the houses of Lala Kashmiri Mal, Ramchand-Gopalchand Shahu and Gopaldas-Manohardas – helped the military finance of the British. The Company duly rewarded the invaluable services in 1782 by making the house of Gopaldas the government’s banker.  Richard Wellesley managed raise Rs 10 million with the support of Marwari bankers of Bengal to fight the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war.

Final nail in the coffin:

Following the victory of the Battle of Delhi, EIC defeated the last indigenous power. Now linked Bengal, Madras and Bombay while imposing itself as Regent under the Mughals.

My only complaints is that the book doesn’t drive into the financial details of the Company despite the wealth information available. A bit of financial history of the Company would have helped us understand the nature of the Company better. Overall an entertaining history book. highly recommended.

HyperFocus – Book Notes

hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is an ultimate book on productivity and help us to focus better. The crux of the book is that we live most of our life in heedlessness or “auto-pilot” mode and we need to be mindful of our attention. Rarely do we stop and examine our thoughts and tasks in our day-to-day lives. In today’s world of attention economy, we have different social media and gaming apps which use novel methods to capture a scarce commodity called “Human attention”.

What I really like about the book is that it presents two distinct and important ideas.

  1. Hyperfocus
  2. Scatterfocus

Hyperfocus:

There are plenty of distractions that keep us from doing purposeful and productive works. Our mind seeks novel distractions instead of finishing that important task which we need to finish by EOD.

So how do we “Hyperfocus” in a world of constant notifications and distractions?

  1. Firstly,  acknowledge that our brain’s attention storage is limited and treat it as a scarce resource.
  2. The more complex the task, the more attention has to be paid.
  3. Avoid multi-tasking. Every time we multitask the area that can be used for focused attention becomes smaller.
  4. Eliminate distractions beforehand like switching off your mobile phone or disable notifications before you work on something important. This will help you to focus better on the task at hand.
  5. Pick the most consequential tasks for setting priorities for the day
  6. Don’t keep more than three things on the active list at any point in time. Keep your daily task list as simple as possible.
  7. Be mindful of your attention. Check every two hours whether you are in auto-pilot mode? Is your attention wandering? Are you working on a productive and meaningful task?

Scatterfocus:

Scatterfocus is the opposite of Hyperfocus. Instead of focusing on a particular task, we let our mind wander and be unmindful. Is the book suggesting two contradictory ideas? Actually, no. Scatterfocus helps recharge our mind after prolonged period of work or hyperfoucs, generate new ideas and foster creativity.

Modes of scatterfocus:

  1. Capture mode: Take a notebook to capture & write down all the tasks and jobs that you have on your mind.
  2. Problem focus mode: Single out a problem that you are working on, write down all possible solutions in your pocket book and try going to sleep on the problem.
  3. Habitual mode: Take a habitual or repetitive task and perform it every now and then. You will be surprised to see how creative thoughts emerges from it.

Other tips and tricks:

  1. Emails: Check your emails no more than 3 times a day. If your job requires you to check emails often, then keep a time slot to check your emails. Try to articulate your response in 5 or less sentences.
  2. Meetings: Don’t attend meetings without an agenda. Try to question all recurring meetings if it,s really required. Try keep minimal audience for any meeting.
  3. Apps and Notifications: Keep all the social media and gaming apps in a different device. This might appear cumbersome on the surface but it will help you monitor your attention better , eliminate distractions and be mindful.
  4. Recharging: Take regular 10-15 mins break for every 60-90 mins like taking a walk or running near your work place, non-work related reading, going to the gym, listening to a podcast or audio-book, or having a conversation with friends.

Overall, this was an interesting read on how to focus and I hope these notes were beneficial to you. Do you have any interesting tips on how to focus better? If so, please do share.

 

Andrew Yang, Freedom Dividend and FIRE

Andrew Yang is a former lawyer, entrepreneur, founder, non-profit leader, and running  candidate for Democratic nomination for 2020 U.S Presidential election. Andrew Yang seems to attract people from a wide spectrum like conservative, progressive, democrats, libertarians and independents. Why Andrew Yang is gaining popularity? And what are his ideas and policies?

