127: Making Better Decisions with Matt Bodnar

By March 8, 2017Podcasts

 

Matt Bodnar shares tools and mental models to be high-leverage as possible through better decision-making.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why decision-making skills are a timeless key to being high-leverage
  2. Approaches to build a powerful tool box of mental models
  3. How to apply the 80/20 principle to life and work decisions

About Matt

Matt Bodnar has been named to Forbes “30 Under 30”, called a “Rising Restaurateur Star” by the National Restaurant Association, and a “Strategy Pro” by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine. He’s a partner at early stage investment firm Fresh Hospitality. Bodnar joined Fresh in 2011 after several years at Goldman Sachs. He sourced and lead the firm’s investment in I Love Juice Bar, vertical farming startup Square Roots, Vui’s Kitchen, Grilled Cheeserie, and several more deals. Bodnar is a board member and works closely with a number of portfolio companies including Tazikis, I Love Juice Bar, Martins BBQ, Octane Coffee, and Fresh Technology. Bodnar is also the co-founder of Fresh Capital, which focuses on commercial real estate investing and development. He also hosts The Science of Success Podcast, which has received nearly a million downloads.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Matt Bodnar Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Matt, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Matt Bodnar
Well, thanks for having me on here, Pete. It’s an honor and I’m very excited.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, I am excited, too. And so I first want to hear, in your LinkedIn, which is fun, what do you mean by saying that you are an accidental podcaster?

Matt Bodnar
It’s quite a story but the sort of short version is, I guess, for my “day job” I’m an investor. I’m a partner at an investment firm. And sort of as a project, a side project, I’m the creator and host of a podcast called The Science of Success. And without getting super deep into this story, because it’s a sort of a convoluted and lengthy story, but essentially being an investor, at some point in time, it dawned on me that, “Hey, maybe I should study the smartest investor of all time, a.k.a. Warren Buffett.”
And I started reading pretty much everything that is written by Buffett, everything that’s been written about Buffett, and through that I really got into another guy who’s Charlie Munger, who’s Buffett’s business partner, an incredible thinker and writer, and really, really smart guy. And through reading all of his stuff I just got down this huge rabbit hole of like psychology and decision-making and all of this stuff.
And I had a number of kind of what I would call kitchen-table conversations just sitting around talking about these things with friends and fellow entrepreneurs and other people, and a buddy of mine owned this sort of small science news website a couple of years ago. He actually ended up selling it. But he told me, he was like, “Hey, dude, let’s take all this stuff and turn it into a podcast.” And I was like, “Okay, I don’t know anything about podcasting. I can talk about this stuff, but if you can help with all the other pieces of it we can kind of figure it out.”
And so that’s what we did to sort of initially launch it, and we launched in the fall of ’15, and through the end of the year we’d had about 7,000 downloads and then we really hit kind of a much deeper growth kind of the beginning of ’16. And today we have over 780,000 downloads, listeners in over 200 countries, and it’s really taken up a lot more than I ever anticipated.
And through that sort of process, kind of the spring of last year, almost a year ago, my friend ended up selling that website and he kind of went on his way. We had an agreement, and part of the kind of agreement when we put the podcast together, I basically said that if he leaves I have the opportunity to take over the podcast full time. So that was good and bad in the sense that I got to kind of steer the ship in my own direction but I also had to figure out how do I do all this stuff like audio production and all of these other things. And so that’s kind of why by trade I’m really more of an investor but I have sort of stumbled into the world of podcasting and found it to be something that I really enjoy doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, it is a blast. And so I have so much to ask about with regard to decision-making, what you’ve learned, which is what we’ll hit. But, first, I’d love to know, because I think a few of our listeners are maybe gunning for this honor. You are a Forbes 30 Under 30, so that’s cool. Congratulations.

Matt Bodnar
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
How did that come about and what’s it like when you’re mingling with those rarified achievers?

