Obama: How I Make Decisions

This past week I linked to Michael Lewis’s excellent profile of Barack Obama. Lewis spent six months with the President and the resulting picture, at least to me, was that of an extremely lonely man trapped in the role he wanted after having learned the hard way what exactly it entails. And by all accounts, it looks like he’s got another four years of it ahead of him.

Anyway, I wanted to pull this paragraph out of the piece because I found it to be especially relevant to investors and their decision-making process on a daily basis. I love the idea of having the trivial stuff on auto-pilot so as to focus on the big stuff…

This time he covered a lot more ground and was willing to talk about the mundane details of presidential existence. “You have to exercise,” he said, for instance. “Or at some point you’ll just break down.” You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” The self-discipline he believes is required to do the job well comes at a high price. “You can’t wander around,” he said. “It’s much harder to be surprised. You don’t have those moments of serendipity. You don’t bump into a friend in a restaurant you haven’t seen in years. The loss of anonymity and the loss of surprise is an unnatural state. You adapt to it, but you don’t get used to it—at least I don’t.”


Obama’s Way (Vanity Fair)

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