An Insight a Day


Being an adviser can feel a bit weird sometimes. You can be so useful, and yet so useless, both at the same time.

Maybe you're a doctor trying to get your patient to exercise more, or maybe you're a IT consultant trying to get your client to adhere to security best practices. Whatever it is, your job is to help them help themselves.

Your advice is only helpful if acted upon, otherwise you might as well tell them a funny joke. At least it keeps them happy.

It would be so much easier if you could intervene directly. Knock on their door and drag them to the gym, or barge into their office and toughen their server infrastructure. But even if you could, it's not going to be sustainable.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. That's the role of advisers, perhaps it's not something to feel bad about.

What Does It Take to Become a Billionaire?

This is probably something most people don't think about but have you ever wondered what it takes to earn a billion dollars?

It’s worth emphasizing just how nuts being a billionaire is. It’s just a single letter that separates it from millionaire, which can lead people (including me) to think “oh it’s like a millionaire but a bit richer”.

Here’s how I visualize just how much richer it really is:

Imagine earning so much that you could save or invest $1 million every year... that would be pretty cool, right?

Now imagine earning so much that you could save or invest $25 million every year... now imagine doing that for 40 years, every year, from age 25 to age 65.

If you saved $25 million for 40 years, you’d end up with $1 billion.

From Ali Abdaal's newsletter

Honestly, that blew my mind a bit. By definition, we know that a billion is 1000 million, but our minds can't quite comprehend the sheer scale of such big numbers.

Sure, we know that becoming a billionaire is nigh impossible for most people, but what about a millionaire? We would only need to save $25,000 every year, or $2,084 every month, to reach $1 million after 40 years.

What if we invest everything in a fund with a consistent 7% annual return? Assuming you're able to find such a magical fund, you would only need to invest $420 every month to reach $1 million after 40 years. Sounds a lot more doable now, right?

But wait, what if we invested $2,084 every month instead? That would give us $1 million in only 20 years! And if we invest for 40 years, we would end up with $5 million!

Becoming a millionaire in your 60s is definitely doable for a lot of people, but it's not exactly ideal since you'll be too old to fully utilize it. You might want to fast-track a bit and earn it in your 30s or 40s, so what would it take to be a millionaire in less time?

Years Monthly investment Monthly savings
40 $420 $2,084
30 $888 $2,778
25 $1,320 $3,334
20 $2,084 $4,167
15 $3,320 $5,556
10 $6,034 $8,334
5 $14,500 $16,667
Years to reach $1 million - monthly investing (7%) vs savings

By the way, want to know how much to save/invest every month to reach $1 billion? Just add three 0s to all the dollar values in the table above. That means at a 7% annual return, you would need to invest $420,000 every month for 40 years!

This is the magic of compounding. The earlier you invest, the bigger your returns. And instead of investing $N every month, you can get even bigger returns if you invest a huge lump sum right from the start.

For example, investing $10,000 every year for 10 years ($100,000 total) at a 7% annual return will give you $140,000 (1.4x). But investing $100,000 in the first year and waiting 10 years at a 7% annual return will give you $195,000 (1.95x).

Years $10K every year $100K and wait
10 $140K (1.4x of $100K) $195K (1.95x of $100K)
20 $410K (2.05x of $200K) $386K (3.85x of $100K)
30 $944K (3.15x of $300K) $761K (7.6x of $100K)
40 $2.0M (5x of $400K) $1.5M (15x of $100K)
50 $4.1M (8.1x of $500K) $2.9M (29x of $100K)
60 $8.1M (13.5x $600K) $5.8M (58x of $100K)
Investing $10K every year vs $100K in the first year at a 7% annual return

So what's the moral of the story? Nothing you don't already know, earn lots to save/invest lots. The longer you invest, the bigger your returns (provided you choose a good fund). Honestly, I just want to publish this so I can easily reference the numbers.

Why Do You Do What You Do

Why do you exercise? Is it to stay fit? Or do you want to get strong? Perhaps you want to lose weight, or maybe it's because you want to eat lots of ice cream without feeling guilty.

