shane parrish

Mastering The Best of What Other People Have Already Figured Out – Shane Parrish on the Freedom Pact Podcast

Check out the Freedom Pact Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Reading advice: 
    • Read more of what’s stood the test of time
    • Start reading a ton of books, but only finish those you truly enjoy
    • Read to learn, not to read
  • The longer you’re willing to suffer on a project, the less competition you’ll have
  • Be willing to look like an idiot—it’s your first step on the road to success
  • Live life with the end in mind

Books Mentioned


Shane’s Book Selection Process

  • Selecting the right book depends on the context; asking yourself these questions may help:
    • What’s going on in my life right now?
    • Do I need to learn something?
    • Are there areas I’m curious about and dive into?
  • Shane’s advice: start reading a ton of books, but only finish those you truly enjoy
  • Some books are great, but the timing can be wrong—with these, return to them later
    • For instance, Shane hated Meditations by Marcus Aurelius when he first read it at university but found it valuable after going through the book a second time during his divorce
    • “Life experiences constantly change which books are going to impact you—that’s why it’s so hard to give somebody a book”  – Shane Parrish
  • Let time criticize books for you: read more books that are 20+ years old and still in print
  • One year, Shane read over 150 books cover to cover. However, trying to read as many books as possible isn’t something he encourages—you end up reading to read instead of reading to learn
    • “It’s an ego thing; it’s a signal thing; it’s not a learning thing” – Shane Parrish
  • Shane hates unnecessarily long books
    • “I hate books that are 300 pages that should’ve been 150 pages or 50 pages”  – Shane Parrish

Shane’s ‘Great Mental Models‘ Book Series

  • The first of five planned books from the series, Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts, is out now
    • Shane describes it as “a reference book that people can refer to when they need help solving problems or making decisions”
  • After all five books are released, Shane plans to eventually make all of the content available for free online; why?
    • “Because part of what we’re trying to do at Farnam Street is equalize opportunity, not necessarily outcomes” – Shane Parrish

The Origins of the Farnam Street Blog

  • In 2001, Shane started working for an intelligence agency (the Canadian version of the NSA)
  • In 2008, he went back to school (while maintaining his job at the intelligence agency) to get his MBA with the sole goal of learning how to make better decisions, but ultimately found it to be pretty worthless
    • (Shane says he learned more from studying Charlie Munger than he did from his courses)
  • Around this time, Shane started a website called “” to document his quest at becoming a better decision-maker
    • (68131 is the zip code for Berkshire Hathaway—the website was a homage to Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet and their way of thinking)
    • In 2013, Shane changed the name of the site to “”
      • Why? – Farnam Street is the street where Berkshire Hathway is headquartered

Life Advice

  • Life is like poker—you can get a good hand, play it perfectly, and still end up with a bad outcome
  • Cognitive biases are good at explaining why we make mistakes but really bad at helping us avoid them
  • When making a decision, make sure to weigh the opportunity costs—the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen
  • Optimize your life accordingly to the things you care about most
  • Live your life so you don’t have any regrets when you’re 90 
  • The longer you’re willing to suffer on a project, the less competition you’ll have

Be Willing To Look Like An Idiot

  • “If you do things like everyone else is doing them, you’re going to get the same results that everyone else gets … Doing things differently doesn’t guarantee you better results, it just means you’re not going to get the same results that everyone else gets.”Shane Parrish
    • That said, be selective when you should/shouldn’t diverge from the heard
    • “Then you have to be willing to look like an idiot, and most people aren’t willing to look like an idiot… That’s one of the biggest things that prevents us from pursuing our dreams.”
  • Society should look up those willing to go all-in and risk everything to try something new (like Elon Musk)
    • “Those are the people we should hold up as heroes independent of outcome” – Shane Parrish

Shane’s Meditation Practice

  • Shane meditates before going to bed and whenever he’s in the sauna
    • “It grounds me; it gives my brain a break” – Shane Parrish
  • One reason to meditate:
    • People today overconsume information without taking the time to process it—meditation is like taking the time to “chew” on that information
  • Meditating before bed is a win-win—you’ll either fall asleep or have a successful meditation session

Additional Notes

  • Social media platforms have different primary consumers. Because of this, the way you share a message on LinkedIn should be different from the way you share it on Twitter or Instagram.
  • If you’re going to host a podcast, respect your guest by reading their books and listening to their other interviews—this also allows you to better ask original questions
  • Shane’s closing advice to listeners: Live life with the end in mind
Freedom Pact Podcast : , , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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