The science of happiness

Dr. Laurie Santos is a cognitive scientist at Yale University who studies happiness. Her latest interview with Farnam Street’s Shane Parrish is an exceptional launching point for a variety of subjects—misconceptions around happiness itself, long-term vs. short-term thinking, the Arrival Fallacy, hedonic adaptation, the psychology of wealth, etc. Laurie also hosts her own fantastic podcast—The Happiness Lab—which I recommend. 

“I think happiness takes work. Like all good things, you got to put in some work to get there, and part of that work is understanding the misconceptions. But part of that work is, we don’t often have the best instincts about what will make us happy. The things that we want to do in life are not necessarily the things we’re really going to enjoy, or like, or that will give us a meaningful life. But part of happiness really is about being present. There’s so much evidence that when we’re mind wandering, when we’re not fully present, that that’s a time when we’re also not very happy.”


Where we’re headed (survival of the fittest)

“Bad businesses will go bust, to the long-term benefit of better businesses that can take their market share,” the investor John Candeto writes in his latest essay. He’s right: Five years from now, we’ll look back at this period as an important breakpoint of creative destruction. Candeto is a compelling writer—back in Issue #62, I linked to another one of his essays on the importance of investment durations. Today’s piece hits on a range of subjects—peaking levels of inflation, geopolitical instability, longterm deflationary pressures driven by technology, and much more. 

“Thinking in seasons helps us to look ahead, especially in times of stress. Our investments will fare better in some seasons and worse in others. What will matter through those seasons is whether we are correct in our assessment of the quality and durability of our investments, whether we buy our investments well, whether we use seasonality to our advantage (e.g., buying when there’s blood in the streets), and holding our investments to the realization of their long-term intrinsic value.”


We’re going to the mattresses

Long-form business journalism is in short-supply these days, but Patricia Marx’s latest essay in the The New Yorker—How to Buy a New Mattress Without a Ph.D. in Chemistry—is an oddly enthralling and fun look under the covers at the global mattress industry. (An industry, I might add, that’s been boosted by an insane amount of venture capital dollars.) Marx is both a vivid storyteller and a dogged investigative business reporter. The piece includes perspectives on the industry from equities analysts and corporate CEOs while enlightening readers on the history of the mattress. (The first water bed, apparently, was constructed by ancient Persians around 1600 B.C. with goatskins.)  

“Before we can talk about buying a new mattress, you’ll need a Ph.D. in chemistry and another in mechanical engineering. How else to make sense of the latest concepts in mattress technology—for instance, hyperelastic polymer, buckling column gel, phase-change molecule fabrics, ballistocardiograph sensors, ice fabric, and 3-D-matrix layers? A master’s degree in marketing and bullshit will also come in handy.”

A few more links I enjoyed: 

“Tsai Capital’s investment approach is to compound capital over the long-term, ideally in businesses that we can own for a decade or more. We don’t try to predict the market because that’s a fool’s game. Instead, we focus on high-quality, growth businesses that we believe offer significant upside potential and a margin of safety at the time of purchase. But just as a sailor on a long journey should expect to encounter rough waters from time to time, a long-term investor should expect – and be prepared – to face rough markets. It’s comforting to know, however, that market downturns, while always emotionally challenging, have been relatively short-lived.”
If the world is going to deglobalize and fracture, the most self-contained countries will dominate. The U.S. has a unique combination of internal resources, decent demographics, favorable geography, and political stability. Even though it may not always feel like it. Zeihan makes the wry point that ‘America’s strengths allow her debates to be petty, while those debates barely affect her strengths.'”
“In 1959, in a short essay called ‘The Great Game to Come,’ a little-known Dutch visual artist named Constant Nieuwenhuys described a new utopian city—one that he was soon to dub ‘New Babylon.’ ‘The technical inventions that humanity has at its disposal today,’ he presciently stated, ‘will play a major role in the construction of the ambiance-cities of the future.’ Like nearly every imagined future utopia, New Babylon was never built. It was manifested only in architectural drawings, sketches, maps, collages, and experimental films. Its creator, generally known as Constant, envisioned his city as a complex network where artificial and natural spaces would be linked together by communication infrastructures; ‘recourse to a computer’ would be necessary to resolve such a complex organizational problem. But New Babylon was to be something even more radical: a place where new technologies would replace the drudgery of labor by automatic processes, enabling the city’s inhabitants to experience a ‘nomadic life of creative play.’ Today, Constant’s pronouncement seems prophetic.”

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