Tech Execs Should Be Leading Teen Technology Related Issues Discussion

This post is a bit of a departure from prior posts, but hopefully it fits together with the start of another school year and the responsibility of corporations, executives and investors to our communities.  Fair warning, it’s quite honestly a bit of a PSA that no one asked for, but I felt compelled to write.

A little background.  I have been investing in growing businesses for almost 20 years, am a recovering VC who still dabbles sporadically in tech angel investing, and I am a technofile.  I love progress, technology, software, content distribution platforms, etc. but as we all know advances like these can have unintended consequences.  At home, our family has had a front row seat to some of the challenges of modern teen anxiety and depression, devolving into sub-optimal coping behaviors, and leading to more personal things not appropriate to wade into in a (primarily) business blog.

The issue at hand for me is the clear evidence that something is happening to our teen and young adult populations shoving an increasing number of them down a thorny and spiraling off-ramp whose destinations can be anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.  Let’s face it, junior high and high school can be difficult times for some, and in today’s world, pressures are often higher, and kids cannot escape.  Snapchat, Instagram, texting, etc. can be 24/7.  There is no evening, or weekend or summer distance / boundaries any longer – and kids often do not have the maturity or coping skills to create those boundaries.  There’s a myriad of issues from my perspective with these platforms, but at a high level, kids can easily and often find themselves in social situations that they do not have the coping skills to handle or ignore.  And from there they can find content to explore unhealthy coping choices and continue the downward spiral.  Developmentally, their young brains are just not equipped to deal with these things the way one hopes a mature adult might (and many adults don’t do such a great job either…).

The statistics, most of which are dated lagging indicators, show anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide among teens and young adults spiking.  I believe this is one key area in which the technology community should be engaging and leading with a loud voice, and I don’t see it.  At all.  It seems impossible to believe that mobile devices, content distribution platforms and social media aren’t somehow impacting the rates of anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide among teens and young adults.  This is of course a complex issue, and there are many contributing factors.  Factors many “experts” do not agree on.  I’ve read and learned first hand a lot on these subjects since my own deep dive, and while I will not link to the statistics here, you can find them easily.  If you’re looking for an good primer on the subject, this Atlantic article is a good start  Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

This is an issue for teens of both genders (suicide statistics worse for boys, self-harm worse for girls) and for young adults who are struggling with stress and destructive coping choices in college in increasing numbers.  Mobile devices, content and social media platforms are not the only factors – believe me I understand that.  Other’s likely include real and perceived pressure to succeed, helicopter parents who do not allow their children to self-advocate and fail often enough (according to an expert on that topic – me), general teen insecurity, anxiety, developmental challenges, learning disabilities, and much more.  However, the pressures of modern society are seemingly exacerbated by mobile technologies and services.  And specifically for teens, social media platforms and the proliferation of whatever kind of content you would like to find are proving addictive and likely problematic contributors.

I’m sure there is a role for parents, and I’m also sure I’ve made my share of mistakes.  But in this post I want to challenge the leaders of the technology industry to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they are doing enough.  What specifically am I suggesting?  My belief is that the CEOs of companies like Snapchat and Facebook (which owns Instagram) should be publicly beating the drum and advocating for the healthy and safe use of technology among children, teens and young adults.  More importantly, they should specifically acknowledge that the unhealthy or excessive use of social media may impact anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide in these populations.  Explain how it could happen so parents, legislators, their employees can begin talk about it more openly and to understand.  They should cite the frightening increases in these behaviors, and make sure the fabric of their company’s cultures understands they should care and worry about this.  There’s a lot more they could do, but they could start there.  Get the conversation moving with some momentum.  Hire an EVP of Healthy Use – a C level exec in charge of exploring and understanding how kids use and abuse these technologies, and how its impacting their mental health and stability.

As of the writing of this post, Snapchat’s market cap exceeded $17 billion and it’s cash position exceeded $2.8 billion.  Facebook ‘s market cap is $490+ billion, cash position $35+ billion.  Kids aren’t even good business for these platforms – advertisers don’t spend millions to target 13 and 14 year olds, and quite honestly at some point something new will come along and likely replace both these platforms with teens.  But for now, in  my opinion, the leaders of these companies and leaders in the tech industry in general are blissfully ignoring the collateral damage facilitated by their products and services.  I wonder quite honestly if they even see it or get it.

