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The Power of Choice with Greg Lewin

George Grombacher August 11, 2023

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The Power of Choice with Greg Lewin

LifeBlood: We talked about the power of choice, how our choices determine the trajectory of our lives, how to make better decisions, four ideas you can implement immediately, and how to get started, with Greg Lewin, Advisor to Large Family Offices, author and speaker.      

Listen to learn how to make better choices more quickly and easily!

You can learn more about Greg at GregLewin.Net and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Greg Lewin

Greg Lewin

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Carry on. Greg Lewin is a financial services industry veteran and expert. He’s an adviser to large family offices and author and speaker, his newest book is solving for uncertainty. Welcome back to the show, Greg.

Greg Lewin 0:14
Thanks for having me.

george grombacher 0:15
Tell someone about your personal lives more about your work, and what motivated you to put pen to paper for the new book.

Greg Lewin 0:23
What motivates me to put pen to paper is I’m infinitely curious about human behavior. And I am always trying to be better at being me is basically what it is. And I’m always thinking about ideas and researching ideas. And if I write enough, and I think others can benefit from it, then I keep writing and formalize it a little bit, I used to publish books, I don’t do that anymore. Because I the the intention for me is to distribute as widely as possible for free, I don’t want anyone to pay for this stuff. I’m not trying to make money from it. I think we’re kind of at a very peculiar, difficult, uncertain time, in, in so many ways. And so I thought, you know, there’s nothing else that matters in life, but how you decide how you choose, that’s the only thing that’s truly yours. Yet, we never get training on how to choose better. And I thought that was a big error in judgment, in general, in the education system, etc. And so I thought I would try to put some thoughts together that help people work, you know, make choices that are smarter, when smart choices are going to be more highly valued in the future than ever before.

george grombacher 1:52
That’s, it really is a very profound thing. Okay? Right.

Greg Lewin 1:59
It’s everything, it really is everything, if you think about your entire life, the only thing you have is your choice, you don’t have anything else, you don’t have a marriage, you have a relationship that you choose to stay in, right? You know, if you make a different choice, then you don’t have a marriage, it’s the choice. It’s not the marriage or the contract that you have, it’s your choices that you have. And we never, ever teach people how to be good at choosing. And yet, it’s the most important thing you’ll ever have in your life. And so, you know, I’m one of the things that have I’ve been fortunate in is that I think the stock market’s infinitely interesting. And I think it is the most complicated organism for understanding and prediction that there is on the planet, it probably the only thing that rivals ourselves, and all How complicated is being a human being and just sort of moving forward through the world. And so it is this great proxy for understanding choice, because it’s very objective, you know, I choose to do A or B. And then later on, you maybe can calculate whether it was a good choice or bad or but it could be, you know, who knows, but in the stock market, it’s measured in black and white, you know, win lose success, failure. So all of a sudden, there is this, this game out there, that not only demands that you make complex, dynamic decisions, but it judges you quite objectively, and there is no extra credit for effort or fair or unfair. And so, working with the stock market, is an ideal way of learning how to make better choices for absolutely everything in your life. So I use my experience there, because I always want to get better at the stock market. But I don’t want to just to be for that I want it to be for everything that I do in my life. And, you know, it came up what with the things that I think are most important that people could possibly learn from, and I kind of put together a little system that might help people make better choices.

george grombacher 4:14
How hard or easy was that to sort of boil down into that system?

Greg Lewin 4:19
You know, the only reason that wasn’t is every, it wasn’t that hard is super hard. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about for decades. I always, you know, and I’m I’m never, I’m never sure what I’m trying to drive at. And I come up with sort of intermediate conclusions, and they’re satisfactory at the time. And then you think about things further and you say, wait a minute, I really haven’t gotten where I need to be. And so you know, it says something and I’m sure when this is done, I’m going to read this book 40 times and figure out what how I could make it better because that’s the only thing that really interests me is human behavior and choice. I don’t think there’s much else that’s that Interesting. And so you know, I’ll just keep on working at it my whole thing. I used to get in trouble back when I was managing money at a big firm, because my desk was always clean. And everybody thought that a messy desk was a sign up. Back when, when people had paper, you know, now they have just computers on their desk, but back in the day, you had paper and they’d be people with stacks of paper. And everyone thought, wow, that’s, that’s a, that’s a busy man. And I, I thought that had nothing to do with being productive or busy. So people used to look down on me, I just had a clean desk, because my whole thinking in life and everything is very few things matter. And they matter more than you know, how do you find those few things. And that’s a little bit what I present in the book, there’s about distills to four ideas kind of that are most important. And probably I never actually counted, there may be another four in there that support those four ideas. And that’s the core of what I was able to figure out so far in decision making.

george grombacher 6:12
Do you have a favorite or most important of those four ideas?

