Casey Neistat Work Ethic

The Casey Neistat work ethic is breaking down what ever you want to be better at into a chunk that can be performed every day. And then doing it every day. No excuses. No ifs. No what ifs. Just do it. Every single day.

He famously started daily vlogging to put an impetus on himself to film something everyday.

The secret sauce is keeping the daily task at the boundaries of your current ability. That provides enough motivation to work on it and get better but at the same time not too easy or boring.

This won’t be easy. Doing something hard deliberately requires discipline. 

WYSIATI

What you see is all there is.

Coined by Daniel Kahneman. Even though we like to think of ourselves as rational and objective human beings when making decision. The truth is that we are very well affected by our psychological biases and emotions.

WYSIATI is the bias that leads us to make judgements and conclusions with the information that is available to us. Without considering what other piece of information might be missing. We have the tendency to bend the pieces of the information jigsaw puzzle when some key parts might be missing. Our brain chooses the path of least resistance to form the big picture. It is a machine designed to jump to conclusions.

One way to combat this is to have a structured thinking process and a system to evaluate decisions. Deliberate decision-making can be practiced and it takes time and effort.

Big Mac Index

Different currencies around the world have different purchasing powers. Purchasing power is defined as the amount of goods or service you can buy for the same amount of money. Purchasing power not only varies from country to country, but also varies over a period of time.

The amount of goods you could buy for 10$ now is very different from what you could buy in the 1950’s.

Different countries have different interest rates, budget deficits, inflation/deflation, import/exports, GDP. And all of these factors contribute to different purchasing power.

One common way purchasing power is compared across countries is buy calculating purchasing power parity(PPP). PPP is a measurement done across the world that uses the price of specific goods in each country.

To avoid large errors in this calculation a basket of goods is chosen. The categories include Food and Beverage, Housing, Transportation, Medical Care, Education, Apparel, Recreation etc.

The Economist introduced the Big Mac Index on 1986. This became an informal way to measure the difference in purchasing power in various countries. The Big Mac index is the price of Big Mac in the respective country compared to a reference to give an idea of what the purchasing power of the currency is.

However, the index can only be calculated in countries that have a McDonalds. Another limitation is that the Big Mac Index can end up measuring the local willingness to pay for a fast food burger.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is a tendency to look back at past events and perceive events as more predictable then they actually were. For example, there are many ways a global pandemic could have played out, and there was a lot of uncertainty at the beginning. But now it would seem more predictable as there was no other probable course of action.

When looking at your own past decisions, it might seem that you made the right decisions but for the wrong reasons. We don’t want to be critical of ourselves. And our brain takes a shortcut to avoid that and to explain it in a much easier way with the information of the outcome that you have now.

The only way to keep a check on this is to keep a record of how a decision was made. And evaluating them at a future point of time.

If all else equals

A common shortcut our brain takes during comparing two options is to, at least for the moment assume everything else is the same between the 2 options. Hoping to get a more objective judgement of the situation.

Occam’s razor, if all else is equal, the simpler explanation is preferred over a complex one. However, it is rare in the real world to have to decide between 2 options where they only differ in one dimension.

This mental model can backfire if not used with care in the real world. It is important to understand what are the other parameters that is assumed to be constant. Whether it is possible in the real world where a scenario would exist with similar options in all dimensions but one. The bottom line is that the comparison should be made between 2 possibilities that have a chance of existing in the world. It doesn’t help if the comparison is done between 2 hypothetical situation and using that judgement to choose a real world option.

Figuring out which parameters of the system affect it directly and indirectly is a good exercise to perform. Comparing indirect parameters is a recipe for a disaster. And by direct parameters, I mean parameters that are fundamental to the characteristics of the system. Fundamental, also read as, first order implications instead of derived aspects. For a business, it could be profit after tax, for a business loan it could be interest and time period.

That said, sensitivity analysis uses this principle and is a good method to get a better understanding as to how different variables affect the outcome and behaviours of the system under question.

Theoretical World Generator

A term I came across from Mental Models Vol. 1. But this is something that I have found myself doing and has been useful in helping me make decisions.

When presented with a decision that is a) affected by a lot of uncertainty the future holds b) a large set of possible outcomes can be guessed, then having a theoretical world generator helps.

