A Monopoly of One

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The process of life-long learning requires that we move beyond what we personally know and maximize what we can learn from others. I do much of this through reading.  In sharing some highlight passages and sources from my personal library of over 2,000 books, my objective is to offer something of interest, utility and inspiration that may add to your thought process.                                                                                                                                                                                   – Bill Dinnebeil

QUICK HITS:

In order to “win a man to your cause,” Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, “the great high road to his reason.” 1

My persuasive bias, as I am sure is true for many, is that facts, logic and reason should win the day.  Lincoln reminds us that persuasion is often grounded in appeal to the emotion, a vested starting point for the party being persuaded.

“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” 2 

In his discussion of venture capital start-ups, the conforming tendency to think as the group limits the ability to do something truly different.  Isolating yourself from the pull of the crowd provides space to think on your own.

“But sometimes our managers misfire. The usual cause of failure is that they start with the answer they want and then work backwards to find a supporting rationale. Of course, the process is subconscious; that’s what makes it so dangerous.” 3

It is easy to be blinded by the love of our own opinions.  Rather than objectively letting facts lead us to a conclusion, we are convinced we know the answer, skillfully justifying to fit our desired result.

A MONOPOLY OF ONE:

A definite view, by contrast, favors firm convictions. Instead of pursuing many-sided mediocrity and calling it “well-roundedness,” a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it. Instead of working tirelessly to make herself indistinguishable, she strives to be great at something substantive— to be a monopoly of one. 4

Most of us are burdened by a multitude of objectives which compete for our focus, time and energy.  In many ways we are caught up in the “thick of thin things”, a mile wide and an inch deep in our approach, leading to the mediocrity suggested by Thiel.  Isolating that “one best thing to do” and being great at it offers the best chance for differentiation in a competitive market.

  1. Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The political genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 168). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition 
  2. Thief, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or how to build the future (p. 22). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  3. Warren Buffet, Letters to Shareholders. 
  4. Thief, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or how to build the future (p. 62). Blog 2/16 The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

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A Coffee Cup of Knowledge…. Fidelity to One Great Purpose

The process of life-long learning requires that we move beyond what we personally know and maximize what we can learn from others. I do much of this through reading.  In sharing some highlight passages and sources from my personal library of over 2,000 books, my objective is to offer something of interest, utility and inspiration that may add to your thought process.                                                                                                                                                                                   – Bill Dinnebeil

 Quick Hits:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself— and you are the easiest person to fool. – Feynman, Richard P.; Ralph Leighton (2010-06-28). “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character (p. 343)

I don’t know about you, but I am easily convinced how good my ideas and opinions are, readily embracing that which supports them and conveniently ignoring much that doesn’t.  In discussing scientific integrity, Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, felt that thoroughly challenging his conclusions and results as to why they may not be correct was an important step in making sure he was not fooling himself or others that would be relying on his work. 

If you can’t prove what you want to prove, demonstrate something else and pretend that they are the same thing. In the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind, hardly anybody will notice the difference.  – Huff, Darrell (2010-01-19). How to Lie with Statistics (p. 76).

Huff’s book is an informative and humorous discussion on the use and misuse of statistics.  Being in our political campaign season, I thought the quote above was very timely.  Misdirection, confusion and biased data selection seem to be the preferred strategies in some political quarters.  

Fidelity To One Great Purpose:

All this had been accomplished, Adams acknowledged, with a remnant tinge of condescension, not because Lincoln possessed “any superior genius” but because he, “from the beginning to the end, impressed upon the people the conviction of his honesty and fidelity to one great purpose.”  Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 595). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

“There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him,” Cook said. “That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.”  Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24). Steve Jobs (p. 460). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition

Whether it be the abolition of slavery or the commitment to game changing design, Lincoln and Jobs shared the ability to define that one great purpose and the discipline to stay focused, often against enormous odds.  Without a well defined target, wasteful distractions will substitute as false objectives. 

