More on Personal Growth
1 year ago
12 mental models that I use frequently
I keep returning to the same mental models and tricks after writing and reading about a wide range of topics.
Top 12 mental models
Survival bias - We perceive the surviving population as remarkable, yet they may have gotten there through sheer grit.
Survivorship bias affects us in many situations. Our retirement fund; the unicorn business; the winning team. We often study and imitate the last one standing. This can lead to genuine insights and performance improvements, but it can also lead us astray because the leader may just be lucky.
The Helsinki Bus Theory - How to persevere Buss up!
Always display new work, and always be compared to others. Why? Easy. Keep riding. Stay on the fucking bus.
Until it sticks… Turning up every day… — Artists teach engineers plenty. Quality work over a career comes from showing up every day and starting.
Decision-making WRAP Model:
W — Widen your Options
R — Reality test your assumptions
A — Attain Distance
P — Prepare to be wrong or Right
Systems for knowledge worker excellence - Todd Henry and Cal Newport write about techniques knowledge workers can employ to build a creative rhythm and do better work.
Todd Henry's FRESH framework:
Focus: Keep the start in mind as you wrap up.
Relationships: close a loop that's open.
Pruning is an energy.
Set aside time to be inspired by stimuli.
Hours: Spend time thinking.
BBT is learning from mistakes. Science has transformed the world because it constantly updates its theories in light of failures. Complexity guarantees failure. Do we learn or self-justify?
The OODA Loop - Competitive advantage
O: Observe: collect the data. Figure out exactly where you are, what’s happening.
O: Orient: analyze/synthesize the data to form an accurate picture.
D: Decide: select an action from possible options
A: Action: execute the action, and return to step (1)
Boyd's approach indicates that speed and agility are about information processing, not physical reactions. They form feedback loops. More OODA loops improve speed.
Leaders who try to impose order in a complex situation fail; those who set the stage, step back, and allow patterns to develop win.
Information Gap - The discrepancy between what we know and what we would like to know
Gap in Alignment - What individuals actually do as opposed to what we wish them to do
Effects Gap - the discrepancy between our expectations and the results of our actions
Theory of Constraints — The Goal - To maximize system production, maximize bottleneck throughput.
Goldratt creates a five-step procedure:
Determine the restriction
Improve the restriction.
Everything else should be based on the limitation.
Increase the restriction
Go back to step 1 Avoid letting inertia become a limitation.
Any non-constraint improvement is an illusion.
Serendipity and the Adjacent Possible - Why do several amazing ideas emerge at once? How can you foster serendipity in your work?
You need specialized abilities to reach to the edge of possibilities, where you can pursue exciting tasks that will change the world. Few people do it since it takes a lot of hard work. You'll stand out if you do.
Most people simply lack the comfort with discomfort required to tackle really hard things. At some point, in other words, there’s no way getting around the necessity to clear your calendar, shut down your phone, and spend several hard days trying to make sense of the damn proof.
Boundaries of failure - Rasmussen's accident model.
Rasmussen modeled this. It has economic, workload, and performance boundaries.
The economic boundary is a company's profit zone. If the lights are on, you're within the economic boundaries, but there's pressure to cut costs and do more.
Performance limit reflects system capacity. Taking shortcuts is a human desire to minimize work. This is often necessary to survive because there's always more labor.
Both push operating points toward acceptable performance. Personal or process safety, or equipment performance.
If you exceed acceptable performance, you'll push back, typically forcefully.
1 year ago
The nine novels that have fundamentally altered the way I view the world
I read 53 novels last year and hope to do so again.
Books are best if you love learning. You get a range of perspectives, unlike podcasts and YouTube channels where you get the same ones.
Book quality varies. I've read useless books. Most books teach me something.
These 9 novels have changed my outlook in recent years. They've made me rethink what I believed or introduced me to a fresh perspective that changed my worldview.
You can order these books yourself. Or, read my summaries to learn what I've synthesized.
Fooled By Randomness
Nassim Taleb worked as a Wall Street analyst. He used options trading to bet on unlikely events like stock market crashes.
Using financial models, investors predict stock prices. The models assume constant, predictable company growth.
These models base their assumptions on historical data, so they assume the future will be like the past.