Greg Lewin 6:17
Well, I’ll list the four. And I’ll let you decide what would be most interesting to you. Okay, okay. The four are, the first one is very touchy feely, it’s self awareness. But if you think about making good choices, you need to have first more choices, right? You need, you know, Steve Jobs said, creativity is just connecting stuff. And so if you want to be creative, if that’s part of a person who is able to do stuff, you need to have see lots of things. And of course, when we construct all our biases, and our judgments and our assumptions, we see less. And so if you can break down those biases, but at the same time, if you were self aware, and you actually knew what you truly wanted, all of a sudden you create priorities, motivation, effort, all these kinds of things flow naturally. And so when you become self aware, which is a monumentally difficult thing to do, all of a sudden, you have more choices. And you know how to get what you want when you do that. So it’s odd, you have to look within before you can see outside yourself. But self aware is the first thing you need to become. And I explain to I zero of this is psychological. It’s, it’s all digestible, I hate using thing words and phrases and ideas that are difficult to grasp. This is all made for simple. And so I try to explain to people where, where all their stuff comes from all the baggage that they carry comes from, and how you can package it and change it kind of simply, and some tools that will help you do that. So that’s self awareness. The second idea is all about circumstances versus perspective. So circumstances is all the stuff you got you feel you got to deal with all the stuff that hits you over the head, I don’t care if it’s a bad election result, a health problem, losing money in the stock, if that’s the stuff you feel you got to deal with. Perspective is how you sort of packaged digest and accept that as your reality. I and I make this statement in the book, because I remember that I made it is that they’re kind of equally important and all choice boils down to circumstance versus perspective. And I would say, from my experience, and I give examples to prove my experiences, that we spend about 80% of the time trying to change circumstances and maybe 20% of the time changing perspective. But there’s only one big difference between perspective and circumstances. You have zero control over circumstances and 100% control over perspective. So instead of trying to change others and change circumstances, why don’t you change, spend more time changing yourself? And so the second big thing is asking people one is to look within as the first thing they have to do in order to get where they want to go. The second is changing sort of their compass, their orientation from examining circumstances, and then examining how they deal with circumstances. So that would be number two. The third thing, it was an interesting phrase said by Eric Schmidt a long time ago At Google, he was the seat former CEO of Google. And he said, we don’t run this quote this business on great answers, we run it on great questions. And when you think about the difference between an answer and a question, it’s a very, very profound statement. Because answers are sort of Terminus points. And questions are beginning points. And answers are like a satisfying end to a journey. Questions are the beginning of the journey that you keep pushing, pushing, pushing for more for more. And asking great questions is really one of the great ways of not only breaking down a lot of the issues we’ve already talked about, but really becoming a thoughtful person becoming seeing stuff that you don’t normally seen before. And so I was trying to figure out a tool to help people become great questioners, not an easy thing to come up with. And I actually realized it was all about listening. We are competitive listeners. You think of yourself in a conversation. What are you doing, when you’re having a conversation, you’re waiting until somebody says something that syncs up with something that you believe so that you can talk over them and make your point and promote yourself. That’s basically what competitive listeners a different kind, or I put any word you want in front of it is tentative, intentional, whatever it will call this other listening kind of strategy is actually just going for comprehension. You want to learn something, you have a different you have a growth mindset, building that in. And when you create that, when you create that you actually want to not compete, compete with the person you’re talking with. You want to encourage them to share more, so that you get something out of it when I go into a conversation, because I’m good at competitive listening, you know, where, because I’m very interested in what I have to say. But I realize that you know, so one of the things I’ll say, when I’m starting to talk to somebody, just to myself, it’s just a quiet little cue, I will say, you want to get nowhere or you want to learn something, your choice, you know, and then you know, you want to be an idiot, or you want to you want to grow, you choose, and and it helps me just reframe All right, let me let me lay back a little bit. Let me listen, let me encourage them to push further. So I can get something from it don’t have to agree with it could could end up I’m done. It’s a waste of my time. But what if I capture something that’s interesting? What if it takes me in a slightly different direction. And by the way, when you listen, you build networks. Because in a sense, you’re telling the other people you value what they think. And when somebody thinks you value what they think they all of a sudden transpose it and believe that I am a smart person, because I’m willing to listen to me. You know, however, I got those words, it was very confusing, but you know what I’m saying? It’s a very, very powerful technique. So talk a little bit about that. And then the last thing that’s involved is capital allocation. I’ve always thought, people Wall Street, even the most sophisticated people in Wall Street, get it all wrong. They’re all about right and wrong. I’m right and wrong, it has nothing to do with right or wrong. Everything has to do with putting the right amount of assets against those assets that have the best risk reward and the least amount of assets against those with the poorest risk reward. If I buy 10 stocks, and I put $10 in nine of them and 2000 in the 10th really doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong nine times if I get the 10th, right, the portfolio is a success. It’s all about capital allocation, which is a really big subject. Because capital isn’t money, it is money, but it’s also your time, your effort. You know, your relationships, everything you value is your Personal Capital. How do you use it? How do you allocate it? You know, a kid taking a test, you know, he’s, he’s not studying the more important question because studying is sort of trivial. Is what’s he putting into the study? does? Does he see this test as a step to maybe getting a better grade? Does he see it as a step to getting into a better college? Does he see it as a step to toward a different life and a goal, when he understands a broader context, then maybe he can begin to allocate more carefully. If you’d haven’t done that. Then it’s just a test and you’ll put in some effort and see how it goes. So really, the four concepts are self awareness, circumstance versus perspective. I call it intentional listening, which is what I use in the book, and capital allocation, and I explore those fairly deeply to help people Have something portable, simple, transportable and usable, in what I think is going to be an incredibly uncertain world, where you need to be able to make better choices quickly and easily. And that’s what I’m trying to make it happen. That’s easy.