Having a checklist of aspects to consider is a good idea. A set of checklists covering different dimensions. Maybe they can be classified as internal or intrinsic aspects and external ones. Or can be classified in terms of time.

Thinking about the possibilities in a form of a tree can also help.

After mapping out most of the outcomes and possibilities. The next step is to individually think about the probability of each outcome from happening.

Now here is the kicker. What makes this a really neat is that we have to start thinking about the different outcomes and work our way backwards to the event&decision. Thinking forward and backward through a possibility tree.

This exercise can easily backfire too. So figuring out on what problems this approach works and doesn’t is key. This takes a lot of trial and error, increasing domain knowledge and in general being able to ingest a large amount of information before running the TWG.

TWG is a good way to evaluate your past decisions. Given the information that you had at the time and if you run a TWG now for this decision, how would your decision change.

“I rather be roughly right than be precisely wrong”. Avoid the craving to go into details of outcomes of trigger that should happen. Keep it as broad as possible. When it comes to figures and statistics, look at ranges and trends not at actual figures down to decimal

Skeuomorphic Design

The first time digital interfaces came into existence, designs were quite basic. Straight lines, simple shapes and text. But soon after that, with higher resolution displays and faster GPUs the possibilities became endless.

The earliest designs in digital GUIs resembled a much of real world objects. Skeuomorphic design aims to emulate the aesthetics of physical design. This type of design was very common in the early designs at Apple. That eventually changed to a more digital-first design, also known as the flat design.

Skeuomorphic design is common in digital plugins in the audio production domain. Knobs and meters resemble the actual physical instrument.

Problem of Points

Problem of Points is a classical problem in Probability.

The setting of the problem is a game played between two. Each round of the game has an equal likelihood of any player winning. It is agreed upon before the fame that the first player to win a certain number of rounds wins the game. The proceeds, equally contributed by both players, is given in its entireity to the winner.

Now, the question is, if the game were to be interrupted for some reason, how can the pot be divided fairly.

Pascal and Fermat worked on this problem to come up with a solution. The tenets of which is what forms the basis of expected value in probability.

To keep it simple, the solution involved calculating the odd of each player winning for the subsequent rounds that were to be played. And splitting the pot based on that. While Fermat provided a logical solution to compute the final split of the pot, Pascal came up with a solution that could easily compute the pot if they were to play a certain number of rounds.

This activity involved drawing up a decision tree to map out all possibilties and their odds in an efficient way. This gave birth to whats now known as the Pascals Triangle.

The Business of Spawning

Every successful business has done at least a few things right if not many. They have to find a product or service that they are good at. Possess some characteristic that differentiates them from their competitors. Find a market to sell to. And be profitable at the same time.

Businesses in itself are a beast of an animal.

Then there is this special breed of businesses. That can not only do all of the above, but can spawn off other businesses at the same time. By spawning off, I don’t mean extending an existing product line or expanding into nearby verticals. But building entities that are not in their primary field of expertise and building them into independent businesses.

Amazon is a good example of this. Starting from selling books online and expanding that to other verticals is quite logical. But the spawning off of businesses like Amazon Web Services, Amazon Prime, Kindle, not quite. But that did not come for free.

There were 2 major factors that enabled them to do this. Access to capital and ideas for businesses that have the possibility to return high ROI. Internet based businesses have a very high ROI, given the low investment required.

Having both access to capital and serially trying one idea after an other is a deliberate effort for sure. And the more tries you get, higher the chances of success.

Judging Decisions

A note on decision making. A decision is good or bad not based on the outcome but based on what information was available at the time the decision was taken and what heuristics were applied to reach a particular decision. Tweets like these are quite common. “If you had invested 10$ in X 10 years ago now you would be a millionaire”. And that is evaluating a decision based on its outcome. But what you should be thinking is what information did you have then, what was missing, what could have been predicted given the information you had, what mental models and principles were at play and why that happened. This kind of thinking is crucial to improve how you think and to make it better. Dwelling on your past decisions for most is a more tiresome exercise than a fruitful one. To apply this without messing it with your head requires a good amount of self-awareness and discipline.