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    #119 Todd Simkin: Making Better Decisions

    By assuming good intentions and capabilities in others, we can foster collaboration, protect ourselves in trading, approach conflicts effectively, and find success in hiring and nurturing employees.

    enSeptember 07, 2021

    About this Episode

    Todd Simkin calls on experiences from his lengthy career in financial services and educating traders to help Shane understand how to make better decisions. Simkin breaks down all the influences that go into how and why we make decisions, why financial decisions are different than inter-personal ones, the strategies involved with teaching other people to make better decisions, what he looks for when he’s hiring, the value of asking the right questions, and so much more.

    Simkin is Associate Director at Susquehanna International Group, a privately held trading and technology firm. During his 25 years with the company he has held a variety of roles, including responsibility for SIG’s firm-wide education and trader development, where he taught the company’s new traders what questions to ask and what criteria to weigh before making hugely impactful decisions for the firm.

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Informed trading decisions rely on adapting to new information, incorporating external sources, and using probabilistic strategies to optimize outcomes and assess fair value.
    • Recognizing and addressing decision biases is essential for making informed and objective decisions. Developing second-order knowledge and critically evaluating information sources can help overcome biases and improve decision-making.
    • Our daily choices shape our character and values, and it is important to consider the impact of these decisions on our integrity. Striking a balance between following rules and critically contemplating our actions is crucial.
    • Embracing diversity, analyzing biases, and promoting open communication are essential in making better decisions and gaining a more accurate understanding of the world around us.
    • Traders can improve their skills with the right attitude and willingness to learn. Susquehanna's approach focuses on finding educable individuals and providing support to help them become better decision-makers.
    • Providing appropriate support and scaffolding in the zone of proximal development allows learners to progress and develop their thinking and problem-solving abilities, leading to mastery.
    • Embrace uncertainty, value process over answers, and approach problems with a mindset of experimentation and continuous learning. Understand the importance of probabilistic thinking and actively engage in problem-solving and critical thinking.
    • Feedback and learning are essential for accurate predictions and decision making. Understanding probability distribution and being nuanced in estimating probabilities can improve decision-making. Continuous measurement and feedback are crucial for enhancing prediction quality.
    • Effective decision-making involves incorporating others' input, adopting a probabilistic thinking approach, and communicating constructively. Continuous improvement and adaptation based on feedback are essential for success.
    • Sharing the process and using reflective listening can empower others and lead to better decision-making in various situations, including trading and interpersonal relationships.
    • By assuming good intentions and capabilities in others, we can foster collaboration, protect ourselves in trading, approach conflicts effectively, and find success in hiring and nurturing employees.
    • Effective parenting involves asking questions, understanding perspectives, and nurturing critical thinking skills to foster open communication, trust, and personal growth in children.
    • Establishing open and non-judgmental communication through the phrase "tell me more" fosters understanding, support, alignment, and shared goals, ultimately promoting clarity, self-acceptance, and the ability to overcome overwhelming emotions.
    • Prioritizing mental health is as important as physical health, and seeking help from professionals is a sign of strength. Hard work and responsibility are valuable life lessons.
    • Parents have a significant impact on their children's development by instilling values, prioritizing education, and expressing love. These positive behaviors can be passed down through generations, creating a strong foundation for future success.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Utilizing External Information and Probabilistic Strategies for Informed Trading Decisions

    Decision-making as a trader at Susquehanna (SIG) involves recognizing and dealing with informational asymmetry. SIG's approach is to use external sources of information to improve their own information set and make informed decisions. They focus on continuously updating their opinions in a Bayesian way, incorporating new information to update their probabilities. This probabilistic approach allows them to assess the fair value of options and make pricing decisions based on their expectancy. Additionally, they consider volatility as a determinant of stock movement and factor it into their decision-making process. Ultimately, the key takeaway is that informed decision-making in trading involves adapting to new information and utilizing probabilistic strategies to optimize outcomes.

    Overcoming Decision Biases for Informed and Objective Decisions

    Our ability to appropriately weigh and update new information is often hindered by various decision biases. Todd Simkin highlights the confirmation bias, hindsight bias, and attribution error as factors that contribute to this struggle. When we have a personal stake or a strong affiliation with a particular belief or tribe, we tend to discount or dismiss information that challenges our view. This is evident in the context of trading options, as well as in everyday life decisions. To overcome these biases, it is crucial to have better second-order knowledge, understanding what we know and what we don't know, and to critically evaluate the source and implications of the information we receive. By recognizing and actively addressing these biases, we can make more informed and objective decisions.

    The Impact of Daily Decisions on Character Development and Values

    The decisions we make in our daily lives shape our habits and values. Whether we choose discipline or laziness, self-sacrifice or self-indulgence, honor or dishonor, each decision contributes to the development of our character. Ronald Reagan's quote serves as a reminder of the importance of these choices. It prompts us to consider the impact of our actions on our integrity and the values we hold dear. Additionally, the conversation highlights the role of heuristics, or mental shortcuts, in guiding our behavior. While rules can simplify decision-making and lighten our cognitive load, they also have the potential to limit our ability to accurately weigh new information. It's crucial to strike a balance between following rules and critically contemplating our actions.

    Overcoming Fear and Navigating Call-Out Culture: The Importance of Cognitive Biases and Effective Communication in Decision Making.

    Going against the tribe and challenging the status quo can be difficult due to the fear of backlash and public visibility. Call-out culture often rewards individuals for pointing out mistakes without considering their overall behavior or expertise. Cognitive biases can hinder our ability to prevent poor decisions in the future, but they offer a framework for understanding past mistakes. The ability to see and analyze others' behavior can be valuable in identifying biases and heuristics. Effective communication and collaboration with peers can help improve decision-making by providing different perspectives and preventing biases like anchoring. Surrounding ourselves with diverse individuals who promote truth finding and reward collective learning can lead to better outcomes and a more accurate understanding of the situations we face.

    Susquehanna's Growth Mindset in Teaching Trading

    Susquehanna has a growth mindset when it comes to teaching trading. They believe that traders are made, not born, and that improvement is possible for anyone with the right attitude and willingness to learn. Their approach involves finding smart people who are educable and open about their thought processes, allowing for improvements to be made. This philosophy is rooted in the principles of education and the belief that modeling the process, understanding where someone is, and providing the appropriate support can help them become better decision-makers. This aligns with the teachings of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist who challenged the idea that education is limited by developmental stages and believed that people can continuously learn and grow throughout their lives.

    The Zone of Proximal Development: Guiding Learners to Mastery

    Education is sociocultural and relies on interaction with others who are more knowledgeable. The concept of the zone of proximal development is crucial, as it represents the area where learners can progress with appropriate support or scaffolding. The goal is to provide the minimal amount of support necessary for individuals to move to the next level of mastery. Over time, this support can be dismantled and the zone of proximal development becomes a part of their zone of mastery. It is important not to rely solely on outcomes to determine competence and intervention. Instead, feedback and reflection on the decision-making process are essential in transferring knowledge effectively. By modeling the decision process and focusing on how to do things, learning becomes more effective than just knowing what to do. The process involves experiencing, reflecting, abstracting, and taking action, allowing learners to develop their thinking and problem-solving abilities.

    Embracing uncertainty and valuing process over answers in problem-solving and critical thinking.

    Seeking answers can hinder our ability to problem solve and think critically. Todd Simkin emphasizes that relying solely on answers can lead to paralysis and a fear of making mistakes. He argues that it is important to embrace uncertainty and approach problems with a mindset of experimentation and continuous learning. He also highlights the importance of probabilistic thinking, noting that the world is not set up for definitive answers but rather for states of "it certainly won't happen," "it certainly will happen," or "it might happen." Additionally, the conversation touches on the use of poker as a teaching tool for decision making, highlighting the importance of understanding probabilities and uncertainty. Overall, the key takeaway is to value process over answers and to actively engage in problem-solving and critical thinking.

    The Role of Feedback, Probability Distribution, and Nuance in Decision Making

    Feedback and learning are crucial for making accurate predictions and decisions. By examining past predictions and comparing them to actual outcomes, one can identify mistakes and improve future estimates. The concept of probability distribution plays a significant role in decision making, and being too conservative or not discriminating enough can lead to errors in estimating probabilities. The importance of nuance in understanding probabilities is highlighted, as well as the value of continuous measurement and feedback in improving prediction quality. Weather forecasters serve as examples of professionals who consistently make accurate predictions due to daily feedback. It is also emphasized that experts who make extreme forecasts often receive attention, but more nuanced individuals may actually have a better understanding of probabilities. Additionally, the conversation mentions how playing poker helped the founders of Susquehanna Investment Group develop decision-making skills by applying quantitative analysis and discussing the decision process with each other.

