a long-established chopsticks maker tells us how to hold chopsticks properly

The Yomiuri Shimbun:

Hyozaemon, a long-established chopsticks maker in Obama, Fukui Prefecture, tells us how to hold chopsticks properly.

Hold chopsticks about two-thirds from the end. The upper chopstick should be held by grasping it between the thumb and index finger, and support the chopstick underneath using the middle finger. The lower chopstick should be held in place between the base of the thumb and the index finger and pinky. The middle finger should rest between the upper and lower chopsticks.

When using chopsticks, only the upper chopstick should be moved. Imagine moving the chopstick by pushing it up with the middle finger and pulling it down with the index finger.

i also find this incredibly optimistic

LonesomeJoey: In all of the studies you’ve conducted, what is the most outstanding fact you’ve come across that has constantly surprised you and gone against what you thought would happen?

Dan Ariely: Recently, we finished a study in a slum in Kenya where we tried to get very poor people to save a bit of money.

We gave some people financial incentives, some social pressure – but the thing that worked the best was creating a physical coin that represented their savings. That coin more than doubled their savings as compared to a 20% match.

The reason i think it worked so well was that we changed the environment in which they lived. We created a tangible representation of their savings and changed the discussion in the household.

I also find this incredibly optimistic because it means if we change the environment in which people operate, we can drive better behaviors.

and yet that’s what everybody thinks

ronald howard:

“The takeaway is that you can’t tell the quality of the decision you are making by the outcome that will be produced. Or, to put it another way, you can’t tell by the outcome whether you made a good decision. It’s just a logical mistake to say, “I got the good outcome, I must have made a good decision.” And yet that’s what everybody thinks.”

why is diversity important to companies

nyt:

In 2012, when YouTube, a Google subsidiary, created a mobile app that allowed people to upload videos from their phones, it noticed something odd. About 10 percent of the videos being uploaded were upside down. When designers looked into the problem, they found something unexpected: Left-handed people picked up their phones differently from right-handed people, leading to upside-down videos.

The issue here was one of ignorance — the engineers and designers who created the YouTube app were all right-handed, and none had considered that some people may pick up their phones differently. It’s a small example, but a telling one. If Google’s designers couldn’t anticipate the needs of left-handed people with an all-right-handed product team, how could they anticipate the needs of women with a staff composed overwhelmingly of men?

the reason we have turned folklore into a formula

Gianpiero Petriglieri:

Consider the popular 70:20:10 “formula” stating that 70% of learning happens on the job, 20% through coaching and mentoring, and 10% takes place in classrooms.

While little empirical evidence supports it—the scholar to whom the formula is often attributed recently described it as “folklore”—plenty of organizations invoke it as a cornerstone of their learning strategies.

The reason we have turned folklore into a formula, I believe, is because it resonates with the safest, most efficient kind of learning—the incremental kind. We acquire an idea and we practice it with some feedback on the way. That eventually results in mastery. That kind of learning is additive—and addictive.

Transformational learning rarely builds up so smoothly. It does not just make us more knowledgeable. It reveals what mastery prevents us from knowing. It does not just refine our skills. It changes our perspective. And it is not just a matter of time.

zero to one by peter thiel and blake masters

Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.

Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work—going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things—going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done.

At the macro level, the single word for horizontal progress is globalization—taking things that work somewhere and making them work everywhere. China is the paradigmatic example of globalization; its 20-year plan is to become like the United States is today… The single word for vertical, 0 to 1 progress is technology. The rapid progress of information technology in recent decades has made Silicon Valley the capital of “technology” in general. But there is no reason why technology should be limited to computers. Properly understood, any new and better way of doing things is technology.

Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.

In business, money is either an important thing or it is everything. Monopolists can afford to think about things other than making money; non-monopolists can’t. In perfect competition, a business is so focused on today’s margins that it can’t possibly plan for a long-term future. Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits.

Ellison and Siebel spent the second half of the ’90s trying to sabotage each other. At one point, Ellison sent truckloads of ice cream sandwiches to Siebel’s headquarters to try to convince Siebel employees to jump ship. The copy on the wrappers? “Summer is near. Oracle is here. To brighten your day and your career.”

