“To understand is to know what to do.” ~ Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittenstein.
This sounds too simple to have value. Yet, thinking about it, it’s a genius line—maybe one level above genius—in its simplicity. How many mistakes do you make when you understand something? Probably very few, because mistakes usually come from blind spots, a lack of understanding.
I subscribe to a site called Farnam Street. Every Sunday, I get the Farnam Street newsletter which has a critical thinking, multidisciplinary outlook in its topics. The site is named Farnam Street after the street in Omaha, Nebraska where 97-year-old Charlie Munger has lived all his life. It’s right next door to Warren Buffett’s home. After all, the two are life-long business partners, and it’s Charlie Munger who taught Warren Buffett how to invest.
Last Sunday, Farnam Street had a transcript and audio recording of a talk Peter Kaufman gave to the California Polytechnic State University Pomona Economics Club. He opened with the line, “To understand is to know what to do.”
Peter Kaufman is one of America’s most successful businessmen. He’s also the author/editor of Poor Charlie’s Almanac which contains some of the best essays and speeches written by his friend and mentor, Charlie Munger. The “Big Ideas” as Munger puts it.
Kaufman identifies two parabolic Big Ideas that people often overlook in their quest for success, whether it be financial returns or on a writing journey. One is Mirrored Reciprocation (go positive and go first). The other is Compound Interest (being constant). Combining these two into one basic approach (go positive and go first and be constant in doing it) may be the best formula ever set for a writing journey as well as in general life.
Peter Kaufman expands on his Mirrored Reciprocation/Compound Interest topic in a 45-minute speech. He outlines five ascending levels of cognitive prowess. Kaufman didn’t concoct these levels. Albert Einstein did, and they are:
There’s a simple takeaway, if you listen to this.
Priceless for writers.