“Geniuses have very limited toolsets — they have a hammer, and their genius is in looking for nails.”
– Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson (@IAmAdamRobinson) first appeared on this podcast in the “Becoming the Best Version of You” episode (#210) alongside Josh Waitzkin (chess, jiu-jitsu, investing) and Ramit Sethi (personal finance, entrepreneurship).
By popular demand, this is a dedicated episode of Adam’s stories and life lessons.
Adam Robinson has made a lifelong study of outflanking and outsmarting the competition. He is a rated chess master who was awarded a Life Title by the United States Chess Federation. As a teenager, he was personally mentored by Bobby Fischer in the 18 months leading up to his winning the world championship.
Then, in his first career, he developed a revolutionary approach to taking standardized tests as one of the two original co-founders of The Princeton Review. His paradigm-breaking — or “category killing,” as they say in publishing — test-prep book, The SAT: Cracking the System, is the only test-prep book ever to have become a New York Times bestseller. After selling his interest in The Princeton Review, Adam turned his attention in the early ’90s to the then-emerging field of artificial intelligence, developing a program that could analyze text and provide human-like commentary. He was later invited to join a well-known quant fund to develop statistical trading models, and since, he has established himself as an independent global macro advisor to the chief investment officers of a select group of the world’s most successful hedge funds and family offices.
In his spare time, he’s also become pen pals with Warren Buffett.
This is a wide-ranging conversation (aka conversational parkour) with lots of takeaways. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it!
Listen to it on iTunes.
Stream by clicking here.
Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast with Adam Robinson? — In this episode, we discuss a variety of topics on business, wealth, and happiness, and are joined by Ramit Sethi and Josh Waitzkin (stream below or right-click here to download):
This podcast is brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $4B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.
Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you — for free — exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it. Well worth a few minutes: wealthfront.com/tim.
This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.
I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service, which is non-spec. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run…
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
Connect with Adam:
Website | Twitter
Becoming the Best Version of You (Adam’s first appearance on this show)
What Smart Students Know: Maximum Grades. Optimum Learning. Minimum Time. by Adam Robinson
You Can Be a Stock Market Genius: Uncover the Secret Hiding Places of Stock Market Profits by Joel Greenblatt
Regulation Fair Disclosure
Blythedale Children’s Hospital
My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer
Abandoned NY: Inside Grossinger’s Crumbling Catskill Resort Hotel by Pablo Iglesias Maurer, Gothamist
Iocane powder is noted as being one of the deadliest poisons known to man.
The Karate Kid
Granny Smith apples
Laurence Olivier’s To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy from Hamlet
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
The 3Bs of Creativity: Bed, Bath, and Bus by Jim Briggs
Are Psychedelic Drugs the Next Medical Breakthrough?
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide — Risks, Micro-Dosing, Ibogaine, and More
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby
What is a hedge fund?
Stoicism Resources and Recommendations
What is Hedonism?
The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master
What is Epicureanism?
The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition by Jalal al-Din Rumi
Laird Hamilton, The King of Big Wave Surfing (Plus: Gabrielle Reece and Brian MacKenzie)
An anecdote about Warren Buffett’s day planner and thoughts on what Warren Buffett actually does. [06:51]
Can you be a stock market gladiator? [08:36]
Planning on investing? What is your edge? [10:48]
Warren Buffett’s one-sentence secret to being a great investor. [12:52]
How Adam turned a chance encounter on the street with his hero — the reclusive chess champion Bobby Fischer — into a lasting friendship. [14:51]
On informed simplicity via Bobby Fischer, Picasso, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. [28:14]
The limited toolset of genius. [30:47]
The “read far and wide” genius of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. [32:24]
Looking for patterns and things that don’t make sense. [34:05]
Adam’s decision-making process for choosing opportunities. [38:15]
The last thing Adam’s father said to him before passing. [41:30]
Adam’s nutritional odyssey: Granny Smith apples for optimizing function (and avoiding English institutional food). [44:31]
The three rules for success. [53:03]
On coping with depression and learning to focus on needs of others over needs of the self. [56:14]
If you suffer from bouts of depression, become aware of the biochemical markers that forewarn of its onset. [1:01:12]
The three Bs of creativity. [1:02:57]
On hearing and paying attention to what the unconscious mind is trying to tell you. [1:06:00]
Does Adam view himself as a risk-taker? [1:15:20]
On hedge funds that don’t hedge. [1:17:22]
Stoicism vs. Hedonism [1:21:13]
Philosophers or thinkers Adam recommends. [1:27:03]
How is the next day different when deciding to break from the past? [1:30:39]
A gambler walks into a bar… [1:36:00]
An example of magic and being one-upped as the world’s best gift-giver. [1:42:10]
The fulcrum moment: “Now is the time to act.” [1:48:15]
Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative. Create delight. [1:49:45]
Dread Pirate Roberts
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Jalal al-Din Rumi