The Middle Way

May 5, 2016

Steve Jobs
I re-listened to one of the All Things D talks with Steve Jobs.

He was introducing itunes music marketplace for the first time. He mentioned the middle way a few times in that interview.

At that time, napster and napster-like products were killing music sales. And music companies were reluctant in selling their music online with less drm restrictions as they would like. Steve said each party had to give something up to get the job done. They had to reach the middle way.

It got me thinking, what the heck is the middle way anyways. I know it’s a zen thing but the idea was hard to grasp.

I’ve noticed that something odd happens when one is at the extreme end.

If we’re too uneducated, we will have a terrible life. Sure.

But the opposite seems to be true also.
If one is overly educated, overly smart, overly intellectual, something equally terrible seems to happen. They become arrogant, close-minded, preachy, stubborn, blowhard types with huge blind spots.

Warren Buffett
I remember hearing a Warren Buffett talk.
He said that a high IQ is unnecessary to succeed in investing. If you have a 140 IQ, sell the extra 40 to a friend and you’ll do just fine, he jokes.

He also says that any company that has an economist has one employee too many. Both Buffett and Charlie Munger have a strong dislike for business consultants.

Essentially, what they’re saying is that they don’t like overly educated folks.

This is counterintuitive. Normally it would be seem to be a boon to have an economist on your team.

The classic example of this is Long Term Capital Management, a hedge fund that had some of the smartest people ever on their team. A bunch of phds and two nobel prize winners. They ended up collapsing and had to be bailed out for $3.625B by the major banks, to prevent a market disaster.

I’ve noticed that overly religious folks tend to display opposite qualities of their prophets. Cliquish, small minded, hateful to others not in their group, ignorant.

Being overly atheist makes that person seem like a religious person. These folks talk about god more than religious folks. Super preachy.

Being overly left leaning in your politics is as harmful as overly right leaning. Both of those extremes create crazed folks out of touch with reality.

Whenever I eat overly spicy food, some time later, I’ll crave overly sugary treats. It could be right away or many hours later. I had never paid attention to this until I started keeping track of my meals and moods.

When I tried an overly meaty high fat, high protein diet, I kinda started feeling terrible eventually. When I tried a vegan diet, I felt terrible, but in a different way. Now I’m eating somewhere in the middle, and feel just fine.

I don’t really have a point.
I’ve fallen for all of these traps myself and was just thinking out loud.

It seems in every scenario, the middle way is the path to go. Not too much, not too little. Not too left, not too right. Not too spicy, not too sweet. Not too hard, not too soft.