by Will Schreiber

I was tricked into thinking I had “grit”

I was tricked into thinking I had tons of grit as a student.

I worked hard in school. I put in long hours. I stayed up all night reading and preparing for debate topics, doing homework, writing essays.

It was easy for me to burn the midnight oil. I enjoy arguing. I enjoy reading. I enjoy math problems. I enjoy programming. I enjoy going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.

Somebody observing would or could have said I had “grit.”

In Range, David Epstein talks about how Daniel Kahneman (yes, that Daniel Kahneman) and the Israeli military failed to predict who would become leaders based on who had taken control during an obstacle course challenge.

It’s possible to show leadership or grit or enthusiasm in one area, and then fail to show it in other activities. We all knew a hard-working athlete who slept through class, and a bookworm who never practiced shooting baskets.1

In fact, I was (am?) one of those people with “grit” when preparing for tests but not when working out.

A list of things where I’ve traditionally failed to be consistently “gritty”:

  1. Running
  2. Lifting weights
  3. Writing
  4. Sticking to a diet
  5. Developing a wake-up/go-to-bed schedule
  6. Mindfulness
  7. Reading
  8. Networking
  9. Music (piano)
  10. Baking
  11. Cooking
  12. Programming

I’ve improved at some of them. But “grit” is too bold of a word to describe my slow, ebbing persistence.

This isn’t necessarily terrible. Epstein argues “grit” is overrated, and even cites Angela Duckworth2 as saying her message has been mis-understood. There’s value in re-evaluating, in not finishing the book or the project and moving on.

But it’s still important to try hard, to work hard, and to keep going. The reason I’ve stuck with the things I have isn’t because of grit, as I might have once believed. It’s because I enjoy doing them.

“If you get someone into a context that suits them,” Ogas said, “they’ll more likely work hard and it will look like grit from the outside.”

  1. “When I was a college runner, I had teammates whose drive and determination seemed almost boundless on the track, and nearly absent in the classroom, and vice versa. Instead of asking whether someone is gritty, we should ask when they are.” David Epstein, Range
  2. Author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Will Schreiber

Shaving and being human

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy is captured during the Battle Of The Bulge.

Billy is a worthless soldier. He doesn’t like war and refuses to fight. He’s always aloof. He wears an oversized, makeshift robe instead of a uniform. He doesn’t carry a knife or a gun.

Before being shipped off to Dresden, the Germans joined together Billy’s troop with a group of British prisoners.

The Brits, trying to make the best of the situation, welcome the Americans with a silly skit they’d prepared. They toast to their new comrades.

Meanwhile, having accepted his pending death, Billy sulks in the corner.

One of the Englishmen, envious of Billy’s lack of care, explains to Billy that he still shaves his face every day and looks himself in the mirror to check his posture.

I think about this line every month or so.

He said that he had seen several men die in the following way: “They ceased to stand up straight, then ceased to shave or wash, then ceased to get out of bed, then ceased to talk, then died.”

Keep shaving and standing up straight.

by Will Schreiber

Seatbelts and falling out of a Ford station wagon

My great-uncle (and middle-name-sake) lived on a farm in Virginia. He was a dairy farmer. He also collected cars. 240 trucks and 60 cars to be approximate. Here’s a dust-covered Mercury and a Cobra:

Where have all the car designers gone?

The Ford Cobra

My family iMessage (activity soaring during quarantine) blew up this morning with pictures of all these cars that “Uncle P.L.” had collected.

Then my mom, reminiscing about riding around in these old-timey death traps, sent this advertising clipping:

Auto Strap ad

It’s amazing how seatbelts have gotten better over the years, and how ~2 generations ago cars had no seatbelts at all.

Growing up, my Dad always joked about being thrown out of a station wagon. So I texted him to get his full story. This is his response:

In 1963, mom was on her way home to Valley Head from Crestline Village where she had gotten her hair done. We were driving in a 1960 white station wagon. I remember laughing and telling jokes with my mom. We were having fun!  

When we got about halfway home on Old Leeds Road, mom looked down at my feet and noticed that I had no shoelaces in my tennis shoes. I was holding the laces in my hand. She told me to put the shoelaces back in my shoes and so I crawled down onto the floor board (there were no seatbelts in 1963).

