Breakfast Notes #34 (Friedman is Wrong, Momentum and Luck)

Breakfast Notes #34 (Friedman is Wrong, Momentum and Luck)
Photo by Malvestida / Unsplash

Good morning friends.

Last Saturday, I had the tremendous opportunity to return to my alma mater, Yale-NUS College and meet old friends and new ones.

College Quizzes Never Get Old
  • If you are interested, you could check out my op-ed on Straits Times a while back that outlined my hope for the new NUS College once Yale-NUS closes down.

When The Government Outperforms the Free Market

During a Q&A I moderated for graduate students at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, a panellist remarked that she found the government-sponsored career portal much more efficient than the likes of Glassdoor and Indeed.

It turns out that because the Singaporean government created a legal requirement, all employers had to post on mycareersfuture and actually post the salary range they would offer. This stands in stark contrast to many portals whose information and job descriptions are mostly crowdsourced and where employers can get away with lying about the job requirement.

Unlike other job search sites where the highest paying customer gets more click-throughs, the government portal is all about helping jobseekers find the best fit for their skills - resolving the market failure of information asymmetries in the job market.

In other words, job seekers can now feel much more empowered when they apply for jobs because they know the risk of being short-changed has been significantly mitigated.

This is why I believe that the likes of Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman were definitively wrong to assert that the government is the problem. If one could find creative ways to govern, the government might do much better than the free market.

The Importance of Momentum

When defining a great career, many people think of the late great Steve Jobs or the polarizing icon Elon Musk as the ultimate end goal. The reason why they draw so much attention is that they willed markets into existence. Jobs did it with the smartphone, and Musk did it with electric vehicles.

But what if we don’t even own 1% of their genius?

Well, consider what the founder of LinkedIn and member of the original Paypal Mafia, Reid Hoffman, had to say,

The amazing thing about momentum is that it can make up for a lot of other weaknesses. Some startups may deliver a mediocre product developed by a mediocre team (we won’t name names), but they do so in a white-hot market—and achieve great success. The market pulls success out of them. A strong market can overcome almost any deficiency in a startup, at least for a time.

The takeaway is simple. Don’t worry about what job you will land; care about what industry you can sneak into. It's easier to make lateral shuffles within a firm then jump across industries.

For example, if you really want to be part of Google, the pinnacle of tech jobs. Just care about jumping into the tech industry first. Don’t care if you can only get hired in HR or product management, even if your desired end state is programming. Then, when the time is ripe, attempt a leap into Google’s HR team. Subsequently, it might be easier for you to try your hand at an internal rotation where you could perhaps design the latest Apple Gmail widget.

The Actual Guide To Getting Lucky

Richard Wiseman holds Britain’s only Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. Not only is he a professor, but he is also a member of the prestigious Inner Magic Circle and a wholesome Youtuber.

I am sure that some of you would argue that he got lucky. Well, yes, he probably is.

Here are four principles of good luck that he outlines in his book, The Luck Factor that you can consider stealing. (If you are running out of time, skim my boring commentaries)

  • Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities

Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They go out of their way to create serendipity for themselves. This will include networking, trying new things and trying batshit scary types of things.

  • Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches

Lucky people make effective decisions by mastering their intuition and gut feelings. Magicians are fantastic at listening to their hunches. Think about any magic trick you have seen; they are making a hunch based on your first few seconds that you do not know how the trick is done and more importantly, your attention will follow where they plan to guide you.

(99.999% of the time, they get it right)

  • Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune

The lucky don’t fall prey to self-fulfilling prophecies. They exploit it to their advantage by believing the future will be full of good fortune. Before you lambast me for believing in new-age beliefs such as manifesting your destiny, it might be useful to consider that those who believe they are lucky- are likely to be more resilient in the face of failure and pleasant to others who come along the way.

After all, good luck is just around the corner.

  • Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck into Good

Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to mitigate or even alchemize the ill-fortune they encounter in the journey of life. One way, I try to improve my luck is by seeing every incidence of bad luck as an interesting story to tell my friends in the future.

Visualization Of The Day

Here are ten sure-win bets for the next dinner party you attend. Trust me, its worth your time.

Thank you for reading and I hope you felt lucky.

May the sun shine upon your face,


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