Matt Bodnar
I will answer the questions in reverse. The crazy thing is like I honestly, you know, it’s weird because I always strive to try and achieve as much as I can and be as successful as I can. And being in that group of people I feel like a “nobody.” It’s funny. Like sometimes that sort of impostor syndrome like never really goes away. I was looking at some of these people who are working at companies like Planetary Resources which is mining asteroids. They’re trying to mine asteroids for resources, and I’m thinking like, “Man, I’m over here investing and growing companies, and that’s it, and these guys are building satellites to go mine asteroids.”
So it’s definitely intimidating in some ways but it’s good and it’s really exciting. So, to answer the first part of the question, which is, “How did I get into the Forbes 30 Under 30?” It’s pretty interesting. Whenever I see something that I want to achieve the first thing I try to do, or I think one of the most of the successful kind of strategies for achieving that, is just finding somebody who’s done it and asking them how they did it, right?
And so I found a couple of people, and actually really the most fruitful was I actually went to a conference, it’s a conference called 212 in Colorado and it was, I guess, last summer. There was a speaker there who had been in the Forbes 30 Under 30 and I kind of went through his session and it was about something that wasn’t super relevant to my world, but I kind of waited through the whole thing and at the end of the session I came up to him and asked him. I was like, “Hey, I waited till kind of everyone else had left.” And I was like, “Hey, can I just ask you how did you get in the 30 Under 30?”
And the best piece of advice he gave me was to get previous 30 Under 30 winners, specifically in the category, because for those who don’t know it’s broken out by categories. So it’s not just 30 people across the globe. It’s 30 people per category for a number of different categories. Things like science, education, food and wine, a bunch of different – I think there’s like 15 or 20 categories. So it’s a few more people than it seems when you say 30 Under 30. It’s actually like 400 or 500 people actually across a diverse sort of array of industries.
But, anyway, he said, “Find somebody,” or, “Find a person or a number of people who are previous winners in your category. Get them to nominate you and get them to talk to some of the judges and some of the editors,” because I guess in sort of going through that you end up meeting and getting to know those people. “And just have them basically put in a good word for you, right? And say, ‘This guy is legit, like blah blah. And you obviously have to be doing something at least to some degree that’s kind of worthwhile and merits consideration at sort of on some level.” But that was the best piece of advice that I got.
So what I did was seek out a couple of people who were in the category that I was in and reach out to them, talk to them and ask them, and kind of get to know them a little bit and asked them, “Hey, would you be willing to nominate me? Would you be willing to potentially kind of put in a good word for me?” And got that and things worked out, and I ended up making the list.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And so I’m curious then, as you did that networking, when did you make your ask? Was it on the frontend, like, “Hey, you’re 30 Under 30, I want to know you”? Or was that more so, “Hey, we’re both in the restaurant biz. I’m really interested in the cool stuff you’ve done and it’d be fun to swap notes”? You get to chatting and then you sort of inserted that toward the end. How did that unfold?

Matt Bodnar
It was fortuitous in some ways because there were two people that were in the industry that were kind of peripheral connections. They’re people that I had met but I hadn’t really formed any sort of meaningful relationship with, and so I took it more from kind of an informational approach and essentially said, “Hey, could I talk to you about 30 Under 30? I want to know, like how did you do it? What were the secrets? Would you be willing to offer me any advice? Would you be willing to help me out?”
I think a lot of people that are really successful often are focused on how they can help other people too. And so they were very kind and willing to help me and I almost didn’t have to even ask them. They’re like, “Yeah, dude, I’ll definitely put in a good word for you and like talk to editors and all this stuff.” I mean, part of it, too, was because, like I said, we were sort of peripheral to each other’s network so they were somewhat familiar with some of the stuff I was doing and thought it was interesting, and that sort of definitely helped kind of propel them to be willing to speak to the editors.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool and I’m totally resonating with what you’re saying there. I remember when I got my job at the Bain & Company, I felt like an impostor at time. Like I’m used to being the smart guy in the room and now I’m average, just lightly below average in this room. And when folks, likewise, wanted to get in I was happy to share. I was like, “Hey, here’s what is covered. Here’s how your case interviews, yadda, yadda.” So that’s great stuff.
So now, let’s get into the meat here. So, you learned a lot about decision-making in your exploration of investors in terms of what they’re doing, how they go about making those decisions. We’re not talking about investments per se, although that can show up from time to time in terms or professionals rocking it. But what were some of your key takeaways in terms of overall philosophy to doing decision-making well?

