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The Psychology of Value Creation

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Estimated Reading Time: 42 minutes

A note to the reader: This article could challenge some of the ways you think about the world. You will also age while reading it, as it’s longer than I would have hoped for. I’ve tried to make this article as concise as possible, but in it, I introduce a novel psychological and behavioral theory. This concept came to me years ago, and since then, I have become the proverbial man with a hammer to which everything looks like a nail. I believe it contains the seed of a unifying theory for most behavioral, economic, and philosophical theories. It’s not quite there yet. You’re probably going to find examples to the contrary, and as this theory is still a work in progress, I invite you to share your critical feedback either in the comments below or with me personally. While I utilize President Trump and Jeff Bezos as case study examples in this article, the theory has interesting implications for investing. I hope you enjoy this tail of heroes and villains.

This article is the 5th in a 6-part series examining how the drivers of value creation are the same as sustainability drivers. We outline these drivers in these 6 posts and show how recent ESG efforts to define business sustainability fall very short.   


Trump & The Best of Times

“It is much easier to act presidential than what we are doing here tonight, believe me. With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.” Donald Trump

It was February of 2019. The year was off to a fantastic start for the President of the United States. The stock market, which he frequently equated to being the economy, was off to a strong start, up more than 7% after already rising nearly 30% since he had taken office (with corporate earnings up 47%). Later that year, he was firmly ahead in the polls and betting markets favored him to retake the presidency the following year.

The democratic field of contenders to challenge him in the following year was crowded and the polls suggested it would be an easy win for Trump against any of them. He was the ultimate street fighter, aggressive in debates and impossible to predict. Everyone was already smelling blood in the water when looking forward to the next debates given his last performance- which broke nearly all norms and conventions.

It was hard to believe that a TV personality and gold-plated hotel franchisor had vaulted to the world’s most powerful office just a few years before. He could think on his feet so rapidly, he used emotion rather than intellect to speak to people, boiled complex messages down to three-word slogans, and he didn’t use conventional debate tactics. It was literally impossible for his opponent to rationally respond to his aggressive debate tactics because he appealed to the bottom brain, or the nation’s System 1. System 2 thinking, or rational and deliberate thought, couldn’t even speak the same language.

The candidate was clearly more interested in running for office as opposed to holding it. It was guerrilla warfare for him, and he successfully used any means necessary to obtain the office. Within hours of his presidency, his campaign manager reintroduced the world to an old concept (fiction) being re-branded an “alternative fact.” It was the reign of the bottom brain, otherwise known as the reptilian brain, or in many cultures, “the ego.”

Bezos & The Worst of Times

“No thank you, Mr. Pecker” Jeff Bezos

By contrast, Jeff Bezos’s year was off to a terrible start. Almost the worst imaginable. In the prior months, he had to warn Wall Street of slowing growth and mounting capital spending plans. His stock was getting banged up, having drawn down over 20% in late 2018.

His personal life was in tatters, and even worse, he had been extorted by a news publications close to the President of the United States. The National Enquirer, quite possibly the definition of a bottom brain newspaper if there ever has been one, threatened to show the entire world the one thing Bezos didn’t want anyone to see. In a cruel irony, the executive that threatened to show the world Jeff’s “below the belt selfie,” is actually called Mr. Pecker. It takes one to know one, I suppose.

The National Enquirer’s extortion and public embarrassment came just days off the fresh news that he was divorcing his long time wife, and her take of his fortunate would lop off a cool $40 billion from his net worth in addition to the volatility gripping his fortune in recent months.

His purchase of the Washington Post had made him enemy number 1 to President Trump, who had always taken his critics so personally. President Trump seemed incapable of creating long-term plans, of maintaining organization, and instead relied on his street sense to get him through the office of the Presidency. There were no processes, there was barely a team, much less team-work. There was no longer-term thinking, or the typical strategies employed by the brain’s frontal cortex – the part of us that makes us uniquely us. There is no collaboration, there is no trust among colleagues. There was just a savvy use of the world’s loudest microphone and most controversial twitter account.

President Trump was intolerant of any opposing views to his, and preferred to mock these foes and then use the influence of his office to go scorched earth on his opponents. Bezos’ Washington Post had been up in arms on the cozy, if not suspicious, relationship between Trump, Pecker and the Saudi Government, which had only a few months before executed a Post journalist that was digging into the royal family. This upped the ante on the public rivalry between the boss of the world’s biggest economy and the boss of the world’s biggest online retailer.

Bezos was the opposite of Trump. Although he was going through a rough patch, and was nationally embarrassed by the high profile dispute with Mr. Pecker, he had created one of the world’s most valuable companies by using a series of processes and principles which allowed him to create amazon.com, Blue Origin and resurrect the Washington Post’s profitability while maintaining excellent journalistic standards – something Mr. Pecker could never accomplish.

Politicians, many of whom often have over-developed egos and under-developed intellectual brains, are most usually felled by such public snafus. To keep the truth stranger than fiction, Anthony Weiner, New-York congressman, was quickly written out of the history books after having made the same selfie misjudgment that Bezos made.

But Bezos wasn’t actually the opposite of Trump, or the other politicians for that matter. He was exhibiting the triumph of both the top and the bottom brain. His public gambit with one of the President’s closest friends would have made it seem like he was the polar opposite of the President.

But Jeff’s personal journey epitomizes the journey of value creation. If I were to ever write a textbook, the evolution of Bezos’ style quite literally epitomizes the journey that value creation takes to become globally relevant. What started off as a pure genius, top-brain and perhaps socially-naive but highly passionate entrepreneur had come full circle to being a well-rounded combination of both IQ and EQ, of both System 1 and System 2, or of the Self and the ego.

Simply contrasting two highly popular photos of Bezos as a “before” and “after” case study shows very clearly the metamorphosis that had occurred over the preceding twenty years.

In case the divorce, new trophy girlfriend, red carpet appearances, and “below-the-belt-selfies” left anyone guessing, the same person that started out as an incredibly intelligent, top brain dominated thinker, had clearly spent a lot of time getting to know his social-spirit-animal over the preceding twenty years. And the combination of the top brain genius with the bottom brain survival skills allowed him to outwit the commander in chief and his good friend Mr. Pecker, both perfect symbols of bottom-brain street fighting savvy. But it was also the key to building Amazon into the force of nature that is has become.

