Shane Parrish

Shane Parrish

Curator behind the popular Farnam Street Blog. Wisdom Seeker. Life Liver. Investor.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 09, 2016

Discussion

Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
Hi - I'm Shane Parrish, Founder of the Re:Think Workshops on Innovation and Decision Making and the curator behind the popular Farnam Street Blog. More recently, I've started a holding company to acquire private companies and make select investments. I'm delighted to be here-- ask me anything! ***I'm headed out. Thanks for the Q&A was a blast.***
Kaleem Hussaini
Kaleem Hussaini@kaleemh · Financial Advisor
First, a sincere thank you for the work that you do. I simply cannot afford to overlook any new posts from farnamstreet. What really makes my jaw drop is your ability to pull relevant excerpts from books belonging to multiple disciplines. I am very interested in understanding the setup that you have evolved which enables you to achieve this. Would you mind sharing your 'book digestion' process and the experience you've hand building it up?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@kaleemh Kaleem. Thanks for the question. I approach this in a few ways. One is a story system - where I'm collecting stories from different books and cataloging them (usually in evernote). The other is a mental model system - https://www.farnamstreetblog.com... - where you have a latticework that you hang them on. Let me give you an example of how I use this. Let's say I was in the Apple store today (which I was), and I go to buy something and the apple person was totally rude (he wasn't - but let's say he was). This is a great story but what can I learn from this? To me this is a multiply by zero - which is a mental model. Apple can do everything right but if the guy at the counter, who controls the brand, fails... it becomes a zero. I walk out never to return again. So it's fun to see the world that way. Think about all of the things you buy... there are various points in the value chain and some of them are additive (one or two failures here won't matter much for the over all outcome) and some of them are multiplicative. Think about work life - in an office building. Some of your tasks are additive and some are multiplicative. When they multiply you can set yourself apart but you risk going to zero. Hope this helps.
mikedariano
mikedariano@mikedariano
What's the best 20% of work for 80% of results that you do (at least weekly)?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@mikedariano I don't know. That's a good question though.
Emil Wallnér
Emil Wallnér@emilwallner · 42
Shane, deeply appreciate the value you are creating!! Qs: 1) What’s the science behind mental modes? 2) What’s the most effective way to learn how to memorize mental modes, learn how to apply them, and retain the knowledge? 3) What are your key learnings from exploring business models for FS? Cheers! 🍺
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@emilwallner I think a lot of that is individual. I first started by copying Munger's Models and have evolved to blend them with some others. Once you see them you can't really unsee them and it shapes how you see the world because they represent the world. We tend to think of human misjudgment (overconfidence/first conclusion bias/sample size bias) as models - and in a way they are... but they are not the only models you need to put in your toolbox. Those are the ones that help you better understand how you might be fooling yourself, not the ones that necessarily help you better understand reality. Reciprocity, for example, is another model and it helps explain the world and it's constant (with a huge sample size backing it... and it's not just psychology - you can find this in physics too.)
Cathy Hwang
Cathy Hwang@cathy_hwang
Hi Shane - thanks for doing this, been a long time fan of your website and newsletter. A couple of questions below: 1.) What is your information diet like? Besides your rigorous reading list, do you have go-to places for long-form content? Besides Evernote, are there other tools that you utilize on a daily basis? 2.) Is there a typical day for you? What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like? What does the last 90 minutes of your day look like? Do you have a routine that helps you get into 'deep work'? 3.) To paraphrase a question from Peter Thiel, is there something you know to be true but most people disagree with? Thanks again!
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@cathy_hwang Thanks Cathy. 1. Evernote is probably the only thing other than a web browser that I use everyday. I'm trying to do less online reading and more offline reading. I've started queuing and printing articles, which helps for my concentration. It's a noisy world out there and I'm trying to create an intellectual safe harbor. 2. No... what's typical is the chunking. There is a 5-7 chunk. A 9-12 chunk. A 1-4 chunk. A 6-8 chunk. and a 9-11 chunk. The first ninety minutes is the most valuable so whatever the most valuable thing I'm going to do that day that doesn't require other people, that's what I'm doing. It's not email. It's usually thinking. Thinking is more valuable than email! 3. excerpt taken from https://www.farnamstreetblog.com... Ever since I came across this question I’ve been toying with it over and over in my head. I’m not sure I have a decent answer, but I’ll offer one of the things that I run into a lot but couldn’t really describe until Peter Kaufman pointed me to a quote by Andy Benoit, who wrote a piece in Sports Illustrated a while back. Benoit said “Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.” I think he nailed it. This explains Berkshire Hathaway, the New England Patriots, Costco, Glenair, and a host of amazing organizations. I’ve long had a feeling about this but couldn’t really pull it out of my subconscious into my conscious mind before. Benoit gave me the words. I think we generally believe that things need to be complicated but in essence there is great value in getting the simple things right and then sticking with them, and that takes discipline. As military folks know, great discipline can beat great brainpower. I know of many companies that invest millions of dollars into complicated leadership development programs, but they fail to treat their people right so the return on this investment isn’t even positive it’s negative, because it fosters cynicism. Or consider companies that focus on complicated incentive plans—they never work. It’s very simple. If you relentlessly focus on the basics and develop a good corporate culture—like the one Ken Iverson mentions in his book Plain Talk—you surpass people who focus on the complex. Where I might disagree with Benoit a little is that I don’t think these are unrecognized as much as under-appreciated. People think the catechism has to be more complicated.