If not because it’s the right thing to do, then come out and lead before others come after you.  One need look no further backward than to cigarettes and the ad industry to see that ultimately, the government and interest groups will step in if there’s enough noise about children’s health.  But by then, likely millions of additional young people across the world will turn to dangerous and destructive coping mechanisms while the adults and leaders in their world ignore the issue.  As someone who has seen it firsthand, we’re screwing up kids lives and could be doing a much better job.  At the very least we should be talking about it.  I hope people in the tech industry step up and lead.  This post is one small step I’m taking, I plan to take others as well.

Iacocca & Epstein on Character

In my last post, I discussed the importance of having a nucleus of high performance players reporting to a high performance leader.  But are there other attributes outside of functional skills and intellect that matter when constructing the core of a high performance group?  I would argue emphatically yes!  You need people of good character if you want a long-term successful team and culture.  During a recent conversation with a serial entrepreneur friend of mine who is building an early stage business backed by blue chip VCs, I asked him what he’s doing differently this time.  He said he’s getting rid of people faster.   If they don’t fit the culture, regardless of their talent, they are moving on.  This may sound easy, but it’s difficult to do in practice.  Or, it may sound cruel to you, but its critical unless you want to take longer than necessary and take on more risk.

Hearkening back to the Iacocca autobiography I mentioned in my last post, he speaks pretty frankly about what he thinks it takes to succeed as a high performance team member and manager:

“There’s one phrase that I hate to see on any executive’s evaluation, no matter how talented he may be, and that’s the line: ‘He has trouble getting along with other people.’  To me, that’s the kiss of death.  ‘You’ve just destroyed the guy’ I always think…if he can’t get along with his peers, what good is he to the company?  As an executive, his whole function is to motivate other people.  If he can’t do that, he’s in the wrong place.”

As for Theo Epstein and the Cubs?  As mentioned in this Fortune article, and in even more detail in The Cubs Way:  The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, at the core of the Cubs rebuilding process was the desire to find four everyday field players as the pillars to build around.  Yet at this point in his career versus his time in Boston, the strategy of simply leveraging the Moneyball statistical tools  was no longer enough.  Everyone else was doing the same thing, and Theo had learned a thing or two.  So he turned to the locker room.  He turned to character.  To players that would exhibit the traits that made the difference outside of numbers – leadership, hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork, etc.  I’ll end this post with another (long, sorry) quote from the Iacocca book.  This excerpt is from a conversation Lee had with Vince Lombardi.  Iacocca asked him, based on his years of experience, what was his formula for success?

“You have to start by teaching the fundamentals.  A player’s got to know the basics of the game and how to play his position.  Next, you’ve got to keep him in line.  That’s discipline.  The men have to play as a team, not a bunch of individuals.

But there have been a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game.  Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another.  You’ve got to love each other.

Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: ‘If I don’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken.  I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.’  The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.  Most people call it team spirit.  When the players are imbued with that special feeling, you know you’ve got yourself a winning team.”

Importance of a Core High Performance Team

Recently, I read Lee Iacocca’s autobiography at the same time I was in the midst of focusing on how important a core of high performance team members is to the success of an organization.

Looking back over my own results, I can assure you that a high performance team will outperform an average team.  But how many high performance players do you need to form a nucleus?  My belief is you must have a high performance leader, and that person must have at least 3, hopefully more, high performance direct reports.  Of course it depends on the size of the organization, but if you look at a team, and don’t see at least 3 – 5 extraordinary people reporting to an extraordinary leader, your results will suffer, and you’ve got work to do.  A strong leader simply cannot do it alone – no matter how good.  In Iacocca’s book, he says:

“The key to success is not information, it’s people.  And the kinds of people I look for to fill top management spots are the eager beavers.  These are the guys who try to do more than they’re expected to.  They’re always reaching.  And reaching out to the people they work with, trying to help them do their jobs better.  That’s the way they’re built…So I try to look for people with that drive.  You don’t need many.  With twenty five of these guys, I could run the government of the United States.  At Chrysler I had about a dozen.”

