Mental Mash Potatoes

A self-made billionaire reveals the one mental hurdle that you must overcome to reach your potential. People who can do this are winners; those who can’t are losers, according to the world’s most influential hedge fund entrepreneur.

Billionaire Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater, one of the world’s largest and best-performing hedge funds. A true entrepreneurial success story, Dalio started his company in a two-bedroom apartment. He was a self-described ordinary kid and worse-than-ordinary student. Forty-two years after starting his company, Dalio decided to share his success secrets in his new book, Principles.

I received an early copy of the book, which weighs in at a hefty 560 pages. But Dalio says one chapter in particular is the most important. In it, he reveals the one roadblock to success that is so engrained in the human experience, and in our DNA, it’s difficult to overcome. But those who recognize it and take steps to knock down the barrier will be in a much stronger position to get what they want out of life.

Dalio’s advice: Be radically open-minded

Good decisions aren’t necessarily the ones that stroke your ego. A good decision is what’s best for you and your company. To make good decisions, argues Dalio, a person must have the ability to explore different points of view and different possibilities, regardless of whether it hurts your ego.

Ask any of your friends or any entrepreneur if he or she is open-minded, and most–if not all–will say they are. But are they? Are you? According to Dalio, here are some cues that will tell if you are truly open-minded.

  • Close-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged; open-minded people are not angry when someone disagrees.
  • Close-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions; open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong.
  • Close-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others; open-minded people always feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes.
  • Close-minded people lack a deep sense of humility; open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.

Dalio believes that recognizing these traits in yourself is just the first step. The second step is recognizing them in others. Once you do, “surround yourself with the open-minded ones,” he says.

According to Dalio, it’s critical to reframe a disagreement not as a threat, which is what your primitive brain sees, but as an opportunity to learn. “People who change their minds because they learned something are winners, whereas those who stubbornly refuse to learn are the losers,” he says. Dalio points out that being open-minded doesn’t mean that you blindly accept another person’s conclusions. He recommends being open-minded and assertive at the same time. “You should hold and explore conflicting possibilities in your mind while moving fluidly toward whatever is likely to be true based on what you learn,” he says.

Dalio offers several recommendations to help you develop the habit of being radically open-minded. Among them:

“Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible path.” Dalio says that recognizing what you don’t know is more important than whatever it is you know for sure.

“Recognize that decision making is a two-step process: First, take in all the relevant information, then decide.” Dalio says it’s here that many entrepreneurs get tripped up. Most people are reluctant to consider information that is inconsistent with their worldview or the conclusion they’ve already arrived at.

“Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.” This last piece of advice could be the most important. Dalio points out that when two people disagree, there is a good chance that one of them is wrong. What if it’s you?

For most entrepreneurs, their goal is to build the best company and the best life they possibly can. Disagreements, debate, and feedback all serve the ultimate purpose–to reach the best decision. Setting aside your ego could be your ultimate competitive advantage. “If you are too proud of what you know … you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential,” says Dalio.

MaxCo Advisors

Feb 10, 2018

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You Can Have The Most Impressive Title In The World And Still Not Be A Leader

According to the late Bill Campbell, who established a reputation as the “coach” of Silicon Valley, only one thing determines whether or not you’re a leader: the opinions of those you’re supposed to be leading.

A former Columbia University football player and coach, Campbell went on to work with and mentor with some of the biggest names in tech, including Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt.

Former Apple CEO John Sculley poached Campbell, hiring him away from Kodak to work as Apple’s VP of marketing.

Sculley shared one of the best pieces of advice Campbell ever gave him: “Your title makes you a manager. Your people will decide if you’re a leader, and it’s up to you to live up to that.”

Campbell himself told Sculley he’d come to that realization about leadership from working with Jobs.

“The reality is that you have to earn leadership from the people that you’re working with and who are working for you,” Sculley told Business Insider. “The title doesn’t mean much unless you can earn their respect as a leader.”

Later in his career, Campbell served on Apple’s board of directors. He went on to also become CEO of Intuit from 1994 to 1998 and eventually became the chairman of the tech company’s board.

Current Intuit CEO Brad Smith said he got the same advice on leadership from Campbell, too. Sculley and Smith both said it was the best career advice they’d ever received, and that it’s stuck with them ever since.

“Basically, how you make that happen is if you believe that leadership is not about putting greatness into people, leadership is about recognizing that there’s a greatness in everyone and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge,” Smith told Business Insider. “That’s our definition of leadership. We don’t think leadership is the same as people management.”

MaxCo Advisors

Feb 10, 2018

9 Things You Never See Successful People Do

Here’s what successful people avoid, and why you should, too.

