Welcome to The Nightcrawler, a weekly collection of thought-provoking articles and analysis on technology, innovation, and long-term investing. The Nightcrawler is written and published every Friday evening by Eric Markowitz, Nightview Capital’s Director of Research.

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In this evening’s email… 

Quote of the week: “Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.” — Charlie Munger

Mental flexibility as a superpower 

Something I learned from Daniel Kahneman was that mental flexibility mirrors physical flexibility: you can improve it, but it takes practice, and that practice often involves short-term discomfort to produce long-term results. It’s never easy to confront one’s biases or change one’s mind about something. But to get really good at anything—this could be sports, running a business, or investing—the ability to quickly synthesize new information and experiment with a different approach can become a superpower.  

In the wake of his death last month, Behavioral Scientist magazine collected 30 entries from Kahneman’s collaborators, colleagues, and friends. The entries explore Kahneman’s novel ideas about decision-making, his unique research process, and even some of his personal idiosyncrasies.  “As you’ll see,” writes Evan Nesterak, the editor-in-chief, “his ability to interrogate his own thinking was legendary, but it wasn’t without cost.”  

  • Key quote: “He had that ability to detach and say, look, your ideas are not your identity. They’re just hypotheses. Sometimes they’re accurate. More often, they’re wrong or incomplete. And that’s part of what being not only a social scientist, but just a good thinker, is all about.” — Adam Grant


Amazon’s fountain of youth

Published this week, Andy Jassy’s annual shareholder letter offers some fascinating insight into his ideas about leadership and growth: how Amazon is empowering employee “inventors,” why speed is an organizational advantage, and why AWS is well-positioned to democratize (and capitalize on) AI’s explosive growth.

But it was his segment on resiliency and longevity that I found the most compelling. “Recently, I was asked a provocative question—how does Amazon remain resilient?” Jassy wrote. “While simple in its wording, it’s profound because it gets to the heart of our success to date as well as for the future. The answer lies in our discipline around deeply held principles.” He continues: 

  • Key quote: “1/ hiring builders who are motivated to continually improve and expand what’s possible; 2/ solving real customer challenges, rather than what we think may be interesting technology; 3/ building in primitives so that we can innovate and experiment at the highest rate; 4/ not wasting time trying to fight gravity (spoiler alert: you always lose)—when we discover technology that enables better customer experiences, we embrace it; 5/ accepting and learning from failed experiments—actually becoming more energized to try again, with new knowledge to employ. Today, we continue to operate in times of unprecedented change that come with unusual opportunities for growth across the areas in which we operate.”


Ken Langone’s rules of business

I rarely find myself laughing during a business podcast, but this Invest Like the Best conversation with Ken Langone is both full of wisdom—and humor. At 88, Langone has a storied career as a company builder and long-term investor… with receipts to prove it: his average stock holding period, for instance, is a remarkable 42 years.

Langone, now a billionaire many times over, is entirely self-made: he grew up as a “poor kid, rough around the edges.” It’s clear that Langone achieved his success through a combination of grit and intelligence, but perhaps most importantly, his obsession with treating people fairly. “Loyalty is in short supply, and I miss it,” he says. “The world has become very transactional.”

  • Key quote: “To me, the art of negotiating is not to see who bests who. The art of negotiating to me is to get a deal for yourself and make sure the guy you’re dealing with feels he got more than he thought he was going to get or he should get… I can’t think of a deal I’ve done where I couldn’t have gotten more than I got, but that’s okay because the element of trust is the most precious thing in [life].”

A few more links I enjoyed: 

Capability Blindness and the Future of Creativity – via Dan Shipper

  • Key quote: “During the first big generative AI wave, which started last year, many of us grappled with the exciting—or scary—reality that chatbots might be able to mimic our unique voices and writing styles. I tried OpenAI’s GPT-3, then GPT-4, and quickly realized they were good but had a particular taint. They could help in the writing process—researching, supplying ideas, editing words—but couldn’t be trusted to write very much on their own. I couldn’t enlist AI as a ghostwriter just yet. But over the last year, the newest language models have been noticeably better. Unfortunately, we are often capability blind: We don’t notice what’s new because we’re jaded by our old experiences and feel that it’s a waste of time to try again.”

How a Pioneering Blackjack Master Beats the Odds of Aging – via Bloomberg

  • Key quote: “So if I have an edge, it’s that I try to think things through for myself, look at the empirical evidence, manage risks and work hard at making the necessary changes. In some ways it’s not so different from the casinos and markets.”

Lucky vs. Repeatable – via Morgan Housel

  • Key quote: “In business and investing, you want to learn the big lessons about why things behave the way they do without assuming the past is a direct guide to the future, because it’s not – most of the details are not repeatable. History is the study of change, ironically used as a map of the future.”