Entrepreneurship: All Hype or The Real Deal?

A few years ago up until today, I would hear about the dawn of a new age. A time when every single person would have to figure out how to independently add value to the economy. A time when employees would no longer be of use. 

Concepts such as “the sharing economy” and “3D printing” and “self-driving” cars would kill countless numbers of jobs, and it’s only the beginning. Paralegals are being replaced, and soon lawyers will too. Accountants too, and soon enough, even human doctors will go missing.

Those were powerful arguments for me. I thought I needed to figure out how to adapt. What would the future look like? What if I couldn’t code, I’d be completely useless to the human race? What would I do? Where would I go?

I would read articles that would pop up on my social media feed and they would all tell me the same thing.

“Start your own business.”

Woah, what’s going on? Those tricky algorithms sure knew how to grab my attention. Of course, I clicked on more articles and read about more people who ‘figured it out’, and they were all telling me the same thing. That today is the right time to be an entrepreneur, and that if I bought their course, they’d show me the way how they did. And then, I would be able to break free. And so I did.

I promised myself to take courses, read books, and do everything I could to educate myself on the topic, and I did, in between jobs, while attempting to start a company myself, I was constantly educating myself. Trying to learn about every tip, trick, hack, and shortcut that there was.

I even met people just like me, and it turned out they were even more obsessed.

They read more books, knew more about technology, and knew about every exit and IPO, every shortcut, all the latest trends. I felt I was even more behind than I thought I was. I had to catch up. How else could I survive the apocalypse?

But before I tried catching up, I wanted to learn more about who these magical people were, and why they were so adamant about starting up.

So I did what any serious detective would do.

I Googled. 

I found one article that offered 20 different reasons to start a business. 20! That’s a lot of reasons I thought. And then another article with 10 reasons. I wondered if there was any intersect. But it didn’t matter, the more I read the more I was convinced. Confirmation bias? Who cares?

If you can give me 20 reasons to do anything, I’ll believe you.

Skip forward a couple of years, and I realized that there’s a lot more to this entrepreneurship thing than meets the eye.

I finally start to question my presumptions and take a closer look, to ask myself questions I avoided asking.

My first question was:

Is Entrepreneurship all Hype or is it The Real Deal?

Let’s start from the beginning.

In his excellent book, Sapiens, Harari points out what makes human beings so special. One reason, he states, is our ability to believe in a story. Mind you, Yuval’s definition of a story is quite broad. It’s quite close to the definition of an idea. Anyway, his definition states that anything immaterial that human beings collectively believe in can be considered a story. So that includes religious ideas, the value of money, nationalism, humanism, etc..

Entrepreneurship is a story. A great one. 

It’s a story that is legitimized when more people believe in it. The more entrepreneurs there are, the more success stories there are, and the more success stories there are, the more entrepreneurs there will be.

And when enough time passes, regardless of the fail rate, the story gains in stature. So, if 1 in a 1000 entrepreneurs succeed, that’s not so good for the story of entrepreneurship if 1000 people were trying to be entrepreneurs.

But, if 1,000,000 people were trying to be entrepreneurs, and 1,000 entrepreneurs succeeded, that’s a different story. Books will be written, courses will be given, both online and on campuses all over the world. Stories will be told, repeated, and spread. Awards and competitions will develop. Accelerators and incubators will form, angels and VC’s will propagate, and the story gets even better.

Another human advantage that Harari talks about is our ability to connect with each other in large groups. Chimpanzees can collaborate in small groups, but they can’t collaborate in 1000’s. Human beings, on the other hand, through language and writing and technology, were able to communicate through time and space. Words could be transmitted to millions of people, and now, billions of people.

A powerful idea like entrepreneurship that is communicated by thousands of people who have found ways to profit from it, some legitimately and competently, and others by scamming whoever was naive enough to listen to them, has consistently grown in popularity and force.

Without entrepreneurship, the world would be a lot less interesting. We wouldn’t have Google or Facebook or Amazon or everything else we use on a daily basis to improve our lives and the lives of others.

And it’s only fair that these risk-takers when they do create something of real value, do get rewarded. And it would be of greater benefit to society if there was a way of capping the financial risks of those who fail.

“If modern society is to progress, we must honour the “ruined” risk-takers with as much respect as we do soldiers.” Nassim Taleb

So entrepreneurship is definitely good for society, but is it good for you?

Where are we headed?

As companies get wealthier, and technologies develop, and connectivity improves, employees will find themselves less valuable. As Harari points out, a useless class will emerge. This is a time when most jobs that were once considered meaningful and attractive to many people will become automated. The surplus of idle hands will create a state of distress in society, and these people will try to self-medicate by taking painkillers, playing video games, and living virtual lives.

A Dystopia?

It depends on who you ask.

Some people are perfectly content with an existence where they’re made to be useless but have enough security to perpetually entertain, feed, and medicate themselves.

People who think this way are hedonists. For them, life is about seeking out pleasure and avoiding pain. If something like Universal Basic Income existed, they could choose to do whatever they wanted with their time, and naturally, such a world can only be considered utopian. Unless, of course, they wanted to upgrade their lifestyles to seek out even more pleasure, in which case, they’d be hedonistic entrepreneurs.

Others are more concerned with deeper aspects of human existence.

The concern is, that absent meaning in a person’s life, a ‘why’ to get up in the morning, everything falls apart for the individual. He sees life as unchallenging and scorns his banal existence. He becomes depressed and self-destructive.

Even for people who haven’t articulated a “why” for their lives, the idea of just being employed and being a productive member of society, a good, worthy person, is enough to give people’s lives meaning.

Afterall, they’re not alone. That’s almost everyone they know. That’s most people in society. And sharing a sense of purpose with a broader community, particularly if you’re extroverted and high in conscientiousness, is often the only thing that stays standing when all else falls apart.  

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Most importantly, these individuals have families. They are role models to their children, heroes to their spouses. The same ethical values of hard work and sacrifice that have been passed down from generation to generation are suddenly going to have to come to a halt.

And then a void is created, a new value system needs to be remanufactured, but based on what? And what social proof is there for it?

It’s easy to tell your kids to work hard and sacrifice for the future. But what happens when the cards get reshuffled and there stops being a safe, steady path to independence and success?