Matt Bodnar
Yeah, before we delve into that, I think it’s important for listeners to understand why should you think about studying decision-making. Why does it matter, right? Out of all the kind of information out there in the world, everything screaming for your attention, why should you devote time and energy to thinking about and studying and improving your ability to make decisions?
I think the fundamental reason why it’s so important, and there’s a couple sort of subcomponents of this, but the fundamental reason is that decision-making is sort of like compound interest for your brain. Right? And a 1% improvement in your ability to make decisions cascades through everything that you’re doing in your entire life. Right?
So, if you improve your ability to make decisions that’s going to impact how you think about applying for and pursuing another job, that’s going to think about how you purchase a car, that’s going to think about how you select a life partner, that’s going to impact how you think about how you invest your money. All of these different things.
And so, to me, focusing, and one of the questions that I spent, and still something I think about all the time, but one of the questions that I spent years kind of ruminating on is, “How can I be as high-leverage as possible?” And by that I mean, you know, there’s a non-linear relationship between time and value creation. And that’s really brought to bear if you think simply about somebody like Bill Gates. Right?
Bill Gates doesn’t have ten billion times more time than I do but he has produced ten billion times more value. And so at some point somewhere it wasn’t a question of him working harder, it was a question of him doing something that was more high-leverage. And so, to me, I’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about, “How can I be as high-leverage as possible?”
And one of the fundamental principles that I’ve come back to again and again is that focusing on the ability to make better decisions is one of the most high-leverage things that you can do. It’s one of the ways that can truly have a cumulative, again, thinking back to the concept of compound interest which Einstein called the 8th Wonder of the World. It has sort of a cumulative impact that builds on itself and impacts everything that you do from that point forward.
And one of the other kind of core components of that idea is the notion that you should try to focus on, and I think the art of decision-making and focusing on decision-making is well within this kind of wheelhouse. But I’m a huge proponent of the idea that you should try to focus on studying knowledge that doesn’t change over time. Right?
If you invest a ton of time and energy reading a book about the latest hot new marketing tactics and how to do Google AdWords and all this stuff, in a year or two a lot of that stuff is going to change. In five years it will be almost totally irrelevant. And so investing in tactical and highly-specific knowledge that changes rapidly over time doesn’t have nearly the same return on investment in terms of your time and attention as investing in things that don’t change over time. And, to me, one of the fundamental skills that doesn’t change over time that’s incredibly worth investing in is the ability to make better decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is a compelling burning why I am on board and strapped in ready to go. So, let’s talk a little bit about some “how” then.

Matt Bodnar
Definitely. So, this goes back to when I was talking about at the beginning of the conversation, the guy named Charlie Munger, right? Munger is a genius, incredible thinker, one of my all-time favorite people, and he’s really kind of one of the people that opened my eyes to this concept. And the fundamental principle that he talks about is he sort of coins the term or refers to it as worldly wisdom.
And by that what he means is essentially if you were to take the kind of core concepts, let’s say the top ten ideas from every major discipline of reality. So I’m talking about everything from biology, physics, chemistry, history, economics, mathematics, like all of these sort of different fields, psychology is another huge one. If you just master the ideas that are the ideas that are the fundamental principles that are taught in the 101 course for each of these. And what he actually calls these are, these principles, are mental models, right? And you’ll hear that term used a lot, and if you Google around you can find a ton of stuff about mental models and what they are.
But mental models are basically each of these individual principles. And if you build a toolbox of mental models from all of the major disciplines that underpin and describe reality, you build a tremendously rich toolkit that allows you to understand not only what’s happening but also how you can impact things to achieve whatever goal it is that you’ve set out to achieve.
And so, to me, that’s kind of the beginning step is to understand that you want to go on and build this toolkit, right? And there’s no kind of quick fix in terms of downloading all of those kind of “mental models” into your mind instantaneously.