Fooled By Randomness argues that the future won't be like the past. We often see impossible market crashes like 2008's housing market collapse. The world changes too quickly to use historical data: by the time we understand how it works, it's changed.
Most people don't live to see history unfold. We think our childhood world will last forever. That goes double for stable societies like the U.S., which hasn't seen major turbulence in anyone's lifetime.
Fooled By Randomness taught me to expect the unexpected. The world is deceptive and rarely works as we expect. You can't always trust your past successes or what you've learned.
More Taleb. Some things, like the restaurant industry and the human body, improve under conditions of volatility and turbulence.
We didn't have a word for this counterintuitive concept until Taleb wrote Antifragile. The human body (which responds to some stressors, like exercise, by getting stronger) and the restaurant industry both benefit long-term from disorder (when economic turbulence happens, bad restaurants go out of business, improving the industry as a whole).
Many human systems are designed to minimize short-term variance because humans don't understand it. By eliminating short-term variation, we increase the likelihood of a major disaster.
Once, we put out every forest fire we found. Then, dead wood piled up in forests, causing catastrophic fires.
We don't like price changes, so politicians prop up markets with stimulus packages and printing money. This leads to a bigger crash later. Two years ago, we printed a ton of money for stimulus checks, and now we have double-digit inflation.
Antifragile taught me how important Plan B is. A system with one or two major weaknesses will fail. Make large systems redundant, foolproof, and change-responsive.
Reality is broken
We dread work. Work is tedious. Right?
Wrong. Work gives many people purpose. People are happiest when working. (That's why some are workaholics.)
Factory work saps your soul, office work is boring, and working for a large company you don't believe in and that operates unethically isn't satisfying.
Jane McGonigal says in Reality Is Broken that meaningful work makes us happy. People love games because they simulate good work. McGonigal says work should be more fun.
Some think they'd be happy on a private island sipping cocktails all day. That's not true. Without anything to do, most people would be bored. Unemployed people are miserable. Many retirees die within 2 years, much more than expected.
Instead of complaining, find meaningful work. If you don't like your job, it's because you're in the wrong environment. Find the right setting.
The Lean Startup
Before the airplane was invented, Harvard scientists researched flying machines. Who knew two North Carolina weirdos would beat them?
The Wright Brothers' plane design was key. Harvard researchers were mostly theoretical, designing an airplane on paper and trying to make it fly in theory. They'd build it, test it, and it wouldn't fly.
The Wright Brothers were different. They'd build a cheap plane, test it, and it'd crash. Then they'd learn from their mistakes, build another plane, and it'd crash.
They repeated this until they fixed all the problems and one of their planes stayed aloft.
Mistakes are considered bad. On the African savannah, one mistake meant death. Even today, if you make a costly mistake at work, you'll be fired as a scapegoat. Most people avoid failing.
In reality, making mistakes is the best way to learn.
Eric Reis offers an unintuitive recipe in The Lean Startup: come up with a hypothesis, test it, and fail. Then, try again with a new hypothesis. Keep trying, learning from each failure.
This is a great startup strategy. Startups are new businesses. Startups face uncertainty. Run lots of low-cost experiments to fail, learn, and succeed.
Don't fear failing. Low-cost failure is good because you learn more from it than you lose. As long as your worst-case scenario is acceptable, risk-taking is good.
The Sovereign Individual
Today, nation-states rule the world. The UN recognizes 195 countries, and they claim almost all land outside of Antarctica.
We agree. For the past 2,000 years, much of the world's territory was ungoverned.
Why today? Because technology has created incentives for nation-states for most of the past 500 years. The logic of violence favors nation-states, according to James Dale Davidson, author of the Sovereign Individual. Governments have a lot to gain by conquering as much territory as possible, so they do.
Not always. During the Dark Ages, Europe was fragmented and had few central governments. Partly because of armor. With armor, a sword, and a horse, you couldn't be stopped. Large states were hard to form because they rely on the threat of violence.
When gunpowder became popular in Europe, violence changed. In a world with guns, assembling large armies and conquest are cheaper.
James Dale Davidson says the internet will make nation-states obsolete. Most of the world's wealth will be online and in people's heads, making capital mobile.
Nation-states rely on predatory taxation of the rich to fund large militaries and welfare programs.
