June 7, 2023

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Inversion, Measure for Progress & More

At a glance


Good Morning. Welcome to all the new readers of Faster Than Normal who have joined us since last week!

Here’s what we’ll cover today:

Mental Model: Inversion.

Insight: Measure for Progress.

Quote: Influential Narratives.

Question: Finding Inner Serenity.

Parable: We Are Never Alone.

Cheers,
Alex


| Mental Model

Inversion

Inversion is a powerful mental model used by some of the greatest thinkers and investors of all time, such as Charlie Munger, the longtime partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. Instead of focusing on what you need to do to achieve success, inversion encourages you to consider the opposite—what you need to avoid to prevent failure.

The concept is simple:

  1. Identify the worst-case scenario or the opposite of what you want to achieve.

  2. Ask yourself, "How do I avoid this happening?"

  3. Focus on avoiding the pitfalls rather than solely chasing success.

Inversion teaches you that avoiding stupidity is often easier than seeking excellence.

A great example of inversion in action can be seen in the story of a young musician who aspires to become a world-class performer. Instead of only thinking about what they need to practice or perform to reach their goal, they should also consider the factors that could derail their progress. These might include neglecting practice, not taking care of their instrument, or failing to network with other musicians. By actively working to avoid these pitfalls, the young musician is more likely to stay on track and achieve their goals.

Analogously, imagine you're trying to navigate a maze. Rather than trying to find the quickest route to the exit, you could also consider the paths that will lead you to dead ends. By identifying and avoiding these dead ends, you'll naturally find yourself moving closer to the exit.

Charlie Munger once said, "It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent."

Here’s how you can apply it to different areas of your life:

Career:

  • Identify potential obstacles: List the factors that could hinder your career progression, such as lack of networking, outdated skills, or not seeking feedback.

  • Develop strategies: Create actionable steps to avoid these obstacles, such as attending networking events, participating in professional development courses, or seeking regular feedback from colleagues and mentors.

Health:

  • Recognize unhealthy habits: Identify behaviors that could negatively impact your health, such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, or inadequate sleep.

  • Implement changes: Develop strategies to avoid these unhealthy habits by incorporating regular exercise, improving your diet, and establishing a consistent sleep schedule.

Finances:

  • Assess financial pitfalls: List factors that could jeopardize your financial stability, such as excessive spending, high-interest debt, or inadequate savings.

  • Establish safeguards: Create a budget, prioritize debt repayment, and build an emergency fund to protect yourself from financial setbacks.

Relationships: 

  • Acknowledge relationship challenges: Identify behaviors that could harm your relationships, such as poor communication, lack of trust, or neglecting quality time together.

  • Cultivate positive habits: Focus on improving communication, building trust, and dedicating time to nurture your relationships to avoid these pitfalls.

By applying the concept of inversion in these core areas of your life, you can better identify and avoid potential obstacles, ultimately increasing your chances of achieving success and personal growth.


| Insight

What you measure improves.

Challenge: Choose one area of your life where you'd like to see improvement, and develop a simple system for tracking your progress.

Example: Track daily expenses in a budgeting app to improve your financial health.


| Quote

Erin Morgenstern, a novelist, on the impact of our choices:

"You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words."


| Question

As I navigate the ebb and flow of life's uncertainties, how can I cultivate a sense of inner stillness and equanimity amidst the turbulence?


A Parable I Enjoyed

We Are Never Alone

A boy is about to begin the youth’s rite of passage.

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolded, and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump for the entire night and not take off the blindfold until the ray of sun shines through it. He is all by himself. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night he then becomes a man.

He cannot tell the other boys of this experience. Each boy must come into his own manhood.

The boy was terrified and could hear all kinds of noise. It seemed like beasts were all around him. Maybe even some human would hurt him. The wind blew the grass and earth and it shook his stump. But he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man.

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he saw his father sitting on the stump next to him, keeping watch for the entire night.

We are never truly alone. Even when we do not know it, our family and friends are watching out for us, sitting on a stump beside us.

Meaning: In our darkest moments, it’s common to feel like we’re incredibly alone. Fighting battles on all sides and stumbling towards a direction we hope will get us out of it. But it’s important to remember, we’re not alone. Whether we see it or not, there is help available.

Source: Unknown

Have a wonderful Wednesday, all.

Until next time,

Alex


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