Sunday Wisdom No. 73
A private decision is something that affects only you. A public decision, on the other hand, affects others as well. Therefore, how you approach them are completely different.
Welcome to Issue 73
👋 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
Private v Public Decisions
A friend of mine is planning to buy the house he’s currently living in. While discussing we figured that it made more sense not to buy it right now since he can easily get a better place by waiting a couple more years. But then he mentioned something that changed everything.
He said it’s the first place he and his partner had moved in together, and therefore it has sentimental value. Well, in that case I thought it made perfect sense to buy the place.
Financially, it may not be the most rational thing to do, but sometimes, instead of being coldly rational, one has to be psychologically reasonable. Any decision that lets you sleep well at night is a good private decision, even if it isn’t the most rational one. A public decision, on the other hand, is a completely different ball game.
Write Everything You Say
Neil deGrasse Tyson once said that he has written down practically everything he has ever said in public. What? How does that help? Also, is it even possible?
In this video, I’m gonna tell you about the most counterintuitive trick I’ve come across that can not only help you become a better communicator, but also help you become better at giving presentations, cracking interviews, and in becoming a thought leader.
Making Ideas Your Own
When you read a good book, you come across a multitude of ideas. Typically, the process goes something like this. You come across a nice idea and say to yourself, “Huh! That’s a neat thought,” and then forget about it. Once in a while, you highlight the text only never to return to it.
Great ideas get wasted in this process. Writing is the art of lending out ideas to knowledge seekers like you. But unless you borrow an idea from the author, mull over it, reinterpret it, and make it your own, you are doing a great disservice to yourself.
One great way to borrow ideas this is to take eloquent notes. But most of us quote ideas verbatim in our notebooks. That’s not the best way to internalise ideas. Good notes should help you integrate new ideas into your existing beliefs. Good notes should be contextual. Good notes are paraphrases, not references.
In my better-thinking course called RE:Thinking, there’s a module called The Feynman System of Note-taking where I walk you through a step-by-step process of taking meaningful notes that not only helps you succinctly express ideas in your own words, but also incorporate them into your life.
What I’m Learning
Thorstein Veblen, an economist and sociologist, made his observations about social class in the late nineteenth century. His key idea was that because we can’t be certain of the financial standing of other people, a good way to size up their means is to see whether they can afford to waste money on goods and leisure.
This explains why status symbols are so often difficult to obtain and costly to purchase. These include goods such as delicate and restrictive clothing like tuxedos and evening gowns, or expensive and time-consuming hobbies like golf or beagling. Veblen’s famous “leisure class” has evolved into the “luxury belief class.”
Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.
In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.
For example, top university graduates not only want to be millionaires-in-the-making; they also want the image of moral righteousness. For these affluent social strivers, luxury beliefs offer them a new way to gain status.
It seems reasonable to think that the downtrodden might be most interested in obtaining status and money. But this is not the case. Human beings become more preoccupied with social status once our physical needs are met. Relative to lower-class individuals, upper-class individuals have a greater desire for wealth and status. That’s why only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.
But like artists who want to differentiate themselves from what’s been done before and what others are currently doing, moral fashions for the affluent change over time for the same reason. Moral fashions can quickly spiral as more and more members of the chattering classes adopt a certain view. Once the view becomes passé, the upper class, aiming to separate themselves, then update their moral inventories.
Unfortunately, many of these beliefs end up causing social harm. Take polyamory for example. It is the latest expression of sexual freedom championed by the affluent. They are in a better position to manage the complications of novel relationship arrangements. And if these relationships don’t work out, they can recover thanks to their financial capability and social capital. The less fortunate suffer by adopting the beliefs of the upper class.
The economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell once said that activism is “a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.” The same could be said for luxury beliefs.
When I hear MVP, I don’t think Minimum Viable Product. I think Minimum Viable Pie. The food kind.
A slice of pie is all you need to evaluate the whole pie. It’s homogenous. But that’s not how products work. Products are a collection of interwoven parts, one dependent on another, one leading to another, one integrating with another. You can’t take a slice of a product, ask people how they like it, and deduce they’ll like the rest of the product once you’ve completed it. All you learn is that they like or don’t like the slice you gave them.
How do you know if what you’re doing is right while you’re doing it? You can’t be. You can only have a hunch, a feeling, a belief. And if the only way to tell if you’ve completely missed the mark is to ask other people and wait for them to tell you, then you’re likely too far lost from the start. If you make products, you better have a sense of where you’re heading without having to ask for directions.
People often want certainty ahead of time, but time doesn’t start when you start working on something, or when you have a piece of the whole ready. It starts when your version 1.0 hits the market.
If you want to see if something works, make it. The whole thing. The simplest version of the whole thing — that’s what version 1.0 is supposed to be. If you want answers, you have to ask, and the question is: Market, what do you think of this completed version 1.0 of our product?
Why would anyone waste time on made-up stuff when there’s so much real stuff to learn about the world? That’s a fair question. Well, one good reason to read fiction is that it enhances our ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others. They help us develop empathy.
We all know that true creativity springs from unexpected connections. So, if innovators really want to create something world-changing, they might want to aim for a more varied fictional diet.
For example, the best crime novels can offer a rigorous neural workout, exercising our brains’ pattern-recognition abilities. Even romantic beach reads can provide an insightful window onto a particular generation’s aspirations and anxieties.
👋 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.