Life is short

9/16 - What's Next

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Life is short

Life is short, as everyone knows. When I was a kid I used to wonder about this. Is life actually short, or are we really complaining about its finiteness? Would we be just as likely to feel life was short if we lived 10 times as long?

Since there didn't seem any way to answer this question, I stopped wondering about it. Then I had kids. That gave me a way to answer the question, and the answer is that life actually is short.

Having kids showed me how to convert a continuous quantity, time, into discrete quantities. You only get 52 weekends with your 2 year old. If Christmas-as-magic lasts from say ages 3 to 10, you only get to watch your child experience it 8 times. And while it's impossible to say what is a lot or a little of a continuous quantity like time, 8 is not a lot of something. If you had a handful of 8 peanuts, or a shelf of 8 books to choose from, the quantity would definitely seem limited, no matter what your lifespan was.

When I ask myself what I've found life is too short for, the word that pops into my head is "bullshit." I realize that answer is somewhat tautological. It's almost the definition of bullshit that it's the stuff that life is too short for. And yet bullshit does have a distinctive character. There's something fake about it. It's the junk food of experience. 

If you ask yourself what you spend your time on that's bullshit, you probably already know the answer. Unnecessary meetings, pointless disputes, bureaucracy, posturing, dealing with other people's mistakes, traffic jams, addictive but unrewarding pastimes.

As well as avoiding bullshit, one should actively seek out things that matter. But different things matter to different people, and most have to learn what matters to them. A few are lucky and realize early on that they love math or taking care of animals or writing, and then figure out a way to spend a lot of time doing it. But most people start out with a life that's a mix of things that matter and things that don't, and only gradually learn to distinguish between them.

One heuristic for distinguishing stuff that matters is to ask yourself whether you'll care about it in the future. Fake stuff that matters usually has a sharp peak of seeming to matter. That's how it tricks you. The area under the curve is small, but its shape jabs into your consciousness like a pin.

Relentlessly prune bullshit, don't wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That's what you do when life is short.

Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas

Empirically, the way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things. Want to dominate microcomputer software? Start by writing a Basic interpreter for a machine with a few thousand users. Want to make the universal web site? Start by building a site for Harvard undergrads to stalk one another.

Empirically, it's not just for other people that you need to start small. You need to for your own sake. Neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg knew at first how big their companies were going to get. All they knew was that they were onto something. Maybe it's a bad idea to have really big ambitions initially, because the bigger your ambition, the longer it's going to take, and the further you project into the future, the more likely you'll get it wrong.

I think the way to use these big ideas is not to try to identify a precise point in the future and then ask yourself how to get from here to there, like the popular image of a visionary. You'll be better off if you operate like Columbus and just head in a general westerly direction. Don't try to construct the future like a building, because your current blueprint is almost certainly mistaken. Start with something you know works, and when you expand, expand westward.

The popular image of the visionary is someone with a clear view of the future, but empirically it may be better to have a blurry one.

The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat aren't healthier.

Fast-food restaurants across the country are embracing a meat-free mentality nowadays, with several big brands adding meatless sandwiches to their menus.

The challenge here is that these offerings aren’t actually any healthier. The Impossible Whopper, for instance, not only has comparable caloric and fat levels as its meat-based counterpart, but it has more salt per serving; the Del Taco options are comparable. The Impossible Slider has more calories, more fat and more sodium than the meaty original (before you add cheese to either).

Inside Faire, The Platform Where Artisans Go Corporate

Faire has made buying easier for retailers like Holly Addi, who runs Arte Haus Collectif, a contemporary art gallery and boutique in Salt Lake City. She started shopping on Faire nearly two years ago, largely as a way to spend less time and money attending trade shows. Arte Haus Collectif has purchased roughly $20,000 in wares from Faire to date, including candles, aprons, scarves, bath salts, and jewelry. The business has also returned purchases — most recently, an entire batch of unsold sunglasses — within 60 days of ordering them. In each instance, Faire reimbursed Addi for the unsold items, which she has used to purchase other goods from makers on the platform.

The Three Levels Of Listening

Level 1: The focus is on me. When you listen at level 1 you are listening with the intent to respond.

Level 2 focuses on the other person. Level 2 is when you listen for what someone is saying beneath their words.

Level 3 focus on the energy. When you listen at level 3 you’re getting a feel for what’s happening and using all your senses. Level 3 draws upon the energy of more than just the words. It uses body language, tone of voice, noticing what’s going on and just feeling the room. Listening to the bigger picture in addition to the words.

Level 1 focuses on you and the voices in your head. Level 2 focuses on the other person and understanding. Level 3 focuses on the energy and using all your senses.

The Rise of the Electric Scooter

electric-scooter-rentals-bird-lime

I want to tackle a more fundamental question: are electric scooters the future of transportation?

To be honest with you I'm still bitter about the whole Segway debacle. There was so much hype back in the day. That ridiculous thing was supposed to change the world. Instead, we got … Paul Blart Mall Cop.

A Segway was $5,000 at launch in 2001, which is a whopping $7,248 in inflation adjusted dollars. Here in 2019, cheap $200 to $300 electric scooters are basically the transformational technology the Segway was supposed to be, aren't they? Are electric scooters the future of (most) transportation? I'm not sure, but I do like where we're headed, even if it took us twenty years to get there.

I Quit Social Media for a Year and Nothing Magical Happened

I made a resolution in September of 2018 that I would quit social media indefinitely. This seemed to be a good decision because of the literal hundreds of articles detailing gains from the benign better interpersonal relationships to the fantastical I founded a multimillion dollar startup. The truth is somewhere in between, but doesn’t make for good clickbait-fodder.

More to Check Out: 
- Inside Kickstarter’s Year of Turmoil
Let Children Get Bored Again
How will we know when a recession is coming?
Debunking the Silly “Passive is a Bubble” Myth
- MoviePass will shut down for good on Sept. 14


My Update.

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  • Read through some of my old essays (3 years of archives).

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