Every monopoly is unique, but they usually share some combination of the following characteristics: proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.

What really matters is generating cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you. It’s much better to be the last mover—that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits. The way to do that is to dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision. In this one particular at least, business is like chess. Grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca put it well: to succeed, “you must study the endgame before everything else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson captured this ethos when he wrote: “Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances.… Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

The philosophy of the ancient world was pessimistic: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Lucretius all accepted strict limits on human potential. The only question was how best to cope with our tragic fate. Modern philosophers have been mostly optimistic. From Herbert Spencer on the right and Hegel in the center to Marx on the left, the 19th century shared a belief in progress. These thinkers expected material advances to fundamentally change human life for the better: they were definite optimists.

Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum, but it won’t help you find the global maximum.

The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a successful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined.

VC investment accounts for less than 0.2% of GDP. But the results of those investments disproportionately propel the entire economy. Venture-backed companies create 11% of all private sector jobs. They generate annual revenues equivalent to an astounding 21% of GDP. Indeed, the dozen largest tech companies were all venture-backed. Together those 12 companies are worth more than $2 trillion, more than all other tech companies combined.

A startup is the largest endeavor over which you can have definite mastery. You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance. You are not a lottery ticket.

institutionalized education traffics in a kind of homogenized, generic knowledge.

The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.

A board of three is ideal. Your board should never exceed five people, unless your company is publicly held.

A company does better the less it pays the CEO—that’s one of the single clearest patterns I’ve noticed from investing in hundreds of startups. In no case should a CEO of an early-stage, venture-backed startup receive more than $150,000 per year in salary.

If a CEO collects $300,000 per year, he risks becoming more like a politician than a founder. High pay incentivizes him to defend the status quo along with his salary, not to work with everyone else to surface problems and fix them aggressively. A cash-poor executive, by contrast, will focus on increasing the value of the company as a whole.

A startup is a team of people on a mission, and a good culture is just what that looks like on the inside.

Why would someone join your company… But there are two general kinds of good answers: answers about your mission and answers about your team.

The best thing I did as a manager at PayPal was to make every person in the company responsible for doing just one thing. Every employee’s one thing was unique, and everyone knew I would evaluate him only on that one thing. I had started doing this just to simplify the task of managing people. But then I noticed a deeper result: defining roles reduced conflict. Most fights inside a company happen when colleagues compete for the same responsibilities.

But advertising doesn’t exist to make you buy a product right away; it exists to embed subtle impressions that will drive sales later. Anyone who can’t acknowledge its likely effect on himself is doubly deceived.

In mid-2000, we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month (at Paypal).

Today’s companies have an insatiable appetite for data, mistakenly believing that more data always creates more value. But big data is usually dumb data.

Doing something different is what’s truly good for society—and it’s also what allows a business to profit by monopolizing a new market. The best projects are likely to be overlooked, not trumpeted by a crowd; the best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve.

OF THE SIX PEOPLE who started PayPal, four had built bombs in high school.

Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better—to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.

So good they can’t ignore you by cal newport

Quotes from the book

If “follow your passion” is bad advice, what should I do instead?

Don’t follow your passion; rather, let it follow you in your quest to become, in the words of my favorite Steve Martin quote, “so good that they can’t ignore you.”

We’ll also return to Thomas, who after his dispiriting realization at the monastery was able to return to his first principles, move his focus away from finding the right work and toward working right, and eventually build, for the first time in his life, a love for what he does. This is the happiness that you, too, should demand.

In an interview with the public radio host Ira Glass, for example, a group of three undergraduates press him for wisdom on how to “figure out what you want” and “know what you’ll be good at.” “In the movies there’s this idea that you should just go for your dream,” Glass tells them. “But I don’t believe that. Things happen in stages.”

Noticing the stricken faces of his interviewers, who were perhaps hoping to hear something more uplifting than work is hard, so suck it up, Glass continues: “I feel like your problem is that you’re trying to judge all things in the abstract before you do them. That’s your tragic mistake.”2

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs—factors described as the “nutriments” required to feel intrinsically motivated for your work:

  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important

  • Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do

  • Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people

To summarize, I’ve presented two different ways people think about their working life. The first is the craftsman mindset, which focuses on what you can offer the world. The second is the passion mindset, which instead focuses on what the world can offer you.

