Tag Archives: advice

Advice from Economists

Jim Rogers—co-founder of the Quantum Fund (with George Soros), economic commentator, guest professor of finance at Columbia University and author of A Gift to My Children—provided a short interview with the FT discussing his thoughts on making that first million, on travelling, and some general advice to the next generation.

What is the secret of your success?

As I was not smarter than most people, I was willing to work harder than most. I was prepared to examine conventional wisdom.

  • Do not underestimate the value of due diligence.
  • For [the next] generation, Mandarin and English will be the most important languages.
  • If you give children too much, you will ruin them. I want my children to be well-educated and experience the workplace. [On not passing much financial wealth to his children.]
  • Invest only in things you know something about. […] Stick to what [you] know and buy an investment in that area. That is how you get rich. You don’t get rich investing in things you know nothing about.

Further advice, this from Tyler Cowen:

I told [my stepdaughter] to take calculus and statistics; even if she hates them she’ll know what side of that divide she stands on.  I am encouraging of learning languages, driving modest Japanese cars, and ordering the most unappealing-sounding dish on the menu of a good restaurant.  On investing it’s buy and hold all the way.  Use TimeOut guides when you travel and when you are eating in third world countries avoid walls.  I’m not a big fan of debt; debt is worth it only if you’re earnings-obsessed and I don’t recommend that for most people.  Don’t expect to be too happy, that is counterproductive.  I’ve mentioned that future job descriptions may be quite fluid and unpredictable from today’s vantage point.  Being “good with people,” combined with smarts and a focus on execution, will never wear out.

As with all articles that dole out advice, there’s some gold in the comments.

Jim Rogers interview via Tim Coldwell

Eliciting Quality Feedback

Feedback is important, there’s no doubt, but obtaining quality feedback that is honest and of use can be difficult.

After spending an evening with a person “oblivious to the social dynamics” of a situation, Ben Casnocha provides tips on obtaining honest feedback:

  • For feedback on specifics — such as your participation at a dinner or a piece of writing — […] proactively ask for it.
  • It’s harder to get feedback on more permanent personality traits or long-standing habits, so ask for “ideas” or, if appropriate, for feedback via the Nohari and Johari exercises.
  • If you give blunt feedback, you are actually less likely to get blunt feedback in return. The law of reciprocity does not apply.
  • Consider how close you are to a person who is providing feedback and how that will affect their response(s).

Penelope Trunk offers some more advice on receiving… advice:

  • Pay attention to your critics.
  • Realise that our problems are not unique.
  • Less experience often means better advice.
  • Be wary of people whose lives look perfect.
  • Stick with people who give you bad advice.

That first item from Trunk is identical to the one piece of ‘feedback advice’ that I’ve subscribed to since I heard it during Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:

  • Listen to your critics. “When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up”.

Self-Awareness and the Importance of Feedback

It comes as no surprise to hear that we are poor at perceiving how others view us and are poor at recognising the true personality traits of those we observe, but it’s the extent to which this is true and methods we can use to overcome these ‘personality blind spots’ that I find interesting.

When people are asked how long they think their romantic relationship will last, they’re not very good at estimating the right answer. Their friends, it turns out, fare far better. But if you ask people how satisfied they are in a relationship, their ratings accurately predict how long they’ll stay together. In many cases, we have the necessary information to understand things as they are—but our blind spots don’t allow us to take it into account.

After looking at some of our biases that make this so (e.g. the illusion of transparency and the spotlight effect) and what traits we are able to discern in ourselves and in others with some accuracy, the article goes on to suggest that the best way to learn more about ourselves is to solicit feedback.

How you’re seen does matter. Social judgment forms the basis for social interaction itself. Almost every decision others make about you, from promotions to friendships to marriages, is based on how people see you. So even if you never learn what you’re really like, learning how others perceive you is a worthwhile goal.

The solution is asking others what they see. The best way to do this is to solicit their opinions directly—though just asking your mom won’t cut it. You’ll need to get feedback from multiple people—your friends, coworkers, family, and, if you can, your enemies. Offer the cloak of anonymity without which they wouldn’t dare share the brutal truth.

Life Advice

Not from a life coach, personal development guru, or some other self-professed expert on life, but from those whose advice I think it’s actually worth paying attention to: those older than you.

First is Life Advice From Old People (via Kottke)–a video blog containing nothing but interviews with a wide range of ‘old’ people, including Farmer Tom, Jon Voight and Errol Morris.

Some more colourful advice comes from The Musty Man (via Ben Casnocha) who, on his 30th birthday, decided to offer some no-nonsense advice to those living in their 20’s. The best of the Musty Man’s advice I’ve read is on relationships, although it’s all great.

As is the standard at MeFi, the advice offered to this recent graduate is more functional and eminently useful. This is one piece of advice I subscribe to wholeheartedly:

Make your bed every day — as soon as you get up. Something about that one small thing sets the tone for the rest of the day; are you going to be lazy, or are you going to get something done?

More concisely, this list of 30 pieces of advice for young men from an old man is fairly good, especially the last item:

97% of all advice is worthless. Take what you can use, and trash the rest.

As for advice from meta-careerists; Ben Casnocha’s thoughts mirror mine perfectly:

The best advice on networking will come from someone who is not a professional networker. The best advice on entrepreneurship will come someone whose entrepreneurship is not selling books and workshops about entrepreneurship. Writers who write about anything other than writing for a living usually have the best advice on writing.

Like many others in my situation (someone attempting to figure out the direction they want their life to go in) I love hearing advice from a diverse range of people. If you have some, or even just a choice quote, please offer it up in the comments. I would appreciate it more than you can imagine.

What Should Any Educated Person Know?

Tucker Max creates a list of what he believes is the information any educated person should know. By no means a definitive list (far from it), but some good information regardless.

English lit: Read lots of novels, especially the classics. There are hundreds of sites out there that purport to list the Western Canon, browse a few and just start reading. It gives you a base from which to work and to understand the world. Almost all culture is based on previous culture–you cannot hope to understand modern media without experiencing the base it is built on. And don’t just focus on the obvious ones like Shakespeare and Chaucer; there are a lot of writers on the margins of the canon who are just as good. A few things to remember:
1. If you don’t understand something, don’t just quit. Shakespeare is hard to get through without the guidance of someone who can place it in context for you and help you wade through the language. Some things you need to take in a classroom setting, but if thats impossible, don’t be afraid to use a study aid or read a critical essay. It does not make you stupid to ask for help; quite the contrary, knowing your limits is very wise. [But at the same time, just because something is in the canon, doesn’t automatically make it good. For instance, I think James Joyce is pretty shitty.]
2. This is not easy. It’s not supposed to be.

Update: Tucker Max has since taken down his message board and the original post was lost. I believe the copy linked-to above is the best currently available.