Maybe you push your kids even harder to not be useless. Maybe you strive to do everything in your power to make sure that your kids are going to be game changers, that they’ll become future leaders of society. That they’ll transform the world with their words and actions. But what if your child can’t do that? Do you get a society of children who have disappointed their parents because they haven’t been able to reach the heights of the top 5 percent?

The fear is that we live in a future where inequality skyrockets because the people that are useful will increase several orders of magnitude in their usefulness compared to the rest of the population. Where it becomes even easier for the Elon Musks of the world to leverage their strengths, and a lot more difficult for the average joe to keep up.

So how are we supposed to get out of this existential mess?

Become entrepreneurs. Stop being an employee for someone else, because you will soon be replaced. At least that’s how the story goes. 

And if you’re replaced when you’re 40, without having developed new skills that could help you make it on your own, you’re in trouble.

That’s one way out, but being a successful entrepreneur requires you to be exceptional in many ways. And by definition, it’s rarely the case that you’re exceptional.

Harari, “If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and again, and faster and faster.”

For most people, reinventing themselves isn’t so easy. When you only have a few hours to spare if you’re lucky, finding ways to become competent at new things is a fairy tale. A cruel one, too.

Unless you’re hyper-motivated, disciplined and intelligent, and have time, energy, and resources it’s unlikely that’ll you’ll be able to adapt well to the changing environment.

Why Entrepreneurship?

Assuming we go along with the premise that the future is bleak for those of us who aren’t in the upper percentile, how does entrepreneurship change the picture?

The idea is if you quit your job and try to become an entrepreneur gain back your time at the expense of your short-term security. It’s scary. You’re not going to have any idea where your next source of income is going to come from, if at all. But if you’re forced to swim, or die, you’ll learn to swim.

You’ll quickly learn to get out of your comfort zone and become much more efficient at creating value. And if you can manage to create value, then you’re going to get paid for your efforts.

Even better, you’re going to get paid for something you’re good at doing, at a problem that you chose to solve, on a schedule that you get to set for yourself.

You become truly independent. But, of course, you’re going to have to become a harder worker, more disciplined, and more alert just to be able to keep up.

It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but it’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline.” Adler

That’s the promise of entrepreneurship. That one day, after working for an insane number of hours with a lot of sacrifices along the way, you put yourself in a position where you can finally get your time back. Where you can make investments with your money instead of time, where you can make time work for you, instead of the other way around.

Is it risky? Sure, but it’s also risky to stay in a job you’re not fully engaged in. Especially if that job can be replaced in the not so distant future. Especially if that job isn’t paying you enough or likely to pay you enough in the short to medium term to help you secure your future.

Here are other reasons why Entrepreneurship is a good choice.

  1. Become Innovative



By forcing yourself to innovate or die, you’re forced to experiment with a lot of different ideas. Since there is no one right way of doing anything, and many of the traditional systems seem to fail miserably, you’re forced to experiment with multiple systems, ways of thinking, areas of knowledge.

You can’t be rigid. As a result, you’re diversifying your field of knowledge, and you’re becoming better capable of handling change. You become more adept at adapting.

Imagine two worlds. World “Stable” is a predictable world. Things don’t seem to change much. The same jobs that were available in the past are still available in the present and will certainly be available in the future. There is no risk of being displaced by machines. The only way for people to get ahead is to achieve domain competence. To work harder than everyone else in their field, and get predictably rewarded. There is a lot of order and very little chaos.

And then you have World “Dynamic”, where all the rules are always changing. Unexpected successes seem to happen every single day, and traditional ways of doing business become outdated and useless at a rapid pace. This world is highly chaotic and contains very little order. People who innovate are highly rewarded, while those that choose a safer path are barely rewarded at all. Creativity is at a premium.

Of course, we still live in a world of order (World Stable) but we seem to be transitioning to a world that allows more chaos (World Dynamic). We have solid structures and foundations that are dependable and resilient, and they have allowed us to more freely experiment with chaos.

Today, we’re moving faster towards World Dynamic, and it’s both exciting and scary, as you might expect from something that embodies chaos. More than that, it seems to suit certain personality types more than others. If you’re low in openness, you’re probably not going to be very comfortable in a world where everything around you is always changing.

Whereas if you’re someone who’s high in openness, that world couldn’t come sooner. You’ve been yearning for a world that better rewards creativity and imagination.

  1. Make a Real Impact

Seth Godin and Tim Ferris advocate the offensive mindset that entrepreneurship forces you to be in. Most people play defence, they try to take the safe route, but to make a real impact, to add real value, and thrive, you need to be on offence.

“I look at the future from the standpoint of probabilities. It’s like a branching stream of probabilities, and there are actions that we can take that affect those probabilities or that accelerate one thing or slow down another thing. I may introduce something new to the probability stream.” – Elon Musk

When you’re on offence, you’re making things happen. You’re tilting future probabilities ever so slightly in your favor, and that might make the difference between success or failure.

  1. No Regrets

A lot of people go through life with many regrets. If you’re someone who has the urge to be an entrepreneur, but fear is stopping you, then you might one day come to regret not making the leap. It might be something that always haunts you as you get older, a grudge you carry against yourself for not being courageous enough.

I actually think this is a powerful reason. More powerful than most. Thinking about the emotional distress and torment that you would have to endure for not being courageous enough is a scary thought, maybe even more so than fear itself.

In fact, the reason Jeff Bezos says he decided to quit his high paying job to start Amazon.com was that he didn’t want to regret not making the leap.  He called it the “Regret Minimization Framework”. He simply didn’t want to have a “What if?”.

  1. Growth

When you’re an entrepreneur. Time is not your friend, it’s your biggest enemy. Sometimes, if you’re an employee, waiting for time to pass so you can collect your paycheck, or the weekend to come so you can finally relax and destress is okay to do. That’s not the case with entrepreneurship. When you’re starting a business, you’re thinking about your business almost all the time.

You feel guilty enough for not being employed, and want to waste as little time as possible. You learn like a maniac and work until you have nothing left anymore. And you do that every day, and that does do something truly magical for you. It forces you to grow.

You simply cannot afford to be complacent. And if you’re the least bit conscientious, you know it. As months go by, you’ll notice how much more knowledge you’re picking up, how much faster you’re acquiring new skills. Pushing yourself to the limit can bring out the best in you.

  1. Freedom

This is a big one. When you’re working from 9 to 5 from someone else, your time isn’t yours. In his book, “Millionaire Fastlane”, MJ Demarco describes your time in employment as indentured time – in other words, that time isn’t yours. You’re handing it over to someone else.