Automation and Freedom Dividend:

Andrew Yang is the only politician who calls out the dangers of Automation and  advocates Universal basic Income and as a matter of fact, he has written a book on the subject, The War on normal people. The U.S Economy has already automated four millions of manufacturing jobs. In the near future, many retail jobs, call center jobs and truck driving jobs will be automated thanks to machine learning, A.I and self-driving cars. What is Yang’s solution? Freedom Dividend. Yang wants to implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18.

Dangers of coming Fourth Industrial Revolution:

A.I and Machine learning has advanced so much that human beings are no longer necessary for certain tasks. Of course, some jobs are more easily transitioned to automation than others. All the jobs that involves routine with little or no cognitive effort are easily automated (like clerks, librarians etc..). The consensus is that if your job involves serious analytical and cognitive skills then you are less likely to be affected by the coming fourth industrial revolution. One possible solution for people endangered by the fourth industrial revolution is to up-skill and learn fundamental and state-of-the-art programming skills. However, they can still face ageism at work as most corporations prefer young blood.

Our Professional Decline:

I recently read an article “Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner than you think” ,by Arthur C. Brooks, which got me thinking on the subject. According to the article, early decline is inescapable in some professions especially physically demanding jobs. But data also indicate that most people, in most fields, decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks. Even profession which requires mental processing speed or significant analytic capabilities noticeable decline is probably going to set in earlier than most people imagine. The lack of transition plan after the onset of professional decline leads to joylessness, depression and even suicide. You can manage your transition from fluid intelligence oriented career to Crystallized intelligence oriented career.

 FIRE and Automation:

Although I am happy that Andrew Yang and Arthur C. Brooks are directing the attention to dangers of Automation and early professional decline, one factor that I notice that people don’t consider is FIRE. Since most people either have to keep working past their professional decline or have their jobs endangered by A.I/Automation, FIRE would be an interesting option for people to consider.

FIRE:

What is FIRE? What does Automation have to do with it? To the uninitiated, FIRE stands for Financial Independence and Retirement Early. Being Financially Independent is NOT synonymous with being wealthy. FIRE is about liberating your most precious resource -your time- to pursue things which makes you more happy. Financial Independence is achieved when you do not need to work for money anymore. One becomes FI by saving aggressively and prudently investing over the years until you are no longer dependent on money to handle you life.

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Overall, the pattern of changes are clear. A.I, Machine learning and Automation is going to revolutionize the future job market. FIRE is a worthwhile strategy and a life-style change in the face of the fourth industrial revolution.

What do you think and do share your thoughts?

I intend to write a series of blog posts on FIRE in the coming months.

Work Clean: Applying Mise en Place to your Life

One thing I noticed after reading “Work Clean” by Dan Charnas is that how criminally underrated it is. I mean it has less than 50 reviews in Amazon and I hope you will get a copy of the book after reading this post. . The book presents an interesting idea on how to apply Mise en Place to your life.

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What is Mise en Place?

Mise en Place is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It is a practice of arranging and organizing all the ingredients before preparing your food. Dan Charnas uses the concept of mise en place as a “philosophy” and “system” and applies to our every day life.

Life and Kitchen:

Kitchen and Life are both similar in many ways. Professional Kitchens are chaotic where cooks race against the clock to complete the many ad hoc orders as they can. Most often these orders are non-linear and customers expect to have their food on time. Professional cooks and chefs handle this chaos by applying the system of Mise en Place and staying one item ahead of the incoming order.

Ingredients of Working Clean:

Dan Charnas has short listed ten principles of Mise en place that can be applied to our life.