Pete Mockaitis
Not like The Matrix, “I know Kung Fu.”

Matt Bodnar
Yeah, exactly. But there is a path that you can follow and there is kind of a journey, and the end game, or the end goal is essentially to internalize all of these on what, again Munger calls, it’s sort of a lattice work of mental models inside of your brain. You know, you hammer this theory that’s hung on experience and examples and it’s accessible and usable in a way that’s highly impactful.
And the idea is, and the end goal again is to sort of internalize this into your subconscious so that whenever you’re in a given situation you can say, “Okay, I think that there’s a couple core components at play here, and maybe there’s a little bit of X, Y, Z psychological bias kind of factoring in, and I need to think about the following two or three really fundamental principles that are going to govern this.” Now, that’s a long journey, right? But there is one kind of shortcut or sort of simple thing you can do to help jog your memory, and that is to use checklists.
Once you have sort of a cursory grasp of a lot of these mental models you can use a checklist to jog your memory and ensure that you don’t miss any particular models. And if you Google around for checklist and mental models, and I can give you some links if you want to throw in the show notes from a couple of different really good blogs, but there’s all kinds of resources on the internet where you can find huge treasure troves of these.
And there’s two books in particular that I think are the most impactful books, for me personally, and in terms of just containing a tremendous amount of mental models that you can kind of download into your mind and then create checklist out of so that you can go back and reference them. One of them, and I wouldn’t actually recommend starting with this book, but there’s a book called Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin. And it’s probably the most information-dense book that I’ve ever read in my entire life. And if I were to show you my copy, the whole book is basically covered in like notes and scribbles and handwriting and tons and tons and tons of notes that I took when I was reading it.
The book is broken into sort of three parts. The first part is kind of an introduction that explains fundamentally the principles that I just talked about. The second component is about 70 pages of what they call the psychology of misjudgment, and that’s a list of about 30 mental models from psychology that impact negatively human decision-making. And there’s a really, really good resource that I can throw out, too, that’s sort of around that that’s a good starting place. And I think they start with psychology for a particular reason, and I think psychology is one of the best places to start because psychology underpins almost all human interaction. And so if you just understand some of the mental models from psychology you’re getting a huge amount of freight just out of those.
And then the balance of the book is another 150-200 pages what they call the physics and mathematics of misjudgment, and that’s things like systems theory, and the 80/20 principle, and base rates, and all of these concepts that once you start to really understand some of them can massively and positively impact your thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. So, so we got Seeking Wisdom. Did you say the other book title?

Matt Bodnar
Yup, so the other book is a book called The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, and that’s more business-focused but it’s a great and really, really digestible book that is chock-full of all kinds of mental models with kind of a bent towards business but I think are very, very relevant and a great kind of starting place to start to build out your toolkit of mental models.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, this is great stuff. So, could you maybe make this come to life a little bit in terms of, you know, you had a decision that you were trying to reach? And could you maybe walk us through how you thought about it, you referenced some mental models and you came up with a decision that was satisfactory or dare I say optimal?

Matt Bodnar
Definitely. I mean, a decision, and this is kind of a meta-decision for my personal life, but one of the things that I’ve really been – there’s actually two fundamental mental models right now that are top of mind for me. One of them is the 80/20 principle, and we can get into that, and the other is there’s a guy named Ray Dalio who’s the founder of a hedge fund called Bridgewater which is the largest and most successful hedge fund of all time.
And Ray Dalio has a website, it’s a free website, Principles.org. You can find, he has essentially a list of mental models that he calls his Principles that govern reality. And within Principles there’s a five-part framework for getting whatever you want in life, and it’s a super simple five-part framework and I can give you the five parts. But between those two things I basically, it’s a huge focus for me at the moment, is kind of stepping back and thinking about everything that I’m doing in my life and kind of running it through the filter of both the 80/20 principle and Ray Dalio’s five-step process to getting whatever you want in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Super. And so could you run one by us? A decision in terms of, “Hey, this is the question and this is something that I pulled from these resources or these models and how they informed that, and the outcome.”  The decision you got.

