In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing: Mental Tips, Tricks & Life Hacks, Vol. 5, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and The Motley Fool community share thoughts on how to improve your quality of life, spend wisely, make things your own, free up time, and much more.
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This video was recorded on October 14, 2020.
David Gardner: When the road looks rough ahead and you’re miles and miles from your nice, warm bed, you just remember what your old pals said, boy, you’ve got a friend in me. Now for some of you, you’re hearing Randy Newman’s tune in your head, it might stick with you for the rest of the day, but for others, you [laughs] may not recognize those lyrics from the original Toy Story movie and the song You’ve Got a Friend in Me. They say something important, we at The Motley Fool are trying to help, we do five daily or weekly podcasts, all of them free, all trying to be helpful, we’ve done them for years, we love helping people, that’s been a purpose statement we use for years here, to help the world invest better.
Well, once or twice a year on this podcast that help takes on a unique form. I think about what are some mental tips, some tricks, simple lifehacks that I’ve used or seen used to great effect, and why wouldn’t I take a break from our usual format and share it out, that would be help, too. That would certainly make the world smarter, and happier, and I think richer too. And why not invite your best ideas as well to share; that’s what we’re here for, we’re all here to help each other.
So, what does that mean? Mental Tips, Tricks & Lifehacks, Vol. 5, only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing, a delight to have you joining with me this week. We’re going to have some fun together; we’re going to make each other smarter; that’s the hope anyway. And I say “we” anyway, because it took a village. I asked at the end of last week’s show, Essays from Yesterday Vol. 2 whether you might send me some of your best mental tips, mental tricks, and lifehacks, so I could combine them with mine and we could have a show this week, the fifth in this historic series. This series started on June 15th, 2016. I just thought, what do I want to do this week, let’s do something different, let’s not do investing, let’s do that. And mental tips and tricks was born, and then I thought, when I did episode two, hey, it’s not just about mental tips, and tricks, I mean, those are great, but what about lifehacks, we all need those, ways to do life better, elegant; ways to make things that used to be kludgy, effective. That’s how I think about lifehacks, and mental tips, and tricks.
And so, we’ve done it four times before. The most recent was March 6th, 2019. If you want to hear earlier episodes of the series, you certainly can always just google Rule Breaker Investing, Mental Tips, Tricks & Lifehacks, you will find previous episodes in this series. This is Vol. 5, and I’ve got 9. I’ve got two from you, one from me; two from you, one from me; and two from you, one from me to do for this episode.
So, without further ado, I say we get started, mental tips, tricks and lifehacks No. 1. Let’s go with lifehack for this one. Thank you, Scott Franklin, Go Bucks! Ohio; I think that that is your screenname either on The Motley Fool or on Twitter. A delight to share this one. Scott wrote, “David, in January 2020, my wife and I changed our eating pattern and our lifestyle to what is commonly referred to as Intermittent Fasting, IF, or Time-Restricted Eating, TRE, if you will. For the first month we ate lunch and dinner, skipping breakfast, and then transitioned to One Meal A Day.” Scott even provides the acronym for that OMAD. Maybe these are acronyms people use. I’m not doing intermittent fasting, I’m doing IF; I’m not doing time-restricted eating, TRE; or OMAD, One Meal A Day.
“In February, I view this … ” Scott writes ” … as a lifestyle, not a diet. I eat the foods that I love until I feel full, but I choose to eat them during a specific time window, typically restricted to four hours per day.” Wow!
“My goal is to decrease my weight and avoid the health risks that often accompany being overweight. A number of people, well-known to your podcast listeners, have identified as using intermittent fasting as part of their life, including James Clear, … ” who was an interviewee earlier this year on our podcast. James, of course, author of the book Atomic Habits. Scott Franklin goes on to cite, ” … Joe Rogan, Jimmy Kimmel, Admiral William McRaven, and Jack Dorsey. During a very stressful, unusual COVID-19 2020 year. The benefits I’ve seen after nine months include weight loss of 20%. (40 pounds); my physician stopping all prescription medications and tremendous energy and mental focus. I am at my best, both, at work or during exercise while in a fasted state. Other reported benefits of fasting include lower insulin levels, healthy aging through autophagy, improved memory, and an increased ability for our brains to ward off neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. My journey started with a conversation with my family practice physician. If you or your listeners want to learn more, I recommend they check out the books and podcasts of both Dr. Jason Fung, who wrote The Obesity Code, The Diabetes Code, and The Complete Guide to Fasting, and Gin Stephens, Doctor of Education, who wrote, Fast, Feast, Repeat, and Delay, Don’t Deny.” Scott concludes, “Fool on in good health! Scott Franklin. Go Bucks! Ohio.”
