Episode #283: Tyler Cowen – The Path To Prosperity In A Disordered World

Tyler Cowen is Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and also Director of the Mercatus Center. He received his Ph.d. in economics from Harvard University in 1987. His book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better was a New York Times best-seller. He was recently named in an Economist poll as one of the most influential economists of the last decade and several years ago Bloomberg Business Week dubbed him “America’s Hottest Economist.” Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of its “Top 100 Global Thinkers” of 2011. His latest book is titled: Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals.  He has blogged at Marginal Revolution every day for almost fifteen years.

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“To be excellent, you need to make a deliberate decision to train. A complete dedication to the craft.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • “I admire people who are constantly reading and learning things.”
    • Those who have a quiet excellence about them
  • The most effective leaders have a willingness to receive feedback and implement it.
  • Tyler was a world class chess player at age 15 and won the world championship.  He always played against older players, people who were better than him. (Reminds me of James Clear and the Goldilocks Effect)
  • Doing vs. Learning: Tyler admires those who spend more time learning than doing (he takes a counter intuitive approach to this… like most things he thinks!)
    • “I admire people who spend a lot of time thinking, those who read a lot of books, searching…”
  • Tyler describes his book reading process
  • Books – “Start with what you love…”
    • Start with fiction: Shakespeare, others like that.  Tyler is not a fan of most management books.
    • Books he likes: The 5th Discipline, Michael Porter, Maslow, Flow, Daniel Kahneman
    • “Read biographies”
  • What was Tyler like as a kid? “Intense, curious, even tempered, quite happy… Much the same as I am now.”
  • There is always new information to learn from travel — The perspective gained from traveling the world is extremely valuable.  Tyler has traveled to 100’s of countries worldwide
    • Have dialog with local people in each place you go.  We discussed my trip to Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia.
    • Learn the personal history of the places you go.  Some great recent trips? Singapore, China, Mexico (learn to speak Spanish)
  • Tyler’s day to day actions: Write, blog, lunch with college students, teaches for 3 hours per day. He’s 56 years old
  • What is scarce? — We all should focused on being great at what is scarce
    • Quality land and natural resources
    • Intellectual property, or good ideas about what should be produced
    • Quality labor with unique skills
    • Talent that can execute. Great leadership
  • How to become great at what is scarce?
    • Tyler interviewed the tennis great, Martina Navratilova… Her thoughts: “You need to make a deliberative decision to train. A complete dedication to the craft.”
    • You also need someone who will tell you the truth and help you improve. Who are your mentors, am I respecting others? A massive need to train and practice.
  • Why shouldn’t we pay kids to do chores?
    • “Don’t transact with kids.  It should be part of their normal day.  They shouldn’t be paid for it.”
  • The shifting gender balance of power – Be conscientious.  “Women are simply better at almost everything.”
  • How Stripe publishing is doing things differently…
  • Latest book: Stubborn Attachments – “It’s been 20 years in the making. My most philosophical book.”
    • “It’s about the eternal principles how we should think about things…”
  • The meta explanation for why it seems like our political world is wacky… “Most of history is wacky.”
  • Tyler makes a 2020 prediction for the presidential election
  • “Stories are deliberate over-simplifications. Complexity has been drained away from most.”
  • How to prepare for a keynote speech?
    • “For the Martina Navratilova interview, I read 40 books about her and tennis and learned everything I could to be prepared.”
  • Reading:
    • Read books in clusters based on topics
    • Go to the library and do a physical search
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“It’s about conscientiousness.  Women are simply better than men at almost everything.”

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Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom