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.