The ‘5-35-60’ change framework

“EVERYTHING IS CHANGING. NEW NEW THING WILL NOW REPLACE THE OLD NEW THING!”

We who swim digitally in that vast and polluted information ocean that is zero cost self publishing platforms (twitters, blogs, IG) and old media gone digital (print, tv) see it all the time. It perenially feels like the above line is the undertone in and of all headlines in these last 2 decades.

Every media entity and business firm that is vested in change is interested in convincing us that everything is changing and fast and if we don’t change too we and our firm will be left behind. This is exhausting. Most of us have ‘status quo bias’ and this relentless change message barrage grates against this bias. It chafes like a pointy splinter against our understandble need for the blanket of the familiar.

Recently it has began to dawn on me that this message is bogus. Everything ‘Hot!’ and ‘New!’ at the moment is not destined for world domination, inspite of breathless non-stop press. William Gibson coined the term “Cyberspace” and later popularized the concept in his novel Neuromancer. He has a awesome quote attributed to him way back in 1993: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.

Remembering that quote was the breakthrough. For it helped me understand that while Change is a constant, it is never evenly distributed. Which I then internalized into my own “5-35-60” framework to better understand change and reclaim my sense of calm.

The framework : At any given moment something that has gained traction is going to peter off at 5% if it is a worthy but incremental improvement over the status quo , 35% if it is a vast improvement and 60% if it vast improvement, cheaper and easily scalable. The initial 5% will feel rapid and feed the headlines. The next 30% will be slow but feel fast. The last 25% to reach 60% will feel glacial. And after that an evenly distributed 70%+ share will likely be generational change. 

Things that roughly fit this framework out in the real world:

  • Online eSales (Amazon currently has about 44% of U.S. e-commerce market share. Not even 50%. Amazon ha sbeen at it for 23 years now. Bet you thought it was 80%+)
  • The rise of smartphones (over 2 decades the number of people that own a smartphone is 4.78 Billion, making up 61.67% of the world’s population)
  • MOOCs vs traditonal college education (under 5%)
  • Netflix vs Cable TV as a % of TV Consumption (3 people in a room of 100 people have Netflix, globally. Also that’s how privileged you are!)
  • Tesla is likely not going to own the majority of car market globally (but is priced like it is. Toyota sold 10.46 million vehicles, Tesla sold 367,200 vehicles last year)

Nothing is going to go on a smooth upward path from 0 to 100%, no matter how much fawning press it gets and however much the consultants and industry hacks try and convince you otherwise.

  • Amazon is never going to get to owning 100% of eRetail sales.
  • AirBnB is never going to get to owning 100% of Room sales in a city.
  • Chrome is never going to get to 100% of Browser Share. (it’s 63%)
  • Bitcoin is NOT going to repalce Fiat Currency

Bezos has a mature take on change. In an interview he said “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

In this breathless no-standards no-skeptic news saturated world we always feel like any new phemomenon/tech is going to own 100% of the market by the end of next year. But Evenly Distributed takes effort, flawless execution and hell of a time. Things peter out much earlier (at 5%, at 35%). Even the obvious improvements. Red Queen Effect is a thing too.

This 5-35-60 framework is a calming pill. Use liberally.

 

Unimaginable to Imaginable Scenarios – nominations needed

Every important development sounded bananas before it became reality. The entire world’s information available to a human with a small device? America spending $7 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001?  A cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin blockchain network without the need for intermediaries powered through blockchain technology and worth $20000 at one point, $10000 today ? Tesla being worth more that Toyota last week !?

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Breakthroughs defy conventional wisdom. “And yet we keep making the same mistake” when predicting the future, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt writes in his book ‘How Google Works’. Schimdt warns us it’s hard to let go of conventional wisdom when anticipating breakthroughs, because conventional wisdom seems like a set of unbreakable laws.

Schmidt writes how companies can overcome this trap: “The question to ask isn’t what will be true, but what could be true. Asking what will be true entails making a prediction, which is folly in a fast-moving world. Asking what could be true entails imagination: What thing that is unimaginable when abiding by conventional wisdom is in fact imaginable?”

ev2w4

So, ask what thing that is unimaginable when abiding by 2010 conventional wisdom is in fact imaginable in 2020? Interested in answers.

