Sloppy Yeses, the Value of Endurance, and Other Highlights From Reading in 2022 (Pt 1)
Some of what I've learned from the books I've read thus far this year
Happy Sunday, friends 🍳
Last week, I mentioned our family was in Breckenridge hunting a troll. I’m excited to say we were successful (proof!). In other news, we recently kicked off a kitchen remodel so I’m perfecting my Instapot-in-the-garage cooking skills. Recipe recommendations welcome!
Over at Ness, we’re curious - what you would buy if you had $1,000 to spend on your health? We kicked off a new series this week with some answers to that very question, but we’d love to know what you think.
In the newsletter, we’re taking a detour this week. Instead of talking about customers directly, I’m going to share some of my main lessons learned from reading thus far this year. I was planning to share a major recap at the end of the year, but I’ve realized it would be infinitely more digestible (and easier to curate) broken out in chunks.
Let me know what you think and enjoy the week ahead. Next week, I’ll be back to talk about quality in Support.
Thanks for being a part of this newsletter. Every Sunday evening, I send a note about solving problems and helping customers. Please say hi - firstname.lastname@example.org.
What I’ve Learned From Books in 2022 (Pt 1)
Endurance is underrated.
My favorite read of the year thus far has been The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. Amidst many highlights, this is perhaps my favorite:
The ability to stick around for a long time, without wiping out or being forced to give up, is what makes the biggest difference.
We celebrate the flashy actions, the heroic moments, but endurance, the ability to survive for a long time and hold true to values, is severely underrated. Housel quotes Jeff Bezos in relation to this concept. Amazon is constantly making bets and experimenting, but they never make “bet-the-company bets.”
Antifragility and cushion in areas of your business allow you to constantly experiment over the long term.
Behavior is often a symptom of incentives.
In American Sickness, Elisabeth Rosenthal details how the US healthcare system evolved to where it is today with all of its triumphs and pitfalls. One easy explanation for the latter is to imagine a system full of greedy cronies hellbent on wreaking havoc. There might be many of those, but reading through the history, it seems misaligned incentives are a critical piece.
From the book:
In fact, history shows that once a procedure is covered by insurance, its sticker price generally goes up because patients are largely insulated from the cost.
I, as a patient with no real bargaining power, have no clear incentive or avenue to demand a lower cost when my insurance is footing the bill. On the insurance side, pieces of the Affordable Care Act required health insurance companies to spend 80%-85% of Premiums on patient care. So, these companies have a “perverse incentive” to tolerate and pay for these higher prices.
It should be no real surprise that procedures in the US rarely have a true “sticker price.” Incentives across the board broadly enable this behavior despite best intentions.
(This is an area I’m still learning about heavily! If you have thoughts on the specifics, hit reply. I want to hear them! Please tell me where I’m wrong.)
Don’t give “Sloppy Yeses”.
I had a surprising amount of highlights from a book with such a clickbait title - The Art of Being Indispensable at Work. Bruce Tulgan described the idea of “sloppy yeses” - loose commitments to an undefined task with no date, deadlines, or accountability.
A great yes, on the other hand includes “a clear sequence, timing, and ownership of all the next steps.” A key to avoid overcommitment is to be judicious with your yeses.
Saying “no” is also a skill. You can give a great “no” or “not yet” without ruining a relationship at work. Great noes include things like a clear rational and alternative options.
If the next steps are unclear, just try to avoid “stupidity”.
In The Great Mental Models Vol 1, Shane Parrish describes the idea of inversion:
Instead of aiming directly for your goal, think deeply about what you want to avoid and then see what options are left over.
It’s a mental model popularized by Charlie Munger - it’s often easiest to solve problems by working backwards.
For example, let’s say you’re a first-time manager, and you have no idea how to lead a team. Well, you could start by listing all of the things you don’t want to happen. You don’t want team members to go a week without meeting you 1:1. You don’t want team members in the dark about how the company is performing. You don’t your team being surprised in performance reviews.
Instead of daydreaming about what the best managers do, take tiny steps backwards from what the worst ones do.
It takes courage to pursue new ideas, regardless of how just and noble the pursuit.
I first was reminded of this idea when reading First Principles. The initial signing of the Declaration of Independence - the founding document of our country - was described as a moment of “Silence and Gloom.” Not excitement. Not elation. Not celebration. The signers truly believed in the ideas they were putting forth, but these ideas also represented a stark departure from the old and into the new. That’s not easy.
I was subsequently reminded of this many times in Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday. Pat Tillman leaving the NFL to join the Army Rangers. Florence Nightingale becoming a nurse against the wishes of everyone around her. Charles de Gaulle choosing to rally his country of France instead of succumbing to Hitler. Countless examples from Martin Luther King Jr. in his fight for civil rights.
Ideas - no matter how noble and great - need courage to drive execution.
“You know sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”