I used to spend my days in management at an intelligence agency. Now I don’t.
You won’t find spy stories here. I’m not allowed to tell them. And you wouldn’t believe them anyway.
For me the interesting part of working for an intelligence agency was making decisions that mattered. Decisions that juggled states, technology, people, and more. Decisions with consequence. Decisions under pressure. Decisions in a large and bureaucratic organization.
As I started moving up in the organization the complexity of the decisions grew. While I was responsible for increasingly consequential decisions, I didn’t feel equipped to make these decisions.
So I did what anyone does.
I pored over article after article on how we can make better decisions. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months.
I wasted a lot of time and didn’t make any progress.
As a next step, a friend suggested that I go back to school and get an MBA. After all, that’s what CEOs and high-level executives do. He told me that was the place to learn to make decisions.
Boy was he wrong.
The first week of the MBA started out decently enough. Then it went promptly downhill.
After three weeks it became clear that business school wasn’t going to help me make better decisions.
Frustrated with the lack of education, I almost dropped out.
Luckily I didn’t quit because that’s how Farnam Street started.
If I wasn’t learning at school, I would learn on my own. All that time I was spending on homework became the time to explore how the world really works.
I became a wisdom seeker.
To make things simple, I started a blog to keep a record of what I was learning. It also helped that I could easily connect ideas with a link.
Like any employee of a three-letter-agency, I gave that project a codename. I called it 68131 and made it anonymous.
The five number sequence happens to be the zip code for Berkshire Hathaway, one of the largest companies in the world. The company is run by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, two people who have served as role models for me over the years.
I figured no one would type in 68131 to go to a website.
I was wrong.
At first there were a few readers who seemed interested in learning along with me. Then hundreds. Hundreds of readers. I thought that was crazy.
A lot of them used to email me and complain how annoying it was to have to remember a zip code to find the site.
When I reached 5,000 readers I switched to the name Farnam Street. Continuing with the homage to Berkshire, this is the street in Omaha, Nebraska where the company keeps its headquarters.
What you see on this site is a chronology of a pursuit of worldly wisdom that continues to this day.
Farnam Street has become an online intellectual hub that helps you make better decisions and avoid stupidity. While it started out with just me, now there is a team of people helping.
If you want to go to bed each night smarter than when you woke up, this is the place for you. We cover topics like human misjudgment, decision making, strategy, and philosophy.
I’m not smart enough to figure all of this out myself. So we try to master the best of what other people have already figured out.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
The best way to do this is to read a lot. And so I make friends with the eminent dead.
Along the way, I share what I’m learning.
What do other people say about Farnam Street?
“… a compelling blog about decision making.” — Jason Zweig in The Wall Street Journal
“[Farnam Street] does a really remarkable job of looking at culture, history, and interesting books … I check this almost everyday.” — Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive and To Sell is Human.
The Wall Street Journal calls Farnam Street one of the best.