  1. Planning is Prime:
    Plan daily. Commit to being honest with your time.
    Greet the day.
    Honor your schedule
  2. Arranging Space, Perfect Movements:
    Remove friction.
    Commit to setting your station and reducing impediments to your movements and activities.
  3. Cleansing as you go:
    Cleaning is a spiritual practice.
    Commit to maintaining your system. Always be cleaning.
  4. Making First moves:
    Commit to using time to your benefit. Start now.
  5. Finishing Actions:
    Commit to delivering. When a task is nearly done, finish it.
    Always be unblocking.
  6. Slowing down to speed up:
    Use physical order to restore mental order.
    Commit to working smoothly and steadily. Don’t rush.
  7. Open your eyes and ears:
    Stay alert.
    Commit to balance internal and external awareness.
  8. Call and Call back:
    Commit to confirming and expect confirmation of essential communication. Call back.
  9. Inspect and correct:
    Commit to coaching yourself, to be coached and to coaching others.
    Evaluate your self.
  10. Total Utilization:
    Waste nothing.
    Commit to valuing space, time, energy, resource and people.

Daily Meeze:

The interesting part of the book is that Dan provides a process to apply the ten ingredients to our life called “Daily Meeze”. “Meeze is a short form for Mise en Place. The Daily Meeze has four parts. Each with a specific function and each taking a certain balance of the time.

  1. Clean your station.
  2. Sharpen your tools.
  3. Plan your day.
  4. Gather your resources.

Hope this blog post was useful. Seriously, grap a copy of “Work Clean“.

Book Notes: Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear has been one of the beneficial books that I have read this year. And I wanted to share the notes and ideas which helped me with you all.19_jan_clear

The crux of the book is that Habits are the compound interest of self improvement.  The effects of your habits multiplies as you repeat them just like money.  A simple change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination.

According to James Clear,  all habits revolves around the below four step model and any behavior change revolves around these steps.

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

Aggregation of Marginal gains:

It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What really matter is whether your habits are putting you in the right path to success. Instead of focusing on your current results, you should you concerned with your current trajectory. Your aim should be to become 1% better everyday. Winning tiny battles like hitting the gym each week, reading books each day and spending less than you earn each month will define your future.

Can 1 % improvement really make any difference?

Habits often appears to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. People make few small changes and when they fail to see immediate results, they quit. This is the prime reason why people struggle to build habits that lasts.

Mastery require patience. Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiple whatever you feed it. Good Habits makes time your ally and Bad habits make time your enemy.

Habits and Identity:

The more pride you have in a particular aspects of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. James argues that identity is literally your “repeated being”. The frequency of your habits influence your identity and vice versa. The goal is NOT to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.

Two step process:

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to your self with small wins.

Laws of Habits:

Habit Law Rules
How to create a Good Habit The First Law Make it Obvious
The Second Law Make it Attractive
The Third Law Make it Easy
The Fourth Law Make it Satisfying
Habit Law Rules
How to break a Bad Habit Inversion of the First Law Make it Invisible
Inversion of the Second Law Make it Unattractive
Inversion of the Third Law Make it Difficult
Inversion of the Fourth Law Make it Unsatisfying

The First Law:

Create a habit scorecard: 

  1. Make a list of your daily habits.
  2. Once you list, look at each habits and ask yourself “Is this a good/bad or a neutral habit?.  Assign ‘+’ if its a good habit, ‘-‘ for bad habit and ‘=’ for neutral habit.

Design your environment:

Environment is the invisible hand that shapes your behavior. If you want to make a behavior change, make a cue a big part of your environment. The most persistent behavior will usually have multiple cues.

Habit Stacking:

Best way to build a new habit is to identity a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.

The Second Law:

We need to make our habits attractive so learn to associate them with positive experience. Sometimes all you need is a slight mind-set shift.

The Third Law:

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You just need to practice it often. The more you repeat an activity, the more structure of your brain changes to become efficient at it. Example: Learn a new language, play an instrument require repetition.

Two minutes rule:

When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.

Example: Read before bed each night becomes “Read one page”. Run three miles becomes “take out my running shoes”.

The Fourth Law:

What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished it avoided. Reward yourself after every new habit. Take a bubble bath or going on a leisurely walk.