But it wasn’t always this way. Two decades earlier, Bezos and amazon.com had an even more consequential high profile and public battle. But back then, the survival of Amazon was at stake. Bezos, who’s career and public letters follow a remarkably consistent emphasis on creative and original thought (a rarity in today’s world), needed to become street smart for his firm to live through the Nasdaq bust and never-ending red ink the company generated at its beginning.

In the Beginning There Was Right

“It has been estimated that there are more connections within the human brain than there are particles in the known universe.” The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist

In the beginning of the human experience, prior to organized civilization, there was really just the brain stem-thinking, or the bottom brain. But starting anything, be it a city, a company, an art project, a book, or even creating a baby, largely starts with right brain thinking. This is the creative spark, but it is actually what most spiritual gurus would label our “Self.” It is our identity – something so complex that words cannot ever describe it, for language is mastered in the more limited world of the left brain.

Thanks to neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, we know that after a hemorrhage completely disabled her left brain and she was left observing the world with only her right brain, we have perhaps the best example of a scientists’ actual experience of how the right brain functions.

“To the right mind, no time exists other than the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation. Life or death occurs in the present moment. The experience of joy happens in the present moment. Our perception and experience of connection with something that is greater than ourselves occurs in the present moment. To our right mind, the moment of now is timeless and abundant.

In the absence of all the rules and regulations that have already been defined as the correct way of doing something, our right mind is free to think intuitively outside the box, and it creatively explores the possibilities that each new moment brings. By its design, our right mind is spontaneous, care free, and imaginative. It allows our artistic juices to flow free without inhibition or judgement.

The present moment is a time when everyone and everything are connected together as one. As a result, our right mind perceives each of us as equal members of the human family…. It perceives the big picture, how everything is related, and how we all join together to make up the whole. Our ability to be empathic, to walk in the shoes of another, and feel their feelings, is a product of our right frontal cortex.”

When I first heard Jill’s TED talk, I was startled. This is the exact world Buddha, Jesus and most spiritual gurus talk about. My catholic high school ensured at a young age, I was well-versed in that world, but I always operated with the “trust, but verify” mentality when hearing about the world of the right. And for those that aren’t into classic theology, I’m going to frame everything in this article scientifically, mostly because I think it’s more interesting and understandable in that format. It’s how I become a meditator – not through religion, but through seeing the actual effects in my life that I couldn’t dispute. To put it gently, despite great parents who ensured we understood all of the church’s teachings, while I could admire renaissance classics, I couldn’t wrap my head around the truth behind these wonderful myths.

Given the simple fact that we can witness the “voice in our head” also means that we are not actually that voice. If our true identity would lie in that voice, we wouldn’t be able to observe it internally. Yet we can. And we can’t get it to shut up outside of the rare moment of exhaustion, meditation or state of flow. Furthermore, given our right pre-frontal cortex is the key link to understanding the world around us, the left brain, and therefore the ego that it is expressing, is often wrong and unreliable as we’ll see in just a bit.

In his masterful work, The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist affirmed this exact supposition. “Conscious awareness of the self is a surprisingly late development in evolution. The higher apes, such as chimpanzees and orangutans, are capable of self-recognition, but monkeys are not: they fail the mirror test. The right prefrontal region is critically involved in self-recognition, whether by face or by voice.” Who we are in reality is determined and recognized by our right top brains. The constant chatter of the left brain, the center of language, is actually not who we are in reality — though 99% of the planet does believe this to be the case.

Why do psychologists frequently discuss two minds? System 1 and System 2? Since even prior to the Ancient Greeks, philosophers also separated our minds. It wasn’t until split-brain patients, whose corpus callosum had been severed, did we understand that each mind can operate completely independently of the other. As McGilchrist summarized the duality, “The evolution of the frontal lobes prepares us at the same time to be exploiters of the world and of one another, and to be citizens one with another and guardians of the world. If it has made us the most powerful and destructive of animals, it has also turned us, famously, into the ‘social animal’, and into an animal with a spiritual dimension.”

Modern understanding of the brain has allowed me to understand what philosophers and gurus have been saying for millennia. Have many others throughout our history known this theory this the whole time? Intuitively, which is the realm of the right brain, I would think yes.

Have you been to the Sistine Chapel? Or surely you’ve seen photos by now. Do you remember the neuroanatomy lesson at the central part of Michelangelo’s ceiling? No?

Look at the prior photo of the moment of creation again, this time with an actual anatomy of a brain overlaid (photo credit).

Michelangelo’s Creator is actually visualized inside a human brain. And the anatomy of the brain is too accurate for this to be a coincidence, as the visualization shows. Not surprisingly, the Creator part of the brain, of course, lies in the frontal cortex, exactly the area doctors and scientists would agree connects us to each other, the world, and the original creative thought. It actually is the creator in our minds.

Dr. Taylor’s & McGilchrist’s books are truly wonderful explorations of both sides of the brain, and there’s no way to write a proper summary in this article. However, evidence points to, and both authors would agree, the right brain drives I.Q., relates us to others and makes us empathic towards them, sometimes finds it hard to put its thoughts and feelings into words, and is the part of our brain that is most active when learning or seeing something completely new. It helps brilliantly form robust memories, working with the bottom brain, and is the center for sustained attention. Summarizing a world of literature in an embarrassingly simple diagram, the brain has these primary functions by region.

Exhibit 1: Basic Brain Functions & Behaviors

The Cadaver’s Right Brain

“‘Working backwards’ from customer needs can be contrasted with a ‘skills-forward’ approach where existing skills and competencies are used to drive business opportunities. The skills-forward approach says, “We are really good at X. What else can we do with X?” That’s a useful and rewarding business approach. However, if used exclusively, the company employing it will never be driven to develop fresh skills. Eventually the existing skills will become outmoded. Working backwards from customer needs often demands that we acquire new competencies and exercise new muscles, never mind how uncomfortable and awkward-feeling those first steps might be.” Jeff Bezos, 2008 Letter to Shareholders

The origin story of Amazon is a classic exhibit of right brain thinking. While the modern world knows it as being founded as a book-seller, that wasn’t the primary motivation that drove Bezos to create it. Upon realizing how impactful the internet would be, Jeff set out not to create a retailer or a book-seller, but the “world’s most customer-centric organization.” From that initial statement, we already see right brain thinking boldly proclaimed. We view our friends, family, and customers from our right brains, and through the left eye. We view our competition from the left brain, but through the right eye.