The implication here is that you’re automatically putting a ceiling on what your time could be worth. Whatever your boss pays you, divided by the number of hours you put in, is how much your time is worth per hour. It’s rarely a flattering number.

When you’re an entrepreneur, your time is yours. Your upside has no ceiling. How much your time is worth becomes a result of how hard you work.

  1. Motivation

“If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.” – Tony A. Gaskins Jr.

It’s hard to force yourself to care about someone else’s dreams, let alone your employer’s. They might have very different values, or they might be assholes. Whatever the reason, you’re never going to be truly motivated to give everything you have. You’re always going to hold back.

Working for yourself will allow you to give 100 percent. You’ll go the extra mile, you’ll force yourself out your comfort zone, you’ll learn whatever skills you need to learn. It becomes a different kind of game. Your mindset goes from “having to” to “wanting to”, and that does wonders for your motivation.

  1. Helping Others

Whether it’s by being a mentor, or teaching someone valuable skills, or telling someone your inspiring story, being an entrepreneur allows you to help people in many ways. And for many people, that’s deeply satisfying.

You also create jobs. Since it’s almost impossible to do everything yourself, you’re going to have to hire. You’re either going to need part-time employees, or full-time employees, or freelancers to delegate certain tasks to.

The more successful you become, the more jobs you get to create. And while corporate culture may foster a competitive and hostile environment, a startup environment almost always fosters an environment of coordination and teamwork. When you’re only so many people, everyone is really important, and there’s no hierarchy to appeal to, there’s just you and your partners, and you’re going to need to play as a team if you’re going to stand any chance at all.

Why you should not start a business

There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t start a business. Here are some of the best that I’ve found.

  1. The Wrong Reasons 

It’s tempting to want to change whatever bad situation you’re in. If you’re you in a job you hate, or you want more control over others, or you have dreams of making millions of dollars and being featured in all big media outlets. A lot of people find those reasons compelling, and that’s not surprising, but they’re all forms of escapism.

You’re trying to solve your problems by replacing them with a new one altogether. Your hate, greed, illusions of grandeur aren’t going to make you successful, they’re going to blind you into thinking you can be successful before you fall flat on your face.

Being on the offensive means seeing an opportunity, and accurately assessing the match between your abilities and requirements for success. And being realistic about the outcome. There might be a lot of people who might think it’s all about positive thinking, and if you believe you will get there, you will. And there are a lot of stories of people who justify how they got there by citing their deep belief in themselves. But that’s dangerous advice for two reasons.

One, it’s very difficult to manufacture belief in oneself. It’s easy to believe in yourself before you start, but it’s a lot harder months down the line when nothing is going according to plan, and you encounter failure after failure.

Two, the people who say they got there because of their positive thinking are hiding the real reasons why they succeeded, partly because they might not be aware of them, and partly because they have a specific story they want to sell (to themselves and to others).



     2. Stress


This is the other side of growth. While putting yourself under stress will likely propel you to push yourself to the limit and tap into abilities you never thought you had, the weight of stress can seriously damage your health, both physically and mentally. And that isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Very few people have the ability to balance a highly stressful lifestyle with stress-resistant habits. People are usually consumed by stress, and become emotional wrecks. It’s probably best not to fool yourself that you’re somehow impervious to this.

     3. No Social Life



If you’re serious about becoming successful at starting your own company, not only are you going to be stressed out of your mind, but you’re going to have no time for your friends, and it will do damage to your relationships with them. Very few people are understanding of the fact that they no longer are important enough to be in your plans.

If you value being around your friends, or girlfriend, or boyfriend, starting a business will rob you of that immediately.

     3. More Demanding Bosses

The second you get a financial commitment from someone else, whether that’s a VC or anyone, they’re going to be your new boss. They’re going to have a say, and they’re going to be demanding. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

You’re going to have to answer to them. And if you’re not answering to them, you’re answering to customers. Without your customers, you have no business. And anyone who is competing with you is doing everything they can to make sure that their customers are happy. When your customers get word that other customers are getting more responsiveness from a competing business, you’re probably going to have to double down on serving them better.

If you want to start a business because you don’t want to deal with your boss 30 minutes a day, get ready to deal with an endless number of bosses every minute of the day.

     4. Failure will leave a Scar



Getting fired from your job is one thing, failing at starting your own company is a whole other thing. When you fail at your startup, you’re the only one accountable. As Nassim Taleb puts it, “You have skin in the game”. That means that you will get hurt, maybe even traumatised.

You might get braver, for sure, but that depends on the person. Some people are resilient in the face of failure, and it propels them to try even harder the next time around. But for many others, failure means the end of the road because they simply cannot handle another traumatic experience like that.

     5. You’re Probably Going to Fail



I’ve read many contradictory statistics, and maybe I’ll get into this some other time, but what’s been consistent is that most businesses end up failing. If you can’t outcompete most people in your space, you’re going to find yourself in an unsustainable position, and you’ll close up shop.

In order to be able to outcompete most people in your space, you need to be highly skilled, resilient, knowledgeable, connected, disciplined, and engaged. Not only that, but your timing needs to be impeccable. A lot of great entrepreneurs fail because their product didn’t get there soon enough, or sometimes late enough.

So you need a lot of rare qualities and a lot of luck. It’s not a stretch to say, that you’re probably going to fail.

And, of course, it’s tempting to think that if you stick in there long enough, you’ll succeed, but a lot of people have and don’t. It’s very possible that you end up spending your whole life experimenting and tinkering without getting anywhere.

Here’s what Elon Musk had to say about starting a business:

“It’s like eating glass and staring into the abyss”

Final Thoughts:

It’s hard to know whether or not to make the leap. And I think that’s a good thing. If you’re agonizing over whether or not to do it, then you’re being rational about this.

There are plenty of reasons to want to start a business despite the many risks involved. At the end of the day, any path you take will carry its own kind of risks. Some are much better disguised than others.

I would warn against falling for the hype and being emotional about your decision. It’s important to remember that starting a business doesn’t have to be a binary decision.

You can have a job and create passive income, or you can plant the seeds for your startup idea months before you quit. You can get better educated and learn skills that could help you save time. There’s a lot you can do to make the road a little less bumpy.

It’s important to be careful from listening to people who try to sell you a dream, instead of looking out for what’s best for you

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, and it’s no walk in the park. People should know that. People should be aware of the all the risks involved, and it’s hard to fully understand the gravity of those risks when you’re 22.

Gary Vaynerchuk, someone who’s well known for motivating people to take the leap in most of his videos, might disagree. 

I’ve seen him talk to people he doesn’t know (presumably) and make a compelling case for why they shouldn’t listen to anyone and just start. He might have good intentions, but I think that’s dangerous advice, and I would advise people against listening to him without considering the other side of the argument. But even Gary Vee knows that something just ain’t right with how young people are thinking today.

Here’s what he said:

“The notion for people under 25 that starting a company has become going to grad school, has become “I’ve gotta save for retirement”, “I have to buy a home”, “I have to get married”. It has become, like, standard. And I think that’s insane and scary because that is literally like going to the NBA has become standard. Like it is very hard to build a very big business. Like most people never build a business that makes a million dollars. Like 99 percent of people don’t have the ability, or will ever achieve running a business that makes them a million dollars in profit.











Using words instrumentally: The psychopathic tendency

There was aaphilosophy course I took many years ago. And I remember a question that was asked during one of the lectures. Are people a means to an end or are they an end in themselves ?

At the time, the question was interesting to me but I didn’t make too much out of it. Other than being momentarily intellectually stimulating, I didn’t really have a solid enough base of experiences to draw any meaningful ideas from the question.

Fast forward years later and I find myself thinking about that question a lot more.

That’s the funny thing about philosophy. With most fields knowledge, you can apply what you learn immediately. But that’s not the case with philosophy. Sometimes you need to read a sentence a hundred times to appreciate it’s meaning, have multiple experiences before the profundity of a line can really hit you.

I was reminded of that question by watching a Jordan Peterson lecture in which he describes the behaviour of pickup artists as psychopathic.

His point is that these people are deliberately trying to deceive a faceless woman in the future into sleeping with them. So they would teach each other strategies that would work such as how to dress and what lines to use.

The woman, to them, was an object they wanted something from and their job was to figure out how to get it.

I thought about this a little more and I think that kind of behavior is quite pervasive. Political campaigns, addictive games, junk food, tobacco, certain advertisements were all designed with the intention of exploiting people.

In other words, using language as an instrument.

What else is it supposed to be used for?

Well, Peterson mentions the idea of using it as a way of trying to investigate a set of ideas and to try to reach some kind of truth.

Fair enough. I think that’s a noble definition. But I don’t so much mind if language was being used as an instrument.

For example, using language to make people laugh is a good thing to do. Using it to help someone feel better even if not being completely honest is a good thing to do. And using language simply to perplex, to entertain, to challenge are all valid options.

But notice that in all of these cases, the human being can either be a means or  the end myself. The key is intention.

If I was using language to make someone laugh to disarm them and get to like me so that I can later exploit them, then I’m being psycopathic.

But that’s easy enough.

How do we know what someone’s intentions are?

I think some people have poweful intuition. I’ve seen people make the right call about someone they’ve never met before pretty accurately, quite consistently. For the rest of us, memory and critical thinking seems to do the trick.

Asking yourself why someone has the relationships that they do, why they’ve made the choices they made is really difficult a when you don’t know them well enough.

But when some more time passes, you start to notice behavioural patterns that are off.

Imagine you tell a friend a piece of news. For example, you’ve found the perfect job or career to pursue and you’re happy.

Your expectation is that they would congratulate you, be happy for you, and move on to talk about other things at some point.

But if they insist on prodding you about your decision, putting you on the defensive, then something is off.

It’s never obvious who your poisonous friends are and who your virtuous ones are. One thing I’ve noticed is that the former has a peculiar tendency to pander while the latter has no intention to ever do that.

Genuine people don’t try to impose your reactions to them pre-emptively. They simply behave.

Choose your friends wisely.

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” Jim Rohn.

Why you should be a “No Man” instead of a “Yes Man”

I remembered a funny Jim Carrey movie I once watched. It was called “Yes ‘Man”. It tells the story of a lonely banker called Carl Allen. He’s the kind of guy that exemplifies being stuck in a rut. His job sucks. He has no luck with women, he has no future prospects.

Until one day, he enrols into a personal development program run by the Australian, psychopathic equivalent of Tony Robbins. The program is really simple.

All you need to do is just say “Yes”. Instead of letting opportunities pass you by every day, grab hold of them, because you never know where they might take you.

Almost overnight, Carl’s life turns upside down. Because he’s forced to approve microloans for anyone without even taking a look at their business plan or paperwork, he inadvertently gets himself a promotion. Amazingly enough, everyone ends up paying the micro-loans back on time, and so Carl gets credit for his genius, out of the box thinking.

But then things go sour when he takes the idea to the extreme.

The Importance of Saying No 

In real life, however, saying “no” is more important than saying “yes”. Much more important.

You see, everyone wants your time. You have one asset, that can and should be considered the most valuable asset you will ever own. It’s the only asset that will never increase, but only decrease in quantity.

And almost every single person you will ever meet will want it.

Your boss will want it, your friends will want it, your business partners will want it, your family want it, and finally, sometimes you might also want it.

People are then forced to make the biggest decision of all.

Who should I give my time to?

Here’s the thing. Conventional wisdom might tell you to jump at opportunities that come your way. Whatever chance you get, just do it, because you never know what might come of it.

That might work, for a while, until it doesn’t, just like the movie.

When you’re young, saying yes isn’t so bad. It’s not like you’re smart or wise enough to know what you should be doing with your time anyway.

You aren’t fully developed. Of course, you should go out and experience as many things as humanly possible, without dying or anything like that.

But then you get a little older, and time seems to be flying and then it’s time for a new skill.

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” Jean de La Bruyère

The “No” Skill 

The “no” skill naturally evolves from developing and mastering the “yes” skill.

You should learn to say no to “friends” who waste your time, who are toxic, who don’t care about your well-being, who are self-interested.

You should learn to say no to your bad habits, your unconscious addictions, your frivolous tendencies to waste time, your overdrinking, your overworking, and your overthinking.

You should learn to say no to money at the expense of your freedom. to safety at the expense of your imagination, to pragmaticism at the expense of originality.

You should learn to say no to people who bully you around. 

You should learn to say no to you when you bully yourself around. 

You should learn to say no to well-dressed up business opportunities. 

You should learn to say yes only to things that really matter.

Learning to say no is tough. You are going to have to be ruthless, honest, and blunt. You’re going to have to hurt people’s feelings, reject them, and leave the door closed.

Time stealers are all around us, and the more time you let people steal away from you, the less strength you will have to fight for what’s left.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin 

The good fight 

The good fight is reclaiming what’s rightfully yours. Not stealing what’s not yours from other people.

Instead of thinking about ways to waste other people’s time, which is a crime against humanity in my book, try to think of ways to gain back your own time. To do something that matters, that truly makes people happy.

Instead of trying to design the next Instagram or Facebook, try designing the next anti-Instagram or Anti-Facebook.

Instead of trying to design the next Candy Crush, try to write a damn book that will help people understand why playing Candy Crush is a waste of time.

“Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.” Jordan B. Peterson. 


Hidden Advantages : David and Goliath

The general premise of the David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is that the underdog has hidden advantages. In the epic fight between David and Goliath that would decide victory for their respective armies,

David, a slender and weak looking shepherd with nothing but a slingshot as his weapon is forced to face up to Goliath, a giant with heavy armor. Goliath had three weapons: a javelin, a spear and a sword. Everyone feared Goliath. No one feared David.

And as the Biblical story goes, David emerges victorious. For a long time, people have interpreted the story as an ode to the underdog, who can manage to overcome the greatest odds. But Gladwell’s insight is that the odds were actually on David’s side.

Goliath was a giant, but he likely suffered from a disease that caused him to be somewhat blind. He was also very slow because of his size and what he wore and fought with.

David, on the other hand, was lightweight, he was quick and mobile. And while a slingshot might seem like a joke of a weapon to us in modern times, it wasn’t the case back then. Shepherds were actually really though. And a shepherd who knew how to properly use a slingshot was deadly.

So David was a competent shepherd who was accurate and quick and was capable of killing almost any living target with his weapon of choice.

After reading the book, Quiet, it occurred to me that introverts were similar to David.

Society usually overlooks introverts as weaklings who aren’t tough enough, or loud enough, or aggressive enough to have a seat at the table. Between the loud-mouthed, action-oriented, hot-tempered executive and the reclusive, quiet, cerebral one, the former would always win out.

In reality, it was most often the case that the most successful leaders were actually closer to belonging to the latter category. Bill Gates, for example.

I’m oversimplifying here, but being more introverted means you, like Goliath, have hidden strengths that the Goliaths don’t don’t have.

You’re able to stick to a task for much longer, often going places (intellectually) your louder friends are unwilling, or unable to go to. You’re better able to process the subtleties of reality and can see danger from a longer distance than the extroverted.

“Most people stop looking when they find the proverbial needle in the haystack. I would continue looking to see if there were other needles.” – Albert Einstein

 Of course, there are disadvantages to being introverted. Not taking enough risks is one of them
The extrovert is more than comfortable trying and failing multiple times; they have a good chance of eventually succeeding.
The trouble with the introvert is that while they might tend to go for higher percentage shots, it’s often the case that they don’t take enough of them, and end up giving up and withdrawing from the world a lot easier than the hyperactive extrovert.


Is “Follow Your Passion” Bad Advice?



I’ve been thinking recently about the dictum “Follow Your Passion”, and I’ve written a few blog posts that call for doing so, and ignoring advice on being pragmatic and realistic about your goals. That it’s more dangerous to listen to the voices of others than to listen to your own voice.

But something about that sentiment seemed a little incomplete, and I looked around for some counter advice. Were there people who had good arguments against the famous dictum? So I stumbled upon a blog that led me to a video of Cal Newport doing just that. I listened carefully to what he was saying, and here’s what I think.

First of all, the title of the talk is “Follow Your Passion is bad advice.” A smart way to market his idea. Certainly grabbed my attention.

That’s not really an honest representation of what he was saying. What he’s really saying is ‘Only following your passion is bad advice, you also need to have skill.”

His idea, after several years of studying the work of academics who have analyzed how successful people develop careers that they love, is that they rarely start with their passion in mind.

What happens is that some kind of fortunate event happens at some point in their past. It might have been a pleasant encounter with their music teacher, or a compliment they got from someone they respected when working on the craft they loved.

As a result of that positive emotion, they became a little more inclined to invest more energy into that craft. That, in turn, allowed them to become more competent. Because they became more competent, they developed a little more love, and the cycle continues.

Until finally, they get to a point where they are capable of deep work. This is particularly true of knowledge work, where in order to get better, you need to experience some degree of cognitive strain. In other words, it’s possible to engage in deep work without experiencing cognitive strain, and that would result in suboptimal results over the long run.

He cites the example of Steve Jobs and is visibly annoyed at how so many people seemed to get hung up on one particular idea from his speech. This part.

“You’ve got to find what you love… if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

And then he states Newport’s law, half-jokingly: “Telling a young person to follow their passion reduces the chances that they will end up passionate.”

Okay, yes, he has a point. The “follow your passion” idea is too simplistic. Without the commitment, without time blocking, the deep work, the long hours, the pain, the plan, it’s unlikely someone would maintain a passion for anything because they would never develop a sufficient level of competency.

Let’s say I loved basketball, and so if I followed the “follow your passion” catchphrase, I would decide to become a professional basketball player. But, if I’m 15 years old and haven’t put in thousands of hours, and blood and sweat and tears, I’m going to get discouraged when I realize that my 13-year-old friends are twice as good as I am and will probably quit soon after. Well, that’s not good.

But if I dropped out of school to do that? Tragic… Just tragic.

So telling me to “follow my passion” when I’m 15 is setting me up for a depressive episode. I’m not good enough yet (maybe).

It’s best to wait until I’m a little older, and more competent, and have more control over my skills, and understand the details of the sport better, and what’s required, realistically to succeed, and then tell me to listen to my heart.

Fair enough. But a couple of points on that. It’s kind of like a horse and carriage thing, and while he addresses this counter-argument in his speech, I don’t think he does a good job of refuting it.

In order to develop skill at your craft, you need to have a passion for it. Very few people become good at something they don’t like, very very few people become great at something they don’t love.

Telling someone to follow their passion with no holds barred might be bad advice. But telling someone to not follow their passion at all is worse advice, and that’s usually what people hear – for the sake of pragmaticism.

Often, people stop doing what they are passionate about for some external goal they think they care about.

Their skills atrophy as a result. Since they are no longer competent, they are unlikely to rekindle that passion in the future. And if they aren’t hard-headed, single-minded, self-reliant, and downright arrogant, they wouldn’t continue to work on their craft regardless of what anyone thinks.

So what should we be telling young people?


Don’t quit your day job, but develop a plan to work on your skills consistently on the side. One day, after enough practice, you’ll get good enough to build the career you want while leveraging those skills, instead of taking a gamble from day one that might devastate you for the rest of your life.

I’ll add another idea. I think another thing that happens is that the younger you are, the less you understand yourself, the less you know what you truly care about. You might have a bunch of interests. It isn’t until you experience adulthood until you realize where you’re most competent, consistent, and content.

You’ll also realize what you hate. And that’s something that Newport didn’t touch upon. When you sample different kinds of pursuits, you get a feeling for what you most dread, and where you feel weakest and least likely to perform well. That’s a major insight that makes the gulf between what you love and what you don’t love far greater and makes it easier for you to then figure out how you’re going to build something doing what you love.

Link to Newport’s speech: 















The Shadow


adult, anger, art

James Altucher wrote a book called “Choose Yourself”. After finishing it, I was intrigued by his style. He doesn’t write like other authors. He tries to be conversational, and it works. Really well. A lot of people try to do the same thing, but he’s figured out a way to be extremely casual, lazy even while maintaining the reader’s attention and that’s really difficult to pull off.

He’s just witty enough to keep you engaged. There’s a lot of fluff. There’s a lot of wasted words. Ideas that could be expressed in a single sentence are sometimes expressed in 3 pages, and yet, it was fun to read. There are a lot of things I took away from his book, but one thing that caught my attention was how he, throughout the book, called on the reader to wake up the inner child that society calls upon us to repress as adults.

And that got me thinking.

The Shadow

I’ve recently been learning about Carl Jung’s ideas about the process of individuation and incorporating the shadow into your conscious mind. Your shadow is basically your dark side, your unconscious. It represents the part of you that you’ve actively repressed.

The idea is that you start out as a blank canvas and society paints you into a personna. In other words, you become a reflection of the outside world.

At this point, you are not fully developed, you are Pinnochio (Jordan Peterson covers this brilliantly), and you are merely a puppet being manipulated social forces. The hope is that one day, you find your own voice, and come to recognize all the parts of you which you have been repressing.

That’s what Jung calls ‘Individuation’ and it happens when you begin to recognize and integrate your inner self.

What are you repressing? 

Well, if you’re a boy you were probably taught to enjoy doing things that boys do. You identify with the masculine and repress the feminine.

Or you believe yourself to be good, and incapable of evil, you tend to be dumbfounded when encountering people who are actively trying to destroy everything around them.

Or you fully identify with your psyche rather than your emotions and try to make sure that everything is always perfectly organized and controlled, that your whims never get the better of you.

The danger is that the struggle between these opposites creates tension.

When you fail to acknowledge the tension between your conscious self, when you fail to recognize that you are not either good OR bad, masculine OR feminine, cerebral OR emotional, you set forth an unfortunate series of events.

The repressed parts of our subconscious will find a way to manifest themselves in our lives against our will. Our subconscious takes control instead of fading away.

“Jung found that opposites create tension in the psyche. If we don’t learn to address these tensions, denying the opposites instead, we repress or push the pressure out of our consciousness. But repressing doesn’t eliminate the opposites or the tension itself. It only makes them more destructive in our psyche by strengthening our shadows. Repressing tension makes us one-sided, and it leads us to project our unconscious fantasies on to reality. When we deny these internal tensions, we enforce our delusions and self-deception. “- Scott Jeffrey 

I found this idea to be important and useful.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to emulate others or even trying to emulate a particular ideal. It’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you are one dimensional (masculine, good, psyche), but recognizing that you have a capacity for being evil arms you with the knowledge that others too have the capacity for being evil. More than that, you begin to understand that everyone has the capacity for evil.

If you were born in an impoverished country, and your neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends were killed by foreign invaders, you’re likely going to get in touch with that evil side, even get completely possessed by it. A few years of desperate anger, deep confusion, and a number of misguided, sinister ‘religious’ indoctrination sessions later, you’re a terrorist with a bomb strapped to your chest excitedly waiting for your turn to get your revenge on the world.

That’s what Carl Jung warns about. To become possessed by your unconscious is very dangerous, because you become a slave to uncontrollable forces, and it can lead you down an arbitrary path (socially determined) that could wreak havoc on society.

A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps … living below his own level’:[22] hence, in terms of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, ‘it must be Jekyll, the conscious personality, who integrates the shadow … and not vice versa. Otherwise the conscious becomes the slave of the autonomous shadow’.[23]  —  Wikipedia

I gave the example of a terrorist, and that has many forms. From high school shootings to global terroristic activities, but it can also manifest in less publicized forms, from beating up your wife, to imprisoning innocent children in your basement for over a decade.

Going back to the shadow. When you’re young, you’re ignorant about your own nature. And as a result, you’re ignorant about other people’s nature. Naturally, you’re going to go through life mostly confused, and highly impressionable. You’re unlikely to listen to your own judgment because on some level, you know you’re a phoney, a Pinocchio, a puppet.

You have secret convictions that are half-baked, and suppressed, and dismissed by yourself. You believe that the world wants what’s best for you, and there’s no such thing as malice, so you gullibly embark on your life adventure.

And because you’re a fool, you conform.

However, you are not alone. Many people before you have heeded the call to conform, to accept the wisdom of crowds. To become mirror images of what society expects of you. It seems safe enough, and you might be able to rationally justify your need to conform to those expectations and ideas, until you have some kind of personal crisis, and decide to wake up.

And that is what is profoundly wrong with being completely oblivious to your own nature.

You are nothing but personna

What’s worse is that most of the people you know have settled into their cocoon of confirmation bias based understanding of the world, rattle them for a bit, and they’ll throw a fit. Question their presuppositions, and they’ll bite.

It’s likely that those people only read whatever confirms their own viewpoint, resisting the temptation to explore beyond the confines of their limited understanding, and I have realized that I cannot tolerate being with those types of people.

“Why read? Writers are only trying to deceive you into believing their own set of biased propositions.”

Fair point. They indeed are. Often, they are trying to sell you their ideas so that they can, profit.

So why read? Because you’re painfully ignorant, and claiming to know everything there is to know is a blatant admission to ‘knowing everything’.

