To Be And To Last #33

This week we explore a burger company that was too good at math, a person who wants you to retire early, and two of my favorite science fiction recommendations.

Would you like some sci-fi with that?

In the quiet moments remaining before 2021 wakes up, I’ll be doing some reading, and I’ve prepared a couple of my favorite recommendations for you also.

If you’re a fan of fantasy sci-fi, then Iain M. Bank’s The Player of Games might capture your imagination. Combining geopolitics with sci-fi, it tells the tale of an intergalactic conquest where everything depends on one bored but potent game player.

If you’d prefer more relatable sci-fi, then Liu Cixin’s Ball Lightning explores how meteorological phenomenons could be turned into weapons. And it’s got a cheeky ending that ties into Cixin’s excellent Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy.

I’ve found the right sci-fi can awaken a new level of creativity by breaking out of the box of current reality, while still obeying the core first principles.

Rethinking money

Money’s a complicated subject, and everyone’s situation is different*. That said, I’ve personally found a healthier relationship with money through some of the principles shared by “Mr. Money Mustache”, who espouses a low-spending, high-saving lifestyle that allows for early retirement.

The point isn’t really to retire, but rather to be free to pursue fulfilling work without feeling constrained by finances.

As I understand it, the core dual principles are simple:

  1. Minimize spend that doesn’t make you happy

  2. Build a simple investing structure to enable compounding returns

“They often assume some kind of extreme frugality that would be undesirable to live under, and that’s really inaccurate … I set my spending at the maximum happiness level, and then stop spending when I stop getting more happiness.” - Mr. Money Mustache on The Tim Ferriss Show

Ever heard of A&W’s Third Pounder burger?

Everyone’s heard of a quarter pounder burger, made famous by that connoisseur of good food and better real estate that is McDonalds. But you’ve probably never had the pleasure of enjoying A&W’s even bigger Third Pounder.

Back in the 1980s, A&W decided to compete with McDonalds by simply making a bigger burger. Instead of a quarter pound of beef, they launched a burger with a third pound of beef (that’s 33% more beef, for those keeping score at home).

Trouble is, the number three is smaller than the number four, and most of us do not intrinsically understand fractions.

“Why,” they asked, “should we pay the same amount for a third-pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s? You’re overcharging us.” - Focus group response to A&W’s Third Pounder

As a result, people voted with their feet and overwhelmingly bought the (smaller but bigger sounding) quarter pounder. The bigger burger was eventually pulled from the shelves.


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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