September 10, 2020

Lifecamp Newsletter #6

How to say no, seek clarity, and lose a million dollars

Hey folks,

How’s it going out there? I’ve had a busy month coaching people, working, writing, and parenting a very alert baby who suddenly seems interested in everything he lays his eyes on. I feel like I’ve barely left the house yet have struggled to find time for relaxation. Calmer days are on the horizon, which I am looking forward to.

The Art of Saying No

This month I published an article on how to say no, which is an essential life skill. It helps us take control of our lives and manage our time so we can focus on the things that matter most to us. Yet a lot of people struggle with it. If you’re interested in the why, when, and how of managing people and articulating your boundaries with this magic two-letter word, have a read of my Ultimate Guide to Saying No.

Learn Philosophy the Easy Way

There are three things that have helped me to improve my thinking, particularly my clarity of thought, more than anything else; writing (clear writing is clear thinking), studying economics and financial decision-making, and reading philosophy. 

Philosophy is fascinating, and studying it is incredibly rewarding. It helps me think more deeply about many aspects of life, and it can potentially change how we see the world. Original philosophy texts can be slow going due to their density. And ancient philosophy is usually written in outmoded language, which can be off-putting. I often read commentary books instead as they make the ideas more accessible, and the additional discourse can deepen your understanding of the concepts. 

A great introductory resource to philosophy I have found is Adam Rosenfeld’s YouTube channel, which features his undergrad class lectures. They serve as an excellent crash course in philosophy, with the added bonus that you can skip the homework. 

Professor Rosenfeld has an obvious passion for the subject. He makes it super-relatable, explaining things with great humour that makes his lectures a joy to watch. There are four playlists, all worth diving into:

  • History of Ancient Philosophy
  • History of Modern Philosophy
  • Practical Reasoning
  • Critical Thinking

The latter two are drier and more technical than the history classes, so I recommend starting with the ancient philosophy classes. Once you get your head around Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, move onto whatever appeals the most.

Reality Has a Surprising Amount of Detail

I have written before about how the map is not the territory and why first-hand experience is the best way to learn. The world is a complicated place full of layered nuance that can’t be explained by theoretical models, no matter how hard the academic world tries. 

This complexity, apparent in even the smallest of matters once you pay attention to them, is why many of us get intellectually stuck. We ignore the fiddly details and don’t fully engage with things as a result. But to perform at a high standard, attention to detail is critical. This short essay is a fun read that might help you see things differently and get unstuck with how you think about things.

Book of the Month: What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars

The stock market is in an interesting, confusing place right now. Even though the economy has tanked due to global lockdowns and complete shutdowns of some sectors, the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and NASDAQ all had their best Augusts in decades. 

This decoupling of the markets from the everyday economy has lots of people talking of an imminent crash. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I have no idea what is going to happen. What I do know is that unusual circumstances create investment opportunities, but you have to understand what you are doing if you want to end up being profitable. 
Brendan Moynihan’s 

What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars is a valuable resource for any would-be investor. It describes the mistakes investor Jim Paul made that cost him a large chunk of the profits he had made early in his investing career, and what he learned as a result. 

The short book is split into two parts; the first is a cautionary tale recounting the highs and lows of how Jim made and lost his money in the markets. The second spells out the lessons he learned along the way. It is unique because it focuses on what not to do, unlike most investing advice books, rather than telling you what you should do. As the author says, there are many ways to make money in the markets, but only a few ways to lose. Learning to minimise your downside is more important than maximising your upside. 

It contains some incredible advice, particularly around how the psychology of stock market investing is often counter-intuitive. And it features the best technical explanation I have seen of how market investing differs from most other activities that involve risking money to make a profit. As such, it is mandatory reading for anybody thinking of getting into the stock market.

Final Thought

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the importance of clarity. From everyday communication to working efficiently and getting the outcomes we want, clarity is super-important. Misunderstandings happen due to a lack of clarity in communication, which can lead to disastrous results. Working hard on the wrong things gets you nowhere fast — you need to have clarity first to work smart and be efficient. 

Before you start anything, be crystal clear on the intended outcome. And the best way to get more clarity is to ask more questions. When thinking things through, use second-order thinking and keep asking, “And then what?” until you have thought through everything in enough detail to give you the clarity you need. Because the more clarity you have, the easier it is to hit your mark. Which brings me to this month’s sign-off quote:

“Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored.”

Ray Dalio

Until next time, keep asking questions until you get the answers you need,