Intelligence, Bee Swarms and Resilience.

There is a thought out there that if you’re smart, you can’t lose.

That’s not quite accurate. Of course, being smart is never a bad thing. However, consider a smart person walking by is bored and is kicking rocks. He accidentally kicks a rock into a bees nest, and the bees swarm him. Is being smarter than any one particular be going to save him?

Not likely. He will get stung. He will feel pain. There will be repercussions.

This means many people who are focusing on raising their intelligence think it is the only thing that matters. Of course, resilience is part of the equation as well. Making sure to survive those bee stings is important.

However, resilience is many different things to people. It could be:

  • Financial resilience. Having many different investments, marketable skills and ways of making money.
  • Emotional resilience. Being able to handle the ups and downs of life.
  • Physical resilience. Being able to handle a fall or some other unexpected accident.
  • Organizational resilience. A company being able to handle a change to an industry, or a black swan event and be able to come out the other side.

2020 and early 2021 have shown that resilience is important. Don’t forget to think about preparing yourself in this regard, as much as you do in your intellect.

It’s worth a gamble.

I’ve met plenty of people who aren’t “gamblers.”

I think it’s worth revisiting how we see ourselves. It’s more likely you don’t like gambling with money, if you don’t consider yourself a gambler.

But do you gamble on the following?

  • Eating the leftovers in the back of the fridge that have been there for two weeks?
  • Walking down an icy path?
  • Writing a book, novel, or anything that might not work?
  • Leaving just in the right amount of time to get to work provided nothing goes wrong?
  • Taking out student loans without being sure how much salary you’ll make after college?

There are many types of gambles to take in life, but it’s clear to me that people who get the most out of life tend to take gambles that:

  • Have outcomes rigged in their favor. Limited loss/Unlimited gain.
  • Allow them to try again even after failing.
  • Utilize their skills that “push” the gamble into their favor

It’s not apparent to me that you can go far in life without taking any gambles at all. What is apparent, is you can take the right gambles. The ones that fit you.

The Network Effect of the Stock Market.

Network Effects are powerful. I’ve written about them here, here, and here.

Right now, there is something historical happening in the stock market. A group of retail investors is pushing a stock up against hedge funds who had shorted the stock driving the GameStop company towards bankruptcy. If you’re not into stocks and haven’t heard about it, Google GameStop or GME stock chart and look at it’s multi-year chart, you’ll see something doesn’t look right. This event will no doubt be a lesson taught to finance majors about risk management in the future. It’s also a powerful look at network effects. Before we talk about that though, if you’re not familiar with investing you might ask, what is a hedge fund?

A defintion found online is: A hedge fund is a limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains. Basically, they pool a bunch of money together from investors who might be lawyers, doctors, business owners, old money, and possibly roll in some bank loans, then they use that pool of capital to hire smart financial minds to make investments. For their efforts, the hedge fund takes a share of the profits, and returns most to the original investors pockets.

So what is a hedge fund really? It’s a network of money. And when networked together, that pool becomes much bigger, much more powerful and is able to manipulate things against smaller investors. What are some ways they can manipulate things?

  • Stock ratings,
  • tweets by people following these huge pools of money,
  • network shows having them on to share their feelings about which way the market is flowing,
  • and also they can use huge amounts of money to directly manipulate share prices by short selling to drive prices down, which they then buy up again and sell at higher prices.

It’s the huge backing of money that gives the hedge funds so much power to do things even a person with $100,000 or $1,000,000 to invest can’t dream of, let alone people with much smaller amounts than that. For decades, maybe centuries, these companies told the little guy, “You need to invest with us. Sure, we’re going to take fees, but you’ll be protected with us, against the other big players.” Doing so gained them clients, earned them fees that could have gone into a retail investor’s pocket, and kept the wheels turning for them making many of them very rich.

Then the internet happened. Then interactive trading platforms happened. Then commissions and fees started to disappear to stay competitive while social media grew. Then something magical happened, small investors started finding themselves communicating with other small investors. Their collective moves started to have power on the scale of hedge funds. After all, hedge funds are just a network of money. The only difference between a hedge fund and a huge collection of retail investors now is that the hedge funds collect salary for their work, and they have fewer management people making decisions.