Never miss twice

You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you. So always show up.

Create a Habit contract:

Create a habit contract with you partner or your friend. This will help you stay the course.

These are some of the best points I have found helpful from the book. Let me know if you have found other great tips for habit building.

If you are looking for more Habit hacks, then I recommend that you follow James clear on twitter.

 

[Book Review] India Moving

INdia Moving

 

India Moving is an excellent primer on Indian migration both within and outside the country over last two centuries. Given my own migration background I was naturally interested and quite curious on why certain communities in India are able outperform rest of country. Although its NOT a comprehensive study on the Indian history of Migration, it does a decent job. It does contain a lot interesting facts.

Did you know the logo of IIM Ahmedabad was inspired by Sidi Saiyyed Mosque which was built by Sidi, a group of people migrated from East Africa to India.

By far my favorite chapter is “Merchant and Captial”. This chapter focuses on the communities like Marwaris, Sindhis, Parsis and Chettairs who dominate the Indian economy. It was interesting to find that rise of Parsis is similar to the Robber barons in the Gilded age.

My next favorite chapter has to be “Diaspora and Dreams”. India receives highest remittances in the world. It was fascinating to learn about many involuntary and voluntary migration outside the country. Many volunteered to migrate outside the country to escape the rigid caste system and inequality.

Other chapters focuses on the great migration and displacement of communities due to partitions and riots within the country. I really wish the book had explored more on the subject. Overall on excellent primer on the subject. recommended

Global Inequality – Book Summary

globalinequality

It was interesting to read a book on Globalization or should I say Global inequality in post-brexit, trump world. Globalization is the invisible force which affects our income, employment prospect, knowledge and our cost of living. The gain of globalization will be unevenly distributed.

Global inequality = Sum of all national inequalities + Sum of all gap in mean incomes among countries 

According Branko Milanovic, we will continue to the below trends due to globalization.

1. Rise of the “global middle class” whom are mostly located in china and other countries in “resurgent Asia”
2. The stagnation of the groups in the rich countries that are gloablly well-off but nationally middle or lower middle class.
3. Emergence of global plutocracy.

Effects on Rich countries: 

1. Top earners will make more money from cheap labors.
2. Middle class will squeeze by automation and globalization.
3. Continued polarization of the western world. Populism and Nativism will grow in Europe and US will become plutocratic society.
4. National accounts will becomes less relevant and monetary policies will not be conducted by states. (private monies such as Bitcoin may play a bigger role.)

Effects on Resurgent countries: 

1. Although the globally inequality is decrease, there will be increase in income inequality with countries. In some years, there will not be rich Americans and poor Chinese. Instead there will be rich Americans and poor Americans, rich Chinese and poor Chinese, rich Russians and poor Russians.
2. Horizontal inequality will not be solved by providing existential equality(policy followed in countries like India). Instead resurgent countries should focus on income inequality.

Effects on Individuals: 

1. People with scalable jobs will be the real winner of globalization. In these jobs where a person’s same unit of labor can be sold many times.
2. Chance and family background will play a much bigger role than ever before.

Recommend that you give Global inequality a read to understand the present and the future better.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – [Book Summary]

scottadams

A book can leave great positive impact on some and leave no mark on others. As I was reading this book, I knew this book will leave a positive impact on me. This is a part-memoir and part self-help book. And I learn’t a lot of hacks and life lessons from Scott Adams. I wanted to share some of the interesting thing which I learnt.

  • Systems Vs Goal. 
  • Personal energy.
  • Success causes passion.
  • Habit of success.
  • Talent stack.
  • Affirmation and How to become an optimist
  • Happiness recipe.

System Vs Goals:

Scott Adams says “Goals are for loser”.  I know it sounds blasphemous but he makes some good counter-intuitive points. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.   If your goal is to loose 10 lbs, you’re in a state of nearly continuous failure until you achieve your goal.

