The Weakness Audit, Saving the Earth, & More
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Today at a Glance
- Quote: Tolerate the critics.
- Framework: The Weakness Audit.
- Tweet: Inventions saving the Earth.
- Article: 4 great decisions per year.
- Podcast: Taking control of your time.
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"If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting." — Jeff Bezos
Criticism is a natural byproduct of deliberate, bold action.
Don't fear it—learn to embrace it as a sign of progress.
The Weakness Audit
"All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there." - Charlie Munger
I'm an avid believer in the power of inversion to improve our decision-making and outcomes.
I talked about leveraging inversion in my piece on the merits of establishing anti-goals, a practice that encourages you to determine where you don't want to go just as much as you where you do want to go.
My Weakness Audit is another framework to add to your inversion toolkit.
What It Is
As humans, we tend to avoid thinking about our weaknesses. The idea that we have flaws harms our self-definition.
Egocentric Bias is an observed tendency that we hold ourselves in higher regard than we should. We literally have a higher opinion of ourselves than is warranted in reality.
This creates all sorts of problems—hiding from or otherwise ignoring our weaknesses means we create and maintain obvious blindspots. We don't know what we don't know—which leaves us prone to accidents (or disaster).
If your car had weak brake pads, you'd probably want to know that before you go hurtling down the German Autobahn at 100+ mph.
The Weakness Audit is the tool I have developed for fighting back. It is a systematic process for getting closely acquainted with your weaknesses so that you can avoid them harming you.
To use Munger's phrasing: If your weaknesses represent where you're going to die, the Weakness Audit allows you to uncover them so you can avoid going there.
How It Works
Start by taking a piece of paper and splitting it into two columns:
- Self Identification: The first column is your self-identification column. Write down your perceived weaknesses, personally and professionally. Reflect on some of the worst decisions you've made, why you made them, and come to some conclusions on the trends of the underlying weaknesses that led to those poor decisions.
- Peer Identification: Ask 2-3 trusted family, friends, and colleagues to weigh in on your weaknesses. Tell them to be honest and provide clear, candid feedback on their perception of your weaknesses. Make sure they know you won't take this personally—it's a reflection exercise.
After you complete this first step, zoom out and review what you have written on the page.
What are the common themes across the page? What are some of the underlying weaknesses that tie through the list?
On a fresh page, write down the 1-3 weaknesses that appear most frequently.
This is your "Watch Out!" list. I have mine pinned to my desk.
Your new goal: Make sure this list NEVER BEATS YOU. It's impossible to be perfect, but with the more intimate understanding of your weaknesses, and their physical presence in front of you, it becomes easier to avoid the simple unforced errors that can otherwise add up.
An Illustrative Example
Here's a simple example of how it has played out for me:
In my first attempt at a Weakness Audit, I identified that one of my biggest weaknesses is that I tend to have "shiny object syndrome" and end up jumping from thing to thing.
This weakness came up in my self-reflection, as well as from my wife, one colleague, and a close personal friend.
The weakness means I end up overstretched and fail to deliver at a high bar on the things I do take on.
With the weakness clearly identified—and staring at me on a page on my desk—I have been 100x as ruthless about sticking to my priorities and seeing them through. Every single time I am tempted by some new shiny object (which still happens frequently), I look at the sheet of paper, recognize that I am in a situation where I am prone to fall victim to my weakness, and make a better decision accordingly.
My Weakness Audit process provides a simple, structured approach to get closer to your weaknesses and mitigate their destructive effect on your outcomes. The whole process should take no longer than 60 minutes and can be done annually or quarterly as you see fit.
I'd love to see you give it a shot:
- What did you learn about yourself from the process?
- How do you expect the awareness of your weaknesses to impact the quality of your outcomes and ability to avoid unforced errors?
- Would you like to see more writing on the Weakness Audit in the future? Reply YES if so.
Tweet at me @SahilBloom and I'll do my best to get back to everyone!
This is a cool video of 22 inventions that are saving the Earth.
My favorites from the list:
- Water Cleaning Powder: This one seems potentially very impactful, as it makes dirty drinking water safer for consumption. I'm not sure about the science behind whether it actually makes the drinking water safe (vs. just appearing clean), but it looks interesting.
- Shipping Container Pools: Not sure that these are exactly "saving the Earth", but the industrial vibe (especially the grafiti outside wall) is neat. I could see a lot of people installing these at Airbnbs in the future.
- Seabin: Pretty neat garbage cleaning system for lakes and oceans. I'm not sure how you avoid the issue of an animal getting sucked in the top and stuck in the bag, though, which concerns me about deploying these at scale.
- Portable Turbines: The idea of a portable turbines that generate enough energy to power your home is really cool. There were a few versions of this in the video. Anyone living near streams or flowing water should rejoice if this takes off.
It's worth watching the whole 7 minutes of the video. You'll feel inspired.
Four Great Decisions Per Year
Peter Thiel once said that a CEO's only responsibility is to make one great big decision per quarter. His logic was that there are a few high leverage decisions that have an outsized impact on the future. If you focus on these big decisions—and make great ones—you'll end up with terrific outcomes.
This article takes Thiel's framework and applies it as a simple way to deconstruct a path to robust personal growth:
All you have to do is make a few great decisions per year.
I liked the simplicity of that framing—it rings true for me that a few big decisions have created the real impact—and the examples in the piece.
Worth the few minutes to give it a read.
Taking Control of Your Time - Hidden Brain
This is a great Hidden Brain episode with psychologist Cassie Holmes on the topic of time scarcity and how to avoid falling victim to its trap.
A few key takeaways for me:
- "Yes, Damn!" Effect: People have a tendency to think they will have more time available one month from today than they have today, so they say yes to things now, assuming they'll have the time later. This leads them to take on new commitments that they shouldn't—meaning they say "Yes" and then later say "Damn!" This one hit me straight in the face, as I constantly fall victim to it. I bet you do as well.
- Free Time & Happiness: In her research, Dr. Holmes found an upside down U-shaped relationship between free time and happiness. In other words, people with too little free time were unhappy, but so were people with too much free time. Too little makes us feel stressed and scattered, but too much undermines our sense of purpose. The balance is key. As I've written about before, most ambitious people (like my newsletter subscribers!) need to schedule more free time.
- Time Tracking: Dr. Holmes is a proponent of the concept of time tracking, which has you spend a week logging specifics of what you are doing, and your perceived level of happiness at that moment. The idea is that a week of data will tell you a lot about the trends of where you spend your time, where you should be spending more of it, and what you need to cut from your life. This is pretty similar to my energy calendar concept, which I'm a big fan of. I like the idea of time tracking, so I might do a week of it and see what I learn.
Worth your time (pun intended)!
Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.