While it’s harder to isolate these effects in humans, examining animals with eyes on opposites sides of their heads, this fact is clinically proven and well accepted. McGilchrist summarized:

“In predatory birds and animals, it is the left hemisphere that latches on, through the right eye and the right foot, to the prey. It is certainly true of familiar prey: in toads, a novel or unusual choice of prey may activate the right hemisphere, until it becomes familiar as an object of prey, when it once again activates the left. In general, toads attend to their prey with the left hemisphere, but interact with their fellow toads using the right hemisphere.”

Furthermore, the right brain, or the “Self,” is notorious for being generous- almost to a fault. Amazon’s customer care policies are borderline irresponsible to shareholders they are so generous. When a problem arises, they almost jump at the opportunity to refund the purchase, many times without requiring the actual return of the item. Bezos wanted the team to wake up terrified every morning. But then clarified, “But don’t be worried about our competitors because they’re never going to send us any money anyway. Let’s be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused.”

Bezos has always emphasized out of the box, non-linear thinking and extolled the necessarily messy aspects of invention and wandering. As Brad Stone quoted him in The Everything Store, “When a company comes up with an idea, it’s a messy process. There’s no aha moment,” Bezos said. Reducing Amazon’s history to a simple narrative, he worried, could give the impression of clarity rather than the real thing.”

There are so many further tangible examples of a right-dominated culture at Amazon. The ownership mentality is one of the things he harps on most. This has become systematized throughout the organization. The company pays its people with less cash than competitors, yet still manages to attract incredible talent through the stock compensation scheme, which seeks to align management with the ownership of the business. Single-threaded leadership, which emphasizes authorship and self-actualizing leadership and shuns left-brain communication is another way the owner / author mentality of the Self has been infused in the organization. Writing on this system in their terrific book Working Backwards, former top managers at Amazon, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr write:

“Many companies find themselves struggling against their own bureaucratic drag which appears in layer upon layer of permission, ownership and accountability, all working against fast decisive forward progress. We are often asked how Amazon has managed to buck that trend by innovating so rapidly, especially across so many businesses: online retail, cloud computing, digital goods, devices, cashier-less stores and many more, while growing from fewer than 10 employees to nearly 1 million. How has the company managed to stay nimble? Not stuck struggling to find common ground as happens with most companies of such size?

The answer lies in an Amazon innovation called single-threaded leadership, in which a single person unencumbered by competing responsibilities owns a single major initiative and heads up a separable, largely autonomous team, to deliver its goals.”

Going a step further, Jeff constantly urged the team to eliminate cross-team communication. The left brain’s domain is that of communication and organization, of hierarchy and organizational structures. But most importantly, it is the domain of communication. The left brain won’t shut up. I’ve never personally used the “work tool” Slack, but I wonder, how effective is it at fostering innovation and value creation? I can’t think of a worse distraction than a never-ending real-time commentary of water-cooler talk. Amazon shuns cross-team collaboration. This is jarring to many in the corporate world, because the corporate world is so heavily dominated by left-brain organization, and the left-dominated ego doesn’t even consider there could be another way.

Jeff’s chief of staff or “shadow” at the company noted in Working Backwards, “In my tenure at Amazon I heard him say many times that if we wanted Amazon to be a place where builders can build, we needed to eliminate communication, not encourage it. When you view effective communications across groups as a defect, the solutions to your problems look quite different to traditional ones.”

Bezos often brags that mistakes are necessary to test boundaries and ensure invention, and that right-brain thinking is safely guarded at the company. Contrast this to President Trump, who was notorious for not being able to admit any mistakes. Not a single one. According to him, what was statistically the least popular presidency on record, which was book-ended by a fresh all-time low rating, a second impeachment trial and a lethal riot at the nation’s capitol, was among the most successful presidencies of the country. There were no mistakes, only enemies.

That’s not how the right brain thinks. If its view of reality is distorted, it reacts and remedies nearly immediately. It constantly uses sensory input to compare the brain’s models of understanding with reality. It’s the source of our common sense. I’ll be careful to point out here that the left frontal cortex doesn’t have this gift. It can remain naive to the real world indefinitely. So when Bezos proposed the first name for his new website be called cadabra.com, appreciating its connotation to “abra cadabra,” after friends mocked it as sounding morbidly cadaver, he immediately dropped the idea.

In describing the messy and panicked way in which Prime was developed under a multi-week pre-Christmas time horizon, Bryar and Carr wrote about how Jeff paired a super-human sense of urgency with a belief that the customer needed faster and cheaper shipping options. He didn’t know exactly how he would achieve the effort to make fast and free shipping available to all customers at all times. He wanted to go beyond just holiday promotional times, and gave the team less than a month to get it done.

Psychologist Gary Klein has talked about the three major ways insights come about, through connections, inversions and creative desperation. The common denominator is that you really can’t plan where an insight comes from- you just need to leave space for it. The idea for Prime was suggested by Charlie Ward who was a software engineer. He explained the idea, went on much-deserved vacation to Italy. When he came back, the single-threaded team was already able to execute what became perhaps the single-most-defining success feature for Amazon’s e-commerce business, all within a space of a few weeks. And this happened all during the busiest holiday time of the year. Reflecting on the effort, the pair wrote:

“The good news is that you don’t need a Jeff to make this type of decision. You only need to ruthlessly stick to the simple to understand, but sometimes hard-to-follow, principles and process that insist on customer obsession, encouraging thinking long-term, value innovation, and stay connected to the details. None of us, including Jeff, knew exactly what we would end up building. It’s more like we stuck with the process and surrendered to where it was taking us. Prime was a perfect example of the multi-causal, non-linear way in which business decisions, both major and minor, got decided on and executed at Amazon.”

Belaboring the point, Bezos even has an amblyopia (lazy eye) in his right eye. Given the right eye sends information to the left brain, he actually has a permanent and slight reduction in sensory input going to his left brain.

With Bezos’s super-human ability to invent comes some vicious setbacks. There is a limit to how far this right-brain process can bring anyone. Eventually, the inventor needs to scale things. You need to generate a profit to last. The right brain is not concerned with such trivial survival mechanisms. It simply wants to create. Sometimes it can be incredibly naive to a street fighter like Donald Trump. How many entrepreneurial books have you read that have discussed how you need a business plan, but that all business plans are worthless once the business meets the marketplace? Left on its own, the top brain is woefully ignorant to how to sell something, how to captivate the audience and how to get them to hit the one-click buy button.

