Act or Adapt: Nesting Dolls

One of my most popular blog posts compared Howard Marks to Mastroika - “Russian nesting” - dolls. Marks is a great investor and better thinker. Warren Buffett drops everything else to read each of Marks’ periodic memos.

The gist of the post was that each of us is like Marks. We’re all nested within ourselves, our homes, and our heritage. Each affects how we act.

For things that happen in ‘the head’ we have the most control. Many major philosophies have advice to the effect of; it’s not what happens to you but how you react to it. Our worldview is there too. It’s where the big five personality traits - openness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extroversion, and conscientious - reside.

Then there is the ‘the building’ we operate in. At work it’s the rules we follow and the culture. At home it’s our relationships with family and friends. It’s the small group norms and interactions we have with people. While in ‘the head’ we have a lot of autonomy, here we have less. We act less and adapt more.

The final layer is ‘the environment’. For investor’s it’s a bull or bear market. For athletes it’s the weather. For soldiers it’s the geopolitics of the region. Here we adapt most of all.

Depending on the scale we can act more or adapt more, though no condition is completely independent of the other. A lot of what we’ll explore in this email series will be at one of those levels; the head, the building, or the environment. This week will be a preview.