(Ira Glass) “All of us who do creative work… you get into this thing, and there’s like a ‘gap.’ What you’re making isn’t so good, okay?… It’s trying to be good but… it’s just not that great,” he explained in an interview about his career. “The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase,”

Hours spent in serious study of the game was not just the most important factor in predicting chess skill, it dominated the other factors. The researchers discovered that the players who became grand masters spent five times more hours dedicated to serious study than those who plateaued at an intermediate level. The grand masters, on average, dedicated around 5,000 hours out of their 10,000 to serious study. The intermediate players, by contrast, dedicated only around 1,000 to this activity.

(Geoff Colvin) Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands…. Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.

Dan Pink’s 2009 bestselling book Drive, for example, reviews the dizzying array of different ways that control has been found to improve people’s lives. As Pink summarizes the literature, more control leads to better grades, better sports performance, better productivity, and more happiness.

Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.

(Derek Sivers) “I have this principle about money that overrides my other life rules,” he said. “Do what people are willing to pay for.”

To have a mission is to have a unifying focus for your career. It’s more general than a specific job and can span multiple positions. It provides an answer to the question, What should I do with my life? Missions are powerful because they focus your energy toward a useful goal, and this in turn maximizes your impact on your world—a crucial factor in loving what you do. People who feel like their careers truly matter are more satisfied with their working lives, and they’re also more resistant to the strain of hard work.

Hardness scares off the daydreamers and the timid, leaving more opportunity for those like us who are willing to take the time to carefully work out the best path forward and then confidently take action.

For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways. First, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others. Second, it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.

Working right trumps finding the right work—it’s a simple idea, but it’s also incredibly subversive, as it overturns decades of folk career advice all focused on the mystical value of passion.

Don’t obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills. Once you build up the career capital that these skills generate, invest it wisely. Use it to acquire control over what you do and how you do it, and to identify and act on a life-changing mission.

think like a freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.

Knowing what to measure, and how to measure it, can make a complicated world less so.

The conventional wisdom is often wrong. And a blithe acceptance of it can lead to sloppy, wasteful, or even dangerous outcomes.

Correlation does not equal causality. When two things travel together, it is tempting to assume that one causes the other. Married people, for instance, are demonstrably happier than single people; does this mean that marriage causes happiness? Not necessarily. The data suggest that happy people are more likely to get married in the first place. As one researcher memorably put it, “If you’re grumpy, who the hell wants to marry you?”

The absurdly talented George Bernard Shaw—a world-class writer and a founder of the London School of Economics—noted this thought deficit many years ago. “Few people think more than two or three times a year,” Shaw reportedly said. “I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”

One thing we’ve learned is that when people, especially politicians, start making decisions based on a reading of their moral compass, facts tend to be among the first casualties.

It has long been said that the three hardest words to say in the English language are I love you. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say I don’t know.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan was famous for saying: “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts.”

The world is also thick with “entrepreneurs of error,” as the economist Edward Glaeser calls them, political and religious and business leaders who “supply beliefs when it will increase their own financial or political returns.”

…ultracrepidarianism…“the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence.”

Think back to the soccer player who was about to take a life-changing penalty kick. Aiming toward the center has a better chance of success, but aiming toward a corner is less risky to his own reputation. So that’s where he shoots. Every time we pretend to know something, we are doing the same: protecting our own reputation rather than promoting the collective good. None of us want to look stupid, or at least overmatched, by admitting we don’t know an answer. The incentives to fake it are simply too strong.

While one might expect that suicide is highest among people whose lives are the hardest, research by Lester and others suggests the opposite: suicide is more common among people with a higher quality of life. “If you’re unhappy and you have something to blame your unhappiness on—if it’s the government, or the economy, or something—then that kind of immunizes you against committing suicide,” he says. “It’s when you have no external cause to blame for your unhappiness that suicide becomes more likely. I’ve used this idea to explain why African-Americans have lower suicide rates, why blind people whose sight is restored often become suicidal, and why adolescent suicide rates often rise as their quality of life gets better.”

“It is the brain, not the heart or lungs, that is the critical organ,” said the esteemed neurologist Roger Bannister, best known as the first human to run the mile in less than four minutes.

Thinking like a Freak means you should work terribly hard to identify and attack the root cause of problems.

Small questions are by their nature less often asked and investigated, and maybe not at all. They are virgin territory for true learning.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote across many genres, including children’s books. In an essay called “Why I Write for Children,” he explained the appeal. “Children read books, not reviews,” he wrote. “They don’t give a hoot about the critics.” And: “When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority.” Best of all—and to the relief of authors everywhere—children “don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity.”

We’ll often say one thing and do another—or, more precisely, we’ll say what we think other people want to hear and then, in private, do what we want. In economics, these are known as declared preferences and revealed preferences, and there is often a hefty gap between the two.

Once people are asked to donate, the social pressure is so great that they get bullied into giving, even though they wish they’d never been asked in the first place.

But let’s consider a different set of parents: the ones whose children are currently dying in traffic accidents. Around the world, some 180,000 kids are killed each year, or roughly 500 a day. In wealthy countries, this is easily the leading cause of death for kids from ages five to fourteen, outpacing the next four causes—leukemia, drowning, violence, and self-inflicted injuries—combined. In the United States alone, traffic accidents kill more than 1,100 kids, age fourteen and under, each year, with another 171,000 injuries.

As scientists like to say: The plural of anecdote is not data.

Anecdotes often represent the lowest form of persuasion.

That’s the idea behind a “premortem,” as the psychologist Gary Klein calls it. The idea is simple. Many institutions already conduct a postmortem on failed projects, hoping to learn exactly what killed the patient. A premortem tries to find out what might go wrong before it’s too late. You gather up everyone connected with a project and have them imagine that it launched and failed miserably. Now they each write down the exact reasons for its failure. Klein has found the premortem can help flush out the flaws or doubts in a project that no one had been willing to speak aloud. This suggests one way to make a premortem even more useful: offer anonymity.

We might add that Winston Churchill, despite his famous advice to those Harrow schoolboys, was in fact one of history’s greatest quitters. Soon after entering politics he quit one party for another, and later he quit government altogether. When he rejoined, he quit parties again. And when he wasn’t quitting, he was getting tossed out. He spent years in the political wilderness, denouncing Britain’s appeasement of the Nazis, and was returned to office only when that policy’s failure had led to total war. Even in the bleakest moments, Churchill did not back down one inch from Hitler; he became “the greatest of all Britain’s war leaders,” as the historian John Keegan put it. Perhaps it was that long streak of quitting that helped Churchill build the fortitude to tough it out when it was truly necessary. By now, he knew what was worth letting go, and what was not.

from the notes section:

Family firms in Japan have a long-standing solution to this problem: they find a new CEO from outside the family and legally adopt him. That is why nearly 100 percent of adoptees in Japan are adult males.

In defense, however, of Germanic Catholicism: a new research project by Spenkuch argues that Protestants were roughly twice as likely as Catholics to vote for the Nazis.

 

a thicker market

Jon Gruber:

“Basically churches are the source of social capital in society, are the main source of social capital in society. And therefore if you’re around more people like you, that’s a bigger community, that’s what we call in economics a thicker market. There’s more people around who can help you out as you’re growing, help you out if you’re hurting, it’s really sort of a social insurance notion of a church. And then finally and most speculatively, faith itself may produce better outcomes. I know a number of people who are very religious. It gives them a calmness and a certainty that allows them to be successful in other areas of their life.”

the hot dog champion is full of wisdom

“I always change my mentality very quickly. Simply said, sometimes you win because someone is having a bad day and sometimes someone beats you because you are having a bad day. Even winning or losing doesn’t necessarily even mean really that you are the best. So when you look at the long run you can’t think about you and competing against a rival or rivals. That doesn’t even tell you 100% that you are the best. What you can only do is compare yourself to yourself and try see how far you can actually go.”

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