Chief Slowdown Officer

Lex Fridman interviews Jeff Bezos about making decisions:

YouTube comments:

“I think this is very liberating for perfectionists, most decisions are not permanent and you can pick another door if necessary, if they are one way door decisions then you can allow for some perfectionism.”

“I’m the same age as Bezos. Also studied engineering and moved into management. What he’s talking about is, basically, exactly what we were taught in our control systems engineering classes back at university. Almost all engineer managers of our age group say the same thing.”

“I think everyone fails to understand the message of this discussion. It’s not about decision-making mechanisms, it’s about truth-seeking and the idea that no matter what the debate is about the objective should always be to try to get as close as possible to the truth to make the decision that resembles closest to the truth. That’s the whole point of this conversation, to leave the ego aside and search for truth.”

Weak link?

Germany wants to come up with a national security strategy (NSS) by the end of 2022.  The new government started out with great ambitions in security and defense policy. However, for many allies, Germany seems to be once again a weak link and an unreliable partner in European defense. Instead of focusing on security, it should focus on a strategy for action in the event of conflict. This requires to broaden the concept of security and include more policy fields, especially technology, innovation, and internal security.

Germany’s new government started out with great ambitions in security and defense policy. The first statements and foreign trips of the new government officials to France, Poland, the US, and Ukraine, were reassuring.

However, after this rather ambitious start, hesitations, inconsistent action and messaging vis-à-vis allies, worries about how the German public would perceive government decisions, and irritatingly over-cautious moves towards Russia, have overshadowed initial impressions. For many allies, Germany seems to be once again a weak link and an unreliable partner in European defense.

Joe Louis and Max Schmeling

Not many people know of the great friendship between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, at their time the world’s greatest boxers.

June 19, 1936. In famed Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The American Joe Louis versus the German Max Schmeling. Their first of two fights. Louis undefeated 24-0 and never knocked down, hits the canvas in the twelfth round. The fight is over.

Round 12 starts at 27:27. At 29:27 Louis is defenseless. He goes down. The referee ends the fight. Schmeling rushes over to help Joe Louis. Schmeling stays with Louis all the way over to his corner of the ring. Schmeling’s people have to literally pull him away from Joe Louis.

Among the attendees of the fight was Langston Hughes, a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance and a noted literary figure. Hughes described the national reaction to Louis’ defeat in these terms:

“I walked down Seventh Avenue and saw grown men weeping like children, and women sitting in the curbs with their head in their hands. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried.”

Poet and author Maya Angelou, recounted her recollection. A young Angelou had listened to the fight over the radio in her uncle’s country store in rural Arkansas. While Louis was on the ropes,

“My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another black man hanging on a tree …. this might be the end of the world. If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than the apes.”

June 22, 1938 – one year from the day Louis had won the world heavyweight title – the fighters meet once again in a sold-out Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Louis defeats Schmeling in the very first round. Knowing what a true and loyal friend Schmeling was to become to Joe Louis at the end of Louis’ life, it breaks your heart to see how helpless Max Schmeling was in the final seconds of this first round.

After retiring from the ring, Schmeling purchased a Coca- Cola bottling and distribution franchise in Hamburg in 1948, the first in Germany after World War II.

Schmeling reached out and developed a friendship with Louis after their boxing careers ended and provided financial assistance to his former foe in the 1950s. He also paid for part of the funeral arrangements when Louis died in 1981. Max Schmeling was one of the pallbearers.

“It wasn’t until after World War II that I saw him again,” Louis said in his autobiography. “We hugged each other and we’re real friendly and kept in touch by phone.”

The battles between Louis, a black man, and Schmeling came to symbolize for some the coming struggle between Hitler’s Third Reich and the Allies in World War II. Although Hitler had praised Schmeling after the first fight, Schmeling was not an admirer of the German leader and refused to join the Nazi party.

Schmeling, who served as a German paratrooper in World War II, later received an award from the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for risking his life to hide two Jewish brothers during the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, when Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked and destroyed by Nazis.

The boys, Henri and Werner Lewin, made their way to the U.S., where Henri became a hotel owner. Schmeling kept his act of courage secret. Henri Lewin revealed it at a dinner honoring the former champion in 1989:

“He risked his life for us. Our lives weren’t worth a penny,” Lewin said in a 2002 interview with the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. “I said, ‘If this is a Nazi, he’s a good Nazi. But I want you to know one thing: I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for this Nazi.'”

Max Schmeling never joined the Nazi Party.

August 9, 1973. Legendary boxers and great friends, Max Schmeling and Joe Louis meet in New York, as Schmeling arrives for visit.

This History Channel documentary is well worth watching.

Repeal means Revise

The right to a speedy trial, the American expectation that conflicts within teams are resolved quickly, can indeed lead to judgements passed which are not ideal, optimal, right or even just.

Americans make decisions quickly, often hastily. But, if the decisions are narrow in scope – have been isolated – then they can be revised. There is time for reconsidering and revision. The parties involved in the decision can be brought back in.

This same logic applies to the American judicial system. It allows anyone sentenced in a court to appeal that sentence. An appeal is when the accused (and sentenced) can take their case from a lower to a higher court for review.

In the American business context, a team member who believes that the judgement is wrong, or the conflict resolution process was unfair, can ask to have that decision reviewed by next-level management or by a neutral third party within the company, typically the human resources department.

More Rules of Moderation

The Germans believe that moderation can succeed only if it makes clear to all parties involved that there will be no naming a winner and a loser.

Naming one side the loser is a guaranty that the conflict resolution will not hold, that the losing party will seek to roll back, revise, reject the resolution. True acceptance, real stability, can be achieved only if both parties come away accepting a compromise.

Akzeptieren. Latin acceptare, to accept, take on, allow, approve, recognize; to come to agreement with someone; to accept an apology, a recommendation, an idea.

Sore Losers

No culture raises its children to be sore losers: someone who cannot admit defeat, makes excuses, challenges the final results.

Americans certainly do not like a sore loser. Instead, they respect a losing political candidate, sports team, work colleague who admits defeat, neither blames others, nor complains about the election, game or job being „unfair.“

In fact, in America many a (temporary) loser has come back to become a winner, primarily because they blamed themselves, looked at their own errors, and then corrected them. And they remained persistent.

The converse is the gracious winner: the person, team or organization which does not boast, brag or celebrate in an exaggerated way. Most importantly, gracious winners go out of their way to compliment, even praise, their opponent. Gracious winners stay small, don‘t puff themselves up. Modesty.

Sore: causing pain or distress; painfully sensitive; tender, hurt or inflamed so as to be or seem painful; attended by difficulties, hardship, or exertion; angry, irked. From Middle English sor, from Old English sār; akin to Old High German sēr sore and probably to Old Irish saeth distress.

Gracious: marked by kindness and courtesy, tact and delicacy; characterized by charm, good taste, generosity of spirit, and the tasteful leisure of wealth and good breeding. Latin gratiosus, enjoying favor, agreeable, from gratia.


Verdict: The finding or decision of a jury on the matter submitted to it in trial; opinion, judgement. Middle English verdit, verdict. From Anglo-French veirdit, true + dictum.

Accept: To receive willingly; to give admittance or approval to; to endure without protest or reaction; to recognize as true; to make a favorable response to; to agree to undertake. Middle English, from Anglo-French accepter, from Latin acceptare, accipere to receive, from ad- + capere to take.

Revenge: To avenge (as oneself) usually by retaliating in kind or degree; to inflict injury in return for. From Anglo-French revenger, revengier, from re- + venger to avenge.

Grudge: To be unwilling to give or admit; give or allow reluctantly or resentfully. Middle English grucchen, grudgen to grumble, complain, from Middle High German grogezen, to howl.


One reason why Americans don’t mind losing an argument is that once they lose, they can be seen as the underdog. Underdogs are people who are considered unlikely to win. There is a long history in America of the Underdog finding support and overcoming difficult odds to ultimately win in the end.

In the 1960s and 1970s a cartoon superhero series about an underdog (that was even called “Underdog”) was very popular.

In 1980 the US Olympic hockey team, which was comprised of young and inexperienced players, played against the seasoned Russian Olympic team. Even though the Russian team was highly favored to win, the American team ultimately defeated them. This event later inspired the 2004 film “Miracle.”

Cowboys, as lone travelers in a foreign land, were often the underdogs in the cowboy/Indian conflicts in early American history, yet many of them were able to overcome the difficulties and survive.

At age 13, Bobby Fischer won a chess match against one of the leading American chess masters. That match became known as the “Game of the Century.”

underdog: a loser or predicted loser in a struggle or contest; a victim of injustice or persecution: a less powerful person or thing that struggles against a more powerful person or thing.

Robert Frost, the celebrated American poet, wrote in 1928: „I’m a poor underdog. But tonight I will bark with the great Overdog. That romps through the dark.“


There have been many famous repeals or court decisions in American history. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal (the American slogan for segregation of white and black Americans) was no longer constitutional, an act that negated their earlier ruling in 1896.

The first case in the U.S. in which the court system determined that a law was unconstitutional and should be repealed occurred in 1803. It was the case of Marbury v Madison, when the Supreme Court decided that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was conflicted with the Constitution and was therefore null and void.

The case of Betts v Brady ruled that the 6th and 14th Amendments of the constitution guaranteeing a right to legal counsel does not mean that the government has to provide counsel for someone who cannot afford it. Later, the case Gideon v Wainwright overruled this decision, and anyone accused of a crime is entitled to free counsel if he/she can’t afford an attorney.


The American judicial system allows anyone sentenced in a court to appeal that sentence. An appeal is when the accused (and sentenced) can take their case from a lower to a higher court for review.

In the American business context, a team member who believes that the judgement is wrong, or the conflict resolution process was unfair, can ask to have that decision reviewed by next-level management or by a neutral third party within the company, typically the human resources department.