Beware of people who tell you-you’re good enough or they’re good enough Beware of people who claim to know enough or think you know enough. Beware of people who are dogmatic in their points of view. No matter how smart they seem, they’re deeply misguided.

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”. 

Nothing is brighter, nothing is truer than that simple, wonderful, powerful phrase. When I was 14, I used to say it to myself, like a mantra, constantly reminding myself of my own stupidity, and by extension, the stupidity of man. I think I repeated it enough times for it to truly seep into my skull, and I hope it remains in there, for it has been the one thing that has kept me sane and provided me with a healthy sense of scepticism that I’ve used against people who claim to ‘know’.

Being aware of your limitations is never something you should take for granted.

I once advised someone who had been trying to build a career from day trading but not seeing any success, “Maybe it would be a good idea to read about different trading strategies and expose yourself to other viewpoints “.

Their response? A sneer. “I don’t need to read anything. I already have it all figured out. I just need to tweak my theory/equation a little. I’m almost there. I’ve cracked the code and soon enough, I’ll be telling people how I did it, how I made millions”

That person never made millions.

The folly of Pride

Pride is the most dangerous intellectual disease there is. When you are prideful, you overvalue your own intelligence. You become capable of the most extreme acts of stupidity. You are willing to stand up tall against mountains of solid arguments because you think you better than them. You refuse to entertain opposing viewpoints because you cannot possibly be so stupid to believe anything that is false.

Final Thought: 

When you’re aware of your ignorance, capacity for evil, tendency to repress real, subconscious states of the self, you begin to see clear imperfections in other people who might possess the charm, charisma, and wit to coerce others into following their lead.



On Living According to Your Highest Values


1. Finding Truth in an Idea 

I’ve noticed a peculiar thing about ideas. The extent to which they capture my attention depends almost completely on my previous experience. When I first encounter a quote that is meant to be profound, for example, I might be intrigued, and think about it for a little while. I might even tell my friends about it. But sooner or later, it will fade away almost completely from memory.

But when you experience life more deeply, and see that same quote again, or get exposed to the same idea that you did years ago, you get a different kind of feeling. Something grips you. It’s as if the idea itself carries in it some kind of divine truth that you finally earned the right to understand. It’s when the idea matches your own reality that you can see the truth in it.

When I used to hear the overused, cliched prescription that you’re likely to find in movies, books, commercials, and songs of ‘finding your passion’, I would all but block the sentiment out. When an idea is so overused, I reasoned, it must be ingenuine. The idea of ‘finding your passion’ is also likely to be scoffed at within the confines of your own society, where seeking out the practical route that prioritizes conventionality, realism, and conformity is prized and adulated.

It isn’t until you try doing something you’re not passionate enough for long enough, and then comparing that experience with doing something that you are passionate about, that you can finally appreciate the wisdom of that all too familiar cliche. It’s sort of like a rite of passage.

I’ve recently been exposed to the ideas of John Demartini, a researcher, and public speaker. He elegantly presents the reasons for why people get disengaged, and I’ve been thinking about his claims and whether or not there is more to the cliche he managed to fashion into a sophisticated argument that he’s managed to build a career on.

2.  Misalignment 

In one of his interviews, Demartini was asked about ‘how one could maintain focus on a given task or goal, and this was his response.


“Many people, instead of setting goals that are aligned and congruent with their highest values, they subordinate to other people, compare their lives to other people, minimize themselves to people they think have a greater life than them.”

Fundamentally, it sounds like this is just common sense. It’s clearly counterproductive to live according to other people’s values instead of your own.

But people do just that. Before I get into the reasons, it’s important to note a couple of things.

Human beings are not rational. We make irrational decisions every day, in that we make choices that do not serve our best interests. Even when we recognize the truth of a claim, there are many emotional reasons that will push us away from applying what we’ve learned to our lives. In most cases, it’s inconvenient. Especially when we’ve worked so hard at building something that isn’t aligned with our highest values. The sunk costs effect will find a way of sneaking in, and convincing us that while it may have been a good idea to live true to ourselves at some point in the past, it’s far too late to do that now.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path” Buddha 




3. Identification of the Most Common Fears 

There are factors in life that serve as either headwinds or tailwinds. Family and societal pressure, for one thing, often acts as a deterrent to what we know we should be doing deep down. Financial pressure is another big one. If we feel that doing something sub-optimal now will yield us more money, it’s hard to give that up for the often riskier path of doing what we want.

  1. Fear of not being smart enough
  2. Fear of Failure
  3. Fear of not making money
  4. Fear of losing loved ones
  5. Fear of rejection
  6. Fear of not having the energy
  7. Fear of breaking a moral/ethical authority

I would add Fear of Bad Timing, maybe as a fear that incorporates one or more of the fears outlined in the list above. We always seem to want to do what we really want at some point in the future, but it never seems to be now. Things are either too delicate, too inconvenient, the economy isn’t ready, or the stars aren’t perfectly aligned

The Hidden Trap 

The problem is that if you let those fears get the better of you, you’re likely going to end up in a situation that is far worse than what you feared at first. The hidden trap in life, I think, is that by trying to side-step short-term turbulence, we end up positioning ourselves quite nicely for the inevitable crash.

If you don’t identify what it is that’s most valuable to you, you’ll end up incorporating other people’s ideas into your own life, and once those seep in, they start to cloud what’s truly important to you, and then you tell yourself a lie and convince yourself that their values are your own. And then when you end up abandoning those values, you end up in a worse position than the one you were in. not having any idea what your real values actually are. 

What to do about it? 

According to Demartini, address the fears, clear the fears, and you’ll find the purpose comes right to the surface. In other words, after we’ve articulated exactly what we’re afraid of, sizing up the enemy so to speak, we make it easier for ourselves to transcend the often imaginary or insignificant dangers that keep us from being honest with ourselves.

How do we find out what’s meaningful to us? 

Other than identifying the fears as mentioned above, an interesting suggestion he mentions is watching yourself closely and asking yourself some important questions.

  • What do you fill up your living space with?
  • What kind of activity you find yourself doing every day without needing any external motivation? 

4. The Mistake of Avoiding Pain 

Pain is a necessary part of life. We all understand that on some level. But we do everything we can to avoid it, which is perfectly understandable. There’s nothing worse than feeling pain, by definition. However, knowing how to deal with pain with our eyes wide open is a lot better than trying to ignore its existence altogether. We’re going to fail at almost every single thing we try, and that’s going to make life painful. We’re going to have unexpected setbacks, and we’re going to lose our loved ones, and we’re going to grow old and lose our vitality, and eventually die.

