Wednesday, December 28, 2016
I really shouldn't be wasting my time on books like this but there you have it. I currently believe that happiness is a futile goal in and of itself, and that a positive state of mind in relation to happiness/well-being/satisfaction (call it what you will) is best achieved by oblique means. However, Happier is a very slim text so I excused myself the indulgence of a quick read. It turned out that a lot of the material resonated with my views, and offers a few points for consideration, which was a pleasant surprise.
Society awards results, not processes; arrivals not journeys.
On happiness as the overall experience pleasure (emotion) and meaning (purpose): Emotions cause motion; they provide a motive that drives our action. ...Experiencing positive emotions is necessary but not sufficient for happiness. ...To live a meaningful life, we must have a self-generated sense of purpose that possesses personal significant rather than one that is dictated by society's standards and expectations...As George Bernard Shaw said, 'This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one.'
'...The important thing is that we choose a purpose in accordance with our values and passions rather than conforming to other's expectations. An investment banker who finds meaning and pleasure in her work who is in it for the right reasons - lead a more spiritual and fulfilling life than a monk who is in his field for the wrong reasons'
Consider your day and what gives you pleasure and meaning.
...the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
According to..Montaigne, 'The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to live with purpose.' Having a purpose imbues our individual actions with meaning...
“Ralph Waldo Emerson explains, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Happiness presupposes our having to overcome obstacles. In the words of Frankl, 'What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.'
Self-concordant goals: We pursue these goals not because others think we should or we feel obligated to, but because we really want to - because we find them significant and enjoyable. ...We first of all need to know what we want to do with our lives and then have the courage to be true to our wants.
When we know where we are going-and know we really, really want to get there-it is much easier to stay on course, true to ourselves.
The author notes their is a prejudice against work vs leisure. We make a clear distinction and enjoy one and often despise the other, viewing it as a form of suffering, a source of pain. Cognitive reframing can help (e.g. view it as a privilege vs a duty).
'To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The way we are orientated toward work - whether we experience work as a job, a career, or a calling - has consequences for our well-being at work and in other areas.
Finding the right work can be challenging. ...We can begin by asking three crucial questions (the author calls this the MPS process):
What gives me meaning?
What gives me pleasure?
What are my strengths?
Instead of quitting and looking for the perfect job, first look to change routines at work to focus on work you find inspiring.
Notes to myself:
- View goals as enablers for a process.
- Consider how values and concordant goals may change over time, as I change.
- Consider how values, meaning and interests and drives can be born out of new experiences and actions. Often you go into an experience with the expectation of getting y out of it, but you get x, y, and z. Go in with an open mind.
- Focus on trading/buddhist/stoic approach of managing the downside and letting the upside take care of itself.
- Self-respect and mental toughness - keep appointments with yourself.
Monday, December 26, 2016
In keeping with the festive spirit, on Christmas day I read Phillip Pullman's alternative take on the story of Jesus.
Pullman is a master story teller but he is also an atheist, so it was going to be interesting to see how he interpreted and shaped a story that is inherently riddled with ideas that can be difficult for rational minds to buy in to. How he does it is a work of genius: In Pullman's version, two babies are born, Jesus and Christ, and while Jesus wants to preach a simple message, Christ sees the potential to develop the Jesus' preaching to create an organised religion that stands the test of time, but this involves great sacrifice, treachery and a great twisting of truths, recording every day occurrences as miracles to better sell the story and create true-faith believers in all years to come. This is the crux of the story and the execution is spot on.
It's a quick read and I'd recommend it to believers and non-believers alike.
Here are some memorable quotes:
Jesus: "Stop whinging about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Today has enough trouble of its own"
Jesus: On making a spectacle of giving to charity: "Don't even let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.'
Jesus: “And remember this: take the hard road, not the easy one. The road that leads to life is a hard one, and it passes through a narrow gate, but the road to destruction is easy, and the gate is broad. Plenty take the easy road; few take the hard one. Your job is to find the hard one, and go by that.
'If you hear these words of mine, and act on them, you'll be like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock. The rain falls, the foods come, the winds howl and beat on the house, but it doesn't fall because it's been founded on a rock.'