My limited nominations :

  • Expensive college credentials become much less important in this coming decade, going the way of NYC/London taxi medallions. Unimaginable in 2010 when it Colleges were raking £$£$ in hand over fist.
  • From 1970 you needed a degree for a proper white-collar job. Soon it will be proven coding credentials. Imagine if a canidate says I don’t know how to work Outlook, Excel and Word today. no chance of a desk job. now thing Coding being like that in 2030. Unimaginable in 2010 when it was a ‘geek skill’
  • A hiatus of the Neoliberalism Model as it pertains to free trade. Unimaginable in 2010 when free trade deals were all the rage.
  • ‘the world will change irrevocably postcovid’ – I suspect we will be surprised in hindsight by how little time it takes to get back to how it was before covid in most spheres (esp with reference to travel, work, entertainment). We will go back to normal as we knew it before 2020, until 2019. We will not go into a “new normal” in 2021.
  • FI/RE and Prepper thinking goes mainstream. Unimaginable in 2010 when it was the domain of the paranoid and the weirdos.

 

In 2007 if sometold told you by 2020 Nokia will be a non-entity you would have laughed the teller out of the building.

SBUxcyj

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That Most Critical of All Skills

Most folks who read this blog are in white collar jobs and since the begining of this last decade have been relentlessly bombarded by the trifecta bingo of AI, Automation and Analytics. I dare you to visit the latest feed on LinkedIn and not hit the words in 30 seconds of scrolling.

Everyone of consequence in the corporate hierarchy is focussed on learning about, deploying and getting on top of the buzzwords surrounding these three above. The dominant feeling for a lot of us is akin to a horse trainer at the turn of the last century who is only now slowly realizing the newthingamajing this guy Ford is making out there in Michigan is not just a fad.

For those who feel there MUST be an alternative specialization to the dry world that the 3 A’s are hinting at, there is. DECISION MAKING. If there is ever a vote for ‘the most neglected subject I wish I had been really drilled on and into while in college’ I would handsdown vote : BASICS OF GOOD DECISION MAKING (& BIASES THAT TRIP IT).

To say this is a rich subject is an understatement!

When you strip all the superflous layers away (College Credentials, Skin Color, Gender, Looks, Wardrobe, Accent) what really gets rewarded in a truly meritocratic workplace (and organization and society) is a person’s ability to make repeated good decisions. An HBS/IIT grad who has a poor track record of DECISION MAKING will,  in the long run, do worse than a MOOC/Distance Learning Grad who hones his ability and track record of good decisions made. Munger gave the best tip on it too : Make life easier by making intial good decisions.

 

So now I believe this is That Most Critical of All Skills in the coming decades. We live in a world that, if it rewards anything, rewards better decisions. The rest is increasingly automated.

CM

That Mid-Life Career Crisis Charted Out

I speak from the vantage of an Asian upbringing but I am sure it is universal to most desk jockeys everywhere : That mid-life career crisis many of us undergo(ing) may just be the dawning realization that the Happyness-Job Title & Salary paradigm we have lived with is false. A chimera. A scam. Fake News.

Drilled into us by anxious parents awaiting our exam results more nervous than the student who gave them (us), the paradigm is built on the assumption the BLACK LINE below in the picture I drew is a guranteed future reality. Like death and taxes. Sadly in the real world there are no gurantees, other than death and taxes. In the real world the black line eventually splits into 2 lines : GREEN AND RED.

After a certain income level (differs country to country) more money and shorter designation (Senior Assistant Vice President to just V.P to just ‘P’) definitely leads to that stress hormore Cortisol surging up in the body but not more Happyness per se. This is not opinion but research driven. But it gels beautifully with that famous other study about motivation..

Alas if only this was known earlier to our parents, career advisors and teachers. So many Mid-Life Career Crisis could have been anticipated and averted.

Not too late for a lot of us still to steer away from this iceberg. Rethink the path Neo!

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A Metaphor To Help Better Understand The Ongoing Changes

There are two central things that make up most of our lives in 2020 :
A. Physical things (baryonic matter)
B. Digital things (information, represented in 0s,1s in this young century)

Till about 1950, before the Anthropocene truly began, most of world trade, world GDP and our grandparents lives was all about A.

Once Computers, Internet, Cheap bandwidth, Smartphones and Wifi truly took hold in the last 3 odd decades, most of world trade, world GDP and our lives became about B. Our world will keep getting smaller and ideas and connection will be the currencies that matter, not atoms or molecules.

You read a paper book then (a thing). You read a kindle eBook now now (0s,1s). Today, humanity fabricates 1,000 times more transistors annually than the entire world grows grains of wheat and rice combined.

In 1920 : Oil was Oil.
In 2020 : Data is the ‘New Oil’

I sometimes think of this in the way :
My (and your) great great great grandad may have been a sheperd.
His great great great grandson (me, you) is a DIGITAL sheperd.
He moved sheep/cows. (Physical things, baryonic matter)
You and I move information on a screen. (Digital things (information, represented in 0s,1s). All we mostly do is sheperd information into the right excel cell, ppt slide, email. from another excel cell, ppt slide, email send to us, after some ‘analysis’ (that a bot will master by 2030)

A famous quote captures the current zeitgiest “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

PAST :

A hunderd years ago it was all physical. The world’s largest taxi company would have owned physical vehicles. The world’s most popular media owners would have not only owned the content but created the IP. The most valuable retailer (likely Sears) would have owned inventory and stores. And the world’s largest accommodation provider would surely have owned their real estate.

PRESENT :
Till Covid19 we had to move ourselves to an office building to move information around. Post Covid19 we are realizing we just may not have have to move ourselves to a building to move information around. At least a lot of us may not have to anymore. Analysis is becoming location agnostic on a wide scale.

So now the question we are all grappling with : Can this be a permanent thing for my industry ? Can the majority staff wfh moving their daily quota of 1s,0s. What trends that were slow will now see mass adoption thanks to the very unexpected covid ’19x’ Boost ?

FUTURE :
Today we order physical things that arrives automagically to our front door via the Digital apex & Gorilla of this young century = Amazon.com (by the way the real secret sauce in and of Amazon is AWS, not the store). But later, say by 2040s, we may have perfected Version 11 of the 3D printers of today and like how a 1990 pager is a toy compared to a 2020 iPhone 11, this 11th verison of the Digital Printer will make the ones we have today look like a cheap calculator. In 2050 the printer will use Digital Modelling Information to make a Physical thing. Finally fusing A & B seamlessly. I also suspect eventually money will finally be recognized as just another form of ‘information’ as a store of value and central banks will disapper. The ultimate digitization of a physical embodiment of value since the dawn of the humans as a settled species. This is a future that does not seem impossible to me.

By the way this above reason is why after Reading, wRitng and aRithmetic (3 Rs), Coding is the new necessary 4th skill. This transiton form A to B will need a lot of coders in the next few decades. Good luck Liberal Arts Majors!

I really hope this metaphor helps you a little bit in better understanding the ongoing changes. It is no doubt incredibly simplified and simplistic but it really helps me make sense of this new order we are rapidly moving into.

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Skillsets in a Black Swan World

As a white collar professional since 2001 I, like a lot of my colleagues and friends, dutifully skilled up for a linear predictable world. “Learn X skill, do Y job. X skill will be relevant for decades” went the thinking. Most of us ensure our kids skill up similarly. For a stable predictable world. 

But now I am pivoting to thinking these skills are only useful in the spaces between two black swan events (BSEs). And that gap between two BSEs seems to be getting tighter, smaller, more narrow. It’s a VUCA world now.

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This last few decades the globalized world rewarded people who were best at communicating ideas than it did people with the best ideas. Steve Jobs did not invent the smartphone, IBM did. But Jobs was a goddamn genius at selling the proposition and then placing Apple as the defacto choice. The Apple smartphone was a black swan event for a lot of industries, not just Blackberry. Blackberry was still optimizing for a expensive low bandwidth world that soon disappeared.

Had ‘cheap bandwidth’ not become a thing at the turn of the century, many of us would be in a different country doing a different thing. Most of us in 1990 never imagined that among the TOP 3 things that would change our life “Cheap bandwidth” would occupy a slot. 

Office work benefits extroverts who are great at talking. Pre Covid we were all in offices. Now post Covid, we are in the world of Remote work. Remote work benefits introverts who are great at Writing. A skill some of us lost between the day we submitted our last essay assignment in college and when our employer issued us our first Blackberry. The guy who worked to get better at talking is now likely at a disadvantage vs a guy who can communicate well in writing. 

Covid was a BSE for us (except maybe for Bill Gates who saw it coming). Most of our dads and teachers prepped us, berated us and cajoled is to prep for a world that never came about. “You will never have a calculator with you all the time, learn trignometry and facts by heart you fool! You should know when the Third Battle of Panipat was fought or else you will likely fail in life!”

