Lessons Learned 2020

Welcome to my annual list of the best things I learned in 2020.

Personal Development

  • If you spend too much time working on good things, then you don’t have much time left to work on great things. Understanding opportunity cost means eliminating good uses of time. And that’s what makes it hard. -James Clear
  • What is obvious to the master is invisible to the student.
  • Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross, it is system to improve, an endless process to refine. From my Atomic Habits summary.
  • From my summary of Getting Things Done by David Allen
    • Getting ultimately grounded and in control of the mundane aspects of life produces a rich field of natural inspiration about our higher levels.
    • Anything held only in your head will take up more (or less) attention than it deserves. Write it down!
    • To function in a knowledge economy, most organizations need people who read.
  • From my summary of Living with the Monks by Jesse Itzler
    • The process is often more valuable than the outcome.
    • I prefer to look at happiness as a lifestyle, not a goal.
    • It only takes a minute to quit, but the moment will replay in your mind tomorrow and many tomorrows after that.
    • Thinking is a skill, a craft, and an art. It can be worked on and improved with practice. We all have an opportunity to become better thinkers.


  • All of these are from my summary of When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley
  • By failing to observe a principle, you can break yourself against it.
  • When our attitudes and actions are right, our work is very pleasing to God. That’s the role of work in its purest form.
  • You’ll never know what God is willing to do on your behalf until you’re willing to step out and trust him.
  • Because your work is important to you, it’s important to God – because you’re important to God.
  • God takes full responsibility for the life that’s wholly devoted to him.

Philosophy or Psychology

  • As neurons are trained and become more efficient, they can process faster. This means that the speed at which we think is plastic. Faster neurons lead to faster thoughts. The Brain the Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
  • Pluralistic Ignorance, a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but go along with it because they assume, incorrectly, that most others accept it. Love Like That by Les Parrott
  • People who lack the cognitive skills required to perform a task typically also lack the metacognitive skills required to access their performance. Incompetent people are at a double disadvantage, since they are not only incompetent but also likely unaware of it. -Erik Angner, Behavioral Scientist, April 13 (found this quote in a memo from Howard Marks)
  • Getting over the fear of being embarrassed is one of the most liberating gifts you can give yourself.
  • The intellect should simplify things, not make them more cerebral. From Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.

Management and Leadership

  • People can handle bad news better than no news. -Craig Groeschel
  • Van Halen had a clause in their contract with concert promoters that a bowl of M&M’s must be provided backstage with every brown one removed. David Lee Roth explained that this was included as a test. If they saw a brown M&M in the bowl, they knew to line check the entire production because you could guarantee they will have missed other critical components of the show. The Checklist Manifesto.
  • From my summary of Getting Things Done by David Allen
    • It is possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control
    • Thinking in more effective ways about projects and situations can make things happen sooner, better, and more successfully.
    • The savviest executives know the value of sacrificing the seemingly urgent for the truly important.
    • Building in quality time for review and regrouping is both critical and sorely lacking in most organizations.
    • If you have systems and habits ready to leverage your ideas, your productivity can expand exponentially.
    • Meetings are wasteful when there is a lack of rigor relative to their purpose and desired outcomes.


  • From my summary of Mastering the Market Cycle by Howard Marks
    • It is from the extremes of the cycle of fear and greed that arise the greatest investment profits.
    • The greatest source of investment risk is the belief that there is no risk.
    • Success is not good for most people. Success can change people, and usually not for the better.
    • In investing there is a complex relationship between humility and confidence.
    • Ignoring cycles and extrapolating trends is one of the most dangerous things an investor can do.
  • From my summary of The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
    • The market will undervalue, relatively at least, companies that are out of favor because of unsatisfactory developments of a temporary nature.
    • If you overestimate how well you really understand an investment or overstate your ability to ride out a temporary plunge in prices, it doesn’t matter what you own or how the market does.

General Knowledge

Most of these lessons learned are from books in my 2020 Reading List.

Other Lessons Learned Lists

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