Some Thoughts on Brave New World (1931)

The “brave new world” is strikingly similar to our own.

Where its rules and designs are stark and defined—ours are subtler, but hardly different.

An engineered society. Rules imposed to protect social stability, foremost. Then to repel all insecurities from our fragile minds. Embryos engineered for particular tasks. Persons conditioned to love those tasks, to envy nothing, to find no fulfillment (and have no desires) beyond sensual pleasures.

What stands between sensual impulses and their immediate fulfillment is only and always bad. Kill all stigmas.

Tranquility and ease—these are the brave new world’s gods.

Are these our gods?

Of course not. Our lives are richer, right? We deal with weightier things, right? We love and laugh and hate and cry, right? Our days are diverse, right?

But how many of us deal with such things only out of necessity? Do we love because we choose to love, or does it just happen to us? Do we laugh because we know true joy, or is it most often some impulsive reaction? Do we hate thoughtfully and intentionally, or are we simply repulsed by something or other?

Do we cry because we are deeply sad, or because we just don’t understand what’s going on and why we feel this way and why any of this has to happen?

And what of passion? Intended, cultivated passion. Is that around?

Something to think about.

(Oh, and here’s a piece on how we do engineer embryos. Or, at least, we could.)

Other thoughts:

  • There is no killing stigmas without introducing others. Stigmas against stigmas.
  • Fulfillment is relative. The Savage finds no fulfillment in easily acquiring sensual pleasures, as do his peers. Nor must you, or I, necessarily find fulfillment in any particular thing—certainly not in any material or sensual object, no matter how pervasive are the expectations that we ought.
  • The Savage’s only escape was suicide. Is more frequent suicides a side-effect of the piling on of expansive social norms (rules that some find oppressive)? And does the piling on of social norms go hand in hand with a growing and increasingly intertwined population, where the return on stability is enhanced? Where the effects of smaller disruptions are amplified because of our inter-connectedness?

Our new video

I had a new video made for PeopleFish.

Our new PeopleFish video.

I wrote the script. A quick explainer. No wasted time.

Strategy here was to be short enough that there’s less reason to “skip” the ad, should we start pushing it before related videos on YouTube. It moves fast, and it’s only 22 seconds long. Works across platforms (Instagram included).

Thoughts? What are some of the best explainer videos you’ve seen?

Thanks to Aditya Golechha for quality work and a quick turnaround.

Five people I follow online

Every day, I’m inspired by people.

Most of these people, I’ve never actually met. I know them by the content they publish online. I appreciate every last word of it.

Sometimes while chatting with friends, I’m struck at just how much online “curating” I’ve done over the years—following (and unfollowing) people who inspire me to be better—and just how much value I get from these influencers. Most people haven’t had time to sift out true value from the millions of voices screaming online for attention.

To that end, here’s a list of five online influencers whose content I find inspiring. These are people whose blogs and tweets I read, whose videos I watch, and whose podcasts I listen to on a regular basis.

  1. Ed Latimore. I follow him on Twitter. A fresh perspective on work and taking responsibility for yourself.
  2. Naval Ravikant. I follow him on Twitter. The more I think about this particular thread, the more it changing my perspective on my work.
  3. Gary Vaynerchuk. Soak up his stuff. It’s deep and profound, if you listen closely. Especially when he talks about patience. I love this clip.
  4. Jordan B. Peterson. His book 12 Rules for Life is one of the best I’ve ever read.
  5. Scott Adams. His politics aside, Scott’s thinking about systems vs. goals changed the way I think about how to make progress in my life and career.

Bonus #6: My friends Gret, Dave and Spencer. These guys inspire me more than than everyone else on this list, combined. It’s because we stay in contact with each other religiously. Extreme accountability on all things social, spiritual, entrepreneurial, and financial.

Monday update (7/16)

  1. I read Rob Bell’s What Is the Bible? last week. Wrote a 200-word review of it last night. I’m going to write a 200-word review for every book I read the rest of this year—my way of keeping myself accountable to actually read a book every week.
  2. That said, Rob Bell is interesting to me. I like him. I like his perspective. I once wrote about him in college when everyone around me, at my conservative Christian college, was pretty opposed to his ideals. Here’s a fair and critical review of the book I just read.
  3. This week I’m reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I was supposed to have read this in the 12th grade (I even wrote a report on it), but only skimmed it. Sorry Mr. Beavers.
  4. I have a course coming out soon at Highbrow. Topic: How to run a market research survey. It’s based on a piece I wrote for Startup Grind last October. It’s aimed at aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs.
  5. I’ve been thinking about this piece ever since I read it. An enlightening and convincing piece on how technology and information overload has yet-unknown, and likely very bad, consequences for our minds. Though the author’s proposed solutions are a bit hackneyed, they’re true nonetheless—especially as regards the wellness vs. medicine dichotomy.