When capital is mobile, people can live anywhere in the world, Davidson says, making predatory taxation impossible. They're not bound by their job, land, or factory location. Wherever they're treated best.
Davidson says that over the next century, nation-states will collapse because they won't have enough money to operate as they do now. He imagines a world of small city-states, like Italy before 1900. (or Singapore today).
We've already seen some movement toward a more Sovereign Individual-like world. The pandemic proved large-scale remote work is possible, freeing workers from their location. Many cities and countries offer remote workers incentives to relocate.
Many Western businesspeople live in tax havens, and more people are renouncing their US citizenship due to high taxes. Increasing globalization has led to poor economic conditions and resentment among average people in the West, which is why politicians like Trump and Sanders rose to popularity with angry rhetoric, even though Obama rose to popularity with a more hopeful message.
The Sovereign Individual convinced me that the future will be different than Nassim Taleb's. Large countries like the U.S. will likely lose influence in the coming decades, while Portugal, Singapore, and Turkey will rise. If the trend toward less freedom continues, people may flee the West en masse.
So a traditional life of college, a big firm job, hard work, and corporate advancement may not be wise. Young people should learn as much as possible and develop flexible skills to adapt to the future.
Sapiens is a history of humanity, from proto-humans in Ethiopia to our internet society today, with some future speculation.
Sapiens views humans (and Homo sapiens) as a unique species on Earth. We were animals 100,000 years ago. We're slowly becoming gods, able to affect the climate, travel to every corner of the Earth (and the Moon), build weapons that can kill us all, and wipe out thousands of species.
Sapiens examines what makes Homo sapiens unique. Humans can believe in myths like religion, money, and human-made entities like countries and LLCs.
These myths facilitate large-scale cooperation. Ants from the same colony can cooperate. Any two humans can trade, though. Even if they're not genetically related, large groups can bond over religion and nationality.
Combine that with intelligence, and you have a species capable of amazing feats.
Sapiens may make your head explode because it looks at the world without presupposing values, unlike most books. It questions things that aren't usually questioned and says provocative things.
It also shows how human history works. It may help you understand and predict the world. Maybe.
The 4-hour Workweek
Things can be done better.
Tradition, laziness, bad bosses, or incentive structures cause complacency. If you're willing to make changes and not settle for the status quo, you can do whatever you do better and achieve more in less time.
The Four-Hour Work Week advocates this. Tim Ferriss explains how he made more sales in 2 hours than his 8-hour-a-day colleagues.
By firing 2 of his most annoying customers and empowering his customer service reps to make more decisions, he was able to leave his business and travel to Europe.
Ferriss shows how to escape your 9-to-5, outsource your life, develop a business that feeds you with little time, and go on mini-retirement adventures abroad.
Don't accept the status quo. Instead, level up. Find a way to improve your results. And try new things.
Why Nations Fail
Nogales, Arizona and Mexico were once one town. The US/Mexico border was arbitrarily drawn.
Both towns have similar cultures and populations. Nogales, Arizona is well-developed and has a high standard of living. Nogales, Mexico is underdeveloped and has a low standard of living. Whoa!
Why Nations Fail explains how government-created institutions affect country development. Strong property rights, capitalism, and non-corrupt governments promote development. Countries without capitalism, strong property rights, or corrupt governments don't develop.
Successful countries must also embrace creative destruction. They must offer ordinary citizens a way to improve their lot by creating value for others, not reducing them to slaves, serfs, or peasants. Authors say that ordinary people could get rich on trading expeditions in 11th-century Venice.
East and West Germany and North and South Korea have different economies because their citizens are motivated differently. It explains why Chile, China, and Singapore grow so quickly after becoming market economies.
People have spent a lot of money on third-world poverty. According to Why Nations Fail, education and infrastructure aren't the answer. Developing nations must adopt free-market economic policies.
Elon Musk is the world's richest man, but that’s not a good way to describe him. Elon Musk is the world's richest man, which is like calling Steve Jobs a turtleneck-wearer or Benjamin Franklin a printer.
Elon Musk does cool sci-fi stuff to help humanity avoid existential threats.
Oil will run out. We've delayed this by developing better extraction methods. We only have so much nonrenewable oil.
Our society is doomed if it depends on oil. Elon Musk invested heavily in Tesla and SolarCity to speed the shift to renewable energy.