It turns out that when normal people connect, share, and put their efforts towards the same goal, they are extremely powerful. Today, the stock market, at least the institutions that have represented it for decades, is learning how powerful a group of like-minded investors can be.

This isn’t limited to stocks. This is everywhere. Institutions are only institutions because people grant them, prestige, power or resources. The ability that exists today to connect with others is allowing everyone to remake the institutions that were previously untouchable or seemed to be something that couldn’t be replaced. Power is always in groups. If you aren’t connecting people, ask yourself, “Why not?”

What is None of This is Right?

I’ve been at this site for over two years. I’ve missed a few days in there, but this week I will hit my 700th blog post.

I feel like that’s quite an accomplishment, but there is still a long way to go. When I started writing this blog, I thought it would focus on a certain topic. I started trying to lay out what it would be, but then I found I didn’t gravitate towards that as much as I thought.

The title has always meant the same thing to me, that there is plenty of room in the world for taste and opinion. That not everything has an answer to it. I could have just as easily called it All of this is Right. Of course, that’s ego-centric, and what happens when it turns out you are actually wrong?

It gets hard to keep going.

The title was partially meant to be a motivator to myself. That just because I may be wrong, doesn’t necessarily mean I should be quite or keep to myself. That debating, pondering, thinking, reading and writing are the necessary steps to grow as a person and as a society. I still believe that.

Today, the tone of this blog has become a bit more clear to me. I have training in engineering, so I believe in being accurate, backing things up in fact, running the numbers, and being confident in your predictions. However, my personality runs counter to that training. Everywhere I look, the biggest problems and challenges have obstacles that aren’t something that can be solved with an equation. These are the challenges that get at the heart of being a human. A challenge that many people shrug off. A problem that is going to be exacerbated in the coming years as technologies like software, AI, self-driving cars, robots, and more push us to find more and more of the work that is human and can only be done by humans. There may come a point, when anything that has a definitive answer will be handled by technology, and only uncertain things are handled by people.

That’s what I’m aiming to show people. Where are the spaces where people can do the work? Where can people be valued? Where can people live and do things they are proud of? Where can people have dignity? Where can people engage with others who are also interested in the same things?

None of this is Right is a blog about taking a chance, using creativity, making tradeoffs, finding a place in the world that is uniquely for you.

P.S. I got more out of writing this blog than you did reading it. After about 700 posts focusing on others, I hope that’s okay.

The Persistence of the Horsepower Unit.

Institutions don’t like to change their standards. When cars and more generally, engines, were invented, measuring in horsepower made sense as a means of comparison. Horses were the means of heavy lifting for things like pulling loads, or plowing fields. Giving the customer a sense for how a car compared to what they knew made sense.

Horsepower isn’t an easily applied unit in engineering. It’s generally converted from something like watts, which is the metric systems unit for power. As a result, horsepower is a remnant of a time gone by. It’s purpose was for the average consumer to understand the comparison to the animal they were replacing. Today, we live in a society where the average person has no horse experience and the comparison only makes sense in horsepower because previous generations of vehicles were measured in them. To compare performance to those older models, keeping the unit makes sense.

Let’s be clear though, measuring things in horsepower these days isn’t because it’s a good unit of measurement. It’s ONLY because institutions resist change. Tradition is holding the horsepower as the standard unit of measurement for vehicles and nothing more.

There are two things to draw from this:

  1. It’s possible to create something that will last because people like things like this, and because it becomes a tradition.
  2. To bring about a better way to do things, at times, it’s important to kill those traditions.

For #2, I won’t say that the horsepower is holding back the vehicle industry, but there are certainly other issues facing the world where tradition holds us back. That only happens if we let it.

Forgetting why

History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes. Society, government, and organizations don’t have the same kind of memory as a person. That’s because they are made up of many different minds. Minds that come and go. That live and that die. Eventually, the reasons why certain policies, regulations and political stances were taken in the first place are forgotten.

We are seeing ramifications of this all across society. Britain exiting the European Union was an example of this. The British forgot why the union formed in the first place. Some other spots that are examples of “forgetfulness” of society are:

  • Anti-vax movements forgetting through never experiencing how bad certain diseases were.
  • Hate for the inefficiency of Social Security. Forgetting about people dying in the streets or being completely destitute in old age due to economic and health forces outside their control.

In the future, if the next pandemic hits long after we are gone, it would be nice for society to remember what happened during this one, using that knowledge to their advantage and avoiding the pitfalls that our current society fell into.

It’s easy for a person to remember the reasons why they made certain decisions. It’s next to impossible for an organization to have this type of memory, but it can be valuable to try to institute programs that help maintain it.

I’ve never been upset about cleaning up the kitchen.

After a busy day, it’s easy to feel tired, that you can’t do much more. I definitely think that can be true at times with the heavy critical thinking, or creative type work. However, it’s possible the toll from those tasks is keeping you from realizing there is low effort work that can be done.

Sometimes after a really exhausting day, I leave the dishes for the morning. Generally, it doesn’t help anything. It starts the next day off a little more hectic than it would have been otherwise. In the cases, where I pushed through the malaise of exhaustion, never once have I regretted it or thought, “That extra 15-30 minutes of sleep would have been better than doing those dishes last night.”

Often times it seems like if we only put in more creative time, more of the heavy lifting, then we’ll be happier, get where we want to go, and be successful. More often, it’s actually small acts that are simple, that line up the rest of the time in our lives, that makes us happy, safe, and secure that lead to the powerful outcomes.

If you’re stressed, and overwhelmed, tidying up might be a great place to start. Once your mind is clear of that, it can be easier to move forward.

Assets and liabilities

In finance, it’s clear what is an asset and what is a liability. Assets make you money, liabilities cost you money. In realms outside of finance, particularly when it comes to knowledge and experience, there is a blur where someone thinks an asset exists, there is actually a liability.

Imagine thinking that because 25 years ago electric cars weren’t ready to become mainstream and various initiatives from government and automotive companies failed, that they will fail today. That’s ignoring much of the initial conditions of the problem. 25 years ago, much of the electrical grid was still based on fossil fuels, switching to electric vehicles just moved the source of where the fossil fuel was combusted. Today, solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources are making a larger contribution to the total electricity generation than ever before. Not only that, the cost to produce these technologies has dropped drastically as they have become mainstream.

Yet, there are many that persist believing that things won’t work out this time because they didn’t work out decades ago. As if the world stands still. Experience is something that is usually seen as an asset. You’ve gained wisdom. You are more likely to see your endeavors correctly. However, if your past experience was failure, or something that prevents you moving forward because you can’t correctly identify the changes in the world between that previous experience and now, it is a liability.

The great thing is if you recognize it, you can turn your experience from that liability back into an asset. That’s not true in finance, a debt is an obligation no amount of recognition or wishing will change that.

When cooking Beef Wellington…

chill it in the fridge for a while, maybe even overnight before baking.

Why is that so important?

The starting temperature should be consistent. We aren’t super concerned with the starting temperature of a beef roast, it could be left out for 20 minutes, an hour before roasting, or put in straight from the refrigerator. Why is it different on the Beef Wellington?

Well, you can’t see the beef for one, it’s hidden by pastry. You can’t touch it to check it like you can a roast, it would destroy the pastry it’s wrapped in. You’re relying purely on instinct, how much time you think is correct. A normal roast adds more methods to check and be sure it’s being cooked properly. Most people enjoy that security, the ability to measure something against their instincts and ensure they are correct. There are plenty of life situations that fly in the face of that. Where there are no measurements, and faith is what you have to go by. What can be done in these situations?

The equivalent of chilling the Wellington. Minimize the variables.

  • If you’re starting a project or business, minimize the expenses.
  • If you’re starting a new job, make sure that you take the time to know what the job is.
  • If you’re going move across the country, make sure you know what it’s like there.

