Moontower's Favorite Posts By Others

This is a giant work-in-progress. I'll add to it as I revisit posts that were meaningful. The posts are scattered through my files and workspaces.
Jesse Livermore Bangers
  • Jesse Livermore's Upside Down Markets (Link)
  • Jesse Livermore's Profit Margins Don’t Matter: Ignore Them, and Focus on ROEs Instead (Link)
The Curse of the Reserve Currency
  • Phenomenal World's The Class Politics Of The Dollar System (Link)
  • Michael Pettis’ Changing the Top Global Currency Means Changing the Patterns of Global Trade (Link)
Trying Too Hard
  • Speech by Dean Williams (Link)
YIMBY Paradoxes
  • Steve Randy Waldman's Home Is Where The Cartel Is (Link)
Excerpts from “Breaking Smart”
  • Venkat Rao's Breaking Smart (Link)
Markets Will Permanently Reset Higher (My Sacrifice to the Delta Gods)
Trade-Offs In Tax Policy
OSAM Deconstructs Factors From Scratch
  • Chris Meredith, Jesse Livermore, Patrick O’Shaughnessy's Factors From Scratch (Link)
Minsky Moments in Venture Capital by Abraham Thomas
Paradox of high prices is they imply low risk which further attracts more inflows.
The key idea of Minsky cycles isn't that rising prices attract capital; that's just standard trend dynamics. The key Minsky idea is that increasing capital inflows reduce perceived risk.
This is the Minsky boom. Money entering a market boosts returns and reduces volatility, leading to very strong (realized) performance. This attracts more money, which improves performance even more. A positive feedback loop ensues.
And this is perfectly legit! Economies can and do reallocate resources all the time. This is how it works; this is how it’s expected to work.
The problem with feedback loops is that they tend to overshoot.
True Risk vs Measured Risk
One way to understand Minsky cycles is that they’re driven by the gap between ‘measured risk’ and ‘true risk’.
When you lend money, the ‘true risk’ you take is that the borrower defaults3. But you can’t know this directly; instead you measure it by proxy, using credit spreads. Credit spreads reflect default probabilities, but they also reflect investor demand for credit products. A subprime credit trading at a tight spread doesn’t necessarily imply that subprime loans have become less risky (though that could be true); the tight spread may also be driven by demand for subprime loans. Measured risk has deviated from true risk.
Similarly, when you invest in a startup, the ‘true risk’ that you take is that the startup fails. But you can’t know this directly; instead you measure it by proxy, using markups. Markups reflect inverse failure probabilities (the higher and faster the markup, the more successful the company, and hence the less likely it is to fail — at least, so one hopes). But markups also reflect investor demand for startup equity. Once again, measured risk has deviated from true risk.
During Minsky booms, measured risks decline. During Minsky busts, measured risks increase. The flip from boom to bust occurs when the market realizes that true risks haven’t gone away.

The Destination, Not The Journey

So now let’s rephrase the question. Has the true risk of venture investments changed? More rigorously:
Does the compression of timelines in venture change the distribution of terminal outcomes for venture-backed companies?
On that question, the jury is still out. It’s not obvious to me that accelerated markups change the power-law dynamics of venture portfolios. Markups change the journey of a business, but do they change the destination?
If the answer is yes, then there’s no Minsky dynamic at play; what we’re seeing is a rational evolution of the venture industry. Maybe startups are truly less risky now; maybe the market truly has matured. More capital, lower returns, safer investments4.
If the answer is no, then venture is very possibly in a Minsky boom, and we’re just waiting for the moment when it turns into a Minsky bust.
“Incentives to produce” are incentives to rig the game by Interfluidity
This essay contends that the cost of mitigating inequality is likely small compared to its benefit. Rent-seeking behavior is inevitable but incentive to capture rents or grift is stronger if the potential prize is bigger (I'm not so sure that any reasonably capitalistic society would escape this problem at any level of naturally occurring inequality — something we must live with anyway as a consequence of humans’ endemic differences which we happily agree to entertain when we reject communism)
  • Starts with allusion to the ever present efficiency vs equity tradeoff: Reducing rewards to those at the top of the wealth/income distribution might blunt their incentives to produce. But the cost of that might be offset by utilitarian benefits of transfers to the less well off...But at current margins, I suspect there is no tradeoff. There might be a tradeoff in measured GDP, but GDP happily tallies economic coercion and rent-capture along with genuinely productive activity...Causing a disease and then expensively treating it does not in fact make the world richer. But it may well inspire economic activity — the mass production of a new drug, visits to doctors, extra hours people choose to work in order to afford the treatment, etc. In aggregate, we work harder just to stay in place. But the distributional effects of the operation are very real.
  • Rent capture increases as a natural defense to technology’s unseating effects: We should expect the prevalence of rent capture (or worse) as a source of economic profit to increase with technological progress. Why? Because, absent chicanery, technology increases the ease of production and the efficiency of distribution. As Schumpeter pointed out, the source of profit in real-life capitalism is the fact that monopoly power is ubiquitous because of natural barriers to competition...Technological progress renders moats that derive from nature harder to come by. Instead, successful businesses — and successful people (since under capitalism, a human is just a small business) — must rely increasingly on moats that result from social and political arrangements....The distribution of profits is determined by social choices rather than by natural scarcities.
  • This is not necessarily wrong but if you care about social cohesion it's problematic because it creates incentives to side with the winners....But the distribution of affluence is less and less a matter of direct attachment to production, and more and more a function of winning social games and political contests that determine to whom the fruits of production will be allocated. There’s no conspiracy in that. Nor is it an answer to say “capital” now determines who enjoys wealth. As technology improves, capital goods become mere commodities like everything else. Financial capital, whatever it is, is not an input into any material production process. It is a construct and artifact of a huge and ever-changing array of social and legal institutions. “Human capital”, “social capital”, and “organizational capital” are things we impute ex-post to winners of distributional contests as explanations of observed returns. They do not straightforwardly exist in the world...high dispersion of outcome creates a strong incentives to be on the side of winners.
  • This incentive creates inefficiency: a well ordered society depends upon people sometimes making choices opposed to their material interests on ethical or other grounds. Then it is obvious how inequality might be costly. Instead of talking about “incentives to” (produce, extract rents, whatever), we might describe outcome dispersion as a tax on refraining from mercenary behavior. If the difference between economic winners and losers is modest, people of ordinary virtue might refrain from participating in activities they consider corrupt, might even be willing to “blow the whistle”, because the cost of doing so is outweighed by their preference for behaving well. But as outcome dispersion grows, absenting oneself from or even opposing activities that would be personally remunerative but socially undesirable becomes too costly.
  • Moloch equilibrium: Wouldn’t it be odd to live in a country where, say, bankers individually acknowledge that their industry often behaves destructively, where insiders perceptively describe the conditions that create incentives for people to take bad risks or fleece “muppets“, but continue to work in those places and do nothing about it? Wouldn’t it be odd to live in a country where doctors privately apologize for the way their services are “priced“, but nevertheless take home their paychecks and pay AMA dues? Or in a country where economics instructors teach agency costs using textbook pricing as a case study, during a course for which students are required to purchase a $180 textbook?... In all of these cases, there really isn’t anything any one individual can do to remedy the bad practices. Making a big issue of them would lead to useless excommunication. Instead we shrug ironically. In our society, an ironic attitude is a token of sophistication (a telling word, which once meant corruption but now implies competence). An ironic attitude towards collective ethics is adaptive. It helps basically decent individuals participate in coalitions that ruthlessly contend for rents. But perhaps we’d have a better society if, rather than turning our ethical discomfort into an object of aesthetic consideration, lots of us worked straightforwardly to remedy it. And perhaps more of us would do so if the risk of losing our place were not so terrible. Ethical behavior is endogenous. “Inequality” renders it costly.
