Unknown Unknowns #27 - Optimism
3 min read

Unknown Unknowns #27 - Optimism

Late to the game, but I'm obsessed with Ted Lasso.

Is the character annoying?  A little bit.  His optimism and enthusiasm is over-the-top.  But he embodies the lessons of Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey.  He has amazing empathy.  And the reactions of the other characters don't seem forced.  You can see them go from hating Ted, to begrudgingly accepting him, to actually liking him.

As I watched the show, I noticed how little of the actual games were shown.  That made me think of what the themes of the show are:

  1. Success is not just on the field
  2. Communication and connection are possible with anyone
  3. There are no bad guys - just misunderstandings.

Obviously, it's a TV show, the storyline always works out.  But how different would your life be in you acted like Ted Lasso?

This Week:


Been stuck on a couple pieces of writing for the last three weeks.  The ideas are there, but struggling with putting it all together.  I'm going to put it out there that at least one will be done by next week.


I'm sharing three articles this week.

# Means-Ends, Conditions-Consequences, and the Game of Risk
## Technical Debt of the West
### The Trouble With Optionality

The first two articles have similar ideas about Western thinking vs Eastern thinking.  Western thinking comes from a top-down assembly approach.  Eastern thinking comes from bottom up, organic approach.  Because of this, Western thinking is "means-ends".  You use these means to accomplish these ends.  In contrast, an organic approach is "conditions-consequences."  You create the best conditions possible and then foster the consequences.

What are the implications?  In the West, we're constantly trying to fix things.  We never consider 2nd order effects or unintended consequences.  If you don't get your desired outcome, you pivot and a new solution must be implemented.

But by planning specific outcomes you're also imposing your judgment.  What you believe is ideal may not be ideal for everyone.  Everyone has different values and desires.  Strategizing for a specific outcome is dangerous because there are so many unknowns.

This is why the current top down political system does not work.  The attitude is either that the previous solution or the implementation was wrong.  This assumes that there is always a correct answer.  But what is good for one person may not be good for another.

There is an inherent Principle-Agent problem with government.  Not only that, the federal government requires extensive use of metrics in order to scale.  As we know from Goodhart's Law, "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure," metrics will be gamed.  Related, if metrics are used, it's more likely that local maximums are reached and not surpassed.

Instead, maybe we can set up the best conditions for prosperity.  Have principles that we live by, that create conditions that will foster the best outcomes.

This strategy is also antifragile.  Any outcome that comes out of ideal conditions is likely to be good, while a specific targeted outcome could be badly implemented or not an good outcome.

I think I live this way.  I don't really have goals, I just try to be better every day.  I try to accumulate skills that will hopefully be beneficial in the future.  Create an infrastructure according to my principles, and what happens, happens.

In an individual's life there's a downside to this, and that's optionality.  This is where the third article comes in.  Accumulating optionality is useless unless you do something with it.  Creating the right conditions is useless unless you create something.  You have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

But in a political system, there will always be first movers.  You don't have to worry about a catalyst.

These ideas just came to me last night, so I still haven't worked my way through them.  Perhaps there's an essay in it.

Questions, suggestions, complaints?  Email me me at [email protected].  Feedback welcome.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with a friend or two.  And feel free to send anything you find interesting to me!

Have a great week,


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