One of the many gems of advice that famed investor Warren Buffet gives, is that to be successful you should operate within your 'circle of competence.'
That is to say, you have to figure out where your aptitudes are, where you have an edge, and play within it.
If you play where others have an edge, you're going to lose.
Over time, work to expand your circle, but never fool yourself about where it stands today. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know."
That which is small helps us (proximity to customer, dependence on commerce, no bureaucracy):
That which is large harms us (or at least does not help us):
Large processed food production
Profit driven pharmaceutical companies (leaving effective drugs on the shelf)
Bureaucratic healthcare systems
Chain restaurants (lower standard food, high prices)
“Don’t cross a river if it is on average 4 feet deep.” (Nassm Taleb)
Averages don’t show the underlying distribution.
If 100 people get on a bus and one is Bill Gates, he will massively skew the “average” net worth of people on the bus.
The average sales per consultant may be £200k. But what is the underlying distribution? Are there two or three top performers increasing the average? How do you identify more of them?
The average revenue per customer may be £100k. But do just a few customers make up the bulk of it? If so, what if one leaves? How can you identify and develop more top customers?
The average revenue per hour may be £100. But do some customers take up considerably more time (and cognitive resources) than others? Are the high fees masking 80% of the problems? What about the customers that create high revenue per hour? How do you identify and develop more of them?
The psychopath next door may be perfectly pleasant, on average. But the distribution of his behavior is that 99% of the time he is wonderful, and 1% of the time he goes on a psychotic killing spree.
Negative events can be masked by the illusion of averages. If the top customers or consultants leave, you're screwed. So don't rest on your laurels. Instead, work, work, work.
'But the best advantage is the fact that those who have acquired the habit to commend their enemies is that they do not have hostile feelings and do not feel envious because they are jealous of their relatives' or friends’ success, and are removed from envying their good fortune.' (Plutarch)
Fire burns you, but it can be a source of light and heat too.
When your enemies slander you, when they scream at you or are sly with you, when they gossip about you or wound you; you have two choices:
You can either hit back, clouded with rage. You can fuel the fire and struggle and toss mud and smear the both of you. You can have stress coarse through your veins, you can lose sleep, you can work yourself up, you can respond in a petty tit for tat exchange.
Or you can learn. You can practice grace and poise. You can display virtue and balance. You can be kind, calm, and generous, taking adversity in your stride.
Don't respond in anger, instead be a man of virtue.
Remember, when someone treats you poorly, it doesn't degrade you, it degrades them.
Learn from the exchange. Are there any truths in the accusations? Can you adapt in the future? Are you acting with courage? With patience? With clear thinking?
Imagine then, who you are, your character, when you respond to slander with grace, to anger with objectivity, to a loss of control with a steady nerve, to grandeur with humility, and to underhand tactics with courage.
Your responses forge, craft and refine your character, preparing you to overcome ever harder adversities. All the time whilst your enemies work themselves into a perpetual cauldron of entitlement and rage.
Grace and poise, always.
I kept six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who
Good Questions Trump Smart Answers.
If you want to get to the heart of a matter, ask questions.
Approach problems from different angles - ask why, why not.
Consider the different perspectives - ask what if.
Try to falsify your conclusions - do your best to prove yourself wrong.
An example for you - try to establish the principle behind the following sequence. You can propose the next number in the sequence as many times as you want. You can only propose the principle once:
2 4 6 8 10
What do you think? Are you Mr Smart Answers or Mr Good Questions?
Person A - Mr Smart Answers:
- Is the next number 12?
- The principle is that the next number is the previous number + 2.
Person B - Mr Good Questions:
- Is the next number 12?
-Hmm, it could be that the sequence goes up by 2, but I haven't tried anything else yet. Is the next number 13?
- Okay, perhaps it is that the next number has to be greater than the previous number. But I haven't tried a lower number, let's test it. Is the next number 5?
- Cool. You can't go backwards. Let's test to see if you can stay the same. Is the next number 13?
- Right, the principle is that the next number in the sequence has to be greater than the previous number.
That is correct
Sometimes the obvious answer isn't the right one. Sometimes it is. Sometimes there are dependencies and second order effects, sometimes there aren't. To get to the heart of the matter, start by using our faithful friends - who, what, where, why, how, why not, what if.
half of the solution. In fact, the proper formation of a problem is often more essential than the solution.