Curated Insights 2019.12.14

How to read: Lots of inputs and a strong filter

College tuition at $25,000 a year comes out to roughly $100 per lecture. Good books – sometimes written by the same professor – can be purchased for fifteen bucks and can offer multiple times as much life-changing insight.

The conflict between these two – most books don’t need to be read to the end, but some books can change your life – means you need two things to get a lot out of reading: Lots of inputs and a strong filter.

If you only pick up books you know with certainty you’re going to like you’ll confine yourself to reading the same authors on the same topics. It gives fresh oxygen to confirmation bias and limits your ability to connect the dots between different fields and different cultures. It’s better to have a low bar in what books you’re willing to try, and even the faintest tickle of interest should be enough to make the cut. Kindle samples are free so excuses are minimal.

Once you’ve flooded your desk with inputs comes the filter. It should be ruthless, taking no prisoners and offering no mercy. Similar to dating, a book you’re not into after 10 minutes of attention has little chance of a happy ending. Slam it shut and move on. You’re not a failure if you quit a book after three pages anymore than if you reject the proposition of a 10-hour date with someone you just met who annoys you. Lots of fish in the sea.


The bus ticket theory of genius

The paths that lead to new ideas tend to look unpromising. If they looked promising, other people would already have explored them. How do the people who do great work discover these paths that others overlook? The popular story is that they simply have better vision: because they’re so talented, they see paths that others miss. But if you look at the way great discoveries are made, that’s not what happens. Darwin didn’t pay closer attention to individual species than other people because he saw that this would lead to great discoveries, and they didn’t. He was just really, really interested in such things.

Two-thirds of Americans do not feel the benefits of Wall St rally

A poll of likely voters for the Financial Times and the Peter G Peterson Foundation found 61 per cent of Americans said stock market movements had little or no effect on their financial wellbeing. Thirty-nine per cent said stock market performance had a “very strong” or “somewhat strong” impact.

The survey suggested most Americans are not aware of market movements, with just 40 per cent of respondents correctly saying the stock market had increased in value in 2019. Forty-two per cent of likely voters said the market was at “about the same” levels as at the start of the year, while 18 per cent believed it had decreased.

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