“This invaluable blog offers a wonderfully broad range of practical wisdom — on everything from making smarter decisions to improving our work habits to thriving in the face of adversity. I’m a devoted reader of Shane Parrish’s writing and have learned a great deal from his life-enhancing insights.” — William Green, Author of The Great Minds of Investing
“This is an outstanding newsletter. I have rarely read a concise synthesis of complicated topics from disparate sources that has been so well written… On par with Krugman or Jim Grant. Wonderful.” — Bert Hancock
“Your work helps decision-makers conserve mental energy by presenting usable insights in a distilled format.” — MG
“Amid all the BS that exists online, it’s truly a pleasure to open up one of your e-mails every Sunday. Your newsletter is one of a select few that challenge me to think, learn, and ultimately be a better version of myself.” — Ajmal
“Confounded by the fog of ignorance, Farnam Street is the lighthouse by which I endeavour to ascertain my bearings on the chart of life …” — Janis Frisvalds
“Your writings have encouraged and directed me in my quest to be a life-long learner and how I have been challenged to really reflect and think as opposed to just having opinions. Also I would want to say that your writings have a great deal of insight and are a far cry from being commonplace and are worth every minute of time that the reader invests in them.” — Tracy Winn Banks
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“If knowledge is power, @farnamstreet is your electric company.” — Ben Gatzke “Your digest is one of the most insightful newsletters I’ve ever come across.” — Miha Zupan “[Y]ou have truly changed my life by igniting a love of reading and thinking. These days I can’t wait to order my next chunk of books from Amazon, and I have you to thank. So keep it up.” — ZM “Farnam Street is an oasis in an internet of celebrity-obsession, soundbites and misinformation.” — Rebecca Jackson “one of my favs to follow.” — Professor Ian McCarthy
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“A Big Fan” — Tracy Alloway, Financial Times
“consistently awesome” — stacy-marie ishmael
“Your blog is one of the best I’ve ever come across. It’s the only rss feed that matters.” — Fletcher Berryman
“The wondrous Farnam Street blog, a secret source/sauce of brilliant insight” — Paul
“wow, the Farnam Street blog is fascinating!” – Alpha Architect
“If your brain is itching for the most thought-provoking, conversation-starting, and absolutely-mindblowing articles…look no further. I just wish I knew about this site earlier…” – 100 Tiny Sparks
“… if you’re not reading it, why not?” — Archytas Group
“I love Farnam Street…keeps me thinkin” — Marci Lane
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“This is a fantastic blog.” – Kitsch
“Gotta say, @farnamstreet is probably the best twitter feed I have. Always interesting.”- TC Miles
“I am truly impressed with the information you share. Thanks!” — Matthew “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: you are a seriously talented curator. hot damn.” — Karen Schoellkopf — Marcus Greenwood (@inventur_es) June 27, 2012
“No blogger’s been more consistently interesting than farnamstreet” — Paul Sas
“Highly recommend this blog” — Chad Langager
“A unique perspective and always worth reading” — Chris Harvey
“Just found your site, looks so interesting. Looking forward to following and learning” — Nicole Devine
“[Farnam Street is] a wonderful forum for learning how to think…about the world, about knowledge, about oneself” — Carlos Garay
“Truly a gold mine on the Net, filled with wisdom and information.” — Jan Michael Yap
“Farnam Street is THE best blog I have ever read. So much insight and wisdom. It has helped me a lot with my professional duties, and a lot of my free-time reading come from your suggestions.” — Marcius Fabiani
“Shane Parrish … maintains this blog about decision making, critical thinking and lifelong learning. He reads encyclopedically and thinks deeply about how investors—and human beings—can become more thoughtful, patient and creative.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Your website is by far the most valuable learning resource I’ve discovered in recent years!” — Janis Frisvalds
“Lawnmower for the grass of ignorance” — Rodolfo Rosario
“I read your blog and it’s great! Thanks for making me smarter.” – Rebekah Hansen “(After discovering you) I felt as if I am back to my college days literally learning something interesting. Somehow I felt like there was a big hiatus in my learning process which I want to start all over again afresh.” — Gaurav Rateria
“I haven’t enjoyed anything else on the Internet as much as Farnam Street.” — Olia Liamina
“Shane – wanted to say thank you for what you do. I think your blog is the best on the web. The content is amazing, and though I have been a subscriber for two years, it just seems to keep getting better.”
If you’d like to send me something (say a book, *new macbook air*, products, cash), direct it to my PO Box:
PO BOX 14037
I used to post an email address, however people contacted me at an alarming frequency. Increasingly, this became a distraction as what I do requires long hours of uninterrupted concentration. If you want to get in touch, please use the postal address.
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I often post excerpts of things created by others. In fact if you see anything useful on here at all, I’m probably just para-phrasing someone smarter. If you, as a copyright holder, feel I have violated or infringed on your copyright please let me know and I will take down the link or modify the post in question.
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The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Farnam Street Media Inc. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader and the author and should not be relied upon in making any decisions.