Eric Jorgenson
Eric Jorgenson@ericjorgenson · Market Manager, Zaarly
What is next for the Farnam Street Empire? You've got the Blog, Workshops, and Courses... what's next?
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
@ericjorgenson That's a great question about content curation which I'm hoping we'll get an answer to. He's really master that art!
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@ericjorgenson world domination? Seriously, there is no master plan. Everyday I want to be a little bit better, and I want to add a little more valuable, and become a little more indispensable. And I want that to be about "Farnam Street" as a brand and not about me as a person. A while back, I stepped off some boards and walked away from a lot of opportunities to focus on Farnam Street and I'm now getting back to a place where I have the time I need to dedicate to that and some other pursuits. I'd like to join a few boards, pool some capital, buy a few businesses and attempt to create my own mini Berkshire Hathaway.
mikedariano
mikedariano@mikedariano
@ericjorgenson about The Sopranos, James Manos said, "None of us were conscious of creating something that became truly iconic."
Will Chou
Will Chou@willc · Personal Development: willyoulaugh.com
Hi Shane, I have a bunch questions so pick and choose any as you please: Top 5 favorite books or resources? Is your holding company going to only acquire small private companies? Is it going to be Warren Buffett-esq Im assuming? Any advice for running and growing a blog? How do you deal with kickback or hate or debate in comments? If I want to attract the right people to a blog, will it just happen naturally if I write the right stuff?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@willc Yea, I mean replicating Berkshire Hathaway on a mico scale sounds pretty fun to me. Most people don't believe this but I get hatemail almost daily. It's one of the reasons I took comments off, but I might bring them back again. The conversations in the members-only area (https://www.farnamstreetblog.com...) are pretty amazing and remind me of what's possible. It might but it'll be long and slow. And ... that's ok.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@farnamstreet Thanks so much for joining us today, I would love to hear your process for content curation with regards to the newsletter? How do you select the featured content? Also, how do you place your thoughts in terms of placing highly intellectual content that might not favour the traditional and large wantrepreneur market? What are your thoughts on this?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@harrystebbings I put all the articles from FS the last week in there, any book I've read that I think is worth reading, and any article that made me think, added to my knowledge and increased my understanding, or is something I think people would find interesting. It's eclectic. It's personal.
Kent Valentine
Kent Valentine@kentvalentine · Director, Draw Digital
You often talk about the value of being able to apply appropriate mental models to different situations. Do you do this via a specific method (checklist, reference etc) or just by naturally letting your experience and knowledge of models inform your response? If you have a process, what does it look like?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@kentvalentine I use a checklist when I make big decisions. I'm not good enough to just mentally go through a list. I'd miss something. The checklist isn't foolproof either. I miss stuff and make mistakes but the checklist becomes a part of a process and improving the process becomes enormously valuable. It's hard to improve what you do that's ad hoc.
Adam Smith
Adam Smith@adam_smith1
@farnamstreet Would you consider sharing your checklist on the blog?
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
First and foremost, I really value your work. To my question: Whilst your "What I'm Reading" list includes many works of philosophy or philosophy-related books, it's notably devoid of the great modern works of continental philosophy. Debord's Society of the Spectacle, Foucault's Discipline and Punish, Derrida's On Grammatology, de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life are but a few that come to mind. I wondered whether there was any reason for their absence?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@williamshuxley Great question. Only that I haven't read them yet.
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
@farnamstreet I'd highly recommend them, although they're not the easiest books to get through.
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
As you've written with some frequency about psychology (and behavioural economics), I wondered whether you are concerned about the discipline's alleged replication crisis?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@williamshuxley The treadmill of pop psychology books is rooted with distorted incentives. This is why time is a great filter. We worry about missing the latest thing when we should focus on understanding things that don't change (or change slowly)
mikedariano
mikedariano@mikedariano
@farnamstreet @williamshuxley will Taleb block you again for not mentioning him in this comment?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@mikedariano @williamshuxley Probably. I mean he did call me "morally disgusting."
William S Huxley
William S Huxley@williamshuxley · Multidisciplinary Designer
@farnamstreet Is the worry not that it, as a discipline, aims for the unattainable? Is psychology's promise that it can uncover these universal truths about human behaviour one that can never be realised? Freudian psychology despite its age - or perhaps because of its age - now occupies a marginalised position. Similarly, well known studies, such as Milgram's study of obedience or Maslow's hierarchy, have come under sustained assault in recent decades. And if so, would a turn towards relativism not deplete the discipline of substantive value - especially for those outside of the ivory tower?
mikedariano
mikedariano@mikedariano
Including financial & opportunity cost, has the Internet surpassed MBA programs in value? If no, have they at the margin? Same question, but for college.
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@mikedariano that depends on you. You can make the internet more valuable ... but I don't think most people do. The Berkshire Letters surpass an MBA program (really). People often tell me that they've read them (and then you look at how they live and you wonder if they understand them.) Reading and understanding are not the same thing.
Sukumar Ramanathan
Sukumar Ramanathan@sukumar_ramanathan · Global Accounts, LinkedIn
@farnamstreet What got you started on your path to understanding thinking and the non-obvious flaws in some of our mental models?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@sukumar_ramanathan I was a straight D student for most of my life. I got out of University and wanted to figure out what to do with myself so I put my head down and worked my butt off as a computer programmer for 7 years. Then I went and did my MBA and realized, other than very specialized knowledge, I didn't really have a better understanding of how the world worked. The MBA compounded this by wanting answers that were incompatible with the world. I figured there must be a better way. I found Munger. Farnam Street (https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/) picks up there and shows you my personal journey.
Jordan Gonen
Jordan Gonen@jrdngonen · trying my best.
Hi Shane, thanks for coming on! 1) What do you think is a characteristic all founders should have? 2) What is the biggest mountain you have to climb this year?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@jordan_gonen There is no answer to one that would add any value. The world is always changing and what's valued today might not be valuable tomorrow. The skills needed to lead one group of people are not the same as the skills needed to lead another group of people. It's almost all circumstantial. WRT 2) Transitioning FS from a passion to a sustainable business that can support employees, delivery incredible value to all readers, and allow me to invest back into the product. In short, taking the next step.
Anthony Pannell
Anthony Pannell@anthony_pannell · Product Director, Shopomo
In what areas do even the smartest and most successful people exhibit poor decision making?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@anthony_pannell common to all people is how we live. A lot of people - if not most - regret not living a life inline with their true self. Why not learn this now and change how you live?
Marc
Marc@marceglon · Hackerpreneur Mag & Letterlist.com
Really love Farnham Street. I found it when I polled the Hackernews for newsletter suggestions and it came up several times. I'm curious about your macro look on email newsletters as a publishing platform. - Where do they fit? - What is the future of newsletters? - Any unique advantages with the newsletter format?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@marceglon There is always be a place for people that add value. I think hand-curation (like Farnam Street), will become more valuable. Everything we do has a person behind it. That's why you get this crazy collection of things from History to Psychology and Art to Philosophy. I love when people tell me I helped them discover parts of themselves they love but never knew existed.
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@marceglon Thank you Marc. There will always be a place for people (or machines) that add value. I think hand-curation (like Farnam Street), will become more valuable. Everything we do has a person behind it. That's why you get this crazy collection of things from History to Psychology and Art to Philosophy. I love when people tell me I helped them discover parts of themselves they love but never knew existed.
Eric Jorgenson
Eric Jorgenson@ericjorgenson · Market Manager, Zaarly
On a scale of one to HULK, how mad do you get when people misspell Farnam Street?
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Shane! Thanks for being here today. What are your top 3 tips for writing a successful blog?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@ems_hodge LOL. I have no clue what I'm doing. I'm the wrong person to ask. Sorry. The only thing I'd say is add value. Create the world you want to live in.
Marc
Marc@marceglon · Hackerpreneur Mag & Letterlist.com
@farnamstreet @ems_hodge There's a weird irony that the only people who realise that this is true are those others perceive as successful.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey! What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@bentossell I'm not Peter (https://www.farnamstreetblog.com...) ... I don't have one question that I ask everybody and magically some judgment based on your response to... I'm curious thought. I like to know why they are doing what they are doing. How they are doing it? The pros and cons to their business model. I'll also add that I'm not a startup investor, although I've advised a few.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What's your investment strategy for your holding company?
Shane Parrish
Shane Parrish@farnamstreet
@ems_hodge In short: try not to do anything stupid. I think we can be a good home for businesses and if needed I think we can add a lot of value to them from a capital deployment point of view. I won't be adding value as a marketer, I can tell you that. I'm the world's worst marketer.