Just because you need to rely on instinct, doesn’t mean you can’t minimize your chances of that instinct being wrong. Don’t let the unknown stop you, just figure out the steps that make your instincts more likely to be accurate. Starting from the same temperature all the way through the dough and meat means that your cook time is more likely to be consistent if you repeat a recipe. What’s the equivalent for your situation?

Generalist vs. Specialist – Finding Meaning in Work.

There is a chasm for finding meaning in work. On one side, people want to see the impact of what they do. They want to contribute and make a difference. On the other side is all the things that need to be done, each requiring a specific skillset to make it happen.

At times, it’s fun to be the generalist because all items belong to you. You see the input, you see the work, you see the output and the meaning behind it. This generalist is the one man shop. The business owner who finds clients, sells work, does the job, and repeats for a living. The struggle for most is that this is exhausting. Our brains have to switch between many different tasks, and some of them we are less skilled at then others. Which is why as a society we came up with specialization. A certain job with a certain skillset. One that can mastered, made efficient, and where the worker can bring significant leverage by dealing with the same problems over and over. The problem here is you only see a specific input and a specific output, and finding the meaning in the work may be much harder.

I’ve seen it online, heard it in conversations, and think about it quite a bit. There is a growing discontent with the corporate world of work. It’s a social problem that needs some sort of resolution, or at least acceptance. Most of the discontents don’t even quite understand themselves what they are upset about because when reflecting on these thoughts, the human condition is one of work. If we didn’t live in a society, would we be free of work?

Of course not.

Here’s a list of work to be done:

  • Food to be grown, gathered or hunted
  • Food preparation and cooking
  • Clothing to be made
  • Shelter to be built
  • Materials to be harvested and shaped
  • Weapons/protection to be made
  • Fires to be built

Make no mistake, this is work. However, it seems many people are now daydreaming about this sort of thing. Why? They see the meaning in it. The meaning is, “It allows me to survive.” Somehow their brains aren’t associated specialized work with that same meaning, even though it is. Society is doing all of those things above, it’s just splitting them up over people with different skills.

This chasm is only something that is likely to grow. I see it in the world I’m in. Technology is growing more complex, ever more specialized people are needed to work in narrow fields as it takes more learning to understand the state-of-the-art in these fields. That increases the effect that fewer and fewer people can see the meaning in their work.

What’s the answer?

I don’t think there is only one, but here are a couple of thoughts:

  • Your work is part of a bigger system. You do it so you can survive, and it contributes to the work of others that are part of the same system. That’s okay.
  • If you want to see the meaning, take on a more generalist role. Something that let’s you see it all. This could be a different job, or it could be starting your own business.
  • If you can’t accept those first two points, spend a couple weeks camping with not much by way of materials. It may change your outlook.

Chrysopoeia

That’s the word for the transmutation of metals into gold. It’s what many alchemists throughout history were working on. Don’t get me started on it’s pronunciation.

Chrysopoeia is an interesting study in picking the right problems to work on. What if the alchemists studying Chrysopoeia were successful? They would be rich, right?

Possibly. Maybe even most likely, at first.

However, why is gold valuable in the first place? Well, a few reasons are:

  • It’s has a nice luster
  • It’s very malleable and ductile making it easy to craft.
  • It has good conductive properties and high density.
  • and, most of all, it’s rare.

In fact, for that last point, it’s been estimated that all the gold in the world melted down would fill a 70’x70’x70′ cube. There are many larger than that size. Think about how much iron in the form of steel there is in all the buildings of the world by comparison. It dwarfs gold. What would have happened if alchemists were successful?

They would have devalued gold. Gold would have been able to be produced in quantities much larger than it was mined in, and eventually as the world’s supply increased, the value of gold would come down. Perhaps the first alchemist to discover this method would be obscenely wealthy, but over time if others found out the trick, the value would plummet.

This is a problem where the early and the first successful person get the huge rewards, and after that it fades. It’s the massive speculation type problem that either ends in disappointment, or massive success. Not much room in between.

For most people, this isn’t the type of problem you should be seeking to work on. This is the type of problem that is going to end in heartache and disaster for 99.9% of people.