About that same time, she went around the last sharp turn on Old Leeds Road. I lost my balance so I reached up and grabbed the door handle for support. Unfortunately for everyone, the handle did what it was supposed to do and opened the door.

In addition to lacking seatbelts, this car also had a design feature that no longer exists of allowing a handle that “pulls out“ rather than “lifts up” to open the door. Since I was grasping onto the handle, I was immediately tossed out of the car onto the pavement. I rolled about 30 yards.

Mom, frightened, put the car in “Park” and damaged the motor. So now we have no car to drive me anywhere for medical care.

Mom picked me up and carried me to the neighbors house but sadly no one was at home. She laid me on a white bench which immediately became soaked in my blood and that is one of the things we always laughed about later. Can you imagine coming home and walking out on your front porch and seeing your white bench now covered with blood and never really knowing what happened!

Anyway, she hurriedly went back out on the street and a nice yard worker came. I remember this man vividly today. He was so kind. He drove us to Crestline where there was a pediatrician named Dr. White.

He sewed up my face (50 stitches) and sent me back on my way.

Making memories.
by Will Schreiber

Charlie Munger is slowly warming up to Elon Musk

2016 Berkshire Shareholder Meeting:

Audience: “Charlie, one of my favorite quotes by you, is you want to hire the guy with an IQ of 130 who thinks it’s 120, and the guy with an IQ of 150 who thinks it’s 170 will just kill you.”

Charlie, without pause: “You must be thinking of Elon Musk.”

2020 Daily Journal Annual Meeting:

On $TSLA: “I have two thoughts on Tesla. I wouldn’t buy it. And I wouldn’t sell it short.”

2020 Daily Journal Annual Meeting:

On Elon Musk: “There’s a man I’ve known in Los Angeles for years named Howard Ahmanson. He once said something that I’ve taken to my heart. He said, ‘Never underestimate the man who overestimates himself.’ I think Elon Musk is peculiar and he may overestimate himself, but he may not be wrong all the time.”

You can see Munger slowly warming to Musk. From his long-held “beware he could fail” position, to his newfound “beware he could succeed” position.

His comments on Musk used to be incendiary. It led Musk to joking about launching a See’s Candy competitor to “take on Berkshire.” The fact Tesla is succeeding relative to BYD in China could be part of the newfound civility.

It’s interesting hearing how, as a longtime BYD investor, Munger believes electric cars are the obvious future and that we’ll most likely power them with solar energy.1

  1. Munger discusses solar, electric cars, Tesla, BYD, and Musk during the 2020 Daily Journal Annual Meeting:

by Will Schreiber

Running, one year apart

On April 4th of last year, we drove down to the St. Luke’s Outpatient Clinic in Hailey and the doctor sawed my cast off. I had my arm back! I could type again!

A few days later, I started jogging every morning with Elizabeth. We’d leave our apartment and run to the Warm Springs Lodge and back.

I could barely run the 3 mile loop. Maybe part of it was the 5,000’ of elevation, but more likely it was because I was terrible at running.

On 4/20/2019, I recorded a 4 mile run at a 9:57 pace. Slow and painful.

I started to actually enjoy running in Sun Valley. I dreaded getting going, but once we were outside and moving, I loved it. I loved the snow-covered Sawtooths and the cold air. Since we left, one of my process goals has been to run every day.

On 4/20/2020, I recorded a 4 mile run here in SF at a 8:26 pace. Still slow, but getting faster. And unlike last year, I enjoyed it the entire time.

4/20/2019 in Sun Valley

4/20/2020 in San Francisco

The running/biking trail in Sun Valley

by Will Schreiber

Fruit flies and climate change

I tried to make Water Kefir a few months ago. It was meh. There weren’t so many bubbles. It tasted like vinegary water. I spilled sugar over the counter. There were lots of fruit flies swarming around.

I got sick of the daily morning feedings and stopped after a week of failure. I wasn’t seeing progress.

When I get an easy and early win, I’m more likely to stick with something - like seeing a small pace improvement when starting to jog, or having an initial loaf of bread come out edible.