Twenty years before the skirmish with Trump, Bezos and Amazon faced a more existential threat. He was forced to yield on some of the principles that he bravely preached. And it all started with a Lehman Brothers analyst named Ravi Suria who repeatedly questioned the long-term solvency of the company which, although it was a capital-light retailer, was still burning cash and generating losses like green was going out of style.

Hitting Bottom

“Ouch.” -Jeff Bezos’s First Word in the 2001 Letter to Shareholders

Green was indeed going out of style in the summer of 2000. Amazon’s shares got caught up in the Nasdaq plummet that had begun. The company attracted a particularly vocal critic at Lehman Brothers: Ravi Suria. He was a credit analyst, and if you know credit analysts- the focus is never on value creation, but liability minimization. These are two completely opposite parts of our brains and thought processes. Risk minimization is what the bottom brain often seeks. It’s our survival mechanism. But survivalism doesn’t create value. His opening report on the company, just as the air was coming out from underneath Nasdaq’s wings, was particularly hard to swallow. Brad Stone recalls in The Everything Store.

“From a bond perspective, we find the credit extremely weak and deteriorating,” he wrote in what would be the first of several scathing reports on Amazon over the next eight months. Suria said that investors should avoid Amazon debt at all costs and that the company had shown an “exceedingly high degree of ineptitude” in areas like distribution. The haymaker was this: “We believe that the company will run out of cash within the next four quarters, unless it manages to pull another financing rabbit out of its rather magical hat.”

Then Bezos had been taunted that he didn’t even know how to spell the word profit. On a TV interview, he jokingly answered “P-R-O-P-H-E-T” when asked by Tom Brokaw how to spell the word. In the wake of the Nasdaq bust in 2000, Mr. Market was not in a forgiving mood.

Mr. Market rarely is. Mr. Suria certainly wasn’t. The stock market is a greed machine, while the bond market is a fear machine. As the bottom brain speaks loudest and it speaks first, these are recurring feelings that come from the sensory inputs that the bottom brain is biologically tasked with processing. In the psychology world, System 1 is most often coming from this part of our brains. It seeks immediate gratification, is quick to forget, but is also as unpredictable as a three-year-old child. Most emotions are generated from this part of the brain, and it is not rational. But it is very effective at survival.

The bottom brain got humans from 400,000 BC to 4,000 BC. But from the dawn of organized civilization, which required collaboration, sharing, language, recorded memories and shared values, all functions of the top brain, the top brain has been the Builder of the world we know. But the bottom brain remains.

One of my favorite books detailing the evolutionary reasons for these bottom-brain emotions is Transcending Levels of the Consciousness by David Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins elegantly describes the biological reasons for these emotions. While they don’t fit well in urban society in 2021, they were completely necessary to getting our species to this very moment.

Exhibit 2: Bottom Brain Emotions & Evolutionary Reasons

For Bezos, the year 2000 bought up most of these emotions in him. The high profile challenges he had with both Mr. Market and Mr. Suria, who perfectly exhibited some of the traits the bottom brain, tested Amazon’s idea of value creation. And it had to be this way. The market and Mr. Suria are not the villains. In fact, Bezos owes Amazon’s operating resiliency a huge debt of gratitude to this skepticism. But that skepticism caused uneasiness both inside and outside of Amazon.

But Bezos knew this market. He was a hedge fund portfolio manager before he started Amazon. Better than most CEOs, he knew this game of expectations and emotions. And as it turned out, he played it very well from the other side of the table.

Brad Stone recalls, “With Amazon’s reputation and brand getting battered in the media, Bezos began a charm offensive. Suddenly, he was everywhere—on CNBC, in interviews with print journalists, talking to investors—asserting that Suria was incorrect and that Amazon’s fundamentals were fine.”

But the headwinds didn’t abate. The Nasdaq slide accelerated, more than cutting Amazon’s stock by two thirds. It would go on to fall from over $90 at the beginning of 2000 to less than $6 in mid 2001. According to Donald Trump’s favorite barometer for success, the stock was telling a different story than the one Bezos was telling his company. Bezos fought back.

“In the span of three weeks in June, it dropped from $57 to $33, shedding almost half its value. Employees started to get nervous. Bezos scrawled ‘I am not my stock price’ on the whiteboard in his office and instructed everyone to ignore the mounting pessimism. ‘You don’t feel thirty percent smarter when the stock goes up by thirty percent, so when the stock goes down you shouldn’t feel thirty percent dumber,’ he said at an all-hands meeting.”

Bezos fought hard. Street fighter Bezos was born. Or was he born again?

His childhood friends all attest that he was “ridiculously competitive” as his biographer Brad Stone wrote. So while the visual Jeff Bezos only became the street fighter capable of standing up to the President of the United States in recent years, he likely had this inside of him the whole time.

Exhibit 3: AMZN Stock & Fundamental Development

Always focused on keeping a lean operating structure, he cut costs relentlessly. His operating officer Jeff Wilke, hired in 1999, helped systemize a chaotic organization into a series of algorithms and predictive operations. By 2002, he surprised everyone by turning an operating profit in the business. In fighting back, Bezos continued to invest in growth even while generating profits. He doubled revenue from mid 2001 to mid 2004 all while lifting operating profit margins nearly 20 points from 2001. As Brad Stone recalled.

“Amazon had finally shown the world that it wasn’t just another doomed dot-com. The stock price immediately jumped 25 percent in after-hours trading, clawing its way out of the single digits. Kathy Savitt, a new Amazon publicist, told Bezos she wanted to frame some of the positive news articles and hang them on the office walls. He told her he would rather frame the negative stories like Barron’s infamous Amazon.bomb cover. When people wrote or said positive things about Amazon, he wanted employees to remember the Barron’s article and remain scared.”

The hedge fund manager had come full circle, and he was back playing the street. Except this time he controlled the reported P&L. And he used guerrilla tactics to fight. Amazon’s top brass leaned on Lehman CEO Dick Fuld to reign in the credit analyst who kept pummeling the stock.

“Years later, over cocktails at midtown Manhattan’s Trump Bar, with its dim lights and dark, polished wood, Suria complained that Amazon exerted unbearable pressure on him during that time. “They wanted to fire me. Everyone at Lehman hated my guts during those months,” he says. “Every time I picked up the phone someone was screaming at me.”

Clearly Bezos got very good at street fighting. It wasn’t just Suria, but he had to fight Wall Street skeptics for multiple years in the wake of the Nasdaq bust. Was this a new side of Bezos, or did he always have that strong bottom brain?

After cadabra.com was shunned, he almost settled on relentless.com. He even bought the domain, he liked it so much. If you have never done so, go ahead and type it in, you’ll head straight to everyone’s favorite everything store. It looked like he would also be relentless against anything that threatened to keep him from building.

Bezos used to jokingly call the internet the World Wide Wait. He knew customers wanted more immediate gratification, and they didn’t want to pay extra for shipping. While the invention of an online store with millions of books, from best sellers to the most esoteric, was certainly novel in the beginning, that wasn’t what would allow the company to achieve the scale it did. Even while Wall Street forced Jeff to generate a profit in the wake of the high profile fight over ongoing losses, he did so while drastically expanding free shipping options on orders over certain value thresholds.

He knew he needed to exhibit deferred gratification, and long-term thinking, to sell consumers near instant gratification. He also later understood that customers’ System 1 would anchor on the sunk cost of the Prime membership fee and drive them to order more as a result them wanting to get their money’s worth from the membership fee.

As we have written about before, many, if not most, people make decisions on their Amazon apps with the bottom brain ego driving most of the decisions. System 1, or the animalistic and primitive parts of our brains, drive the lion’s share of voting and purchase decisions. But the paradox here is that new creations, new business ideas, entrepreneurialism, and new possibility actually cannot be activated in the brain while our System 1 is activated. As Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor so eloquently put it, “Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically, we are feeling creatures that think.”

It’s not just customers, but the amygdala and bottom brain also trigger behaviors that can make or break team efforts. Writing in The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle explained how understanding others’ amygdala reactions, and disarming the survival instinct is key to fostering teamwork.

“This idea, that belonging needs to be continually refreshed and reinforced, is worth dwelling on for a moment. If our brains processed safety logically, we would not need this steady reminding. But our brains did not emerge from millions of years of natural selection because they process safety logically. They emerged because they are obsessively on the lookout for danger. This obsession originates in a structure deep in the core of the brain. It’s called the amygdala, and it’s our primeval vigilance device, constantly scanning the environment. When we sense a threat, the amygdala pulls our alarm cord, setting off the fight or flight response that floods our body with stimulating hormones. And it shrinks our perceived world to a single question: What do I need to do to survive? Science has recently discovered, however, that the amygdala isn’t just about responding to danger. It also plays a vital role in building social connections.”

That amygdala needs to be re-assured that it is safe in order to not over-take the entire function of the brain. That is key to building team-driven cultures. A recurring pattern throughout the growing library of Amazonian books is the essential nature of teamwork. I find it remarkable that the idea for Prime came from someone who wasn’t even part of the shipping or promotions department. It came from a coder. In setting the meritocratic tone for the culture of Amazon, Bezos simultaneously clearly signals that mistakes are ok and will not get people fired. He deactivated their amygdala, and reinforced the collaborative forces which seem to yield an uncanny number of inventions and insights.

In examining how to create wealth, Morgan Housel said it best and most concisely in The Psychology of Money. Bezos was the kind of leader that has ”A bar-belled personality – optimistic about the future, but paranoid about what will prevent you from getting to the future.”

Bezos wanted everyone at Amazon to remain paranoid, which is a bottom brain check on the constructs of the top brain world. So the bottom brain, while on its own, is consumptive of value, the ego is an essential informant, or alibi, in the quest for value creation. Given entrepreneurs need to constantly zig and zag with the whims of the marketplace, if they have highly activated bottom brains, this is inherently easier.

Take the inverse. Don’t we all know incredibly intelligent people that have wonderful ideas, but who we also have little faith in when picturing them commercializing? It’s almost akin to your five year old coming to you on a hot Saturday and wanting to sell lemonade. It’s a terrific impulse and a wonderful learning lesson. But you automatically know you’re going to put in more work than the monetary outcome will justify.

But you do it anyway. It’s a teaching moment. That’s Bezos’ bold declaration in the wake of the Fire Phone “disaster,” when he said, “If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”

So rather than treating the ego like an enemy, which so many modern authors advise us to do, let’s use that information. It helps us empathize with others’ emotions – key for our right brain to continuously iterate on a business idea until it’s ready to go viral. As Shane Parrish wrote in The Great Mental Models:

“We are not passive participants in our decisions. The world does not act on us as much as it reveals itself to us and we respond. Ego gets in the way, blocking reality behind a door that it controls with a gating mechanism. Only through persistence in the face of having it slammed on us over and over can we begin to see the light on the other side. Ego, of course, is more than the enemy. It’s also our friend. If we had a perfect view of the world and made decisions completely rationally, we would never attempt to do amazing things that make us human. Ego propels us. Why, without ego, would we even attempt to travel to Mars? After all it’s never been done before. We’d never start a business because most of them fail. We need to learn when ego serves us and when it hinders us.”

While the top right brain can clearly work closely with bottom brain emotions, as most artists can attest, the most common alibi for the bottom brain is our top left.

The Left Jeff

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” -Donald Trump

As numerous experiments and doctors have confirmed, the top left brain masters language. That’s not all it has mastered, but it is very adept at planning, systematizing, optimizing and improving what the right brain brings into existence. The very important lesson here is that the bottom brain is key to hearing and processing language, which also happens to be processed by the left pre frontal cortex. Thus, the bottom and left part of the brains are linked in a special way. McGilchrist summarizes in The Master and His Emissary:

“The left hemisphere point of view inevitably dominates, because it is most accessible: closest to the self-aware, self-inspecting intellect. Conscious experience is at the focus of our attention, usually therefore dominated by the left hemisphere. It benefits from an asymmetry of means. The means of argument – the three Ls, language, logic and linearity – are all ultimately under left-hemisphere control, so that the cards are heavily stacked in favour of our conscious discourse enforcing the world view re-presented in the hemisphere which speaks, the left hemisphere, rather than the world that is present to the right hemisphere.”

