Going Live (& Alive)

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pulse

As a founder/creator, I often struggle with launching my products and ideas. It seems like the “launch” is this huge step where an idea makes a leap from 0 to 1. From nonexistence into a sudden loud existence, shocking everyone in the process, and hence generating lots of pressure.

This can be terribly crippling, however, since ideas and products feed off of usage and thrive on it. Depriving an idea from usage is like depriving it from oxygen. Therefore, one must put an idea out there as soon as possible, and avoid perfectionism at any cost.

To add to that, if my idea is deprived of feedback as a founder, I would suffer the consequences of low motivation. Usage and feedback give creators pulses of motivation towards their projects. An idea that is out there and public, even if it has 1 user, is much better than one that never sees light.

In order for me to accomplish this, I started thinking about the act as Going Live instead of Launching. A launch sounds terrifying, suggesting a big bang of awareness and publicity. Going Live, on the other hand, merely suggests putting the idea out there. This may be more true for the internet than elsewhere, but going live is probably not going to get anyone’s attention at first. What you’re doing is always bigger in your head than it is in reality.

Launching is like calling everyone you know telling them to come see you launch yourself on a rocket that you built over a few weeks to get to the top of a mountain. Going Live is like taking the first step in your hike to the summit, without telling anyone to come watch.

In the first example, you know that a lot can go wrong, and therefore you keep pushing it for later. In the second example, however, doing it is pretty easy since nobody’s watching, and you start accumulating spectators (aka users) with time.

After going live, you can slowly share your product with the world, one human at a time. Start with close friends, small online communities, and grow from there. We’re often mostly frightened by what the people we know would think. A good trick also is to only share your idea with strangers at first (Reddit is a good place for anonymity). What’s the worst that could happen?

Launching versus Going Live may sound like just semantics, but semantics often have all the impact on our perception.

Putting my ideas out there is now a lot less frightening. If you already have an audience, you can take your new idea live elsewhere under a different name. But depriving it from oxygen is the worst thing you could do.

What ideas are you depriving from oxygen? Take them live, and make them alive.

Tension of Opposites

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There’s tranquility in between every two opposites, and both are needed. Good is meaningless if bad didn’t exist. Virtue is empty without vice.

For every two opposites, there’s some healthy balance in between. I call that the tension of opposites.

  • Working hard is good, but if not coupled with some leisure, burnout occurs.
  • Everyone wants to be happy, but without some suffering, life becomes miserable & meaningless.
  • Having a partner that’s similar to you is nice, but having no differences makes a relationship dull.

Nobody knows what the right balance of these opposites is. In fact, the balance is different for every person, time, place, and situation.

Knowing that some tension of opposites must exist, however, should make us a bit more adaptable, flexible, and tolerant.

Principles don’t always work, because in principle, nothing is absolute. Every rule has its exceptions, except this one.

On Money

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Here, I put down all my thoughts and principles around money.

These are principles I wish someone had taught me.

Money

  • Money is a resource; a made up one.
  • Money doesn’t exist in nature. It is a tool we developed to make it easier to transfer value while conducting trade.
  • Instead of trading items and services directly, we get to store, lend, divide, and transfer value in the form of money.
  • Money is a concept, and currency is its unit.

Market

  • The sum of trade transactions and their pricing is referred to as the market.
  • The market is a natural system. It came before money was invented, and is as old as two archaic men exchanging meat with fruit.
  • The market is decentralized and cannot be controlled by any single entity.
    • It can be influenced by regulation, both positively and negatively, but never controlled.
  • “The market always decides”; meaning that the nodes in the market collectively decide what happens to it with their economic activity.
    • The nodes in any market economy are based of supply and demand; sellers and buyers.
      • The buyer always sets the price. In theory, assuming no monopoly, if a seller doesn’t serve the buyer well, another better seller would emerge.
  • Central entities regulate their market by printing more cash when it’s needed, while ensuring the market isn’t flooded with cash.
    • If people have a lot of cash, pricing inflation happens in the market, and sellers charge higher prices because buyers can afford it.
      • Inflation almost helps no one in the long run, because every person will need more money to buy the same things, making the currency unit less valuable.

