How to be happy: Never confuse outcomes with analysis.
And other life lessons from the world of newsletters.
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1a. Letters From Zeneca
Here is a sentence I never thought I’d write: This essay about gambling on NFTs is full of excellent life lessons.
I don’t know who Zeneca is. I started following him when I was trying to make sense of the crypto world. But last week he wrote a piece about buying and selling NFTs and just about everything in it is directly applicable to a life well-lived:
[T]he NFT space is filled with infinite regret which comes at you from every direction.
Decide not to mint something which goes on to moon? Regret.
Decide to mint something which is a rug pull? Regret.
Decide to sell something at any price other than the absolute peak? Regret.
Decide to buy something at any price other than the absolute dip? Regret. . . .
I was a professional poker player for 15 years. For the most part, for most of my career the difference between the good players and the great players was not technical skill. It was psychological skill and mental fortitude. It was the ability to not tilt, to not play poorly, to not let your emotions rule your decision making. This is not an easy thing to do. . . .
At some point in my career I received “mental game coaching”. I learned a lot, but probably the single greatest takeaway which I still carry with me to this day is to try to align my emotions with my actions, and not the outcomes of my actions. This is because my actions are within my control, whatever happens beyond that is not.
To continue the poker analogy: the goal is not to be happy when you make money and upset when you lose money. The goal is to be happy when you play well and upset when you play poorly. The goal is to be able to lose a tonne of money but feel fantastic knowing that you made good decisions and knowing that in the long run, if you continue to make good decisions, you are likely to come out ahead. You should also be able to make a tonne of money and not feel like you’re a genius and did everything right — if you played poorly, you should perhaps be a little upset, and critical, and think about what you could do differently next time, even if you came away a big winner.
Read the whole thing. Subscribe if you’re into this sort of thing.
This is basically the same talk I give my kid when I’m coaching him on baseball: Never confuse outcomes with analysis.
If you hit a single on an 3-0 pitch that’s outside, then you did something wrong. Your job is to recognize a strike and you shouldn’t be swinging at a ball outside on that count. Don’t think that just because you got on base that you did the right thing.
By the same token, if you strike out looking on a 2-2 pitch that’s way outside the zone, then you did do the right thing. Yes, you have to protect the plate with close stuff. But if the ball is way outside, you should not be swinging. Just because you get a bad call doesn’t mean you made the wrong play.
This view extends to pretty much everything in life. You should only judge what you can control. That’s how you find peace. That’s how you learn.
Who doesn’t love the Phillips Curve! Joseph Politano writes about economics
In 1958 economist Alban William Phillips published “The Relation Between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wage Rates in the United Kingdom, 1861–1957” in which he demonstrated a correlation between the growth of nominal wages and unemployment. When unemployment was low nominal wages tended to grow faster, and when unemployment was high nominal wages tended to grow slower.
Over the ensuing decades the Phillips curve evolved into a codified relationship between inflation (not wage growth) and unemployment. In the traditional story, stimulating demand would decrease unemployment at the cost of increased inflation, and decreasing demand would boost unemployment while decreasing inflation. There was an assumed stable tradeoff between unemployment and inflation: any effort to reduce unemployment required an increase in inflation and any effort to lower inflation required an increase in unemployment.
That was true. Until it wasn’t.
The experience of the 1970s stagflation and the influence of the Chicago school of economics radically transformed the Phillips curve. Monetarist economists posited that long run inflation was driven by growth in the money supply, and therefore high unemployment could coexist with high inflation. . . .
The monetarist revolution was unable to kill the Phillips curve, however, and the idea persisted in a zombified state under the “expectations augmented Phillips curve.” There was no long run relationship between unemployment and inflation, as long term inflation was a monetary phenomenon. In the short run, however, the Phillips curve persisted—it was assumed that the central bank still faced an immediate tradeoff between unemployment and inflation.
In the decades after the 1970s inflation was defeated, even the short-run Phillips curve relationship began breaking down. The Federal Reserve became successful in containing inflation in what was dubbed “The Great Moderation”—and coincidentally the Phillips curve supposedly “flattened” as the relationship between inflation and unemployment weakened.
And now the Phillips Curve is dead!
3. The Bittman Project
I am not normally into the foodie scene, but this Mike Diego essay is sweet, even though it’s about . . . pigeon soup:
People have been eating squab for both vigor and pleasure for millennia. There is a 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet with a recipe for squab soup and there are ancient dovecotes — man-made structures that house single-family pigeonholes — still standing around the world: The mud-brick dovecotes in the Nile Delta. The marvelous honeycombed towers in the Yazd province of Iran. The ornamented dovecote castles on the Greek island of Tinos. The stone dovecotes once kept by the lords of the manors across Great Britain. And adobe dovecotes throughout the Tierra de Campos in Spain.
Jane Canova wrote in the Spring 2005 issue of Gastronomica, “Few other birds have been so revered by man or served him so well.” Under the Muslim Al-Andalus empire on the Iberian peninsula, “Pigeons were regarded as the birds of the prophets and accomplices in amorous intrigues …” Specialists in dietetics and hygiene recommended pigeon and squab meat for their hot and moist complexion, she continues. Their eggs were also eaten as an aphrodisiac along with turnip juice and onions. By the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain’s Golden Age, eating squab reached a peak; dishes like pigeon pie, squab with truffles and marrow, squash with stuffed squab, and sweet pigeon turnovers with bacon, were being eaten by the most well-fed Spaniards.
The practice of raising squab traveled to Latin America. In Honda, a colonial city on the Magdalena River in a valley of the Colombian Andes, my Abuelita’s neighbor had a small dovecote or palomar; that’s where she got all of those birds for my mom’s soup. My father told me that when he grew up there, he and his seven siblings would have a big bowl of sopa de paloma with three or four birds in it when they were sick. My grandfather — the town pharmacist — thought it was especially important for women postpartum because it was loaded with iron.
The idea that squab is extremely healthy — and has mysterious powers to conjure love, boost fertility and ensure marital fidelity — has existed almost everywhere squab has been part of gastronomic culture. The centuries-old Egyptian squab dish hamam mahshi, roasted squab, stuffed with a nutty cracked green freekeh, used to be served to the bride and groom on their wedding night for an extra boost. The symbolic association likely came from the domestic habits of the birds themselves.
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