This is the brain that masters planning, forecasting, KPIs, OKRs, Kaizen, as it is very good at optimizing. It’s a super computer and is a useful alibi for both the Self and the ego. Perhaps over 90% of board rooms are filled with left-brain measurements and circular references.

It’s clearly the part of the brain that Amazon leveraged when overcoming the street fight of 2000-2001. In 1999, the alter ego to Bezos’ right brain came into the company, and with him, the ten smartest people he knew: engineers, mathematicians and coders.

Jeff Wilke came in as operating officer and was tasked with making the chaotic operations of the company organized and systematized. His work was fundamental for helping transform Amazon’s operating margins from deeply negative levels to the profitable levels which drove Amazon shares considerably higher as both Jeffs fought Wall Street back. Brad Stone recalls the dramatic before and after Wilke at Amazon:

“Before Wilke joined Amazon, the general managers of the fulfillment centers often improvised their strategies, talking on the telephone each morning and gauging which facility was fully operational or had excess capacity, then passing off orders to one another based on those snap judgments. Wilke’s algorithms seamlessly matched demand to the correct FC [fulfillment center], leveling out backlogs and obviating the need for the morning phone call. He then applied the process-driven doctrine of Six Sigma that he’d learned at AlliedSignal and mixed it with Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy, which requires a company to rationalize every expense in terms of the value it creates for customers and allows workers (now called associates) to pull a red cord and stop all production on the floor if they find a defect (the manufacturing term for the system is andon).”

Jeff was perhaps the epitome of the left brain. As Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor explained on the two hemispheres: “Our right mind character values humanity while our left mind character concerns itself with finances and economy. On the scale of doing, my left mind is a magnificent multitasker and loves performing as many functions as it can at the same time. It is a true busy bee and partially measures its value by how many things it crosses off my daily to-do-list. Because it thinks sequentially, it is great at mechanical manipulation. Its ability to focus on differences and distinguishing characteristics makes it a natural builder.”

Wilke was a natural builder. Without the organization, structure and planning by him and his operations team, the company he and Bezos were building would have collapsed on its own chaotic weight. And while Bezos clearly brought the right brain emphasis into Amazon, it wasn’t until Wilke arrived that its new mantra of “Get Big Fast” was really even possible. So the commercial scale of Amazon would have never happened as just an invention and a sense of the customer impulse.

All of the behaviors, processes and systems that both Jeffs implemented to make Amazon a machine rather than a chaotic mess of unbridled potential are profiled in the recent book Working Backwards. It’s worth a read, and the striking thing that spoke to me the entire time was the clear intention of all of these behaviors to organize the world in ways that allowed right-brain, unorganized and inventive process to remain dominant at the company while bringing some order and linearity to the non-linear, chaotic process of invention.

This point is key, because as many investors know, you can build an excel model for months and it will help you reconstruct a company’s reality. But it won’t be the actual reality. A gigantic valuation model is precisely wrong, and many investors know it is far better to be roughly right as opposed to precisely wrong. The right brain is a probabilistic mind, and implicitly understands quantum mechanics. The left brain is cause & effect oriented, and sees everything through newtonian physics, despite science having proved newtonian physics as a limited understanding of the universe over 100 years ago. The left still clings on. As Iain McGilchrist wrote in The Master and His Emissary:

“Here the right hemisphere presents an array of possible solutions, which remain live while alternatives are explored. The left hemisphere, by contrast, takes the single solution that seems best to fit what it already knows and latches onto it. V. S. Ramachandran’s studies of anosognosia reveal a tendency for the left hemisphere to deny discrepancies that do not fit its already generated schema of things. The right hemisphere, by contrast, is actively watching for discrepancies, more like a devil’s advocate. These approaches are both needed, but pull in opposite directions.”

The right hemisphere is the one that inherently has common sense. As cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman pointed out in a lecture back in 2014, “The left hemisphere doesn’t know that it doesn’t know. It’s confabulating a story to make itself look good. And most of our beliefs about ourself are in fact the left hemisphere confabulations made up after the fact- that have no bearing on reality, they are just there to make us look good.” So while the left brain is terrific at planning and forecasting, it is very divorced from reality. It is the part of our brains that would not think twice to walk a red carpet in a Playboy leisure jacket. It is also divorced from the source of all original thought, of the part of the brain that leads to insights, of creative work, and that part where are are happiest.

Ever wonder why most of your creative ideas come to you while in the shower, on a run, in the state of flow, in a meditative state, or even sometimes just simply exhausted? It’s because the bottom brain and perception stimulation needs to virtually be shut down for the top right brain to come up with these original thoughts and ideas. The constant chatter of our left-brained fueled egos often
Too much bottom, too much left needs to be brought to the brink to enable the quiet, effusive, non-verbal and intuitive thoughts to shine through.

Single-threaded teams, an ownership mentality, a myopic focus on the customer’s needs, these are all left-brain hacks to get Amazonians to continuously think from their right brains. Much in the same way a mantra-based meditation like Transcendental meditation can remind us in seconds to short-circuit the verbose ego, Working Backwards profiles all of the hacks both Jeffs used to continuously return the organization to right brain dominance. And that’s the actual secret to value creation at massive commercial scale.

In summarizing, the left brain is essential for coordinating activity between people. The bottom-left combination has a virtual monopoly on language and verbal expression. But given the bottom brain influences, as it is integral to the speech function, the combination can be quite good at manipulation of others. It is for this reason certain theologians and psychologists label it the “ego.” But on its own, it doesn’t have to only work with the bottom brain. The bottom brain is simply being clever by latching onto a super-computer to enable its voice to be heard continuously. However, left-right thinking, or a process that goes back and forth between feeling and articulating, is a very natural part of honing a thought, an idea. This very article mostly originated from the right brain, but clearly my left brain had a lot to say. Whereas, the concept behind this article in my right brain is self evident and very simple.

The Psychology of Value Creation

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

And the essence of this article is really quite simple. The seed, the spark, the new idea for a business, book, painting, film, comes from one place: our Selves. The Self that can still listen to that ego, or ignore it. The one that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor described as being in the right frontal cortex. But those original concepts and their new creative possibility is worthless to anyone else unless it can scale. What good is a novel idea if it is not shared and spread around? It is not valuable to anyone.

