Aphorisms I (with annotations)

Sharing ideas I wrote at the end of 2022. Amusing reading this now, as some of them are key to understanding why I made the mistakes I did in 2023. Adding some annotations in italics. 

The most profound insights I discovered about human nature and society are secrets. Most important ideas can only be spoken in hushed tones, and the most profound ones stay locked away. Human nature is bizarre, and society cannot easily internalize the truths at its foundation. Some musings that I will share:

  • The idea that great leaders usefully create a “Reality Distortion Field” is backwards. People are already living in a distorted reality. It's your job to break them out using a Reality Field. [This is mostly correct, should be taken seriously]

  • Cultivate a sense of inevitability. Become a winner at all (non-moral) costs. You can solve any problem life throws at you. [You cannot solve every problem; sometimes you have to eat the cost and move on]

  • I was at lunch with the childhood friend of the biggest hedge fund managers in the world (Bob). Bob was down 50% last year. I asked my friend if he was “freaking out.” He was vividly taken aback. “Freaking out?? Bob? I’ve never seen him freak out in his life. He’s just busy. He’s at his desk making the calls he needs to make.” This is an aspiration of mine — that if you asked my friends how I’m doing when crisis hits, they would look at you like you’re from another planet if you suggested I might not be totally locked in, taking the steps needed to escape the precipice and achieve total victory. 

  • Have faith and act with conviction. The core mistakes I made last year were the consequence of me questioning my own intuitions and deferring to people who had more “experience”. Trust your gut on the big things, and execute relentlessly. [Yes]

  • Social norms are actually pretty good guides to conduct. Break rules and make contrarian bets only when you are very high conviction. It’s easy for smart people to construct self-serving, internally consistent arguments to justify nearly anything. Be wary of your intellect. [More true than I appreciated]

  • Only make enemies when absolutely necessary. Conflict is negative sum. People will intuitively perceive interacting with you as riskier if you have conflicts, even if you eloquently explain how it wasn’t your fault. [Building a large following is extremely high-leverage, and public conflict / drama is useful when doing so; I am extremely comfortable with conflict, so this (as much advice is) was directional advice for myself, but not generalizable to all people seeking success]

  • Surround yourself with people you respect who look up to you, and live up to their aspirational perception. Earn their respect and admiration with every choice you make. [This is totally wrong and will lead you astray; cultivate a strong sense of self, a notion of the divine, and do what you think is right]

  • Your analysis of any situation will be 2D, but reality is 3D. Cubes will appear to you as squares. You can see a fuller picture of reality by knitting together seemingly contradictory stories and models that gesture at the same underlying reality from different vantage points. 

  • The design space for your life is much larger than you can fathom. There are moves you can make beyond your imagination. Expand your horizon, and be more aggressive.

  • The most important skill in life is saying things the way people need to hear them. Empathy and lucidity of communication are paramount. Wed this skill with the noble virtues of honesty and integrity, and you can achieve any vision over the long term.

  • Experience beauty. See masterworks in museums, visit Florentine cathedrals, invest in Italian fabrics when you can afford them. [Wait until rates come down to buy the fabrics]

  • Most people have really bad taste. Your preferences should hew towards objective beauty.

  • Don’t just use music as a stimulant, e.g. hype-up rap music on your commute. Listen to Idioteque and Lotus Flower by Radiohead and contemplate your relationships.

  • Long walks are extremely important for clarity of thought.

  • Find magic people, bring them into your life, and keep them close. [Yes, but: some magic people do dark magic; beware]

  • Cultivate noble virtues, let them guide your behavior. The accumulated effect is a radiant vitality that will cause every element of your life to flourish.