Scott, sounds like you are a Buckeye fan, very sorry to relate that my own football team, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has somehow gotten ahead of you in the top 10 rankings. [laughs] I’m having some fun here. The Big Ten will be returning to football, which I’m delighted to hear, later this month. They were excluded from the AP Top 25 football polls, as was the Pac-12, any other conference that wasn’t playing, but now that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are coming back, I see their names popping back up in the polls. In the meantime, the Tar Heels have made a great run, won three games in a row, and are No. 5. I can’t remember a time where North Carolina was ahead of Ohio State [laughs] in any AP poll for football. Anyway, having fun.
But let’s go back to Scott’s lifehack. And let me just say, Scott, congratulations. I like, first of all, that you talked it over with your wife, you thought about it, it wasn’t a diet, as you pointed out, it was more of a lifestyle, it was a choice. It probably sounded something like this. Honey, let’s not eat breakfast anymore. Wow! Really, why not? And then it went from there and it progressed and it became, let’s just eat one meal a day. It sounds as if you’ve done it together, you’ve made it work. And also, you’re not just talking from the first flush of it; I’m not hearing from somebody who’s been doing this a month, you gave us the nine-month report. You said, it’s been an unusual year, which we’re all going to agree with for 2020, and then you let us know that you’ve lost a lot of weight. Wow! you’ve stopped your prescription drugs and you’re also talking about increased energy and mental focus. I congratulate you, Scott.
To the extent anybody ever wants any validation or not from me in the area of health; and really, you shouldn’t, [laughs] but in case anybody cares, I also have practiced intermittent fasting fairly regularly for the last few years. Now, in my own case, I’m not hardcore, I don’t do it every day. But, Scott, I can relate to this, because I’ve always been somebody who woke up without wanting breakfast. My parents would make me eat breakfast before school, and I never really had much of an appetite for it. And then, as I became an adult and we started The Motley Fool and I went into Fool HQ and I hadn’t had breakfast, and then I thought, wow! It’s 2:00 PM, I haven’t even had lunch, I’ve had meetings all day, and I wasn’t even that bothered by it. So, I decided why not try that, why not try intermittent fasting myself — this is, again, a few years ago — and just eat after dark, that’s been my own rule.
And I say “rule” because that’s how it was the first year or two, but now, by year three, hey, Sunday brunch can be fun, I don’t want to be antisocial, go out to lunch with a friend and not have lunch with them. And so, I would say in my own case, Scott, a few years later, the majority of my days I don’t actually eat anything until supper time, and that would be true of today. I’m not even hearing any growls in my stomach here, as Rick Engdahl, my Producer and I record this at 2:13 PM Eastern on a Tuesday afternoon. I haven’t had breakfast, I haven’t had lunch, and I’m not ravenous, I’ll be ready when dinner comes, but that’s been working for me. I’m definitely not here to suggest that this is rigorously scientifically backed. I think almost any diet has somebody who’s advocating for it, and says it works, and they often will have a PhD, they might be a popular author as well. Then there will be people on the other side saying, where is the data, that doesn’t work, I disagree with that. I’m not going to enter into diet wars. I will just say, for each of us, we have different bodies and different needs, and listening to your own and trying to make the best decisions, healthier decisions that you can make, I think you should do that.
So, Scott, feel free to put me on your team or cite me as somebody else who does this. Again, I do not do it every day, so I’m not hardcore, but it became such a habit for me that I’ve become inured to it and it’s just, sort of, how I am here at the age of 54 as we speak with each other in October of 2020. Congratulations and best wishes.
All right. Mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 2. Let’s go with a mental trick for this one, but it has real dollar implications. This is not the first time I’ve heard this particular one, nor was it the first time I’ve heard intermittent fasting, but I’m not here necessarily to break news or come up with radically new solutions when we do this series together, I’m just looking for the things that I think work or are worth being reminded of. So, this one comes from Caroline Smith in New York City. Now, there’s a big debate in my mind, anytime I see the printed name C-A-R-O-L-I-N-E, whether you are Caroline, Carolyn, or whether you’re Carolyn, Caroline, and I can’t really know. So, I’m doing my best. By the way, the comedian Brian Regan has a great bit about calling somebody whose name is Caroline, Carolyn and getting jumped all over for that. So, because I’ve called you both Carolyn and Caroline, Carolyn and Caroline, I think I got this one right. [laughs]
All right. So, you write in with, “My RB tip is to double the price of anything that I buy, since I’m not just paying for that item but I’m also paying the opportunity cost of not saving or investing that money.” Caroline goes on. “So, if I buy lunch out for $20, I always ask myself, if that lunch is actually worth $40 to me, since I also won’t be investing that $20. It’s a good way for me to be more intentional about how I spend my money. A new TV for $500 might seem reasonable, but is that TV still a worthwhile purchase at $1,000?” Writes Caroline from New York City.
Well, thank you for that. I think it is an excellent mental trick. That won’t be the only one we feature that has to do with money this particular week. But I think especially in a time where a lot of us are wondering, hey, all that money I used to spend on that thing, like, let’s go with clothing, that I’m not spending right now, could I be making better use of that? And so, I think we’ve all been forced during a year in which nobody would have predicted that we would have to, to ask ourselves once again, are we spending money optimally? I’m delighted to see — it’s for unfortunate reasons, but I’m delighted to see that the American savings rate is in double-digits this year. That’s right, our average fellow American is saving, as of the most recent quarter, 14% of his or her salary. We are a nation that often has overspent its means, I never want us to do that at any level personally or at the Federal or state level. I think it’s great practice to live below your means, have savings and be resilient during the downtimes, and of course, be celebratory during the uptimes, because you’ve taken that extra capital that you saved and you invested it, and you’ve watched it grow.
So, Caroline, I think it’s really great to double that number before you buy something. And you know, I don’t think we could do it every time, I’m not going to double every $1 to $2, that doesn’t feel like much to me. I think the $20 level for lunch. Now, if I’m having lunch with somebody else, that’s worth extra, but if I’m just spending $20 on lunch for myself, that would feel like $40 to me. And I think it’s better to ask yourself, what is the opportunity cost? And as you pointed out for all of us as investors, our opportunity cost is we could have invested that money, and darn it that money would’ve been compounding at often double-digit gains over meaningful periods of time, leading to huge amounts of money.
To close this one, Warren Buffett has often said, he regrets that he didn’t get started investing earlier. This is an old song, I’ve told this story before, you might have heard it, I might fudge the numbers slightly. But basically, we’re talking about one of the richest people of all time. And people say, well, Warren, but you started investing at the age of 11. I mean, that’s pretty early. He said, yeah, but if I had started at the age of 10, I’d be worth 10% more. And when you have that much, 10% more is quite a lot. So, that’s a dramatic version of the — hmm… should I spend that money or should I save it? — to remind us of the power of compounding returns.
So, Caroline, thank you very much for writing in and sharing, what is something each of us can probably use in the week ahead to better effect our own decision-making.
All right. mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 3. We’re going to go with a lifehack for this one. And I said two for you, one for me, at the start. So, here’s my No. 3 here, it’s make your own holidays.
So, let’s talk about holidays very briefly. Those who love etymology, I’m one of them, know that “holidays” comes from holy days, that’s kind of the way, those were the original holidays, they were religious celebrations. Christmas would be a good idea, Easter in the Christian church. And I mentioned the Christian church here, because this really does come from Old English the word “holidays,” and pretty sure that they were Christian in various different flavors. But anyway, holy day, so that’s kind of how holidays started.
And then we started to develop sovereign nations, you know, like, well, let’s go with the United States of America. So, our government needs to have some holidays, it makes sense to me, Veterans Day, Memorial Day; Flag Day, I’ve got questions about. But holidays, for most of us growing up in the 20th century, and now the 21st century, had either a religious or a governmental purpose. And they were celebrated and recelebrated, they were recognized year-after-year.
And then we think about a third type of holiday, and that would be like, May the fourth, you know, like, “May the fourth be with you.” We started to ascribe to various days. International Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th; did you do it last month? Or how about April Fool’s Day, which by the way is centuries old. But beyond mere holy days and mere government days we kind of created our own days. And these days every day is a holiday or it’s being recognized by somebody, whether it’s National Pizza Day or National Plant a Tree Day, the list goes on, everybody, every organization it seems has a holiday of some kind. Those are institutional.
So, we’ve got religious, governmental, institutional.
What about personal? For a lot of us, I think, we might recognize sad days, like the day somebody very meaningful to you left this earth. You’re still here, they’re not here anymore, and when that recurs every year ever since, you think about them, and you think deeply about them and you miss them.
Of course, our wedding anniversaries would be another example of a personal holiday. But mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 3 encourages you to come up with your own days. Your own days that aren’t about anything else other than what you think is important in this world, that you want to plant your flag in on a certain day and bring it back every year since. And in a way, I think, a life well-lived would be a life where you could say, yeah, I remember uncle Harry, because uncle Harry always celebrated ______ on a certain day, he made it his own. When we make things our own, we say important things about what matters to us, and we also communicate that to our family members and our friends.
I’ll tell a quick anecdote and then we’ll move to No. 4. So, I had the pleasure, again, of interviewing John Mackey, his book Conscious Leadership, a few weeks ago on this podcast. If you didn’t get to hear it, I highly recommend that one-hour-and-two-minute interview. I told a brief story in that interview about how we had a board meeting earlier in the year for The Motley Fool, earlier in the year 2020. And we were kind of stuck, where some of us thought one thing and then some others of us thought another thing. And no matter which side you lean to or which side of the coin you favored, it looked like the other side was going to lose. And John Mackey, our longtime Board Member, the Founder of Whole Foods, the author of the book Conscious Leadership, reminded us that chapter four of Conscious Leadership, a great chapter in that book, is entitled basically, Win-Win-Win, that’s the framework to be playing to, that’s the only ethical right choice that we have, especially as leaders, as we try to imagine how to make decisions on behalf of everybody.
