“He wears a Fanny Pack, and he’s into mycology”

The concept of reversible and irreversible decisions is not new to me. I’ve read the shareholder letter where Jeff Bezos explains the idea using examples of one-way and two-way doors before. The question of when to make an irreversible decision, however, has always been “as late as possible” without much more guidance. I like the STOP, LOP, or KNOW framework—laid out by Franam Street—aimed at preventing analysis paralysis related to irreversible decisions.

Consider my rule of STOP, LOP, or KNOW. If you stop gathering useful information (STOP), you’re about to lose an opportunity (LOP), or you know what to do (KNOW).

If you stop gathering useful information and there is no prospect of any on the horizon, make the decision. When you’re in charge of operations at a three-letter agency, you make many hard decisions with imperfect information. Once you’ve talked to all the people with useful information, it’s time to act. The problem is a lot of people don’t act. They sit waiting for some magical piece of information that might or might not come that will make the decision clear. I call this unicorn information. We know it’s out there, but we can never find it. You can’t wait for the unicorn, you have to decide. The people that waited for the unicorn didn’t last.

If you’re about to lose a meaningful opportunity, make the decision. Recently a big real estate opportunity came across my desk. While not impossible to reverse, it would have been prohibitively costly. As with any decision that involves a lot of money — the biggest check I’ve ever written, I dove into the details wanting to understand everything. At first, there was no rush to make the decision. When interest rates started to rise, the deal got a lot more attractive. My partner called and asked if I was in because it was going forward with or without me. I had to decide, or I’d lose the opportunity.

If you know what to do, make the decision. When you’re the boss, sometimes you have to let people go. While you can offer feedback and coach and hope things will change, sometimes you wake up and know what to do. Once you know it’s best for both parties to move on, the biggest mistake is waiting.

Last Saturday, January 28th, we said goodbye to Obie. Obie was our first pet—we adopted him in 2009 around the time this photo was taken.


Adam Mastroianni shares a catalog of mental traps that get people stuck in “So you wanna de-bog yourself.” I think Floor is Lava is my favorite.

Every kid learns to play the “floor is lava” game, where you pretend that you'll get incinerated if you touch the carpet. Even toddlers can pick it up, which reveals something profound: very early on, we acquire the ability to pretend that fake problems are real. We then spend the rest of our lives doing exactly that.

Often, when I’m stuck, it’s because I've made up a game for myself and decided that I’m losing at it. I haven’t achieved enough. I am not working hard enough and I am also, somehow, not having enough fun. These games have elaborate rules, like “I have to be as successful as my most successful friend, but everything I've done so far doesn't count,” and I’m supposed to feel very bad if I break them. It’s like playing the absolute dumbest version of the floor is lava.

In Generational Change, Robert de Neufville talks about how change accumulates and compounds over time in ways that are difficult to track:

When I was born, in 1970, the average global temperature was 1°C cooler than it is today. There were about 3.7 billion people on Earth, less than half as many as there are now. Life expectancy in the US was about 71 years. Smallpox had not been eradicated; I was part of the last generation that was vaccinated against the disease. The per capita GDP of the US—now close to $70,000—was just $26,000 in today’s dollars, so Americans were much poorer then than they are now. ARPANET, the early ancestor of the internet, was switched on just a year before I was born. Intel had not yet begun to sell microprocessors commercially. Seven of the 10 largest companies in the world today hadn’t been founded.

His is a refreshing take on the annual reflection exercises that tend to pop up this time of year.

Maria Popova provides one of the most complete overviews of how mindset shapes every aspect of our lives in this article from 2014.

One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

They go on to describe the genesis and consequences of fixed and growth mindsets, citing the research and findings of the book frequently.

Last Thursday, my family experienced In a Landscape—a classical music concert in the wild—for the first time.


  1. Be Here Now by Ram Dass. This book changed me. It’s a simple story and guide split into three parts. It begins with Ram’s personal journey, transitions into a series of artistic pronouncements about life and spirituality, and then details lessons and guidance for how to live a spiritual life. The whole book resonated with me in a way that was hard to pin down. There are a lot of concepts and assertions that I would have had trouble connecting with in the past. Some of it is still a bit out there. Overall, though, I really enjoyed it and I’ve referenced it several times in the last couple weeks.

  1. Shards of Earth (The Final Architecture, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This was a big book, both in terms of the number of pages and the scope of the story. Humanity has spread throughout the universe. The Architects—strange, moon-sized entities that destroy entire planets—are back. I really enjoyed the concept of Unspace—a plane of un-reality where faster-than-light travel is possible. Interesting science, great character building, and a complex and enjoyable plot made this one of my favorite books on the list.

  1. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. This was one of my favorite books this year! It was bizarre and surprising and horrifying at times. I’ve yet to read a novel with such breadth that was so neatly woven together.

  2. Piranesi by Susana Clarke. Imagine a house with infinite rooms full of thousands of statues. Imagine this house contains an entire ocean. Now imagine you live there. Piranesi was awe inspiring. I couldn’t put it down.

  3. Breath by James Nestor. This book literally changed my relationship with breathing. It also helped me improve the quality of my sleep! If you want to know more about the science of breathing, and why it’s fundamental to our well-being, check it out.

  4. Hyperion by Dan Simmons. This book has been on my reading list for years. I finally picked it up this year, and once I did I couldn’t put it down. There’s a reason this is a classic in the sci-fi genre.


I want to write more.

Setting aside time to write is hard, though. I think I still haven’t adjusted to having kids after eight years. Making time to write requires sacrificing precious time with my kids, and that feels scary. Regardless, I think a little sacrifice might be in my best interest, so here goes.

I learned a lot about myself this year. I grasped that being truly present takes effort, but it can be transformational. I accepted that I am a deeply emotional being after decades of convincing myself otherwise. I discovered that until this year, the only emotion I truly embraced was anger. Finally, I realized that some of my strengths—the parts of my identity that I was most proud of—were keeping me from what I wanted most. After thirty-four years, I thought I had myself mostly figured out, but this year set me straight.

I’ve spent countless years pursuing mastery. It took me all those years to realize that what I really want is mastery of my own experience. Having discovered this, I’m genuinely excited for what’s to come. Next year, I plan to continue my journey to become the best version of myself I can be. Hopefully I’ll set aside time to tell you about it along the way.

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