All Posts in “Life”

Leadership and Management

I’ve always felt perplexed by people who want to create careers in “leadership” or “management.”

I’ve never wanted to be a leader or a manager. I know that to achieve some of my goals I will have to lead others, and it is not something I’m afraid of, but it is very clearly a means to an end, not an end in itself.

But there is a whole segment of people who are desperate to become leaders. They go to leadership development seminars, and they apply for management training jobs, even though they have no personal goals other than to be in control of others.

More than just being weird, I think there is a disturbing and dark side to “I want to be a leader” or “I think I thrive in management.”

A good leader is one who wants to achieve their goals and sees you as a valuable contributor to achieving that outcome.

A leader who takes pleasure in leading regardless of the end outcome is one you should avoid.  They aren’t seeking fulfillment by achieving a valuable goal; they are seeking power by exercising control over their employees, students, or peers. They are like a human cattle herder, waiting to lead you to spiritual slaughter.

Self-Transformation and Greatness (Whiplash)

Last night Amanda and I watched Whiplash. It is the story of an ambitious young jazz drummer struggling to become great at his craft.


It reminds me a lot of Black Swan, and there is a great video from Lessons From Screenplay comparing the two.

His story covers a semesters time at a prestigious and demanding music school. The conductor of the studio band is a tyrant, who comes from the hard ass school of developing talent.

Andrew, the main character, is obsessed with drumming, and he is pushed to the limits of his mental and physical health to reach his potential as a drummer and his obsession almost destroys him. He is in a serious car accident and then attacks his teacher and is kicked out of school.

That break allows him to get some mental space and take his foot off the gas before completely descending into madness. He has space to connect with his original passion outside of the obsession and then ends up in a show delivering the best performance of his life.

The movie is a reminder about the amount of dedication and effort required to succeed at anything. To be truly great, you need to sacrifice many other things. Not necessarily your health, safety, and relationships–you need to maintain those to succeed in the long-term. But to reach your potential in any craft, you need to give into personal transformation and truly let your craft become part of you. This is not an easy thing to do.

Accepting self-transformation is scary, so most people never do it. They never fully give themselves up to their craft and remain stuck as an old version of themselves. They end up caught between a vision of the future they want to achieve and a version of themselves from the past that they refuse to let go of.

You Can’t Ease Your Way Into Valuable Work

There is lots of popular advice about working smart not hard. Most of the advice givers (that you read advice from) are successful and have gone through long periods of hard work. Whether it was starting companies or obsessively writing novels, they dove headfirst into their work and then slowly over time eased out. They learned what their most valuable skills are and they learned how to focus on the most important work and not get lost in small details or distractions.

Early in your career, reading this advice can be confusing. Most of the options in from of you to make money require lots of hard work and long hours. You don’t know what you’re most valuable skills are yet and no one is interested in paying you for your unique abilities. Reading about how you should work smart, not hard, or how it is never productive to work more than 40 hours leads you to turn away from opportunities that would actually be very beneficial.

It is possible for a successful author, VC, or entrepreneur to talk about how working 60 hours a week is a waste of time because they have spent long periods of time putting in long hours. They got to the position they are in now—where they can create lots of value in a short amount of time—by diving in, working hard, and slowly eliminating less valuable tasks. They were all willing at one point to work very hard.

Most advice from successful people comes from their situation in life. They have already learned how to create value and use their unique abilities. The hard and boring administrative work is way less valuable for them (relatively), so they should be trying to set their lives up to be as creative as possible. But when you are young and early in your career you should prioritize simply getting opportunities to create value. When you learn how to create through brute force, you can eventually learn how to do it with more finesse and efficiency, but you can’t take slow steps and ease your way into creating a lot of value.

There is a great episode of the Forward Tilt podcast on a similar topic: Babies Don’t Baby Step

Nostradamus’ Law

The benifit of making a correct public prediction vastly outweighs the consequences of making an incorrect prediction.

In normal day to day life, if you make predictions to your friends and they come up wrong consistently, people will remember and they will care less about your opinion. You pay a social price for being wrong.

But the internet changes your predictions in two ways:

– It allows you to keep a public record of your original prediction which makes it easier to predict further in the future.
– It allows you to reach people outside of your social circle with your predictions, removing the social price of being wrong.

If you make a mid to long-term prediction (3 months to a year or longer out), and you’re wrong, you’re prediction will be forgotten by most people. But if you are right, you can revisit and hype the original prediction to showcase your incredible forsight.

You can become “the man who predicted BTC $10,000” and add it to your bio. People will be impressed that you made a correct prediction in the past and forget to ask how many incorrect predictions you made.

In the past, you had to have a big media job to make big public predictions and gain from this public bias, but now anyone can. Since you can start a blog and use social media, you can make big guesses about the future. If they miss, almost no one will notice, but if they hit you will be able to use it for a large social benifit.

Since you have a large benifit from being right and a small cost when wrong, it is almost always “profitable” to make public predictions about the future. So the takeaways are:

  1. Start making public predictions about big events in the mid to long-term future.
  2. Stop listening to other peoples predictions, because they are likely full of shit and not accountable for being wrong.