2-9-Newsletter

Things we did not anticpate when we were skilling up in schools and colleges, learning trignometry and that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell :

  • Cheap Bandwidth
  • The Internet
  • Amazon.com going mainstream
  • The concept of offshoring work (delinking end result of work from work location)
  • Google
  • 9/11 and how it changed the world order
  • iphone 2007 and the revolution it birthed
  • GFC 2008
  • Covid19

Skilling up for a specific domain with likely relevant skillsets now seems a riskier proposition by the day to me. BSEs will derail most plans on that front. Maybe Scott Adams in bang on the money when he promotes STACKING TALENT vs chasing specific domain skills.

I am certain in 2030 many of us are going to look back and lament “Can’t believe I was prepping and skilling for THAT useless at work scenario and that work scenario!”

Thanks Dan!

Few in the professional circles truly realize how much of their life situation,career and bank balance they owe to Dan Bricklin.

Dan Who ?

Exactly.

Dan invented something that may well last into the next century.

The true precursor to MS Excel.

Steve Jobs used to in that eloquent way he was known for said ‘Computers Are Like a Bicycle for the Mind

 The Excel Program may just be one of the two wheels in that bike! The browser likely is the other wheel.

Thanks Dan!

Dan_Twitter3_2011-10-12

 

The Best 30 Longform Articles of 300 I Read

Since 2016 I started reading and scrupulously tracking all the longfrom articles I read. Longform is any essay or article over 3000 words. It allowed me to then do this : Nominate a few outstanding longforms that I think more people should read. Because they are just so good and well worth the time invested in reading it.

2 years ago I highlighted the best of the original 300 longforms I read in 2 posts. Post 1 and Post 2. Recently I just finished another 300 in the 2 years since the last update and from the latest 300, here below are the best 30 longforms. Below each I outline the context, the web url and why it was so good. Enjoy!

A brilliant speech On Concentration, Solitude And Leadership. 

Context : This lecture was delivered to the class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009 by William, an essayist and book critic.

URL : https://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/

I love this LFA because : I have rarely thought about Solitude as an essential component of leadership and William brilliantly articulate WHY it is so crucial.
The Most Gullible Man In Cambridge

Context : A Harvard Law Professor who teaches Harvard student about judgment shows appalingly poor judgment

URL : https://www.thecut.com/2019/07/bruce-hay-paternity-trap-maria-pia-shuman-mischa-haider.html

I love this LFA because : the sheer WTFuckery of this story is amazing. Just…how is this possible ?
E-Mail From Bill

Context : A longform from The New Yorker 1993 this is a a brilliant Profile Of Bill Gates And The Zeitgeist In Late 1993 when the internet was not really a thing yet.

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1994/01/10/e-mail-from-bill

I love this LFA because : An amazing profile of Bill Gates and how he was thinking about the future 27 years earlier, well before smartphones and internet became commom
Blood And Soil In Narendra Modi’s India

Context :  The state of Indian politics 73 years after independence. Disturbing.

URL :https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/09/blood-and-soil-in-narendra-modis-india

I love this LFA because : This LFA gives a grand tour of the rotten state of Indian Civic life and what the end of the shady Congress regime looks like. Spoiler – frying pan to fire
Turkey’s Thirty-Year Coup

Context : What Erdogan is doing in Turkey

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/17/turkeys-thirty-year-coup

I love this LFA because : If the LFA before gives a give overview of India, this one does the same for Turkey, the supposed bridge between East and West
THE HUMAN FACTOR

Context : How And Why Air France Flight 447 Crashed over the atlantic ocean

URL : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/10/air-france-flight-447-crash

I love this LFA because : this article was so gripping i think i was holding my breath as I was reading it. After rewading it I now think what a AVOIDABLE tragedy this one was.
The Story Of Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder In Istanbul 

Context : How MBS and KSA planned and executed the murder of an old journalist

URL : https://www.insider.com/the-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi-2019-10

I love this LFA because : this graphic article truly helped me understand the real henious nature of the KSA regime
The Jungle Prince Of Delhi

Context : A Mentally Unstable Woman conned a country AND her family

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/world/asia/the-jungle-prince-of-delhi.html

I love this LFA because : Just an unbelievable tale about a sad family of old in Delhi
What Is Amazon?

Context : A Superb Breakdown Of Walmart And Amazon By Zack Kanter, Founder Of Stedi.

