Long tails and chinese art theft

3 minute read

* Note: this is a backdated post from an email I sent to friends, edited for personal content and context

I have always advocated for working hard. Hard work isn’t sufficient to help you succeed, but I do believe it’s necessary. There is a limit to how hard you should work though, and the point made here is worth understanding.

But the broader takeaway is to avoid focusing on bad proxies for success. How hard you’re working isn’t a good indicator of the value you’re creating or the progress you’re making. It’s a vanity metric: just as how many Twitter followers you have is a poor measure for the vitality of your business, the amount you’re struggling isn’t a good measure of how much you’re learning and progressing.

And on that topic of hard work and long hours, here’s some advice from Seth Klarman. He’s biased towards becoming an entrepreneur, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but he makes a good point on how to think about a career.

One big issue with being an entrepreneur is the long-tail driven nature of success in building a business. But does that actually apply to more than just entrepreneurs and VC? This post by Morgan Housel has good counterpoints. Don’t get me wrong. I hate failing (but I still fail often). But since failing is normal you need to understand that it happens, and hopefully why it happens as well.

People like to point to one simple cause as the reason for why something happened. In the light of people obsessing over the Fed recently, here’s a counterpoint by Damodaran. I haven’t (and am not planning to) checked his stats, but I’d be more inclined to side with Damodaran on rates not actually having much predictive power. My current belief is there is a lot of noise and not much signal in most data. I believe this generally, not just limited to Fed interest rates.

I also liked this short history of the US economy, again by Morgan Housel, and a key point it discusses is how the economics of the 40-70 period is different from the 80-00 period.

On a sidenote, I’m trying to learn more about marketplaces (ebay, uber, eventbrite etc). If anyone has a good article on that feel free to send!

* My friends replied with a variety of resources, including Bill Gurley’s famous piece, Stratechery, and Andrew Chen’s essay compilation, all of which are great recommendations!

Misc. articles

  1. I came across an interesting blog recently by Devon Zuegel
    • She writes a lot about cities and infrastructure, some of which goes above my head, but what I found most interesting was the ‘strong opinions, weakly held’ section on her description
    • I was intrigued by the idea of putting her views on the record, and then also updating them as she changed her mind, along with reasons why
  2. “When people ask why she is a philanthropist, her answer is always the same: ‘guilt.’ “ I found this profile fascinating, even though I had no idea who Agnes was.

  3. “Whatever of ours [the foreigners] stole, we can always snatch it back one day.” This article on chinese art theft was both amusing and also troubling.

  4. I had never heard of this before, but want to try using approximate geometric means whenever I’m making rough estimates next time:
    • The geometric mean is close in order of magnitude than an arithmetic mean, but much harder to calculate
    • However, doing an approximate geometric mean gets you close while being much easier to calculate. See the article/google for the calculation
  5. Lastly and most importantly, the holiday periods tend to increase feelings of sadness (I’m unsure if it’s been proven suicide risks also rise). If you or your friends suffer from depression, this resource is helpful.

“Start by accepting that depression is a real illness. People do not “snap out of it” and any suggestion that they should is shaming”

“Most people mean for these reassurances to be genuine. But there’s a difference between a glib “it’s going to be OK” as a way to wave the depressed person off and genuinely communicating that it will be OK”

“If you suspect that someone is suicidal, ask them. You will not give them the idea. I have never heard from anyone who suffers with depression that they mind that question when it is asked directly and with care.”

If you do feel suicidal, Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 texting service to seek the support you need. They’re always looking for volunteers too if you want to make a difference!