 

 

A Coffee Cup of Knowledge….. A Monopoly of One

The process of life-long learning requires that we move beyond what we personally know and maximize what we can learn from others. I do much of this through reading.  In sharing some highlight passages and sources from my personal library of over 2,000 books, my objective is to offer something of interest, utility and inspiration that may add to your thought process.                                                                                                                                                                                   – Bill Dinnebeil

Quick Hits:

In order to “win a man to your cause,” Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, “the great high road to his reason.”-  Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 168). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

My persuasive bias, as I am sure is true for many, is that facts, logic and reason should win the day.  Lincoln reminds us that persuasion is often grounded in appeal to the emotion, a vested starting point for the party being persuaded.

The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.  –Thiel, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (p. 22). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

In his discussion of venture capital start-ups, the conforming tendency to think as the group limits the ability to do something truly different.  Isolating yourself from the pull of the crowd provides space to think on your own.

But sometimes our managers misfire. The usual cause of failure is that they start with the answer they want and then work backwards to find a supporting rationale. Of course, the process is subconscious; that’s what makes it so dangerous.  – Warren Buffet, Letters to Shareholders

It is easy to be blinded by the love of our own opinions.  Rather than objectively letting facts lead us to a conclusion, we are convinced we know the answer, skillfully justifying to fit our desired result.

A Monopoly of One:

 A definite view, by contrast, favors firm convictions. Instead of pursuing many-sided mediocrity and calling it “well-roundedness,” a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it. Instead of working tirelessly to make herself indistinguishable, she strives to be great at something substantive— to be a monopoly of one. –  Thiel, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (p. 62). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  Blog 2/16

Most of us are burdened by a multitude of objectives which compete for our focus, time and energy.  In many ways we are caught up in the “thick of thin things”, a mile wide and an inch deep in our approach, leading to the mediocrity suggested by Thiel.  Isolating that “one best thing to do” and being great at it offers the best chance for differentiation in a competitive market.

 

 

A Coffee Cup of Knowledge…. WYSIATI

During the course of my reading, I come across ideas and thoughts on a wide range of topics that may occasionally be of interest to others.  In passing some of these along, perhaps one or two will make a contribution to your thought process.   –  Bill Dinnebeil

Quick Hits:

To have a good idea, stop having a bad one. The trick was to inhibit the easy, obvious but ineffective attempts, permitting a better solution to come to mind.  –Marcel Kinsbourne, Neurologist & Cognitive Neuroscientist

This is just a sliver of an article by Kinsbourne on creative thinking.  Part of his thinking is that simply by creating a mental void which you would normally fill up with the obvious and ineffective, you create space that by necessity will be filled with something new.

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.  –John C. Bogle, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Bogle is making this comment within his argument for index investing rather than managed investing.  Yet, the long habit of not thinking a thing wrong because it has “always been that way,” invades our thought processes in any number of disciplines.  Legacy thinking favors the length of time as the validator rather the factual evidence of something new and as such closes our mind to a larger solution pool.  However, it is time in the end that defeats poorly founded customs.

“The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” Stick to the good plan.   -John C. Bogle,  The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Getting to perfect from very good often has significant diminishing returns in time and investment.   

WYSIATI, What You See Is All There Is:

Jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited evidence is so important to an understanding of intuitive thinking, and comes up so often in this book, that I will use a cumbersome abbreviation for it: WYSIATI, which stands for what you see is all there is. Intuitive thinking is radically insensitive to both the quality and the quantity of the information that gives rise to impressions and intuitions.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 86). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

As the WYSIATI rule implies, neither the quantity nor the quality of the evidence counts for much in subjective confidence. The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little. We often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to our judgment is missing—what we see is all there is. Furthermore, our associative system tends to settle on a coherent pattern of activation and suppresses doubt and ambiguity.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 87-88). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern. WYSIATI facilitates the achievement of coherence and of the cognitive ease that causes us to accept a statement as true.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 87). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.   Blog 5/20/14

This final thought is necessarily long to provide a hint of the concept of WYSIATI, one of the most salient points in Kahneman’s book. It presents a clarifying thought when you consider the spontaneous movement to conclusions on limited information often seen in the  political arena,  national media, marketing, and the opinions of so called “experts.”

