Monthly Rounds (July 2020) -- Wealth, Health, and the "Backward Law"

Hi friends,

Welcome to the third edition of this monthly distribution and the first on Substack. 


This piece provides a fascinating glimpse into the college experience of the Prince of Qatar (aka KHK) — it reinforces the unfortunate reality that wealth almost always wins and that for a select few, rules are merely recommendations.

"Even in Beverly Hills, where rich people with money to burn are about as common as valet stands and brow lifts, the prince’s wealth was notable."

"Once classes began, Al Thani displayed little enthusiasm for his studies, according to people who worked for him. He spent much of the day in his suite at the hotel, playing video games with his entourage and working out with a trainer, former employees said. He passed many evenings chatting with friends at Urth Caffe. On infrequent and brief trips to campus, he liked to stroll the grounds and visit dining establishments, the employees said.

Yet he made the dean’s list three times."


This isn’t a true crime story with an unfinished ending in the fashion of Serial or Making a Murderer. Rather, it’s a straightforward account of a highly-skilled small-town burglar who gets into big trouble. In contrast to the piece above, this one demonstrates that not everyone who obtains immense wealth gets to enjoy it.

"Murphy leaned over the edge and cut a black wire coming from a telephone pole. Then he plugged in a drill and a power saw and started going at the roof itself. The grinding of metal on metal echoed through the industrial park. Once he completed a square hole, he jumped down onto a cage on the shop floor.

Inside the building, Murphy and his buddy found gold rings, gold necklaces, gold plates, boxes of gold beads, and drawers full of melted-down gold. Unable to crack the safe, they lifted it on a jack and pushed it through the loading dock onto their 24-foot box truck. Murphy was sweeping gold dust off the workstations when his accomplice came out of an office, his hands glittering with diamonds. There was a Super Bowl ring engraved “Strahan” and a few others that read “Manning.” By the time Murphy had finished loading up the box truck, he had more than $2 million of gold and jewelry and more than two dozen Super Bowl rings."


One of the most important lessons that I learned from medial training is a simple one: evidence-based practices are almost always better than non-evidence-based ones. This article distills the best evidence-based wellness recommendations, which I'll distill for you even further: move your body, share your feelings, focus on relationships, do deep work, cultivate a purpose, and optimize your environment. 

"Find your passion” is one of the most popular self-help phrases, but it’s quite misleading and sometimes even harmful. Researchers call this a fit mindset of passion, or the belief that you’ll find an activity or pursuit about which you are immediately passionate from the get-go. Although over 75 percent of people hold this mindset, it rarely leads to lasting passion. People with fit mindsets tend to overemphasize their initial feelings, search for perfection, and quit when the going gets tough. Better than a fit mindset is a development mindset, in which you understand that passion takes time to emerge, thus lowering the bar for further engagement in something from “this is perfect” to “this is interesting.”


Mark Manson (the very successful author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving…”) writes this article about the  “Backward Law” — the notion that expending effort toward certain tasks actually takes you farther away from achieving them. Navy SEAL training’s  “drown-proofing” is a really interesting exercise in which achieving the goal requires actively not pursuing it. For those of us not training to become Navy SEALs, there are many other insightful examples included in this piece (e.g. the pursuit of happiness).

"There’s a part of Navy SEAL training called “drown-proofing” where they bind your hands behind your back, tie your feet together, and dump you into a 9-foot-deep pool. Your job is to survive for five minutes.

Like most of SEAL training, the vast majority of cadets who attempt drown-proofing fail. Upon being tossed into the water, many of them panic and scream to be lifted back out. Some struggle until they slip underwater where they proceed to lose consciousness and have to be fished out and resuscitated. Over the years, a number of trainees have even died during the exercise.

But some people make it. And they do so because they understand two counterintuitive lessons.The first lesson of drown-proofing is paradoxical: the more you struggle to keep your head above water, the more likely you are to sink."


For the second month in a row, I’ll end with a video. I didn’t know who Hamdi Ulukaya was until a few days ago, but I eat Chobani yogurt several times per week and it turns out he founded the company (p.s. those of you who went to Wharton recently may recognize him as the 2018 commencement speaker). But what I now like more than his Greek yogurt is his perspective on being an "anti-CEO" from this TED talk. 

“Spreadsheets are lazy — they don’t tell you about people, they don’t tell you about communities. But unfortunately, this is how too many business decisions are made today...We need a new playbook that sees people again, that sees above and beyond profits. The Anti-CEO playbook is about gratitude.. it’s about communities.. it’s about responsibilities.. it’s about accountability."


As always, I would love to hear updates about your life and what you have enjoyed reading, watching, and engaging with over the last month. If you are free to catch up or reconnect, please reach out.

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