Nassim Taleb's Top 10 Life Tips

Published June 1st, 2008 edit replace rm!

Great interview with my favorite author Nassim Taleb at The Times.

I will write my own review of his theories at some point and how they apply to startups, but until then he gives these 10 tips in the above interview that I think spell them out pretty well.

Taleb’s top life tips

1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6. Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.

9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Vote No to the screw your local Taqueria Proposition

Published May 21st, 2008 edit replace rm!

I try to leave politics out of this blog, but I feel really upset about the Proposition 98/99 vote coming up here in California on June 3rd. Any non California residents feel free to ignore this unless you want to learn more about the screwy politics of this state. The Rastas may have invented the term Politrixians, but California politics seem to have perfected it.

Proposition 98 and 99 are 2 referendums to change the California Constitution to supposedly disallow Eminent Domain. The first one Proposition 98 is called EMINENT DOMAIN. LIMITS ON GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY. and the second one Proposition 99 is called EMINENT DOMAIN. LIMITS ON GOVERNMENT ACQUISITION OF OWNER-OCCUPIED RESIDENCE. So on the outset they sound very similar.

Before we even get to the differences between them…

What is Eminent Domain?

Eminent Domain is basically when the government takes private property for public use. The US Constitutions guarantees that this can only be for public use and can only be done for just compensation. Basically if they take your property they must pay fair market price for it.

Unfortunately in the past century governments have radically expanded what public use means. This is where the trickiness comes in. Local governments have come to believe taking your house and selling it to a mall developer is a public good as it could increase the tax base.

Kelo v City of New London

This whole thing was thrown into the public view a couple of years back when the US Supreme Court basically said this was valid in the court case Kelo vs New London. Where a the New London city council took away 15 homes from their private owners to give to a private developer. Not strangely there was a huge uproar about this and lots of states started passing laws to limit this kind of thing.

Eminent Domain Abuse in California

Drew Carey has made a great videos about a specific case in California, that provide a great introduction to why and how this is done in this state and good alternatives to it:

Also see this one National City: Eminent Domain Gone Wild and this article about How the New York Times forced 55 business out using Eminent Domain to build their new office.

What you can see here is that most of the victims of this are small businesses. Exactly the kind of small businesses that we like here in San Francisco. The local Taqueria, the neighborhood bar, the Filipino grocery shop and hey maybe even your local neighborhood web startup.

You are the one who will change the world, not the next president

Published April 18th, 2008 edit replace rm!

Dolores Park

It’s easy to get swept into the excitement of the electoral process no matter where you live in the world. In the past couple of months I’ve found myself swept into the excitement for a candidate for the coming US presidential election, who I in reality have very few things to agree with and probably wouldn’t ever vote for anyway. This because he has a certain charisma and a message that says “Lets change this crap!!!”.

However anytime I get deeper into following that process something happens to immediately yank me back to reality and realize that it doesn’t really matter anyway who sits in the White House or who is busy inserting their pork barrel into bills in Congress.

What is important is that we the entrepreneurs, coders and inventors who are actually changing the world keep doing our jobs.

Sometimes it seems unimportant and frivolous for us to be obsessive about the latest standards, rails plugins or variation of a social video startup. However this is how every single great change to the world has happened over the last couple of hundred years.

Let me repeat that:

Every important world change has been made by people like YOU!!!

Also if you don’t think you should have illusions of grandeur remember:

Every large and well known change depends on thousands of other small improvements also made by people like YOU!!!

Note. I say YOU as the people who read this blog tend to be entrepreneurial and/or geek type of people. If you happen to be a politician or bureaucrat I’m sorry, I’m not talking to you.

The obsessive nerd thinking over some small technical detail to move us as a planet ahead or a big mouth entrepreneur who refused to give up and ends up bringing down the last generation of entrepreneurs who had grown fat and complacent.

Living it up on the cheap in Denmark

Published April 15th, 2008 edit replace rm!

As I’m currently in Denmark for a while I’ve had to with even worse prices of groceries than normal due to the apparent sickness of my good old US$. I thought I might as well write a little guide for how you can save a krone or two if you are staying in Denmark for an extended time.

Copenhagen is normally rated ad one of the 3 most expensive cities in the world, but you can get buy reasonable if you know how.

My Bootstrappers guide for Denmark has become very popular with foreigners trying to grasp the red tape involved with running a business here, so hopefully this might be a fun little guide, whether you’re coming for a week or staying on permanently.

Video of Keynote Panel at RubyFools 2008 in Copenhagen

Published April 5th, 2008 edit replace rm!

Featuring Dr Nic, Matz, Evan Phoenix, Kim Dalsgaard and Aslak Helleshøj.

Sorry for the dodgy sound quality. Need to get decent equipment at some point.

Update: I’ve made a higher quality mp4 version of this available here Please let me know if this doesn’t work.

About me

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My name is Pelle Braendgaard. Pronounce it like Pelé the footballer (no relation). I live in Managua, Nicaragua. I am the Technical Lead at uPort a Self Sovereign Identity Platform built on Ethereum.

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