How can you avoid fooling yourself?

What if I told you that the biggest con artist in your life is staring back at you in the mirror every morning? Brace yourself for Richard Feynman's warning on self-deception.

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👇 Today’s Briefing

  • Insight: Richard Feynman’s Warning of Self-Deception 🎭

  • Story: Theranos & The Billion-Dollar Bluff 🩸

  • Action: Create a Lincoln-Inspired “Team of Rivals” 🧐


Richard Feynman’s Warning of Self-Deception 🎭

👉 INSIGHT: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” - Richard Feynman, Theoretical Physicist

Self-deception is a sneaky beast that can rear its ugly head in countless ways. This tendency is rooted in a variety of cognitive biases, such as:

  1. Confirmation bias: We love to seek out information that confirms our preexisting beliefs. In fact, people are nearly twice as likely to look for confirming evidence than disconfirming evidence.

  2. Overconfidence bias: We overestimate our abilities and chances of success, like how 94% of college professors believe they do above-average work, which is mathematically impossible.

  3. Sunk cost fallacy: We keep investing in a losing proposition because of what we've already put into it. People are more likely to finish a meal they don't enjoy if they've already paid for it.

When we fool ourselves, we make decisions based on flawed assumptions, ignore important evidence, and take unwise risks. It's like driving a car with a broken GPS - we might think we're heading in the right direction, but we're actually steering straight into a lake.

No one proves this better than Elizabeth Holmes…


“The lab test, reinvented…and full of shit.”

Theranos: The Billion-Dollar Bluff 🩸

It's 2003, and 19-year-old Elizabeth Holmes has a vision that's about to shake up the healthcare. She claimed to have invented technology that could perform more medical tests with just a drop of blood.

But there are a few roadblocks standing in her way:

  • She's a young, inexperienced entrepreneur in a field dominated by seasoned players

  • Her technology claims are bold enough to make even the most gullible investor raise an eyebrow

  • And her charm offensive is about as subtle as a brick through a window

Does she take her time to develop a solid proof of concept? Does she bring in experts to validate her claims? Does she build a transparent and accountable company culture?

Nope, Holmes decides to go full steam ahead with all the caution of a bull in a china shop. She founds Theranos, claiming to have invented technology that could perform more tests than a hypochondriac's Amazon shopping list, all with just a drop of blood.

This vision is catnip to investors. By 2014, Theranos is riding high with a $9 billion valuation. But behind the scenes, things are shakier than a crackhead going through withdrawal.

The technology doesn’t work and Holmes is secretly relying on traditional machines to keep up appearances. Forced to choose between coming clean or cranking up the con, Holmes thinks "f**k it" and continues to bullshit like a used car salesman on commission.

She turns Theranos into a fortress of secrecy, shutting out critics tighter than a nun’s chastity belt. But in 2015, the Wall Street Journal drops a bombshell exposé, and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. 

Federal indictments rain down and Theranos dissolves like an Alka-Seltzer in a glass of water. In January 2022, Holmes is found guilty of defrauding investors and sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison.

But here’s the thing, this kind of shit happens ALL the f**king time, such as…

The moral of this cautionary tale? In each case, a lack of transparency, accountability, and critical thinking led to disastrous consequences (most of them do make interesting limited television series though).

Key takeaway: Investors, entrepreneurs, and the public need to keep their BS detectors on high alert and not let a pretty face or a shiny pitch deck blind them to the red flags.


Create a Lincoln-Inspired “Team of Rivals” 🧐

Honest Abe Lincoln (the opposite of Holmes in damn near every way) stacked his Cabinet with rivals who called him out when he was full of it. He knew surrounding himself with yes-men was a recipe for self-deception.

Seeking out dissenting opinions helped him make better choices and avoid fooling himself.

Take a page from Honest Abe's playbook and actively pursue perspectives that challenge your own assumptions.

Memes of the Week 🤣 

Bite-Sized Reads 📚

[Read] Lincoln: “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.”

[Watch] The Dropout: “You don't get to skip any steps... So no, as a woman, I can't help you right now."

[Watch] The Wizard of Lies: “I took money from some people, I gave it to others and I'll never... now there's nothing left…50 Billion…it's all gone.”

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Publisher: Jordan Belfort

Editors in Chief: Brock Swinson and Davis Richardson

DISCLAIMER: None of this is financial advice. This newsletter is strictly for educational purposes and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. Please be careful and do your own research. 

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