Matt Bodnar
Yeah, so a question would be, a very high-level question would be, “How do I allocate my time?” Right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Matt Bodnar
Or another one would be, “How do I focus my energies on the most high-leverage activities within my business so that I can increase the financial returns from my time spent?” So, I mean, those are sort of interrelated but just if you think about, “How do I spend my time?” Right? The 80/20 principle alone you can go really, really deep and kind of conduct an 80/20 analysis on your entire life and think about, “Okay.”
And I would say the way to do it is actually you should probably do one sort of for your business and for your personal life. But you can look at essentially four questions within your business life. And actually before we get into this, just for listeners who aren’t familiar with the 80/20 principle or who don’t kind of understand the components of it, it’s an incredibly powerful principle. It’s also known as the Pareto Principle, and it’s something that governs huge slots of reality.
So everything from the rankings of GDPs of countries, to rabbit populations, to the allocation of craters on the moon, all these different things are governed by the 80/20 principles, and it’s a fractal pattern that kind of repeats itself throughout nature, and it’s something that’s really, really fascinating. And if you can get it to work for you it’s incredibly powerful.
But, anyway, going back to the analysis. There’s basically four questions you want to ask, right? For your business you want to ask, “What are the 20% of things that are producing 80% of what I want? And what are the 20% of things that are producing 80% of what I don’t want?” Right? And you can essentially sort of go through the 20% of things that are creating 80% of what you want and create a list of action items so that you can focus on doing more of that. And then the 20% of things that are creating 80% of what you don’t want, you want to create an action sort of a not to-do list or a number of action items that you can either kind of find a way to cut that out, or stop doing it, or outsource it, or delegate it, or get it off your plate in some way.
And, similarly, you can do the same thing for your life. So the other two questions are, “What are the 20% of things in my personal life that are getting me 80% of what I want? And what are the 20% of things that are creating 80% of what I don’t want?”

Pete Mockaitis
I love hearing the dark side of that, “What I don’t want.” And so I’m quite familiar always thinking about, “Is this the 20%? Is this the 20%?” But to also look at the 20% of negative causes and forces, so that’s good.

Matt Bodnar
And then from that you form action items that you’re actually going to execute, right? You form sort of things you want to do to cultivate the 20% that produce results you like and you form a plan of action to delegate, eliminate or outsource the things that you don’t like.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. And so could you share with us something that you determined by going through this thought process, you know, like, “Wait, what is this about?” And sort of take that from beginning to end.

