Weekend Reading: Tradeoffs, the Margins, and PR FAQs

December 21, 2019 • #

⚖️ Tradeoffs: The Currency of Decision Making

Farnam Street:

Time is our most fundamental constraint. If you use an hour for one thing, you can’t use it for anything else. Time passes, whatever we do with it. It seems beneficial then to figure out the means of using it with the lowest possible opportunity costs. One of the simplest ways to do this is to establish how you’d like to be using your time, then track how you’re using it for a week. Many people find a significant discrepancy. Once we see the gulf between the tradeoffs we’re making and the ones we’d rather be making, it’s easier to work on changing that.

The article reminds me of Sowell on economics. Take this and apply to any other life domain:

Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

💡 The Power of the Marginal

A timeless one from Paul Graham, 2006. On the advantages of outsiders:

Even in a field with honest tests, there are still advantages to being an outsider. The most obvious is that outsiders have nothing to lose. They can do risky things, and if they fail, so what? Few will even notice.

The eminent, on the other hand, are weighed down by their eminence. Eminence is like a suit: it impresses the wrong people, and it constrains the wearer.

Outsiders should realize the advantage they have here. Being able to take risks is hugely valuable. Everyone values safety too much, both the obscure and the eminent. No one wants to look like a fool. But it’s very useful to be able to. If most of your ideas aren’t stupid, you’re probably being too conservative. You’re not bracketing the problem.

📝 PR FAQs for Products

This is an extension of the Amazon mantra of forcing your team to “write the press release” for a product or feature before starting on it. The goal is to concretely visualize the end state as clearly as you can, and get on the same page strategically to outline the why of what you’re building. The PR FAQ is another assistive technique for setting and articulating the goal.