Sunday Wisdom No. 69
We give experts infallible statuses. We take their ideas at face value without ever challenging them. On the other hand, we dismiss ideas from non-experts without enough consideration. This is wrong!
Welcome to Issue 69!
👋 Hi, I’m Abhishek. Welcome to Sunday Wisdom—a weekly advice column on decision-making, clear thinking, creativity, and everything else that’s stressing you out in business and life. I appreciate you being here. If you are loving Sunday Wisdom, you can buy me coffee or share this newsletter with a friend.
🤔 What I’m Thinking
Find Gems Hidden in Plain Sight
People have a pathological habit of placing “experts” and others they look up to on a pedestal. Their ideas are treated as gold, and all of their words are accepted as worldly wisdom (even if they are absurd).
When your friend Peter tells you something, you may ignore it, but if the same idea comes from a guy called Peter Thiel, you may treat it as a revelation.
We tend to give experts infallible statuses. We take their ideas at face value without ever challenging them. On the other hand, we dismiss ideas from non-experts without enough consideration. This is wrong!
Why People Make Bad Decisions With Money
We may not know everything about the world, but everyone has their own unique experience with how the world works. And what you’ve experienced first-hand is more compelling than what you learn second-hand—say from a YouTube video, or book, or a blog post.
Let me tell you something that might make you feel better about what you do with your money, and less judgmental about what other people do with theirs: People may do all sorts of crazy things with money, but no one is crazy.
🤓 What I’m Learning
Li Jin talks about how incomes are heavily skewed towards the top 1% (or less) creators in the passion economy. “On Patreon, only 2% of creators made the federal minimum wage of $1,160 per month in 2017. On Spotify, artists need 3.5 million streams per year to achieve the annual earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker of $15,080.”
She suggests a couple of measures platforms can take to bridge the gap and create a middle-class of creators who get paid just enough to keep on creating. She has good intentions, but there’s nothing you and I can take away from this.
The only advice that’s relevant to us is to create multiple sources of income via multiple SKUs such as newsletters, videos, podcasts, etc., so that if one source fails, another can kick in.
Until the platforms take notice of the other 9 suggestions, I guess you and I are on our own.
Choosing Side Projects
If you are building a side project choose one that solves a specific, limited problem.
“Build the best time tracking app ever” is neither limited nor specific, nor is it really a problem you’re solving. “I want to keep track of how much time I spend actually working on homework vs. procrastinating” is better, but still not quite problem-driven.
A good problem statement is: “I want to prevent myself from visiting Facebook and other specific websites while I’m working on homework.” Now you have a clear sense of what software you are building.
But, how do you choose a side project if you don’t have any specific problems in mind? The key is to still have constraints and limits so that your project is small, achievable and has a clear goal.
The key is having constraints and a clear goal. Software is just a tool, there is no inherent value in producing more. Value is produced by solving problems. A half-solved problem or a half-finished game are valueless, so you want your initial goal to be small and constrained so that it’s achievable.
Making Tough Decisions
In this essay, Barack Obama lays down his principles of making good decisions in tough situations. If you imagine Obama reading it out loud in his unique style, it’ll be doubly interesting. Here are my notes.
Lean on a process. Rather than getting paralysed in the quest for a perfect solution, or succumbing to the temptation of going with your gut, create a decision-making process instead. One where you listen to others, follow the facts, consider your goals, and weigh all of that against your own principles. Then, no matter how things turn out, you know you’ve done your level best with the available information.
When you have a tough, almost unsolvable decision to make, you don’t just want people to tell you what you want to hear. When you solicit views from a large group of people, it can lead to groupthink. Therefore, having one contrarian (or a devil’s advocate) in the room can push all to think harder.
Take breaks. You cannot predict how it might clarify your thinking. “The decisions I had to make were so weighty and consequential, the pace so unyielding, that it was easy to feel almost removed from myself. But the time I spent away from my desk, especially with my wife and kids — whether coaching Sasha’s basketball team or date night with Michelle—was a crucial, daily reminder of who I fundamentally was as a person. This was so important because we bring our whole selves to the decisions we make. And those decisions, in turn, both reflect and determine who we are.”
While you cannot guarantee an outcome, you can be confident in making a decision. Find a framework that helps you consider your choices—knowing that there may not be one perfect answer. That way you rest a little easier knowing, come what may, you did the best you could in the given circumstances. There are no black and white solutions. The world is complicated, and that’s what makes it interesting.
👋 That’s All!
As always, please give me feedback. Did any of the stories resonate with you? Do you disagree with anything? What do you want more or less of? Any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments.