Other Venues

Meta post today!

I’ve been thinking about other ways to write. (Don’t worry, no plans to discontinue The Opportunity Machine any time soon. Just supplemental things!)

I really like the idea of Substack. I’ve toyed wit the idea of starting a more focused newsletter in the past, but I think something like Substack would probably be better. I actually have several topics that I’d like to go into more deeply but for various reasons this doesn’t feel like the place for them.

The fact is, I really like to write. I like to think, and thinking overcrowds my brain unless I have a way to vent out all the byproducts. I would very much like to continue to develop along that path, and so an experiment with regular writing in another venue as well may be warranted.

As always, open to suggestions. But look out for more!

Visibility Bias

People, unfortunately, have an extremely strong tendency to do things that look good over things that are valuable towards their ends.

Of course, for many people, the end goal itself is just praise, admiration, respect, etc. Know your Maslow.

But this is why, for example, diamond engagement rings are a thing. It makes way more sense to propose with an equivalent cash value in a long-term investment account as a shared resource for building a life together. But you can’t take Instagram pictures of that.

It’s why a lot of workplaces have people fighting over highly-visible but meaningless assignments, and no one wants to be in charge of the project that takes ten years but just builds essential infrastrucure.

It’s why politics is… well, politics. Watch anything, ever, and this shines clearly.

The point is, be careful. Flashy and valuable actions are often mutually exclusive. Make sure you’re doing enough for yourself and your family that actually matters.

Bad Luck Insurance

Let’s say you found $1,000 one day. Assume you made all appropriate efforts to find its true owner, but it was in an unmarked bag on a remote beach or something and realistically, it’s just yours. Think about what you would do with it.

The average person would spend that money pretty frivolously, enjoying the brief windfall. They would feel no guilt about blowing the money on whatever, because it was “free” money. So it would make a pleasant but brief impact, and then be done.

Now, imagine one day that you lost $1,000. You had taken out a grand in cash for whatever reason, and somewhere in your travels you lost it. Think about what you would do.

For most people, a great number of negative emotions would happen here. First, panic as you look for the money, and desperation as you search. Some mix of sadness and anger as you realize it’s gone for good. Frustration at your derailed plans. Then on top of that, the plans themselves! Maybe you miss a bill, or fail to make a purchase you’d planned for and around, or have to cancel something else important. Maybe you have to be embarrassed when you tell someone else who was involved. Lots of negatives here.

If you really let yourself imagine and live through those hypotheticals, they don’t really seem balanced, do they? The loss of a grand seems to hit much harder in the negative than the sudden windfall boosts you into the positive.

Consider a change in your strategy as a result of this idea.

Good and bad random events are equally likely. Over the course of your life, you’ll have many of each. But instead of coming out in the wash, 100 random good events and 100 random bad events are likely to have a net negative impact for the average person, because the average person responds to them as I described above. You let good events be flashes in the proverbial pan while bad events have a more lasting and brutal impact.

Instead, don’t let the good events be… well, good. Just incorporate them into your plan. When an unexpected boon graces your life, shelter it. Don’t squander your good fortune, whether it takes the form of money, an unexpected opportunity, etc. A person gets an unexpected paid day off from work because of a computer problem, so they spend it all day watching TV. Then, when they have to work unexpected overtime later in the week to make it up, they end up scrambling to get all of their household chores done. Instead, when the unexpected day off happened, they should have used it to get ahead on the household chores – sort of like “bad luck insurance.”

Most people won’t do this, because they think “I don’t want to ‘waste’ my random windfall!” But that’s because they aren’t clearly envisioning how much worse the opposite event will be. If they did, they’d happily sacrifice the small boon to insure against the larger loss.

If you make a habit of doing this – taking lucky breaks as chances to get ahead of unlucky ones – then over the course of your life, you will be far more insulated against disaster. I knew someone once who received an unexpected inheritance of eighty thousand dollars. Instead of using that windfall to insure against future bad luck, she just chose not to work for two years, frittering it away. Lo and behold, the rest of her life has had plenty (though no more than average life’s worth) of strokes of bad luck where money like that could have staved off a far worse outcome.

You will, at points in your life, be both unlucky and lucky. You can choose to have them mostly cancel out – and that stability will make you luckier still.


You should never try to avoid failure.

You are going to fail! Stuff won’t work out, you’ll make poor choices, or random fate will intervene. There is nothing you can do about this. If you try really, really hard you’ll just waste a lot of effort and the most you’ll accomplish is to redirect the inevitable failures to some other equally-important aspect of your life.

Instead, you want to be failure-resistant. You want the resiliency to withstand failures, endure them, learn from them, and even transform them into new opportunities.

Maybe a handful of times in all of human history was a human life defined by a single day, good or bad. You’re an aggregate. No failure will ever be written in stone across the monument to your life, so just look for the failures you’ll most enjoy or most learn from, and make sure you’re doing so much good and fun stuff in your life that failing at a small percentage of it won’t even bother you.

Failures are stationary. They stay where they happened. If you move forward, you leave them behind.

Convince Me

You should never assume that you’re entitled to anyone’s good opinion.

People so, so often forget about the “Silent Competitor.” The other choices that may arrive if you take too much of someone for granted, even if that option isn’t visible now.

For a good chunk of time, Netflix was the only streaming platform of its type. Some people claimed that it was a monopoly and feared massive price hikes. But the “Silent Competitor” is always lurking. What is it? It can take many forms – other streaming services that can pop up if Netflix gets too complacent (and hey, this is exactly what did happen; now there are seemingly dozens), or even just… not using Netflix. Shocker, but you can survive without it.

When companies hire, I often see them making the mistake of assuming that because they’re the ones hiring, they’re also the ones with all the cards. As if they needed nothing. But if that was the case, why hire at all? This isn’t charity, you need someone to do a job. And you’d clearly rather get someone great at it than someone mediocre, all else considered. Well guess what – the Silent Competitor is there. That person can work somewhere else. Or even not work (for a while, anyway)!

Never take your position for granted. You need to convince everyone, all the time, to engage with you. And if you forget that, they won’t.

Give Pride

While every journey is unique almost no journey is entirely so. You will share elements with others who are on journeys of their own.

Observe them. Encourage them. Be proud of them. And when you see your journeys are similar, let that remind you that you can be proud, too.

So often we set out on a particular quest or adventure and place satisfaction all the way at the end, as if we only earn the right to be happy with what we’ve done once we’ve completely done it. But pride walks with you during the entire journey! Every step forward is a source of it, and a seed for more in the future.

Plant a few in others’ gardens, those who may have forgotten. You’ll enjoy the fruits no matter what.

Keep Pace

I have a sort of natural aversion to (assuredly well-meaning) advice to allow yourself to be comfortable with doing nothing.

When people say that you should practice self-care, take mental health days, and “go easy on yourself,” I’m sure that their intentions are good. I don’t like when people say things like “we’re not machines,” because of course we are. And machines break down, need repairs, need refueling, etc. We are machines, and we must perform routine maintenance. I get that.

But for some reason, all of those well-meaning pieces of advice feel like traps.

Maybe it would be good for me to do nothing for an entire day. I don’t know, because I’ve never done that and probably never will. The world keeps spinning, and I do things because there are things that need to be done.

I get enough leisure, for sure. I have hobbies, and I play with my kids, and I go for walks, etc. I’m not “grinding” every second of every day. But I don’t skip any of those important things. We work before we play.

If you do find you’re pushing yourself too hard, going beyond the limits of what your mind and body can handle, then maybe you do need cool-off periods where you skip those things. But I think that’s very unhealthy, to be quite honest. I think the healthier method is to push yourself to your absolute limit, but never over that limit, every day. To be careful with what you do while still maximizing it.

You cannot slow the spinning of the world. You should keep up. If you lag behind it will leave you behind, but if you try to run faster than the world spins, you’ll miss things. Keep pace.

Good Question

At least once every year, you should ask a question whose answer could change your life.

Look for opportunities to ask those questions. Opportunities to find truths that will shock you, to make bold requests that can propel you forward, or to learn about people who will mean the world to you.

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Home Turf

Sometimes people argue over a concept – a heated intellectual debate, let’s say. I suggest that most of the time this is a fruitless endeavor.

Other times, people argue because they’re trying to enact a specific outcome. I suggest that almost always this is an even more fruitless endeavor.

If you are arguing with another person over a particular course of action, one of three things is true:

  1. You are the final arbiter of the decision. There is no reason to argue.
  2. The other person is the final arbiter of the decision. There is no reason to argue. Persuade, maybe, but mostly you should just plan to make the most out of the outcome you don’t want.
  3. You have to reach a consensus in order to get the outcome you want. There is no reason to argue, because arguing isn’t a great way to persuade people.

You will see a lot more success in your life if you get really good at identifying those three scenarios, rather than trying to get better at arguing.