1. Consistently Not Stupid

    Why have Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger been so successful in their investing? According to Munger, much of it stemmed from avoiding costly mistakes.

    “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

    Rather than focus on being brilliant, they first made sure they were not making stupid errors—an approach that has done very well for them over the years. A stupid mistake can quickly erase the gains or momentum you’ve already experienced. It could cost you years of work, and your reputation. Making gains are exciting, but limiting your losses can be even more important.

    Being aware of the mistakes you want to avoid, and taking steps to protect against them, has value in all areas of life—not just in investing and finance. Knowing the kind of person you don’t want to be, or the health issues you don’t want to develop, or the kinds of relationships you want to avoid, can bring awareness to the decisions and habits that could lead down these paths.

    If you know where you don’t want to go, you can put up guardrails to protect you from going that direction. And this in turn will make it more likely you’ll actually head in the direction you do want to go.

  2. Being In Sync

    This past December, our family attended my daughter’s ballet recital. During the evening, we saw several different groups of children perform, with a wide range of ages and skills represented. But in the midst of this variety, there was one thing that applied to every group: the performance of the group was not just affected by the skill of each member, but by how all of the members were able to stay in sync with each other. One person may do their part flawlessly, but if everyone else isn’t doing the same, it’s going to look off.

    The value of being in sync can be seen in all kinds of sports and team activities. A team may have extremely talented players. But if they fail to work together, they may end up losing to another team that, though they may not have the same level of individual talent, are able to work in perfect unison.

    Individual talent can take you a long way in certain areas. But as soon as you’re competing or performing as a group, the ability of the group to work together becomes just as important. So, if you’re in a partnership or team of some kind—including your business or family—pay attention to if and how everyone is working together. Because if that’s not happening well, you’ll be limited in what you’re able to accomplish.

  3. In Front of Your Face

    If you want to stop doing something, one tactic is to hide anything that could potentially trigger a craving for that thing.

    For instance, want to stop eating junk food? Make sure it’s not sitting out on the counter, or right inside the fridge or pantry, where you’re bound to see it. Because once you see it, that in itself may trigger a craving for it. Instead, remove it from sight, either by pitching it in the trash, or by putting it somewhere you won’t normally see and that’s inconvenient to reach.

    The same can work with technology. Want to stop wasting time on certain apps? The most effective solution would be to uninstall them. But short of that, you can at least make them more difficult to get to. Move them from the home screen or desktop to somewhere that much more inconvenient to access—like inside a folder or two, a few swipes or clicks away from where you normally are.

    The opposite is also true. Want to eat healthier foods? Make sure they’re visible and within reach. Want to spend more time reading? Make sure the books you want to read are nearby and within sight. Want to remember certain goals or priorities, or keep certain quotes fresh in your mind? Try writing them out on sticky notes and putting them where you’ll see them.

    When something’s right in front of your face, it will be more likely to attract your attention. And if it has your attention, your thoughts and your actions will eventually be affected. You may not be able to control everything you see. But with the things you do control, make sure they include triggers for the thoughts and behaviors you want to encourage, not the ones you want to avoid.

  4. Checking Spare Tires

    While changing a flat tire on a recent trip, I was reminded of the importance of not only having a spare, but making sure it’s ready for use.

    When we stopped, I didn’t know for sure where the spare tire was. I assumed we had one, but had never seen it. And when I initially went to look for it, I couldn’t find it. Eventually I ended up resorting to the user’s manual to find its location. Thankfully, it and the jack were where the manual said they should be, and they were also in good condition. But what if they had not been?

    A spare tire is one of those things that can be easy to ignore until you need it. But if it’s not ready when an emergency hits, what good is it? The same could be said of having adequate insurance policies in place, or anything else you may rely on in case of an emergency.

    Of course, you hope you never need to use them. But if, before an emergency hits, you regularly take time to make sure they’re ready for use, not only will they be of value in the moment when you need them, but in the meanwhile, you’ll also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re prepared.

  5. Traveling Companions

    When traveling, there’s value in having fellow travelers. I experienced this first-hand on a recent family trip.

    We were driving along on the interstate when one of our tires suddenly went flat. We knew immediately something was wrong, and pulled over to the shoulder of the road. Unfortunately, the bad tire was on the driver’s side, not far from the continuous stream of traffic. We were also going to need to move the kids and their car seats in order to reach the spare tire and jack under the van floor.

    Thankfully, we had some fellow travelers (my parents) who were driving behind us. And having them there was a huge relief. Mom helped keep an eye on the kids, and Dad gave me hand in swapping out the tire. It took a little while, and having those extra sets of hands and eyes were much appreciated.