BY CHAD PERRY, VP of Sales, Motivosity

It’s fun to read lists of what makes successful people tick.

Their morning rituals. Their habits. Their goal-setting routines. The things they do before calling it a day. What they eat for lunch.

But sometimes, it’s interesting to see what they don’t do.

In life, simplicity is more. Less is more.

In that spirit, here are a few things to do less of, so that you can experience more success.

Never Live in the Past

Individuals that live in the past miss seeing what the future holds. They’re blinded by what could have been, instead of seeing what can be.

Unsuccessful people trade yesterday for today, and forfeit tomorrow.

You can let your past shape you, but don’t let it imprison you.

Respect Risk, Don’t Fear It

The fear of risk will lead to a lifetime of regret. That’s because when you don’t take that occasional risk, you’ll spend a lifetime looking back and wondering “if only” and “what if?”

Educate yourself. Do your homework. Trust your gut.

But don’t be afraid to jump every now and then, even when the only thing you can see is what your imagination believes.

Never Dwell on Failure

We live in a world obsessed with perfection. With winning. With succeeding at every attempt. With participation trophies.

The reality is: That’s not real.

Success doesn’t come without bumps and bruises. Great wins rarely come without great losses.

If you fail, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep going.

(Nobody is watching that close anyway.)

Never Make Excuses

Excuses come because you’re afraid to take a risk. They come because you tried and failed.

Sometimes they come because you didn’t try…and you failed.

If you didn’t try, don’t cover it up with an excuse. You were lazy. No one will buy it.

Go back and try again.

Never Hold a Grudge, Ever

Let it go.

Holding a grudge is living in a past that you can never change.

Holding a grudge will only keep holding you back. Not them.

Never Hold Others Back

If someone else succeeds, it doesn’t mean you fail. There’s plenty to go around.

Let them try, and win.

Be a gracious winner, and an even bigger cheerleader.

Never Rely on Luck

The funny thing about luck?

It finds the people who look for it, not the ones who are waiting for it.

Unless you’re playing the lottery, your chances of finding luck increase the more you’re out there working, hustling, and not taking no for an answer.

Successful people find luck because they work at it.

Never Waste Time

Not wasting time isn’t the same thing as always being busy.

It means making time count.

It means not trading your valuable and limited time for something of little worth.

Unlike a bank account, you cannot increase the amount of time you have. Once you use it, it’s gone. There’s no getting more of it.

Choose carefully how you invest your time.

Never Accept Limitations

Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run his first time at bat.

Michael Jordan didn’t sink a three-pointer on his first attempt.

Tiger Woods didn’t hit a hole-in-one on his first swing.

Being successful takes practice. It takes courage. It takes persistence to work through the kinks.

Each of us has brilliance in us. You just have to get beyond the limitations you create in your own mind to find out how successful you can become.

 

MaxCo Advisors, October 2016

Love Can Beat This.

Written by Mauricio Estrella

In the heat of arguing, it’s human nature to do our best to win. However, arguing can get quite irrational when we lose focus of what we’re trying to resolve. If we’re not focused on solving a problem, we’re wasting time and energy that can be diverted into something more positive.

In a bad argument, our empathy for the other person disappears, and we become self-centered and defensive. We basically turn into angry, snappy Chihuahuas or cursing sailors. All that matters is our own perspective on the problem. Our proposal to resolve it. Our solution. Screw everything and everybody else.

But what if we’re wrong?

How do we know we’re right if we’re focused on forcing our reasoning onto the other person? Some people just can’t handle arguments.

For many, a sudden spike of adrenaline during an argument directly proceeds a bout of cursing. It happens right before they throw a plate off the table. Before slamming a door. Before sending an angry email. Or right before physical aggression. Losing control of an argument can end in terrifying ways.

The journey to conquering a problem is tedious enough. I’d rather have an extremely simple shortcut than a deep and detailed run-down of methods and processes to do so. I try to focus on finding paths—and in the case of a heated disagreement, I tried to find a direct path, a shortcut, to resolve conflicts.

To put things in the context: My fiancée is Chinese, I’m Ecuadorian, so cultural differences do make an impact in our lives. Sometimes these differences are funny. Sometimes they’re not.

Here’s my recipe for navigating conflict.

Step 1: Shut up

It’s such a waste of time to spend your energy arguing. Once the discussion reaches the point when you’re irrational, there’s no way in the world you’re gonna end up victorious. Instead, you’re gonna end up sleeping on the couch. Eating some ugly microwaveable food. Watching TV till late. Drinking a beer on your own, pretending you’re reflecting on your brilliance.