Jesus: "Lord, if I thought you were listening, I'd pray for this above all: that any church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That it should wield no authority except that of love. That it should never cast anyone out. That it should own no property and make no laws. That it should not condemn, but only forgive. That it should be not like a palace with marble walls and polished floors, and guards standing at the door, but like a tree with its roots deep in the soil, that shelters every kind of bird and beast and gives blossom in the spring and shade in the hot sun and fruit in the season, and in time gives up its good sound wood for the carpenter; but that sheds many thousands of seeds so that new trees can grow in its place. Does the tree say to the sparrow, 'Get out, you don't belong here?' Does the tree say to the hungry man, 'This fruit is not for you?' Does the tree test the loyalty of the beasts before it allows them into the shade?"
Christ: "There are some who live by every rule and cling tightly to their rectitude because they fear being swept away by a tempest of passion, and there are others who cling to the rules because they fear that there is no passion there at all, and that if they let go they would simply remain where they are, foolish and unmoved; and they could bear that least of all. Living a life of iron control lets them pretend to themselves that only by the mightiest effort of will can they hold great passions at bay. I am one of those. I know it, and I can do nothing about it”
"It's something to know it, at least."
"If my brother wanted to talk about it, he would make it into a story that was unforgettable. All I can do is describe it."
The angel advising Christ to embellish events for posterity: "There is time, and there is beyond time. History belongs to time, but truth belongs to what is beyond time. In writing of things as they should have been, you are letting truth into history. You are the word of God."
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
'Tools of Titans' is proving to be a real zinger. I'm currently burning through it at a pace, simply by picking it up in the quiet periods during my current set of nightshifts. While the book clocks in at over 650 pages and holds like a brick, it makes for light reading as the content consists of well edited excerpts and learnings from Tim Ferriss' podcasts with the great and the good. The structure is split into three sections; being Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, and there is much to follow up on, highlight, absorb and put into practice.
I'm giving Tools of Titans 4 1/2 stars even though I'm only half way through. It is proving a very effective motivator.
From The Library of Congress archives comes this wonderful magazine cover, depicting the siren song of margin trading in a bubble. View it in full size for a proper appreciation.
Here's the summary:
"Illustration shows a siren wearing a scarf labeled "Get Rich Quick", sitting on a rock ledge labeled "Margin Gambling", and playing a lyre labeled "Stock Market" with strings labeled "Erie, Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, U.S. Steel, Amal. Copper, American Ice, Brooklyn R.T., Reading, [and] Inter. Met." On rocks below is a wrecked ship labeled "Exploited Bank" and on nearby rocks are the bodies of victims."
Thanks to the FT Alphaville twitterers for posting the link.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Jon Larsen, a Norwegian musician, refused to be discouraged. He collected detritus from gutters in his hometown, Oslo, and also from rooftops in several cities that he visited to play jazz or to attend conferences. Micrometeorites contain magnetite, a naturally magnetic form of iron oxide, commonly known as lodestone.
Mr Larsen’s first step was therefore to pass his slurry, about 300kg of it, past a magnet and keep anything that stuck. He then examined the 30kg or so of debris that resulted under a microscope, to hunt for cosmic dust. Micrometeorites melt as they zip through Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of around 12km a second. The globules then cool into spherical grains, and the minerals of which these are composed take on a distinctive stripy appearance. An experienced eye, such as Mr Larsen’s, can thus pick them out from other particles, which tend to be jagged and lack these markings. Altogether, he found about 500 of these “spherules”, each around 300-400 microns in diameter (a few times the width of a human hair).Jon Larsen is a very interesting chap. Take a look at his Wikipedia profile.
Here are some micrometeorite pictures from his book:
Friday, December 09, 2016
Here are some quotes, some of which I wanted to capture purely for their turn of phrase and wonderful use of the english language:
- What we’re really sending you to Harvard for is to get a little of the education that’s so good and plenty there. When it’s passed around you don’t want to be bashful, but reach right out and take a big helping every time, for I want you to get your share. You’ll find that education’s about the only thing lying around loose in this world, and that it’s about the only thing a fellow can have as much of as he’s willing to haul away. Everything else is screwed down tight and the screw-driver lost.
