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Learning from failures -- Nazi Germany's Hunger Plan 2020-12-26 23:38:48

Just finished reading the Wikipedia page for Nazi Germany's Hunger Plan*, and I just decided on a new personal approach to learning history. I've always assumed that history was best learned through the successes. In school we learned about who the presidents were. Who the emperors were and how they got that way. Little time was spent on failure.

Using inversion is a strategy many followers of Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett like to exercise. It entails focusing or viewing the inverse of something that you want rather than what you want itself. So for example, if you want to be focused, you examine what the inverse of focus is to you. Perhaps that's distraction. And perhaps your go-to sources of distraction are Twitter and Youtube. Then you've figured out to be more focused you stop going on those sites or at the least timebox them.

It's not a revolutionary way of thinking. You might describe the above elementary. But I'd argue that what makes inversion useful is not how difficult it is, it's not, but how easy it allows us to concretely conceive things that fall through the wayside when we think 'normally'.

I don't know about you, but when I'm thinking normally I obsess over what I want. Inversion allows you to actually define better your goals by contrasting it to the backdrop of what you don't want.

Failure could be seen as the inverse of success. And I think that we define the goals of Nazi's as failures. But I've spent so little time reading from the perspective of the failures in this example. While reading the above Wikipedia page, I learned that actually the true extent of the plan, which would've wiped out tens of millions of Russians, was never enacted because Germany's military ambitions failed.

In a sense you could cast Nazi Germany as a startup, and the Hunger Plan as it's longer term vision after the success of it's initial product the Blitzkrieg. I'm looking forward to what I can learn from reading the documents of the Hunger Plan. Really observe what they were thinking as they planned.

Part of this is because I'm curious to the information itself. But my main reason is to keep me grounded. I feel like often we're reading so much about others' successes and victories we feel like we are just like them. We vicariously think we've already won and are moral. I think this automatic self-ascribing as hero is dangerous at worst and ineffective at best.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_Plan

Great, accessible article on inversion -- https://fs.blog/2013/10/inversion/

More from Abraham Kim

As a contrarian, I like this approach. I have always found studying history a challenge because you will always get the slant and bias of the person telling the story. What's that quote? History is written by the victors or some such. 
2020-12-27 16:28:50
Interesting post Sir Abe. I was just thinking of writing the list of topics I want to immerse myself into so I can understand it better and hence understand myself better. Failure is right up there along with power and corruption. I like these psychological type conversations we have on these topics. 
2020-12-28 18:38:16
I really like the top ten list you've shared because I feel that we are really obsessed with such psychological phenomena (a lot of them dark) because we know they exist in us but we often don't live lives that allow us to confront that reality in useful ways.
2020-12-28 21:23:07