“You can have virtually anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.”
– Ray Dalio
“Our experience tends to confirm a long-held notion that being prepared, on a few occasions in a lifetime, to act promptly at scale, in doing some simple and logical thing, will often dramatically improve the financial results of that lifetime.
A few major opportunities, clearly recognizable as such, will usually come to one who continuously searches and waits, with a curious mind that loves diagnosis involving multiple variables. And then, all that is required is a willingness to bet heavily when the odds are extremely favorable, using resources available as a result of prudence and patience in the past.”
– Charles T. Munger
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is one of the most subtle and devastating psychological biases for me.
There is SO MUCH out there that based on sheer capacity alone, you have to miss out of on 99.9% of it.
Yet, it’s so easy to get caught in the game of trying to expand capacity.
Without recognizing the absurdity of it, we often ask – how can I go from experiencing .1% to .3%? How can I get more done?
Of course, that’s absolutely missing the point.
The point is to accept that you can only experience .1% and figure out exactly what you want that .1% to be.
Having too much to do and too many opportunities shouldn’t be stressful. It should be joyful. It should be a source of gratitude. It lets you operate from an abundance mindset. It forces you to prioritize what’s really important.
There’s a story in Poor Charlie’s Almanack of Charlie Munger buying a tennis ball machine for his summer house.
Everyday for an entire summer, all he did was practice putting away volley winners from 3ft behind the net.
No rallying. No forehands. No backhands.
He figured out the one thing that would make him effective in his doubles matches and spent all his attention and energy focusing on it.
He employed the same strategy at Berkshire Hathaway. According to Munger, 80% of BH is directly attributable to 5 deals. That’s 1 big deal per decade to get to $143 Billion. They took more shots than that, but still at a rate of only 1-2 deals per year.
A line from a country song expresses our feeling about new ventures, turnarounds, or auction-like sales: “When the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me.” – From Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition criteria
Charlie taught this principle in an investment class by asking all the students to imagine they had a punch card with 20 hole punches. Once they punched all 20, their career was over.
How much more careful would they be?
It’s easy to nod your head in agreement as you read that. To have that level of patience and prudence on a daily and hourly basis is something else entirely. It’s a skill that has to be cultivated.
There’s an innate human tendency to take either small or bad opportunities too often. This is a Lollapalooza effect caused by a combination of the planning fallacy, a fear of social rejection, and FOMO (among others).
Our generation will not be defined by what we say yes to, but what we say no to.
Those that define our generation will be the ones that said no to the mainstream media, to checking Facebook, to answering calls from unknown numbers. You need to learn to say no without explaining yourself.
They’ll be too focused on Fuck Yes opportunities to make art.
I’m not very good at overcoming FOMO, the planning fallacy, or fears of social rejection. Each one nips at me daily.
But, I increasingly find pleasure in saying no to things.
I’m slower to respond to big commitments and more aware of how my short term emotional states play into decision making. “Sleep on it” has centuries of wisdom baked into it.
I relish more in doing the simple things exceedingly well and not worrying about frivolous details.
I was talking with someone on the phone this week about an opportunity to do some consulting that had come up. I started to laugh at myself.
I had an image in my head of opportunities whizzing by like stars fading away in Star Wars as they go into hyper drive and the light from the stars stretches into a thin white line as it whizzes by the ship.
Ahh, the Joys of Missing Out.
Learn To Say No Without Having To Explain Yourself:
Rules and Heuristics I’ve developed to help say ‘No’ –
- Wait 1 order of measurement below a thing before committing to it. – Ie. if a commitment is 1 hour then you have to think about it for at least 1 minute. It it’s a day then you have to think about it for an hour, If it’s a year then you have to think about it for a month, etc.
- Assume everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you plan (even when you plan conservatively)
- Before buying things I add them to an Evernote note with the implicit agreement if I still want them in a month, I can buy it. I’d say maybe 3-5% tops do I actually still want a week after I write it down. After a month – 1%.
- I keep one major focus with every area of my life – health, business, relationships, spiritual. (but still end up taking on way too many “side” projects.)
- Re-read list vs. Read list – I suspect the overwhelming value of all existing knowledge in in a relatively minuscule number of books so I keep a re-read list that I tend to go through once a year.
- As part of my End of day and End of Week reviews – I ask myself:
- What am I doing right now that doesn’t make me feel “Fuck Yes”?
- What’s the least valuable thing I did last week?
- How Can I Eliminate the Grey Zone? – What in my life isn’t extremely high leverage and pushing me forward or recharging me?
Tools for Saying No
Further Reading and Listening
Last Updated on December 19, 2019 by Taylor