    Enhancing Decision-making: Factors and Strategies

    Effective decision-making involves several important factors. First, it is crucial to incorporate the input and perspectives of others in a constructive way. By actively seeking feedback and being open to disconfirming information, individuals can enhance their decision-making ability. Second, adopting a probabilistic thinking approach is essential. This involves understanding and evaluating risks, asymmetric information, and the impact of selection bias and noisy outcomes. Finally, it is vital to communicate in a constructive manner, focusing on challenging behaviors rather than criticizing the person. Leading with an honest acknowledgment of one's shortcomings and asking open-ended questions can facilitate productive discussions. Ultimately, consistently adapting and improving decision-making processes based on feedback is key, ensuring continuous growth and success.

    Effective Communication Techniques for Constructive Conversations with Children and Traders

    Sharing the process and using reflective listening can lead to more constructive conversations with children and even traders. Todd Simkin initially thought that repeating what someone says without problem-solving or providing context was a silly approach. However, when he tried it with a friend having roommate issues, she felt heard and empowered to make better decisions about her relationship. Todd realized that this method works in unexpected situations and now uses it with his children regularly. Another helpful technique mentioned is starting with the question, "How do you feel about that?" This simple inquiry allows parents to understand their child's perspective without jumping to advice-giving. It is important to establish a foundation of understanding before making decisions, whether it's in trading or interpersonal relationships. The principle of charity is also valuable in decision-making processes, emphasizing the importance of being open-minded and generous in interpreting others' views.

    The Principle of Charity: Creating Favorable Outcomes through Collaboration and Trust

    Having a principle of charity in our interactions with others, whether in trading or personal relationships, can lead to favorable outcomes. By assuming that people are well-intentioned and capable, we give them the benefit of the doubt and create an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition. In trading, this protects us from being taken advantage of by those with better information. On an interpersonal level, it allows us to approach conflicts with the assumption that the other person wants the same resolution as us. This principle extends to hiring and nurturing employees, where we look for individuals who are open to feedback, eager to learn, and willing to use the tools provided to achieve success.

    Understanding and Guiding Your Child's Choices and Decisions

    Effective parenting involves taking the time to understand the reasons behind a child's choices and decisions. Instead of simply imposing rules or making quick judgments, parents can adopt a more thoughtful and inquisitive approach. By asking questions and seeking to understand their child's perspective, parents can provide support and guidance that is meaningful and relevant. This approach allows for open and honest communication, fostering a sense of trust and mutual respect. It also teaches children the importance of critical thinking and weighing the consequences before making decisions. By using this approach in parenting, individuals can create a nurturing environment that encourages thoughtful decision-making and personal growth.

    The Power of "Tell Me More

    Establishing open and non-judgmental communication is crucial for understanding and supporting others. The phrase "tell me more" serves as a valuable tool in this process. By encouraging individuals to provide further details and share their perspectives, it allows for a better understanding of their thoughts and emotions. This approach, rooted in unconditional love and support, helps foster a sense of alignment and shared goals. In Todd Simkin's personal experience, he overcame depression by seeking appropriate support and engaging in conversations with loved ones who cared about his well-being. This promoted clarity, self-acceptance, and the ability to chart his own path towards happiness and fulfillment. Reflecting on these experiences, Todd recognizes the importance of clear communication and self-awareness in dealing with overwhelming emotions.

    Rethinking Mental Health Stigma and Embracing Well-being

    Seeking help from mental health professionals should be viewed as part of one's overall well-being and not as a sign of weakness. Todd Simkin emphasizes the importance of regular check-ins with therapists, just like going for annual dental cleanings or medical check-ups. He challenges the stigma surrounding mental health by equating it to physical health maintenance. Furthermore, Simkin shares his experience as a Jeopardy contestant, highlighting the significance of clear thinking and risk management in his profession. He also reflects on a childhood misunderstanding of his parents' behavior, realizing later in life that their dedication and hard work were valuable life lessons. So, the key takeaway is to prioritize mental health alongside physical health and to value the benefits of hard work and responsibility.

