My friend Steven Johnson has a new book out called Farsighted.

After attending a book talk he did on Thursday night, I put it on my Kindle and started reading it last night.

The book is about decision making, specifically “life-altering decisions” with long-term consequences.

In classic Steven fashion, he combines a detailed look at academic research and science on the topic with stories and real-world examples.

For example, he kicks off the book with the decision NYC made to fill the Collect Pond in 1811, which ultimately led to the creation of one of the most famous ghettos, the Five Points neighborhood.

We all make big and important decisions in our lives and in our business. So this is a topic that should be relevant to everyone.

I am already enjoying reading it and I suspect you all will too.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. John Revay

    I saw a tweet from Chris Dixon mentioning the book as well

    1. Richard

      The VC Cabal

      1. jason wright

        Favours for friends.

        1. fredwilson

          Favors for readers

          1. jason wright

            good model. sustainable.

  2. awaldstein

    Listened to the Chris Dixon podcast on this yesterday and bought it for my upcoming trip.Great interview btw.https://soundcloud.com/a16z

    1. fredwilson

      Same . Tee’d up for audio of the week on Saturday

  3. William Mougayar

    Sounds like a good topic to read about.

  4. Richard

    If you understand Expected Values; Probability, and Insurance, you have everything you need to make decisions.

    1. fredwilson

      You have the tools but how do you build the models. What are the inputs? What are the scenarios to model? That’s a big part of the book

  5. jason wright

    Which Kindle is the best?

  6. LE

    This seems like interesting and entertaining reading. I have always thought that it’s obviously super important to make the right decisions and think a great deal about the upside and downside to all decisions. However with respect to this (from the book summary):These experts aren’t just the master strategists running major companies or negotiating high-level diplomacy. They’re the novelists who draw out the complexity of their characters’ inner lives, the city officials who secure long-term water supplies, and the scientists who reckon with future challenges most of us haven’t even imagined. The smartest decision-makers don’t go with their guts. Their success relies on having a future oriented approach and the ability to consider all their options in a creative, productive way.- A novelist has no downside risk to any decision. And in fact they can easily fix any problem they have with words. This is typically not the case in real life (or anywhere near as easy but sure there are things you can fix and make better with a good set of words).- Gut decisions are based on information and feeling. They are not guesses done in a vacuum. Obviously you should always have a basis for why you feel the way you feel and why you choose a particular path or make a decision. For example the story about your (future?) mother in law encouraging you to get an MBA (as I remember it and apologies if I am wrong). If a person sitting next to you on a train had said the same thing out of context not the same impact. For whatever reason you respected your mother in law and your gut told you she was right. Now if the person next to you on the train had your respect maybe the same would have happened. Who knows?Most important though is that one issue I have with anecdotal writing is that it completely ignores the set of data where things did not work out. It cherry picks examples to come up with the point it is trying to make. We don’t know if others doing exactly the same ended up in different places either by luck or by chance. But once again sure making smart decisions and thinking things through is what you do. And yes some people are smarter and better at it than others. That said I am always in favor of generalities for example my thought that going to the best branded college you can should give you a better chance of success if possible. Ignore the data on ‘average pay’ is what I mean. Ditto for real estate. Stick to what the market says is popular or info shows will be popular.Fwiw a big decision I made several years ago was to push my daughters to live in NYC after graduating college. A large part of that decision came as a result of reading this blog and moreover interacting in business with many people from NYC. That led me to tell them ‘this is where you want to be after you graduate, NYC go there and I will help pay for that’. So for that (things are working out very well for them) I really thank this blog and you.

  7. JLM

    .This ties in exactly with the subject of education from yesterday wherein the most important thing is to emerge with the ability to think critically and to harness one’s native intellectual curiosity.It is also useful to be able to tie the Monkey’s Fist. I tied one just like this.It lives a life of grandeur as a door stop, but it could have once upon a time been attached to the end of a mooring heaving line to bring your ship into the dock.In the last six months, I have averaged teaching one person per month to tie the monkey’s fist. I may have to open Monkey Fist Academy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. Girish Mehta

      Knot for nothing is the act of thinking critically and acting decisively called Cutting the Gordian Knot. (Fable of Alexander).https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

      1. JLM

        .The unanswered question from antiquity is this – Did Alexander untie the knot or die he simply cut it with his sword?The implication is important. Did he use might or brains? Or both?It is a fable for conquerors. Can you conquer a people with force or must you use brainpower?I think he used both – he chopped up the pole upon which the Gordian Knot was tied and then untied it from the inside making the perfect combination of cold steel and cunning.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Girish Mehta

          The alternative legend is that he removed the lynchpin.”[18.3] Most authors tell the story that Alexander finding himself unable to untie the knot, the ends of which were secretly twisted round and folded up within it, cut it asunder with his sword.[18.4] But Aristobulus tells us it was easy for him to undo it, by only pulling the pin out of the pole, to which the yoke was tied, and afterwards drawing off the yoke itself from below.”http://www.livius.org/sourc…”..he simply pulled out a lynchpin running through the yoke, loosening the knot enough that he was able to unfasten it. “https://www.history.com/new…

    2. jason wright

      do make a video and share.

      1. JLM

        .There are tons of videos on tying the Monkey’s Fist with parachute chord on a jig. But, this is a rough jute rope [pro tip, you have to soak the rope to make it pliable] which is infinitely more difficult. In addition, inside this one is a ceramic ball which adds the weight.It takes a day to tie one of these. It is the tightening which separates the pros from the amateurs. [pro tip, use pliars, big pliars, because nobody has strong enough fingers to tighten one of these monsters]Also, this is an “eight” rope knot which is necessary to make it big enough to actually use. Anybody can learn to tie a 3-5 rope knot, but the 8 rope knot is a tough bastard.Then, you have to figure out how to make the lanyard by re-embedding the end and tying it off with the beginning. This is extraordinarily difficult to explain. It took me a long time to get it.I learned how to tie this knot from a master in the Army when we had bridge boats which were used to move floating bridges. We were constantly throwing lines from the bridges to the boats and from the boats to the bridges. If you didn’t catch the line, off went your bridge floating down the Rhine or the Imjin.There few things more troubling in the combat engineers than a runaway floating bridge.Also, there has to be BBQ involved.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. karen_e

          It takes a day!?! No wonder there has to be BBQ involved.

    3. JLM

      . https://uploads.disquscdn.c…OK, so I was bragging about my Monkeys Fist prowess and I noticed I screwed up a recent one. Can you see the mistake?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Mistake? In one direction, 7 strands instead of 8?Setting really traditional, ballpark 200 years old! So a table that looks that old. The gorgeous oil lamp. The gorgeous chair rail. White paint. Gorgeous frame for the painting.I like whatever that is, Early American, Georgian, or whatever. Since I’m used to it, it’s comfortable like a pair of L. L. Bean’s shoes I have, heavy denim (canvas for sail cloth, tough stuff) blue jeans, white polo shirts, bed with 100% wool blankets, etc. Don’t have a braided oval rug, but wouldn’t mind one. Did find several pieces of American Cherry (Dad’s favorite wood) with Queen Ann legs. So around the sofa got two end tables, each with a brass table lamp, and in front a coffee table. Got a table with a drawer beside the bed. My office has a brass table lamp and also a brass Stiffel floor lamp (at Amazon have a new switch in the Cart).My idea of a house (working on it) is two stories (of course, a full, dry basement), a useful attic with dormer windows, from the two stories, insulation enough (vapor barriers on both sides of the insulation) thick enough to permit window seats, 9 windows in front, all nice and symmetrical, with shutters in case of really bad weather, with a deeply stained, with varnish thick enough to hold off the worst weather for at least 100 years, very heavy and thick, six panel front door, with heavy brass hardware, swinging on about 4 heavy brass hinges, with narrow, vertical windows on each side, with an arched window over the top, with first floor ceiling height about 10′, high enough for the window over the door, with a porch in front of the door with an arched roof over the top. Sure, a nice semi-circular stairway to the second floor — perfect daughter descends on her wedding day. Then on one side of the house, a single story sun room. On the back, a porch for BBQ parties — with traditional design but with masonry deck with white railings of modern plastic (PVC?) that will never rot. Farther back an all white, octagonal gazebo, for weddings for perfect daughters. Farther back, unmowed grass for deer and other wildlife. Farther back a view of hills and lakes.I have some brass table lamps, right, with styling borrowed from oil lamps — for the oil lamps, the styling was also functional; now it’s just decorative.Soon after I got my own place, I got a Nichols and Stone rocking chair, maybe “Boston” style.Except for muscle cars, I got a Chevy Blazer SUV heavily because from the underside it was a light TRUCK, looks like something from a battleship, well, maybe a light cruiser, with a frame strong enough to plow snow or pull a trailer. I didn’t want a passenger car; I wanted a TRUCK.Like things to be stronger and more functional than I will ever need them to be.

        1. JLM

          .Too easy.On one face I went with 7 strands/wraps on an 8 strand/wrap Monkeys Fist.I must have stolen one for the lanyard which is not the way it is done.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. jason wright

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…”Five Points is alleged to have had the highest murder rate of any slum at that time in the world. According to an old New York urban legend, the Old Brewery, formerly Coulthard’s Brewery from the 1790s, now an overcrowded tenement on Cross Street housing 1,000 poor, is said to have had a murder a night for 15 years, until its demolition in 1852.[16][17]”- “one of the most famous ghettos”. Infamous, and the inspiration for Gangs of New York? It’s really not surprising the British left a greasy flag pole in Battery Park and sailed away.Today i bought Pocket Piketty by Jesper Roine (ISBN 978-1-78699-233-8). Piketty’s Capital is too long at 700 pages. I need a ‘cheat’.

  9. denmeade

    I’m looking forward to reading this one. Johnson is one of my favourite non-fiction writers. I love the way he combines ideas and stories from different disciplines. As a history student I particularly loved ‘The Invention of Air’ and ‘The Ghost Map’.

  10. Per Hansa

    If you are considering quitting your job or your marriage, you will be happier if you do.At least according to evidence from a new Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) conducted by economist Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame. What makes this study interesting is how it was conducted.”Levitt collected tens of thousands of people who were deeply unsure whether to make a big change in their life. After offering some advice on how to make hard choices, those who remained truly undecided were given the chance to use a flip of a coin to settle the issue. 22,500 did so. Levitt then followed up two and six months later to ask people whether they had actually made the change, and how happy they were out of 10.”Paper – https://www.nber.org/papers…Article about Paper – https://80000hours.org/2018