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Systemize your decision-making criteria. It turns into a collection of recipes you can use over and over to make decisions. Never mistake opinion for facts. Decision making is a two step process — first learning, and then deciding.

My Notes

  • Write down your decision-making criteria.

    • It turns into a collection of recipes for decision making.
    • It allows you to recognize your patterns.
    • Systemize your decision making.
  • The most important thing is that you develop your own principles and write them down.
  • Evolution is the only thing that is permanent. It drives everything.
  • Perfection doesn’t exist — it’s a goal that fuels a never-ending process of adaptation.
  • Objectively look at yourself within your circumstances. Act as your own designer and manager.
  • Take one step back before you go forward.
  • There are two “yous” – a lower-level you and a higher-level you.

    • Your higher-level you can look down on the lower level you and make sure it isn’t sabotaging what higher-level you wants.
  • Reflect on what comes out of your subsconscious — you can become happier and more effective.
  • Decision making is a two step process — first you learn and then you decide.
  • People love sharing their opinions — don’t believe everything you hear.
  • Don’t mistake opinions for facts.
  • Understand the value of approximation.
  • A cult demands unquestioning obedience.
  • A great culture requires independent thinkers and challenging of each other.
  • In every conversation think about if you’re the teacher, the student, or the peer.

    • It will affect whether you’re teaching, asking questions, or having a thoughtful exchange as equals.
  • The purpose of each debate is to get to the truth, not to prove who is right.
  • Be mindful of your own believability.
  • Get to know your “machine”.
  • In order to improve, you need to know how you function.


Being clear on your principles is important because they will affect all aspects of your life, many times a day.

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I believe that the key to success lies in knowing how to both strive for a lot and fail well. By failing well, I mean being able to experience painful failures that provide big learnings without failing badly enough to get knocked out of the game.

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Experience taught me how invaluable it is to reflect on and write down my decision-making criteria whenever I made a decision, so I got in the habit of doing that.

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Meditation has benefited me hugely throughout my life because it produces a calm open-mindedness that allows me to think more clearly and creatively.

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I find this is just as true for relationships as it is for investments—wise people stick with sound fundamentals through the ups and downs, while flighty people react emotionally to how things feel, jumping into things when they’re hot and abandoning them when they’re not.

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I have come to realize that bad times coupled with good reflections provide some of the best lessons, and not just about business but also about relationships.

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People who run companies are faced with important choices every day. How they make those choices determines the character of the company, the quality of its relationships, and the outcomes it produces.

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A shaper is someone who comes up with unique and valuable visions and builds them out beautifully, typically over the doubts and opposition of others.

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I have found it helpful to think of my life as if it were a game in which each problem I face is a puzzle I need to solve. By solving the puzzle, I get a gem in the form of a principle that helps me avoid the same sort of problem in the future.

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Most people fight seeing what’s true when it’s not what they want it to be. That’s bad, because it is more important to understand and deal with the bad stuff since the good stuff will take care of itself.

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You must be willing to do things in the unique ways you think are best—and to open-mindedly reflect on the feedback that comes inevitably as a result of being that way.

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We are incapable of designing and building a mosquito, let alone all the species and most of the other things in the universe. So I start from the premise that nature is smarter than I am and try to let nature teach me how reality works.

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Evolution is the single greatest force in the universe; it is the only thing that is permanent and it drives everything.

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perfection doesn’t exist; it is a goal that fuels a never-ending process of adaptation.

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Though most people think that they are striving to get the things (toys, bigger houses, money, status, etc.) that will make them happy, for most people those things don’t supply anywhere near the long-term satisfaction that getting better at something does.20 Once we get the things we are striving for, we rarely remain satisfied with them. The things are just the bait.

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At some point in your life you will crash in a big way. You might fail at your job or with your family, lose a loved one, suffer a serious accident or illness, or discover the life you imagined is out of reach forever.

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My point is simply this: Whatever circumstances life brings you, you will be more likely to succeed and find happiness if you take responsibility for making your decisions well instead of complaining about things being beyond your control.

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One of the hardest things for people to do is to objectively look down on themselves within their circumstances (i.e., their machine) so that they can act as the machine’s designer and manager.

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So what if you don’t have all the skills you need to succeed? Don’t worry about it because that’s true for everyone. You just have to know when they are needed and where you can go to get them.

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What you think is attainable is just a function of what you know at the moment.

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Too many people make the mistake of spending virtually no time on designing because they are preoccupied with execution. Remember: Designing precedes doing!

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Good work habits are vastly underrated.

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Knowing what your weaknesses are and staring hard at them is the first step on the path to success.

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There are two paths to success: 1) to have what you need yourself or 2) to get it from others. The second path requires you to have humility. Humility is as important, or even more important, as having the strengths yourself.

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Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees.

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If a number of different believable people say you are doing something wrong and you are the only one who doesn’t see it that way, assume that you are probably biased.

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If you continue doing what you think is best when all the evidence and believable people are against you, you’re being dangerously arrogant.

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For me, there is really only one big choice to make in life: Are you willing to fight to find out what’s true?

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Everyone is like a Lego set of attributes, with each piece reflecting the workings of a different part of their brain. All these pieces come together to determine what each person is like, and if you know what a person is like, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you can expect from them.

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Habit is probably the most powerful tool in your brain’s toolbox.

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Knowing how one is wired is a necessary first step on any life journey.

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Your greatest challenge will be having your thoughtful higher-level you manage your emotional lower-level you. The best way to do that is to consciously develop habits that will make doing the things that are good for you habitual.

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your brain stores different types of learning in your subconscious, your rote memory bank, and your habits.

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One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of.

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Understand the concept of “by-and-large” and use approximations. Because our educational system is hung up on precision, the art of being good at approximations is insufficiently valued. This impedes conceptual thinking. For example, when asked to multiply 38 by 12, most people do it the slow and hard way rather than simply rounding 38 up to 40, rounding 12 down to 10, and quickly determining that the answer is about 400.

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“By-and-large” is the level at which you need to understand most things in order to make effective decisions. Whenever a big-picture “by-and-large” statement is made and someone replies “Not always,” my instinctual reaction is that we are probably about to dive into the weeds—i.e., into a discussion of the exceptions rather than the rule, and in the process we will lose sight of the rule.

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“When you ask someone whether something is true and they tell you that it’s not totally true, it’s probably by-and-large true.”

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Having clear processes for resolving disagreements efficiently and clearly is essential for business partnerships, marriages, and all other forms of partnership.

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Money is a byproduct of excellence, not a goal.

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The most meaningful relationships are achieved when you and others can speak openly to each other about everything that’s important, learn together, and understand the need to hold each other accountable to be as excellent as you can be.

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Generosity is good and entitlement is bad, and they can easily be confused, so be crystal clear on which is which.

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It is harder to run an idea meritocracy in which disagreements are encouraged than a top-down autocracy in which they are suppressed. But when believable parties to disagreements are willing to learn from each other, their evolution is faster and their decision making is far better.

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Very simple tricks—like repeating what you’re hearing someone say to make sure you’re actually getting it—can be invaluable.

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Fast talking can be especially effective when it’s used against people worried about appearing stupid. Don’t be one of those people.

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When there is an exchange of ideas, it is important to end it by stating the conclusions.

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To do the right thing at the right moment you need to really listen to the people you’re playing with so that you can understand where they’re going.

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Imagine if a group of us were getting a lesson in how to play baseball from Babe Ruth, and someone who’d never played the game kept interrupting him to debate how to swing the bat. Would it be helpful or harmful to the group’s progress to ignore their different track records and experience?

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The dilemma you face is trying to understand as accurately as you can what’s true in order to make decisions effectively while realizing many of the opinions you will hear won’t be worth much, including your own.

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I regularly see people ask totally uninformed or nonbelievable people questions and get answers that they believe. This is often worse than having no answers at all. Don’t make that mistake.

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“Let’s agree that I am a dumb shit but I still need to make sense of this, so let’s move slowly to make sure that happens.”

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Think about who is responsible for something (and their believability), how much you know about it, and your own believability. Don’t hold opinions about things you don’t know anything about.

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You are expected to go to the higher level and look down on yourself and others as part of a system. In other words, you must get out of your own head, consider your views as just some among many, and look down on the full array of points of view to assess them in an idea-meritocratic way rather than just in your own possessive way.

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Part of the purpose of having a believability-weighted system is to remove emotion from decision making. Crowds get emotional and seek to grab control. That must be prevented. While all individuals have the right to have their own opinions, they do not have the right to render verdicts.

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We value people most who have what I call the three C’s: character, common sense, and creativity.

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Recognize that experience creates internalized learning that book learning can’t replace.

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Remember that you are responsible for achieving your goals, and you want your machine to function as intended.

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The greatest gift you can give someone is the power to be successful. Giving people the opportunity to struggle rather than giving them the things they are struggling for will make them stronger.

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No matter what work you do, at a high level you are simply setting goals and building machines to help you achieve them.

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a. Everything is a case study. Think about what type of case it is and what principles apply to that type of case. By doing this and helping others to do this you’ll get better at handling situations as they repeat over and over again through time.

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Great managers orchestrate rather than do. Like the conductor of an orchestra, they do not play an instrument, but direct their people so that they play beautifully together. Micromanaging, in contrast, is telling the people who work for you exactly what tasks to do or doing their tasks for them. Not managing is having them do their jobs without your oversight and involvement. To be successful, you need to understand these differences and manage at the right level.

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It’s often said that it is neither fair nor appropriate to treat people differently. But in order to treat people appropriately you must treat them differently. That is because people and their circumstances are different. If you were a tailor you wouldn’t give all of your customers the same size suit.

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Sometimes asking questions to gain perspective can be misperceived as being weak and indecisive. Of course it’s not. It’s necessary in order to become wise and it is a prerequisite for being strong and decisive.

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I believe Pain+Reflection=Progress. In other words, pain is an important signal that there is something to be learned, and if you reflect on your pain well, you will almost always learn something important.

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Books I’ve read.

Johannes Holmberg

Tiny summaries on books I’ve read. Sorted by latest read. But you can also sort on top recommendations. Highlights and covers are copyright to their respective authors.