I hope this email finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.
It’s my desire to bring to you fresh ideas that may help you as you likely have more time at home with your thoughts than you usually do.
It’s a privilege to be able to share the coolest things I learned with you in this newsletter.
If we’ve talked in the last 14 days, there’s a good chance I talked about the ideas in Rory Sutherland’s book, Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life. It is undoubtedly the best book I’ve read in 2020.
The ideas spawned more ideas in me and I’ve begun to process them in writing. The Price of Trust is my first article breaking down key ideas in the book.
For a sneak peek, here’s a quote from the article:
The extent to which you sacrifice and absorb costs in the short-term convey long-term cooperation. A commitment to long-term cooperation is better known as a reputation. The best way to build a good reputation among others is to continually sacrifice your present good for a cooperative future great.
The Coolest Things I Learned This Week
The Meaning vs. Efficiency Trade-Off
Costly Signaling Theory tells us that for any communication to be meaningful, there must be a cost to the one sending the message. I’ve been thinking about this in the area of continuing education for coaches.
Fundamentally, continuing education is signaling. Reading has become a performative sport and the value of a coaching certification is often more in the ability to display that certification to others than it is in the actual knowledge.
There are two categories of signals: rational and irrational.
Rational signals are objectively-measured things like money spent and time invested. Think of certification courses. You spend money and invest time. Combine that with thoughtful engagement and you get a certificate that is a signal of effort, commitment, and knowledge. It’s highly efficient, but not as meaningful.
Irrational signals are more subjectively-measured things like creativity, bravery, courage, and wit. In the world of continuing education, this looks like trial and error. It’s not very efficient, but the effort, creativity, and courage are a powerful signal of commitment. This is why a coach with decades of experience is so valuable. They’ve “paid their dues”. And all of these signals are very meaningful.
This is not to say that one is better than the other. I think we should engage on both sides of the spectrum. But I do want us to be aware of the types of signals we send.
If you’re having a hard time understanding, perhaps this graph will help:
How to Pick Your Doctor
Real excellence can come in odd packaging. Nassim Nicholas Taleb applies this rule to choosing a doctor: you don’t want the smooth, silver-haired patrician who looks straight out of central casting – you want his slightly overweight, less patrician but equally senior colleague in the ill-fitting suit. The former has become successful partly as a result of his appearance, the latter despite it.
Another anecdote from Alchemy (noticing a theme?)
That’s all for this week. If anything in this email caught your interest, please hit reply and tell me. I’d love to hear your ideas, even if you think I’m wrong.
Stay safe, stay home, and call your family,