Same As Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes

If you’ve been reading my newsletter for any amount of time, you’re familiar with how often I reference and quote Morgan Housel. I just finished reading his latest book, Same As Ever: A Guide To What Never Changes.

And you’d never guess, but yes, I really enjoyed it. As with most things he writes, he does such a good job of condensing principles into just a few easy-to-understand sentences.

Since I don’t have a ton of time to write this week, I wanted to share some of the little nuggets of wisdom that are scattered throughout the book.

On predicting the future:

“We are very good at predicting the future, except for the surprises—which tend to be all that matter. By definition there’s not much you can do about this. It’s one of those things that just is. It’s impossible to plan for what you can’t imagine, and the more you think you’ve imagined everything the more shocked you’ll be when something happens that you hadn’t considered.”

“Nassim Taleb says, ‘Invest in preparedness, not in prediction.’ That gets to the heart of it.”

On managing expectations:

“The first rule of happiness is low expectations.”

“Today’s economy is good at generating three things: wealth, the ability to show off wealth, and great envy for other people’s wealth.”

“It goes like this: You think you want progress, both for yourself and for the world. But most of the time that’s not actually what you want. You want to feel a gap between what you expected and what actually happened. And the expectation side of that equation is not only important, but it’s often more in your control than managing your circumstances.”

On things that can’t be measured:

“Jeff Bezos once said, ‘The thing I have noticed is when the anecdotes and the data disagree, the anecdotes are usually right. There’s something wrong with the way you are measuring it.’”

On feeling like the world is getting worse:

“Think about one-hundred-year events. One-hundred-year floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, financial crises, frauds, pandemics, political meltdowns, economic recessions, and so on endlessly. Lots of terrible things can be called one-hundred-year events.

A one-hundred-year event doesn’t mean it happens every one hundred years. It means there’s about a 1 percent chance of it occurring in any given year. That seems low. But when there are hundreds of different independent one-hundred-year events, what are the odds that one of them will occur in a given year?

Pretty good.

It’s always been like that. What’s different now is the size of the global economy, which increases the sample size of potential crazy things that might happen. When eight billion people interact, the odds of a fraudster, a genius, a terrorist, an idiot, a savant, a jerk, or a visionary moving the needle in a significant way on any given day is nearly guaranteed.”

“But we shouldn’t be surprised that the world feels historically broken in recent years and will continue that way going forward. It’s not—we just see more of the bad stuff that’s always happened than we ever saw before.

On the power of stories:

“Some of the most important questions to ask yourself are: Who has the right answer, but I ignore because they’re inarticulate? And what do I believe is true but is actually just good marketing?”

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. —BERTRAND RUSSELL”

On how stress can sometimes lead to great progress:

“A carefree and stress-free life sounds wonderful only until you recognize the motivation and progress it prevents.”

On the negative impact of always striving for efficiency:

“Many people strive for efficient lives, where no hour is wasted. But an overlooked skill that doesn’t get enough attention is the idea that wasting time can be a great thing.

Psychologist Amos Tversky once said that ‘the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.’’’

“Nassim Taleb says, ‘My only measure of success is how much time you have to kill.’

More than a measure of success, I think it’s a key ingredient. The most efficient calendar in the world—one where every minute is packed with productivity—comes at the expense of curious wanderings and uninterrupted thinking, which eventually become the biggest contributors to success.”

“The key is realizing that the more perfect you try to become, the more vulnerable you generally are.”

On the difficulty of staying patient:

“So rather than assuming long-term thinkers don’t have to deal with short-term nonsense, ask the question, ‘How can I endure a never-ending parade of nonsense?’ Long-term thinking can be a deceptive safety blanket that people assume lets them bypass the painful and unpredictable short run. But it never does.

It might be the opposite: The longer your time horizon, the more calamities and disasters you’ll experience.

Baseball player Dan Quisenberry once said, ‘The future is much like the present, only longer.’ Dealing with that reality requires a certain kind of alignment that’s easy to overlook.”

On the benefits of staying patient:

“More than I want big returns, I want to be financially unbreakable. And if I’m unbreakable I actually think I’ll get the biggest returns, because I’ll be able to stick around long enough for compounding to work wonders.

An important lesson from history is that the long run is usually pretty good and the short run is usually pretty bad.

The trick in any field—from finance to careers to relationships—is being able to survive the short-run problems so you can stick around long enough to enjoy the long-term growth.”

On the allure of complexity:

“In finance, spending less than you make, saving the difference, and being patient is perhaps 90 percent of what you need to know to do well. But what’s taught in college? How to price derivatives and calculate net present value.

In health it’s sleep eight hours, move a lot, eat real food, but not too much. But what’s popular? Supplements, hacks, and pills.

Computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra once wrote:

‘Simplicity is the hallmark of truth—we should know better, but complexity continues to have a morbid attraction. When you give an academic audience a lecture that is crystal clear from alpha to omega, our audience feels cheated… The sore truth is that complexity sells better.’”

If you’re looking for a good book, I would definitely recommend giving it a read.

Thanks for reading!

This article was originally featured on “Money Talks” Substack.

Jake Elm, CFP® is a financial advisor at Dentist Advisors. Jake a graduate of Utah Valley University’s nationally ranked Personal Financial Planning program. As a financial advisor at Dentist Advisors, he provides dentists with fiduciary guidance related to investments, debt, savings, taxes, and insurance. Learn more about Jake.