Societal Pressures

We all feel them—the urge to fit within the mold. Whether it is the need to join the herd on Facebook, the need to join a particular college, or the need to watch a popular show. That’s why we’ll pick the busy restaurant across the street over the empty one we planned to eat at. We feel these various pressures from a young age. It is hardwired into our genome.

Our brains are built to ensure that we will come to hold the beliefs and values of those around us.
The self is more of a superhighway for social influence than it is the impenetrable private fortress we believe it to be. – Matthew Lieberman – Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.

Figuring out which “truths” we hold and that don’t serve us is hard to do. It is even harder unlearning those very same beliefs we have taken on that were never our own.

That is why I always strongly encourage people study and/or live abroad. When you experience another way of life in a different society, you inherently see things differently. What one culture deems as normal, another would find bizarre. What one finds gross, is a normal way of life. It is like the famous Justice Potter Stewart quote “you know it when you see it.” When you experience another world, you realize the arbitrary nature of your own. It is much easier to then take a healthy distance objective view on your own life and work.

In individualistic cultures, such as the United States, the self is defined by independence, distinctiveness from others, and personal freedom. In contrast, in interdependent cultures, such as Japan, the self is defined by one’s relationships, group memberships, and connections with others. In Japan, maintaining a sense of belongingness and harmonious relations is of paramount importance. Japanese people possess a strong external frame of reference; they view themselves through the eyes of others and strive to maintain “face” and avoid shame. – Lora E. Park

“Your way or the highway” may work in some contexts, but not in them all.

America, The Fool

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
– Richard P. Feynman

In case you missed the show last night, it was the last Presidential Debate of this 2016 election. Two and a half more weeks and we’ll know who will be leading the “free world.” We’ve all seen Donal J. Trump speak countless times over the past year. Undoubtedly he speaks with fervor and passion; it is hard not to get sucked into what he is saying. That is until you realize the substance of what he says is shallow and has no meaning behind it. Behind his words are simply fear tactics and sound bites.

The sad troubling (as Clinton would say) thing is that he is so adamant about his rhetoric. He believes with all of his energy in what he is saying. That is why while he is speaking, he’ll sometimes realize what he just spoke makes no sense or was completely false and he’ll catch himself off guard. Even in those moments, Trump doesn’t admit he was wrong. He’ll “modify” his words, or simply steer the conversation elsewhere. As Scott Adams would say, this is the master persuader at work. It is because he can’t succumb belief that what he said was wrong. I believe this all stems from the fact that he hasn’t had very many people that ever stood up to him. He has rarely, if ever, had to admit that he is wrong. He’s gotten away with being a bully for so long, he doesn’t know how to say: “you know what, you’re right and I was wrong. Let’s move past this.”

I’ll give him credit for pointing out lots of real issues, and it seems to get him a large following for doing so. It has become obvious to me that he is only popular for what he is not, and not what he is. And what he isn’t is part of the establishment—the status quo. Running on that platform given the level of distrust there is in government gives him an edge. That’s why I won’t be surprised if he is elected. As Feynman might say, Trump has definitely fooled himself. The question is has he fooled enough Americans come November 8th?

Second Chances

Sometimes we’ve been given second, third or more chances without our awareness. We simply were in the right place at the right time, someone granted us a pass, or we pleaded our way out of a bad situation. Others amongst us were less fortunate. A simple turn of your ankle and you’re spared a broken heel. As a society, we often determine who should and shouldn’t get a second chance. Historically, we’ve pinned labels on people who’ve made mistakes as convicts, and plenty have deserved the label. The question we have to ask is when have we gone too far at labeling someone something forever. Where is the appropriate line? Reading this post from Mark Suster about Defy Ventures, it appears the needle may be turning a little more toward granting of second chances.

They told me of losing fathers at 3, of moms on drugs, of uncles that asked them to hold guns to cover them at 8. Grown men, prisoners, with huge muscles and tattoos everywhere cried and told me stories. And they didn’t want pity. They wanted opportunity. They wanted to learn. Mark Suster

Unsurprisingly, when we grant those that authentically plead for a second chance the opportunity to do so, they come through.

Defy Ventures graduates have a 3.2% recidivism rate (the rate at which they are re-incarcerated) against a national 5-year average of more than 75%. The 3-year recidivism rate in California for comparison is more than 50%.

Have you given yourself a second chance recently? As hard as we are on ourselves, remember that we’re all due a second chance sometimes. If Con Body can be successful, what’s stopping you?

Lazy Burgers Are Delicious

Someone posted this video on Facebook today with this comment: “How lazy have we become?”

It made me think about the way we make and consume our food. Very often we eat food for fuel, only to scarf down a bite in a rush. The enjoyment of eating takes a back seat. Not only is food a commodity to buy and used for energy, but the art of cooking our meals is sold back to us on television. We’re marketed packaged cooking sets with the ingredients, the recipes, and sometimes even the utensils. Somehow they’re considered forms of Do It Yourself. We’re led to believe preparing it isn’t for us, but for professionals behind the kitchen. Fewer and fewer of us take part in cooking ourselves. Michael Pollack nails this concept in his four-part documentary called Cooked.