- I didn’t have your advantages when I was a boy, and you can’t have mine.
- Some men learn the value of truth by having to do business with liars; and some by going to Sunday School. Some men learn the cussedness of whiskey by having a drunken father; and some by having a good mother. Some men get an education from other men and newspapers and public libraries; and some get it from professors and parchments—it doesn’t make any special difference how you get a half-nelson on the right thing, just so you get it and freeze on to it.
- ...it isn’t so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.
- I can’t hand out any ready-made success to you. It would do you no good, and it would do the house harm. There is plenty of room at the top here, but there is no elevator in the building.
- I can give you a start, but after that you will have to dynamite your way to the front by yourself. It is all with the man.
- I got two dollars a week, and slept under the counter, and you can bet I knew just how many pennies there were in each of those dollars, and how hard the floor was. That is what you have got to learn.
- Good-by; life’s too short to write letters and New York’s calling me on the wire.
- I think you’ll find it safe to go short a little on the frills of education; if you want them bad enough you’ll find a way to pick them up later, after business hours.
- Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.
- Of course, I knew that you would make a fool of yourself pretty often when I sent you to college, and I haven’t been disappointed. But I expected you to narrow down the number of combinations possible by making a different sort of a fool of yourself every time.
- ...in the office your sentences should be the shortest distance possible between periods
- ...some things that are laying mighty heavy on my mind this morning.
- ...the fellow who’s got the right stuff in him is holding down his own place with one hand and beginning to reach for the job just ahead of him with the other. I don’t mean that he’s neglecting his work; but he’s beginning to take notice, and that’s a mighty hopeful sign in either a young clerk or a young widow.
- ...you must write before eight or after six. I have bought the stretch between those hours. Your time is money—my money—and when you take half an hour of it for your own purposes, that is just a petty form of petty larceny.
- Very few men are worth wasting time on beyond a certain point, and that point is soon reached with a fellow who doesn’t show any signs of wanting to help.
- It isn’t the little extra money that you may make for the house by learning the fundamental business virtues which counts so much as it is the effect that it has on your character and that of those about you,
- Yours of the 30th ...strikes me all wrong
- I don’t like to hear you say that you can’t work under Milligan or any other man, for it shows a fundamental weakness. And then, too, the house isn’t interested in knowing how you like your boss, but in how he likes you.
- But all that apart, you want to get it firmly fixed in your mind that you’re going to have a Milligan over you all your life, and if it isn’t a Milligan it will be a Jones or a Smith, and the chances are that you’ll find them both harder to get along with than this old fellow. And if it isn’t Milligan or Jones or Smith, and you ain’t a butcher, but a parson or a doctor, or even the President of the United States, it’ll be a way-back deacon, or the undertaker, or the machine. There isn’t any such thing as being your own boss in this world unless you’re a tramp, and then there’s the constable.
- When a packer has learned all that there is to learn about quadrupeds, he knows only one-eighth of his business; the other seven-eighths, and the important seven-eighths, has to do with the study of bipeds.
- There’s nothing helps convince some men that a thing has merit like a little gold on the label.
- I accepted him at par
- I am a little slow to trust my judgment on my own
- The fun of the thing’s in the run and not in the finish.
- Beauty is only skin deep, but that’s deep enough to satisfy any reasonable man.
- A real salesman is one-part talk and nine-parts judgment; and he uses the nine-parts of judgment to tell when to use the one-part of talk.
- ...you will never become the pride of the pond by starting out to cut figure eights before you are firm on your skates.