    Sure, we could have probably taken care of everything on our own. But it would have taken much longer, and been more stressful, and I can assure you I was very glad to have them nearby.

    Having others with you when you’re traveling is valuable. Not just on road trips, but also in life. You never know what may come up, and having someone nearby to lend a helping hand, or provide companionship along the journey, can make quite a difference.

  6. The Cost of a Meeting

    The cost of a meeting is more than just the time allocated for the meeting. There’s also the prep time, the travel time, and all the other time spent in preliminary communication and follow up. It all adds up.

    Now take the total time requirements a meeting creates for an individual, and multiply it by the number of attendees. That’s closer to the true cost of a meeting. And that’s not even considering the opportunity costs of not being able to spend that time elsewhere.

    Meetings have their place. But the overall cost of the meeting can be far greater than we initially realize. So if you’re scheduling one, take a moment to make sure it’s worth the price it will actually cost.

  7. Training for Flexibility and Stability

    When you think about physical training, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, developing greater strength or endurance are usually at the top of the list. I know there are other areas of physical fitness that are important—like flexibility and core stability—but I’ve often overlooked them.

    But last weekend, that all changed.

    One week ago, I was running around with my kids, and somehow I tweaked my back. For some people, back pain is a normal part of life. But for me, it was a new experience. And one I didn’t like at all.

    After doing some research and talking to friends who’ve had similar experiences, I gained a new appreciation for the types of training that I’ve often overlooked in the past. It may not be flashy, but developing greater flexibility and strengthening one’s core can help alleviate and even prevent some of these kinds of injuries.

    After a couple days, my back felt normal again. But as a result of what I learned and experienced, I also began to focus more on flexibility and core stability in my regular routine. These kinds of practices will not only increase what I can physically do, but can also provide some protection from certain types of injuries down the road.

    * * *

    Well, it turns out that flexibility and stability are qualities worth having in every area of life, not just in the gym. If you’re flexible and stable as a person, it won’t matter what kind of situation or season you’re in, you’ll be able to handle it much better than someone who is inflexible or not grounded.

    And one habit that can help develop these kinds of qualities is the practice of gratitude. If you regularly turn your attention to what you can be grateful for, you’ll be less likely to lose hope when things get tough. If you’re aware of all the things you can be thankful for, you’ll be better able to stay content when things don’t go as you planned.

    No, practicing gratitude isn’t flashy. It may not seem like a big deal. But once it becomes a habit, it can provide deeper levels of stability and flexibility. And when life inevitably throws you a curve ball, you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.

  8. Playback Speed

    If I’m listening to a podcast or an audiobook, it’s almost guaranteed I’m listening to it at a higher-than-normal playback rate. Playing it at 1.5-2x the normal speed is common, but 2-3x isn’t unheard of. Once you’re use to the higher speed, you can consume way more content in less time. And many times, that is often my goal: to extract any helpful information as efficiently as possible.

    But there’s one time when I’m guaranteed not to try to mess with the playback speed. And that’s when I’m listening to music. Sure, I could try to get through albums at 2x the normal speed, allowing me to ‘listen’ to twice as much in the same amount of time. But with music, getting through it as fast as possible isn’t the point. And trying to rush through it will only cause me to miss the experience as it was intended.

    The same kind of dynamic is true of life: it isn’t meant to be lived in a hurry. You can try to rush it if you want, but getting through it as fast as possible isn’t the point. It doesn’t add anything to the experience, but rather causes you to miss out on so much along the way.

  9. Walking in Their Skin

    First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
    —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

    When you get frustrated at how someone is acting, try imagining walking around in their skin for a while. Sometimes they’ve gone through experiences you forget about. Other times they make honest mistakes, or speak out of ignorance. Perhaps what seems obvious to you isn’t so obvious to them.

    If you appreciate it when others try to understand where you’re coming from, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same for them? Trying to understand isn’t the same as seeking to condone. But it can lead to greater levels of graciousness in how you assess, and relate to, others.

  10. Royal Beauty Bright

    In the couple weeks leading up to Christmas, I had the privilege of working with some colleagues on an interesting story about the ‘Christmas star’—the star that, according to Matthew’s gospel, Magi from the east followed to the place of Jesus’ birth.

    What was this star that led them? And is there any external evidence of this extraordinary phenomenon? A Notre Dame astrophysicist has his hypothesis about what took place, and explains some of the unique astronomical occurrences that coincided with the general time frame of Jesus’ birth.

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