Why do you work? Is it for the money? Or is it because you like the work you do? Perhaps you want something to do to take your mind off your existential crisis, or maybe you don't care and do it just because it's a societal norm.

Why do you live? Is it to survive and pass on your genes? Or is it because you have amazing friends and family to spend time with? Perhaps you're looking for a purpose to strive for in life, or maybe you're just ticking the box every day and waiting until the end of a perfectly normal life.

Why do you do what you do? Is it because it serves a convenient purpose? Or because there's something useful you want out of it? Perhaps you hope it will help you with something, or maybe you do it just because without thinking too deeply.

On Changing Your Mind

Marc Randolph, the co-founder of Netflix, on changing your mind. Lightly edited, emphasis mine.

A few years ago, I decided I would try to change my mind about something at least once a month – and that turned out to be way too easy.


I needed to approach my beliefs the way I did when I was debating in high school. I had to prepare myself to be able to articulate and defend a certain side of an argument, but I had to do so without knowing until right before the debate which side I would need to argue for.

The more I did this, the more I realized how shallow so many of my opinions were, and that this way of thinking could not only be applied to big topics [...] but to smaller and equally heated topics.


It’s been liberating, because I no longer spend my time building the case for why I’m right. I now spend most of my cycles trying to figure out why they think they are.

It has changed my perspective on almost every topic I’ve looked at. But what has surprised me most about the exercise is that in almost every instance, changing my mind didn’t mean flipping from one side to the other, but simply meant moving closer to the center. It meant acknowledging that these were complicated and nuanced answers that didn’t have any right answer. Or more frequently, would require partially unsatisfactory outcomes for both sides to agree on, accept, and move on.

Marc Randolph

This is something I need to work on as well, and perhaps we all do.

Some Notes on Psychedelics

I'm currently reading Tools of Titan (a book by Tim Ferriss summarizing the lessons and insights learned from interviewing world-class performers), and the section on James Fadiman was quite interesting.

The topic was on psychedelics, and below are some of my highlights from the book, though you can probably find them in the full interview transcript (pdf) for more context.

"What I'm finding is that microdoses of LSD or mushrooms may be very helpful for depression because they make you feel better enough that you do something about what's wrong with your life. We've made depression an illness. It may be the body's way of saying, 'You better deal with something, because it's making you really sad.'"


Which users have the most durable positive effects? In short, it's those who experience a "transcendental experience." Jim describes this as "the feeling or the awareness that you are connected not only to other people, but to other things and living systems and to the air you breathe. We tend to think we're kind of encapsulate."

"Obviously, the air I am breathing comes from all over the world, and some of it's a billion years old. Every 8 years, I get almost all new cells from something. Everything I eat is connected to me. Everyone I meet is connected to me. Right now you and I are sitting outside, and our feet our touching the ground. We're connected to the ground. Now, that's all easy to say intellectually and even poetically. But when you actually experience that you're part of this larger system, one of the things that you become aware of is that your ego—your personal identity—is not that big a part of you."

"What I learned was—and this is from my own personal experience in 1961—'Jim Fadiman' is a subset of me, and the me is very, very large and a lot smarter and knows a lot more than 'Jim Fadiman.'"

He saw a similar shift in subjects during his dissertation research, and they very often laughed during these realizations:

"In a very deep way, and it isn't the giggles of marijuana. It's the laughter of 'how could I have forgotten who I really am?' And then, much later in the day, when they're reintegrating and finding that they are surprisingly still in the same body they came in with... one person said very beautifully, 'I was back in the prison of all of the things that hold me back, but I could see that the door was locked from the inside.'"


There's a saying in the psychedelic world: "If you get the answer, you should hang up the phone." In other words, when you get the message you need, you shouldn't keep asking (i.e., having more experiences), at least until you've done some homework assignments, or used the clarity gained to make meaningful changes. It's easy to use the medicine as a crutch and avoid doing your own work, as the compounds themselves help in the short term as antidepressants.

Compulsive users generally neglect critical preparation and post-session integration work. MDMA is a wonderful tool for releasing people from PTSD, for instance, but the success can usually be attributed, in large part, to preparing for the experience with a psychotherapist, having two guides (male and female), and spending a lot of time talking and integrating after the experience. There's no point in going to a motivational seminar if you're not going to take any next steps.

