Milton Friedman on success

What is success?

According to Occam’s Razor, the simplest answers are the best, and Milton Friedman, the great economist, has this one:

In effect, he was describing people who achieve flow.

4 thoughts on “Milton Friedman on success

  1. Andreas:

    I think the trick, is the difficulty in finding that which truly reveals your visceral passions, propensities and skills–that activity through which, as you describe, one can him/herself and achieve flow.

    In the Apology, by Plato, Socrates is reported to have stated during his trial, “[38a] and if again I say that to talk every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me talking and examining myself and others is the greatest good to man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you will believe me still less. This is as I say, gentlemen, but it is not easy to convince you. Besides, I am not accustomed to think that I deserve anything bad. If I had money, I would have proposed a fine…”

    But even the Socratic Traveler has to make decisions and to choose. The person who chooses to only ask questions in the pretextual state of searching for the truth, or the good life, may become isolated and and simply unable to make a choice. Not unlike Burdian’s Ass who could not choose between two equally good bales of hay and starved to death.

    I think a start for the young and the old, is in the continual search for knowledge. This requires trying things out.

    Aristotle teaches:
    One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.

    So I say to all looking for the good life (including myself) try it on, does it fit, feel right, look good? Then buy it! You can always take it back… And in doing so, you learn about new things, new people and about yourself. Such choices, even the leap of faith, are often meaningful, pleasant and may lead to the good and successful life.

    Oh and by the way, I admit I am still over-examining, over-thinking and searching for my mojo…

  2. An interesting meditation, Steve.

    I think a lot of this is about age:

    As a young’un (extrapolating from myself to all mankind, if I may), a thoughtful person is paralyzed by too many options, under incredible pressure to find that thing that Friedman talks about–the thing that he would do even if nobody paid him.

    As the young’un gets older and tries out a few options through Aristotelian experimentation (in the process closing a few doors and feeling the liberation therein), he finally begins to get a sense for what that thing might or might not be.

    As he approaches geezerhood, the real test arrives. He can no longer plead ignorance. Certain proclivities are now known. Does he, or does he not, have the cojones (a technical term) to stage his own life revolution, upheaval and all, in order to do what he is meant to do?

  3. I would add that one’s willingness (at any age) to risk must be included in the discussion above. Some of us have tremendous risk tolerance, either through cojones (not sure what the female version of those are in this context, but let’s not go there) or education, while others of us are afraid to risk anything for fear of failure.

    As a risk taker myself, I would bet my Labrador retriever pup that this idea is in your book, especially considering an economist is writing it.

    Are you risk tolerant or risk adverse?

    I hope I am right or else I will be shipping Dinah to your office. 😀

  4. Andreas:

    I agree with your observations-I think that just taking the risk and making a choice is what is important. You need to get your feet wet. Once you’re in the river, and after bottoming out on a few sharp rocks, you can usually find your way into a chute or sweet spot, harmonize and eventually get darned close to your flow. Adjustments down river must be anticipated. They go with the risk of choosing to get wet in the first place.

    With respect, Mrs. Sabraw’s question about risk adversity vs. risk tolerance is a false dichotomy in my view. I am tolerant of reasonable risks and avoid unreasonable risks. The calculus must be provided by the mind through reason and not determined by the size of the pelotas.



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