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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.

Think like Luke, Frodo and Neo

Published August 26th, 2007 edit replace rm!

I just heard a fun inspirational pod cast interview with Elliot McGucken, which is somewhat yet distantly related to my last entry The real world is a projection of your own fears.

I was initially put off by the subject, which in iTunes was shown as “Artistic Entrepreneurship”. But it had nothing todo with selling sculptures of your dog on ebay.

His idea is that entrepreneurs are similar in many ways to artists and their startups are their artwork.

Basically he believes to be really successful you have to have this drive that you only get from serious inspiration that your way is the right way and then go on your heroic journey.

Heroic Journey, you might ask? What is he on? Seriously it makes sense after listening through it. He says that almost all great entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Steve Jobs have followed this epic heroes journey that has more in common with Ullyses, Neo and Frodo than Harvard Business School.

I kind of agree with his ideas if not necessarily out of logic, but maybe more that it feels good thinking of your self as a hero.

Whether you agree with him or not is of course all up to you, but its definitely an entertaining hours worth of interview. You can also read more about Elliott at his site Artstic Entrepreneurship

The real world is a projection of your own fears

Published August 24th, 2007 edit replace rm!

David has a great little sarcastic post Who wants to live in the Real World?, which made me laugh.

David who is the ultimate “it’s my way or the highway” kind of guy has no doubt like me heard countless times about this mythical real world and that he should join it.

For us people who tend to do things a bit different (like emigrate, startup on our own, use new fangled technology etc.) this is something that can be extremely annoying, as what people really do when they talk about the real world is that you are wrong, but they can’t quite explain why.

I have always had a problem with authority (just ask my long suffering school teachers and principals over time). In particular just being told to accept something without an explanation is frustrating. However over the years to allow myself to actually function in the “real world” I have developed a coping strategy, which is based on what I think is a pretty accurate analysis of the people who use such terms. I find once I understand the motivations of people I can pretty much cope as opposed to being angry, regardless if I agree with them or not.

One of the keys to understanding this was realizing that we all do this to some extent. Basically when you start talking about the “real world” you are really projecting your own fears and insecurities about yourself onto the person you are arguing against.

For example some one arguing that in the real world you have to develop all production web applications in J2EE and deploy them onto multiple Windows servers running Websphere. Is pretty much insecure and fearful about his position in the industry, company and job market.

On the other hand someone arguing that you are stupid and not living in the real world if you aren’t doing all your web applications work in Ruby on Rails and deploying them on Linux servers, is pretty much also insecure and fearful about his position in the industry, blogosphere and job market.

I wont even get into talking about politics, where there are thousands of different real worlds, pretty much for the same reason as above.

The key to this is that we are all living in our own real world. Our own real world is filled not with objective facts, but our own subjective feelings about us, the world and our place in it.

A visionary is someone who projects your own vision and dreams for the future onto the world and others, however there is a thin line between doing that and projecting your fears onto others.

However if you realise that is how things work, it is pretty easy to take a deep breath and think to yourself, he’s just projecting his fears. In this case if you aren’t in agreement with his fears it is your job to project your visions and hope back.

However please don’t try and fight fear with fear, that is pointless for everyone. This is how endless flame wars, platform wars (Amiga rules!!!), corporate politics and other stupidity starts. These kinds of infinite loop style arguments only make all parties even more ingrained in their beliefs (read more fearful).

Thus if someone else’s fears awake your own fears and make you feel angry it’s probably better to shut up, if you can’t project your before mentioned visions and hopes back.

Oh, man I’ve gone all hippie and spirit like. Peace, love and Macintosh. But seriously if you disagree with me you just aren’t living in the real world!!!

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My name is Pelle Braendgaard. Pronounce it like Pelé the footballer (no relation). I live in wonderful Managua, Nicaragua. I work with Clojure, Bitcoin and Ethereum.

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