Things I Like To Say

*Communication doesn’t need to be pretty to work*
I envy people that aren’t scared of failure. I’m terrified of it. By far my biggest personal flaw is the fear of feeling stupid. It’s doubly destructive because it’s a communication-related phobia. If I was scared of heights or turtles or something I could easily just avoid the triggers and get on with my life. But *I* get saddled with a fear of using the most powerful tool available for human achievement (communicating). So much of my life has been wasted in over-preparing myself, over-training myself, overworking myself to build this unassailable wall of expertise only so I’d feel comfortable communiating more. Even typing this out I shake my head in disbelief. Fool.

Anyway, the point here is to keep your eye on the ball. Very few problems involve communicating for its own sake. Really you’re communicating to get something done and you really can overcome confusing, awkward communication with communication quantity. You’ll get the right message across eventually, just keep pumping away.

*[Stolen/Adapted] Communicating is what the listener does*
This is from Mark Horstman of Manager Tools (if you haven’t heard of Manager Tools drop everything and download and listen to those podcasts). I like it because it’s also wrong and thought provoking. The point here is when I say communicate above I don’t mean blabbing away at people. You need to listen to learn. One-way communicating is absolutely worthless, I cannot emphasize it enough.

*Relationships are the sum of all communication*
Simple enough so I’ll draw out another idea: not all channels are equal. If communciation is flow of water, text based communication is a trickle, phone calls are rivers and in person meetings are Niagara Falls. When I say communicate more I mean, to extend the metaphor, douse the sucker with water. Let’s say your problem is a llama. Takes lots of texts to soak a llama, right? Now stick it under this…


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Things I Like To Say

*If It Isn’t Communicated It Doesn’t Exist*
Call this an epistemological theory of business. No idea exists unless it’s discussed. No action is complete until you talk about it. No deliverable matters without a communication component.

*Every Problem is a Communication Problem*
My favorite because it’s wrong so it’s a bit jarring. Here’s a corollary: every problem can be solved by communicating more. I like to say “when you’re stuck, think first: ‘who do I need to talk to to solve this problem?'”. One of my mentors had only one solution to any problem: pick up the phone. Genius.

Now, it IS wrong, of course. Somebody has to do the work at some point. Maybe a better way of putting this is that only the easiest problems require real work. Everything else is solved by communicating. Communicating takes hard problems and makes them easy problems, which can then be solved with easy work.

All solutions worth the name are elegant and simple in retrospect. And if you communicate consistently and effectively you’ll get to that simple solution faster. Any domain: sales, financial analysis, teaching kids, physics research, everything. No hard problem ever been solved in a social vacuum.


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Why Things Cost So Much (hint: nobody knows and it’s a big, big problem)

The above might be the most intelligent survey I’ve read about what is probably the most important question of our time. 

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Trump Evolving

The most prescient of Trump commentators in my little bubble has been Scott Sumner. His point all along has been that Trump doesn’t care about anything and is just saying whatever it takes to win. He willl, Scott predicts, reverse every single position he’s ever taken.

No, this is not from The Onion:

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Saturday that he wouldn’t characterize his immigration policies as including “mass deportations,” drawing a sharp retort from the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump, in an interview at his golf course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, said that rather than a blanket ban on Muslims coming to the U.S., a position he took in late 2015, he’d focus on those from countries with links to terrorists. The Republican also said he would start from scratch on the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Trump said his immigration policies would have “heart,” suggesting he may be shifting tone to transition into general-election mode after the bruising primary season.

“President Obama has mass deported vast numbers of people — the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” Trump said.
Pressed on whether he would issue “mass deportations,” Trump answered: “No, I would not call it mass deportations.”

I’m sure my neo-Nazi commenters will be thrilled to learn that on immigration Trump will have an even bigger heart than Obama.

The reckoning proceeds.

His opponents (ie everyone I know) could easily draw all of the wrong lessons from this of course by dismissing the success as being deeply fraudulent. It was not. Trump legitimately appealed to many and to the evil side of many more.

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Brexit and The Allure of the Sith

Brexit is about preserving the English Nation. Cowen is at his best when chenneling the darker sides of humanity. In the end this is what makes him the best commentator out there. He knows that instinctive reactions, baser reactions, are not always wrong, even if they are usually wrong.

I’ve always felt that insight comes from a deep connection with ones own failings. The Cass Sunstein podcast where they discuss the dark side of the force is an awesome exchange:

SUNSTEIN: Thank God for libertarian paternalism, that Luke has a choice. The Sith, by the way, like the Jedi, respect freedom of choice. In the crucial scene in Episode III where the question is whether Anakin is going to save the person who would be emperor, he says, “You must choose.” And so there’s full respect for freedom of choice. Nudgers have that. Good for them.

COWEN: Bad guys always tell you the deal, and then they say, “Choose evil.” It seems the good guys always mislead you.

The good guys spend too much time pretending that evil doesn’t exist. What a waste of time. It does exist and it exists in all of us and by pretending it isn’t there we become far less wise about the world. Tyler’s contribution is to frame evil in its best possible light and then reject it anyway.

Or not. Sometimes it feels good to be bad because badder is better.

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What Trump is, In the Best Possible Light

From MR of course. One bit:

Liberalism isn’t actually an automatic emotional default for most people on this planet, so being a scold is in the longer run a losing strategy.  I believe many current “democratic mainstream” thinkers genuinely do not understand how boring and unconvincing they are, as they live in bubbles filled with others of a similar bent.


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Pick The Best Stocks and Fail

here is John Cochrane reporting from the NBER Asset Pricing conference:

Robert Novy-Marx presented  Testing Strategies Based on Multiple Signals, discussed by Moto Yogo. We’re all familiar with the phenomenon that if you try 10 characteristics and pick the best few to forecast returns, t statistics are biased and performance falls out of sample.

Robert pointed out that if you put those best 3 in a portfolio, they diversify each other, reducing the in-sample variance of the portfolio, and boosting Sharpe ratios and t-statistics even further.

Many “smart beta” funds are doing this, so the fall-off in performance from backtest to real money is relevant beyond academia.

The extent of this bias is impressive. Here is the distribution of t statistics that results when you pick the best three of 20 completely useless signals, and put them in a portfolio. Critical values of 4 and 5 show up routinely in Robert’s calculations.


If you pick the three best of a bunch purely average performing stocks you will have a portfolio that looks amazing but is, in fact, crap. This is going to work for all kinds of variable asset or liability prices, including insurance.

Beware ststiatics, folks.

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