Thus, the journey of value creation starts in the top brain, but requires a fundamental understanding of demand drivers, largely dominated by the bottom-brain oriented System 1. Scaling an idea requires a yin and yang of these two fundamentally opposite parts of our mind, and quite literally two opposing points of view. After getting back from a run where this simple idea came to me, I drew this exact image years ago to explain the process.

Exhibit 4: The Value Creation Process

Jeff Bezos implicitly knew about this balancing of dualities early in his career. Brad Stone recalled in his biography of Jeff, “Bezos would later say he found a kind of workplace soul mate in David Shaw—‘one of the few people I know who has a fully developed left brain and a fully developed right brain.’”

The left side of the diagram says “value capture,” because the left cannot come up with anything novel on its own. Yet it’s terrific at driving productivity. Productivity and innovation have been the two primary components of our ascension from cavemen to the modern man and woman in 2021. Productivity is just as important as invention. But together, they are wildly powerful.

In Jeff’s own words, the most important aspect of his decision making process has a cavalier disregard to modern psychologists’ warnings on trusting intuition. Being interviewed by David Rubinstein, Jeff explained, “I believe in the power of wandering. All my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts, not analysis. When you can make a decision with analysis, you should do so, but it turns out in life that your most important decisions in your life are made with instinct, intuition, taste, heart.”

But if Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman has profiled so many psychological biases that clearly advise us to not trust our intuition, how is that that the wealthiest man on the planet has a cavalier disregard for that warning? It’s because both of these venerable gentlemen are talking about two completely different aspects of our minds. Bezos is referring to his Self, or System 2. Kahneman is referring to our System 1.

Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein, an expert at studying how insights arise (unsurprisingly from System 2, and specifically the right frontal cortex), co-authored a paper on intuition where they both “Failed to Disagree.” What seems so clear to me is that both brilliant psychologists could neither agree nor disagree because they are talking about two separate parts of our minds. Although- it’s so clear to me only because of a cognitive bias I have had ever since coming up with this theory a few years ago. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Simply knowing that it’s a bias, helps me look out for contradictory information. And the theory keeps evolving.

But the core of the thesis hasn’t been seriously challenged despite decades of reading on psychology, quantum mechanics, biographies, and other business-oriented books. The amount of human confusion, if not suffering, that could be alleviated by understanding we are split brain humans is massive. We all have that nasty villain in our heads that sometimes says things that would make us all blush if repeated out loud. That voice is not you. If it was you, you would not be able to observe it. Do you ever hear yourself on a recording, or see yourself doing something in a video that makes you cringe? I believe that is the real you that is having the emotion.

The bottom part of the Value Creation diagram shows that going too far in relying on bottom brain, street fighting skills, will bring us into the realm of value destruction. When System 1 drives our decisions, it’s looking to take as much as it can, to borrow from the future, to win immediate gratification. The perfect combination for scaling a new idea is not generosity, nor is it immediate gratification. It’s the yin and yang of both: deferred gratification.

When I asked John Elkann, Chairman of Fiat-Chrysler, what made the late Sergio Marchionne great, one of the answers was that Sergio balanced both the short-term demands with the long-term strategic vision. Bezos’ right brain approach would invest for infinity, as the right brain has no sense of the past or the future, but put into practice at Amazon, the compromise becomes investing for the long-term, while delivering immediate gratification to customers.

This is similar to what David Cote at Honeywell referred to when he said good leaders were those that were able to do two seemingly conflicting things at the same time. It’s a yin and yang process. And that’s something the ego-left brain is very bad at admitting. The brain has a winner-take-all function when processing a thought. If a part of the brain is more predisposed to processing a certain input, the rest of the brain shuts down and lets that one part run with it, even though each part is inherently limited.

So it’s not easy to balance these two competing minds, in fact, it’s almost impossible without hacks, meditations, or tricks to compel the other sides of the brain to kick in. As I showed in the last article in this series on value creation, when businesses are so good that they naturally become monopolies, like a lot of big tech today, it’s hard to know when to stop taking. Moderation is not a built-in mechanism for most humans, and certainly not the System 1 bottom brain. So many value creators learn over time that by embracing the world of ego, of media and advertising, and by becoming socially savvy, they are able to become more effective at reading the consumer impulse. So they naturally begin to trust these emotional drivers until they over-power the original value creative Self in the first place. It’s why so many value creators fall. They start from the top and often end up utilizing the bottom brain.

It’s hard to know when to stop. Just like it was hard for President Trump to know when to stop when he was leaving office.

Going Too Far

“Vanity. Get’s ‘em every time.” -Al Pacino’s devil in The Devil’s Advocate

The very public metamorphosis and embarrassment that Bezos has gone through shows the perils of embracing our egos too much. Not only does President Trump’s near permanent scowl on his face confirm that it’s not a happy place to live on a daily basis, but neuroanatomists have also confirmed, the ego, co-opting the left brain as it usually does, has no sense of actual reality and no sense of fundamental identity.

Bezos has generated a lot of critics, and boy do I know a lot of them. These are typically intellectuals or humanitarians that see the bottom-brain manifestation of what he sometimes exhibits and scoff at that side of him. Just a couple weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend at the United Nations who vehemently opposed my observation that Amazon helped the world get through Covid. But she was also silent when I asked her what the UN did to help every day people continue to live their lives while they were not allowed to go outside during periods of Covid confinement. She was silent, and very upset. I didn’t mention the fact that the WHO (part of the UN) likely aided and abetted the early spread of the disease, it would have been too bottom-brained of me.

But the question remains, would you have wanted President Trump and FEMA to keep America running during the Covid lock-down, or would you have preferred simple one-click shopping and 2-hour grocery delivery from Amazon? If that’s a hard question for you to answer, it’s actually an endearing sign about you. You likely have a minimally active bottom brain. And that is one of the biggest problems with charities and non-profits. They need more of a market mentality to be effective. Bill and Melinda Gates have shown just how effective the one-two combination can be when applied to this realm. But they are a whole separate story in and of themselves.

So in another stark warning for those of us who embrace our bottom brains too heavily, scientists have also confirmed when the amygdala is active, it actually shuts down the pre-frontal cortex. So original thought is not possible while the bottom brain’s survival instincts are engaged.