You may be thinking that the management principles of a guy who helped bring out the Ford Mustang in 1962 might not be all the applicable today.  You would be wrong. Fast forward to the fall of 2016 when the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in nearly 100 years.  Theo Epstein, the GM who also helped elevate the long-time losing Boston Red Sox to baseball’s summit, has said that a core part of his Cubs rebuild plan from inception was to build the team around four core everyday position players.  They didn’t know who those players would be when they started – but they knew they needed a nucleus of more than two or three to be successful.  This core they believed would carry the torch and lead the rest.  Today, in Chicago these pillars are well known (Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, and Russell) and the plan seems to have worked out ok.

So this may seem like a trite insight.  Isn’t it obvious?  Well, perhaps that’s true.  But the challenge is to force yourself to ensure they are there and that you aren’t just “settling” or “hoping.”  It’s so easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that a certain team member or two are “good enough” or “have the potential to be high performers.”  If you allow yourself to get lulled into this false belief, the team will be average at best, and if you expect exceptional results, they simply won’t come.

My next post will focus on another important aspect of that team as viewed through the eyes of Iacocca and Epstein – character.

United’s Brand Bruise – What to Learn?

I’ll admit it.  I’m a huge brand fan.  Maybe I’ve picked it up from reading too much from and about Warren Buffett, or maybe I’m weak and have succumb to the manipulation of our commercial culture following decades of being a U.S. consumer.  Regardless, I believe a brand is among the hardest things to create in business.  It can also be among the most valuable assets an organization has.  It would seem then, that a consumer brand is something organizations should protect and cherish with a lot of really high quality resources.  And while many organizations do, it’s still shocking how often it gets screwed up.  I suppose if it didn’t, many PR firms wouldn’t exist.

My first real comprehension of brand came during the Tylenol scare in 1982.  Yes, I was not only alive in 1982, I was in fact an impressionable teenager.  Very briefly, someone tampered with Tylenol bottles putting potassium cyanide capsules inside killing 7 people.  You can explore more here, there’s plenty to research if you’re interested.  Our family lived outside Chicago at the time, and these incidences all occurred in the Chicago area.  Johnson & Johnson ended up undertaking a nationwide recall.  At the time, this seemed to make sense to me.  People were dying, a company can’t take any chances.  But it also dawned on me that Tylenol had many products, and a strong reputation and that of course one should do everything they can to protect their reputation – or in this case – their brand.

Fast forward 35 years and recently a certain airline had an incident where a passenger was dragged off a flight.  I’m going to leave my own opinion aside of the incident and just focus on the brand handling.  United’s CEO has been soundly drubbed for his initial response.  And to me, it’s well deserved.  Their reputation was at stake.  While obviously so very different from the Tylenol incident, the core issue of a brand’s trusted relationship to it’s customers is still the same.  Trust was broken.  How you move to repair that trust matters – it impacts your brand – one of your most valuable assets.

I am positive many disagree with the above statement, but to me it’s glaringly obvious.  Let me illustrate with another example from the early 1990s.  Andy Grove, one of my all-time favorite strategic leaders, and arguably one of the greatest executives in modern U.S. business history, was dealing with an incredibly minor, nearly undetectable, glitch in the Intel 386 Pentium consumer PC chip.  You can read more detail in this excellent article about Grove, but suffice it to say, the uproar was much to do about nothing really.  But it was an uproar.  And it was gaining steam – fast.  At around the same time Intel had moved to its now famous “Intel Inside” marketing campaign.  A shift that put them squarely in the realm of a consumer brand.  So how did the business leader legend handle the situation?  He said:

“What we view as a minor technical problem has taken on a life of its own.  We apologize.  We were motivated by a belief that replacement is simply unnecessary for most people. We still feel that way.”

The classic non-apology apology.  Any of you who are married may be familiar with this.  “I’m sorry if me telling you that you’re brother is an idiot upset you…”  Grove basically told the public “we’re smarter than you, you don’t need this fixed, but since you won’t stop complaining, we’ll replace you’re damn chip if you want us to…”  Richard Tedlow, the author of the article referenced above, perfectly encapsulates my view of this oft misunderstood issue by tone deaf executives in these situations:  “In branding, a customer’s subjective reality, even if confused, becomes your objective reality.”  That’s about perfect.

So what can we learn from United Airline’s issue?  It doesn’t matter whose pilots were on the plane, whose crew was on the plane, whether procedures were or were not followed correctly – the passengers put their trust in UAL’s reputation and brand when they booked the flight through UAL, waited at a UAL gate, then boarded a plane with a UAL logo.  And whether the passenger was complicit, or obstinate, or proper procedure was followed, it was glaringly obvious what the average customers subjective reality was likely to be.  It was easily predictable.  So maybe what we’ve learned then is some people just don’t understand the relationship their brand has to the public.  And I get that.  But the CEO must understand their brand relationship – period.  If they don’t, that can be an expensive problem.  The damage control for UAL is ongoing.  It didn’t have to be that way.

Leaders Must Mentor & Lead

Being a leader of any business, particularly one with institutional investors (VCs, PE folks, family offices, etc), can be a lonely job.  It’s also a job you won’t know if you can handle until you find yourself in the role.  I have been fortunate, having gotten to work to with leaders across all stages of a company’s life-cycle.  From start-ups, to growth stage businesses, to a nearly 100 year old “old economy” enterprise.  And I’ve noticed there is one component of leadership that crosses that entire spectrum that sometimes less experienced CEOs lose sight of.  You have to lead – you have to mentor – and in some sense you have to separate yourself from the team.

That may seem like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but in today’s business and entrepreneurial culture, the idea of being a collaborative leader, of being a good listener, of empowering your teammates is sometimes translated into treating your subordinates like peers in all aspects of your relationship.  While this may not seem like a big deal, the reality is someone needs to be in charge.  Your direct reports (and their direct reports) are indeed looking for autonomy, support, pick-me-ups, but they are also looking for direction, mentorship and a vision to follow.  They want to know that someone has a firm hand on the rudder and is going to help them grow and evolve.  But they also want to know that someone is going to hold them and others accountable, and will be willing to make tough decisions when tough decisions are called for.  Having your teammate’s back is important, but you still need to lead.

It’s a fine line.  And in my experience, much of this skill seems to be innate.  Unfortunately, one can be very effective role player, reaching very senior positions professionally, without having this weakness exposed since it’s never tested until you stand at the conn.  But as investors and board members, once it is exposed, it cannot be allowed to persist.  An organization without a capable leader is like a sailboat without its captain having a firm hand on the rudder.  You will drift listlessly.  And while that in and of itself is dangerous, culturally there are things happening below deck no one is seeing that are creating even worse potential problems for the future.

So treat your team with respect.  Lead by example.  Delegate and promote open communication and empowerment of subordinates.  But don’t forget to lead.

Read more

The Passion Principle

Though I have spent nearly 20 years now investing in private businesses and their teams, I still find myself spending a great deal of time trying to unravel why some teams / executives succeed, some tread water, and others fail.  Of course, the attributes and dynamics of the business, the business model, etc. all matter a great deal – and can often make or break the probability of success.  But, once you’re in, if you’re going to succeed, more often than not you need a great leader and team.  And in the case of venture capital, where I spent the formative years of my investing career, the business or business model may not even exist.  In that world, you really are backing people with ideas.  So why do some succeed where others fail?  Increasingly, I believe there is one attribute that can make a huge difference – passion.

I started listening to a new (to me) podcast recently called StartUp by Gimlet Media, and in episode 1, the “founder” meets with Chris Sacca, a legendary early stage VC.  Chris talks about passion as one of the key differentiators he looks for in a founder and team.  I also happen to be re-reading Poor Charlie’s Almanack – a compilation of writings mostly by and about Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner (I won’t go into detail here about Charlie, but here’s a link to another post).  Charlie also says “I would argue passion is more important than brain power.” If you step back and look at it, these two guys couldn’t be investing in more different types of business. One was an early investor in Twitter, Air B-n-B, etc. and the other wouldn’t likely touch a tech start-up if a reincarnated Steve Jobs walked it into his office with Bill Gates by his side. And yet, despite their stage focus, and all the other differences one can draw between a seed stage company and a large, established business, these two legendary investors in private companies have a very common high level screen – passion of the leader.

My own experience, obviously on a much smaller scale, reinforces this view.  It’s not easy in our world to find passionate owners who want to stay on, or passionate new leaders in the event the existing owners do move on, but we talk about it, and worry about it, a lot.  Perhaps you should too…

Morality Matters In Business Success

We’ve always believed in taking the high road and attempting to behave in line with the best ethical standard we are capable of and also strive to identify leaders and partners that exhibit similar characteristics.  We believe this increases both our, and our portfolio companies’, probability of success over time.  It also hopefully lowers the probability of us blowing ourselves up over some selfish, sleazy, or illegal activity.  A recent article in the Mind issue of Scientific American by Taya Cohen points to recent research which is beginning to prove this out empirically.

The article, titled The Morality Factor, points to emerging research results which are indicating that a personality attribute roughly equivalent to “honesty-humility” correlates with stronger leadership abilities and better achievement of results from teams.  Interestingly, the article also points out that research has yet to find a correlation between leadership effectiveness and GMAT scores.  Certainly, intellect can be an important factor in business success, but there appears to be a stronger leadership effectiveness correlation to something called “guilt proneness” – that is, one’s ability to factor into their actions whether they might feel bad later about doing something they are about to do – even if no one ever finds out.  The point?  Intellect alone does not predict that someone will be an ethical leader, one who feels responsibility for others (i.e. peers, direct reports, investors, other stakeholders, etc.).  In fact, I would argue in my experience it is precisely the incredibly bright person with no moral compass who should be feared — and weeded out — the most.

You Don’t Always Have “A” Players…Then What?

I have long be fascinated by the inner workings of teams.  Starting out early in life primarily on sports teams and school related activities, then transitioning to business, philanthropic and government affiliated organizations during my professional career, I’ve always been interested in what causes some teams to succeed where others perform in an average, or quite frankly miserable, fashion. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some amazing leaders and teams.  Combining that experience with a ton of reading and reflection, I have come to believe that a strong leader, heading up a team of good people in a culture that embraces learning, change and evolution in a positive way should be able to out-perform many if not all of their competitors.  Not always of course, and in the case of business, if the business model itself or end market are below average or hyper competitive, or capital intensive, etc., even a strong team’s success can be dampened.  But on a relative basis, I would still much prefer to partner with the strong leader and star team working in a great culture – even in those more challenged circumstances.  While that’s probably obvious, and people in the investing and leadership world talk about things like “I’d rather have three “A” players and pay each of them above market than be stuck with a larger team of “B” and “C” players who are less creative, less productive…” the reality is, most organizations don’t have a team of only “A” players.  I was reminded of this recently when discussing this topic with a good friend of mine who recanted the story of his father who spent his career in the military.  In the military, in most cases, you don’t get to handpick your team of “A” players, you get what you get, and your job becomes how do you get the most out of the team.  This lesson stuck with my friend, and its the cold hard truth in most businesses as well.

It might be a theoretical panacea to say “we only hire and retain “A” players…”, but other than the likes of Ray Dalio at Bridgewater, not too many companies realistically even try to pull that off.  They may talk about it, Steve Jobs famously used to tell people ” “A” players hire “A” players, and “B” players hire “C” players…”  However, the reality for most leaders or managers is different.  They have what they have, and the goal more often than not is how do you get the most out of the team you have?  Well unfortunately, there’s no secret formula, it often comes down to being a good motivator and mentor in my experience.  You need strong people skills.  You need to spend a chunk of each day and week pro-actively thinking “How can I get the best out of these individuals and this team?”  You must be willing to invest time there.  Some leaders are naturally good at this, many aren’t.  But as with anything else in life, if you choose to focus on it, you can improve.

In doing some research on the topic, I stumbled onto an interesting 2010 HBR article, Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People, which articulates a model wherein there are two different types of managers – “multipliers” and “diminishers” – each use different tactics across five areas of leadership – talent, culture, strategy, decision making, and execution.  While there are many good nuggets in there about collaboration, leveraging strengths, etc., what struck me is how their “multiplier” managers basically mirror in their leadership the idea of the “growth mindset” – a concept of motivation and learning aptitude coming out of research done by Carol Dweck.  Dweck’s work, at a high level, breaks people down into two categories – those with a “growth mindset” and those with a “fixed mindset.”  Growth mindset oriented individuals tend to believe that they are capable of evolving, learning and growing when they apply themselves.  They tend to be more resilient, and, often times more successful.  Multiplier leaders seem to have this same view with their teams – they seek out ways to allow people to take responsibility, leverage their strengths, work collaboratively and to think independently – the seek out ways to allow them each to improve.  There are plenty of anecdotes of success I’m sure by dimisher leaders, but in playing the probabilities, I’ll take the multiplier profile with a growth oriented mindset every time.  What can you do to behave this way if it doesn’t come naturally?  One tip from the article – ask questions – “Stop worrying about having all the answers. Use your knowledge of the business to ask insightful questions that prompt the members of your team to stop, think, and then rethink.”  Amen…

Is “Continuous Improvement” The Most Important Thing in Business (and Life)?

