A few rules for life: trust no one

Topic: Never act (blindly) on recommendations. always do the math yourself, always make sure you understand the level of certainty of the premises and facts, the solidity of the logic, and the probability of the conclusion.

Discussion: A recommendation, be it regarding an investment or a life altering decision, should only be a starting point and inspiration for your own investigation; and preferably one of several such inputs

Rule of thumb: trust no one


As an investor and portfolio manager I received as many recommendations a day I had time to listen to. They proved “right” within a reasonable time horizon about half of the time, i.e., as recommendations per se they were useless. No matter, I still got tremendous value from my analyst meetings.

I never cared about the recommendations as such; I only listened to the facts that had been painstakingly collected and documented. If anything, I made it a point to pay extra attention to the points brought forward by analysts with a different conclusion than mine. I then constructed a bigger picture of all the various data sources I had access to, some conflicting, some supporting. Not least, I gauged what the weighted average of important analysts views were.

Owing to my particular vantage point as a billion dollar hedge fund manager with access to all the largest Wall Street firms, I thus had an informed view of both all the facts, and what all other players thought were the facts and what their recommendations were. Consequently, I could slightly more reliably than most other investors take outperforming positions. Despite my privileged and advantageous position, I still had to build my own models, draw my own conclusions from a wide array of data, and not least make assessments of the relevance and reliability of the information I received.


“Try pouring a ton of steel without rigid principles”


You wouldn’t put your hand through molten metal without understanding the principles, would you? Or pouring a ton of steel without all the facts. So, why would you invest your own or clients’ money without understanding the risks, the facts and the logic involved?

Investing is hard. Anybody who claims it’s not is either stupid or selling something. If it seems to good to be true, it is, so make sure you know what the relevant facts are, and how they interact causally for the required conclusion.


Please note that this principle is valid in all aspects of life and decision making — trust no one to make your decisions for you.

Stop procrastinating and focus on the ONE thing that matters

Work smarter, not harder

This article aims to help you optimize your life experience, by finding ways of identifying your highest priority and focus on that. Do the right things.

Don’t make the mistake of just running very quickly up the closest hill (possibly lowest or smelliest).

Spring cleaning

If you went to college (don’t, skills are almost always more important than a formal education, and the skills to education value ratio keeps increasing) you know about procrastination.

You also know you would have been better of spending the little time you had on actually studying, instead of on an impromptu spring cleaning.

Ask “What do I want?” rather than “What do I feel like”

The procrastination devil occasionally get hold of the best of us, but to hold him at bay you should craft a method of pausing the time wasting and ask yourself “what do I want to accomplish (in the long run)?”

Early on I realized that whenever I faced a difficult choice and made elaborate pros/cons lists, there was always just one factor that decided the whole thing. The number or strengths/weights of the arguments just never were a factor in the decision. It was always just one thing.

I soon realized I could look for that factor intuitively. One way was flipping a coin, instantly feeling whether it was the “wrong side”, and then (when I knew what my decision should be) look for why the right side was the right side.

A very easy example could be listing pros and cons with keeping your partner, or adopting a problematic rescue dog. No matter what the list looks like, the “I love him/her” argument will always trump everything else.

What do you want or need? Get rich, become famous, be happy, independent, read books, get married, ace your exam, travel, shop for groceries, listen to music, clean, study, get ripped?

First list the things you want/need to do (from little things like clipping your toenails to big things like getting a PhD in theoretical physics or writing a bestselling book about the science of color).

WHY?

Then ask yourself why you want or need those things. The ‘why‘ exercise might make you scratch or add a few things. It also will help you prioritize. Try to pin down exactly what it is you desire, what it is you hope to accomplish or feel by reaching a specific goal. Once you do that, “owning a super sports car” or “fuck a model” might not seem as important anymore.

Don’t do the little things

Whenever you catch yourself “Just doing a little thing first“, pause and ask “How can I get closer to my real goals?“.

If you want to be a writer – sit down and write first thing in the morning, and put off all the little things – including going to the bathroom, shaving, getting a coffee, check your email, watch the news etc.

Nothing else is important until you have done what’s important

There really is no “list” of goals – just ONE ITEM

efficient procrastinate decision prioritize pros cons

There is nothing going on that can’t wait a few hours or even a full day. However, if you put off your life altering important project, for cleaning or shopping, you risk never getting anywhere at all.

After spending at least an hour (hopefully more, if you get into a state of flow – remember to put the phone on silent, close down pages with email or social media and put on a long playlist of your favorite work music. These are my two best playlists for working: Slow Fox and GOTH) you’ll usually be brimming with energy.

By then it’s easy to just run through the little things on your TO DO list: run 5km, bring money and do the grocery shopping on the way back, vacuum, do the dishes and clean and start the washing machine before showering. Then check your email, social media, call your mother, meet that friend for a coffee or whatever you felt like doing.

Don’t bury the lead

If you started off doing the little things, you’d be slow and ineffective about it, not to mention content and tired afterward – not at all feeling like attacking your BIG project.

Put off the little things and focus on the life altering decisions

Here are a few simple examples of inefficient compromises and poorly handled to do lists:

  • Watching TV instead of *your project*
  • Spring cleaning ahead of a major exam
  • Walking and texting – enjoy and focus on the walk. Text when you have stopped walking (or have taken a deliberate pause)
  • Speed reading – read what you want to read and do it in your own pace

Most important of all: Be You

However, make sure *your project* is your project, and not just about impressing others or trying to fit in, living vicariously through brands and conspicuous consumption or some other second hand life.

  • Find out who you are, know yourself (e.g., through living laterally)
  • Rank your goals with the most long-term, life altering ones first (who are you deep down, who do you want to be, what do you want to accomplish)
  • Focus on your number one priority first, and put off everything else
  • Make sure you get closer every day to goal number one

P.S. A friend of mine has experimented with a software for ranking your TO DO list according to, e.g., immediacy and long term impact. You can check out the presentation and the DaVinci TimeBot here. I suggest you find your own way of prioritizing your tasks and ambitions, but do read Eric James’ article anyway to get some inspiration.