Matt Bodnar
Yeah, I would say one of them, and we could go back to the example of the podcast, right? And when my friend sort of sold his website I was stuck with all of these different pieces of the podcast I didn’t really understand, I had no idea how to execute and was taking a lot of my time and energy doing the various different pieces of it. And the 80/20 principle, to the fact that there was a number of activities that I could essentially completely outsource and sort of craft a system where I only do the pieces that I want to do and the pieces that are kind of the 20% that produces what I want, and then the other 80% of all the kind of noise and the editing and all this other stuff I could outsource and systematize.
And I’ll give you specific instances of how. Basically, I’ll just tell you sort of how the backend of the podcast runs and demonstrate kind of remove myself from everything except for the exact thing that I wanted to be doing which is having conversations with smart and interesting people.
So the life cycle of an episode, and you’ve interacted with some of the people in my team, but I have a producer on the show, his name is Austin. And I basically give Austin some rough guidelines and sort of a list of some of my favorite authors and bloggers and other people, and his job is to vet and schedule guests for the show. So Austin sort of goes and hunts the guests down, and we’ve cultivated a template, like an email template that he uses to do all the guest outreach. I used to do a 100% of that. I systematized it and given it to Austin.
Then Lace, who’s my assistant, who we were talking to earlier. Lace’s job is to schedule all of the guests. So Lace has very specific parameters. I only do interviews at certain times, I only do them certain days of the week, and part of that is because I want to have time to prep and I want to be in my studio, and I don’t want to be like running back and forth and have an interview in the middle of the day, like sandwiched by meetings. So Lace has very specific parameters for when she’ll schedule an interview.
So when an interview comes in, basically I just see interviews appear on my calendar. Like I don’t have to do anything, they just sort of show up, and they only show up at times when I’m willing to take an interview. What happens is then I go on an interview, and actually another component of that is my producer is responsible for doing kind of like a guest research packet. So he puts together this packet of notes and we sort of cultivate it exactly what I want in a packet so that I can go through that, find kind of the key components and put together the series of questions that I want to ask the guest.
So I do have a little bit of prep before the interview, but basically I take the research packet, the specific questions and then show up and do the interview. From there I drop it into Dropbox. I have a company that does all my audio production and I just send them notes like, “Hey, this episode is in Dropbox.” They edit it, put it in another Dropbox folder, my assistant then takes it, she uploads it to my website, emails it out, does all the stuff to kind of get it posted to our podcast host and everything on the backend. And she knows kind of the cadence and the schedule of when episodes are supposed to go live. And we have an editorial calendar of when which episodes will air.
So, from that whole cradle-to-grave process, by sort of analyzing everything and figuring out what was wasting my time and what do I actually not need to do and what do I not want to be doing, I was able to completely remove myself from all the components of the process that didn’t take my time and energy. And there’s actually still a few little fringe things that I’ve been kind of doing that I need to move to my assistant, so this is a good reminder that I need to train her on a couple of other pieces of the process that I’m still wasting time on.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. That’s great. And I think it’s nice how, by taking that time to really think through things, you realize that you’re not saddled with, that you have options, there are approaches to outsource. And some folks will think, “Oh, no, I can do it just right or the way that I want it.” But by taking that time to clearly define what you dig and what you don’t dig and how you’d like to have that presented and finding great people who could execute on that then you’re there.
So I think that’s really key as well. By having, taking that time you’re able to arrive at those conclusions as opposed to some people sort of assume they are stuck, “If I want this result then I have to do all the stuff to get it.” But, in fact, that’s not really the case.

Matt Bodnar
Totally true. And that’s actually harkening back to Ray Dalio as I mentioned a second ago. One of the fundamental things that he talks about is the idea that there is a five-step process to getting anything you want in life, and you don’t have to be the one to execute any given pieces of the process. You just have to find somebody who can help you execute them. And I think that’s a fundamental principle that a lot of people don’t understand, and it goes back to the importance of improving your ability to sort of think and making time to really think and evaluate things.
When you have the ability to step back, and I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book The E-Myth Revisited but it’s a great and kind of a classic book about entrepreneurship. One of the fundamental principles in that book is the idea that you should work on your business and not in your business. And unless you cultivate and take the time to step back and think about how things are structured, and where you should be spending your time, and what the best use of your time is, or what the best use of your capital is, and how you should sort of be allocating things, you kind of blindly stumble through and end up making a lot of misallocations of your time and your money, and essentially wasting a lot of time doing things that you don’t necessarily have to be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. Well, so let me know. Let’s see, we talked about mental models, checklists, 80/20 Rule. Are there any other additional sort of concepts, questions, frameworks that you think are relevant to bring to bear here when you talk about great decision-making?

Matt Bodnar
There’s two things that come to mind. One is, and this is the point that I meant to make earlier, one of the key components of the idea of kind of embarking down the path of making better decisions is not that you’re going to become this super genius that makes perfect decisions every time. What it’s really about is humans have all kinds of innate psychological and decision-making biases because of the way that our brains evolved, right?
Our brains evolved over millions of years to survive in a hunter-gatherer type of society. They didn’t evolve to function highly in today’s modern world. And so there’s all kinds of little shortcuts in our brain that 90% of the time they work out great and they save a ton of cognitive processing power, but occasionally they result in totally ridiculous and in some instances disastrous outcomes, right? And those are essentially what we call psychological biases. And those are things like confirmation bias. Those are things like commitment consistency tendency, anchoring, like all this stuff.
All of those things can trip us up. And the point of mastering the art of decision-making is not necessarily to conquer all these things, but it’s to say, and as Charlie Munger puts it, it’s to be consistently not stupid, right? It’s to take out the most blatantly obvious failure points in your decision-making process. And if you were making 10 decisions, and if you’re making 10 wrong decisions, eliminate the three dumbest of those decisions by just asking yourself, like, “Hey, am I falling prey to some kind of psychological bias when I make this?”
And if you’re able to eliminate just a couple of those, that little difference will put you leagues ahead of kind of the average person who’s not taking the time to internalize a lot of that stuff, and not taking the time to really think about it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Well, Matt, tell me, is there anything else you want to make sure you put out there before we hit some of your favorite things?

Matt Bodnar
The other thing I was going to throw out there was another kind of specific strategy you can use to concretely implement this is using something called a decision journal which is basically the idea of any time you have a major decision, like you don’t need to write this down for everything that you’re deciding about. But anything that you think is a really important decision that you’re actually going to stop and put time and energy into thinking about and evaluating, record that decision-making process in a journal where you say, “I’m making the following decision. Here are the reasons why. Here’s what I predict the kind of likelihood of X, Y, Z outcomes being. And what’s my emotional state at the time that I’m writing this.”
What that gives you is over time you can go back to that and see what actually happened, and then start to see patterns in your decision-making process and see, “Okay, are there consistent things where I keep overestimating the probability of something happening? Or I keep underestimating something happening. Or I keep making the same decision and it keeps resulting in failure over and over again.” You can start to see these patterns in your decision-making emerge. And when you crystallize it on a piece of paper it eliminates the ability of what’s called hindsight bias to cloud your thinking, right?
Hindsight bias is essentially the idea that, let’s say, you and I decide to start a business venture and we embark on it, and eight months down the road it ends up being an abysmal failure. And you think to yourself, “Man, I knew that was never going to work out.” Right? And people constantly do that. Your mind is designed to sort of self-soothe and make yourself . . . mistakes and bad decisions. And so you kind of just very, very casually sort of re-write a little piece of the story in your own mind, and you’re like, “Yeah, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Like, I always knew that they were never going to be successful.” Or whatever it is.
Well, if you actually really write it down at the time, you remove your ability to deceive yourself about whether or not you actually really thought it was going to fail, or what you weighed the probability of failure out at that time. And so decision journals are a great tool for that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is powerful. Yes, absolutely. And so I’d be curious to hear then, it’s all about sort of a filtration stage, like what’s big enough to make the cut in the decision journal. So, in your own experience, sort of how often are you putting an input into your own decision journal?

Matt Bodnar
It varies. I mean, and being in kind of the investment business it could go, there could be a month where I have two or three decisions in there, and there could be a month where I have no decisions in there. It really just depends on, and I try to do kind of financial decisions, things that are kind of major allocations of capital, or other things in my life, and it really just depends on the flow of deals and other things in terms of what kind of activities taking place. But I’d say, I mean, maybe like once a month, maybe two or three times a month at most depending on the level of decisions that you’re making.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, so now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Matt Bodnar
I would say like a really simple one, a really short quote that I think back to a lot is a quote from Tim Ferriss, “Simplicity requires ruthlessness.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, agreed. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a piece of research?

Matt Bodnar
A favorite study. One of my favorites is from the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love it.

Matt Bodnar
Yes, and it goes with the commitment consistency bias. And it’s a study where the commitment consistency bias is basically the idea that people, if you get them to agree to seemingly innocuous commitments, they later, down the road, will build kind of this subconscious self-image that can allow you to get them into these monstrously large commitments.
And so they did a study with yard signs. Have you ever seen those giant political signs? I’m not talking about like the little ones that are on coat hangers that stick in your yard. I’m talking about the ones that are on like two-by-fours that are like these big canvass political signs. They went around and asked people, “Hey, would you put a sign in your yard that says, ‘Drive Safely’?” Massive signs. And the vast majority of people said, “No.” Right?
They then went to sort of comparable neighborhood and they just really simply went and asked people, “Hey, would you sign a petition to support safe driving?” And almost everyone did it, right? They came back like three months later and asked that group of people, “Hey, would you put this ridiculously large ‘Drive Safely’ sign in your yard?” And it was like 30% or 40% of the people said, “Yes.” Right? It’s a massive, massive increase over what the original kind of commitment rate was.
And the only difference is that they had asked them to do this really simple commitment on the frontend of, and maybe it was like putting a sticker in their window, or it was either signing a petition or putting a sticker on their window. But it was basically this totally innocuous thing that almost anyone would be willing to do, and it had a huge impact on people’s willingness to put a giant kind of ugly sign in their front yard.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so good. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Matt Bodnar
My favorite book, wow. The one that’s had the biggest impact on my entire life is definitely Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Great. And how about a favorite tool whether it’s a product or service or app or something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Matt Bodnar
I would say Evernote is probably the thing that I live my life on more than anything. I use Evernote for everything.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. And tell us, any sort of ninja Evernote tactics that you’re using above and beyond just cooking new note and putting stuff in there?

Matt Bodnar
I don’t know if it’s a ninja tactic but what I do is a lot of times I’ll take paper notes and then I’ll just take a picture of it with my phone and save it in Evernote and tag it up. And it’s really useful because you get kind of the dual benefits of taking notes by hand, which some research indicates is actually sort of better for your memory, and you get the search function of Evernote. So I can pull up meeting notes from a meeting five years ago with someone specific and have the exact sort of screenshot of that meeting saved where it has all the specific things we talked about and all the takeaways and everything else.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s excellent. And is there also, would you say, a resonant nugget, something that you share that really seems to connect with folks, that gets the nod in their heads, taking notes, re-tweeting your stuff? What’s the Matt original that seems to be hitting the mark for folks?

Matt Bodnar

I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s, to me, a lot of people don’t talk about the idea that you should focus on being as high-leverage as possible and improving your ability to make better decisions is one of the most high-leverage things you can do. So, to me, that’s the nugget that I’m currently sort of most passionate about or talking about.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great. While we’re talking nuggets, I must ask, amongst your podcast guests, has there been an idea or two that you personally found transformational? Like, “Whoa,” you’re thinking about and applying it all the time ever since you heard it from that guest.

Matt Bodnar
Absolutely. One of the most transformational interviews for me, personally, was an interview with a woman named Megan Bruneau which probably, I don’t think many listeners would’ve heard of her. But that interview was really, really impactful for me, and she kind of couches it in a language of perfectionism, and I never considered myself a perfectionist in any way. But she really, really talks about self-acceptance, self-compassion and how to deal with and accept negative emotions.
And that was really, instead of trying to kind of fight and wish that I didn’t have any negative emotions and want them to go away and kind of suppress them, being able to accept them and deal with them in a compassionate way has transformed how I deal with things like stress and anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so great. Thank you. And what would you say is the best place for folks who want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Matt Bodnar
The easiest thing to do would be to go to ScienceofSuccess.co/better, and on that site I have something that I put together for your listeners which is basically a free guide called Four Steps to Making Better Decisions. So, for people who want to kind of take the first step and really improve their ability to think better, that’s something that they could check out.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Thank you. And do you have a final call to action or challenge for those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Matt Bodnar
I would say think about how you can improve your decision-making abilities, right? And that’s something that will cascade to everything that you do in your work, and I think you’ll see a lot of fruit from pursuing that path because it’s the path that not many people go down.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, perfect. Well, Matt, thank you. This has been such a good time. I wish you lots of luck in making optimal decisions about every investment and everything else.

Matt Bodnar
Pete, thank you so much and I’ve enjoyed having a conversation with you.

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