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⏰ The 4 AM Club ⏰
😴 Night Guy vs. Morning Guy 🥱
“We think “future me” will be able to make good choices, but too often “present me” succumbs to temptation.” -Katy Milkman
I get up every day at 4 am.
Well, kind of.
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I love quietly sitting in the quiet and knowing that by 7 am, I’ve completed my most important task for the day, prayed, exercised, etc.
Do I succeed in getting up at 4 am every day?
While I often get up at my desired time, many days, I “oversleep”(if you can call getting up later than 4 am oversleeping.) I have never been good at consistently getting up with my alarm clock.
Turns out that Night Guy is more powerful than Morning Guy.
Jerry Seinfeld has a fantastic joke about two personas he calls “Night Guy” and “Morning Guy.” Essentially, Seinfeld confesses to never getting enough sleep because he always feels the urge to stay up later, what he calls “Night Guy.” When he stays up late and knows he will be tired in the morning, Night Guy says, “That’s Morning Guy’s problem.” Here’s the clip:
Any attempt to be more efficient requires sacrificing short-term gains in service of long-term compounded gain. While a number of biases explain why it’s so hard for Morning Guy to defeat Night Guy,my favorite is the projection bias. (LOR) argue that good decision-making “often requires a prediction of future tastes, and future tastes may differ from current tastes” due to a variety of factors. However, LOR finds that people “tend to exaggerate the degree to which their future tastes will resemble their current tastes.”
Returning to my example, “Ideal Josh” (IJ) wants to get up at 4 am every day, but, in reality, many times, this does not happen due to what I’ll call “Actual Josh” (AJ).
Yes, IJ feels amazing when he actually gets out of bed at 4 am. But as we get later in the day, AJ wants to stay up and watch the Orioles, and AJ projects that IJ will be able to survive on an hour or two less sleep than normal. But many mornings, it turns out that IJ cannot survive on less sleep. AJ projected incorrectly, and now IJ (i.e. “me”) is angry all day because he can’t get his act together.
The projection bias is one of several reasons leaders feel hamstrung by incorrect projections made by predecessors, which can apply to long-term contracts, real estate deals, legal matters, etc. But beware: one day, your successor might one day think the same thing about you.
Don’t Trust Your Gut
When we transition from individuals to organizations, making projections about the future becomes more complicated. While I have a decent idea of what I will need money for decades from now when I retire and can financially plan for that eventuality, organizations can seldom project future needs with that level of certainty.
In his latest book Don’t Trust Your Gut, Seth Stephens-Davidowitzwrites that while previously “our intuitions…and the counsel of our fellow human beings” might have seemed like the only ways to make decisions in a complicated world, today data provides an opportunity to “free us from the biases of our minds.” Data is not a panacea, but data-driven answers provide an alternative to the well-established flaws of going from our gut.
To demonstrate the utility of this approach, pretend that you are charged with investing serious dollars in a series of startups designed to impact a single sector of Jewish life. In making this decision, you are projecting what kind of people and organizations will give you the best return on your investment.
On the one hand, SSD explains that most people would implicitly address a challenge like this by investing in young professionals who will “shake things up,”assuming that youth and relative inexperience are assets when trying to transform a sector.
However, the data shows that this assumption is deeply flawed. In a study on entrepreneurship, Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin F. Jones, J. Daniel Kim, and Javier Miranda find that:
41.9 years old is the average age of a business founder in the United States, and the probability of creating a unicorn business goes up as the founder's age goes up.And,
Entrepreneurs are twice as likely to build a successful company if they previously worked in the field
As a result, if one were making investments in the future and hoping to invest in the right people, they are better off investing in experienced mid-career professionals, not young outsiders who know little about their sector. And while data does not exist on how well the Jewish Community follows SSD’s advice, I think you already know the answer…
SSD Got Great a Math
I envy him…
Fear of Failure vs. Increments of Curiosity: Notwithstanding one’s resume of failures, attaining difficult goals is often the result of reframing, and I loved this article on the topic.
Jesus for the Age of AI: In a world of artificial intelligence, it should surprise no one that AI will be used to answer religious questions. Read this article from The Conversation on AI entering the world of religion.
New Report on Global Trends in Interfaith Marriage: The Institute for Jewish Policy Research just published a new report on interfaith marriage concerning the Jewish population. The report is a must-read, no matter how you understand the issue.
No, not every day. We will come back to this. By the way, Robin Sharma has a book called The 5 AM Club. I’ve read it. Not sure how I feel about it.
If you’re wondering if this is why you get your emails from me at 5 am, yes, it is. I pre-schedule them at night so that I have an hour before anyone gets a response from me.
After writing this article, I decided to start logging the time I actually get out of bed, to see how well I measure up to my ideal.
If you are thinking to yourself, “Josh is going to talk about the marshmallow test,” I am going to disappoint you. At the same time, if you are wonky enough to know what the marshmallow test is, I applaud you!
If you need a summary of the marshmallow test, watch this:
However, be aware that the marshmallow test is more controversial than most people realize, partially because of questions about whether or not the results of this experiment can be replicated (an issue in behavioral science that we will come back to), and the marshmallow test did not escape this controversy.
No relation, but wouldn’t it be awesome if he was a long-lost cousin?
George Loewenstein, Ted O’Donoghue, Matthew Rabin, “Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility,” in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 118, Issue 4 (November 2003), 1209.
Congratulations to SSD for joining Annie Duke as one of only two authors with two different books featured on Moneyball Judaism!
Eventually, I hope to create something that is the equivalent of SNL’s five timers club:
This idea would make sense if Duke or SSD cared about being featured in this newsletter, at all. Which I’m sure they don’t.
That said, here are Annie’s articles if you are interested:
You are also most likely to imagine this person being a white man. This is true, but not the subject of this article.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life (New York: Dey Street Books, 2022), 19.
Silicon Valley does not help with our implicit biases, such as Mark Zuckerberg’s famous quote, "Young people are just smarter.”
Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin F. Jones, J. Daniel Kim, and Javier Miranda, “Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship,” in American Economic Review Insights, Volume 2, Issue 1 (March 2020), 65-82.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Don’t Trust Your Gut, 141