I’m increasingly optimistic that the pandemic’s collective cleansing of our air will similarly nudge us forward. The difference in pictures of downtown LA and London and Hong Kong pre-and-post COVID are breathtaking - and to think it’s due to merely not driving combustion engines to and from work every day!

There’s a survey of 200 Brits that just came out. Two months ago, 34 of them were planning on buying an electric car. This week, 90 more people said they were considering buying an electric car after seeing how clean the air could be by reducing car emissions.1

It’s like that feeling when you sit down at a desk covered in books and paper. “I need to clean this crap up. I can’t think.” So you put the books away, pour out the mugs, and shred the paper. “Wow, what a difference.” Then you turn and look at the closet. Before you know it, all your clothes are on the bed, the pots and pans are out of the kitchen cabinets and you’re re-organizing your entire life.

I’m hoping we just cleaned off the desk, and we can now see what’s possible.

by Will Schreiber

Bill’s Guide To Bread

A couple years ago, Elizabeth gave me a copy of Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.

I ordered the recommended 12 quart Cambro tub, kitchen scale, and thermometer. I weighed my flour down to the gram and stressed about the ambient temperature of our kitchen.

In the end, it worked. I baked an edible loaf of homemade bread.

My bread interest has spawned other interests: pressing masa tortillas, sourdough pizza crust, and an ever-growing fermentation station complete with preserved lemons and kombucha.

Now, because of quarantine, not only is toilet paper sold out, but so is dried yeast!

But you don’t need yeast to bake sourdough. I’ve been shipping dried chips of starter (a descendant of the starter my brother gave me) to friends around the country. Text me if you want me to mail you some.

I’ve also typed up more in-depth instructions for creating, caring for, and using starter, as more and more people are asking for help.

Thus, I present: Bill’s Guide To Baking Bread

My first tub of sourdough bread, ~2.5 years ago

Overnight Country White

Unbeatable texture

by Will Schreiber

Narrow band of intelligence

There’s a meme in society that geniuses exist, popping out brilliant and ruminating about patterns from birth. Society generally believes there’s smart people and dumb people and a wide spectrum of intelligence in between.

But I think intelligence delta in humans is minuscule and barely (if even at all) perceptible.

Think about our attempts at building self-driving cars.

We’ve spent over three decades, millions of man-hours, and tens of billions of dollars trying to teach computers how to intelligently stay between the lines.

Yet, a few years before Alan Turing built the first computer, my grandfather was on a tomato field in rural Virginia. In two weeks, out of necessity, he figured out how to slip the red stickshift tractor-trailer into first gear, and then back to neutral. Into first gear again, and then back to neutral. Then all the way up to third gear and into town, to haul the tomatoes off. He was 11 years old.

Nearly any human who has tried to learn how to drive has been able to do so in a short amount of time. Over 70 years since Turing’s first machine, we still don’t have self-driving cars.1

When Tesla does crack it, when their combination of 8 cameras and radar and dual-fault self-driving computers achieves self-driving, it will quickly be far superior to human drivers. Twenty years from now, it will be insane we ever let humans drive these death machines.

All human drivers exist in this narrow band of ability. All better than computers today, all worse than computers in a couple decades.

The breadth of ability is an illusion.

  1. I’m rooting for Tesla!
by Will Schreiber

Learning to love (monitors) again

In July of 2018, I sold everything in my apartment. “Goodbye, Things” to the Ikea desk, bed, and dresser. Goodbye to the lounge chairs, kitchen table, and all the books on the bookshelf.

I even sold my Apple Cinema Display. I’d had this glorious piece of metal and glass since 2008! It traveled with me from my high school bedroom, to dorms in college and to an off campus house and to a new apartment every year for nearly 10 years.

Every time I placed it on a new desk and plugged in my laptop, it glowed. Every pixel, every time.

But my Osprey Farpoint only had room for my 13″ MacBook. So one morning, a guy in a hoodie showed up at Next lobby in River North, gave me $150, and in turn I gave part of my heart away.

“Goodbye Things,” I thought. “I’ll never buy a monitor again,” I thought. “This 13” laptop is all I’ll ever need,” I thought.

