Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes. –George Soros
My goal is to give you as many strategic advantages as possible, so that you can’t help but win in life. I started out on Wall Street in New York in 1999 and made MD at Goldman in 2011.
This is what I wish I knew when I was starting out:
Have a System
I credit Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) for making this idea concrete in my head. Adams talks about having a process that allows you to succeed even if you fail.
What does that mean for you? For example say you wanted to grow your network to help you get a job, than your system would be to make sure that each day you meet one new person.
This way even if you didn’t get a job right away, you would be left with a larger network, which in itself makes you more valuable.
Or if you wanted to impress your interviewer with your knowledge of finance, rather than cramming the WSJ or FT the night before, you would start reading ten pages of a finance or investing related book every day. Regardless of whether you impressed the interviewer or not, you would end up being smarter.
The point being that rather than focus on just a goal or task, build a system that ensures that you will acquire something of value even if you don’t immediately succeed at your goal.
Learn to Make Friends
When I was starting out, I thought it was just about outworking other people. If I just stayed at the desk long enough I would win. This was pretty silly.
Friends help you find short cuts. Having friends is like having access to another person’s experiences, knowledge and network.
I think having friends should be ranked as a super power
A good network of friends can transform you and allow you to accomplish things you could never do on your own. So if this is something you have problems with read this.
Simplify Your Life
Most of us walk around with more complexity than needed in our life. For you this might be trying to juggle FB, FB Messanger, Whats App, SnapChat, Text messages. I’m not telling you to stop talking to people, I’m saying that for a few hours a day switch off or ignore the phone and just focus on the key tasks you want to accomplish.
Multi-tasking doesn’t work, our brains aren’t designed for it.
One trick that I have found very useful is using my calendar. Each day I mark out in 30 min or 60 min increments what I’m going to focus on for that time frame, and for that time I do nothing but that task.
This makes me super productive, since at the end of 60 mins I have made a lot of progress on that one thing. The next time you have something on your to do list, if you really want to to get it done, then find a slot for it on your calendar.
Another way to think about this is the Pareto 80/20 principle. For those of you that haven’t heard about this before, the principle goes like this, 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your income. 20% of the population holds 80% of the wealth.
Your goal in life should be to identify the 20% of effort that can allow you to accomplish 80% of your goals.
Learn New Skills
What skills matter ?
- Public Speaking & Conversation: nothing is more impressive than people who can speak well. Its an essential life skill and becoming even more important as technology evolves.
- Psychology: human’s aren’t rational creatures, we don’t use reason for our important decisions. Make sure you understand the common psychology tricks and human biases, I list a few good books here.
- Persuasion: We are all sales people. No matter what you do in life and whom you do it with, you will always be trying to convince people of your opinion on one subject or another.
- Business Writing: Is all about conveying the key points and expressing your point of view. No matter what you do for a living, you will need to be able express yourself succinctly on paper.
Manage Your Energy
It’s easy to find a lot of things to do. There are always more things you could do, read, see, work on, people to talk to. There usually won’t be enough time for you to manage everything you set out to do. The trick here is to not focus on your to do list, but focus on your energy levels and align your energy levels with the most important & hardest tasks.
Do the hardest tasks when you have the most energy and do the easiest tasks when you are tired.
I used to do this the wrong way. I’d check my emails (easy task) in the am, when I was fresh, and I’d try to read a book or study at night when I was tired. This doesn’t work. So try using your energy to accomplish the hardest tasks when you have the most energy and see if you notice the big difference.
Money doesn’t bring unhappiness. I know many unhappy billionaires.
It’s very easy to get on the hedonic treadmill and never get off. I have been on it for many years. It’ll be easy as you progress in your career to want more, to not be satisfied with what you have. To want a bigger car, a bigger house, fancier holidays. This will not stop. The human mind adapts to its new condition very quickly.
After a certain level, money has negative marginal utility.
An easier and smarter way to be happier is to practice daily gratitude
Be thankful for what you have, what you have achieved, and how much you already have.
If you want to take it to the next level, then practice negative visualization.
Every day practice being thankful for what you have in each area of your life: mental, physical, social, spiritual. Then imagine losing it. This will make you much happier with what you have in your life and be more present in your life rather than trying to live in the future.
You adapt, evolve, compete or die. –Paul Tudor Jones
Ahmed Husain on How Billionaires Get to Where They Are