Musk worries about AI: we'll build machines smarter than us. We won't be able to stop these machines if something goes wrong, just like cows can't fight humans. Neuralink: we need to be smarter to compete with AI when the time comes.
If Earth becomes uninhabitable, we need a backup plan. Asteroid or nuclear war could strike Earth at any moment. We may not have much time to react if it happens in a few days. We must build a new civilization while times are good and resources are plentiful.
Short-term problems dominate our politics, but long-term issues are more important. Long-term problems can cause mass casualties and homelessness. Musk demonstrates how to think long-term.
The main reason people are impressed by Elon Musk, and why Ashlee Vances' biography influenced me so much, is that he does impossible things.
Electric cars were once considered unprofitable, but Tesla has made them mainstream. SpaceX is the world's largest private space company.
People lack imagination and dismiss ununderstood ideas as impossible. Humanity is about pushing limits. Don't worry if your dreams seem impossible. Try it.
Thanks for reading.
1 year ago
By Engaging in these 5 Duplicitous Daily Activities, You Rapidly Kill Your Brain Cells
No, it’s not smartphones, overeating, or sugar.
Everyday practices affect brain health. Good brain practices increase memory and cognition.
Bad behaviors increase stress, which destroys brain cells.
Bad behaviors can reverse evolution and diminish the brain. So, avoid these practices for brain health.
1. The silent assassin
Introverts appreciated quarantine.
Before the pandemic, they needed excuses to remain home; thereafter, they had enough.
I am an introvert, and I didn’t hate quarantine. There are billions of people like me who avoid people.
Social relationships are important for brain health. Social anxiety harms your brain.
Antisocial behavior changes brains. It lowers IQ and increases drug abuse risk.
What you can do is as follows:
Make a daily commitment to engage in conversation with a stranger. Who knows, you might turn out to be your lone mate.
Get outside for at least 30 minutes each day.
Shop for food locally rather than online.
Make a call to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while.
2. Try not to rush things.
People love hustle culture. This economy requires a side gig to save money.
Long hours reduce brain health. A side gig is great until you burn out.
Work ages your wallet and intellect. Overworked brains age faster and lose cognitive function.
Working longer hours can help you make extra money, but it can harm your brain.
Side hustle but don't overwork.
What you can do is as follows:
Decide what hour you are not permitted to work after.
Three hours prior to night, turn off your laptop.
Put down your phone and work.
Assign due dates to each task.
3. Location is everything!
The environment may cause brain fog. High pollution can cause brain damage.
Air pollution raises Alzheimer's risk. Air pollution causes cognitive and behavioral abnormalities.
Polluted air can trigger early development of incurable brain illnesses, not simply lung harm.
Your city's air quality is uncontrollable. You may take steps to improve air quality.
In Delhi, schools and colleges are closed to protect pupils from polluted air. So I've adapted.
What you can do is as follows:
To keep your mind healthy and young, make an investment in a high-quality air purifier.
Enclose your windows during the day.
Use a N95 mask every day.
4. Don't skip this meal.
Fasting intermittently is trendy. Delaying breakfast to finish fasting is frequent.
Some skip breakfast and have a hefty lunch instead.
Skipping breakfast might affect memory and focus. Skipping breakfast causes low cognition, delayed responsiveness, and irritation.
Breakfast affects mood and productivity.
Intermittent fasting doesn't prevent healthy breakfasts.
What you can do is as follows:
Try to fast for 14 hours, then break it with a nutritious breakfast.
So that you can have breakfast in the morning, eat dinner early.
Make sure your breakfast is heavy in fiber and protein.
5. The quickest way to damage the health of your brain
Brain health requires water. 1% dehydration can reduce cognitive ability by 5%.
Cerebral fog and mental clarity might result from 2% brain dehydration. Dehydration shrinks brain cells.
Dehydration causes midday slumps and unproductivity. Water improves work performance.
Dehydration can harm your brain, so drink water throughout the day.
What you can do is as follows:
Always keep a water bottle at your desk.
Enjoy some tasty herbal teas.
With a big glass of water, begin your day.
Bring your own water bottle when you travel.
Bad habits can harm brain health. Low cognition reduces focus and productivity.
Unproductive work leads to procrastination, failure, and low self-esteem.
Avoid these harmful habits to optimize brain health and function.
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1 year ago
I met a man who in just 18 months scaled his startup to $100 million.
A fascinating business conversation.
This week at Web Summit, I had mentor hour.
Mentor hour connects startups with experienced entrepreneurs.
The YC-selected founder who mentored me had grown his company to $100 million in 18 months.
I had 45 minutes to question him.
I've compiled this.
Founder's name is Zack.
After working in private equity, Zack opted to acquire an MBA.
Surrounded by entrepreneurs at a prominent school, he decided to become one himself.
Unsure how to proceed, he bet on two horses.
On one side, he received an offer from folks who needed help running their startup owing to lack of time. On the other hand, he had an idea for a SaaS to start himself.
He just needed to validate it.
Since Zack's proposal helped companies, he contacted university entrepreneurs for comments.
He contacted university founders.
Once he knew he'd correctly identified the problem and that people were willing to pay to address it, he started developing.
He earned $100k in a university entrepreneurship competition.
His plan was evident by then.
The other startup's founders saw his potential and granted him $400k to launch his own SaaS.
He started looking for a tech co-founder because he lacked IT skills.
He interviewed dozens and picked the finest.
As he didn't want to wait for his program to be ready, he contacted hundreds of potential clients and got 15 letters of intent promising they'd join up when it was available.
YC accepted him by then.
He had enough positive signals to raise.
He didn't say how many VCs he called, but he indicated 50 were interested.
He jammed meetings into two weeks to generate pressure and encourage them to invest.
Seed raise: $11 million.
His objective was to contact as many entrepreneurs as possible to promote his product.
He first contacted startups by scraping CrunchBase data.
Once he had more money, he started targeting companies with ZoomInfo.
His VC urged him not to hire salespeople until he closed 50 clients himself.
He closed 100 and hired a CRO through a headhunter.
Three persons started the business.
He primarily works in sales.
Coding the product was done by his co-founder.
Another person performing operational duties.
He regretted recruiting the third co-founder, who was ineffective (could have hired an employee instead).
He wanted his company to be big, so he hired two young marketing people from a competing company.
After validating several marketing channels, he chose PR.
$100 Million and under
He developed a sales team and now employs 30 individuals.
He raised a $100 million Series A.
Additionally, he stated
He’s been rejected a lot. Like, a lot.
Two great books to read: Steve Jobs by Isaacson, and Why Startups Fail by Tom Eisenmann.
The best skill to learn for non-tech founders is “telling stories”, which means sales. A founder’s main job is to convince: co-founders, employees, investors, and customers. Learn code, or learn sales.
I often read about these stories but hardly take them seriously.
Zack was amazing.
Three things about him stand out:
His vision. He possessed a certain amount of fire.
His vitality. The man had a lot of enthusiasm and spoke quickly and decisively. He takes no chances and pushes the envelope in all he does.
He didn't do all this in 18 months.
He couldn't launch his company without private equity experience.
These accounts disregard entrepreneurs' original knowledge.
Hormozi will tell you how he founded Gym Launch, but he won't tell you how he had a gym first, how he worked at uni to pay for his gym, or how he went to the gym and learnt about fitness, which gave him the idea to open his own.
Nobody knows nothing. If you scale quickly, it's probable because you gained information early.
Lincoln said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I'll spend four sharpening the axe."
Sharper axes cut trees faster.
1 year ago
R&D, S&M, and G&A expense ratios for SaaS
SaaS spending is 40/40/20. 40% of operating expenses should be R&D, 40% sales and marketing, and 20% G&A. We wanted to see the statistics behind the rules of thumb. Since October 2017, 73 SaaS startups have gone public. Perhaps the rule of thumb should be 30/50/20. The data is below.
30/50/20. R&D accounts for 26% of opex, sales and marketing 48%, and G&A 22%. We think R&D/S&M/G&A should be 30/50/20.
There are outliers. There are exceptions to rules of thumb. Dropbox spent 45% on R&D whereas Zoom spent 13%. Zoom spent 73% on S&M, Dropbox 37%, and Bill.com 28%. Snowflake spent 130% of revenue on S&M, while their EBITDA margin is -192%.
G&A shouldn't stand out. Minimize G&A spending. Priorities should be product development and sales. Cloudflare, Sendgrid, Snowflake, and Palantir spend 36%, 34%, 37%, and 43% on G&A.
Another myth is that COGS is 20% of revenue. Median and averages are 29%.
Where is the profitability? Data-driven operating income calculations were simplified (Revenue COGS R&D S&M G&A). 20 of 73 IPO businesses reported operational income. Median and average operating income margins are -21% and -27%.
As long as you're growing fast, have outstanding retention, and marquee clients, you can burn cash since recurring income that doesn't churn is a valuable annuity.
The data was compelling overall. 30/50/20 is the new 40/40/20 for more established SaaS enterprises, unprofitability is alright as long as your business is expanding, and COGS can be somewhat more than 20% of revenue.
1 year ago
7 LinkedIn Tips That Will Help in Audience Growth
In 8 months, I doubled my audience with them.
LinkedIn's buzz isn't over.
People dream of social proof every day. They want clients, interesting jobs, and field recognition.
LinkedIn coaches will benefit greatly. Sell learning? Probably. Can you use it?
Consistency has been key in my eight-month study of LinkedIn. However, I'll share seven of my tips. 700 to 4500 people followed me.
1. Communication, communication, communication
LinkedIn is a social network. I like to think of it as a cafe. Here, you can share your thoughts, meet friends, and discuss life and work.
Do not treat LinkedIn as if it were a board for your post-its.
More socializing improves relationships. It's about people, like any network.
Consider interactions. Three main areas:
Respond to criticism left on your posts.
Comment on other people's posts
Start and maintain conversations through direct messages.
Engage people. You spend too much time on Facebook if you only read your wall. Keeping in touch and having meaningful conversations helps build your network.
Every day, start a new conversation to make new friends.
2. Stick with those you admire
Choose your contacts. Build your tribe is a term. Respectful networking.
I only had past colleagues, family, and friends in my network at the start of this year. Not business-friendly. Since then, I've sought out people I admire or can learn from.
Finding a few will help you. As they connect you to their networks. Friendships can lead to clients.
Don't underestimate network power. Cafe-style. Meet people at each table. But avoid people who sell SEO, web redesign, VAs, mysterious job opportunities, etc.
3. Share eye-catching infographics
Daily infographics flood LinkedIn. Visuals are popular. Use Canva's free templates if you can't draw them.
It's a fun way to visualize your topic.
You can repost and comment on infographics. Involve your network. I prefer making my own because I build my brand around certain designs.
My friend posted infographics consistently for four months and grew his network to 30,000.
If you start, credit the authors. As you steal someone's work.
4. Invite some friends over.
LinkedIn alone can be lonely. Having a few friends who support your work daily will boost your growth.
I was lucky to be invited to a group of networkers. We share knowledge and advice.
Having a few regulars who can discuss your posts is helpful. It's artificial, but it works and engages others.
Consider who you'd support if they were in your shoes.
You can pay for an engagement group, but you risk supporting unrelated people with rubbish posts.
Help each other out.
5. Don't let your feed or algorithm divert you.
LinkedIn's algorithm is magical.
Which time is best? How fast do you need to comment? Which days are best?
Overemphasize algorithms. Consider the user. No need to worry about the best time.
Remember to spend time on LinkedIn actively. Not passively. That is what Facebook is for.
Surely someone would find a LinkedIn recipe. Don't beat the algorithm yet. Consider your audience.
6. The more personal, the better
Personalization isn't limited to selfies. Share your successes and failures.
The more personality you show, the better.
People relate to others, not theories or quotes. Why should they follow you? Everyone posts the same content?
Consider your friends. What's their appeal?
Because they show their work and identity. It's simple. Medium and Linkedin are your platforms. Find out what works.
You can copy others' hooks and structures. You decide how simple to make it, though.
7. Have fun with those who have various post structures.
I like writing, infographics, videos, and carousels. Because you can:
Repurpose your content!
Out of one blog post I make:
Infographics (positive and negative points of view)
Create less but more variety. Since LinkedIn posts last 24 hours, you can rotate the same topics for weeks without anyone noticing.
The final LI snippet to think about
LinkedIn is about consistency. Some say 15 minutes. If you're serious about networking, spend more time there.
The good news is that it is worth it. The bad news is that it takes time.