And the laptop has been totally fine. It’s not a huge screen, but it gets the job done. It’s simple having one computer, with no accessories, able to pull up Gmail in Ketchum and in Nong Kiaw and everywhere in between.

Then, last week, the “F” key fell off the laptop.

When we got back to SF, I started using Elizabeth’s bluetooth keyboard. “I might as well hook into her work monitor if I’m using her keyboard,” I thought.

I forgot how wonderful having a widescreen monitor for programming is. I can have the terminal, the code, and the browser all up on one screen without having to context switch.

Who knew keyboards were gateway drugs?

So I got on Letgo yesterday and found somebody selling an LG Curved Widescreen Display. “We’re moving abroad,” he said. Somebody else was selling an Apple Magic Keyboard/Mouse.

I bought it all and spent the afternoon jogging from the ATM to Russian Hill and back.

Before the guy gave me the monitor, he said, “One last hug,” as he squeezed the screen extra tight. His girlfriend looked at him, smiled, and said, “It’s time for it to go.”

I wiped everything down extensively with Wet Ones, placed it on our kitchen table desk, and fell in love.

The goods
by Will Schreiber

“Hey Alexa, Pause The Economy”

Elizabeth and I were FaceTiming with Jane. She asked how we were doing.

We’re fine. We came to Whistler at the beginning of last week. Instead of flying back to SF on Sunday, we decided to stay. A lot has changed since last week, and snow-capped Blackcomb is a better view than the apartment building across Turk St.

We chatted about her dad’s text: “Jane. The economy is collapsing.”

I’m actually quite optimistic.

I’d choose this “Let’s Shut Down The Factories And All Stop Going To Work For A Little Bit” recession 10/10 times before I’d choose the “Whoops We Accidentally Misallocated $1 Trillion Into McMansions” recession or the “Damn, Bombing Everybody’s Bridges For 5 Years Had Consequences” recession.

To my knowledge, we’ve never actively shut down the economy like this before. It’s great for the dolphins in Venice and everybody’s lungs in LA, but it’s terrible for restaurants with rents due April 1.

Proposal: we pause all interest accrual and rent payments while everyone sits at home.

  • Cookbook shouldn’t have to pay rent to its landlord. The landlord shouldn’t have to pay Chase for the mortgage. Chase shouldn’t have to pay interest on its capital.
  • Delta should be able to park its unused planes without servicing its corporate debt.
  • The Vancouver Hilton should be able to close its doors, and its private equity owner shouldn’t have to make debt payments.
  • The hostess at Avec shouldn’t have to pay rent to Centrum Management.

Top to bottom, a moratorium on rent and interest accrual. For 6 months. Tack the payments onto the end of the terms.

These massive $700 billion liquidity injections scare me. It’s like pumping gas into a car with no wheels. I’m in favor of mailing checks to all the service workers who are now out of work, but the idea of economy-wide UBI is misguided. Toyota and GM aren’t pumping out cars. Restaurants aren’t pumping out meals.

I don’t understand enough about credit and deflation to know if flooding the market with $USD’s while production grinds to a halt is a good thing in the short term, but it seems like a recipe for hyper-inflation long-term. Lots of money chasing fewer and fewer services.

We should be gracefully winding down the economy, not throwing money at the wall and seeing what sticks. The stock market didn’t collapse because we were massively misallocating capital. We all just stopped going to work, which is okay.

Let’s hit pause and slowly turn things back on as they come online. This wound will heal.

by Will Schreiber

~2,412 people in the U.S. have SARS-CoV-2 (as of 3/5/2020)

South Korea is doing the best job testing for COVID-19.

They haven’t shut down internal migration like China (which leads to undiagnosed patients stuck inside apartments) and they’re offering exams in clinics and drivethroughs.

They’ve tested 140,000 people, resulting in 5,766 detected cases and 35 deaths. (So far.)

This implies a blended death rate of 0.607%.1

With 11 deaths and 154 reported cases, the U.S. has an implied death rate of 7.14%.


Either the virus has mutated, or we’re vastly under-reporting the number of cases in the U.S. Proof we’re under-testing, and thus under-reporting, is that the U.S. is an extreme outlier in tests coming out positive:


If COVID-19 has an actual death rate of 0.607%, and the U.S. has already recorded 11 deaths, then the U.S. should actually have around 1,812 active COVID-19 cases at the moment.

The average age of a population could affect the death rate, though. Countries with younger people could fare better than those with older people, like Italy.

42.3% of South Korea’s population is over the age of 60, compared to only 32.4% in the U.S.4

The death rate of patients 60 years old and older ranges from 3% on the young end to 20% on the oldest end, compared to only ~0.3% for everybody under the age of 60.

Based on stats I’ve seen in China,5 patients older than 60 are responsible for 81.0% of deaths. Thus, the proportion of the population that’s above-60 accounts for ~81% of the death rate potential.

If there are relatively 30.5% more people aged 60+ in South Korea as compared to the United States, then we should expect the death rate in the United States to be (1-0.81*0.305)*0.00607 = 0.457%.

And if the death rate in the U.S. is really 0.456%, then the number of implied cases (based on 11 deaths) is 2,412.

  1. Note, this number is likely low because there are still active cases in critical condition that will likely eventually add to the death toll. But it’s an optimistic and fairly realistic number to use.

  2. US Case Fatality Rate from #covid19 very lofty vs other DM countries

    At 7% vs the 1% average of other countries, the CFR suggests the number of cases could be massively understated

    Confirmed cases may soar as wide-spread testing starts

    H/T @darky999

    — Martin Enlund 🦆🚁 (@enlundm) March 5, 2020

  3. Few tests - Few infected. More tests to come: On March. 2, Dr. Stephen Hahn, FDA Commissioner, announced that the US will have, by the end of the week, the ability to perform 1 million tests.

    — Christian Börjesson (@cborjesson) March 5, 2020

  4. The median age in South Korea is 52.5yo vs. 44.3yo in the U.S.


by Will Schreiber

Working from home

Per Square’s new COVID-19 policy, Elizabeth is working from home today. She’ll likely be working from home for about a month.

I did this for over 5 years. I don’t miss it.

It’s nice to eat leftovers out of the fridge and it’s nice avoiding the twice-daily walk-bus-bike time suck. But at home, spurts of productivity come and go. It’s tough maintaining productivity for 5+ hours at a time when the couch is right there.

On Monday, after landing at SFO around 6:30am, we went home and dropped off our skis. I didn’t want to walk 40 minutes into Industrious. Taking the bus felt meh. I wanted to lay down and close my eyes.

Then, the thought of a Noah’s bagel and cup of hot coffee started nagging at me. I thought about smelling the beans, toasting the bagel, and opening my laptop at a table in the common area. Those thoughts dragged me out of the apartment and downtown into the office.

I’m glad I went.

There’s a lot of talk about companies mandating work from home because of this coronavirus. There are so many advantages to working remotely. But working from home isn’t the optimal version of working remotely.

When 6pm rolls around, and I’m at my kitchen table, laptop open, emails in my inbox, I struggle to close the lid to my computer. I’ve heard it’s helpful to end the work day by putting the computer on a shelf, leaving the apartment, taking a lap around the block, and coming back inside after “resetting.”

This never really worked for me. The kitchen table was still where I was supposed to be working. As long as I was near it, I felt the guilt of needing to work.

I hope everyone now “working from home” figures out ways to get out of the house and find productive routines.

by Will Schreiber

Almost out of stock

After our 5am flight landed in Salt Lake City this morning, we headed into Industrious downtown for the wifi and coffee. An array of just-add-water Milk Labs oatmeal cups were spread out on the counter. The almond flavor is my favorite.

I decided to grab an extra cup for tomorrow - in case we need breakfast before skiing. This is typical behavior. I take oatmeal cups home from Industrious in preparation for waking up on a Saturday and needing a quick breakfast.

Then I chuckled to myself. I never completely run out of oatmeal cups. When I’m down to one in the pantry, I’ll bring another back from the office. Is this psychotic?

I do this with everything.