A lot of people are worried about this upcoming Presidential Election. One side is going to lose, and the worry is, boy! they’re going to be very disconsolate and we hope it won’t take any violent form. Well, that certainly is the case for me. Were I in politics, which I never will be, I would be trying to figure out how to make sure everybody is winning on every election day? Sure. Your candidate didn’t win this one, your party didn’t win this one, they might well have won the last one. And if you’re an adult, if you’ve been on this earth for a couple of decades, you got to be used to winning and losing. But you know what, together is more important than separate. And when you create a win-win-win mentality as a leader, you guarantee, even to the people who have a temporary loss or feel disenfranchised, that they don’t, because you thought about their needs and you tweaked your solution accordingly.
So, I feel like I’ve gone off on a slight win-win-win rant, it is obviously important to me, but let’s bring it back to this lifehack. So, yeah, that day of our Board meeting was February 4th, 2020, and in iCal I designated that day, from now on in my life, February 4th, as a win-win-win day. So, I’ll be reminded every February 4th, feel free to celebrate my holiday with me if you like and join in. That’s going to be the day I’m reminded that we should be looking for wins for everybody. As conscious capitalists, we’re looking for wins for all of our stakeholders. As Americans, we should be looking for wins for all of our fellow Americans, not just half. And as fellow earthlings, we should be looking to make wins for you and for me, him and her too. In a year that has recognized systemic injustice and how rampant it has been in many ways in the United States of America, and I would say, worldwide, we’re minded of the importance of win-win-win.
So, that’s my holiday but I’m not here to promote win-win-win day, I’m here to promote that you think deeply about what matters to you and consider making a holiday of it, put it in your calendar, let your friends and family know next year when it comes, take that day off, make your own holidays.
Mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 4. This one comes from Bradley Larson @Livingitlars. I like it; that’s a great Twitter handle. Well done, Bradley. You write, “David, I have implemented a coronavirus hack.” Well, that wouldn’t be the only one so far this show. [laughs] Bradley goes on. “I drive a 2005 Subaru WRX. It’s been a great car. I’ve driven it 230,000 miles with very few problems. A couple of years ago, I started saving for a new car by pretending to make “loan payments” to myself each month with the plan of using it to pay for my new car when the time came. The balance has steadily grown and recently hit a number that would allow me to buy my next ride in cash.”
Well, I’m going to pause it right there, that’s not the end of Bradley’s note, but that itself is another excellent mental trick, and one that serves your pocketbook just like C. Smith from NYC helped us earlier double the numbers that we’re looking at when we think about spending on things. So, wow! What an inventive thought, Bradley, to imagine that you’re paying car loans ahead of time when you aren’t, in order to build up cash so that you can pay cash for your next car. Great one. So, that right there is an excellent mental trick. But Bradley is not done. Let’s pick it up.
“My job has allowed me to work from home since March. I barely drive anymore and my employer has announced our work from home may continue post COVID. Now, for my corona hack. I decided to stop paying for the full coverage insurance on my now $3,500, by the blue book, car that stays parked almost every day. There is a risk of only having liability insurance if I get in an accident and it’s my fault, I might lose the entire value of my car, but is the extra $50/month I’m saving on my car insurance worth the risk? Yes, it is to me, considering my car stays in the driveway most days and is valued at an amount that would not place a burden on me if it was a total loss. I’m now adding extra money to my nest egg and holding off on the new car with a much higher insurance premium. A new car does not seem to have the value it did pre-COVID. I will use the saved money to grow my nest egg, and maybe someday I’ll be [laughs] able to afford a Tesla. Thank you for your great advice and services, they’ve made me smarter, happier, and richer. I’m up a whopping 151% year-to-date with your Stock Advisor and Rule Breaker recommendation. Sincerely, Bradley Larson.”
Well, thank you for that wonderful note. A note full, brimming, if you will, with mental tips, tricks, and lifehacks. I already double underlined the first one, the idea of paying an invisible loan ahead of time in advance for something that you’re planning to buy and being able perhaps to pay cash for that, which for many things is a great move. Any time you have an interest rate that would be double-digits for anything, I would suggest trying not to take on credit to make that purchase. I realize we’re all in different situations and sometimes we need to do that, but it’s taking on credit when you’re just taking it on at single interest rates, things like student loans and other typically more beneficial things we’re rewarded for doing so.
Cars are kind of their own thing. For my own part, I’ve never taken a car loan, I don’t want to take a loan on something that’s going to lose value that quickly, as is often been said, when you drive a new car off the lot it just lost 20% as you cross the median into the right lane and got started. You’re having a great time in your new car, but you did just lose 20%, because if you try to resell, it’s now a used car worth less. Anyway, without getting into too much about what cars anybody should pay what for, I love your recognition Bradley that, hey, do we really need our cars [laughs] as much as we did in the new normal, so called, and so I congratulate you on being willing to use some ground-zero thinking and think forward about what makes the most sense for you. And it sounds like you’re going to take money you would have paid toward a new car and you’re going to be investing that. And it sounds like you’ve had a spectacular year as an investor. Anytime any of us could actually derive for our portfolio a gain of triple-digits in a single year, that’s not going to happen very often, it often isn’t sustainable, if you’ve had an incredible year, you have to expect to give it back at some point, never all of it though, never be afraid of market downtimes either, because the uptimes well more than outweigh the bad.