Making Money

  • You can make money in an infinite number of ways.
  • The single common denominator for all of these methods is that another human with money finds what you’re doing worthy of monetary reward.
    • If you do something, and someone with money likes the service, likes you, or likes both, then they’re likely to give you some money.
      • If you reach to a lot of people like that, then you get to make a lot of money.
  • The service or product doesn’t matter. If there’s a buyer, a seller is likely to emerge.
  • Different people naturally have different genetic capabilities (physical, cognitive, creative)
    • The best way to make money is to use your unfair genetic advantages.
  • Some people are born with more money than others from their families.
    • If such people don’t use their money productively, they will lose it.
    • Thinking “why does this person have more money” or “this person didn’t work for their money” is a waste of time, and an act of envy which leads nowhere but to dissatisfaction and resentment of others.
  • Every natural system has unfairness, and trying to eliminate unfairness can be catastrophic.
    • Having hierarchies of competence incentivizes taking risks to reach to higher ranks in the hierarchy, which promotes innovation and healthy competition.
      • The only way one can make more money is by providing a better service than others.
  • The market allows for a hierarchy of competence; the more skilled one gets at a task, the higher the market usually rewards them.
    • This is due to the market’s rule of supply and demand; the more scarce the supply is, the higher the price the demand is willing to pay.
    • If there’s an abundance in supply, the price goes down.
  • Everyone has an opinion on how money should be spent.
  • One only has a say in how they spend their own money. Nobody has a say in how someone else should spend their money.
    • Any act of doing so stems from envy, or is an act of intrusion.
  • Incentives influence how people usually spend their money.
  • There are 3 types of incentives: economic, social, and moral.

On the Value of One’s Time

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Time value in money

Having been in the US for the past few months, I’ve been hearing arguments on hourly minimum wage and how it’s “not enough” for low-skill labor jobs. I found that to be quite an interesting argument considering that the average American is paid at least 10x of what their Asian or African counterparts are paid for doing the exact same job in a different geographic location. Of course, the value of money is relative to what it could buy you, and that’s why I put the “not enough” in quotation marks. But that got me thinking many questions, mainly; what constitutes the value of a human’s hour?

Here, I do not wish to address the sociopolitical history or reasons that made American’s minimum wage (and cost of living) much higher than what it is in Vietnam for example (story for another day maybe). My curiosity, however, led me to think of what constitutes the value of a human hour on a logical and economical level.

To do that, I always like to go back in history to observe how concepts such as that of a salary were forged. Technically speaking, a salary, just like money, is a made up concept by us Homo Sapiens. Going back a few hundred thousand years in the Savannah of Africa, the most basic forms of trade were between two humans. One who’s genetically strong hunts animals to feast on them, and another who’s more flexible climbs trees to catch fruits. Some days, the hunter wouldn’t manage to hunt a feast, and others, the gatherer saw no fruits in sight. That’s where and when the simplest forms of trade (and loans) had started. I like to refer to that as the Exchange of Labor.

Technically speaking in that example, the value of the hunter’s unit of time is completely dependent on whether or not he managed to hunt; accomplishing the valuable goal (nutrition resource). Some forecasting of how many kilos of meat a hunter could get can be made, an assumption on what others are willing to trade in return for a kilo of meat also could be made, and an approximated average on the value of a hunter’s hour is then possible to be calculated in a given day for example. But all of that goes to trash is the hunter fails to hunt. There is no inherent value of a human’s time, unless tied to an accomplished goal that is valuable to someone else.

This might be a big idea to tie one’s head around, but it’s true. As society grew, we moved in interesting directions. We invented companies to accomplish bigger goals that need people working together instead of a hunter working alone. Somewhere along the way, as group tasks became more complex and tasks’ outcomes became more difficult to quantify, approximations and hypotheses were put in place, giving birth to a fixed income concept. That was an interesting solution that helped ignore the problem of quantifying the value of an individual’s value of outcome, and focus on the overall group value of outcome. While unfair in some places, it saved a lot of time. I also don’t know whether the question of “what’s the minimum does this human need to eat, sleep, and buy clothes?” was a deciding factor in deciding one’s salary, but it certainly became so with time.

Either way, fast forward a few centuries, and the concept of a salary was engraved in our minds, giving us comfort and peace of mind at the expense of modern-day slavery and anxiety due to lack of productivity.

Point here is: an hour of my time driving is worth nothing. Null. Nada. None. An hour of me successfully reaching to destination X, delivering items Y, to human Z who deems this service of value is what’s valuable. Time itself is subjective and is worthless if the task was not accomplished. The value of that service is priced by the market; what human/customer Z would pay for it. That’s based on scarcity and cost of living essentially (also a story for another day?)

I think salaries have served a purpose, but I see a comeback for performance based income that has already unraveled in the form of “gig economy”. What’s funny is that in reality, gigs were the norm, and now they’re the exception. On a societal level, salaries introduced entitlement and complacency. With globalization, more and more products and services are being produced better and cheaper by those who lack entitlement and complacency, and those, as history proves time and time again, will always win.

Fitting One’s Narrative

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Missing jigsaw puzzle pieces in unfinished work concept. White pattern texture background.

If you’re doing anything in life, then you’re selling. Your work to a customer, your self to a partner, or your idea to an investor. In any case, I have come to believe that you can approach anyone in the world and sell them anything if you fit their narrative.

