On Good Judgment and Decision-Making: The Science and Practice

Imagine you’ve made two decisions. One has resulted in a loss of 10 thousand dollars, while the other resulted in a gain of 10 thousand dollars. Would you say that the former was a bad decision, and the latter was a good one?

The first response that usually comes to everyone’s mind is “of course, the second decision was better”. But this is not necessarily the case. Can you think of a scenario where your response would be the opposite?

I’ve been thinking and reading about decision-making for many years while trying to put everything I learned into practice. Below, I summarize the strategies and mental models that I personally found most useful.

The Process vs. The Outcome

We all have a natural tendency to judge decisions based on their outcomes. This is not the worst heuristic, as there is a correlation between the quality of decisions and outcomes. But this heuristic has a major flaw — it doesn’t account for luck and incomplete information.

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On Meditation

I’ve been experimenting with and thinking about meditation in recent years and thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you. 

What this post is not: it’s not another “you should meditate” article. Even though I’ve seen quite a few valuable benefits, my practice is still semi-regular. And l debate how much time I’m willing to spend on meditation, given the opportunity cost. 

Instead, I’d like to share a few observations and invite you to share yours. If you have never meditated, some of these ideas might intrigue you and spark an interest in trying. And if you have experience with meditation, I’d love to compare notes!

Here are some realizations I had over time:

1. Our thoughts and emotions largely determine our destiny. And unlike other factors, they are not entirely outside of our control. Of course, they also define our subjective experience.

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Monthly newsletter: technology, startups, business growth and marketing

Monthly Newsletter: Issue 6

Hi, this is an issue of my monthly newsletter. I’ve picked a few interesting articles on technology, startups, growth, marketing and other topics for you.

I hope you enjoy the read with your morning cup of coffee. Let me know what you think! ~Max

Technology and Startups

Growth and Marketing

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Book Notes: Waking Up by Sam Harris

I just wanted to share some excerpts from Waking Up by Sam Harris that I listened to a couple of months ago. It is a great book that covers so many topics: mindfulness, meditation, neuroscience, cognition, emotions and others. It is worth reading in its entirety and I am personally planning to re-read it. So here are some notes:

“Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.”

“There is now little question that how one uses one’s attention, moment to moment, largely determines what kind of person one becomes. Our minds—and lives—are largely shaped by how we use them.”

“My mind begins to seem like a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or I can be killed in the same spot by the same monster, again and again.”

“How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives. Mystics and contemplatives have made this claim for ages—but a growing body of scientific research now bears it out.”

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Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup by YC

Free, open to everyone and highly educational Stanford class “How to Start a Startup” has just ended. But all the materials, including talks by star speakers, such as Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Ben Horowitz, Sam Altman, Brian Chesky and others are going to be available online. For quick reference, here is the complete collection of all course materials:

Lectures

Date Speaker Topic
9/23/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator
Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder, Facebook, Cofounder, Asana, Cofounder, Good Ventures
Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I
Why to Start a Startup
9/25/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II
9/30/14 Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator Before the Startup
10/2/14 Adora Cheung, Founder, Homejoy Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing
10/7/14 Peter Thiel, Founder, Paypal, Founder, Palantir, and Founder, Founders Fund Competition is For Losers

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How Do Top Students Study

Planning to give this approach to taking notes and learning new subjects a try at my MBA classes.

Quoting Hooman’s response to Quora topic “How do top students study?“:

I maintained a 5.0/5.0 GPA in one of my MIT masters and 4.9/5.0 in my other MIT masters until my very last semester when I had to fly to job interviews and couldn’t attend all my classes. I achieved these grades while doing a double research load. That is I worked simultaneously for an MIT professor and two Harvard Medical School professors.

And here is his take on how he did it:

Write your notes in a way where you can test your retention and understanding. Simply put my notes can be used like flashcards because I write them in a form where I separate a “stimulus” from a “response.” The stimulus are cues or questions (think: front side of flashcard), while the response is the answer to the cue (think: back of flashcard). But the stimuli are to the left of a margin, while the responses are to the right. The key advantage of this is that just by putting a sheet of paper on top of your notes, you can hide the responses, while leaving the stimuli visible. You can have multiple margins and multiple levels of stimuli and response for greater information density. When you get good at this you can write notes in this form in real-time. To get some idea of what I’m talking about google for “Cornell Notetaking method” My notetaking method is a variant of this.

Self-reflective speech MBA exercise

MBA is not only about studying finance and accounting and solving cases, we also have multiple courses on leadership. One of them was focused on communication aspect. And as part of this course we had to deliver various two-minute speeches in front of the group of 10 people. Then, we received a feedback. Speeches were also recorded for later personal review.

Topic of each speech was different, but I found the first one the most interesting as it provoked certain self-reflection during preparation. So, I thought that you might want to try exercise by yourself. If you do not have a group of people to present in front of, just imagine an audience and record a video with a smartphone and watch it. The first topic was very simple: “Who am I?”

Also, we were given several hints or questions we might consider answering while preparing or delivering a speech:

  • What forces have shaped you, what real challenges have you faced? 
  • What do you care about in life?  
  • What’s an unexpected characteristic, or interest, or talent?  
  • Who is most important to you?  
  • Where are you vulnerable?  
  • What is a long-term aspiration you hold? 

And here is a couple of questions to ponder when watching your video:

  •  Articulate what stands out for you watching your “Who Am I?” video. What are you pleased with? What do you specifically want to improve?

So, this is it. Hope, you find it helpful.

For me personally the most interesting part was to see how differently other nine people approached the same exercise.

Thoughts, pictures, music

Some thoughts I took notes on during last months. Some pictures I took during last years. Some good music.

 

 

“When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”
– Milarepa

 

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“You all laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.”
– Mikhail Bulgakov

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