To Remember

January 27, 2009 — 6 Comments

To paraphrase Lincoln telling a fable: A king asked his philosophers to present to him a sentence that would be true at all times in any situation both done and to come . The sentence they composed, “And this, too, shall pass away

Decision Making and Evaluation

January 23, 2009 — 3 Comments

I thought these were good quotes for evaluating decisions and trying to learn from examples:

“If criticism dispenses praise or censure, it should seek to place itself as nearly as possibly at the same point of view as the person acting, that is to say, to collect all he knew and all the motives on which he acted, and, on the other hand, to leave out of consideration all that the person acting could not or did not know, and above all, the result.”

On War

Von Clausewitz, Carl

“I will repeated this point again until I get hoarse: A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact but in light of the information until that point.”

Fooled By Randomness

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas

“-It’s unfortunate that this has happened.

No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it. Does was what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, straightforwardness and all the qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself?”

Meditations

Aurelius, Marcus

Being Honest

January 21, 2009 — 9 Comments

From an outsider’s point of view, the last few weeks have been very good to me. Stuff I touched has been all over – national papers, all the huge blogs and I got to work with some important people. The strategies I came up with are just starting to pay public dividends. Plus my phone won’t stop ringing.

But up close, it’s more complicated. I made a bunch of sloppy mistakes. I had to let someone else handle an important decision because I couldn’t find the words to justify my position. People have been sending shit back for corrections. I haven’t posted here much. My reading has been whatever. And I’ve been trying to write up this sort of ad/essay fusion thing and after four cracks at it, I’m about to hand it off to someone else because I just don’t think I have the chops.

It has been depressing, frankly. At first I was trying to use the stuff in the first paragraph to convince myself that the stuff in the second wasn’t so bad. But I don’t really get anything out of that either. Sometimes, I guess you have to admit to yourself that you’re not performing at the level you want to and that it’s going to take a lot more of this until you get there. I’m trying, now that I’m conscious of it, not to use a cathartic release like this post to make it easier to deal with. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to suck.

Self-Absorption

January 15, 2009 — 15 Comments

Da Vinci and Michelangelo were both fond of saying ogni pittore dipinge se, that “every painter portrays himself.” What they meant wasn’t that artists insert themselves into their own paintings (although they often literally do) but that ultimately art is created under a subtle belief that artist’s lens is in fact reality. The scene that an artist portrays is defined by how they see themselves and its difficult to know where to separate them.

In psychology this is often called the false consensus bias. It’s a belief that that your logic is logic and that the world is in step with your opinions. In everyday life, it’s how people overextend themselves and can’t see outside their own head.

Cynicism and sarcasm are highly underrated tools for avoiding this. My friends email each other examples of people saying things so lame that they couldn’t have possibly considered anything other than their own opinion of themselves. And that mindset is the leading cause of most douche chills. (my two favorites are here and here) We all know what’s coming if we do that stuff ourselves.

I see this with emails or people’s bios all the time, especially with people my age. They’re always these grandiose, absurdly generous descriptions of themselves. Like they never once thought “what would happen if someone who knew me saw this?” Same goes for people’s blogs. What do you get out of being overwrought? And why don’t you have any friends who call you out on it?

You know what you think of yourself and what you think you can become. If you’re on point, people will come to agree with it in time. For now, maybe try to come to terms with the reality of where you are and consider what that might look like to objective people with a few feet of distance. It’s ok to filter your actions and words through what others think, so long as you don’t believe it. It’ll prevent you from looking like a jackass.

What I’m Reading

January 13, 2009 — 4 Comments

Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (blown away by ER. she deserved a better biographer. it feels like the writer died in the middle and someone put it together from her notes without bothering to proofread)

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (good. lame that this is already overplayed)

The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (Modern Library Classics) by Giorgio Vasari (amazing. much better than Plutarch’s Lives. Michaelangelo’s and Titians are the best. the translation is very readable)

The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing 600-Year History of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts Kept at the Tower of London by Daniel Hahn (an example of an author ruining an otherwise fascinating book by interrupting themselves with too many footnotes, parentheses and tangents. I learned more his style mistakes than the subject)

How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq by Matthew Alexander (for some reason he annoyingly refers to himself and colleagues as ‘gators and it makes the whole thing seem ridiculous. Mark Bowden’s foreword a marketing ploy, it’s only 3 pages)

Also, I think Seth Godin is wrong in this post about advertising or at the very least, not being totally forthcoming. I guarantee when he does ads he doesn’t judge their success on math or conversions. It’s a tyrannous, poor set of incentives. Acquisition driven advertising unintentionally favors the short term of the long term and rips the life out of brands. They should be evaluated on whether they say something, otherwise it’s just arbitrage.