Everyone has a narrative; that is, the story of their life to this moment and everything that entails. If you want to convince this talented designer to join your new venture that has $0 in funding, your chances are much higher if they were an ambitious 20-something without much responsibility than if they had just given birth 2 months ago and have to pay off mortgage.

If you wanted to sell your art to a well-known collector, you’d fit their narrative much better if your art was addressing a problem they strongly identified with than one they didn’t feel as strongly about.

I have observed this by approaching certain people I look up to, wanting to sell them on something that didn’t fit their narrative well, and then at a later point selling them something else that fit their narrative perfectly.

Most of the time, it’s not about what you’re selling, but rather about how that piece fits the buyer’s half-done jigsaw puzzle, also known as their life.

This is of course assuming that you’re doing a good job explaining and selling whatever it is that you’re selling. But even that becomes less important since what you’re selling would resonate with me faster if it had fit my narrative.

Always think of what you’re selling from the buyer’s perspective. If it doesn’t work for them at this given moment, move on. There’s almost 8,000,000,000 people in the world.

Change who you’re selling to, or change what you’re selling.

On Mental Health & Suffering

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Out of all the problems I’ve been researching, mental health seems to be the single most complex problem to solve, and at the same time, in my opinion, the single most important one.

Mental Health describes the efficiency of the operating system that we run through. Just how your computer runs macOS, or Linux, your mental framework has to set values to what’s good and when you’re rewarded, what’s bad and when you’re punished, and most of all, it has to follow a meaningful goal.

Mental Health is the most complex problem because the factors that influence it are almost infinite. From the piece of land you were born in, to the religion you were raised on, and all the way to the job you ended up doing. Every single interaction in your everyday life, whether with yourself or with others does influence and affect that framework.

The most successful people I have met always have their mental framework running at maximum efficiency. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they work harder or longer hours. It just means that they value some things more than others. Their value systems are more objective. They define what a ‘virtue’ is and practice what they preach to themselves before others.

My generation specifically -Millennials-, and the successor Gen Z, suffer greatly from unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. I tried to look into why that is, and how to fix it. Because if the framework in which one does things is broken, then whatever results come out of it will not be expected to be of any good. And if no one fixes these mental framework severe issues, then literally nothing else matters.Read More

Immersion

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Immersion

Have you been so immersed in something that you lost sense of time? Dipped in an idea so deep that you see nothing else? Driven in a world full of potential that you don’t know which end to pursue first? Well, I’ve been there too, at multiple stops in my life. And I, my friend, am a sucker for immersion.

Once upon a time, I used to wake up and rise straight out of bed with excitement. Every single day. I was eager to get back to what I was doing the night before. I was even dreaming of it in my sleep, waking up several times to the ecstasy of achieving these goals. I would then spend most of my waking hours facing the screen religiously (literally unless I had to eat, use the bathroom, or sleep). Finally, I’d get to bed when I could no longer keep my eyes open, and repeat.

I wasn’t possessed, nor was I crazy (although my family would beg to differ).

I was immersed.
And maybe a little bit cuckoo.

At the time, I wasn’t exactly doing anything important. I was just your next door awkward gamer kid immersed in my own world playing my MMORPG (massively multi-played online role playing game).

My life in the game wasn’t any perfect. In fact, it was its imperfections and problems that made me immersed by continuously striving to fix them. I had in-game money problems, so I was looking for ways to make money. Slaying green dragons made me 200K gold pieces per hour. Cutting Yew logs made me 180K gp/hr, but required less effort. Slaying blue dragons makes a bit more, but I didn’t have a high enough slaying level to slaughter them, so that was another problem for me to solve. I had skill problems. So I was looking for ways on how to gain experience points and levels. And so on…

I was so immersed that any moment I wasn’t playing was a complete waste of my time. Possessed with so many thoughts, I would rush out of bed because I knew time spent sleeping could be time spent gaining XP and GP. I gained gratification by solving these problems. I felt accomplished. And I wanted more.

I reflect back on these times and recall a similar time of my life later. When I was starting my first startup. I wanted to wake up so fast in the morning to get the work done. I had money problems, so I was looking for ways to make money. Doing direct sales made me $X/hr. Paid ads on social media made me $Y/hr, but were easier. Partnerships made me a bit more, but I didn’t have enough experience to hire & manage a team to forge these partnerships, so that was another problem for me to solve. I had skill problems. So I was looking for ways on how to gain experience and know-how. Reading a book on hiring, asking a mentor for advice, and so on…

I also had lots of sleepless nights. Also barely left the sight of work unless I had to eat, use the bathroom, or sleep. And most importantly, I also rose out of bed with energy that I still wonder how I managed to gather to this day. I was a machine. I woke up at 5 and went to bed at midnight. Then repeated every day.

You have to realize that I didn’t do this because I had to. I did it because I wanted to. I was too blind to even think of why I was doing it. I was just high on passion. Doing it was a no-brainer. Not questionable. I was inspired. I was driven.

I saw this again when I started working on my second startup. I was so carried away that I lost sense of time. Pushed social settings away. Postponed travel & leisure. And here’s the thing: I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

As an ambitious person, you crave these feelings and miss those times. You feed off accomplishing virtuous goals. You become so productive that no one can stop you. You become a machine. And I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. Yes, balance is nice, but so is the feeling of accomplishment. Yes, taking care of your health is important, but living longer while not fulfilled never made anyone happy.

Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long. —Seneca

So what I’m saying is: here’s to the crazy ones who live for the thrill of getting out of bed every morning to face life’s challenges head-on. Here’s to never losing that spark. Here’s to doing less of what doesn’t excite you, and doing more of what does excite you.

We all have responsibilities that aren’t necessarily fun. We all do shit that we would really rather not do. And I’m not suggesting to stop doing so. I’m not promoting a life of leisure. But that suffering is in the micro, and that suffering is part of the journey. Take a step back and look at the macro, and if it looks like in the grand scheme of things, you’re getting where you want to go, then keep hustling. If not, then it’s time to pick another form of suffering.

Do what sets your soul on fire.

On Productivity

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The environment you’re in strongly dictates how productive you are.

You must control for:

  • Morning routine
    • what do you do when you wake up? building habits of doing things as simple as taking a shower and making breakfast could change your whole day due to its kick-start
    • do you have a thing you’re waking up for? you need to know what you’re doing in the morning before you wake up! (tip: commit to a meeting/workout with someone)
    • do you know what you’re wearing? this is less important for some, but in any case you should at least have clean and ready laundry. Running around preparing could -again- influence your whole day based on its kick-start
  • Work place
    • where do you work? your work spot has to be defined and comfortable. It must have everything you need (e.g. water, coffee, papers, outlet, etc…)
    • do you have your work station ready? if not, you should at least have your bag ready to go or to be ready in seconds
  • Work itself
    • what the heck are you working on? you should have a list of goals for the day, week, or month that you address. Or a to-do list as a breakdown of those goals if that works better for you
    • a very interesting habit to instill is to write the day’s goals as part of your morning routine, or by a certain hour
    • check the Rawi model for getting shit done that uses weekly checklists
  • Recreational activities
    • are you doing things other than work? Doing such activities (esp. sports) would motivate you to work more because you’d value time more, let alone feel refreshed and energized
    • do you have those planned in advance? even if a day before. You don’t have to fill your schedule, but put it in there
  • Meeting people
    • very strong tool to reflect through people & either feed off their energy, or use what you find negative to motivate yourself to work on bettering yourself
    • not to mention the benefit of seeing and catching up with your loved ones. It’s rejuvenating
    • tip: stay tf away from those who suck your energy and leave you drained
  • Evening routine
    • what you do before hitting the bed? it could strongly influence your kick-start for the next day. Did you do your errands? prepared your schedule and goals for the next day? Don’t sleep until that’s done
    • are you getting enough sleep? nobody in this day and age can dictate exactly when they go to bed and wake up with ruthless discipline unless they’re fine killing their social life (and occasionally some of their business prospects as well) BUT you should do your best to get in bed early enough to get 6-8 hours of sleep depending on what works best for you

I find my most productive days to be those which include every ingredient of this recipe. I wrote it here as a reference, mainly for myself, as well as others to revisit whenever one feels a lack of productivity. Not all of your days shall be productive, but if you can make most of them so, why the heck not?

Farewell.

Thought: Living Life with a Sense of Urgency

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A year ago, I stumbled upon a thought provoking question that has had quite an impact on how I think:

What are your 10 year goals? How can you achieve them in 6 months?

The point here is not necessarily to end up achieving your 10 year goals in 6 months, but the exercise of thinking of an answer itself will be eye-opening.

Some of your long term goals can actually be achieved in a much shorter period of time. And if you realize you can do that, then why the hell not? Living one’s life with a sense of urgency to achieve will require more effort, but it certainly is more rewarding.

Granted, some things come with time (coupled with work), but perhaps the majority of our goals are just pending our disciplined action.

60 Years of Diaries: an Update

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diaries, grandmother

A couple of weeks ago, my sister visited my grandmothers’ house for the first time in about 20 years. She ended up finding a drawer full of her diaries from 1956 until present day, organized year by year. She sent me pictures and I was amazed. I tweeted about them, and the tweet sort of went viral.


Apparently, a bunch of people also found it to be pretty amazing. I was encouraged to explore the diaries further, archive them, translate them, etc…

A few journalists wrote pieces on the topic, reporters from CNN & Skynews got in touch for stories/documentaries, and the internet did its fair share of spreading the word on hundreds of pages for millions of people. It was overwhelming. People were very kind with their words and their feelings of awe.Read More