The Power of Low Expectations

Hey everyone,

Hope you're having a great week. Here are a few things I've been reading and pondering lately. Enjoy!


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1. The Original Affluent Society

This is an excerpt from the 1972 book Stone Age Economics by Marshall Sahlins. He makes the point that low expectations are easy to meet, which makes leisure and happiness easier to achieve. Here's a snippet, but the entire piece is worth reading.

Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's—in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times.

2. Motivation is Overvalued. Environment Often Matters More.

A great piece from James Clear. It's not a new article, but one I like to re-read now and then.

Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. We tend to believe our habits are a product of our motivation, talent, and effort. Certainly, these qualities matter. But the surprising thing is, especially over a long time period, your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment.

Imagine trying to grow tomatoes in a Canadian winter. You can be the most talented farmer in the world, but it won't make a difference. Snow is a very poor substitute for soil.

3. Maybe We All Need a Little Less Balance

Preach, Brad Stulberg!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been told to strive for balance. Yet I’ve noticed something interesting: The times in my life during which I’ve felt happiest and most alive are also the times that I’ve been the most unbalanced.

Falling in love. Writing a book. Trekking in the Himalayas. Training to set a personal record in a triathlon. During these bouts of full-on living I was completely consumed by my activity. Trying to be balanced — devoting equal proportions of time and energy to other areas of my life — would have detracted from the formative experiences.

4. Betting on Things That Never Change

I've only recently discovered Morgan Housel's writing (via the Knowledge Project podcast) and I can't get enough. Here's a recent post (but he has plenty more).

Things that change are amazing. They can fuel massive growth.

But change by itself is hard. Investors have to spot it before it’s obvious. Consumers have to change their behaviors to make it viable. Those two points repel each other like magnets. And things that change tend to keep changing. A company whose pitch is “We’re doing this entirely new thing” likely has to reinvent itself and its product line every year, maybe more.

Change often creates bursts of opportunity. Huge opportunity, yes. But businesses and their investors need more than slippery bursts to succeed. They need endurance. And endurance resides in long-term bets. Things you can pour energy and capital into today with a reasonable chance of still bearing fruit ten years from now. Which tend to be things that are stable in time.

Have a great weekend!


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