To cook or not to cook is a consequential question. Though I understand that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly, cooking means different things at different times to different people. Seldom is it an all or nothing proposition. Yet, even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do or to devote a Sunday to cook a few more meals for the week… Or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only expected to ever buy. Even these modest acts will constitute a vote. A vote for what exactly? In a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization. Against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercialization interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, to devote a portion of our leisure to it to declare our independence from the organizations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. Cooking has the potential to transform more than plants and animals, cooking I found gives us the opportunity so rare in modern life to work directly in our own support and in the support of the people we feed. In the calculus of economics, doing so may not always be the most efficient use of an amateur cooks time. It is beautiful even so. For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted than preparing delicious and nourishing for the people you love?Michael Pollack

The perfect time to post this would be Thanksgiving, but nevertheless we face real issues in the relationship we all hold with our food. As cool as the hands free burger contraption is, I’d rather eat a Snickers with a fork.

snickers  Lazy Burgers Are Delicious Snickers

Lying

The erosion lies cause are usually obvious in hindsight, but seemingly difficult to work through in the moment. Nevertheless, the better choice is to always be truthful. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading through this short book, LyingLying ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 1940051002, by Sam Harris. You can run through it in no more than a couple hours. His analysis provides a framework on how to approach those moments of temptation to lie that we all inevitably face in the messiness of life. This is one of my favorite sections from the book:

Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.

By lying, we deny others our view of the world. And our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make—in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is an assault on the autonomy of those we lie to.

By lying to one person, we potentially spread falsehoods to many others—even to whole societies. We also force upon ourselves subsequent choices—to maintain the deception or not—that can complicate our lives. In this way, every lie haunts our future. We can’t tell when or how it might collide with reality requiring further maintenance. The truth never needs to be tended like this. It can simply be reiterated.

The Underrated Long Game

My new belief on how long I should hold stock and the best companies I investment in is forever. – Sam Altman

Sam Altman is one of those people that you wonder how he has accomplished so much for his age. He’s the President of Y Combinator, an incubator which has developed some of the companies that have had the most profound effects on how our world operates. The macro effect of all the Y Combinator companies is hard to measure. If you want to see the extensive list of them, see here. In the clip below, Sam explains his thoughts on “How To Build The Future”:

One of the few arbitrage opportunities left in the market is time. I think we have gotten good at the price of things. We have gotten worse at the long-term value. I don’t think you can go beat the market in a lot of ways. The one way I do is by making a long-term commitment to something. In a world where people are increasingly focused on the quarterly earnings cycle, you should try and go in the opposite direction.

We can blame technology, the media, parenting or a mixture of them all, but we live in a short-term driven society. It is increasingly rare to find those that consciously strive to look out 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. It takes deep courage—courage I know I haven’t developed yet. Watching that clip and thinking about how to value time horizons reminded me of this 10,000 Year Clock I stumbled upon awhile back. The designer, Danny Hillis, wanted to bring inspiration to “generational thinking,” so he designed this clock in a mountain that ticks once every year. Talk about long-term vision!

I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m not optimistic because I think our problems are small. I’m optimistic because I think our capacity to deal with problems is great. – Danny Hillis

In a time when we’re facing truly large issues such as human-caused climate change, we need more people like Sam Altman, Danny Hillis, and Elon Musk who look longer term at our place in history. Because so few are veering out far enough in the future is why we need it the most.

Work for the Sake of Work

We often find ourselves obsessed with ‘the hustle’ or ‘the grind.’ We show off how hard we’ve worked for what we’ve earned—it is our badge of honor. However, we also forget that there are plenty who hustle and don’t produce anything of value. To put it more cheerfully, there are people who are incredibly productive and make it look easy.

Oliver Burkeman in his post Nobody Cares How Hard You Work explains how we perceive high quality for work that have a perceived high level of difficulty.

Psychologists have long noticed what’s sometimes been called the “labor illusion:” when it comes to judging other people’s work, we might say we’re focused only on whether they did the job quickly and well—but really we want to feel they wore themselves out for us.

The problem is we apply this often to ourselves. Oliver Burkeman calls it the Effort Trap:

We apply the same twisted standards to ourselves. Call it the “Effort Trap:” it’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off. Yet any writer, designer or web developer will tell you it’s the two focused hours that pay most—both in terms of money and fulfillment.

It’s doubly hard to avoid the Effort Trap because our culture so strongly reinforces its deceptive message: Hard work is ultimately what matters. From childhood, parents and teachers drum into us the moral virtue of effort, and the importance of “doing your best”

The market dictates the value of a service, not necessarily how difficult it was to be completed. In fact, if you can find the highest paying service for the least work possible, that’s exactly the most efficient outcome.

