Munger the Mentor

After my exit announcement, my days became incredibly busy. The third sprint for Sensibowl started on November 27, and the first #pifo cohort for Design for Non-Visual Designers (25-26 Nov) kept my weekends exciting. My masterclass in Upraised (25 Nov) attracted over 2000 registrants, which made me slightly nervous. But it turned out to be an exponential ROI for the attendees. In the midst of all this, we commemorated the first death anniversary of my father-in-law (22 Nov). The timing was quite tight, so I decided to take a few days off to escape the hustle and bustle.

Today, I woke up to the news that Charlie Munger has passed away. Unconsciously, tears rolled down my cheeks. What a legend!

Some people inspire you, others may change parts of you, but very few, like Charlie Munger, have the power to transform you. I refer to such individuals as my sculptors. Although it can be slightly painful when they chisel you with clarity, this pain is transformative. Despite never meeting Munger in person, he has significantly shaped who I am today.

"Poor Charlie's Almanack" greatly influenced my thinking patterns. Since then, I've listened to every interview and read everything Charlie has spoken about. Charlie introduced me to the concept of mental models. He is like the wise and witty grandfather many of us never had. He generously shared his 99 years of compounded wisdom with us all. He certainly made the world a better place than how he found it in 1924.

If you're unfamiliar with Charlie Munger, here are some timeless pieces of wisdom he's shared. I'll discuss a few that personally resonated with me and improved my life. I must say, even if you implement just 20% of his insights, your life could improve by 80%.

  1. "Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up". According to Charlie, “Acknowledging what you don't know is the dawning of wisdom.” 
    This helped me identify with what I don't know more than what I know. It helped me stay grounded and humble.
  2. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

    The idea just changed how I saw everything in life. Avoid stupidity became my priority than being brilliant.
    For example: When it comes to investing, I try not to become poor than becoming rich and this has given me significant long-term advantage.
  3. I paid no attention to the territorial boundaries of academic disciplines and I just grabbed all the big ideas that I could.”
    This one idea made my life super productive, fun, engaging and enterprising. It also gave me polymathic tendencies. I grabbed big ideas from all subjects (maths, physics, biology, psychology, chemistry, systems thinking, economics and more). The big ideas live as a mental latticework in my head and I get to automatically use them for all parts of life.
  4. Take a simple idea, and take it seriously.” I lived my professional life using this principle. Design is a simple idea and it makes the world a better place to live. I took it seriously and the rest is history.
  5. “If you keep learning all the time, you have a wonderful advantage.” This idea made me a learning machine. I mimicked Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger and read almost a book (sometimes more) every week. I developed learning mindset in me. I strongly believe a learning mindset is the bedrock of all things growth. I got hooked to lifetime learning. I dedicated a big part of my life to learn how to learn.
  6. "Identify your circle of competence and use your knowledge, when possible, to stay away from things you don't understand. There are no points for difficulty at work or in life." This idea helped me root myself in what I know and what I don't know. Usually what I know is far lesser than what I don't know. I stayed away from all topics I don't understand fully. I also realised that one has to spend a lifetime to master their circle of competence. The expert bias in me vanished once I understood circle of competence as a concept.
  7. "Trust is the key to great relationships of all kinds, and especially business partnerships". The inverse of this idea is "If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are, you’re going to crater immediately. So doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability." This idea hit me hard. It took me a long time to understand how trust works. It is simple but not easy.
  8. "To get what you want, deserve what you want. Trust, success, and admiration are earned.  You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end." This became my mantra for conducting myself. Over time, I realised that getting deserved trust, respect gives immense satisfaction in life.
  9. "You need to learn how to invert a problem in order to solve it most effectively. The way complex adaptive systems work and the way mental constructs work, problems frequently get easier and I would even say usually are easier to solve if you turn around in reverse. Those of you who have mastered algebra know that inversion frequently will solve problems which nothing else will solve. And in life, unless you’re more gifted than Einstein, inversion will help you solve problems that you can’t solve in other ways." This one idea single handedly changed my view about life. Every time I don't know how to solve something or explain something, I use the inverse method. A happy life is not being sick, not being broke, not being lonely, not being ill and not being miserable to live with. That is it. That was the best definition I found. It was hard to explain happiness and it was easy to explain unhappiness. I live a happy life, hands down.
  10. “I’m not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people do who are supporting it. I think that only when I reach that stage am I qualified to speak.” This idea helped me to shut up in places I don't know much. It was the easiest thing to do in all honesty.
  11. "... envy, resentment, revenge and self pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity gets pretty close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity". This idea made me stay far away from self pity/revenge/resentment. It helped me maintain objectivity at all times, especially when it is the hardest.
  12. "Incentives are too powerful a controller of human cognition and human behavior. For example: I could not have lived under a billable hour quota of 2,400 hours a year. That would have caused serious problems for me" This idea helped me do beyond 2400 hours a year. It made me do multiple things and create significant assets beyond the billable hours. I never have a concept of weekday or weekend. I work because I love to. My biggest incentive is how I feel about my work. The pride served as a compass to pick/drop work.
  13. "Work with and under people you admire, and avoid the inverse when at all possible." This idea made me choose whom I work with very carefully.
  14. "You’ll be most successful where you’re most intensely interested". This idea helped me choose what I am curious about and make it my profession. I stopped doing things I am not deeply interested in.
  15. "Use setbacks in life as an opportunity to become a bigger and better person. Don’t wallow.Epictetus thought that every mischance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity but to utilize the terrible blow in a constructive fashion". This idea made me grittier and resilient. I used my setbacks as my catalyst to learn as pain is a better teacher than pleasure.
  16. "The highest form which civilisation can reach is a seamless web of deserved trust. Not much procedure, just totally reliable people correctly trusting one another". This became my core of building teams and partnerships. I use processes and procedures as a lubricant but deserved trust as the foundation.

Lived experiences are far better than a bunch of Charlie's wisdom thrown at you. Happy to share more if you find this interested.

🥂 to 99 years of wisdom!

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