Why go through all of this? Just…shut up. Let the silence embrace your anger. Put a pause to the conflict.

Breathe.

Step 2: Turn around

I came up with the idea of sitting (or standing), leaning my back against my girlfriend’s back whenever a discussion heated up and we needed to resolve a dispute over something.

That’s right.

“Stand, or sit down, and lean your back against the other person’s back.” —Me, scientist.

Step 3: Continue arguing

That’s right. Continue where you left. With the same energy. Just imagine you’re still facing the other person, as if nothing has changed, and watch how magic happens.

After a couple of minutes, this always helps to end the discussion. Thanks to this method, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other. And saved countless moments of angry body language and words bouncing between the walls of our home.

But how?

“What happens is that the arguing immediately becomes more objective.” —Me, scientist.

There’s no better way to realize if you’re right or wrong than speaking with yourself, with honesty. Honesty, however, is hard to achieve when we can’t control our emotions and interactions.

By standing back-against-back, you no longer have another person across the room to argue with. You become vulnerable, because your words are aimed at nobody in front of you. You’re on your own, looking at a corner of the room. Your voice reflects off the walls and yells back at you. You will hear what the other person in the room hears. It’s a wonderful experience.

“You will trick your mind. For your brain, it is illogical to be arguing with nobody. Your mind’s logical self-preservation instinct will fight against doing something as dumb as yelling at the air.” —Me, psycholoscientist.

You will be more clear and objective and think, “Well, I do have a point!” or maybe, “Oh, this is wrong. I am wrong.”

For me and my fiancée, it usually takes a few minutes to end the discussion for good. The best part is when you turn around and you get to face the person who you just agreed with.

Step 4: Turn around again, and enjoy your peace

This is exceptional with couples. It’s a moment of relief and happiness where you go: “Ah! There she is!” or “Ah! There he is!” Feel the beauty of a peaceful moment.

This often ends with a silly smirk, a tiny laugh. Or a slap. Or sex. Or both. Depends. Results may vary.

This post originally appeared at Medium.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016

Trying To Make Other People Happy Is Counter-Productive

I really like this article, written by Christine Carter. I’d encourage you to read it completely.


People ask me all the time what the secret to happiness is. “If you had to pick just one thing,” they wonder, “what would be the most important thing for leading a happy life?”

Ten years ago, I would have told you a regular gratitude practice was the most important thing—and while that is still my favorite instant happiness booster, my answer has changed. I believe the most important thing for happiness is living truthfully. Here’s the specific advice I recently gave my kids:

Live with total integrity. Be transparent, honest, and authentic. Do not ever waiver from this—white lies and false smiles quickly snowball into a life lived out of alignment. It is better to be yourself and risk having people not like you than to suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone you’re not, or professing to like something that you don’t. I promise you: Pretending will rob you of joy.

I’ve spent the better part of my life as a people-pleaser—trying to meet other people’s expectations, trying to keep everyone happy and liking me. But when we are trying to please others, we are usually out of sync with our own wants and needs. It’s not that it’s bad to be thinking of others. It’s that pleasing others is not the same as helping others.

People pleasing, in my extensive personal experience, is a process of guessing what other people want, or what will make them think favorably of us, and then acting accordingly. It’s an often subtle and usually unconscious attempt at manipulating other people’s perceptions of us. Anytime we pretend to be something we aren’t or feel something we don’t, we lose personal integrity.

And any time we’re doing something that is more about influencing what others think of us than authentically expressing ourselves—even something as simple as a Facebook post that makes it seem like we are having a better day than we actually are—we lose personal integrity.

Losing integrity has pretty serious consequences for our happiness, and for our relationships. Here’s what happens when we aren’t being authentic:

  1. We don’t actually fool anyone

Say you are at work, and you’re doing your best to put on a happy face even though your home life is feeling shaky. You may not want to reveal to your work friends that you and your significant other had a major fight over the weekend, but if you pretend that you are okay—and you’re not—you’ll probably make the people around you feel worse, too. Why?

We humans aren’t actually very good at hiding how we are feeling. We exhibit micro-expressions that the people we are with might not consciously register, but that trigger their mirror neurons—so a little part of their brain thinks that they are feeling our negative feelings. Trying to suppress negative emotions when we are talking with someone—like when we don’t want to trouble someone else with our own distress—actually increases the stress levels of both people more than if we had shared our distress in the first place. (It also reduces rapport and inhibits the connection between two people.)

  1. We find it harder to focus

Pretending takes a huge conscious effort—it’s an act of self-control that drains your brain of its power to focus and do deep work. That’s because performing—or pretending to be or feel something you’re not—requires tremendous willpower.