Anyway, Bradley, thank you for living at large with us, and your tips around car buying.
All right. Mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 5. This one comes from my friend Frank DiPietro. And I say my friend, because I’ve only met Frank a few times, but they’ve been at Motley Fool events over the years. In the meantime, he has been a member of our farm team, he makes a lot of contributions to our discussion boards and he is a wonderful man. Frank, thank you for being a fellow Fool.
And I was checking my notes, you actually previously submitted. In fact, it was for last Mental Tips, Tricks & Lifehacks, which was, again, March of 2019. You were the one who brought the store organic peanut butter upside down lifehack. You were pointing out, this allows the peanut the oil to flow up into the peanut butter, it reduces messy stirring and mixing. So, from that great mind issues the next episodes lifehack. Frank entitles this lifehacks, ice hockey edition.
“David, I usually do not share this trick, but will do so for the RBI podcast audience. When you were taking a faceoff in ice hockey, watch the official’s hand, not the spot where the puck will land, as soon as the hand moves, begin your motion to move the puck in the direction you wanted to go, signed, Frank.”
Frank, like your peanut butter lifehack, this one stands on its own, it doesn’t have as broad application, and yet I still absolutely appreciate that you are helping the ice hockey players among us do better for their teams in faceoffs. I especially appreciate that you mention, you usually do not share this trick, thank you for doing so for our audience.
You know, I’m getting ready to go on to No. 6, but Rick Engdahl is paging me through my headphones saying, you know, there’s got to be — that it’s a metaphor for something. In your mind, Rick, Frank is trying to say something more than just what he said, if I were trying to read it at that level, I always go back to one of my favorite Gardners, no, not my brother Tom, he’s on the list, but, no, this is Chauncey Gardner. I think many of us may remember Being There with Peter Sellers decades ago. Now, this is a little bit of an old-school movie. If you were born in the last 20 years or 25 years, you may never have heard of Being There, but I think you want to talk about a true Fool, how about the character of Chance the gardener, Chauncey Gardner, in the movie Being There. So, I can imagine him saying, maybe in a deleted scene from the movie, watch the official’s hand not the spot where the puck will land. As soon as the hand moves, begin your motion to move the puck in the direction you want it to go. Said, of course, very earnestly. The final scene of that movie, no big spoilers, it’s worth noting where Chauncey walks off to.
All right. Mental tip, trick or lifehack No. 6. And, yeah, it was two for you, one for me, so we’re back to me on this one. This is something that’s been really helpful for me, managing my email inbox over the years. Now, I think a lot of us are continuing to manage email inboxes, often multiple inboxes, although I’m also aware that email may be on the way out, as Slack is trying to replace email, our feeds, our social feeds, is that the new email? Maybe. I mean, my first email address was an AOL address, I still feel like Gmail is the new email. And I don’t think any of these things are going away anytime soon. So, what was the one tip that I picked up, it was probably from Getting Things Done, the great book by David Allen, or the GTD movement, with which I’ve occasionally consorted.
I think I got it from there, but this is about those repeat mails that you get, because you’re on a mailing list for something that you subscribe to, maybe it’s a book of the month club, a joke of the day club, maybe it’s one of your alma mater’s emailing you from time-to-time hoping you’ll give money. Whatever it is, if you find yourself getting mail that fulfills the following two conditions. One, you actually do want it and it comes periodically. Two, it really isn’t a big priority for you. Do this, create a new mail folder entitled “bulk mail.” This works on PCs, this works on Macs, this works on every computer. You create a new folder and you call it “bulk mail.” And then if your mail program, and mine does, and darn it! if yours doesn’t, get a new one. If your mail program has rules where you can set rules like, when a certain mail from a certain address shows up, move it here or delete it or push it there. Set these kinds of emails to be moved to your “bulk mail” folder.
And in fact, I’m looking at my own as we speak. So, we have a number of corporate things at The Motley Fool that are announcements, they come periodically, you’re never sure when they’re going to show up, you want to read them, but you may not want them cluttering your inbox. Let’s say, you’re part of a wellness club at your company and there is a wellness newsletter that comes monthly, or I get this for LinkedIn, I don’t really monitor LinkedIn, I feel somewhat dutybound to be on LinkedIn, one of our Board Members is a higher up at LinkedIn and I like her a lot. I appreciate LinkedIn, I just don’t really use it as a tool.