URL : https://zackkanter.com/2019/03/13/what-is-amazon/

I love this LFA because : this LFA truly helped me understand what the giant was really about.
What The Hell Is Going On? – An essay by blogger David Perell  

Context : An Essay On How the G7 countries Got Here

URL : https://www.perell.com/blog/what-the-hell-is-going-on

I love this LFA because : A really good summary of the major changes in the west over the course of a century.
Free Speech And The Necessity Of Discomfort.

Context : This is the text of a lecture delivered at the University of Michigan on Tuesday.

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/opinion/free-speech-discomfort.html?

I love this LFA because : Free Speech is a concept in most people’s head, like the color purple but this is a a Fantastic Speech about exactly what it is and why free speech is so critical in a democracy. Most countries, inclusing UK and India don’t have it.
Japan’s Rent-A-Family Industry 

Context :  Some Japansese Who Are Short On Relatives Can Hire A Husband, A Mother, A Grandson.

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/30/japans-rent-a-family-industry

I love this LFA because : A look into a facinating niche business that can ONLY happen in Japan
The Crash Of Egyptair 990

Context : Just why ahd how Egyptair 990 crashed

URL : https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/11/the-crash-of-egyptair-990/302332/

I love this LFA because : An amazing essay of both the crash and the culture and country it originated from
The Unbelievable Life And Death Of Michael C. Ruppert

Context : I saw thie guy in a documentary on Peak Oil and I HAD TO KNOWmore about what we was about.

URL : https://www.theverge.com/2014/7/22/5881501/the-unbelievable-life-and-death-of-michael-c-ruppert

I love this LFA because : this is a tereffic profile of a tragic man
“It’s Time To Make A Deal”

Context : Texas oilman Boone Pickens is staking A 25-Year Career On One Wild Roll Of The Dice In 1982

URL : https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/its-time-to-make-a-deal/

I love this LFA because : You want to know America did business in the 80s – here is the real deal
10 Important Lessons We Learned From The 2010s

Context : Blogger Mark Manson’s take on the 2010s lessons

URL : https://markmanson.net/10-important-lessons-from-the-2010s

I love this LFA because : A top 10 list to succinctly summarize the decade gone by
Cain And Abel

Context : The Bitter Sibling Rivalry Burning Up An $800 Million Louisiana Family Dynasty.

URL : https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/the-bitter-sibling-rivalry-at-knight-oil-tools.html

I love this LFA because : A true WTF story about how money sometimes is a curse and not a blessing to some families
How An Ex-Cop Jacobson Rigged Mcdonald’s Monopoly Game And Stole Millions. 

Context : Exactly what it says on the article title

URL : https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-an-ex-cop-rigged-mcdonalds-monopoly-game-and-stole-millions?ref=scroll

I love this LFA because : Another WTF story on a US scammer that makes you marvel at human nature
How Qatar Bungled Up

Context : Kidnapped Royalty Become Pawns In Iran’s Deadly Plot and Qatar pays the price in every sense

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/magazine/how-a-ransom-for-royal-falconers-reshaped-the-middle-east.html

I love this LFA because : It helped me understand why what I saw in that movie Syriana was NOT fiction but daily reality there.
London Bridge Is Down

Context : This then is the Secret Plan For The Days After The Queen’s Death

URL : https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/16/what-happens-when-queen-elizabeth-dies-london-bridge

I love this LFA because : The dealth of the Queen is well planned for. And how!
Hip Hop Music Producer Scott Storch Raked In $Millions And Then Snorted His Way To Ruin

Context : Someone who could have been a music legend ends up in ruin thanks,again, to drugs

URL : https://www.miaminewtimes.com/music/ultra-music-festival-partners-with-siriusxm-for-post-cancellation-radio-channel-11597594

I love this LFA because : It is a text book case of why drugs are always bad news
On The Megapolis That Is Pearl River Delta – The Largest Contiguous Urban Region In The World By 2030

Context : This is going to be the busiest human enclave in a decade. Get to know it.

URL : https://www.timeout.com/hong-kong/en-hongkong/the-pearl-river-delta-megacity-051716
http://www.visualcapitalist.com/pearl-river-delta-megacity-2020/

I love this LFA because : It truly brought to life for me why China was going to be where the action was this century
PONZI SCHEMES, PRIVATE YACHTS, AND A MISSING $250 MILLION IN CRYPTO: THE STRANGE TALE OF QUADRIGA

Context : When Canadian blockchain whiz Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly last year, hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds vanished into the crypto ether. But when the banks, the law, and the forces of Reddit tried to track down the cash, it turned out the young mogul may not have been who he purported to be.