Whereas System-oriented people look to do something everyday which will increase their odds of happiness in the long-run. They will continuously  for better deals and succeed every-time they apply their system. Instead of loosing 10 lbs, if your system is to eat right every-day then every health meal you eat makes you a success. It will create a positive feedback and eventually this will increase your physical and mental well-being.

I know this system vs goals distinction looks vague on the surface. Here is a good way to distinguish between the two. A system is you do everyday regularly that increases your odd of happiness. A goal is something you’re waiting to achieve someday in the future.

Personal energy:

The most important metric to track in your life is personal energy. Personal energy is what brings you happiness and success. So if you focus on increasing your personal energy happiness success will follow.

Maximizing your personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep and having something that excites you in life.

Managing your personal energy is like managing your budget. It gives an asymmetric payoff.

Success causes passion:

Success caused passion more than passion caused success. Passion is often simply a by-product of knowing you will be good at something. People are rarely passionate about something they’re not good at or something they know that they will never be good at.

Habit of success:

Pick a hobby or sport and become consistently good at it. The habit of success will stay with you on more important quests in life. After you tasted success, you will want more and this wanting will give you the sort of energy that is critical to success.

Talent stack:

Good+ Good > Excellent

Every skill you acquire doubles your odd of success. Instead of pursuing a singular skill, trying to be good at combinations of ordinary skills will bring you better odds of success. Entrepreneurs are a good example here.

Affirmation and How to become an optimist:

Affirmation is a system of that helps you focus, boosts your optimism and energy and perhaps validates the talent and drive that your subconscious always knew you had.

You can train yourself to act like an optimist by writing affirmation is probably a good training. So that you will get the same benefits as natural optimists when it comes to noticing opportunities.

Happiness recipe:

Happiness should be the only pursuit in our life. Scott Adams gives a bold recipe for happiness to life.

  • Eat right.
  • Exercise.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Imagine an incredible future.
  • Have flexible schedule.
  • DO things at you steadily improve.
  • Reduce daily decisions to routine.
  • Help others after you help yourself.

Highly recommend that you give “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” by Scott Adams a read.

 

 

 

[Book Review] The Simple Path to Wealth

simplepathtowealth

This is the book which introduced me to FI/RE and arguably the best book on the subject. Here are some of the things I learnt from this excellent book by JL Collins.

Things to avoid
1. Avoid debt.
2. Avoid fiscally irresponsible people. Never marry one or otherwise give him or her access to your money.
3. Eliminate all non-essential spending
4. Avoid investment advisers.
5. Never buy stocks on margin.
6. Safety is a bit of an illusion. Don’t fall for it.
7. Spending too much time worrying about how things might work out. It’s a huge waste. Don’t do it.

On Saving and thrifty lifestyle
1. Save and invest unwavering 50% of your income.
2. The beauty of a high savings rate is twofold: You learn to live on less even as you have more to invest.
3. When you can live on 4% of your investments per year, you are financially independent.
4. If your lifestyle matches or exceeds your income, you are a slave.
5. Better to adapt yourself and your attitudes to the numbers than to adapt the strategies to your psychological comfort levels.
6. If financial independence is your goal, your savings rate in these years should be high. As you invest that money each month it serves to smooth out the market’s wild ride.
7. Be persistent. Life is uncertain.

On Stock market and Investing
1. Investment rules: Rule #1: Never lose money. Rule #2: Never forget rule #1
2.The stock market is a powerful wealth-building tool and you should be investing in it.
3. Embrace indexing.
4. Crashes, pullbacks and corrections are all absolutely normal.
5. Any investing done short term is by definition speculation.
6. Market timing is an un-winnable game over time.The point is that to play this market timing game well even once, you need to be right twice: First you need to call the high. Then you need to call the low.
7. The market always recovers. Always.
8. Everybody makes money when the market is rising. But what determines whether it will make you wealthy or leave you bleeding on the side of the road is what you do during the times it is collapsing.
9. Most people lose money in the stock market. Here’s why: 1. We think we can time the market. 2. We believe we can pick individual stocks. 3. We believe we can pick winning mutual fund managers.
10. By dollar cost averaging you are betting that the market will drop, saving yourself some pain. For any given year the odds of this happening are only ~23%. But the market is about 77% more likely to rise, in which case you will have spared yourself some gain. With each new invested portion you’ll be paying more for your shares.
11. Put all your eggs in one basket and forget about it.

On F-You Money
1. Money is a small part of life. But F-You Money buys you the freedom, resources and time to explore it on your own terms. Retired or not. Enjoy your journey.
2. Once you have your F-You Money, all you need do is make sure you continue to reinvest to outpace inflation and keep your spending below the level your stash can replenish.
3. You’re young, aggressive and here to build wealth. You’re out to build your pot of F-You Money ASAP. You’re going to focus on the best performing asset class in history: Stocks. You’re going to “get your mind right,” toughen up and learn to ride out the storms.

Highly recommended read!!

Book Review: Thinking in Bets

thinkinginbets

 

‘Thinking in Bets’ by Annie Duke is probably the best book on decision making that I have read. The Basic idea of the book is that thinking in bets will substantially improve the decision-making skills in our day-to-day life. Annie Duke is a professional poker player and according to her life imitates poker, not chess. Poker is a decision making game under uncertainty over time. It has valuable information hidden, there is element of luck in any outcome. The decision we make in our lives- raising kids, health, business- have uncertainty, hidden information & luck.

What a bet really is?
A bet is a decision about an uncertain future. Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that there are exactly two things that determine how our lives turn out:

  • the quality of our decisions
  • luck.

Learning to recognize the difference between the two is what thinking in bets is all about.

What’s your best and worst decision?

Take a moment to imagine your best decision in the last year. Now take a moment to imagine your worst decision. Chances are you will equate the outcome of the decision to the quality of the decision. This is because we’re susceptible to “resulting” and hindsight bias.

We must disassociate outcome with decision. A great decision is the result of a good process and that process must represent an accurate picture of our state of knowledge.

Resulting: tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome

Hindsight bias: tendency, after an outcome is known, to see the outcome as having been inevitable.

When we work backward from results to figure out why those things happened, we are susceptible to a variety of cognitive traps, like assuming causation when there is only a correlation, or cherry- picking data to confirm the narrative we prefer. We will pound a lot of square pegs into round holes to maintain the illusion of a tight relationship between our outcomes and our decisions.

Two Brains:

We’re susceptible to these mental traps because our brains are not built for rationality. Our brains work basically in two modes. Daniel Kahneman popularized the labels of “System 1” and “System 2”.

System 1: encompasses reflex, instinct, intuition, impulse and automatic processing.

System 2: is how we choose, concentrate and expend mental energy.

Both systems are necessary for survival. Mistakes happen when System 1 overtakes System 2 in decision-making.

Since most of what we do daily exists in automatic processing. We are used to thinking in System 1 mode. The challenge is to figure out how to make decisions within the limitations we already have.

Embrace uncertainty and Redefine wrong:

Embracing “I’m not sure” is difficult. We are trained in school that saying “I don’t know” is a bad thing. Not knowing in school is considered a failure of learning.

Of course, we want to encourage acquiring knowledge, but the first step is understanding what we don’t know. “I don’t know” is not a failure but a necessary step toward enlightenment.

There are many reasons why wrapping our arms around uncertainty and giving it a big hug will help us become better decision- makers. Here are two of them. First, “I’m not sure” is simply a more accurate representation of the world. Second, and related, when we accept that we can’t be sure, we are less likely to fall into the trap of black- and- white thinking.

Decisions are bets on the future, and they aren’t “right” or “wrong” based on whether they turn out well on any particular iteration. An unwanted result doesn’t make our decision wrong if we thought about the alternatives and probabilities in advance and allocated our resources.

Redefining wrong allows us to let go of all the anguish that comes from getting a bad result. First, the world is a pretty random place. The influence of luck makes it impossible to predict exactly how things will turn out, and all the hidden information makes it even worse. Second, being wrong hurts us more than being right feels good.

