March 3, 2017
Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move ... experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation. ... Any decision, whether it’s what pants to buy or whether to start a war, can be broken down into what psychologists call the Rubicon model of action phases, in honor of the river that separated Italy from the Roman province of Gaul.
A former executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Mr Carey has plenty of experience in sports programming. He was involved in the successful launch of Fox Sports in 1994 and helped broker a $1.6bn deal between the network and the National Football League. But he had never been asked to reinvent a sport. ... For the past 40 years, F1 has been run as the personal fiefdom of Bernie Ecclestone, a former second-hand car dealer who transformed an amateur sport for enthusiasts into a multibillion-dollar enterprise watched by millions. Regardless of the numerous times the 86-year-old had sold stakes in F1’s parent company, diluting his own shareholding over time, his mastery of F1’s business strengthened his hold over the sport. Almost every decision needed his approval, from sponsorships to which celebrity could gain a VIP pass to the pit stops. ... F1’s new owners, with a controlling 35 per cent stake, had no intention of being passive investors, believing more conventional and less combative management was in order. The sport has suffered from years of waning interest from audiences and sponsors.
Miller’s resiliency after fumbling the refugee ban offers a lesson in how to survive the Darwinian world of Trump’s White House. To win favor, you must amplify Trump’s belief that he’s already accomplished great things; defend even his most outrageous claims as self-evidently correct; and look sharp, while projecting unshakable self-confidence. ... Under Sessions, Miller was busy assembling the elements of a restrictionist “America First” nationalism long before Trump arrived on the scene. Today he has a heavy hand, along with Bannon, in crafting Trump’s policy plans and executive orders. Miller also drafts the president’s major speeches, including the one Trump will deliver to Congress on Tuesday night. When Miller goes on television to defend Trump's words, he’s often defending his own writing. In a sense, Trump is giving voice to Miller as much as the other way around. ... While economists generally agree that tighter labor markets cause wages to rise, Miller’s plan risks stunting overall economic growth. ... Economic nationalism, as defined by Trump’s advisers, would seize the levers of government and the presidential bully pulpit to direct resources to helping marginalized U.S. workers.
Right now, in a vault controlled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, there sits a 752-pound emerald with no rightful owner. This gem is the size of a minifridge. It weighs as much as two sumo wrestlers. Estimates of its worth range from a hundred bucks to $925 million. ... Emeralds invite stories—many of them dubious. At various points in history people have believed that emeralds were capable of protecting humans against cholera, infidelity, and evil spirits, and that an emerald placed under the tongue could transform a person into a truth-teller. This 752-pound emerald doesn’t quite fit under the tongue, and it appears to have had zero positive effects. ... the emerald trade is controlled by hundreds of tiny players. The price is, to put it generously, flexible. ... The market is especially shifty for so-called specimen emeralds—those that are big and weird, destined for curio cases and natural history museums. The emerald in the Sheriff’s Department vault is called the Bahia emerald and it is the consummate specimen: huge, strange, and composed of such low-quality crystals that, were those crystals broken down into smaller rocks, gemologists would call them “fish tank emeralds.” ... Over the past 10 years, four lawsuits have been filed over the Bahia emerald. Fourteen individuals or entities, plus the nation of Brazil, have claimed the rock is theirs. A house burned down. Three people filed for bankruptcy. One man alleges having been kidnapped and held hostage.
Eight years ago, in an article for Sports Illustrated, I asked Magic Johnson -- the gold standard for athlete capitalists -- how he helps players avoid financial suicide. He underscored one of his cardinal rules: When players call Johnson for counsel, which happens all the time, he stops them cold if they mention any business plan -- be it for a record label, a car wash, a production company -- featuring a buddy or relative. "That's the killer," said Johnson, who added that he became CEO of his eponymous billion-dollar conglomerate by rejecting friends and family in favor of the shiny suits who sat courtside at Lakers games. "They hire these people not because of expertise but because they're friends. Well, they'll fail." ... It is fair to say that James, Johnson's spiritual descendant on the court, has embraced an opposite vision off it. James was only 5 when he first befriended Carter, whose 9th birthday party he attended because of a mutual family friend. When James was a freshman at St. Vincent-St. Mary, Carter was the senior captain on their state championship basketball team. So as I relay Johnson's philosophy to James, now 32, the question hangs in the air: Didn't he worry about empowering personal friendship over professional experience?