 

 

A Coffee Cup of Kowledge….Puzzling Limitation of Our Mind

During the course of my reading, I come across ideas and thoughts on a wide range of topics that may occasionally be of interest to others.  In passing some of these along, perhaps one or two will make a contribution to your thought process.   –  Bill Dinnebeil


Quick Hits:

  • “The more selfish you are, the less satisfying life is. Your life is only enriched when you live it for a purpose bigger than yourself. ”           – David Thomas, “Remember Why You Play….”

I was reminded of this thought when I was present at the service for a very close friend who was a life long educator.  Over 600 people were at his service, many of which credited him in large and small ways for making a difference for them.

  • “All great people exercise the law of subtraction,” he concluded. “They commit to a few things, and they’re better than everybody else at those.”    –  David Thomas, “Remember Why You Play….”

Lots of different examples of this type of focus and execution in all walks of life, but a vivid sports example comes to mind.  Vince Lombardi said about his famous “Green Bay Packer sweep,” “we know we are going to run it, they know we are going to run it, but it makes no difference because we do it so well.”  A corollary thought is to choose those few things in life that are most important to you and do those exceptionally well.

  • “Success is  peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  – John Wooden,  “They Call Me Coach”

This is the most concise, elegant description of success that I have come across, weighted for each of us individually according to our talents, measured by ourselves and independent of external factors.

Puzzling Limitation of Our Mind:

A puzzling limitation of our mind: our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in. We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events. Overconfidence is fed by the illusory certainty of hindsight.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 13-14). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

This is one of the most informative books that I have read regarding the human thought process.  Kahneman, a Nobel prize winner in economics, spent a lifetime studying decision theory and judgment.   Whether overlaid on business, economics, politics or daily  dialog,  excessive confidence combined with a lack of understanding of what we don’t know, compounded by chance, inhibit our ability to learn and make decisions.  Hindsight fools us into thinking we are smarter than we are.  Viewed in the rear view mirror, few events are as certain and predictable as they may seem.

 

A Coffee Cup of Knowledge …… Anxiety, Hope and Humor

During the course of my reading, I come across ideas and thoughts on a wide range of topics that may occasionally be of interest to others.  In passing some of these along, perhaps one or two will make a contribution to your thought process.   –  Bill Dinnebeil

Quick Hits:

    • “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”  A constant reminder in a world of “justifying to fit.”  Seen on a church sign over 20 years ago on north University Blvd.
    • “If you are going to say something, make sure it is an improvement on silence.”  Don’t remember where I got this  but it has always stuck with me as a reminder of all the overwrought dialog that makes no contribution: pettiness, gossip, meanness, careless timing, and negativity among a few.
    • “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  Ralf Waldo Emerson

Though a little late to the party in light of the prominent historical figure that he was,  I recently finished my first book on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”  Among the many salient features of his person and presidency was his ability to constructively function within the environment of oppressive and unrelenting pressure to preserve the Union, abolish slavery, manage a highly diverse, combative cabinet and most of all fight a civil war in which his decisions were committing to death thousands of soldiers. 

These are some of the tools he used to maintain a sense of balance and optimism under such trying circumstances.

Topic:  Dispelling Anxiety

LINCOLN’S ABILITY TO RETAIN his emotional balance in such difficult situations was rooted in an acute self-awareness and an enormous capacity to dispel anxiety in constructive ways. In the most difficult moments of his presidency, nothing provided Lincoln greater respite and renewal than to immerse himself in a play at either Grover’s or Ford’s.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 609). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Topic: Hope

“Having hope,” writes Daniel Goleman in his study of emotional intelligence, “means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.” Hope is “more than the sunny view that everything will turn out all right”; it is “believing you have the will and the way to accomplish your goals.” More clearly than his colleagues, Lincoln understood that numerous setbacks were inevitable before the war could be brought to a close. 

Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 631). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Topic:  Humor

Modern psychiatry regards humor as probably the most mature and healthy means of adapting to melancholy. “Humor, like hope, permits one to focus upon and to bear what is too terrible to be borne,” writes George Valliant. “Humor can be marvelously therapeutic,” adds another observer. “It can deflate without destroying; it can instruct while it entertains; it saves us from our pretensions; and it provides an outlet for feeling that expressed another way would be corrosive.” 

Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2006-12-08). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (p. 103). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

 

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