Seeing Sociopaths
  • Alex Danco’s The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class (Link)
  • Michael Church’s 3-Ladder System Of Social Class In The US (Link)
  • Meaningness' Geeks, MOPs, and Sociopaths in Subculture Evolution (Link)
  • Venkatesh Rao’s The Gervais Principle (Link)
Working for Free
  • Jonathan Bales' Should You Work For Free? (Link)
The Antidote To Abstraction
  • Charles Eisenstein’s The Age Of We Need Each Other (Link) (Highlights)
When Smart People Have Bad Ideas
Borders Are Subjective
  • Slatestar's The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories (Link) (Highlights)
When Equality Is Cruel
The Egg by Andy Weir
  • Andy Weir's The Egg (Link)
The Zeroth Commandment
Deceiving Your Kids
  • Paul Graham's Lies We Tell Our Kids (Link)
The Magic for Making Quantum Leaps
  • Autotranslucence Becoming A Magician (Link)
Twitter Doesn’t Kill People.
  • Venkat Rao's Against Waldenponding (Link)
Which Principles Are Ok To Bribe?
On Grit
Venkat Rao's Calculus of Grit (Link)
Unpacking The Beauty Of A deBoer Book Review
Freddie deBoer's Review: Ross Douthat's The Deep Places (Link)
Keepsakes From Slatestar’s Fake Graduation Speech
Notes on Moloch
Slatestar's Meditations on Moloch (Link)
The Psychedelic Trojan Horse
My highlights here
  • My quick takes:
    • Greed always brings the sociopaths who force Moloch on us
    • The narrow interpretations of science (scientism?) is a “not everything that can be measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured” problem
    • Quote: The sacred is not there to make our lives better. It is not there to confirm our warped ideologies. It is there to shred us. It guides us to the depths of ourselves to find our own delusions and dispel them. Psychedelics were originally called ‘psychotomimetics’, because they were thought to temporarily induce insanity. It may be that going temporarily mad is the only way to see how mad we already are.
    • I kept coming up against a paradox. It haunted me for months, and goes something like this: psychedelics can change our minds, but only if we’ve already changed our minds. They can transform culture, but only if culture has already been transformed. The real issue isn’t psychedelic capitalism, but the culture that selects for it. In the grips of a meaning crisis, consumer culture is adrift, purposeless, disconnected. The role religion used to play has been filled by alternatives that aren’t designed to fill its shoes. Wellness culture asks us to be well but doesn’t explain what we’re being well for. Tech utopianism bypasses the pain of existence by fantasising about transcendence. We can’t mix and match indigenous frameworks unless we come to terms with the indigenous narcissism of Western psychology. New Age thinking is a mess of self-deception and wish fulfillment. The religion of psychotherapy might bring us some peace, but it doesn’t give us an ontology. Scientific reductionism can measure our pain, but can’t help us to feel it and live with it.
Epistemic Learned Helplessness by Slatestarcodex
Everything in Your Fridge Causes and Prevents Cancer by David Epstein
It wasn’t every sauna enthusiast who reaped the supposed protective effect against dementia; it was specifically those who used a sauna 9-12 times a month. Sauna bathers who hit the wooden bench 5-8 times a month — sorry, no effect. And those who went more than 12 times a month — again, no luck.
That should raise a caution flag in your head. When only a very specific subpopulation in a study experiences a benefit, it may indeed be that there is some extremely nuanced sweet spot. But it is more likely that the researchers collected a lot of data, which in turn allowed them to analyze many different correlations between sauna use and dementia; the more different analyses they can do, the more likely some of those analyses will generate false positives, just by statistical chance. And then, of course, those titillating positive results are the ones that end up at the top of the paper, and in the press release.
Here’s the point I want to hammer home: when you see a tantalizing health headline — like that saunas prevent dementia — keep an eye out for indications that the effect only applies to specific subgroups of the study population. Even if the headline is very authoritative, revealing nuggets are often buried lower in the story.
I want to stress that you shouldn’t assume the sauna results can’t possibly be true. But when you see Bears-undefeated-in-alternate-jerseys type conclusions — and someone is claiming one thing causes the other — you should hold out for more evidence.
Epstein also describes how “pre-registration” is used to combat multiple comparisons, data mining, and the high degree of freedom researchers have which when combined with bad incentives lead to the trope that “studies show...” is almost always a phrase followed by bs.

Self Improvement
Marketing Yourself
  • Shawn Wang's How To Market Yourself Without Being A Celebrity (Link)
Unlock One Another: The Right Compliment At The Right Time
Graham Duncan's What's Going On Here, With This Human?
Self-Help Without The Guilt
  • TJCX's How To Read Self-Help (Link)
Preserving Habits From Covid
  • Zack Kanter's Projects, Process, and the Deep Cleanse (Link)
Wooderson’s Commencement Speech
  • Speech by Matthew McConaughey (Link)
Negotiating Pay
  • Patrick McKenzie's Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued (Link) (Highlights)
The Why And How Of Taking Discoverable Notes
We Don't Need No Education
Educational Ideas Inspired By Seymour Papert’s Constructionism
Jason Zweig on Writing
The Most Important Solutions Are Simple Just Not Easy
The Inner Ring by C.S. Lewis
Highlights: http://marker.to/rmZrTG Top Excerpts:
  • Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man.
  • Corruption by the Inner Ring is subtle and gradual: And the prophecy I make is this. To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear...And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected... That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things. My second reason is this. The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice, but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain. This is surely very clear when you come to think of it. If you want to be made free of a certain circle for some wholesome reason—if, say, you want to join a musical society because you really like music—then there is a possibility of satisfaction. You may find yourself playing in a quartet and you may enjoy it. But if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic. Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in.” And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring.
  • Instead of chasing the Inner Ring: If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it...But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it... To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction.
The Arc Of The Practical Creator
Intro and importance
  • Creativity is important because it’s about agency!
  • But creativity has been is imbued with impractical or whimsical connotations and relegated to art, music, writing. That’s how we think of as creatives (I think trading is deeply creative)
  • Creativity is about agency Creativity is subjective. A physician may regard her role as a deeply creative endeavor in the same way that a painter would for his... Creativity has more to do with the authentic desire to express, and less to do with the art form itself. For example, it’s tempting to call a painter a “creative person,” but it all depends on why he paints. If he does so because his mother is a famous painter that expects him to carry on the family name, then painting is not a form of creative expression for him. It’s a job.
  • The lesson we internalize early: creative expression is often used as a gateway to something more practical, and is rarely accepted as something practical in itself
    • The real reason they wanted us to take piano lessons was for developmental purposes. If we learned the piano, that would be helpful for our cognitive development, which in turn would better position us toward the actual careers they’d prefer us to have.
      This is why parents will rush to place their kids on long waitlists for art and music programs, but won’t encourage them to become artists or musicians as they age. It’s as if creative expression is useful for its ability to create connections between young neurons, and once that purpose has been fulfilled, it becomes an obstacle that gets in the way of viable career paths. With this view, the arts are utilitarian at best, burdensome at worst.
  • The internet made creativeness, your uniqueness an asset not a liability. Without gatekeepers and with more creator-friendly tools were introduced into the landscape, it expanded your ability to make money doing something you truly cared about. The internet enabled a vision where creativity and practicality were directly correlated. The more effort you put into your creative output, the greater the practical benefits would be. This represented a big flip in the way things traditionally worked.
The beginning:
  • Here’s the harsh reality of any creative endeavor: in the beginning, no one cares. Every creator requires a balance of intrinsic motivation and external validation, but you’ll have to accept that the external piece will be missing at first.
  • How will you manage the fact that you won’t be making any money from this? And without money, how will you cultivate the resilience to keep going?
    • Money affords you the privilege of having a big leap feel like a small hop, which lessens the anxiety that may surround your entry into any creative endeavor. Patience is only possible when you have the requisite headspace to cultivate it, and having your financial needs covered is absolutely critical for this.
The Arc Of The Practical Creator
Prioritize money
In the first stage of the arc, you need to focus on building wealth. You’ll need to put practicality ahead of creativity, and have a job that reliably puts money into your bank account, which you can then save or invest. A Practical Creator doesn’t view a boring job as a dead-end endeavor, but as an active patron of their creativity. In the same way that wealthy families support the financial needs of their favorite artists, the same could be said about you and your employer. You exchange your time for money, which is then used to purchase the clarity of attention you can invest into your creative work. .