URL : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/11/the-strange-tale-of-quadriga-gerald-cotten

I love this LFA because : A true modern day scam with great twists and details
Promethea Unbound

Context : A child genius raised in poverty, she wanted to change the world. A horrific act of violence nearly destroyed her.

URL : https://magazine.atavist.com/promethea-unbound-child-genius-montana

I love this LFA because : An amazing story of when Genius meets Bad Luck
The Basecamp Guide To Internal Communication

Context : How project software company Basecamp communicates internally

URL : https://m.signalvnoise.com/the-basecamp-guide-to-internal-communication/

I love this LFA because : This is one of the most concise and brilliant how-to on communicating I have read
The Inside Story Of Trump’s Shambolic Transition Team – Michael Lewis

Context : Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, reveals how Trump’s bungled presidential transition set the template for his time in the White House

URL : https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/sep/27/this-guy-doesnt-know-anything-the-inside-story-of-trumps-shambolic-transition-team

I love this LFA because : It’s Micheal Lewis. Expect 24 Carat Quality writing as always. America deserves better. We all do.
The Man On The Operating Table

Context : Baynazar Mohammad Nazar was a husband and a father of four — and a patient killed during the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz. This is his story.

URL : https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/03/the-man-on-the-operating-table-msf-hospital-kunduz-afghanistan-us-airstrike/

I love this LFA because : A heartbreaking take of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time
The Toxoplasma Of Rage

Context : Why is Online so toxic ? SSC’s Scott explains brilliantly

URL : https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage/

I love this LFA because : An amazing analysis of why and how the culture war will only get worse over time
The US Gambler Who Cracked The Hong Kong Horse-Racing Code Using Probability Theory

Context : Bill Benter did the impossible: He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the track. Close to a billion dollars later, he tells his story for the first time.

URL : https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-05-03/the-gambler-who-cracked-the-horse-racing-code

I love this LFA because : When brains meets meticulous planning, this is what you get. A gripping story well told.
Worst Roommate Ever

Context : Jamison Bachman’s Former Not-So-Bright Roommates Share Their Horror Stories About A damn twisted Man

URL : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/jamison-bachman-worst-roommate-ever.html

I love this LFA because : Having had my shre of weird roomies in my 20s, this one showed me what WEIRD really was. OMG kinda read.

Why you should start a Blog

Tweetable : Blogging will force you to write. Which will force you to think through an issue clearly. Clean writing is clear thinking. Unclear writing is usually the product of unclear thinking. Additionally ‘future you’ will have a ready record of how ‘current you’ reasoned.

The noble naïve genesis of this blog

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When I first set up this blog in 2010, my then aspirational goal was to share what I hoped were some intriguing enough ideas I had with other smart people out there (like you dear reader). I optimistically hoped people found it deserved the ‘hmmmm….Interesting’ reaction every other post.

And how does one know if one is getting through on platforms like this? Through that king of all vanity metrics: Page Views. The number of hits you get daily & monthly on your blog. So just like how Facetagram Divas you and I know (both male and female) hitch their digital egos to likes and shares garnered of what feels like torrential snaps and comments, blogging wannabes like me link it to page views. Smart folks label it “Vanity Metrics” for a reason. The vanity is indeed linked to this metric (Pageview) and if you are not on guard, so is your daily mood if you are into blogging intensely enough. I was for a period. The thinking is along the lines that the more people visit the blog, the more the author is likely making agreeable, popular, profound, good points. S/he must be..just look at the page views count ratcheting up!

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The Genesis  meets the Freight Train of Reality

Much to my own shock, while I did snag an interview a few years ago from someone leading India’s then hottest start-up who was impressed enough to call me in after reading this blog, alas, the majority of my posts here are about as effective as shouting into and in a hurricane. This is 2018. Most bloggers are pissing into the Pacific and hoping all the fish notice. By the by, the same goes for most of the Facetagram Divas out there.  A minuscule few have the BP Deepwater Horizon “Spray Power” to make even a few important aquatic dwellers notice.  Of course if the ignoble aim is make a Dunbar number of frenemies look at their life highlight reels on Facetagram and get envious, wider impact may not figure as a priority for those narcissists. But  with blogging the aim usually is broaden audience and impact.

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At the start of this noble idea of blogging & then 7 years later after learning the lessons

Now, 7 years and 127 odd posts later I have belatedly realised that most of us are too busy, too distracted, too frazzled to care and notice most things that screams for attention. A lot of the amazing, fantastic quality stuff slips by unloved so why should mediocrity get the oxygen of attention? To see examples of the latter, just read the last 5 LinkedIn posts in your feed or the 5 articles in the evening newspaper today.