So, LinkedIn notifications. When they show up in my email inbox, I don’t really care about them, but they go to my bulk mail folder. I can also see a couple of my schools that I’m affiliated with, and a few other random mailing list emails, and they all go to a single place. Why is this a good thing? Well, when I open up my mail in the morning, I want to see the cleanest, clearest, sharpest list of what actually matters in my email inbox to start that day. I don’t want it to be dotted or interrupted every third or fourth one with somebody’s mailing list announcement to me. Again, I care about it, I’m subscribed to you, but I want that to go some other place. And so, if you create that bulk mail folder, the first thing you’ve done, is that you’ve made your life easier and your email time, that time you’re going to spend with your inbox, more effective and productive, because you’re only first seeing and concentrating your attention on the things that really matter. That’s benefit No. 1.
Benefit No. 2, you can go over to your bulk mail folder, I don’t know, once a week, once every two weeks, if you like, and see what has agglomerated in that folder. You’ll probably have a few dozen if you’re like me, a few dozen announcements. But here’s about how much time you need to spend with them. I’m going to say, 10 minutes. A lot of them, you can just delete without reading, if you see the snippet of the first two lines there in your in basket, you can just go, yep, know it, know it, know it, and you spend a very effective 10 minutes, just going through all your bulk, just like bulk U.S. mail, you’re doing that with your email. So, again, thank you to the nameless person, I’ll credit David Allen, getting things done fame, a past interviewee, you can google “Rule Breaker Investing, David Allen” and here my interview with him a couple of years ago. I’ll credit him, but certainly his movement for making me think about things like this. Yes, it’s geeky. Yes, not everybody hearing me right now really cares that much about managing their email, but if you’re not already rocking the bulk mail folder, try it.
All right. On to No. 7. This one’s from Karl Swetnika. Karl, writing in from Reno, Nevada. Thank you for this note, Karl. “Hey, David, I’m a huge fan of the Rule Breaker podcast, an even bigger fan of the company as a whole.” Well, thank you, Karl, that means a lot not just to me, but to our whole company. You know, we’re up to about 475 employees, which is about 100 more than pre-COVID, it’s been an amazing time where we’ve recognized that a lot more people than ever before had more time to spend, saving money, and thinking about what best to do with their money. And I’m really happy to say, especially thanks to the leadership of my brother Tom, our CEO, that we have been growing all the way through COVID, and trying to figure out how more we can help.
Well speaking of help, picking it up right there. Karl says, “I cannot explain how much you have helped guide me, so I won’t. [laughs] My mental trick and lifehack is a very simple one, but I made guidelines a few years ago that helped to keep me on track. In fact, I find it amusing, because I’ve been living by these before I found The Fool, but it’s very similar to the make the world smarter, happier, and richer purpose statement of The Motley Fool. My model … ” Karl continues ” … for measuring my own productivity is to end every day “a little bit smarter, a little bit stronger, and a little bit wealthier.” Happiness tends to come on its own if I can meet these three ends, Karl writes, as these are some of my highest priorities. I know this leaves out many vital parts of a healthy life, but I’ve done well having these basic goals to shoot for whether or not I can always meet them. And I often find there’s plenty of time leftover to get around to the other important things in life as well. Thank you so much for all you do and Fool on!”
Well Fool on! to you Karl Swetnika. And I really appreciate you sharing this. It does remind me of the interview earlier this year with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, I’m a big James fan, and I think about him from time-to-time as I try a new habit or try to get rid of an old one. And some of the premises that he teaches us in his book, and of course, it’s not just in his book, I think it goes back to the Greeks, doesn’t most of this, but premises around being regular, doing it every day, keeping it simple. I like how you mentioned that, Karl, you said, I know this leaves out many vital parts of a healthy life, but you’ve done well having these basic goals to shoot for.
Another thing I like that you say is, that you don’t always meet them and you’re OK with that, you forgive yourself, you’re not too hardcore on it. But I can see the lens that you’re wearing perched on the end of your nose, like a pince-nez every day, and it says, did I make myself a little smarter today, did I make myself a little bit stronger today, did I make myself a little bit wealthier? And by the way, each of those words can have multiple meanings. Stronger might mean physically, it might mean mentally; that’s certainly the purpose of this week’s podcast, mentally stronger. Stronger can mean spiritual, it can be all kinds of strong; as could wealthy, as well.
So, Karl, thank you for that reminder. It is such a simple thing, isn’t it? And yes, you’re right, it sounds a lot [laughs] like The Motley Fool’s purpose statement, which I think is pretty elegant, but I’m delighted to know that you’ve been guided by that and I was happy to share that with people hearing you for the first time today and probably inspired to take a similar approach themselves. Thanks, Karl.
