Ideas From Daniel Gross

8 Jul, 2020 | People Notes, Startups, Habits


Uses extensive tracking to measure personal performance (sleep, food, time, etc). This is part of his belief that being introspective and self-aware is a key part of self-improvement over time. Essentially, you can run experiments on yourself.

Changing your environment is a key factor in personal change. It creates a path of least resistance to change. This works for health (don’t keep bad food around you). But also for habits and behaviours (spend time with people you aspire to be like).


We can all develop our personal moats: read long form, write frequently, be healthy, become a lucky person, be known as productive (output person), be self aware and reflective (know how you work best, when, etc.) and develop an inspiring environment (cohort of people)(Personal Moats).

Two tips. First, how to think about wealth: dilution matters, stay frugal, pay attention to taxes, buy speed. Second, tactical advice: use tax incentive buckets, ask investors for a secondary, make concentrated investments otherwise it becomes a tax nightmare - simple is best (Wealth Tips for Founders).

One hack for happiness, is to spend time with people who you aspire to. Turn those people into routine people i.e. people you see regularly (On Happiness).

On Startups

Start startups as small projects. Start small. Pick ideas that come back to you. Tell people about it (What to Build).

Most advice is given with cognitive ease on the giver (not thinking about your business). The goal of a startup is to find the secret, and you find the secret by speaking to users (Refinement Revenue).

On Habits

The best way to change your habits (and life) is to change your environment. Want to be healthy - don’t have bad food around. Want to work harder - surround yourself with productive people (Environment Diet).

Personal KPIs are a useful way to track metrics and monitor performance (Personal KPIs). Introspecting yourself is particularly valuable (Introspect Yourself).


Daniel Gross on Venture stories 

  • 4 - he’s working on the allocation of talent problem and then turning it into a game,  How can I gamify indie making? 
  • 20 - one thing about games is if you want to foster cooperation, players need to feel there is enough room for everyone to win. Sequoia and Andersen don’t share ideas because they are competing. If there was infinite good companies maybe they’d share more ideas. Some things have a cane quality, shagging girls, making money, football 
  • 37 - re sleeping, you should spend 3 months figuring out what is best for you then move on. 
  • 39 - homeschooling is interesting as it allows similar effects that the internet does, more specific and catered schools. Less tending to the mean.  AirBnb for home care / child care. 
  • 45 - ISAs are great in idea. One thing to watch out for - in the embryonic you don’t want people to be able to value and trade on it short term. It should be long hold buys otherwise you damage the person.
  • 48 - growth isn’t overnight. It’s about getting stuck into a positive feedback loop that can suddenly accelerate you down a certain path. In general we have little willpower, it’s more effective to change your environment (note you only have to change environment once, not your daily decision). 
  • 54 - even a perfect company can’t beat a dog market. Pick a game that can be won. 
  • 55 - pick people that are fun and interesting to be around. A down side of home schooling is you don’t get to be around other people and get that feedback. People read biographies because it’s a meta version of that. You think what would Rockefeller do?  Mental Models - Steve Yegi post
  • 59 - very curious about a) better decision making b) how people make big life decisions (very under researched). Realise you are flawed and need to observe yourself (view yourself in 3rd person). Not “I do not understand what’s going on?” But “why don’t I know what’s going on?”. Important to receive feedback and make it a good experience for them - so let them know and give them updates.
  • 61 - big life discussions like wife, work, freinds - we only have platitudes.  Bob Keagan development framework 

Daniel Gross on Knowledge Project

  • 12 - the important thing is to be experimenting, not the results themselves. The results will be individual (e.g. go to sleep at 8pm). But the obsession of finding your optimisations is important (be deliberate! I.e. testing the best time to go to sleep). 
  • 20.30 - you should spend 80% of your time on the focused things you know work (exploit), then 20% being very opportunistic. You need to walk around with a metal detector (consistently listening for opportunities) and also learn to act on it when it fires (explore). You need to know what is worth deviating away from the plan.
  • 33 - he is working on the meta problem of creating more geniuses. YouTube is the only other thing similar (for its reach - huge - and it’s form - video). Jordan Peterson is an example of someone who has emerged from this platform as a quasi-spiritual leader.
  • 38 - Capitalism is great at getting people to do things. The problem is it tends to reward people in the short term, rather than the long term. For example, Hershey’s is rewarded for how people feel in the short term which leads to obesity. Similar with Facebook, optimised for short term engagement but in the long term creates a society that is reactionary. Could we create an incentive scheme that reward the long term? If not that, can we create a cultural game to deviate away from that. 
  • 44 - Founders are useful in C Suite teams because they have the confidence to disrupt themselves (start again).
  • 46 - How to Win video (leadership) - a distance between your actions and objective reality (play life as a game in third person). Choose your reaction! (7 habits). Second, be aware of when you are acting out of insecurity (be vulnerable and share). People want to work for people who are compelling. So people are scared to be vulnerable because they think that will reduce their score with people. But actually that’s a poor prediction, done well, it can make you more compelling to work for. Third, people early into leadership tend to overwork themselves. Which is okay to a point, until it makes your decision worse. So look after yourself. Lack of sleep will make you less compelling. Fourth, you should be interested people (so that you can design the best game for them).
  • 54 - Is it more important to optimise your food diet or brain diet? Perhaps your brain. Books are important as they are long and persuasive. Put bad books down. Read a lot but move between them quickly. Have multiple on the go so you can cycle to another. Careful of usage of Twitter (good in short term, not long). But you have to develop your own defences. He also turns black and white on his phone (more like a dumb phone).
  • 1.06 - people you respect and are close to you will change your mind more than others. They have root level access to your brain. When someone has an opposing view to you, at the very least you should try to understand what lead them there. Everyone acts rationally locally. Hitler thought what he was doing was right and normal.
  • 1.18 - what is happiness? Flow. Being in a situation where you are learning at the optimal rate and moving forward. He plans and designs his life around this. 

Daniel Gross on David Perrell Podcast

  • 9 - video games are a good metaphor for life. You want enough difficulty to be interesting but not so much that you stop playing (similar to Sam Altman’s idea of momentum).
  • 31 - Goodreads could be way better. For example, shared notes and leaderboard on reading. 
  • 33 -how to balance long term vs short term learning? Construct a plan. Or said in another way, make your own game. First, imagine level 10. Create a strong fantasy and vision in your mind. Then reverse-engineer back to level 1. Make sure it’s small enough that you can complete the level. If it gets hard, just dial the difficulty down.  Paul Graham city whisper 
  • 38 - Optimise for the right small group. Focus on your immediate environment. Its really important (this works well for Israel).
  • 42 - Forcing functions are amazing. So tell people you are about and trigger yourself to do it. Israel’s forcing function is having to be great, given its situation. E.g. weapons (iron dome) and water cleaning. Army also brings a melting pot of smart people together. But only produces execution risk companies. Market risk is still the lock of Silicon Valley (that weird wacky optimism). Why Nations Fail - book 
  • 1.04 - what is the largest collection of good habits I can have. Lock it in early in life. Experiment early in life more so it’s all sorted by your 30s.  Blog posts
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