Q&A 029

Published on:
April 7, 2021

Hi All,

For this week's newsletter, we struck a balance between objective analysis and an emotional share. We look at the science behind current day inflation and how to best tackle problem solving. On the other hand we share some personal development and resonance insights. Enjoy!


The topic of inflation receives a lot of attention lately. Whilst I do not intend to solve this issue in a 5-minute-read newsletter, I do like to focus on one popular belief that does not seem to hold.

Especially, in Western societies that deal with an ageing population, the common belief is that a declining share of working people will lead to inflation as they supposedly have an improved bargaining position. In addition, elderly people spend more than they save, which is supportive of inflation. An often-cited book on this topic is 'The Great Demographic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival' by Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan.

However, data from Japan may undermine this theory. Declines in the Japanese workforce have been matched by declines in pay:

Data from the US shows net investments relative to GDP keeps pace with labour force growth and has therefore been declining over the past 40 years. The basic point is that up till now ageing has been associated with lower inflation, contrary to popular belief:

Does this mean we're safe from inflation despite Central Banks creating money out of thin air like never before? To my mind, in a globalized world, it is paramount to take a much wider perspective. Just have a look at the young, fast-growing and spending populations like those from India and South-East Asia. The definition of inflation is a topic to research as well. Cliffhanger: the core CPI that is shown on the vertical axis in the graph may not be the inflation you and I are experiencing every day.

🥴 Drunk

In my experience with solving problems, two main issues are front and center almost all of the time. The first is not getting to the core of the problem. Having your mind wander halfway between the real core of the problem and a half-baked-solution is a surefire way to limit your options and prevent yourself from coming up with real breakthrough thinking. The remedy for this is like taking a few steps back when you are holding a photo camera to get a wider view. Asking repeated 'why?' questions gets you to the core and is the best starting point for the next phase.

The second issue is tied to the two phases that follow; diverging and then converging to a great solution. We all have a tendency to skip the diverging phase, the crazy ideas, the endless possibilities. We smell the stable and run for the prize, spending far too less time in the universe where anything can be done.

Ernest Hemmingway has been quoted to say: "Write Drunk, Edit sober", clearly demarcating the phases of diverging and converging. I'm not making the case for more Cuba Libre here, but I am a big fan of a clear separation of the two. If you're up for any task that requires creativity, be sure to create time for wearing both caps. Wear the crazy one and go broad. Sleep, walk, do some chores or sports, and only then start wearing the stern editing and converging cap.

🏊‍♂️ View

In my mind (pun intended), one of the most beneficial effects of learning how to meditate has been the raised awareness of your own thoughts. Being able to better look at your own stream of thinking, if only for a few extra minutes each day, has proven to be a life-altering superpower. Like standing on the banks of a river instead of being in the river, it enables you to observe and learn.

One of the most confronting views I got from the shore, is how much time I used to spend on negative thoughts. What's dumb, stupid, ugly or foolish. Stuff you watch on TV, other people's behaviour and choices, the way the world works, you name it. Once I started catching myself doing this, I also started making it a habit to skip this line of thinking and forced myself having some empathic thoughts, as a way of immediate penitence. Having a generally positive attitude worked like a virtuous cycle for me and made me a happier person.

Fred Wilson just wrote a nice piece on being positive and how this has affected him.

"Doing this not only can change how others feel about you, it can change how you feel about yourself. I highly recommend it. I hope it becomes a trend. We would all be happier and nicer. Social media would be tolerable. Life would be better."

Ultimately, it's a choice up to all of us.

🎶 Resonate

You just know it when you hear or see it: it resonates so well, you instantly love this song, picture or performance.

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure to be present at a performance of the Dutch-Belgian Jazz collective Gare du Nord. Their 'We still grow' instantly resonated. Perhaps because of its heartbeat-like rhythm, but the lyrics spoke to my heart as well:

"In moments stolen from the ocean of time

Beyond the everlasting balance of mind

In the flow and field of music and rhyme

As a side effect of passion defying

We grow, oooh we still grow"

Whether something resonates is often time-, place- and situation-specific. Some performances of art, be it music, paintings, ballet or another form, just stick and seem to resonate with your core frequencies. I love it.

That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, click here to sign up. You can browse earlier editions in our revamped, searchable archive.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.

Have a great week!

Quinten & Alphons