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This world in 2018 has a tiny small handheld magical thing that can deliver potent infotainment heroine in friendlier mediums anytime, anywhere, whether the addict is in the atm line or loo. Both those times and countless more made that much more bearable thanks to this gift from the benevolent digital Gods. Against this Goliath of a Trifecta (busy, distracted, frazzled) most of us aspirational attention beggars are not Davids but gnats who are not even close to being anywhere as good and insightful as the many talented people out there who actually deserve the attention oxygen.

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Exhibit #1 of the deserving : Adrian Gill

So in summary:

  1. I wanted to make an impact in 2010
  2. I realized this was very tough after 7 years
  3. …..Now what?

It is time to abandon this misguided McNamara fallacy and revisit and reframe the entire engagement.  Starting with Exhibit #1 – this post. Instead of writing to get attention from an increasingly distracted world drowning in great content that is near impossible to better, I am going to write with 2 simple aims and to a very niche but guaranteed audience.  An audience that is likely very interested come what may.

That audience? Future Me. Preferably ‘Far into the Future Me’. Me a decade or two from now.

The new epiphany

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On some lazy weekends I love browsing through snaps from back in the day and trying to remember the context of some of those faded pictures. What was I thinking? Who was I really? And from the vantage point of the present, I think often “damn, that idiot in the picture had some wrong, weird and stupid ideas about the world and the people around him!”  Someone rightly said if you are not looking back at your old self and thinking ‘that guy was an idiot’, you are likely not growing as a person. I absolutely buy that.

But the thing is unless blessed with an elephant memory instead of the elephant body that reflects back in the bathroom mirror for most of us, you realize a dated picture usually tells you of the physical world and people around you then.  Could a blog give a better picture of how and what one was thinking about back in the day? Not how the mostly mundane days unfurled but what was one grappling with intellectually. The blog entries (if made often enough) may give ‘future me’ a better clue of the person I really was. So that’s Aim #1 from 2018 onwards. Click regular Thinking Snapshots.

Aim #2 is simpler. Get better at writing. One way is being forced to make a case on a topic from the ground up via blogging to an external audience. Like you. One may inherently ‘get‘ or grasp an idea in their own heads but writing it forces the person to account for all the variables and pillars supporting that internal narrative or point of view. The quality of your writing betrays how often you engage in the act. Blogging often is a great habit to force better thinking.  I am hoping writing this blog regularly will force me to clarify and strip down and re-build all the components on an argument and subject I am passionate about. Example of this from recently : “Insight and Narrative are different thing. How and Why?”  

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So now I plan to de-couple vanity metrics from this blogging hobby and just go to town writing and polishing for ‘Future Me’. And here is something I didn’t realize that maybe is an even better case to embrace blogging/writing which I would not have know if I had not started blogging : As I try to make a case on a topic from the ground up via blogging I also realize something I needed to for a while. A lot of my ideas are shit and have no legs. It took me being forced to sketch out, flesh out and write out an idea buzzing inside my cranium to slowly realize the idea in question was, to use a british euphemism, weak tea. And there was a lot of weak tea floating in my mental Boston harbour.

So revealingly, the contents of the dustbin near the writing desk may prove just as useful as the contents outside it. The ideas that get discarded proving as valuable a lesson as the ideas fleshed out and published. Luckily the privacy of discarded ideas is assured. Ok Ok, I lie. Your spouse may still have to suffer your many suspect thesis acoustically but they do say Love Hurts.

In Summary

The aim of this above essay was to plant the germ of an idea, like Dominick Cobb in the film Inception, that maybe just maybe you too should start blogging. I hope it takes root.

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The Best 20 Longform Articles I read

Over the last few years, after reading 300 plus articles/blog posts/columns online, here are my current favourite 20. Don’t waste time reading and consuming low value low insight info-junkfood in books and newspapers that skims a issue, usually of marginal importance. That is bad for you in  every way. What you want to do is consume just enough to stay very well informed. Nothing over the needed daily mental TDEE infocalories.

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All the 20 are better as quality reads than a majority of the books I have read in the same period. Some 50x so.

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Below each one of the recommend article I have written a brief synopsis on why you should read it and what it is about. You could read them all in one long bank holiday weekend. They are filled with terrific insights and/or great narratives and will likely may you re-think some of your cherished mental models and theories about people, institutions and the zeitgeist. And it’st that what reading is supposed to do at its core?

