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Polymathic Monthly - Issue #32: Skill/Luck, Judgement, Status and Deepfakes.


Polymathic Monthly

March 3 · Issue #32 · View online

A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.

Smart folk, in talking about business and outcomes, attribute so much to skill and totally ignore the role of luck. Or maybe it’s just the smart folk I’ve spoken to in the last few months :). In digging into the topic of skill vs luck, I stumbled upon this fantastic 2013 interview of Shane Parrish of Farnam Street and Michael Mauboussin and I thought I’d share.
It is psychologically extremely difficult to attribute something to luck. The reason is that in the left hemisphere of our brains is a part that neuroscientists call the “interpreter.” The job of the interpreter is to create a cause for all the effects it sees. Now in most cases, the cause and effect relationships it comes up with make perfect sense. Throw a rock at a window and the window smashes. No problem. The key is that the interpreter doesn’t know anything about luck. It didn’t get the memo. So the interpreter creates a story to explain results that are attributable solely to luck. The key is to realize that the interpreter operates in all of our brains all of the time. Almost always, it’s on the mark. But when you’re dealing with realms filled with luck, you can be sure that the interpreter will create a narrative that is powerful and false.
Read the whole interview and consider, when was the last time you truly attributed an important outcome to luck?
Enjoy this week’s issue.

  • We all need maps (and mental models). Especially in seemingly confusing times. Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock provides an approach for mapping the future. Pair with ‘Farsighted’ below.
  • In Factfulness, Hans Rosling manages to convey the same positivity and vitality in the book as he does in his TED talks. The book, like the videos, provide you a framework and are insightful. Must Read.
  • We give a lot of consideration and place so much weight on the outcomes of our near term decisions, probably because the feedback loop is short and we can adjust/adapt as needed. But we fail to do the same with long-term decisions. In Farsighted, Steven Johnson suggests we aren’t equipped to make those long-term decisions and he provides an approach. Pair this one with the Michael Mauboussin article (above) on decision making.
  • Most careers require you to switch from doer to manager to coach as/if you want to rise through the ranks. The Coaching Habit is a short but packed book that helps you make that transition. You will take notes with this one.
I’m looking for an agent or a publisher. I started writing ’City of the Future, Future of the City‘ (working title ;)) last year but needed some data/survey results to complete the book. I finally got 100 'real people’ responses to the question of what needs to happen to create thriving cities. And the book is done! Do share any contacts/intros.
And do share this newsletter with at least one person. Thanks!
Wishing you the very best that the month of March has to offer!
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