I believe this is one of the reasons we are seeing more freelancers in our economy. Technology is enabling work on your own schedules. Today’s technology is making this more and more of a reality. That is why there are predictions that our economy will be 50% freelancers by 2020.

When you find yourself focused with ‘the hustle’ or ‘the grind,’ keep in context that wearing yourself out by being constantly connected and filling your calendar to the fullest amount isn’t a reliable indicator of a day well spent.

Show Me The Tools

Searching for a shortcut is enticing. We instinctively know there are faster ways to do the things we want to do. However, more often than not a shortcut is merely a trap. For instance, knowing which tools you need to start on an endeavor is not a shortcut.

A recent trend for marketers is to give away a freebie for an email. These sites proclaim that people want to know the tools, the shortcut. Their argument is: give the visitor what they think they want. Then, just maybe, after they’ve got an email, sell the visitor what they really need. Better to entice them with “The Seven Must Have Tools for Growing Your Own Garden” then provide real consistent value. Better to have an email than not. They won’t even remember how they gave it out, anyway.

If you want to be a basketball player, we’re told that wearing the same shoes as Lebron will make us dribble better. If we want to be a photographer, we’re sold on the newest and most powerful camera or the coolest new app for our iPhone’s camera.

It’s easy to waste more time looking for shortcuts than you’ll ever save by finding them. Sometimes, the path is clear: other people have already walked it, and they’ll even tell you where it is if you look. Meanwhile, other people – who haven’t walked the path, but want you to follow them – will offer you shortcuts. That’s when you end up getting lost.

The answer is being cognizant of when we are being enticed by the freebie and steering clear.

Why Miami Needs to Learn Patience

miamiold  Why Miami Needs to Learn Patience MiamiOld

Timing is everything. We’ve all heard that before. Timing includes understanding when to be patient versus when to double down and push harder. Or even more importantly, timing includes knowing when to quit.

The difficult part of a any new skill, career, or undertaking is called The DipWhy Miami Needs to Learn Patience ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 1591841666, according to Seth Godin. The Dip happens in every new endeavor. It occurs that moment when you are no longer learning quickly; the moment when you start to feel those urges to give in and surrender. Understanding when you are facing “The Dip” informs you when you’re on the right path to becoming the best and how to persevere. Observing you’re in the Dip helps you understand when you are simply wasting your time.

We’re seduced by the tales of actresses being discovered at the local drugstore, or a classmate who got a fantastic job just by showing up at the college placement office. We see an author hit the big time after just one appearance on Oprah or a rock band getting signed after submitting a demo— it all seems easy and exciting. It’s easy to be seduced by the new money and the rush to the fresh. The problem is that this leads to both an addiction and a very short attention span. If it doesn’t work today, the thinking goes, why should I wait around until tomorrow? The problem is that only a tiny portion of the audience is looking for the brand-new thing. Most people are waiting for the tested, the authenticated, and the proven.

In Miami, it is no different. We see gorgeous property listings through filters in our Instagram feeds. We see real estate agents making huge sales commissions. We’re so convinced we are the next Chad Carroll, everyone in Miami has a real estate license. It has become a running joke. Why? Because the barriers to entry are next to none. It is easy to get one. The difficult part is learning the market, getting through The Dip. The hard part is understanding you’re not going to be selling mansions in year one, but still making cold calls.

Like any pyramid scheme—including the Real Estate Agent training funnel—Miami has a new pyramid Scheme: The Startup. Miami, like many cities, has bought into the startup fever. Look at the Miami Herald’s recent headline:

Miami No. 2 for startups – but rides in 2nd to last for scale-ups

“Miami is a place that does very, very well on startup activity – a lot of people are becoming entrepreneurs and starting companies,” said Arnobio Morelix, senior research analyst and program officer in Research and Policy at Kauffman, which studies and supports entrepreneurship. “But when we look at how firms grow after they start, we don’t see Miami doing very well.”

This isn’t to bash on all startups, but to point out that our focus shouldn’t be exclusively on promoting the start. There is progress—Endeavor brought its first US office to Miami in 2013. However, what is missing is supplementing the encouragement of “the start,” with support of the push-through. We need to take Seth Godin’s words to heart and preserve through The Dip.

Being better than 98 percent of the competition used to be fine. In the world of Google, though, it’s useless. It’s useless because all of your competition is just a click away, whatever it is you do. The only position you can count on now is best in the world.

The market wants to see you persist. It demands a signal from you that you’re serious, powerful, accepted, and safe. The bulk of the market, any market, is made up of those folks in the middle of the bell curve, the ones who want to buy something proven and valued.

Those struggling artists at the local craft fair are struggling because they don’t have the guts or the wherewithal to take their work to the next level.

If you’re going to quit, quit before you start. Reject the system. Don’t play the game if you realize you can’t be the best in the world.

The choice is yours.