This is particularly worrisome in today’s 24-7 social-media obsessed culture. Clinical research has shown that social network site addiction actually causes our amygdala to shed cells, become more efficient and to dominate our thought patterns much more than for the rest of us who limit our use of social media. This is likely what the well-watched The Social Dilemma had profiled in its roasting of the services. The social cues that we pick up from constant usage of social media create a domineering bottom brain, with almost the same effects on the brain as substance abuse.

Exhibit 5: Donald Trump’s Tweet Frequency and Timing

Source

There was perhaps no one in recent memory that was more obsessed with the 24-7 news cycle and social media that President Trump. He tweeted nearly non-stop as graphical analysis has shown. This mortified many, but it was very effective at staying at the top of everyone’s feeds. He was top of mind for everyone, whether good or bad. For his supporters, his savvy ability to manipulate the public conversation for their cause was cheered. For his opponents, they were constantly reminded of everything he stood for that they didn’t. And many of them despised him partly because he was so good at getting that message heard. Constantly.

What exhibit 5 also makes glaringly obvious is that the President also didn’t get much sleep. This further validates the worrisome conclusion that he was primarily operating from the bottom brain the entire time. In his wonderful work Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker showed evidence that the less we sleep, and particularly the shorter the duration, the less REM sleep we get.

“The REM sleep gift of facilitating accurate recognition and comprehension allows us to make more intelligent decisions and actions as a consequence. More specifically, the cool headed ability to regulate our emotions each day, a key to what we call emotional IQ, depends on getting sufficient REM sleep night after night. If your mind immediately jumped to particular colleagues, friends and public figures who lack these traits, you may well wonder about how much sleep, especially late morning REM-rich sleep, they are getting.”

Very curiously, Dr. Walker pointed to humans’ unique sleeping habits and patterns as key to our evolution as as species. He points to convincing evidence that our compressed, but more concentrated, sleeping habits helped to augment the pre-frontal cortex. We both agree that the pre-frontal cortex is key to our species’ ability to Build the world in which we now inhabit.

The combination of the clear lack of sleep and concurrent obsession with social media is a one-two-punch that allow us to know pretty much exactly the part of the brain President Trump was utilizing in case anyone is left wondering by his behavior. Unfortunately while the bottom brain can be useful when calibrating a message, or framing a consumer product or service, it doesn’t get us very far. Just as he was boarding his final ride on Air Force One, he said “We will be back in some form.” I have no doubts the street fighter will re-emerge, but I also have no doubts that he doesn’t have a plan.

Redemption

It contrasted sharply to the letter that Jeff Bezos just recently penned to employees in which he announced he was stepping down from day-to-day affairs as Amazon’s CEO. The bottom-brain vicissitudes of the office had taken their toll. It was time to return home, to right brain. Bezos made clear the reasons for his role evolution. “In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives….“

Going on to explain what was fundamental to Amazon’s success, he didn’t talk about a formula, a productivity system or even the culture. There was just one thing he attributed to the success of the company.

“Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.”

He then signed off with an encouraging message for employees of such a gargantuan company. “Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.” Taking time away from every day execution to focus on new projects, space, media, and his charitable efforts is bringing Bezos exactly back home to where he started: in the head space of creativity, generosity, invention and new breakthroughs. Even after a most embarrassing and awful 2019, the patient and thorough Builder always lives to see another day. And boy was 2020 a crowning year for Amazon and Jeff Bezos, back atop the list of the world’s wealthiest people.

It couldn’t have been a more stark difference to the press release announcing Mr. Pecker’s removal from office of American Media (the parent of the National Enquirer). The company, over-coming significant legal and public relations troubles after Pecker engaged in highly manipulative tactics to control stories, had to even rename itself to overcome the stains Pecker caused. There was no parting statement from David Pecker, much like his friend’s removal from Twitter, his voice was no longer heard.

Meanwhile his friend President Trump left his historically least popular presidency, according to Gallup, at a record low 34% approval rating. Since surveys began in the 1940s, no other President scored as low. He was removed from Twitter, his favorite social media platform, upon which he would tweet almost every 15 minutes throughout the day.

It’s a humble reminder that while bottom brain tactics are very good at Machiavellian politics, or street fighting, it cannot achieve greatness on its own. For that, it needs to work with the top right and top left brain in harmony. While few people on the planet have such masterful control over the multiple parts of their minds, those that do wield an incredible power to create and build lasting social contributions.

Conclusion: Villain or Hero?

The take-away here is not that there are heroes or villains. There are two primary minds that we all have. One creates value, or invents, and the other consumes value. Yet for the value creative inventions to achieve cultural acceptance and adoption, they must appeal to the value consumptive parts of our brains. The heroic builders of our world exhibit a balance between both worlds. They straddle the ingenious elements that make us human, that make us incredibly generous, loving and joyful. And they also are intimately familiar with the idiosyncrasies of our survival mechanism. They know how it works, they know what it thinks, and they can then ensure that they appeal to their customers’ or audience’s most primal instincts.

I believe the same yin and yang is highly important for investing. Original entrepreneurial thought comes from the top right brain, it’s where the novel idea comes from. Yet ignorant of volatility and possible emerging risks, these ideas can be taken advantage of and a career can be ruined. As the great intellectual Keynes admitted, “Markets can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent.” One must understand the vagaries, volatility, greed and fear, of the System 1 market. Only by mastering both, can one achieve standout investment success.

The path to value creation can take almost any form, but the evolution is surprisingly consistent. Perhaps it’s for this reason that once you’ve read this, you’ll view history just a bit differently. Once I give you this hammer, almost everything — from Buddha’s and Christianity’s teachings to business and political theory books — will look like a nail. A nail with which, I hope you contribute to the building of this wonderful world.

Disclaimer:

This article has been distributed for informational purposes only. Neither the information nor any opinions expressed constitute a recommendation to buy or sell the securities or assets mentioned, or to invest in any investment product or strategy related to such securities or assets. It is not intended to provide personal investment advice, and it does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any person or entity that may receive this article. Persons reading this article should seek professional financial advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities or assets discussed in this article. The author’s opinions are subject to change without notice. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research, and the information used in such process was obtained from publicly available sources. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but such reliability is not guaranteed. Investment accounts managed by GreenWood Investors LLC and its affiliates may have a position in the securities or assets discussed in this article. GreenWood Investors LLC may re-evaluate its holdings in such positions and sell or cover certain positions without notice. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of GreenWood Investors LLC.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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