Compare this method of making money to painting pictures and selling them. Once you land on a subject matter people like, you can sell and make a living. If more people see them and want them, you can scale your sales. If copycats move in, you can create new works to differentiate yourself. That’s not possible with gold, after all gold is gold.

We all pick the types of problems we want to work on, the risk levels, and the rewards that are required for us. Don’t get stuck in a problem that doesn’t fit you. If you are risk-adverse, don’t pick Chrysopoeia to work on. If you are huge reward motivated, give it a try. Pick the problems that work for you. For me, I like ones that are:

  • Workable at any scale
  • Highly differentiable
  • Low cost to entry
  • Have some level of scalability to them

You may have different criteria, adjust appropriately.

Something everybody wants vs. something one person may want.

There is value in making something that’s useful for everyone. Of course, when you see this opportunity and are successful in it, many other businesses will want to serve that market too. Large markets always attract large competition.

It’s ironic because when someone sees an opportunity in a large market, more often then not, they think it is the correct way to go. However, competition tends to balance all markets. Large markets have large competition. Small markets have small competition.

What size market to serve then really doesn’t have to a be a question at all, as long as there is some sort of market for the work you do.

If you are a table maker, you could make a design that is easily reproducible and create hundreds a year to make a living, or you could produce a handful, each with enormous skill involved and many different unique details. The latter kind of tables are the ones that are going to sell for five figures and that require the right eye to appreciate them.

In modern society, we have what is likely an excess of the first category of mass production, and a shortage of the second. One reason for this, is up until about twenty years ago, we didn’t have the medium of connecting those in small audiences with their target audience. Today, we have the internet and social media. The common wisdom hasn’t caught up.

Artists transform data.

When you’re kind of sure about what you want, but you know you don’t have the skills to do it, you go see an artisan. This could be a birthday cake with a theme, you’re not sure how to deliver it, or what you envision entirely, but you want that creative baker down the street to create a masterpiece for your child’s special day.

This is in opposition to the work a computer can do. For example, a computer can take a picture of an eagle and apply filters to make it black-and-white. That’s a shift in data too, but the difference is form. The computer took an input, applied an equation and produced an output that was related to the input in specific terms. In fact, it’s likely the process could be discovered and reversed if desired.

The bakery example isn’t quite the same. The baker took a briefing in the form of a note or conversation and ended up making a cake from it. Someone looking at the cake may not be able to tell you exactly what the input was. It will likely be less obvious then the transformation of the picture by the computer.

The less obvious it is to see how the transformation is applied, the more artistic and the more valuable the person doing that work is. If your work is a simple equation, no one will value it, and someone is definitely working to replace it. It’s better to work in the areas where there aren’t simple answers and known steps.

“I imagine death so much it feels like a memory.”

That’s a line from the Broadway show, Hamilton. It was spoken by Alexander Hamilton himself in the play.

It’s an interesting thought because I’ve often imagined certain aspects of my life so much that when the actual time came it felt like deja vu. To some extent, most people have something they think about over and over again. Reflecting on this applied to a group or organization, there are certain conversations I’ve had in my current company that have come up so many times that when we get there it will feel like a memory.

When something in the future feels like a memory, it shouldn’t be ignored. It should be embraced. Action should be taken towards it. How will you ever stop thinking about it unless you make it come true? These visions are guideposts.

In Hamilton’s case, it was unfortunate that it was related to death, but if he knew how he wanted to die, that still informed him on how he should live.

When you are blessed with foresight such as this, don’t shun it, don’t waste it. Embrace it. That’s hard as an individual, but harder as a group. If you’re part of something bigger than yourself, drive these “memories” forward.

Professionals deal with failure.

No, not their own necessarily, but what happens when something goes wrong.

Building software is about handling the edge cases. When someone learns to write software, the easy part is usually the core functionality. The hard part is stability, edge cases, exception handling, error messages, etc.

A mechanically-inclined high school student could probably weld together a frame, strap on an engine of some sort and build a vehicle. Of course, that design likely would have no safety features built in. No containment for a failing engine. Not much in the crash testing realm. It would likely be lacking in any sort of self-diagnostic capability.

Both of these examples are the work of amateurs. The core function is often the easy part, but that’s not the work of professionals. The work of professionals is where the normal things breakdown. Where the difficult decisions lie. Where the tradeoffs are, and how to handle things that don’t go the way they should.

The Search for Contributors

I’ve always sought to add to others’ endeavors wherever I can. Often times when I had ideas, connections, or skills that could add something to others works that I was made aware, and I would reach out and let them know that if there is any way that I could help them, then I would, usually for free.

Not many people took me up on it.

Today, as my blog readership is growing and there are a few places I participate online, more people are reaching out to me, asking if I’m willing to be part of their group, or their community. While I now would love to, I’m as busy as I’ve ever been with working, blogging, and my family. Time is finite, so all the commitments become impossible.

A difficult thing to do is find people that can add value to the work that you do, or the work that your company does. One of the reasons these people are hard to find is because they either are already busy adding value in other places, or they are busy building something quietly for themselves.

When someone sees the value you bring, it’s a rare and beautiful thing, it should be cherished on both sides and each party should be treated with respect.

Birds aren’t real.

In a certain area of the internet, which shall not be revealed here, there is a group of people who believes that all birds aren’t real. Not that they have never existed, but that since decades ago, the government has been killing and replacing birds with devices meant to spy on people.

I don’t THINK this is a mainstream belief, but I haven’t actually asked many people if they actually believe such a thing. The point here is two-fold:

  1. We live in a time of the largest amount of information being available ever.
  2. Not all information is correct.

Taking great care on what to accept and what to reject is more critical now than it has ever been at any point in history.

I stumbled upon this part of the internet accidentally while researching something else entirely. It appears that it started as an experiment to prove that on that internet nothing can be made satirical enough to not have people start to believe as fact. They were correct.

This is another reminder, how we communicate our ideas and our intent in an era of mass communication is crucial.

What am I optimizing for?

Optimization works well when there is a goal. Optimizing for price is one way to setup a business or project. You want to offer the cheapest, then find the cheapest materials, the cheapest employees, the cheapest location, the cheapest everything and then market it up by the smallest amount that will allow you to stay in business.

Here are some other things you could optimize for:

  • Responsiveness
  • Customization
  • Ease of business
  • Quality
  • Happiness
  • Creativity

Most people never even pick an optimization at all. That makes it hard to make any real decisions.

Football on Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon is a kids television station. They play cartoons and kids shows. Generally, you wouldn’t think of them broadcasting something like a football game.

Yet, they just broadcasted their first NFL game.

It’s interesting because they used modern technology to broadcast the same game as other big networks but add in graphics, cartoon characters, animations, etc. the appeal to kids. Making the game just a bit more interesting for kids so that they don’t ask daddy to change the channel for cartoons while he is trying to watch.

It’s an interesting experiment. It takes something that we all can watch currently, and offers a differentiation on it. A more whimsical, and fun spin on something that is generally serious and competitive.

It’s interesting where technology and creativity will take us in the future, but one thing is certain, there is room to do much of what we already do, but differentiate in more ways than we ever thought possible.

Programming, Loops and How People think.

If you’re familiar with programming, you’re familiar with loops. Where you loop through an index of items an perform a task or set of tasks in each loop.

Our brains work like this too.

We have a loop for the daily chores.

We have a loop for tasks at the office.

Sometimes, if we’ve focused on improving ourselves and being more balanced we have a loop for exercise, cooking and nutrition, family time, and other interests.

We can also have a loop for our purpose in life.

If you think about a conversation, we even have loops in conversation. We started out debating a single point, as other points are made, we debate those and so on. If you go off on too many of these tangent loops you eventually forget the original point you were debating at all. This is common in unstructured conversations.

Every time we add a new loop we add a significant amount of mental brain power and possible exhaustion to our life. It’s why focusing is so important. For just a little example, let’s say every loop of yours has even 3 items in it. A loop of 3 items each having 3 items in it is 9 items. Adding a higher level loop of 3 makes it 27 items. Another loop makes it 81. This is how people get quickly overwhelmed with too much going on in their lives.

A quick thought on this:

If you can remove an entire loop from someone’s lives, their brain becomes much less exhausted because of the math above. This is where you are seeing food delivery, fresh produce delivery and other nutrition based programs growing in popularity. It’s why apps with exercise routines built-in are becoming hot-sellers. It’s why hiring someone who needs little input and direction has always been in-demand.

If you’re stressed, break some of your loops. If you want to be valued, break the loops of others.

The difference between me and a comedian.

I say funny things some times that may people laugh in the moment. They are almost always something I noticed about a funny situation we were discussing. I don’t particularly ever think of jokes. I’m not a comedian.

In some presentations I have thrown in some funny slides to break up the monotony, but in the future it’s possible the writing on this site, and in longer articles I write could be improved through some good humor.

So I checked out a book. For me, reading the comedy written by a stand up is incredibly refreshing, though we all can recognize stand up comedian, see it written down for me, ables me to see patterns and structure.

The thing that I noticed the most is that the comedy writing is bit of the inverse of my normal writing, which I would summarize as “stating what we all see, but codifying it in a way that’s easier to communicate.” Comedy is more, “stating what we all see, but drawing an entirely unusual conclusion from it.”

Here’s a few ideas to take away from this:

  • Learning a new skill may add to your current work.
  • Consuming a different form of a medium may allow learning in a different way.
  • A dash of the inverse of your work may add depth to it, much like adding vinegar to something salty, or sugar to something spicy.

P.S. Don’t expect joke after joke here, that’s not really what I do. This is just something I’ve been thinking about.

A reminder about world-views.

Thousands of years ago, if you were in a hunter-gatherer society, you may want to share. It’s valuable because when hunting, there is always a bit of luck involved in landing your next meal. Each and every time you hunted required luck to come across the animal you were looking for, make sure that they didn’t sniff you out, and then make sure you are able to get the right shot in. If you can share when you bag a big animal while others came back with nothing, then perhaps they would do the same for you in the future. This would eliminate much of the ups-and-downs of each individual’s success.

At the same time, if you were a farmer, provided you put in the effort to plant the seeds and reap the harvest, barring a bit of bad luck, you had food. Sharing with others who weren’t willing to put in the effort may have been frowned upon because they could have worked too and had a steady harvest. It wasn’t bad luck. It was their effort that was the issue.

In this same vein, there are people with many friends and family to lean on, and people with few.

There are people in modern industries that are cyclical, and people in industries that are rock steady.

There are people in positions where failing leads to no further chances, and there are people in positions where there is always another chance.

The sum of these types of situations form our worldview. Just because someone believes a bit different than us, doesn’t always make them a bad person. They just have a different situations forming their world-views.

Prime Numbers and New Work

We have no idea how many prime numbers there are, or if they are infinite.

We have no idea how many new fields there are to be invented or worked on.

In many ways there is a relation between the two. Something like making a comedy show and distributing it have “prime” functions involved. You need to bring together comedy, broadcasting/networking skills, video editing/production, set design, makeup, clothing design/wardrobe, and possibly a whole list of other “prime” skillsets to make the show something special.

It seems like the world is running out of “prime” skillsets. That machines are taking those over. What the world isn’t running out of things made by combining those skillsets together to make something new. The world is full of infinite possibility in that regard, just as we can keep counting for nearly ever, even if we need to eventually create new terms for numbers of astronomical size.

If you ever feel trapped, or out of possibilities, realize it’s only a phase. If you’re vigilant, put in some effort, even as simple as learning a new “prime” skillset, your world may open up with an imagination full of new possibilities.

Two years to write 5 minutes of comedy material.

That seems ridiculous doesn’t it?

If someone said, “I need you to write an amazing set of jokes that fill up 5 minutes, you have 2 years.”

Many people as long as they had any amount of humor in them, would likely think, “Two years is a long time. 5 minutes is like three or 4 jokes. I can do this easy. Heck, I could probably do it in much less time.”

Yet, 5 minutes of killer comedy on YouTube could send your brand soaring. How many people skip doing this?

And it doesn’t stop with comedy. It could be writing. It could be a show. It could be making a product to sell. It could be programming software or a game.

The time we have is immense. The tools we have to create, share, and educate ourselves with are a 1000X more powerful than any other time in history. Yet, we shirk our opportunity.

Perhaps it’s motivation. Many people find it much harder to be motivated for themselves than for others. They like being an employee because they get to help someone live out their dream. And that’s fine. Yet, still we don’t take these tools and the opportunities to help on that end very often either.

It’s not the tools. It’s not the time. It’s the fear. Maybe, we’re not that funny. Or not that smart. Or not that interesting. Maybe, we have nothing useful to add.

At best, we have no idea. We don’t know you’re not funny until you show us that 5 minutes. At worst, you’re denying how truly funny you are. The same is true with the other endeavors I mentioned.

We have plenty of time. We have a lack of courage.

Be brave. Do the work. Especially the work that might not work.

ROI on LED stoplights

My wife was just telling me a story about how the municipalities around us replaced the incandescent stoplight bulbs on the streets with LEDs, citing how much electricity use they would save. However, they didn’t realize the heat that incandescent bulbs put off melts snow in the winter, so the bulb is always visible. In their first year, the LEDs are covered up by snow storms and seeing the lights is hard, or impossible in some intersections. Now, each brand new light needs a heater added to it to melt snow.

When they calculated the return-on-investment for LED replacement, they calculated all the saved electricity. However, some of that saved electricity now needs to be diverted to heaters to melt excess snow. If they add intelligence to make them only turn on as needed, that will still produce savings, but again will cost more. Missing this in the original calculation makes the whole Return-on-Investment incorrect. The cost/benefit analysis may not even be in the right ballpark now to the point where if they hadn’t already done the project, they wouldn’t move forward with it under the new calculation.

This is common in the world. It’s far more common than we think. Most people value nearly everything incorrectly. That’s what a market is. How often do you think someone sells a car and one person walks away paying too much, while the other person received more money than they should have? Every time if you ask enough people. That’s what a market is.

If you want to be someone who makes good decisions, it’s imperative to learn to use as much creativity and empathy as possible to see all of the “intangibles” that others don’t. Forgetting heaters is easy when the previous stoplights didn’t need them. Thinking through all the assumptions being made is imperative, and it’s hard work. That’s what makes it valuable.

P.S. It also might be that when you are dealing with people, this is true as well. The last person maybe didn’t need praise. The last person maybe didn’t need training. The last person didn’t need any resources. The current person isn’t the last person, don’t treat them that way.

The relic of the paperweight

At one point in time, there wasn’t modern air conditioning, however, there was fans.

People who wanted relief from terribly hot weather may have had many fans moving air in a cramped building or house to remove the excess heat, and create airflow that along with a little sweat cooled people. This created air movement indoors that may blow papers around, so we create the paperweight. A small decoration to keep things grounded.

Then comes air conditioning. Much less air movement, but actual cold air mixed into the existing hot air. Now, fans aren’t needed, yet the relic of the paperweight persists for a long time to come.

Businesses, culture, ideas, and inventions often persist long past their expiration. The world shifts and we forget all the related items that cascaded from the previous systems. Many items take decades for the average person to notice it no longer matters anymore. Paying attention and actively reflecting on the past can make sure you don’t make decisions that are based on past assumptions that are no longer true. We’re in an era full of those.

Who picks out the cars for Jerry Seinfeld?

On the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Jerry Seinfeld picks up other comedians in a different car. Every episode the car represents the guest on the show in a way that Jerry loves to tell them about.

This job can’t actually be delegated. You need a car guy who knows all of these famous comedians. Jerry must do this job himself.

In life, it’s easy to think, “I’m waiting to get to a point where I can pay/delegate all the work to everyone else.” The reality is, the most important work, the work we would like to do is the work that no one else can do for us. Finding others that can add to the work we do is rare and should be valued.