Tons of research suggests that our ability to repeatedly exert our self-control is actually quite limited. Like a muscle that tires and can no longer perform at its peak strength after a workout, our self-control is diminished by previous efforts at control, even if those efforts take place in a totally different realm.

So that little fib at the water cooler you told in order to make yourself seem happier than you are is going to make it hard for you to focus later in the afternoon. A performance—or any attempt to hide who you really are, or pretend to be something you aren’t—is later going to make it harder to control your attention and your thoughts, and to regulate your emotions. It’ll increase the odds that you react more aggressively to provocation, eat more tempting snacks, engage in riskier behaviors, and—this one is pretty compelling to me—perform more poorly on tasks that require executive function, like managing your time, planning, or organizing.

  1. We become more stressed and anxious

Let’s just call it like it is: Pretending to be or feel something that you don’t—even if it is a small thing, and even if it is relatively meaningless, and even if it is meant to protect someone else—is a lie – and it’s exhausting.

And lying, even if we do it a lot or are good at it, is very stressful to our brains and our bodies. The polygraph test depends on this: “Lie detectors” don’t actually detect lies, but rather they detect the subconscious stress and fear that lying causes. These tests sense changes in our skin conductivity, pulse rate, and breathing. They also detect when someone’s vocal pitch has changed in a nearly imperceptible way, a consequence of tension in the body that tightens vocal chords.

The physiological changes that lie detectors sense are caused by glucocorticoids—hormones that are released during a stress response. And as you well know, stress hormones are bad news for your health and happiness over the long run.

Research shows that people who are given instructions for how to lie less in their day-to-day lives are actually able to lie less—and when they do, their physical health improves. For example, they report less trouble sleeping, less tension, fewer headaches, and fewer sore throats. These improvements in health are likely caused by the relative absence of a stress response.

And that’s not all: When the people in the above study lied less, they also reported improvements in their relationships, and decreased anxiety.

We don’t lie or pretend or perform all the time, of course. But when we do, it’s important to see the consequences: increased stress, decreased willpower, impaired relationships. Although we might actually be trying to feel better by putting on a happy face for others, pretending always backfires in the end. Living in-authentically makes life hard and cuts us off from our sweet spot—that place where we have both ease and power.

This post originally appeared at ChristineCarter.com.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016

Other Changes Hong Kong Forced Tesla To Make To Its Driving Software

Written by Paul Smalera

Funny.

Tesla HK

Update Succeeded–What’s New in This Update

At the request of the Hong Kong Transport Department, the milk frothing function of the glovebox espresso machine has been disabled. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that cappuccinos and lattes have no bearing on the drivability of the car and therefore should not be offered in Tesla vehicles in Hong Kong. Tesla Motors regrets that Hong Kong customers will now only be able to consume espressos and Americanos in their Teslas–unlike customers in the rest of the world, where this feature will remain available.

Also at the request of the Hong Kong Transport Department, Tesla cars will automatically skip any musical tracks performed by Huey Lewis and the News. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that Huey Lewis and the News’s clear, crisp sound and sheen of consummate professionalism has no bearing on the drivability of the car. The Hong Kong Transport Department has therefore determined that Huey Lewis and the News’s bitter, cynical sense of humor should not be offered in Tesla vehicles in Hong Kong. Tesla Motors customers in Hong Kong who attempt to play Huey Lewis and the News songs on their standard or premium sound system will have those tracks automatically substituted with Elvis Costello’s Alison–unlike customers in the rest of the world, where Huey Lewis and the News will remain available.

By separate request from the Hong Kong Transport Department, Tesla cars are now programmed to say the words “coconut ice cream” over and over through the external loudspeaker whenever the car is is stopped at a traffic light or autoparking itself. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that coconut ice cream is a tasty treat and the general public should be reminded of its existence when Tesla cars are within earshot of pedestrians. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that repeatedly announcing “coconut ice cream” has no bearing on the drivability of the car. Based on this request, Tesla is proudly unveiling a new feature for customers in the rest of the world, who are now able to program the announcement of any sweet dessert they choose while the car is in these modes. (Savory dessert functionality will be released in a future update.) Customers can program this feature via the calendar app.

MaxCo Advisors, June 2016

Purdah – A Rule That Aims To Stop Officials From Prejudicing Voters.

An approach that the US could benefit from, too.

These are trying times for voters in the US and the UK. Stateside, Americans must contend with the rise of Donald Trump. Across the pond, British citizens are preparing to vote on whether to leave the European Union, known as Brexit.