The key to viewing your employer as a patron of your art, however, is contingent upon one important thing: When you’re in this first stage, you must rigorously work on your creative endeavors after your day job responsibilities. This is an absolute must. If every day consists of coming back home after work and then relaxing until you sleep, then you’re deluding yourself into thinking that this job funds your creative aspirations. The truth is that you don’t want it enough, and this boring job is not a patron for your art – it’s your actual career.
A Practical Creator doesn’t use the day job salary to buy everything they want, but saves as much of it as possible. They understand that every dollar saved today represents the freedom to create tomorrow. Patience is about learning to live with less, as this allows you to build up a bank account balance that could be later exchanged for agency.
The Leap
Eventually, you have fiscal certainty in the form of your savings, but on the other, you have fiscal uncertainty in the form of your creative endeavors.
Not making the leap: If you believe that leaving your job will result in overwhelming anxiety (regardless of how much you have saved), then perhaps the wise move would be to continue doing what you’re doing. Spend most of your day building wealth, and just some of it on your craft. However, if you’re in a position where you hate your job , you must accept this harsh truth: You are trading away your creative potential for fiscal security. There’s no nice way to put it. Anyone who spends a majority of their working life in an unchallenging environment cannot cultivate the clarity of mind required to bring out the best in themselves.
Making the leap
This leap can take many forms: Perhaps you quit your job to grow yourself as a solo creator. You take a huge pay cut to switch to an industry that better suits your curiosities. Regardless of what the situation is, you’ve made a conscious choice to go against the grain of social expectations.
At this point, you will feel the conflicting feelings of relief and tension. Relief from making a difficult decision, and tension from having to navigate the consequences of that decision. And when it comes to Stage 2, there will be a lot of tension you must sort through, as this is when the current of doubt is at its strongest.
When you’re pursuing something that is entirely aligned with your creative ambitions, it will largely be perceived as irrational. Your pursuit will be viewed through the lens of what is already known (ie stable employment with regular pay). Anything that doesn’t fit in with that mental model will seem foreign, and in some cases, even silly.
And you know what?
They’re right.
It is impractical to choose uncertainty over certainty. It does  boggle the mind to opt for volatility over stability. Any move that goes against the current of expectations is alarming, and the tricky thing is that you know it too. You understand the risk associated with choosing intuition over rationality, and the opportunity cost that comes with it.
The Great Plateau
This is the flat place in the arc where you’re actualizing your creative potential, but are not seeing the practical results of that effort. The customers aren’t pouring in, the audience isn’t growing, people don’t seem to care. The energy invested doesn’t align with expected outcomes, and this situation is rightfully concerning. But here’s the good news:
This is perfectly normal.
Why does it feel concerning?
Throughout our upbringing and our time in the educational system, we are taught that an expenditure of effort leads to an immediate reward. If you clean your room, you’ll get to have pizza for dinner. If you study hard for an exam, you’ll get a good grade. If you have a great interview, you’ll get that great job. And so on. The causal chain linking effort and reward is perpetually reinforced in our most formative years, which carries with us well into adulthood.
The issue is that this chain breaks down when we want to walk our own paths.
When you direct your attention to your personal curiosities, there’s no immediate reason for society to value that. Society only values what it already knows and wants. Companies offer salaries because they know exactly what to expect from their employees, even if it takes a while for them to contribute that value. But as a creator following your own interests, you alone are responsible for cultivating the value of your pursuit, and then convincing others of it through the delivery of your work.
This means that a significant time delay must be introduced between the expenditure of effort and the arrival of rewards. This goes against everything we’ve been conditioned to experience, so we often give up on our creative pursuits well before they’ve had the required time to catch people’s attention.
The key is to remember that silence is normal, especially in the early stages. And the more you can internalize its normalcy, the greater your resilience will be in pushing ahead without looking back.
How much of this delay between effort and results can you handle? How do you know that silence is indicative of unrealized good outcomes, or if it’s actually a reliable signal that you should quit?
There’s no clear answer here, but the way I parse through this conundrum is through two lenses:
(1) Your pool of resources
If you’ve run out of money, then patience is a luxury you can no longer afford. In this case, you’ll have to trade in your creative freedom for practical security, which translates to getting a job you’d rather not have in order to make money.
This represents a move back up the lefthand side of the arc, placing you in Stage 1 again. This doesn’t mean you’ve quit, nor does it imply reversion. It just means that you can no longer dedicate your full attention to your creative endeavor. If anything, your commitment to it may even be stronger because now you have an imposed limitation on your freedom.
What matters is whether you interpret this change as empowering or demoralizing. And whichever one you choose will determine your chances of future success.
(2) Your sense of progress. The tricky thing about patience is that you often don’t know if it’s a wise or foolish thing. It’s wise if it eventually pays off, and foolish if it doesn’t. If the external validation piece is low, you have to use your inner judgment to determine if you’re improving. Read something you wrote a while ago, and compare it to something you published recently. Does that old piece make you cringe a bit? Good. That’s a clear sign of progression.
The other thing to consider is the texture of silence while on the Great Plateau. For example, if the silence you’re experiencing is total (meaning that no one engages with your work), and it has been for an entire year, then that’s a reliable sign that this path isn’t for you. If you can’t get 20 people (outside of your loved ones) to care after a year, it’s hard to see how that will change in the subsequent one.
But if you’re experiencing periodic breakthroughs in silence, that’s a different story. Perhaps you sent your stuff to a creator you respect, and she encouraged you to keep going. Or you notice that a small but loyal following is developing with every piece you publish. This is a different kind of silence. It’s silence in the sense that your efforts still don’t align with the results, but it’s a signal that you’re headed in the right direction.
In this case, patience is your greatest asset.
When determination, patience, and progress blend together, something amazing happens. The shape of the Great Plateau begins to change, and what was previously the flatness of despair shifts into an incline of hope. People really start to care, your audience regularly reaches out, and a viable career path emerges.
Navigate the Creative Career
So when we think of the word “career,” we naturally frame it in the context of tradition. We think of predictable cadences of work with predictable deposits of money, following a path that culminates in a predictable position of high standing. And most importantly, all this is determined by the culture and structure set by our employers.
But when it comes to your creative endeavor, you set the tempo to everything. You determine when it’s the best time of day to work, you choose when to respond to emails, and you decide how you want to build your audience. This sense of total agency bears little resemblance to what a career is supposed to look like, so it could instead feel like a serious hobby.
But if you’re in Stage 3, here’s the reality: Your craft is en route to practicality, which by definition, makes it a career path.
We often think that you have to be an established creator to justify a creative career. But no one thinks that you have to be the CEO of a company to justify your career there. No, a career begins at the entry-level, from the moment you get compensated and recognized for your capacity to solve problems. If those conditions are satisfied (at whatever scale) and you are serious about improving yourself as a creator, then you have a career.
Once you accept this, you’ll feel deeply empowered. The leap in commitment that occurs when you refer to a hobby as your career is the same as when a love interest becomes your life partner. In the same way that a marriage consolidates your networks into a united whole, every node of your creative life will be assimilated into your identity. There’s no choice but to take your creative endeavor more seriously, and you will invest the focus and rigor required to proudly refer to it as your career.
If you can cultivate this mindset while progressing forward, it’s only inevitable that the results will one day pour in. You’ll be able to convert the attention you attract into a flow of money, which allows you to invest more of your energy into this craft. A flywheel effect begins to form, and once it’s in motion, the practicality of your endeavor will become readily apparent.
In this final portion of the arc, the great gift you are given isn’t necessarily money, but confidence. Money is a surrogate for trust. This is why money is the ultimate form of external validation. Whereas any casual observer can appreciate your work, only a believer will invest her hard-earned resources into it. And when you see that there are many people who believe in you this way, then you’ll be empowered to bring out the best in yourself.
Staying confident but not arrogant
A big part of the creative journey is understanding that there is no finish line. Even if you reach the heights of success, you know that there is still more room to grow. That’s because your potential is not actualized through people telling you that it is. It can only be actualized through an internal commitment to improvement, which is perpetual because we humans have the ability to recognize our inherent flaws.
The key is to divorce the allure of external validation from the commitment to internal growth. That no amount of money or praise is a signal that you’ve reached the promised land. That so much of what makes the creative journey fulfilling is humility, and that embracing uncertainty is what allows you to forge onward.
Are you a malleable beginner, or a hardened veteran? In other words, do you optimize for growth or for preservation? [or in my opnion balancing explore vs exploit]
Do you optimize for growth or for preservation? It’s often said that successful creators hustle hard at first, and then slow down later. That’s because growth requires you to open up many decision trees to see what works, whereas preservation closes them to cultivate clear judgment.
In this final stage of the arc, grow your curiosities, but preserve your attention. Cultivate a beginner’s mind for the things you want to learn about, and the things that expand your intellectual horizons. Let your inner child roam free. Learn things for their own sake, and not for their utility.
But when it comes to actually creating and making decisions, take your time. Use your hard-earned wisdom to your advantage, and slow down to give yourself the space to think. Remove everything that acts as a roadblock to your greatest asset, which is the attention you dedicate to creating.
This is where money acts as a useful tool. You can hire people to help manage the decisions that you no longer want to make. You can purchase the services required to automate the logistics you don’t want to think about. A Practical Creator understands that money’s great gift is to give you freedom over your attention, which is why they always reinvest their earnings back into their endeavors or businesses.
It’s this winning combination of intellectual growth and attentional preservation that allows you to remain on the right side of the arc. You continue expanding your desire to learn, while also reducing the many pulls of your creative focus. Your intellectual inputs increase, while your attentional demands decrease.
And by keeping this balance, your creative endeavor will retain its practicality for a long, long time.
The unifying virtue: patience
Patience has 3 textures, each have different relevance depending on the stage
  1. Stage 1 patience = tolerance You’d rather not spend 8 hours at a job you don’t care for, but you realize what it enables you to do. It gives you the financial breathing room required to work on your craft on the evenings and weekends, and allows you to endure the delay in outcomes. So instead of despising the job, you can embrace it as your patron and tolerate the shortcomings that accompany it. As long as you’re diligently working on your craft in your free time (which is an absolute must), you can be thankful for the fact that you have a job that affords you that creative headspace.
    1. Gratitude for the undesirable is what defines patience here.
  1. Stage 2 patience = resilience the pace of your effort will not be aligned with the delivery of results. There will be silence, disappointment, broken expectations, and other variations of those unpleasant things. But the key is to remember that they are normal parts of the Great Plateau – not anomalies. As long as you’re monitoring progress and are attuned to small signals of external validation, you can accept that the fruits of your labor will arrive long after the seeds are sown. The reframing of silence is what defines patience here.
  1. Stage 3 patience = balance You have confidence in your abilities, but realize how quickly that could transition into arrogance. You want to freely explore your curiosities, but also understand how important it is to slow down and cultivate clear judgment. You finally have money to spend, but know that the sustainable move is to reinvest it back into your endeavor. As long as you’re aware of the equally poignant truth that rests on the other side, you can cultivate the wisdom required to make your creativity an infinite game. The acceptance of contradictions is what defines patience here.
Every stage will be challenging, and that’s the point.
Creative endeavors are inspiring because the scope of the problem often feels bigger than your capacity to solve it. But because you find that problem so worthwhile, you’re willing to put in the effort required to provide the best solution possible. Through this process, you become a more capable person, which allows you to address more worthwhile problems in turn. It’s this beautiful cycle that gives you a sense of purpose and meaning in how you spend your time and energy.
So regardless of which stage you’re in, understand that there is no easier or harder. There is just challenge. And the only way to cultivate a healthy relationship with challenge is to develop the patience required to manage it properly.
How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
On how Clayton responds to advice-seekers…
When people ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question directly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models. I’ll describe how the process in the model worked its way through an industry quite different from their own. And then, more often than not, they’ll say, “OK, I get it.” And they’ll answer their own question more insightfully than I could have.
On remembering why you do something at all…
Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from 1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.
Not everything that matters is good at giving you prompt feedback. If you fail to appreciate this, you chase what’s easily legible at the cost of things that are hard to measure.
Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term perspective.
Give me an example…
The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.
Be careful how you strive…
Once you’ve finished at Harvard Business School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. [Me: This is a powerful prescription to make yourself more teachable]: Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too.
His final recommendation…
Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.