Non-Verbal Communication

It is certainly possible to communicate without words. Body language, eye contact, or even tone of voice all communicate a lot more than the things that are being said.

Learning how to pick up on non-verbal cues is very valuable for getting along with people and getting what you want in day to day life.

But as a communicator, there can never be any expectation that someone is “hearing” what you aren’t saying.

If someone asks you directly about something, and you agree, but do so with a tone of voice that implies you aren’t happy about it, it not the other person’s responsibility for taking you up on the offer.

Convincing yourself that you are a victim after the fact because your passive non-verbal communication wasn’t picked up will lead you to a life of bitterness and shallow and unfulfilling relationships.

Say what you want. Say what you don’t want. Don’t expect others to read your non-verbal communication.

Ideas Come When You Need Them

Sitting around waiting for good ideas almost never leads to good ideas.

If you only write when you have a novel idea that you are inspired to write about, you will end up not blogging very often at all. That is why you can’t act on the condition of having a good idea.

If you commit to writing whether you have a good idea or not you create an environment for generating ideas. You pay closer attention to your thoughts and observations, and you notice and track ideas that may have passed you by. You have a personal incentive for coming up with ideas (because you don’t want your blog post to suck) and as a result, you have way more ideas.

A lot of those ideas won’t lead to anything but some will be great ideas that you would never have thought about if you didn’t have a need for them.

Why I Love Starbucks

Lots of people hate on Starbucks. Whether it is the McCafé, “Starbucks customers are wasting their money” crowd, or the sipping hipster latte “Starbucks is evil” crowd, there is not much public love for the worlds biggest coffee shop.

But the market tells a different story. All around the world you can find Starbucks locations thriving and busy with customers.

I used to feel indifferent towards Starbucks, but over the past two years of traveling I have grown more and more fond for Starbucks.

There is something beautiful about knowing exactly what you are going get no matter where you are. If you’re in Korea, China, Mexico, Slovenia, or Canada your americano will taste almost the same. You know there will be some nice seats to work at, pretty quality wifi, and friendly service.

It doesn’t remind me of home, but it brings a welcome sense of consistency, an a oasis of peace, and a good location to work from no matter if I’m in Tapei, Bangkok, Calgary, or Mexico City.

The Decency of a Robber

Taxes suck.

Having your wealth extorted from you is not enjoyable, but what makes losing your money worse is how much work you have to do to facilitate the extortion.

A thief who comes to your house and takes your TV at least has the decency to do the moving work. He doesn’t expect you to help him take it off the wall mount. He doesn’t come back in 4 weeks demanding a new TV if your stolen TV breaks. He knows that he is taking your stuff and does the work involved to take it.

The government expects you to do the work. They are like a thief that invades your house, forces you to help them take your most valuable possessions and then decides to move into your guest bedroom.

Robbery and mugging are terrible, but compared to the government everyday thieves have great customer service.

Celebrate vs. Escape

Days off are not to escape, they are to celebrate the hard work that you’ve done. You aren’t entitled to enjoy them, you earn the ability to enjoy them with your hard work.

By showing up, working hard, and doing your best over a period of time you earn the ability to celebrate.

This is something most people don’t understand. They use the weekend and vacations as a way to escape from the responsibilities of daily life, they imagine that if their employer grants them more vacation time they would be happier. What they miss is that a celebration is empty unless you have something to celebrate.

If you aren’t working hard, if you aren’t proud of the work you do, the break will feel empty and you will be driven to escapism. Only when you work hard can you be present and enjoy your time off.

One Day at a Time

New Years is a time when people are thinking about making big changes. Most people fixate on long-term results and the outcomes they want in the distant future. A distant goal can be a good motivator, but for me what has worked best is to focus on consistent daily action in the direction of my goals.

Right now I have four activities that I am committed to every single day and I use a simple app called Way of Life that keeps track of them.

After you reach a certain point (around 10 or 15 days for me), the pain of losing your streak becomes a great motivator. Even at 1 am when sleep is calling, I will sit down and blog to protect the streak.

I’ve built some solid momentum over the past two months:

  • Meditating 57 days in a row
  • Blogging 54 days in a row
  • Writing Gratitude 41 days in a row
  • Reading 15 minutes of Mastering Bitcoin 11 days in a row

I know that taking care of these activities each day will lead me in a direction that makes my life better.

For each daily activity, I have very low standards. Most days I meditate for 15 minutes in the morning, but 1 minute of quiet, focused breathing counts.

Some days I will write out long blog posts, but even a small 100-word post counts.

Some days I will write out a detailed paragraph about someone I’m grateful for. But, even writing their name and thinking about why I appreciate them counts.

The bar is low so that even when I am tired, sick, and disconnected from my goals, it is still possible to jump over.

If you’re interested in the idea of setting daily challenges instead of results-focused goals, Isaac Morehouse has a great post on the topic that I first read as a Praxis participant in the fall of 2015. It motived to experiment more with daily challenges and that experimentation led me to my current view on the value of daily challenges over result focused goals. Check out his post here: