The Surprising Reason Why Being Your Boss Is Hard Work


Sunday, 8.41pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Martin Luther King, Jr

I’m reading Here Comes Everybody: How change happens when people come together by Clay Shirky and looking at things from a new point of view.

As is often the case once you’re shown a new idea it seems obvious.

For example, the society that existed before the Internet is obviously different from the one that exists now.

Once upon a time it was hard to publish anything.

You needed money and machines and technology to print books, make films and reach people.

Now, it’s effortless and virtually costless for any of us to be publishers.

In such a world some things change and others remain resolutely the same.

Take fame, for example.

We think of famous people as a special breed – these sportspeople, actors and celebrities – who are in the public eye.

But what is it that makes them famous?

At one time you might have said it’s the media.

You’re famous when you’re on television or in the papers.

Shirky argues that fame is actually a matter of counting links.

In theory everyone can connect to everyone else on the Internet.

In practice we can only do so much each day.

We might know 10, 20, 200 people well.

We might be able to send a certain number of emails or tweets, or make calls.

Whether we’re famous or not, the number of connections we can make with someone else is limited by our own cognitive limits – what our brains can do without blowing up.

You can’t talk to 2,000 people a day – not real one-to-one conversations anyway.

So, two people can have only so many outgoing links – red arrows in the picture above.

But, any number of people can link to you – to your material or follow you on social media or send you emails.

You can’t stop a million people all sending you messages on every digital channel you have.

You also can’t respond to them. It’s out of your control to do it personally.

You will need help to even think about trying to do that.

Fame then, according to Shirky, happens when there is an imbalance in links – more coming in than you can possibly handle.

Not more in than out – the point is that we can all have the same number of links going out plus or minus a few because that has to do with our own cognitive limits.

It’s when we’re simply unable to deal with the links coming in.

That’s when you know you are famous.

Which gets us to your boss and why he or she is famous.

If your boss is the kind of person who likes to be informed then you’ll copy her into every email you send.

It’s just one email, after all.

But, if she’s working with 20 people and they all send her emails – just one at a time – they build up.

And she can’t answer them all, or has to work very hard trying to keep up.

And the load simply gets worse the more people you have.

The problem, once again, is that there are more inbound links than you can physically handle.

It’s the problem of being famous.

Everyone knows you as the boss and tries to keep you informed and you’re deluged with information as a result.

So here’s the funny thing about fame that I get from Shirky’s observations.

If you think that by becoming famous you’ll have deeper and more meaningful relationships with more people – you won’t.

As you climb your career ladder and become more well known you’ll find that you simply can’t know and talk to everyone.

Not because you don’t want to but because you’ll start to reach the human limits of what you can do.

So where does that leave us?

With just the human realisation that you can have a certain number of meaningful relationships and if you’ve got more inbound ones than that – well, you’re famous and just can’t do anything about it.

What’s left is your work.

So make sure you enjoy that.


Karthik Suresh

What Markets Can Tell You About How To Live Better


Friday, 8.05pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas. – Paul Samuelson

I was listening to Tim Ferriss interview Howard Marks on his podcast.

It took a few days to get through the whole show because I kept restarting it and now have a napkin with notes in streaky bold purple felt tip.

And the first note has to do with Peter Bernstein who wrote “The capital markets are not accommodating machines”.

In other words they’re not wishing wells.

You can’t just want or need something and expect to have your wish come true.

People who have never done a trade or tried to manage their own portfolio don’t get this.

It’s actually very hard to explain this unless you already know how it feels.

The sick, clammy, gut-wrenching that comes from a trade going wrong.

Not knowing whether you’re wrong, or still right.

Seeing an investment go to zero.

It’s like saying travel broadens the mind.

You need to travel to know what that’s like for real.

Now, a lot of self-help and positive psychology stuff relies on life giving you what you want.

Focus on what you want and your reticular activating system will kick in and the universe will give you what you most want.

What if that’s not true?

What if, like a capital market, life is not an accommodating machine?

What is it then?

From Bernstein we move then to Benjamin Graham who said “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

In other words, what drives stocks now is news and noise and hustle.

In the long term what results in value is what the company earns.

You can achieve notoriety and fame quickly – but can you keep it?

The chances are that most people who have achieved anything did so over time.

Whether they’re public figures or successful in their own fields – they probably did it over time, little by little.

They learned and trained and worked.

And they were ready when opportunity came knocking – they knew how to recognise it and they knew how to let it in.

Lottery winners, on the other hand, have their big moment and then fade away.

It’s a simple lesson really.

Wishing isn’t enough.

Wanting isn’t enough.

Winning the lottery isn’t enough.

What matters is what you do over time.


Karthik Suresh

%d bloggers like this: