“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!
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):
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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:
- 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
- Beeman’s Gum
- 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]
- Josh Waitzkin
- Ramit Sethi
- Warren Buffett
- Bobby Fischer
- Joel Greenblatt
- Charlie Munger
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Forrest Gump
- Ferris Bueller
- Magnus Carlsen
- Samuel Reshevsky
- Kobe Bryant
- Stephen Curry
- Boris Spassky
- Muhammad Ali
- Dread Pirate Roberts
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
- Pablo Picasso
- Abraham Maslow
- Sam Zell
- Tony Robbins
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Martin Polanco
- Dan Engle
- James Fadiman
- Woody Allen
- Marcus Aurelius
- Charles Darwin
- Lucilius Junior
- Jalal al-Din Rumi
- Gabrielle Reece
Posted on: February 2, 2017.
Please check out Tools of Titans, my latest book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger.