Tag “thinking”

You have to happen to things

There’s an illusion that to get something or to reach a certain level in life you have to wait for a chance and then be smart enough not to blow it. This way of approaching life seems weird to me. Besides it has two huge disadvantages:

  1. There is no guarantee you’ll get any chance at all. It may never come. Such an attitude justifies your inaction and gives a right to blame an evil fate for all calamities that fall on your shoulders.
  2. There’s a high probability you’ll blink at the very moment the chance arrives to you door and miss the opportunity. Whom to blame then? How long to wait for another chance?

Being patient is a good strategy when something you’re waiting for is out of your control. Most things require actions from us so they could happen. I say don’t wait for the things to happen on their own, happen to those things.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. No matter how small or huge that something is. Have an intention to act, make the first step: write an email, ask a question, seek knowledge or advice. It will lead you somewhere.

There’re no right moment. As Lemony Snicket wrote:

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

In the end, it’s all a judgement call ★

When having a hard choice in front of me, I use this simple principle to make a call:

If it’s not a “hell, yes”, it’s a “no”.

Sounds radical. Like black or white, like good or evil. But those are very shallow concepts. I am not asking you to simplify the world and narrow your choice to two options. This principle is not about that.

It’s considered to think that we make decisions based on data, facts and arguments. But in fact, we make decisions based on our gut or simply the feeling that prevails at the moment. We act the way we feel, not the way we think.

Sometimes you can have all the data in the world telling you to go a certain way, and yet you know it’s not right, it’s not your way. How do you know that? Where did this knowledge come from? Most of the time we can’t explain it. We just have a feeling.

When the decision you’re making puts a lot on the line the right question to ask yourself is not “What do you think of it?” but “How do you feel about it? How does it feel?” Let’s get it down to a few real life examples:

  • How do you feel about moving in together? Does it feel like we’re rushing or does it feel right and proper?
  • How does this color tint feel on the wall? Does it feel right or too much?
  • How do you feel about having pizza tonight? Or does it feel more like a Mexican restaurant?

When it comes down to this mundane questions we know exactly how we feel. We know for sure even though we can’t say how this knowledge came to us. ‘Cause it’s a judgement call. It works perfectly both with small and big decisions.

Just ask yourself how you feel about your the choice you’re making, and you’ll know the answer right away. And if it’s not a “hell, yes”, it’s a “no”. As simple as that.

How to get rich by Naval: a summary of the podcast and tweet storm ★

Last week I discovered the Naval podcast’s episode on how to get rich and wrote a summary of it. The episode is 3,5 hours long, so if you’re short on time, read this summary to get core ideas and tenets of this conversation.

There’s also a transcript of the episode on Naval’s website. But to me it also seems to be too long to absorb.

On wealth and money

Wealth is about independence and freedom. Wealth is creating abundance. It’s a positive-sum game.

Status is a ranking hierarchy. It’s a zero-sum game. Status games are about putting someone down. Don’t play them.

Money is social credits. It’s how we transfer wealth.

Everyone can be wealthy. It’s literally a question of education and desire.

Creating wealth should be consistent. Create opportunities, businesses, investments. Wealth is about having more options, more businesses and more things you can do and compound in the long-term.

Wealth is bounded with a skillset, it has nothing to do with luck. Build your character and make it become your destiny. That’s what people call “luck”.

Calm mind, fit body, a house full of love. Those things can’t be bought. You have to cultivate them and work on them. Your health, mental health, your relationships.

On building wealth

Extreme people get extreme results. You can’t be normal and expect normal returns.

You won’t get rich by putting in more hours of work or working for someone. It’s not the way to build wealth. Inputs equal outputs.

When you work for someone you’re not creating anything new for society, you’re replaceable.

Ways to get wealthy are to buy equity or to start a business.

The higher level of creativity in your profession the more likely it will have disconnected inputs and outputs, and more leverage.

The most dangerous things are heroine and monthly salary. They’re similarly very addictive. Live below your means.

Play stupid games, get stupid prizes.

To get rich give society what it wants but yet don’t know how to get that at scale. But don’t build one thing, build many: hundreds, thousands, etc.

Entrepreneurship is about distributing what rich people used to have to everybody. It’s an act of creating smth new from scratch, predicting society will want it, and then figuring out how to scale it and deliver it to everybody in a profitable way and self-sustaining.

Escape competition with authenticity. When you’re competing with someone that’s because you’re copying them. You’re trying to do the same.

Don’t copy, don’t imitate. Do your own thing. No one can compete with you on being you. The more authentic you’re the less competition you’re gonna have.

Play long-term games with long-term people. In this case we’re baking a pie together. In short-term game we’re cutting the pie.

Pick an industry for the long-term work to compound the results. Get traction and don’t let go.

Every time you reset, you will have to start from scratch. Hopping from one sphere to another is not a good idea.

The purpose of having wealth (money) is that money allows you not to be in a particular place at a particular time to do things you don’t want to do. Money solves all your money problem.

You really have to be right once. As an entrepreneur you fire many shots, but you really need to get right once.

Eventually you get what you deserve. Immediate doesn’t work. You have put in hours and time before you see significant results. Keep doing and keep doing and don’t track hours, time and energy you’ve put in. It can easily be 10−20 years. Five years is an exception. There are no get rich quick schemes.

Your outcome formula might look like this: distinctiveness of your specific knowledge x how much leverage you can apply to that knowledge x how often your judgement is correct x how singularly accountable you are for the outcome x how much society values what you’re doing x how long you can keep doing it and improving through reading and learning.

[Soon there’ll be a sketch of a math equation]

Don’t lean on the data too much. You’re better off picking the one biggest thing.

Ask yourself what is it I am good at according to the observation and according to people that I trust and that market values?

Those two variables are good enough to get you going. And if you’re good at it you’ll keep it up. And if you’re good at it you’ll develop the judgement. And if you’re good at it people will give you resources. All other pieces will fall in place. Market place is inevitable if you do what you love doing and the market wants it.

On relations with people

Pick smart, energetic and those who have a high integrity partners. Both in personal life and at work.

True motivation is intrinsic. You can’t talk people into something if they don’t have it in them.

Signals are what people do despite what they say. And subtle signals are the most important. People are ugly consistent.

Find irrationally ethic people. Be a rational optimist and partner with this kind of people. Shoot holes and things as long as they come with solutions.

Self-esteem is a reputation you have within yourself. High self-esteem is about loving up to high moral standards for yourself, not for someone else.

On learning

Not everything can be taught, but everything can be learned.

Arm yourself with specific knowledge. It’s about pursuing your innate talents, passion and curiosity. It’s not about going to school.

Learn to sell and to build. Combine of that is a huge superpower. This combination is unstoppable.

Building is about staying out of the noise. When you’re starting out, choose building. But later down the line it’s getting exhausting, because building requires a lot of focus. But sales skill is scaling better over time.

I don’t know smart people who don’t read. They read all the time. Develop love for reading. For many of you it can feel like a chore. So here’s a trick: read what you love until you love to read. It’s that simple.

Read original, foundational books in the field you’re interested in. Nail basics of math, physics, and science. After that you won’t be afraid of any other books. It’s like laying a foundation for a skyscraper. It must be solid.

Today it’s not the means of learning is what scarce. Internet has an abundance of knowledge and information. It’s the desire that is scarce. And we lose it through life. As children we have innate curiosity, we ask lots of questions. But schools replace it with compliance. You need creativity to learn and find novelty. The foundation of learning is math and logic. They are the path to understanding a scientific method. It’s the way to separate truth from false.

Be careful reading other people’s opinions. Even be more careful about reading facts. Many so called facts are just opinions with a veneer around them. What you are looking for are principles and algorithms, not facts.

Go through a book slowly. As Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear a man who knows thousand kicks and thousand punches. I fear the man who’s practiced one punch a thousand times.” It’s an understanding that comes through repetition, usage, logic and foundation is what really makes you a smart thinker.

As Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear a man who knows thousand kicks and thousand punches. I fear the man who’s practiced one punch a thousand times.”

Five most important things to learn in life are: reading, writing, arithmetic, persuasion (talking), computer programming. If you’re good at those things you’re set for life.

Business is not a skill. It’s too broad. And the worse way to learn doing business is to go to a business school. All you get there are anecdotes which they call case studies. The truth is that you never can understand them until you’re in the position of those who’ve had that experience. The foundations will serve you so much better.

Reading is the best way to learn fast. Not listening or watching. With podcasts and videos it’s hard to rewind, revisit, turn into a summary, or even quote.

You’re going to learn on the job by opening a retail shop down the street.

Putting a thousand of hours doing one this is a misinterpretation of learning. Repeating things won’t teach you that much. Whereas putting is a thousand iterations makes the difference. Learning curve is across iterations. Trying new things, strategies, packages, branding, fonts, design, positioning—all that are iterations.

There are no get rich quick schemes. If someone promises and sells you a way to get rich quick they’re making money of you. It’s their quick way to get rich quick, not yours.

You don’t want to learn how to be fit from a fat person. You don’t want to learn how to be happy from a depressed person. You don’t want to learn how to be rich from a person who makes their money by telling other people how to be rich. These people should go make their money elsewhere.

On work

Your work should feel like play to you and look like work to others.

Just do the thing you want to do. Have an action bias. Think big.

Focus on the thing you’re really into. Follow your own obsession. Build things naturally, don’t try to do them too deliberately, for money.

Double down on things you’re natural at. Combine them with other your skills.

Starting over and doing something new is painful. Because you’re wandering an uncertain territory and high odds that you will fail. So it’s a good skill to be comfortable with frequent small failures.

Entrepreneurs are people who bleed a little every day. They’re losing money, they’re constantly under the stress, all the responsibility is upon them. But when they win they win big. On average they’ll make more.

If you can outsource or don’t do things that cost less than your hourly rate, don’t do them. Hire other people, delegate and outsource it.

You should set an absurdly high hourly rate so it would be worth sacrificing your time to other people. My hourly rate was 5,000 $.

Paul Graham: you should be working in your product, finding a market for, exercising, and eating healthy food. That’s it.

Work as hard as you can. Pick the right thing to work on, hire the right people for that job, then work hard. Again, decide what you should be working on, surround with the best people possible to work with, work as hard as you can in the end.

Sprint, rest, reassess, and then you try again. It’s more like a lion hunting, not a marathon. Maybe a marathon of sprints.

Inspiration is perishable. Do it right away while it’s burning.

Have impatience with actions and have patience with results.

Solve problems as soon as possible.

On meetings

No meetings on the calendar: ruthlessly and constantly decline meetings. If someone wants a meeting, see if they can do it on a phone call, or an email, or a text message.

Do walking or standing meetings, also they should be short and certain.

Busy calendar and busy mind will destroy your ability to build something valuable in this world. You need a free time and free mind.

On accountability

Accountability is a risky, double edged thing. It allows you to get credit when things go well, and bear the brunt of the failure when things go badly. People who’re stamping their names on things aren’t foolish, they’re just confident.

Society says to us, “Don't stick your neck out.” We’re still socially hard-wired to not fail in public under our own names. But people who have an ability to do that gain a lot of power.

Clear accountability is important. It gives incentives to act and allows to avoid situation we all experience at school on a group projects when few people did most of the work and other members of the group were simply sitting there and doing nothing. Besides, accountability gives you equity, it’s the way to acquire a piece of the business.

High accountability means you’re less likely to be replaced by AI or more competent people. It also gives you equity. But equity also is a risk-based instrument. It means you’re paid the last.

On leverage

To get rich you need leverage. It comes in capital, labor, media or code. To get those things you need credibility and you have to do that under your name as much as possible.

Oldest form of leverage is labor. We assume the more people is beneath you the better. But labor is the worst form of leverage you can use. Managing other people is messy, it requires a tremendous leadership skills. You want a minimum amount of people working with you.

Capital is the second type of leverage. It requires more intelligence to use and get results as the way we use capital is constantly changing. We dislike capital as we don’t really know how to be about it. It seems unfair to us. It scales very well if you learn how to manage it, but the hard part about it is to obtain it in the first place.

Apps that has no marginal cost of replication is a new form of leverage. It got started with a printing press. Now you can multiply your efforts without help of other humans and without needing money from other humans. This podcast is a form of leverage. Long ago I had to sit in a lecture room and reach 20−50 people max. Today thousands of people can listen to what I say and it would cost me nothing.

Combining different leverages is where the magic hides. That’s why you see tech startups skyrocketing.

The great thing about code or media leverages is that they are permissionless. You can start using them without asking anyone for a permission. Coding, writing books, recording podcasts, tweeting, youtubing are equalizing. Products created with this new kinds of leverage are equally available to everybody and they’re great at scaling as there’s no marginal cost for adding another user.

The largest budgets get the highest quality.

Productize yourself. Turn your specific knowledge into a product. Turn yourself into a product. This newsletter is called after me so I am productizing myself with this emails. Ask yourself is it authentic to who I am? Is it myself that I am projecting? Am I productizing it? Am I scaling it with labor, with capital, or with media?

Making money isn’t a skill, it’s who you are stamped out a million times.

Making should be a function of your identity and what you like to do. Find three hobbies: one that makes you money, one that makes you fit, and one that makes you smarter. My hobbies would be reading, working with startups, and yoga.

On advice

You have to reject most of advice. But to do that you have to read and listen enough to learn what to reject and what to accept. You have to develop your own opinion and vision. If something doesn’t feel true to you set it down, put it aside.

Purpose of advice is different. Those are maxims to remind yourself what it really means to be in the situations you describe in the advice. Write advice for yourself. They are mental hooks. For example I tweeted someday: “If you don’t want to work with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day”. As soon as I know that I don’t see myself working with that person 10 years from now I start excavating myself from that relationship or just not to invest too much time and attention into them. Advice is a compact ways to recall your own knowledge.

If you don’t want to work with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day

QA section

  • Accountability means letting people criticize you.
  • We should eventually be working for ourselves. Manage more capital, media, and community, not a labor.
  • Evil do better at a smaller organizations than at larger ones.
  • Find time to invest in yourself. Learn something people didn’t figure out how to teach it yet.
  • The hardest thing for any founder is to find people who will work with them who have a founder mentality. This is a fancy way of saying they care enough.
  • You can get a lot out of any position you just have to put a lot into it first.
  • Judgement, accountability, specific knowledge, leverage — five components of success.
  • Early on find things you have any interest in and take an accountability to offer help and a solution. If you solve a hard problem taking an accountability, people will line up behind you, the leverage will come.
  • Judgement and accountability matter much more today than the amount of hours put in.
  • Accountability is a double edged sword. If you get things right people will admire and follow you. If you get things wrong people will blame you and would love to see your head on a spike (metaphorically).

Questions to ask yourself

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself after listening to the episode:

  1. What is my specific knowledge? What is my innate talent? What should I double down on doing?
  2. Who am I? What’s natural for me to do? What is the thing I am the best at?
  3. What is the thing I want to build naturally?
  4. What does it mean to be me?
  5. What am I capable of doing? What will I do for my wife, my kids, my parents? How far will I go?

The lesson behind one photo

The winter has come to Tyumen, and last week we had ground and trees covered with snow as the photo above depicts. However during the second half of the week the weather switched completely: on Thursday it was raining (sic), and by now all that show has melted or turned into ice crust on the sidewalks.

This kind of weather swings is not common for our latitudes. As for me I prefer a good decent frost rather that this melting mush on the ground. But here’s a lesson I learnt from the weather—as long as you can’t change that take it as is.

I realized that long ago, and since that I’ve never cared about the weather more than necessary. Sure, I put on a winter jacket if it’s -30°C, but I never complain about it. There’s no avail in that.

If it’s raining I put on a raincoat or take an umbrella with me (even though I hate umbrellas). That’s just how the weather is today and all I can do is to be prepared. The same goes for all the unpredictability and chaos in life. You can’t foresee all of problems and issues coming your way, but you can be ready to handle them and withstand the heat or the cold when it’s necessary.

So don’t go gentle. Go for a walk when it’s raining, snowing or when it’s a Mexican desert heat outside. Don’t postpone life just because something is not the way you’ve expected it to be. Harshness is necessary to handle discomfort and unpredictability down the road.

So don’t go gentle, take what’s out there and work with it.

Note-taking at lectures

My friend Tonya Alexeeva posted this on Twitter some day:

“Tomorrow begins my intensive one-week course on machine learning. I just realized I’m not used to make notes, but it would be great to revise this material later. Any tips for making notes for technical subjects and coding?”

I came across her tweet and gave a piece of advice on making notes during meetings and lectures. Here’s my perspective:

I don’t think there are any special tips for machine learning. No matter what subject you’re learning, techniques are pretty much the same. There’re dos and don’ts.

Dos:

  1. Take notes not during the lecture, but in the first 30 min after it. This way you’ll be able to focus on listening and absorbing new information.
  2. Sketch anything that requires visual explanation. Images work better than abrupt and incoherent notes.
  3. Record a memo of the class to go back to something you’ve missed later.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t make screenshots or photos of the teacher’s slides. No one ever gets back to review them.
  2. Don’t try to remember and catch every minute detail. Pay attention to what brings novelty into your work, not what you already know.
  3. Don’t be afraid of asking questions like. “Why” is the best tool of gaining knowledge. Use it as more as you can.

Subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Mastodon to receive new interviews on management and leadership on this blog.

Prefer not to know ★

There’s an endless flood of information. It keeps going 24/7.

And not just information. Knowledge, too. Courses, webinars, conferences, new technologies. We’re forced to be aware of all those things, care about them, have an opinion on them. But should we?

We learn so many things through life that we’ll never put to use. Daily we receive more information than average person from 19th century probably received in their life span. For example, in 2011, Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986. That’s insane!

We’re overdosed with knowledge. The worst thing is that we’ve decided that we’re obliged to know everything and be always aware. We are voluntarily agreed to have our attentional filters overwhelmed on a regular basis. We should leave some mental space for just being, instead. As we used to do 30−50 years ago.

I remember that even in my childhood that took place in 1990s we didn’t have this problem. On the contrary, people had to make a lot of effort to gain some knowledge, to get some information. To read up for exams you have to go to the library or ask a friend who had a PC to visit him so you could search something on the internet. You had to be creative to get information.

So much we didn’t know back then! And we couldn’t care less that we don’t. We didn’t consider whether it was a lack of knowledge or we were uneducated. We simply didn’t give a fuck about that. We were much more easy-going and didn’t put a pressure on us for not knowing. Things are different today, bad different.

So when I hear people say:

— Oh, there this ChatGPT thing. I have to learn more about it…

— Oh, there’s this Barbie thing, I should create a pic of me as a Barbie doll

… Oh. there’s a new program language I should learn to code in…

I think to myself, “Jeez, I am lucky not to know!” Because no matter how hard I try to filter the incoming flow of information, people still will bring it up and post it anyway. There’s literally nowhere to hide from it these days.

I prefer not to overload my brain with that information. I prefer not to know. 'Cause let’s be honest, 99% of news and information on our feeds is a complete bogus. It’s useless. So why bother? Why waste our energy, motivation, and attention on it? Why please interests of those who will not care back?

You don’t need to know everything that is out there. It’s hard to be good at one thing, and yet people try to be good at plenty. Instead of stuffing your brain with another new technique do what you already do well and perfect your routine. And choose wisely and thoroughly what you want to see on your feed, what you’d like to draw your attention on.

Know your drill. Keep your focus clear and steady. Prefer not to know.


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The less, the better

For six years of writing I used to believe the more platforms I post on, the better. It wasn’t a very effective strategy.

Yesterday I deleted my Twitter and Instagram accounts, and soon my Telegram channel will be closed. Starting from today I will keep writing only on these three platforms: this website, Substack, and Mastodon.

The less platforms I have to maintain, the more attention I can pay to the writing and not the distribution.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, seek an opportunity to reduce the amount of projects, errands, and tasks you’re dealing with. Keep three the most important to-dos you have on your list, start with them and drop everything else. You’ll get back to it later after you’ve handled the essentials.

If three is too much for you right now, cut it to one to-do. The less, the better:

  • Doing three projects? Take a break in two, and finish the one with higher priority.
  • Reading three books, none is finished? Pick one, finish it, then move to the next one.
  • Repair works are stuck and it’s all a mess? Stop everything and choose one, for example, fix a kitchen door that’s been out of order for weeks.

When life pushes hard, don’t try to bear it all on your shoulders. Reduce the number of options, select the most important thing to focus on, and after it’s done move to the next most important thing on your list.

One-thing-at-a-time strategy always works, plenty-things-at-a-time strategy—not so often. The less, the better.


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Major deadline

When one of your relatives or close friends passes away, something in you must change. It must break your heart. It must be painful and sad. It must make you think things over.

We became too cynical about death. We take it as something regular, something that doesn’t touch our souls or bother us at all. That’s not OK.

Death is a major deadline. The only real deadline we have in life. The death of a close person is a reminder that you can leave this life at any moment.

Marketing is BS ★

Marketing is everywhere. Someone’s ad is targeted at you when you’re taking shit. Someone is trying to sell you their stuff right now while you’re reading this post. Brands have gone too far playing this marketing game. It stopped being funny. It has become more of a burden.

People are tired of marketing. Badly. Especially of the one that teaches how to live your life, treat your kids, or become a better version of yourself. They say, “You're imperfect. Do this and you’ll become that. Buy this thing and it’ll empower you to do those cool things.” All kind of bullshit like this is ubiquitous. It’s all over the place.

Brands keep selling magic pills when people know it’s a myth. Fuck them.

No surprise we’re so tired of marketing. No one likes to be taken for a fool. People have learned most of the marketing tricks they used to fall prey to. They don’t fall for them anymore. But most marketers are too short-sighted to see that. So they keep pushing.

People don’t want to be manipulated or be taken advantage of anymore. They seek respect, trust, and care. They look for help, support, and understanding. They have always been looking for those things, long before marketing was invented. People want to see they’re heard.

To put it simply, marketing is any communication between a brand and a customer. However, most of the time you don’t even know you’re a customer. Brands simply push something towards you without asking: an email, a message, a call, an advertisement.

You’re no longer taking an active part in this play. You’re an impersonal audience they sell to. You are to watch and choose between Y and N buttons. That’s your role when it comes to marketing today. No one give a shit what you need.

But marketing is not about selling by force. It’s about selling to the right people by fitting their needs and solving their problems the way they expect.

Moreover:

  • Marketing is not about bombarding people with calls and emails. It’s about talking to the right person as if it was a private meaningful conversation with a friend which is in need right now.
  • Marketing is not about deciding what is the best color for the CTA-button or if it should have an outline and a shadow. It’s about finding the right words and images to convey your message, to make others feel they belong.
  • Marketing is not about a bouncing popup-window that appears when you’ve just opened the website. It’s about letting people look through your page and make an informed decision on their own.

We need to remarket marketing. We need to have a clear and honest conversation with people we’d like to see as our customers and clients. That would be a great start.


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Keep your pace ★

Writers and designers are afraid of ChatGPT and other AI services popping up all over the place. They shouldn’t be. It won’t leave you out of work unless you do one thing: keep moving.

TV didn’t kill theater. The internet didn’t kill TV. Remote work didn’t kill offices. Those things changed the game, but didn’t kill prior technologies. They just kept going. Nobody likes change, but it’s not death.

AI is yet another tool to your arsenal. It won’t replace you, because it can’t feel and reflect. It runs algorithms designed by… humans. It was designed to replicate and repeat ideas invented by humans. And most of the work today can’t be trusted to AI. Not without a human supervision.

ChatGPT can write a good summary, give some ideas, and spur your imagination. But it can’t create new meanings. Humans exceed AI in innovation. And I don’t think AI will ever come any close to what we are capable of when it comes to creating new paradigms, concepts, and ideas.

Don’t panic. It’s a long-term run. A marathon, not a sprint. Keep your pace and stay in the game as long as you can by bringing new meanings and ideas to the people you serve. It never goes out of fashion.