    The Importance of Parental Influence and Values

    Parents play a crucial role in instilling values and modeling behaviors for their children. Todd Simkin shares how his parents' dedication to providing for their family and prioritizing education greatly influenced him and his siblings. Despite the financial strain, they ensured their children received a better education, recognizing the opportunities it could bring. Todd also highlights the importance of expressing love and acceptance openly, just as his parents did. Their unconditional love and consistent affection created a strong foundation of trust and understanding in their relationship. Todd has carried these values and behaviors into his own parenting, passing on the importance of education and love to his children.

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    Newsletter - I share timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home. Join over 600k others every Sunday and subscribe to Brain Food. Try it: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

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    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

    Newsletter - I share timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home. Join over 600k others every Sunday and subscribe to Brain Food. Try it: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

    Follow me: https://beacons.ai/shaneparrish

    Join our membership: https://fs.blog/membership/

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    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

    Newsletter - Each week I share timeless insights and ideas that you can use at work and home. Add it to your inbox: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My New Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

    Follow me: https://beacons.ai/shaneparrish

    Join our membership: https://fs.blog/membership/

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    Johnson is also the founder of Kernel, creator of the world’s first mainstream non-invasive neuroimaging system; and OS Fund, where he invested in the predictable engineering of atoms, molecules, and organisms.

    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

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    Timecodes:

    (00:00:00) Intro

    (00:03:45) On biographies

    (00:08:03) On depression and coping mechanisms

    (00:14:18) Self-destructive behavior and how to pitch Blueprint to someone

    (00:26:50) What a day looks like on Blueprint (exercise and what to eat)

    (00:42:06) How to turn Blueprint protocols into habits

    (00:45:17) Embracing the hate

    (00:49:07) The downsides and lessons of making money

    (00:59:22) The five habits

    (01:05:09) Why does posture matter?

    (01:07:48) Relationship between biological health and sexual health

    (01:09:50) Hair-loss prevention

    (01:15:46) Sunscreen, plastics, and other miscellaneous impacts on aging

    (01:18:30) How will AI help us?

    (01:22:10) On success

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy shares the skills you need but didn't get taught on regulating emotions, setting boundaries, and the best sentence you can say when a partner tells you something difficult.

    While there is an obvious focus on parenting, the most surprising thing about this episode was how much of what we discussed applies to EVERY relationship in your life.

    Learn how to parent more effectively with less stress, repair after a disagreement, regulate emotions, and unlock the next level in all of your relationships. Listen and Learn

    Dubbed the “The Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME Magazine, Dr. Kennedy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. She also hosts “Good Inside with Dr Becky,” the top kids and family show on Apple Podcasts.

    ---

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    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner, CEO of Markel Group, reveals the lessons he’s learned from Charlie Munger and Berkshire Hathaway, how he invests, and the specific way he thinks about opportunity cost.

    Gayner shares the difference between good debt and bad debt, where he disagrees with Munger, and why he focuses on the basics.

    This intimate conversation offers a level of insight and honesty that Tom hasn’t offered anywhere else.

    Gayner is currently the CEO of Markel Group and the Director of The Coca‑Cola Company. He also serves as chairman of the Davis Series Mutual Funds board and on the boards of Graham Holdings and Markel.

    Listen and Learn.

    --

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    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone

    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone
    Blake Eastman has dedicated his entire life to psychology and nonverbal behavior.
     
    In 2009 he founded The Nonverbal Group, a  behavioral research and education company in New York City which conducts large scale studies on human behavior and uses a wide range of technologies to systematically deconstruct and improve human communication.
     
    Eastman dives deep into a number of subjects revolving around how we communicate with one another, including the ability to read nonverbal cues, his thoughts on big talkers vs. silent types, how we can communicate with our partners without complaining, the value of watching ourselves communicate on video, understanding the power structures and social dynamics at work, and so much more.
     
    Eastman has also served as an adjunct psychology professor at the City University of New York for six years where he taught General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Group Dynamics. He is also a former professional poker player and the founder of School of Cards, the first brick-and-mortar poker school in New York City.
     
    Listen and Learn

    --

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