And now on to No. 8, this is the last of the six listener-submitted mental tips, tricks and lifehacks. Let me thank each of those who were honored by being featured this particular week, and I want to honor those who were not, thank you for those who sent them in and I just couldn’t fit them all. But, Jeff Krosschell, I hope I pronounced your last name right. Jeff, you list yourself, by the way, as a Senior Software Design Engineer at Tableau, a very impressive company. Thank you for sharing, Jeff. You start with, “To paraphrase Kevin Kelly.” Now, I feel like I’m talking about past interviews a lot on this particular podcast, but Kevin Kelly, who was one of the Co-Founders of WIRED. He authored the book The Inevitable, which is all about future trends that in his mind, his forward-thinking mind, are inevitable. So, we should know these powerful forces and be ready to use them to our benefit as business people and humans. Wonderful book, and I interviewed him on this podcast about The Inevitable.
And, Jeff, you are paraphrasing him here, but you go on “In the situation in which you’ve lost your keychain or some other tool, have gone looking about for it, and eventually found it.” Jeff says, “Put the object away in the place you first looked for it, rather the place in which you found it.” Jeff writes, “I think this hack is an example of understanding that humans are human with faults, habits, and weaknesses. Arrange your tools to acknowledge your humanity, rather than expecting that your humanity will somehow change to better [laughs] use or serve a tool.”
Human-centered design is what I think of, Jeff, when you talk about this. This is not a discipline that I know that much about. I do have an appreciation for good design. There’s a good book called, The Design of Everyday Things, and I read about the first-half of it, put it down, I got distracted after that. But I remember it started to increase my appreciation, for example, for the shower, specifically how to turn on the shower, often when you’re not in your own bathroom, you’re either at a hotel — remember when people were in hotels — or maybe visiting a friend, and you’re in the shower and you cannot figure out how to make it go hot or cold or transition from the spicket up to the showerhead. The design of a good intuitive system is a great benefit to humanity, and poor design is a great detriment and timewaster and harm for all of us. So, the design of everyday things matters a lot.
And indeed, Jeff, you’re pointing out that we have a hand in the design of our own experience. We’re misplacing things all the time. Boy! Do I appreciate Find My iPhone, one of my top 10 favorite apps. Yeah, it’s even an app on the phone. I mean, you can ask Siri for it. Oops! I hope I didn’t trigger anybody’s Siri listening to this podcast. But, yes, there are various ways to use Find My iPhone today, and boy! Don’t I find myself often wishing there were others to find my _____ opportunities. I have occasionally, for example, bought a Tile, that is a brand name, that’s something you can attach to your wallet, there are competitors out there in the field, I like this general thing where it beeps if you put it in your wallet or with your car keys and you can find those things just like Apple has enabled me to find my iPhone with confidence time and time again.
So, I’m misplacing things a lot, I bet you’ve misplaced a thing or two, dear listener, in your life. Jeff is reminding us, through Kevin Kelly, that maybe you should just put it back where you first looked for it, because that is you telling yourself where you think it should be. And so, I don’t know, Rick Engdahl, maybe this is once again, a metaphor for something else, but I’m just going to take it as I did with Frank DiPietro’s advice for hockey faceoffs, I’m going to take it literally and straight up that that is an excellent way to make peace with yourself and guide yourself to the truth by not trying to be anything other than what you are. Maybe that was a little metaphorical.
Thank you, Jeff Krosschell.
And now finally, No. 9 this week. Two for you, one for me; this is my third and final one. And this speaks to my love of randomization. So, mental tip, trick, and lifehack No. 9 is me finally pulling back the wizard’s curtain on something that I’ve talked on-and-off about over the years in this podcast and other places, and that is, the great importance of randomization for me. Maybe my ultimate lifehack.
So, why do I love randomization so much? It starts with dice. As a little kid I grew up loving to roll dice. I remember I was in the musical Guys and Dolls in high school. It’s all about shooting craps. Whenever I go to casinos, which isn’t very often, I never invest in them, but I have no problem losing a little bit of change myself from time-to-time, I always am there at the craps table, that’s fun, because it’s dice. You’re going to lose money if you go consistently to any casino, why not have fun doing it, dice are fun. Dice also enable you to generate random results. For me, a big dice baseball fan, I’m a lifetime Strat-O-Matic baseball fan, I’ve talked elsewhere about my love of baseball statistics and sabermetrics, and my homage to Bill James and Moneyball, a lot of that is rooted in my initial love of dice baseball and other dice sports games. Yeah, Strat-O-Matic had football, hockey, basketball, I played Avalon Hill Game’s Dice.
But somewhere around college I started to realize — well, we were having a conversation like this with my five housemates, hey, let’s go out to dinner. Great, let’s go. We agree. Hey, where should we go? And then Biff says, hey, I like Chinese. And then, Merry goes, [laughs] yeah, not Chinese though. And then somebody else says, why? I like Mexican. And people think about it for a sec, and yeah, it out turns out somebody else doesn’t like Mexican. And ultimately, if you pressed any of these people, they’ll be like, OK, if you five want to go to the Chinese restaurant, I will go, there’s something there I can order; or the Mexican restaurant; or the [laughs] comfort food place; or the Italian pasta flavor place. It took us 25 minutes to have this conversation each time, often people were kind of reticent because they didn’t want to be the person who said, we should go here, they wanted to be nice, listen to others. And it took too long to figure out where to get a meal in college?
