To Be And To Last #11

This week we explore $800M phantom teams, presidential career paths, and flying squirrels.

From a rural farm to the White House

Robert Caro is the Elvis Presley of authors, and his book The Path To Power is no exception. Aiming to uncover how Lyndon B. Johnson climbed to the US presidency, Caro conducted hundreds of interviews, combed through thousands of presidential archives, and even moved to Texas to win the trust of Lyndon’s childhood friends (he also negotiated with the national Parks Service to conduct one of the most critical interviews in Lyndon’s preserved childhood home).

When published in 1982, this book scandalized the world with previously unknown revelations into Lyndon’s younger years, including the way he stole student elections while still in college. I can’t recommend this book more highly, and I’m personally looking forward to the rest of Caro’s series on LBJ.

When your brain sabotages you

Parkinson observed that humans spend more time on trivial areas than on complex areas that often matter more. Everyone feels informed enough to have an opinion on where to put the bike shed, but designing a nuclear plant is complicated enough that most of us just shut down and go along with the experts.

In fact, we gain by countering this tendency: encouraging fast decisions on trivial matters, while investing in self- and group-education on the more strategic items.

(Image thanks to The Coders Blog)

How to die with no regrets?

Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

That’s what you’ll find at the top of Paul Graham’s digital todo list. Why? It’s an inversion of the five most common regrets of those facing death.

Squirrel Ninja Warrior?

Stuck in lockdown with the rest of us, former-NASA engineer Mark Rober did something normal and bought a bird feeder. That’s normal ends. After squirrels raided his “squirrel-proof” Amazon bird feeder, Mark built an entire obstacle course with a treasure chest of nuts at the end. These squirrels deserve a TV deal.

The $800M NBA team that never was

In the late 1970s, Ozzie and Daniel Silna wanted to own an NBA team. They never succeeded, but they did get paid $800M by the NBA over 4 decades.

Long story short, the Silna brothers bought an ABA team with hopes of merging it into the NBA. But while the two basketball leagues did merge, their team got left behind. The brothers negotiated a perpetual profit share for their lost team, and then the NBA took off.

A fascinating lesson in negotiating the right second-best options.


To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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