- Never run down your competitor’s brand to them, and never let them run down yours
- I don’t want to bear down hard on you right at the beginning of your life on the road, but I would feel a good deal happier over your showing if you would make a downright failure or a clean-cut success once in a while, instead of always just skinning through this way. It looks to me as if you were trying only half as hard as you could, and in trying it’s the second half that brings results. If there’s one piece of knowledge that is of less use to a fellow than knowing when he’s beat, it’s knowing when he’s done just enough work to keep from being fired. Of course, you are bright enough to be a half-way man, and to hold a half-way place on a half-way salary by doing half the work you are capable of, but you’ve got to add dynamite and ginger and jounce to your equipment if you want to get the other half that’s coming to you. You’ve got to believe that the Lord made the first hog with the Graham brand burned in the skin, and that the drove which rushed down a steep place[…]
- You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction. You’ve got to eat hog, think hog, dream hog—in short, go the whole hog if you’re going to win out in the pork-packing business.
- They started me out to round up trade in the river towns down Egypt ways, near Cairo.
- As I first remember Josh, he was just bone and by-products. Wasn’t an ounce of real meat on him.
- Buck up!
- ...when you’ve soaked up all the information you can hold, you will have to forget half of it before you will be of any real use to the house. If there’s anything worse than knowing too little, it’s knowing too much.
- Tact is the knack of keeping quiet at the right time; of being so agreeable yourself that no one can be disagreeable to you; of making inferiority feel like equality. A tactful man can pull the stinger from a bee without getting stung.
- When you make a mistake, don’t make the second one—keeping it to yourself. Own up. The time to sort out rotten eggs is at the nest. The deeper you hide them in the case the longer they stay in circulation, and the worse impression they make when they finally come to the breakfast-table. A mistake sprouts a lie when you cover it up. And one lie breeds enough distrust to choke out the prettiest crop of confidence that a fellow ever cultivated.
- Some salesmen think that selling is like eating—to satisfy an existing appetite; but a good salesman is like a good cook—he can create an appetite when the buyer isn’t hungry.
- Doing the same thing in the same way year after year is like eating a quail a day for thirty days. Along toward the middle of the month a fellow begins to long for a broiled crow or a slice of cold dog.
- But it isn’t enough to be all right in this world; you’ve got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right. So you have to be governed by general rules, even though you may be an exception.
- I dwell a little on this matter of appearances because so few men are really thinking animals. Where one fellow reads a stranger’s character in his face, a hundred read it in his get-up.
- Now, I want to give you that tip on the market. There are several reasons why it isn’t safe for you to trade on ’Change just now, but the particular one is that Graham & Co. will fire you if you do. Trading on margin is a good deal like paddling around the edge of the old swimming hole—it seems safe and easy at first, but before a fellow knows it he has stepped off the edge into deep water. The wheat pit is only thirty feet across, but it reaches clear down to Hell. And trading on margin means trading on the ragged edge of nothing. When a man buys, he’s buying something that the other fellow hasn’t got. When a man sells, he’s selling something that he hasn’t got. And it’s been my experience that the net profit on nothing is nit. When a speculator wins he don’t stop till he loses, and when he loses he can’t stop till he wins.
- When I sell futures on ’Change, they’re against hogs that are traveling into dry salt at the rate of one a second, and if the market goes up on me I’ve got the solid meat to deliver. But, if you lose, the only part of the hog which you can deliver is the squeal.
- ...the fellow who can’t read human nature can’t manage it.
- It makes me mighty sick to think that we’ve been sitting back on our hindlegs and letting the other fellow run away with this trade.
- A manager needs an assistant to take trouble from him, not to bring it to him.
- There’s a point where economy becomes a vice,
- ... while I’m too old to run, I’m young enough to stand and fight.
Sunday, December 04, 2016
The current political climate of making Britain/America 'great again' seems to involve the government providing assistance (e.g. tax breaks, hand-outs, protective promises, etc) in order to keep relatively inefficient jobs in place - sorry, I mean't 'to save great, fantastic jobs that are under threat by foreigners'.
I'm fully against these policies and yet if I ran a business, it would be unjust to see the scales tip to favour my less efficient competitors, so the 'unintended consequence' is that I too would try to get my snout in the trough.
So, if you operate a reasonably sized business, it's probably worthwhile making plans to exit a portion of the local workforce in favour of hiring cheaper workers abroad, and then making these plans public as 'something we are seriously thinking about doing'. This will provide you with some good ammunition to go hunting for support.
Don't get the current 'pro-business' political stance confused with capitalism and the free market.