So, somewhere around my junior year, I started saying, OK, here’s the deal. One, Chinese. Two, Mexican. Three, pasta. Four, pizza. Five, comfort food. And six, grab a bag, anything goes. I’m rolling a dice right now, are we all committed? If it’s two, it’s Mexican. And everybody said, OK, let’s try that. And I rolled the die, it comes up two, Mexican. We all went ahead and had a nice meal at the Mexican place. Maybe one of us was slightly disappointed.
I started to realize that randomization can speed up decision-making and take away a lot of ambiguity and wasted time. And so, I became an adult and I started to make to-do lists, like adults do. And I looked down my list, and I’d have 12 things. I’d like, you know what, there are two things on that list that I really don’t want to do; arbitrarily their number is three and nine. And I decided, you know, I have a bad habit up to this point in my life as a young adult of putting off all the things that I don’t want to do, it’s a human instinct, I still do it today, of course. But what if, I decided with that list of 12 things, what if I brought out my 12-sided die from Dungeons & Dragons, and I just said, I’m committed ahead of time, no matter what number I rolled, that’s the thing on my to-do list, I’m going to do next. And it’s like a sacred pact I have with myself and the die. And darn it, if I rolled a three or a nine, I would do that great, big, ugly thing I didn’t want to do right away without even questioning it. And I found that I could get through my to-do list and take on things that I otherwise would have procrastinated about or completely avoided, because of randomization.
So, I don’t know why it started for me that way as a little kid, but these days I find myself frequently using randomization to improve meetings. If you want to hear from everybody around the table, don’t do the drab thing and go left to right clockwise around the table, say, you know what, we’re going to randomize who’s next. And person No. 3, oh, that’s the person across the table, they’re going to react to whatever is just said at this business meeting first. And then randomly, Susie, No. 5, is going to respond next, etc.
I’ve heard some of the more popular professors in college have a habit of doing things like, make a flashcard of everybody in the class and then just randomly flip one out and ask them for their reaction to conduct a class. I love that randomization approach as well; it doesn’t have to be dice.
But what I’m saying in so many words, and yet, I’ll never have enough words to talk in full about this, is that you can speed up your decision-making, create surprise and fun through the magic of randomization. And these days, you don’t even need physical dice, I still have a lot surrounding me. In fact, in the room in which I do my podcast, which is my study, which is where we’ve been doing [laughs] our podcast for the last eight months or so, in this room I probably have over 2,000 dice, because I’m surrounded by lots of lots of board games that themselves have lots and lots of dice. And you can see why I love this room.
So, in conclusion, I can imagine that not everybody is as interested in randomization and its possibilities as I am, and not everybody even likes dice or games, but maybe, maybe I’m speaking to you and maybe I just opened up a new possibility. And here’s a great tip to close, you don’t need the physical dice anymore, if you’ve got a smartphone, there are some great randomization apps, and I use them all the time. My favorite one is Natural 20, which is a Dungeons & Dragons reference, but it has basically dice of every imaginable number of sides, from a D100 right down to a D2; that would be a two-sided die, basically a flip coin. And you just tap your smartphone screen and generate a random number to speed you on your day.
Lifehack No. 9, randomize it.
Well, I hope you feel smarter, happier, and richer, at least one of those, after this fifth episode of Mental Tips, Tricks & Lifehacks, it was my pleasure to bring it on behalf of my listenership, which supplied the majority of the entertainment this particular week.
Next week, talking about entertainment, I want to get you ready for an interview I’m going to be doing. In fact, I’ve got a little bit of homework for you ahead of time, so go to PositiveIntelligence.com and find there the work of Shirzad Chamine. Shirzad will be joining me next week.
Earlier this Summer, a friend of mine, actually it was a family member, pointed out a fun personality test that I could take which is about the saboteurs inside you, those things, those mental forces inside you which are causing you to make suboptimal decisions, because of certain character traits that you have that might be real strengths but they can also sabotage you. And so, this very fun 15-minute personality test, which I took and then shared my results with my family members, gave rise to some hilarity over the weeks since.
And I thought this is a great thing for Rule Breaker Investing, this is an opportunity for each of us to get to know ourselves a little bit better. And the great thing I think about personality tests. While I don’t think there’s any perfect one from the Myers-Briggs to StrengthsFinder, to Shirzad’s Positive Intelligence Saboteurs test, I don’t think there’s any perfect one, but each one provides a platform for thought and conversation with those around you; your loved ones, your friends.
And so, in the spirit of that, next week we’re going to be talking about the saboteurs that lurk inside. I know we’ll be talking some about finance and money in that regard, but of course, Shirzad’s work is much broader, it’s very much in line with this week’s podcast talking about all of life. So, Shirzad Chamine on next week’s Rule Breaker Investing. Your homework, if you want, is to take his Positive Intelligence test and know what your three primary saboteurs are?
See you next week. Fool on!