200-word Book Review: What Is the Bible? (Rob Bell, 2017)

Rob Bell wants you to read the Bible better.

He wants you to ask, when reading:

Why did people write this down in the first place?

When you do this, the Scriptures turn from stale to sacred—inspired not just by definition, but truly and deeply inspirational.

Bell inspires this perspective with examples. From Moses’ organ to Ehud’s knife to the three apocalypses, the Bible is full of stories that mean so much more than we’ve settled for. So much more than Bible-tract bullet points—platitudes that make the whole thing seem so unrelatably dull.

The book is as useful for well-read Christians as for skeptics. Bell adeptly addresses both audiences with the same language (that this is possible is perhaps the most alarming, but pertinent, lesson of this book). His goal is to help us read the Bible better—prior convictions notwithstanding or particularly relevant.

This is what makes the book powerful.

Bell’s perspective is refreshing. No labels, no jargon. The Scriptures, he argues, defend their own inspiration. No need for artfully-defined, highfalutin ideals (inerrancy, infallibility) to see that this ancient library is worth reading over and over.

If we’d only read deeply, like Bell does, we’d get it.

A Monday update

  1. I’m going to try and read one book per week for the rest of the year. Last week was The Exorcist. This week, What is the Bible? (Rob Bell, 2017). I’m saying this here in order to keep myself accountable.
  2. I’m shifting my work from Haven Insights to PeopleFish. This is a sort-of rebrand. It’s been a long-time coming. Bottom-line is my team and I are focusing less on long-term, traditional quantitative market research projects in favor of our unique, turnkey, startup-focused survey offer. It’s more in line with my personal goals, and I consider it a more scale-able model.
  3. I had a piece on startup market research published by Startup Grind last Friday. Would appreciate your “applause.”
  4. I’m increasingly convinced that my smartphone use is killing my brain—more specifically, my ability to focus, de-stress, and think deeply without getting distracted. And call me crazy, but I consistently feel tired when I’m not browsing on my phone. It’s like my body depends on social feed-driven dopamine rushes to keep my mind from trancing out. So I’m not using it anymore before 8 am or after 8pm. Again, saying this here only to keep myself accountable.

How to get rich (without getting lucky)

Credit @naval.

  1. Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.
  2. Understand that ethical wealth creation is possible. If you secretly despise wealth, it will elude you.
  3. Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth creation games.
  4. You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity – a piece of a business – to gain your financial freedom.
  5. You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.
  6. Pick an industry where you can play long term games with long term people.
  7. The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven’t figured this out yet.
  8. Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.
  9. Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.
  10. Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling.
  11. Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
  12. Arm yourself with specific knowledge, accountability, and leverage.
  13. Specific knowledge is knowledge that you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else, and replace you.
  14. Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.
  15. Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others.
  16. When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools.
  17. Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.
  18. Embrace accountability, and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.
  19. The most accountable people have singular, public, and risky brands: Oprah, Trump, Kanye, Elon.
  20. “Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” – Archimedes
  21. Fortunes require leverage. Business leverage comes from capital, people, and products with no marginal cost of replication (code and media).
  22. Capital means money. To raise money, apply your specific knowledge, with accountability, and show resulting good judgment.
  23. Labor means people working for you. It’s the oldest and most fought-over form of leverage. Labor leverage will impress your parents, but don’t waste your life chasing it.
  24. Capital and labor are permissioned leverage. Everyone is chasing capital, but someone has to give it to you. Everyone is trying to lead, but someone has to follow you.
  25. Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep.
  26. An army of robots is freely available – it’s just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it.
  27. If you can’t code, write books and blogs, record videos and podcasts.
  28. Leverage is a force multiplier for your judgement.
  29. Judgement requires experience, but can be built faster by learning foundational skills.
  30. There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.
  31. Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
  32. Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.
  33. You should be too busy to “do coffee,” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.
  34. Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.
  35. Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.
  36. Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.
  37. There are no get rich quick schemes. That’s just someone else getting rich off you.
  38. Apply specific knowledge, with leverage, and eventually you will get what you deserve.
  39. When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place. But that’s for another day.

Forget FAKE NEWS. Stop DUMB NEWS!

Forget about FAKE NEWS. Our bigger problem is DUMB NEWS.

What’s dumb news? Example headlines:

  • Man goes on racist tirade in NYC Starbucks.
  • Woman uses n-word after Panera order botched.
  • Trump supporter goes ballistic at liberal neighbors.

Sharing such stories only divides people. It’s just a play for more “likes.”
Identify dumb news with the following guide:

  1. Story’s bad guy is one person, likely with serious mental health issues.
  2. Story’s incident happened thousands of miles from you, and doesn’t reflect anything you’ve personally seen happen.
  3. Everyone who hears the story has the exact same reaction and opinion about the bad guy.
  4. The article was written by someone who wasn’t there, but who only saw a grainy video of the incident.
  5. Story gets 1M+ views, but sparks no real response (because, at bottom, it’s just mean people being mean).
  6. The story references everyone’s race and/or political views.
  7. The story’s headline is some variation of: “Can you believe how bigoted that man/woman is!?”

Don’t share stories like this! And don’t let grainy videos of people being dumb in some faraway city  affect how you think about society, your neighbors, or even the perpetrators themselves.

There’s no solving FAKE NEWS until we stop sharing DUMB NEWS.

Success happens in discrete, singular moments

Turning points are everywhere.

You probably don’t know when they’re happening. You see them only in retrospect.

But all the time—every single week—you make decisions that constitute some big turning point in your life.

The mind can never foresee it’s own advance.

F.A. Hayek

Since this is true, it means right now matters. Right now could be the biggest moment in your life. The decision you’ll make after reading this post to push even harder, today, toward your goals, could one day be what you consider the most important decision you ever made.

This post–any post–could be the most impactful thing you ever read. That all depends on what you do with it.

There are some people who believe this—that success is the sum of all small decisions made over the course of many years, even decades. Then there are some people who don’t, and who are wrong about what success looks like.

Until you truly believe, deep down, that success is attainable, and that it’s up to you, and that the first step is pushing harder in this very moment, you’re probably going nowhere fast.

Success happens in discrete, singular moments. One by one by one by one.

A friend and entrepreneur I respect once told me that to begin succeeding in life, I should start by fixing that annoying leak in my bathroom faucet. Forget forecasting, selling, strategizing. Start with things that need to be fixed. Start with the one thing you know you ought to do, but haven’t done yet.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”

L

One by one by one by one.

Social media hates your soul?

This Jaron Lanier interview is one of the most fascinating things I've read this year. Thanks to Rod Dreher for pointing it out.

The argument is that social media hates your soul. And it suggests that there’s a whole spiritual, religious belief system along with social media like Facebook that I think people don’t like. And it’s also fucking phony and false. It suggests that life is some kind of optimization, like you’re supposed to be struggling to get more followers and friends. Zuckerberg even talked about how the new goal of Facebook would be to give everybody a meaningful life, as if something about Facebook is where the meaning of life is.

It suggests that you’re just a cog in a giant global brain or something like that. The rhetoric from the companies is often about AI, that what they’re really doing — like YouTube’s parent company, Google, says what they really are is building the giant global brain that’ll inherit the earth and they’ll upload you to that brain and then you won’t have to die. It’s very, very religious in the rhetoric. And so it’s turning into this new religion, and it’s a religion that doesn’t care about you. It’s a religion that’s completely lacking in empathy or any kind of personal acknowledgment. And it’s a bad religion. It’s a nerdy, empty, sterile, ugly, useless religion that’s based on false ideas. And I think that of all of the things, that’s the worst thing about it.

I mean, it’s sort of like a cult of personality. It’s like in North Korea or some regime where the religion is your purpose to serve this one guy. And your purpose is to serve this one system, which happens to be controlled by one guy, in the case of Facebook.

It’s not as blunt and out there, but that is the underlying message of it and it’s ugly and bad. I loathe it, and I think a lot of people have that feeling, but they might not have articulated it or gotten it to the surface because it’s just such a weird and new situation.