Learner for Life

A learner 📖 for life. Interested in tech💻, investing💰 and fond of autobiographies📚

Would you rather be lucky or skilled?

The more I practice, the luckier I get.

~Gary Player

How would you know if someone is successful because of skill or luck?

Depends on what's the pursuit that we are trying to evaluate.

Most human endeavours lie somewhere on this luck vs. skill spectrum.

Some areas such as a casino or a Russian roulette are pure luck driven.

While others such as elite professional sport would skew more towards skill.

In investing (especially equity) most people who are successful in the long run, acknowledge some or in most cases a meaningful role of luck.

Charlie Munger opines that.

To get what you want, you have to deserve what you want. The world is not yet a crazy enough place to reward a whole bunch of undeserving people.

Naval Ravikant on the other 👏 talks about four kinds of luck.

  1. Blind luck – “dumb luck”
  2. Luck that comes to you through persistence – “fortune favors the bold”
  3. Spotted luck – “chance favors the prepared mind”
  4. Luck that finds you - luck by design - Destiny

Our normal tendency is to attribute our success to skill or effort and our failures to luck or karma or what have you...

Is there a way to tell?

Turns out, there is!

In fact, Michael Mauboussin in his excellent 📖 Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing digs deeper into this very question and provides some interesting answers.

If you would like to learn more before reading the book, here's a talk he gave at Google elucidating some of the ideas in the 📖

One of the heuristics to determine if it is luck or skill that made someone successful is to see if you can fail on purpose.

If you can, then the role of skill is significant.

If you ask me, I would any day prefer to be lucky over skilled. As you would need some amount of luck even for the skill to play out as my wife rightly pointed out!

What about you? Would you rather be lucky or skilled?


Recently watched an excellent Interview (link at the end) of @Elon Musk by @Lex Friedman.

And as Lex rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, Elon is someone who has given hope back to humanity in a bunch of different ways. Even more so in these tough times.

I also noticed that, Elon has a few key ideas that he often talks about in most of these enriching conversations.

Attempting to take a quick look at some of them in here.

Orders of Magnitude

Simply means, in powers of 10. An order of magnitude is 10X times and two orders of magnitude is 100X and so on...

Elon says, a new product or service has to be much better, by orders of magnitude for the consumer to switch from incumbents or its not enough incentive to switch.

On Balance

All things considered. Most things in life are neither completely good nor bad. There are shades of gray to almost everything.

One needs to decide how much gray one is okay with to take action or make decisions.

Musk's individual carbon emissions might be higher than most ordinary individuals but his contribution to sustainable energy future more than offsets for this on balance.

Eating Glass and Staring Into the Abyss

This is how he says, a friend of his describes starting a company feels like.

Elon's advice was, “If you need inspiring words don't do it.”

Thinking in the Limits

This is about looking at the extremes. From the atom to the universe lets say. Do things behave or work out differently in very small numbers or very large ones?

Also, things like when a product is manufactured in large numbers does it cost less due to economies of scale etc.

Interestingly, he said a Govt. is a corporation in the limit with a monopoly on violence.

Money 💰💵

Elon surely is uniquely qualified than most of us to talk about money being the richest man and all that. Also because of his work with PayPal.

Money is not valuable in and of itself. It serves as a means to allocate labor.

Its an entry in a database, with mainframes that run COBOL and central banks having editing permissions to the DB.

Area under the curve

Area under the Curve = ∫ab f(x)dx

Elon's life and work is classic example of the utility optimization function going full throttle.

If one can create a product or service that brings happiness or improves the quality of life of a large number of people in some small way or has a huge positive impact on a small number of people, its success is highly probable.

Rate of Innovation

In the long run, the survival and then growth of a company is determined primarily by its rate of innovation.

This is important even for our individual careers, the degree to which we stay relevant is determined by the extent of our learning, unlearning and relearning.

Fundamental Breakthrough or Holy Grail

Elon is known to correctly identify and relentlessly pursue fundamental breakthroughs in his chosen areas.

When it comes creating a self-sustaining civilization on mars, the key was to have fully and rapidly reusable rockets.

When it comes to autonomous cars it was solving for computer vision and so on.

Link to the interview

Raindrop - Probably the best bookmark Manager Around

Every once in a while you come across a product or service that makes you jump in excitement!

Raindrop is quite frankly, one such product.

A bookmark manager par excellence. Awesome is an understatement.

A product so good that you want to use it, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

I’ve recommended it to family and friends and they’ve become fans too! Some of them did confess to me that its been a big life-saver and were grateful for sharing this tool.