Psychedelics can be a sensitive topic for some people, but I think it might be a good idea to learn more about it and maybe try it (under supervision) one day.

If I Could Draw Life - YOASOBI

I recently started listening to another YOASOBI song titled「もしも命が描けたら」, which translates to "If I Could Draw Life." Below is their official music video.

Although it's not as popular as some of their other songs, I really like it. If you don't understand Japanese, it might sound like a fun and upbeat song, but the lyric is actually pretty sad.

If you can read Japanese, you can find the novel for the song here (no English translation yet, soon to come!), or you can read the summary left by a kind YouTube commenter below.

On the surface, this song tells a story of a mournful painter who tried to end his life not being able to bear the loss of his mother and his lover. He was stopped by the spirit of his girlfriend, and the moon then gave him a curious power. Perhaps the most ironical yet poetic power, it allowed the painter to bring life into the things he drew, in exchange for his own living days. The painter continued to live his life, using his power to breathe life into his drawings, until he met another girl.

The girl was also living in sorrow, but she did not choose to give up like he did. The painter fell in love with her, only to learn she already had someone else she was waiting on. It was the boyfriend who betrayed her, who was now terminally ill and didn't have much time left. Ultimately, for the girl's happiness, with his power, the painter gave away all of his time to bring back her lover. He then, at the end of his journey, reunited with everyone he ever lost once again.

Though, under all the pretty words dazzling visuals and magical elements, the ending may very well be about the boyfriend having a heart condition, and the painter giving away his for the boyfriend's transplant in the end. The lyrics & visuals at 2:10 and 2:35 kind of implied this, though it was never really said, so I guess it's up to our personal interpretation.

See comment by @Lotus-ln6tf

Side note: All of YOASOBI's songs have an accompanying novel. You can find their list here. They also generally make an English version of their songs and create an English translation of their novels, which can be found here.

Below is the English version of "If I Could Draw Life," like most of their English versions, it sounds very similar to the original Japanese version.

In any case, I'm a big fan of YOASOBI's music, especially the storytelling and symbolism. Hopefully, you've experienced something new from today's post.

Bowline Knot

I recently learned how to tie a Bowline knot, and apparently, it's one of the most versatile knots out there. It's strong, secure, and yet easy to undo. Below is the method I currently use to tie it.

Here's a fun little side story. I sometimes don't use enough dental floss while flossing, which can cause it to slip off my fingers because it's too short. Tonight was one such occasion, so what did I do?

Instead of winding the floss around both fingers on my left and right hand as usual, I tied a bowline knot on one end. Then, I hook the side with the bowline knot to my left finger and wound the rest of the floss around my right finger.

The result? A much better flossing experience despite using a short dental floss! Moving forward, am I going to do this every time I floss? Nope, it's probably not worth the hassle.

On Proving Your Worth

Part of the allure of going to university is that, in exchange for a lot of money, someone will give you a piece of paper to certify your worth. Compare that with self-study, where even if everything is available on the internet, how will you prove to others that you are what you are worth?

All else being equal, would a hiring manager hire someone with a degree at some university or someone who claims to have done a lot of self-studying online? Probably the degree holder, right? How many people would take the risk of hiring someone with no credentials?

How does someone who does self-studying compete with the thousands of fresh graduates produced every year? Or rather, what advantages do they have over a traditional graduate? It's that they've taken the unconventional route before.

Most traditional graduates seek traditional employment. An autodidact, i.e., a self-taught person, would probably be a better fit as an entrepreneur than an employee. Rather than being told what to do, they would be more suited to making their own decisions.

Instead of proving to others they are worth employing, they choose themselves and take matters into their own hands. Why seek outside validation when they already know what they are worth? Perhaps it's naive and grandiose to think like that, but it's one way to reframe things.

Our Mind: Our Greatest Strength and Our Greatest Weakness

If you're an artist, it can feel pretty terrible if you made something you're proud of, but no one bats an eye. It is especially true if you see someone else making art that appears worse than yours, but somehow, they're getting all the attention.

