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Freedom & Responsibility, Being Resourceful While You White, & Cognitive Biases That Make us Invest Poorly (Reading Notes 7.4.18)

Resource: Responsibility Day


There’s no freedom (or independence, if you prefer that word) without responsibility.

To be free to choose is to be responsible for what you choose (or don’t choose).

Some see freedom as not having to answer to someone else or not being told what to do or being independent enough to make your own choices. But that’s only a part of it. The true essence of freedom is that you are responsible for the actions you take and the results you create.

The question is not mere “what are you doing to get free?” The question is how do you intent to use that freedom?”


“It turns out that if you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.”

“If you have the freedom to make choices, the choices are your responsibility.”

“And if you have the ability to change the culture, to connect with others, to make a ruckus, then yes, what you do with that is your responsibility as well.”

Resource: What it means to be resourceful


Work while you wait. If you need something, ask for it. But don’t sit around until the answer comes. Look for other alternatives in the meantime.

If you want something, go after it. But in the gap between working and waiting, get creative and look for ways to leverage your work.


“It means being creative, rebellious, determined, and unstoppable.”

“It means asking for help, but not waiting for help.”

Resource: Bitcoin is the Most Stable Store of Value in History


As human beings, we’re generally terrible at two things: we have a negativity bias and we’re bad at long-term pattern recognition.

Our negativity bias is designed to help us avoid catastrophe, but catastrophes are a minority part of the human experience. We have to work against our cognitive biases to see the positive possibilities. Negativity bias isn’t designed to help you see great investment opportunities.

We stink at long-term pattern recognition because we’re hardwired to notice the flashy and dramatic things. If it’s slow, steady, subtle, and sinister, we tend to miss it every time. It’s why we spend much more time, money, and energy on fighting against death by terrorism versus fighting against death by heart problems.

Overt the long-term, bitcoin has been historically stable. The volatility has been mostly short-term. The fact that we say it’s unstable is an example of just how short-term our focus is.


“So how is it that others see only violent swings while some see the long term pattern? It’s simple. A number of cognitive quirks in our brains hold us back from seeing the real world. They’re like bugs in our mental software. They’ve been there so long we think they’re features. They ain’t features.”

“The first is that we’re wired with a negativity bias. We’re ultra sensitive to bad news.”

“We see threats and horror everywhere. Doomsday is always around the corner. You see it every day on the web with bombastic replies to posts. If this law passes or this person gets appointed or we don’t adopt this policy or that one it’s all over. Only a terrifying collapse and global chaos waits for us. Yet stop for a second and look outside. Are the birds still chirping? Is the sun still in the sky? Is the sky really falling? That’s why when Bitcoin goes up 10X everyone focuses on the inevitable 30% drawdown after months of a bull run. It makes no sense but we do it anyway. This negativity bias was useful for staying alive when we lived in tribes on the open plains but it’s not so useful for dealing with modern life.”

“Occasionally we’re right about the big cataclysmic event, like when a world war savages the planet, but mostly history is a smoothly average peaceful blur. Master contrarian Nicholas Taleb writes in his book Skin the Game/Incerto: “History is largely peace punctuated by wars, rather than wars punctuated by peace.” The thing is, peace ain’t a good story. What’s drama without conflict? You literally can’t write a novel without conflict. People have tried. It doesn’t work. Oh and you can’t write history without conflict either. So history books are packed with page after page of doom and destruction, coups, mass slaughter, murder and intrigue. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare and High School History 101 textbooks. The only problem is, that’s only something like 5% of history.”

“How many times do you see a happy story in the news, a puppy saved, someone rescued from a burning building, a fantastic act of selfless kindness and then forget it five minutes later only to focus back on the constant battle between left and right and the debt crisis and whatever else you’re worried about? That fact is, we’re fear based creatures and it completely warps our sense of reality.”

“The second cognitive bug is this: Humans suck at long term pattern recognition. We’re absolutely terrible at it. I mean, abysmal. We’re wired to see big, flashy, immediate threats.”

“How is it that we spend $10 billion dollars fighting something that picks off 25% of us and 2 trillion, a whopping $125 billion dollars a year, on something that barely touches any of us? Oh and that doesn’t even count normal military spending. It’s because we’re not very good at assessing risk or dealing with it.”

“We easily spot the snake moving fast through the grass, but we completely miss the threats that slowly chip away at us throughout the course of our lives.”

“We think we see how things are but mostly we don’t. Our biases are there to keep us alive not to help us save for a rainy day. Most of us are just walking around with a movie in our head that we perceive as reality but when you really push and prod that movie doesn’t hold up to the light. There’s a disconnect between what’s actually happening and what we think is happening. That disconnect is the source of pain and discomfort and violence and sadness in the world. That’s how multiple people can say with a straight face that 10,000 units of an asset that went from $41 to $27 million dollars in seven years is “unstable.” We can’t help it. We’re just wired that way. But it doesn’t have to work like that. All we have to do is take a little step back and open our eyes and see reality as it actually is, not as we imagine it to be.”

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