All decisions are bets:

All our decisions are always bets. We routinely decide among alternatives, put resources at risk, assess the likelihood of different outcomes, and consider what it is that we value.

The betting elements of decisions— choice, probability, risk, etc.— are more obvious in some situations than others. Investments are clearly bets. A decision about a stock (buy, don’t buy, sell, hold, not to mention esoteric investment options) involves a choice about the best use of financial resources. Incomplete information and factors outside of our control make all our investment choices uncertain

Most bets are bets against ourselves:

In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.

Whenever we make a choice, we are betting on a potential future.

Our bets are only as good as our beliefs:

Our bets are only as good as our beliefs. our default setting is to believe what we hear is true.

We might think of ourselves as open- minded and capable of updating our beliefs based on new information, but the research conclusively shows otherwise. Instead of altering our beliefs to fit new information, we do the opposite, altering our interpretation of that information to fit our beliefs. Our pre- existing beliefs influence the way we experience the world. This irrational, circular information- processing pattern is called motivated reasoning. The way we process new information is driven by the beliefs we hold, strengthening them. Those strengthened beliefs then drive how we process further information, and so on.

Being smart makes it worse:

Being smart makes it worse the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view. we all have a blind spot about recognizing our biases. The surprise is that blind- spot bias is greater the smarter you are.

Wanna bet?

Offering a wager is the best way to fight these mental traps and brings the risk out in the open, making explicit what is already implicit. We can train ourselves to view the world through the lens of “Wanna bet?”

Once we start doing that, we are more likely to recognize that there is always a degree of uncertainty, that we are generally less sure than we thought we were, that practically nothing is black and white, 0% or 100%. We don’t need someone challenging us to an actual bet to do this. We can think like a bettor, purposefully and on our own, like it’s a game even if we’re just doing it ourselves.

Instead of thinking of confidence as all- or- nothing (“ I’m confident” or “I’m not confident”), our expression of our confidence would then capture all the shades of grey in between. Incorporating uncertainty into the way we think about our beliefs comes with many benefits.

Use CUDOS:

CUDOS stands for

  • Communism (data belong to the group)
  • Universalism (apply uniform standards to claims and evidence, regardless of where they came from)
  • Disinterestedness (vigilance against potential conflicts that can influence the group’s evaluation)
  • Organized Skepticism (discussion among the group to encourage engagement and dissent)

Techniques to become a better bets:

Techniques like Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10, temporal discounting problem, pre-commitment, pre-mortem can help us make better bets on our futures.

Our irrational, impulsive & instant gratification tendency are because we favor our present-self at the expense of our future-self. This is called “temporal discounting”. Thinking about the future and recognizing when we commit temporal discounting and helps us maintain the right frame of mind.

Suzy Welch’s  10-10-10 has the effect of bringing the future-us into more of our in the moment decisions. Before taking a bet/decisions visualize how it will affect us in the next 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.

Tilt is a poker term when a player is not in a mental or emotional state to choose optimal strategy.
Whenever you feel you are experiencing “tilt”, pre-commit to walk away from the situation.

Backcasting is a useful time-travel exercise where we imagine a successful future and identify necessary steps for reaching our goals. Working backward helps even more when we give ourselves the freedom to imagine an unfavorable future. It also makes it possible to identify when there are low-probability events that must occur to reach the goal

Premortems: working backward from a negative future. It’s an investigation into something awful, but before it happens. Asking “Okay, we failed. Why did we fail?” frees everyone to identify potential points of failure without the for fear of being viewed as a naysayer. Despite the popular wisdom that we achieve success through positive visualization, it turns out that incorporating negative visualization makes us more likely to achieve our goals.
We are going to do better, and be happier, if we start by recognizing that we’ll never be sure of the future.

Final thoughts:

Although the book becomes repetitive places, this is easily one of the best books have read on decision making and cognitive psycology. If you are planning to read only one book for the year, I recommend you pick this up.

In case if you are looking for super-short and concise book summary of the same, you can check out my twitter thread.