The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.
First mover advantage is exacerbated by the fact that technology companies enjoy compounded growth. Building organizations takes time. Incorporating, fundraising, recruiting, and shipping and marketing a product can easily add up to many months of work. If you’re second to market, your competitor will have been scaling their user acquisition machine while you’re still scrambling to ship your product. They’ll acquire resources at an exponential rate that allow them to reach even more customers before you do, and you’ll be stuck trying to explain to users how your product is different from theirs. Most of the time, that means the death of your company.
I need thy presence every passing hour.
Each of us human beings, for example, is the product of an enormously long
sequence of accidents, any of which could have turned out differently.
The self is a relation that relates itself to itself.
Self-forgiveness is a misconception. The only people who can forgive us are those we have sinned against, those we have harmed.
Kierkegaard observed that you don’t change God when you pray, you change yourself.
Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.
This idea of fundamental laws plus accidents, and the non-linear second order effects they produce, became the science of complexity and chaos theory.
We own our business, and it is ours to lose.
The rule for decision making in life and business goes like this: The fewest blind spots wins.
“If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” — Cardinal Richelieu in 1641
How we perceive the world and how we act in it are products of how and what we remember. We’re all just a bundle of habits shaped by our memories. And to the extent that we control our lives, we do so by gradually altering those habits, which is to say the networks of our memory… Our ability to find humor in the world, to make connections between previously unconnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture: All these essentially human acts depend on memory. Now more than ever, as the role of memory in our culture erodes at a faster pace than ever before, we need to cultivate our ability to remember. Our memories make us who we are.
In the late 1800s, “Buffalo Bill” Cody created a show called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which toured the United States, putting on exhibitions of gun fighting, horsemanship, and other cowboy skills. One of the show’s most popular acts was a woman named Phoebe Moses, nicknamed Annie Oakley. Annie was reputed to have been able to shoot the head off of a running quail by age twelve, and in Buffalo Bill’s show, she put on a demonstration of marksmanship that included shooting flames off candles, and corks out of bottles. For her grand finale, Annie would announce that she would shoot the end off a lit cigarette held in a man’s mouth, and ask for a brave volunteer from the audience. Since no one was ever courageous enough to come forward, Annie hid her husband, Frank, in the audience. He would “volunteer,” and they would complete the trick together. In 1980, when the Wild West Show was touring Europe, a young crown prince (and later, kaiser), Wilhelm, was in the audience. When the grand finale came, much to Annie’s surprise, the macho crown prince stood up and volunteered. The future German kaiser strode into the ring, placed the cigarette in his mouth, and stood ready. Annie, who had been up late the night before in the local beer garden, was unnerved by this unexpected development. She lined the cigarette up in her sights, squeezed…and hit it right on the target.
Many people have speculated that if at that moment, there had been a slight tremor in Annie’s hand, then World War I might never have happened. If World War I had not happened, 8.5 million soldiers and 13 million civilian lives would have been saved. Furthermore, if Annie’s hand had trembled and World War I had not happened, Hitler would not have risen from the ashes of a defeated Germany, and Lenin would not have overthrown a demoralized Russian government. The entire course of twentieth-century history might have been changed by the merest quiver of a hand at a critical moment. Yet, at the time, there was no way anyone could have known the momentous nature of the event.
Managers can grow and retain top talent by helping their employees articulate long-term vision for their careers.
Investing is about owning a partial stake in a real business. You must understand whether the actual businesses in which you own stock earns a return on capital to be a successful investor. The more different types of businesses you understand in this way, the more skill you will acquire in understanding another new business.
The single most important decision in evaluating a business is pricing power. If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business. And if you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by 10 percent, then you’ve got a terrible business.
We have to have a business with some inherent characteristics that give it a durable competitive advantage.
The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage. The products or services that have wide, sustainable moats around them are the ones that deliver rewards to investors.
Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.
If there are no barriers to entry, you won’t be very profitable.
If customers have all the power, and if rivalry is based on price, you won’t be very profitable. Producing the highest-quality products at the lowest cost or consolidating their industry is trying to improve on best practices. That’s not a strategy.
All human activities can be described by five high-level components: data, prediction, judgment, action, and outcomes. For example, a visit to the doctor in response to pain leads to: 1) x-rays, blood tests, monitoring (data), 2) diagnosis of the problem, such as “if we administer treatment A, then we predict outcome X, but if we administer treatment B, then we predict outcome Y” (prediction), 3) weighing options: “given your age, lifestyle, and family status, I think you might be best with treatment A; let’s discuss how you feel about the risks and side effects” (judgment); 4) administering treatment A (action), and 5) full recovery with minor side effects (outcome).
Being able to cross-pollinate the flow of information is amazing
Entrepreneurs and risk takers succeed or fail not so much on their ability to talk, explain, and rationalize as their ability to get things done.
People who are good “doers” and people who are good “talkers” are often selected for different traits. Be careful not to mix them up.
I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.
I’m almost always anxious when I’m writing. There are those great moments when you forget where you are, when you get your hands on the keys, and you don’t feel anything because you’re somewhere else. But that very rarely happens. Mostly I’m pounding my hands on the corpse’s chest.
I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.