Trump’s unlikely rise to prominence and the Brexit vote are each driven by many of the same issues—nationalism, xenophobia, and a pervasive sense of economic impotence. But as a dual citizen of both the US and the UK, I’ve been struck by the vast differences in how each of the countries campaign. Nowhere is this difference more pronounced than in the UK’s convention of the purdah, which goes into effect today and limits what government officials can do and say for the four-week period before UK citizens head to the polls on June 23rd.

Purdah is a Persian word that means “curtain” or “veil.” Also sometimes referred to as the “period of sensitivity,” it describes “the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place.” So although prime minister David Cameron is on the record as being against the UK leaving the EU (despite, illogically, calling for the referendum himself), from this point forward he will not be able to use his office to enact any policy or publicity that might sway the public.

Meanwhile, during the general election in 2015, official guidance stated that ministers were expected to postpone “decisions on matters of policy on which a new Government might … take a different view from the present Government” and “not to undertake any activity which could call into question their political impartiality.”

Stephen Fisher is a sociology professor at Oxford University’s Trinity College who studies elections. He says the purdah convention is reflective of a larger approach to British elections that is starkly different from America’s. You can find a hint of that disparity, he says, in the language used in each nation.

“There is a calmer approach to the way that elections and political competitions are conducted in Britain compared to the US.”

“In the US you ‘run for office’ and in Britain you ‘stand for election,’” Fisher says. “There is a calmer, less dynamic, and less frantic approach to the way that elections and political competitions are conducted in Britain compared to the US. There is a longer cycle and different electoral law, and there was traditionally much more of a sense of [having] large periods of time when people weren’t focusing on trying to win the next election.”

The purdah was passed relatively recently in 2000 as part of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act. However, according to Dr Andrew Blick, a lecturer in politics and contemporary history at Kings College London, “the idea that ministers should not abuse their position to serve clearly party political ends long predates 2000.” The purdah does not apply to designated campaigners—so candidates can still be on the stump right up until election day. Rather, it applies to government ministers and departments, local authorities, and bodies funded with taxpayer money, excluding the BBC.

The purdah is not the only restriction on UK elections. The Electoral Commission limits campaign expenditure within what is called the “regulated period.” In the case of the Brexit referendum, this period began on April 15th, 10 weeks before the vote. Any individual or group who spends more than £10,000 campaigning for one side must register and report their spending. During 2015’s general election, meanwhile, the regulated period was just under 12 months. Spending limits were capped within that time frame for both sides.

The idea that voters should have time to debate and contemplate issues without hype from politicians is novel to my American ears.

Fisher says that in practice, one of the most tangible outcomes of the purdah is that it inconveniences the government, which can’t push policy along as effectively when it’s in place. For this reason, David Cameron attempted to prevent a purdah from being applied to the upcoming referendum. But the idea that those in power should not be allowed to put the full machinery of the government behind their own election aims is a hugely refreshing departure from the near-constant election chatter in the US.

It’s important to note that the purdah doesn’t apply to the media. It’s hard to judge with any certainty the effect that silencing government and civil servants has on the ensuing media coverage in the run-up to an election. Fisher posits that the restriction tends to cause a “front-loading” of government reports, such as Monday’s Treasury report, which warned of “immediate and profound shock to [the] economy” if Britain votes to leave. Regardless, the idea that voters should have time to debate and contemplate issues without hype from politicians is novel to my American ears.

In recent weeks, the US media has indulged in self-flagellation over the idea that they “created Trump” by giving him endless free publicity ($2 billion worth, according to The New York Times). But a more compelling explanation for Trump’s rise may be that he is the inevitable product of a political system that is more focused on campaigning than governing.

Trump is the inevitable product of a political system that is more focused on campaigning than governing.

US election cycles have stretched to become a two-year bloodbath. If you consider what political scientists call the “rule of anticipated importance,” Trump benefited from a long period where he could convince the electorate of how much he mattered. In that time, there were also comparatively few restrictions on what he could spend.

But what if Trump had campaigned in a climate that had an aim of civic impartiality? What if running for office wasn’t a money-raising contest, and campaigning mid-way through a sitting president’s term was viewed as counter to the nation’s best interests? In that alternative scenario, I have a hunch Trump’s main assets—storytelling and deep pockets—might not have gotten him so far.

The debate around Brexit has certainly been fervent and, at times, ugly. But at least it hasn’t been long. The date of the referendum was only announced in February, giving the saga just four months to unfold.

Given the seemingly endless slog of the US election, it’s hard not to yearn for a similar spirit of electoral restraint in America. Until then, I’ll be counting down the 164 days until November 8th.

MaxCo Advisors, May 2016