Like any good guilty-of-trans-pacific-flight-carbon-emissions millennials, Elizabeth and I have been filling up with rice and dried beans at Rainbow Co-op bulk bins. We never run out of black beans because we buy more black beans when we’re running low.

In 10 years, I think the beans in the bottom of the glass jar will be 10 years old.

Why don’t I wait until we’re completely out? There’s not a real risk of running out of food. We’re surrounded by Trader Joe’s and corner stores and farmers markets. I have this mental construct that it’s nice having a padding of supplies … just in case.

Just in case I decide to eat three cups of oatmeal in one morning?

by Will Schreiber

The more “important,” the more engaging

In 2011, I went to the Verizon store to swap my AT&T iPhone 4 for a Verizon iPhone 4. The sales person got pushy. “But did you know this Motorola has a better camera? It has a swappable battery! It’s cheaper and easier to use.” He pitched me on CPU and GPU power, screen size, and expandable storage.

The sales pitch and pushiness was annoying.

That afternoon, I emailed with the subject line “Verizon Needs Help.” In the morning, I had a response in my inbox. “Thanks” it read. Tim Cook was CC’d. Later that afternoon, I received an email from Verizon’s COO apologizing for my in-store experience.

I’ve only been back on Twitter for a month, but one thing I’ve already noticed: the more “important” somebody is, the more likely they are to engage and respond to me as an internet nobody.

Paul Graham, Ken Beck, DHH, Jason Calacanis, Mark Normand and others have all responded to tweets I’ve sent.

And I’ve also noticed the inverse. The people who smell like they’re yearning for a blue check mark? Crickets.

People try to emulate other successful people. Sometimes, this means guessing that “successful people don’t have the time to talk to people with less than 100 followers.” And then they mimic this imagined behavior.

by Will Schreiber

Trekking in Kyrgyzstan

A year ago, I couldn’t have spelled Kyrgyzstan.

Yet on June 14th, I was on a Boeing 737, flying overnight from Moscow to Osh. The Aeroflot-provided dinner was much better than YouTube reviewers made me fear.

It was still dark when I touched down. I switched Airplane mode off. Elizabeth had WhatsApp’d me instructions for once I cleared customs:

  • Walk outside and go past the first throng of “taxi drivers”
  • Say you’re going to the CBT Hostel
  • It should cost 250 Som
  • I’ll give the driver money once you get here

It wasn’t quite as bad as Bali, but drivers swarmed me. I tried to adjust my Osprey as I negotiated. They were saying it’d be 500 Som. I had my work cut out for me. Elizabeth is a good negotiator.

The sun was up by the time we got into the city. The streets were quiet. Everybody was still sleeping at the hostel. I laid down on a small twin mattress and took a two hour nap.

By 8am, I was up again. Elizabeth had bought a loaf of bread and dried apricots and cheese from a nearby market. We sat around a table drinking tea and eating breakfast. It was sunny, but it didn’t feel hot.

I pulled out my laptop and checked in on things. It was Friday evening back in the U.S. I was going to be completely off the grid for three days. Not an ideal situation if servers crash.

We downloaded Maps.Me and had somebody at CBT give us the mapped pins for one of the horse treks. We were going to hike from one pin to the next into the Kyrgyz backcountry.

We purged what we didn’t need from our backpacks, put on our boots, and walked to the city center. We bought water, some Samsas, and almonds and apricots. Then we made it to the “bus station.” We walked around asking for vans headed to Gulcha.




We found ourselves in the back of a white minivan. After enough people hopped in, we were off.

About halfway to Gulcha, after we’d gotten to the top of a long windy road, the driver pulled over. “CBT, here,” he said. We got out, gave him some Som, pulled out our ponchos, and started hiking.

A few kilometers in, it started to drizzle. We climbed to the top of a mountain pass, the first dropped pin, and took a break to eat some fruit. We had to get to a specific valley and find Auperi, who was the mother of a nomadic family and who would host us in her family’s yurt.

We started to get cold, so we put our packs on and descended over the pass. Cell service clicked off.

The next three days were filled with some of the most beautiful mountains and greenscapes I’ve ever seen. The people we met along the way were unbelievably kind.

Here are four pictures we printed to hang on our wall. They just arrived:

River crossing