Over the course of the last couple months, I have had several new acronyms join my ever growing list of anecdotes leading me to conclude that continuous improvement, properly implemented, may be the most important tool for success in business (really any type of business) and, in my opinion, in life in general.  Whether you call it a feedback loop, or prefer military jargon such as an “AAR” (after action review), or “OODA Loop” (observe, orient, decide, and act), or software methodologies such as Agile or Scrum (ok, Scrum is arguably a derivative of Agile, but still at their heart is continuous improvement), or manufacturing approaches such as Lean, Kaizen, Six Sigma, or “QRM” (quick response manufacturing), it all traces back to one place – continuous improvement.  The newest one I picked up is “the 4 A’s” – assess, analyze, articulate and adapt – which comes from author Amy Herman who has a new book out called Visual Intelligence.  Admittedly, I haven’t read it yet, but I heard her on a podcast, and the idea is pretty much the same – learn to be observant, reflect, and improve.

4-type-circleWhatever you call it, it’s the basic W. Edwards Deming idea that if you look at a system (and a business, the execution of that business, each function within a business, etc. are all “systems”) there is information / feedback (in Deming’s case, statistics).  Deming was a pioneer in business process re-engineering, and he taught an entire country (Japan, not the U.S. initially…) that if you look at the feedback, you can use it to improve.  And over time, these process improvements have evolved out of the world of manufacturing into distribution, services, and office procedures (procurement, finance, etc.).  And they also apply to our lives – what are you doing professionally or personally that you want to improve?  Assess the system, analyze it, articulate the improvements and adapt.  But it’s the focused doing that is of course the real challenge for us human beings – if it weren’t, we’d all be thin and in great shape.  So I encourage you to start small – pick a process somewhere in your personal or professional life, document it, think on it, improve it, and track the results.  Sometimes it is just that simple, we just lose sight of the forest for the trees…

Follow Munger in Deep, Broad Learning

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to read more across a breadth of topics.  In full disclosure, most of the book content I’ve consumed in recent years has been via Audbile.com which I love and recommend highly – you can speed up the content and consume some voluminous stuff pretty quickly, particularly for a slow-ish reader like me, and you can do it on the go.  I am guessing Audible will still be my preferred content consumption method, but I’m diligently working on reading more too.

To kick off my year, I picked two books to parallel process – a re-read of How to Win Friends & Influence People (one of my all time favorites, quick read, timeless content) and Poor Charlie’s Almanack.  Many of you probably haven’t heard of the Almanack, or, for that matter, Charlie Munger for whom the book is assembled.  Munger is the longtime business partner of a fellow named Warren Buffett, and probably one of the least well known obscenely successful investors in history.  Sure, anyone in the financial services world would know who he is, the same way they would know who Ray Dalio is. (Dalio by the way runs the largest hedge fund in the world as of this writing, Bridgewater, and is an amazing, eccentric guy…here’s a link to a prior Ray related post).  But outside our world, not many folks would’ve heard of Munger.  But his discipline of learning and thinking are of great value to anyone who aspires to be successful and happy in their life journey.

I’m about half way through, and the Almanack thus far hasn’t disappointed.  Charlie is voracious reader, a deep thinker and a lover of learning.  One his key tenets is to view problem solving / decision making / investing, through the use of a “latticework of mental models.”  That is, Charlie believes that understanding the fundamental foundations of as many different disciplines as one can improves one’s ability to make decisions.  Here’s a recent article that does a much better job of explaining this approach than I will endeavor here, with examples / explanations.  This idea in and of itself is a somewhat deep topic, and not conducive to a blog post, but I recommend exploring it – regardless of your field of focus.  I would venture a guess, that when you look back at some of the good decisions you’ve made, they were enhanced by your own ability to synthesize information across multiple disciplines.