george grombacher 15:18
better choices more quickly, more easily. Yes, that was that was really good.

Greg Lewin 15:25
When things are complicated, that’s what it is. It’s, it’s, it’s, uh, I mean, I always say this when I’m, when I’m thinking. I always say distill, distill, distill, what’s the essence? What do I have to know? Get rid of all the noise, get rid of everything. So you can find the signal?

george grombacher 15:46
In the benefit seems obvious. There are multiple, multiple, but what, what what do I stand to gain as more optimal decision maker?

Greg Lewin 15:55
Well, everything, there’s nothing else you have, you have nothing else but your choices. You know, there was this fabulous book written by Guy, this brilliant professor at Stanford called behave. And when he goes through for 800 pages, he ends with a conclusion, I’m just paraphrasing, trying to understand human behavior. It’s just really complicated. That’s, that’s its conclusion. Because we all come up with these very simple things, you know, eat this and all of a sudden my metabolism changes and eat this or do this exercise in my mood changes. Since just not true. Nothing’s true, nothing simple. Everything modulates everything all the time. Okay. So it’s really, really complicated. And what he also says is that you, you’re, what you’re given your, your physical presence, you know, whether you’re a healthy person or a sick person, or a smart person, or not a smart person or a great athlete or not. These don’t amount to Destiny, they’re just predisposition. And that’s a huge disparity. Because it means that the, you still can dictate what happens next. So you have you don’t have Destiny not predestined for result, you’re predisposed for many, many results. And it is your choices that dictate what those results will be. And they are entirely up to you. Although most people don’t understand that most people don’t understand how little choice they have. You know, I one of the things. We all live in incredibly tiny boxes, that’s basically what it is tiny, tiny boxes, and they’re, they’re built out of the stories that we’ve decided to believe. And the reason I know that we live in tiny boxes is when anybody ever thinks outside the box, it’s praised, like, you know, like a gift from God, because none of us else have been able to escape our boxes, and they keep our choices so much smaller than they possibly can be. And when you hopefully, that’s what I’m trying to present. If I can show you the context of what’s going on in your life, it’ll make it easier for you to change that those things. And then choice becomes more interesting. And then your results, your outcomes become more interesting. Your life takes new directions, from being better at the stock market to be better with relationships to being better with your kids to being to making good choices with food to whatever doesn’t matter. Everything shouldn’t be on the table.

george grombacher 18:47
You think that everybody? Is everybody like you? Are you different? In your recognition slash desire? I guess I’m getting it. Does everybody want full agency or their lives?

Greg Lewin 19:06
I think people don’t entertain the question. So I don’t I think it’s very, you know, and it’s become much more burdensome, right? I mean, social media is putting you in a channel of how you’re supposed to think how you’re supposed to behave. And a story I relate in the book that I’ll never forget. My partner at one of the firms I worked with was a great collector of contemporary art before it was popular. And as people started getting wealthy on Wall Street many years ago, they started using art as a medium for demonstrating their success. And they used to come to my partner to get validation because he’d been doing it for so many years and was so profoundly thoughtful. And we’re having our morning meeting one day it was he and I we were Running a book of business is just fantastic guy, or is still alive. And partner barges in very senior dude barges in, and he’s got this photograph to show my partner. So he runs to the side desk shows him. And my partner is just you know, he’s is he’s got it all right needs this profoundly complimentary Oh, fabulous, fabulous, you’d never say a bad thing in his life. Big partner walks out with a big grin on his face. And I can see Arthur, before he’s got to close the door before we’ll start talking about our business. And I can see Arthur just looking down and he’s shaking his head. When the guy closes the door, he says it’s a matter. He said. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, not what he wants to do. And it said so much to me. So here’s a very successful person, you know, infinite resources, everybody knew his name. And, and yet, he’s, he’s living in his tiny box. And, and so I remember that. And that’s, that’s a kind of a good story to tell about what it takes to actually know what once you find and can tap into what gives you what you really want in life, what’s truly yours, not what’s what’s supposed to be. It’s amazing. It’s like a wellspring, for motivation for energy for effort for so much. But you have to, you have to look at yourself kind of carefully, you have to spend a lot of time with you. And it’s not a matter of narcissism, it’s just called Curiosity. Because if you can find out who and what really interests you, you become really good at stuff really motivated, doesn’t mean it turns into lots of money. That’s not the only way it works. Maybe if you knew a little bit more about yourself, money wasn’t the only thing you were after. But if you don’t take that time, you’ll never know. And then once you do that, if you can make some of these adjustments, all sudden life, I can become really interesting, even when times are most difficult. And I think, I think in fact, when since I believe times are going to be extremely difficult in the years coming forward. And I make some little analysis in the book to begin with. And I warn people, if you’re not interested in just skip to page, whatever, of why things are going to be so difficult. All of a sudden choice becomes more important, not less than important, you don’t resign because things are difficult, you actually sharpen the steel, because things are difficult, you engage, and this is your weapon, this is the only weapon you’ve got everything else is noise. This is it. And it’s up to you. And so this is like a little call to see if if you’d like to sharpen the steel.

george grombacher 23:03
I love it. I’ve loved everything about the conversation, I am grateful for that you took the time to sort of think about what you’ve been thinking about or more. So what you’ve been doing over the past several decades, and kind of break it down into a framework that is digestible by others. And I’m such a fan of of being mindful of of our resources, because they’re finite and our time, attention, energy, money, certainly and all these things. And so the more the better we can get at making decisions about that the the better off we’ll be. But particularly to your point, when things are tough, it becomes even more important to be paying attention. And it’s not an indulgent or narcissistic thing to be checking in and say, Well, what what do I really want right now? Do I want this piece of contemporary art that I’m looking at? Or do I want some cowboy art instead? Because that would really make me happy. And that’s okay to be asking those questions.

Greg Lewin 24:12
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, if anybody you know, finds me on LinkedIn and asks, I’ll send them the PDF for free and they can have it that way. It’s very easy.

george grombacher 24:24
Excellent. And we’ll certainly what is what is the best way we could find you on LinkedIn?

Greg Lewin 24:29
I think that’s the best you know, my I my you know, you can contact me with email at Greg Luhan 1957. I’m sorry, to You know, you can do that but I think LinkedIn is probably the most efficient.

george grombacher 24:49
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, so Greg grew appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, track Greg down on LinkedIn and I will Link all that in the notes of the show, and he enjoyed as much as I did, which I’m sure that you did pick up your copy or get your copy from Greg of solving for uncertainty and go down the path of becoming more self aware of looking at your circumstances versus perspective, becoming a more intentional listener and figuring out the best allocation for your capital and resources. Thanks again, Greg.

Greg Lewin 25:27
Thank you, George. I’ll speak to you soon. Bye. Bye.

george grombacher 25:30
Till next time, remember, do your part doing your best

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