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All articles have embedded hyperlinks that will take you straight to the cigar.

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‘A Generation In Japan Faces A Lonely Death’
This one opened my uninformed eyes to what mass aging in a developed country like Japan looks like. A tad depressing and morbidly riveting. The Japanese author does a fantastic job unpacking the long lived lives.

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Cocaine Incorporated : Fantastic Primer On The Drug Business In Mexico
After seeing the brilliant movie Sicario, this is the article to read about what really happens across the US border.

Farnam Street’S The Knowledge Project Interviews Naval Ravikant
Naval is the New Age Tech Guru to follow if you want to understand how very smart people approach the big questions of life and work. This interview is densely packed with gems like this:

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Find Your Beach – Zadie Smith On Life In Manhattan As An Artist
Here we all are, on edge and frayed. 2018 and living in big soulless cities. Zadie captures the zeitgeist in this article.

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Free Speech And The Necessity Of Discomfort 
A Fantastic Speech By writer Bret Stephens Of NYT making a superb case for the defence of free speech and why it needs defending.

Heavy : The Short Life Of Robert Earl Hughes Of Tiny Fishhook, Illinois
This heartbreaking article on a nice big guy from back in the day was the closest I came to tears while reading something online. A deep profile of a deeply nice person who happened to be fat.

How ‘Broadcast News’ Predicted Journalism As We Know It
A superb deconstruction of a movie, a profession and the news zeitgeist. Until I read this piece I thought movie criticism could never be made penetrating or profound by anyone other than Roger Ebert. this article proved me wrong.

How Do Families Around The World Spend Their Vacations?

This stunning photo-essay forced me to realise just how much the vacations my friends, my family and my wife and I take are definitely not how most of the world does theirs.

 

How Tiger Woods Imploded
The downward spiral of Tiger Woods captured in a way that makes you realize how excess money and fame without a wise mentor are double edged swords.

Interview Of Merlin Mann, Productivity Guru

Mann’s 43folders blog was a favourite productivity related pitstop of mine back in the day and this deep interview lays bare his sharp insights on life and work.

Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping The Poor By Garrett Hardin, 1974
This is the example of a dated article that seems more relevant as we all head towards sure Ecocide by 2050. Is Hardin right ? Maybe, but his point of view needs a solemn hearing.

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On The Amazing Rise And Fall Of A Rodent Utopia

One of those bizarre essays about an experiment that you know is telling you something important about human society, although you frustratingly realize you are unable to grasp the full scary implications of what it is telling you oh so subtly.

Quitting The Paint Factory By Mark Slouka
A searing take on faux busyness and why we need to take a breather.

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Ray Kurzweil On The Law Of Accelerating Returns (March 2001)
17 years ago a legit genius predicted where we would be heading in the next few decades and this essay that he wrote is prescient. I hope he is right.

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The Beggar CEO And Sucker Culture
Aimed at those of us reluctantly running the corporate rat race, trained for it since kindergarten, this article starkly tells us why we are deluded and what we should do instead.

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The Uninhabitable Earth

This is the scariest article I have read in a while and it made me question if planning for retirement was even worth it.

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The Yankee Comandante
A superb yarn about how a man got caught up in the promise of a socialist utopia and saw Orwell’s Animal Farm play out in front of his own eyes.

What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447

What a nail biting read this was, on a tragic crash that was caused by humans being human and doing human things under extreme stress.

What You’ll Wish You’d Known – By Paul Graham, Unsaid Speech To Students
The speech was so good, so eye opening, so necessary that I forced my mostly young team to read it, if only because it was packed to the brim with gems on how to start and navigate the work world. A great primer.

Why The Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside The White House
The formidable, awe-inspiring Micheal Lewis on how good leaders can improve institutions but only slowly but bad leaders can destroy institutions rapidly.

Meditations On Moloch
I saved the best for the last. This read is perhaps one of the most profound writings I have stumbled across. A life altering essay that helped me understand why humanity has ended up in the current terrible status quo. It argues that, rather than by malice and greed, the problems our world faces are mostly driven by powerful evolutionary forces, (poetically personified as Ginsberg’s poem “Moloch“), that no one controls, and which wants us, and everything we value destroyed.

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So there it is. Read them all and you will soon see the map in your head is not the territory in front of your eyes. It’s a bit like seeing this ad below for the Budapest Zoo and then really really seeing it.

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