Monday Morning Meeting #8

It's time for your favorite meeting of the week.  Let's get started!

The Idea:  Next time you're wondering how others (people, teams or companies) seem to have succeeded so much faster and better than you, remember that you don't get to see all their false starts and failures before their success.  Paul Graham reminds us why: 

Because biographies of famous scientists tend to edit out their mistakes, we underestimate the degree of risk they were willing to take. And because anything a famous scientist did that wasn't a mistake has probably now become the conventional wisdom, those choices don't seem risky either.

Biographies of Newton, for example, understandably focus more on physics than alchemy or theology. The impression we get is that his unerring judgment led him straight to truths no one else had noticed. How to explain all the time he spent on alchemy and theology? Well, smart people are often kind of crazy.

But maybe there is a simpler explanation. Maybe the smartness and the craziness were not as separate as we think. Physics seems to us a promising thing to work on, and alchemy and theology obvious wastes of time. But that's because we know how things turned out. In Newton's day the three problems seemed roughly equally promising. No one knew yet what the payoff would be for inventing what we now call physics; if they had, more people would have been working on it. And alchemy and theology were still then in the category Marc Andreessen would describe as "huge, if true."

Newton made three bets. One of them worked. But they were all risky.

The Video:  Forget cowbell, we can never get enough Saul Bass.


Deep Work by Cal Newport teaches us the importance of taking time for real focus.  Since I've read it, I'm carving out 60-90 minutes every morning to just think about stuff -- before email, before social media and before jumping into the rest of my day.

The Quote:

"Hours are never the differentiator — it’s never about working more hours than someone else. It’s about the decisions you make. How you spend your time, what you do and don’t do. Especially what you don’t do.  You’ll have more opportunities to waste time than use time. If you’re going to measure hours, the ones worth measuring are the ones you don’t waste, not the ones you spend." - Jason Fried

The Links:

That's it.  Meeting's over.  See you next week!

Matthew Homann