Its available across operating systems and even browser extensions. Which can be especially handy to access specific links across work or personal machines or a laptop and a phone.

Raindrop is a wonderful tool for storing and organizing anything with a link. Web pages, videos, Stored docs or images or anything else.

You can create collections based on specific topics or even asset types.

Tags help you to further segregate and find content you want to refer back later on.

Its possible to share collections with others as well.

Latest update allows you to highlight content in your bookmarks.

Icing on the 🎂 it also features full text search.

Paid tier offers additional functionality including ability to take notes on your bookmarks, nested collections and larger cloud storage.

You can check it out at Raindrop

Please give it a try and feel free to share your experience in the comments.

If Investing were a Game of Cricket

On an mundane weekend while I was flipping through TV channels I chanced upon some old cricket highlights followed by more business media noise. That’s when a quirky thought crossed my mind.

As I pursued this rabbit hole even further, I could see some parallels between the game of cricket and the world of Investing. This is by no means a perfectly rational analogy but a mere fun exercise in trying to recognize patterns and seek order in a world full of chaos and replete with randomness.

On the basis of ones time horizons the participants in the game of cricket or in the craft of investing can be split into three categories. Long (Test), medium (ODI) and short term (T20).

Just as there are three formats in the game of cricket, three types of men and women flock the world of investing.

Test Cricketers and Value Investors

These are folks who are a purists delight and epitomize excellence in their respective domains. They focus invariably on the process and believe that the results take care of themselves. Patience and perseverance are necessary ingredients in the making of a successful test cricket or value investing career. While the former credits his performance to technical proficiency and deliberate practice in the formative years the latter attribute their massive wealth creation to rigorous fundamental analysis and fortitude to go against the herd when required.

Both are perpetual learning machines and humble to a fault. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Every now and then you come across individuals who are cocky as hell and believe they know it all. Only to realize soon, how gravely wrong they were. Maybe there’s a reason why test cricket made Sir Don the game’s greatest and the value way made Warren one of history’s richest ever.

T20 Superstars and Day Traders (Dreamers)

This is the risk of the realm of the adrenaline junkies and the get rich quick seers of short cuts. Higher risk and lower room for error writ large in this unguarded adventure. While the former is all about sheer power and thrives on glitz & glamour, the latter counts on margin money to make them rich. While most aspiring T20 greats have their careers cut short by wrong technique and lack of discipline the speculators lose their shirt and throw-in the towel. Both are sore losers and blame the game and the markets for the disaster they brought upon themselves.

Heard of the likes of Lasith Malinga and Jesse Livermore? One lost his career while the other lost his fortune and tragically succumbed to suicide. Though on balance T20 has done more good to the game than trading has done to man’s mission for wealth creation.

Then comes the third category, which possibly includes some of us or so we hope.

The Moderates on the Middle Path

These are people who don’t fall into either of the extremes. While the players hang around for 8 hours to get a result, the investors (if you can call them that) pull the trigger sometime between three months to three years. These are people who are neither play with fire nor are boring to the bone. Both the length of the game and the investing horizon is temperamentally palatable for most people. But then the preferred duration for a game of cricket and the turn-around time for stocks are hitting new lows with each passing day.

Remember Michael Bevan? He was a quintessential ODIer. In investing, if you have held stocks, now’s the time to hold up a mirror:)

Forth and Final – The Rarest Breed

Then there is the rarest crop that harvests not too often in the history of any human endeavor. These are the true masters of the game endowed with an abundance of god-given talent coupled with an incredible work ethic which makes them truly great. Our very own Virat Kohli and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala are active specimens of this finest breed.

Book Bytes - Seneca on the shortness of life

One of the most profound books ever! Also, one of the shortest. At around 11000 words, takes about a couple of hours or so to read.

This is one the those Antifragile books. One that has truly stood the test of time. Written 2 millenia ago by a roman stoic philosopher who's life was indeed a tale worth telling.

Here are a few snippets from the book to read and reflect.

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.

The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

So desirable a thing did leisure seem that he anticipated it in thought because he could not attain it in reality

There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn

The fairest day in hapless mortals’ life
Is ever first to flee.

I hear that one of these pampered people—provided that you can call it pampering to
unlearn the habits of human life—when he had been lifted by hands from the bath and placed in his sedan-chair, said questioningly: “Am I now seated?

They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Personally, I also feel it resonates closely with the perfect Yogic wisdom of revered scripture Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

If you read only one thing this weekend, let it be this great book!