Vulnerability and the Human Condition

Barry Magid writes in Right Here with You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships:

We have to get to know and be honest about our particular strategies for dealing with vulnerability and learn to use mindfulness to allow ourselves to experience more of that vulnerability rather than less of it. To open yourself up to need, longing, dependency, and reliance on others means opening yourself to the truth that non of us can do this on our own. We really do need each other, just as we need parents and teachers. We need all those people in our lives who make us feel uncertain. The goal is not getting to a place where we are going to escape all that, but creating a container that allows us to be more and more human, to feel more and more.

Getting Paid for Being Right

At the 1998 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffett declared,

Markets can do anything. If you look at the history of markets, you see everything under the sun. But we have no time frame [for doing something]. If the money piles up, then it piles up. And when we see something that makes sense, we’re willing to act very fast and very big. But we’re not going to act on anything if it doesn’t check out. You don’t get paid for activity. You only get paid for being right.

Victor Hugo’s Genius

The English poet William Ernest Henley wrote in The Athenaeum, a literary magazine published in London between 1828 and 1921:

[Hugo’s poetry] is often no more than a grand parade, a sort of triumph, of vocables . … What is perhaps a more damning reproach than any is that his work is saturate in his own remarkable personality . … It is a proof of the commanding genius that was his that in spite of [these objections] he held in enchantment the hearts and minds of men for over sixty years. He is, indeed, a literature in himself.

Charlie Munger Explains Berkshire Hathaway’s Investment in Airlines

At the 2018 Daily Journal annual meeting, Charlie Munger discussed Berkshire Hathaway’s investment in the airline industry:

Well, we did change our mind. For a long time, Warren and I (painted over) the railroad because there were too many of them, and it was too competitive, and union rules were too crazy. They were lousy investments for about 75 years. And then they finally…the world changed and they double decked all the trains and they got down to four big rail systems in all the United States in terms of freight and all of a sudden we liked railroads. It took about 75 years. Warren and I never looked at railroads for about 50 years, and then we bought one … Now airlines, Warren use to joke about them. He’d say that the investing class would have done better if the Wright Brothers would never have invented flight. But given the conditions that were present when the stock was purchased and given the conditions of Berkshire Hathaway where it was drowning in money, we thought it was ok to buy a bunch of airline stocks. What more can I say? Certainly it’s ok to change your mind when the facts change. And to some extent the facts had changed, and to some extent they haven’t. It is harder to create the little competing airlines than it was. And the industry has maybe learned something. I hope it works better, but I don’t think its…I think the chances of us buying airlines and holding them for 100 years is going to work that well. I think that’s pretty low.

Source: LatticeWorkInvesting

Getting People to Change is Difficult

Marty Nemko writes in his essay “On the Difficulty of Getting People to Change” in his “How to Do Life” column at Psychology Today:

What’s going on? In some cases, the person simply doesn’t have the self-discipline to habituate it. Others claim to have forgotten about it. Others say (rationalize?) that it isn’t important enough to habituate without formal homework.

Engendering behavior change can be far more difficult than we might imagine. It sometimes requires not just extended guided practice in sessions plus homework, but an understanding of the psychological and practical gains the person accrues from their “bad habit.” And we may need to accept that sometimes, our clients may claim to want to change but deep down don’t.

Hemingway in Praise of F Scott Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemingway writes in A Moveable Feast,

His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it not more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember it when it had been effortless.

Vicarious Redemption

Christopher Hitchens writes in Letters to a Young Contrarian,

I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There’s no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may if you wish take on a another man’s debt, or even to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves.

Steve Jobs Difficult to Work with

Ed Catmull, President and CEO of Pixar (now part of Disney) on how working with Steve Jobs was difficult.

Pixar could not have survived without Steve, but more than once in those years, I wasn’t sure if we’d survive with him. Steve could be brilliant and inspirational, capable of diving deeply and intelligently into any problem we faced. But he could also be impossible: dismissive, condescending, threatening, even bullying. Perhaps of most concern, from a management standpoint, was the fact that he exhibited so little empathy. At that point in his life, he was simply unable to put himself in other people’s shoes, and his sense of humor was nonexistent.

From his book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

The Four Disciplines of a Sound Insurance Operation, According to Warren Buffett

From Warren Buffett’s 50th annual shareholder letter for Berkshire Hathaway:

At bottom, a sound insurance operation needs to adhere to four disciplines. It must (1) understand all exposures that might cause a policy to incur losses; (2) conservatively assess the likelihood of any exposure actually causing a loss and the probable cost if it does; (3) set a premium that, on average, will deliver a profit after both prospective loss costs and operating expenses are covered; and (4) be willing to walk away if the appropriate premium can’t be obtained.

Many insurers pass the first three tests and flunk the fourth. They simply can’t turn their back on business that is being eagerly written by their competitors. That old line, “The other guy is doing it, so we must as well,” spells trouble in any business, but in none more so than insurance.

Mindfulness and Healing

Thich Nhat Hanh in The Path of Emancipation: Talks from a 21-Day Retreat:

We have to trust the power of understanding, healing, and loving within us. It is our refuge. It is the Buddha. It is the Kingdom of God existing within us. If we lose our faith and confidence in it, we lose everything. This is not abstract, it is very real. We can touch it, hold it, and take refuge in it. Instead of paniking or giving ourselves up to despair, we practice mindful breathing and put our trust in the power of self-healing, self-understanding, and loving within us. We call this the island within ourselves in which we can take refuge. It is an island of peace, confidence, solidity, love and freedom. be an island within yourself. You don’t have to look for it elsewhere. Mindful breathing helps you go back to your precious island within, so that you can experience the foundation of your being.

When you find yourself in a dangerous or difficult situation, or when you feel like you are losing yourself, mindful breathing helps you go back to the island of self.

Our practice is based on the insight that mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha that is within us. To be mindful means to be here, fully present, with body and mind united, not in a state of dispersion. Mindfulness is the energy we generate in mindful walking, mindful breathing, sitting, and even washing dishes. It is a protecting agent, because within mindfulness is the energy of concentration and insight. Mindfulness makes it possible for us to understand, to accept, to love, and to relieve suffering. That is why the island of mindfulness is our best refuge. before passing away, the Buddha recommended to his students that they take refuge in the island of mindfulness within themselves.