How envious you feel, but you know you can't compare, for everyone has their circumstances, and for all you know, the person you're comparing to might be autistic, or perhaps they just started very recently.

But knowing is very different from experiencing. Rationally speaking, you know that humans are social creatures. We seek social validation, so it's no surprise you feel that way. You also understand that luck plays a significant role in getting discovered, and this is only temporary.

To experience it is a different story. Just because you know and understand something, it doesn't make it any easier when you have to go through with it. All the raw emotions you feel in the heat of the moment, the fear and anxiety of not making enough progress, the envy and frustration when you see how well others are doing, and the paralyzing uncertainty of your future. Will it all work out in the end? What if you're wasting your life away chasing an impossible dream? Should you give up and cut your losses? Or should you keep pushing forward?

The key to making it big is to be really good at what you do. If you trust the process and keep practicing, you'll improve and get better. It might not seem like you're making much progress today compared to yesterday, but it all adds up. Compare yourself over a few months, and you'll be surprised how much you've improved.

But you probably know that already, yet you still struggle with it. Why? Because it's all our head. Our mind is our greatest strength, but at the same time, our greatest weakness. We can think, plan, and rationalize things, but at the same time, our feelings and emotions can often lead us to all sorts of irrational behaviors.

How to Control a Crowd

Here's a rather interesting video on how to control a crowd. It's longer than 20 minutes, but I highly recommend watching it.

There are generally two types of crowds: A "competitive" crowd and a "cooperative" crowd.

A competitive crowd is one where everyone is rushing for something, like a limited supply of 200 game consoles on release day or fighting to get good seats at a concert. These crowds usually have a higher risk of leading to a crowd crush.

A crowd crush happens because the people at the back want to push forward, but there's not much space for those at the front to move forward. As a result, the people near the front or center start getting crushed.

To make matters worse, once the crowd density reaches a high enough level, there's nothing anyone can do anymore. At some point, the crowd behaves more like fluid dynamics than anything else.

Fortunately, most crowds don't end up in a crowd crush, and this is because they're more "cooperative" than "competitive." Imagine that a fire broke out. You would think this would lead to chaos and panic, but in most cases, people behave cooperatively.

Yes, everyone is "competing" to survive, but it's not like it's limited to only 200 people, so there's more incentive to help others. Also, identity plays a crucial role in how well a crowd cooperates. The greater the shared identity, the greater the cooperation.

Consider a common anecdote—on a normal flight, people barely talk. They’ll sit shoulder to shoulder with their fellow traveler for four or five hours without even acknowledging their presence once.

But as soon as a flight gets delayed, that changes. People start talking, they start problem-solving, they get friendly, they’ll even share food.

If the flight gets canceled, this cooperation often extends further and those that were complete strangers just minutes before might decide to work together and share a rental car to drive to their destination instead.

Crowd psychologists have noticed the pervasiveness of this anecdote, and they think they have an explanation. It’s all about identity.

When ambling around the airport, there is little shared identity beyond traveler which is weak since it is shared by so many.

But when a flight gets delayed, the identity shifts and concentrates: now it’s distressed traveler—a unique identity shared only by the unlucky few.

What researchers have found is that, the greater the degree of shared identity, the greater the degree of cooperation among a crowd.


In the 2005 London underground bombings, researchers interviewing victims observed a through-line of perceived unity among the victims in the moment, and countless examples of selfless, cooperative behavior even at the risk of personal peril.

This is observed in almost any disaster—there is always a high degree of crowd cooperation, far beyond what might often be portrayed in fiction, that typically leads to rather orderly, crush-free evacuations.


But another curious anomaly in crowd crush statistics is that it is quite rare for them to occur during civil unrest—during the very activity that defines mob mentality.


In riots, though, there is little competitiveness—there’s not a particular something to be gained or lost, and therefore there is little incentive to push and shove. Not only that, but there is typically a strong shared identity—before tensions escalated, a group of people gathered together in support of a particular cause.

Therefore, riots feature two of the strongest predictors of lowered crowd crush potential, explaining how some of the least organized events manage to avoid the worst.