That’s just life. One way to deal with that reality is to spend hours scrolling on mindless posts on social media to drown out any semblance of a real thought. Another way is to take drugs or alcohol. Another way is to constantly seek the company of others so that we never have to deal with our negative feelings or thoughts. Another way is to binge watch series until we pass out or eat until we feel sick, or smoke, or watch hours of entertaining videos on youtube, or to play our favorite mindlessly addictive game.

When it comes to having weapons with dealing with pain, we’ve invented them all, and we’re on our way to inventing much more.

You might think that those distractions are just ways to fight boredom, and that’s a fair point. But what happens when you’re bored? You’re forced to deal with things that are bothering you, literally painful thoughts most of the time. Feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, meaninglessness. So when you’re trying to avoid being bored, you’re really trying to avoid feeling pain.

So we become professionals at sedating our own psyche. We learn to consume ungodly hours of useless entertainment that rob us of everything that’s truly important in life, and we learn to become defensive about it too if someone dares to point it out. We don’t care that companies are making millions of dollars by stealing our attention, we gladly give it to them, because we want to be numb.

No matter what you do, you will go through pain and pleasure. The pain is the most important part. If you are looking for an easy path, you won’t be great at anything. You won’t be aware of your limitations, you won’t process reality clearly, you’ll fall in love with dreams and fantasy and illusions, and you’ll be stuck there, for longer than you can possibly afford. And you’ll find company, a lot of it.

‘Pain is certain, suffering is optional’ Buddha 

The question then becomes, how do you deal with the inevitability of pain?

Well, what some seemingly intelligent people such as Jordan Peterson, or John Demartini suggest today, or what Victor Frankl has suggested in the past, is to do what is meaningful. That way, you’ll experience pain, but at least you won’t needlessly suffer.

“The wise individual isn’t looking for the easy life, they are looking for the challenges that they are inspired to solve. ” Demartini

5. Living The Fantasy 

When you set goals that aren’t aligned with what you value, you have a smaller probability of walking the walk. You’ll end up giving up because it’s not enough to keep motivating yourself or waiting for others to motivate you. I used to know someone in university who would watch an endless stream of motivational videos before they could get any studying done. It was a kind of addiction to motivational content. I know the feeling well, I’ve felt the urge to do the same thing before forcing myself to study a subject I hated.

When you do something that is meaningful to you, you don’t need motivational videos of people who tell you about stories of how they’ve managed to go through impossible hardships to get where they are.

You don’t need to hear someone tell you that you need to want something more than you want to breathe in order to be successful.

You don’t need uplifting music in the background.

You don’t need to remind yourself that the goal will make everything worth it.

You don’t need to ask for people’s approval.

You don’t need any of that. And when you do, it’s your mind telling you that your goals are not aligned with your highest values, because when they are, and you’re pursuing something meaningful, you become completely immersed, and engaged.

“Motivation is a symptom of non-engaged people” Demartini

That’s what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about in Flow. When you’re doing something that’s truly engaging, you stop paying attention to time, you’re not distracted by negative emotion. But that’s not enough. Meaning is only in the activity, it’s more than that. The activity has to come as a result of the recognition of what is congruent with your highest values. You can become engaged in a mindless game and completely lose yourself, but when you’re done, you’ll feel guilt and sorrow. But when you engage yourself in an activity that puts you in a state of flow while helping you achieve your Telos, Chief Aim, and is consistent with you truly find valuable then you’re ticking all the boxes.


6. Final Thoughts 

Whenever I try to challenge an idea, I try to first consider its opposite. In this case, I try to imagine what it would be like to live a life that is not purposeful. And the only way I can imagine such a life is if I was living according to someone else’s ideas of what’s important. I think introverts, particularly if they were agreeable, would be afraid to define their goals without looking for external validation. And that will inevitably lead to regret.

If you’re introverted and agreeable and unhappy, try harder to discern the signals you’re sending to yourself. It’s likely you’re playing someone else’s game, and it’s more than likely that playing your own game would lead to a more fulfilled life. It’s tempting to define your life in terms you don’t identify with because it might seem safer that way, but it’s not. You’re better off taking a ‘risk’ and trying to live authentically. Even if you have to upset some people along the way, I think you’ll be doing yourself and everyone around you a huge favor in the long run.

A great book on this topic is Quiet by Susan Cain. 



Link to the Demartini interview: https://www.the-entourage.edu.au/blog/living-your-highest-values-an-interview-with-dr-john-demartini/#.WpQtfehuY2x







Dealing with Creative Destruction and Mobile Cheese

“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson is a book that tells the story of how different mice dealt with the dilemma of sudden change. Every day, a couple of mice would feed off of the same cheese, and then one day, the cheese was gone, and now the mice had to figure out what they were going to. Some mice are quick to respond to change and adjust their behavior and expectations, and then go on looking for new cheese, while other mice just curse their luck and get paralyzed by the unexpected change.

With people, income source is the obvious parallel. In a world where technological disruption has become the norm, and rules are constantly changing every day, re-inventing oneself constantly has become compulsory for survival. One might have a job as a taxi driver, but now with the introduction of companies like Uber and Lyft into the marketplace, he might have had to change jobs before more damage was done. Of course, change always comes at a price, but there is little sense in resisting it the inevitable.

The change that the author is talking about could extend to areas beyond income source. Consider romantic relationships or even friendships. At some point, we might have expected to get certain highs from people we’ve grown to like and trust. And then suddenly, they’re no longer with us, or we become disillusioned or bored or both. The initial reaction is always fear and outrage, but the eventual recourse will always be the same. Adapt or die.

There are countless examples of ‘creative destruction’, a term coined by Joseph Schumpeter, in our modern economy. Travel agencies have been replaced by online travel sites, traditional media (TV) is becoming obsolete thanks to the internet (youtube), and traditional bookstores such as Barnes and Noble are leaving their seat at the table for Tech giant Amazon.

So the common theme, whether on an individual level or corporate, whether financial or personal, is reacting well to change when it inevitably knocks on our doors (or tears our doors down altogether).

But reacting well to change is difficult.

Oftentimes, we react brashly instead of responding thoughtfully. We follow fads and subscribe to new herd-think rules that are supposed to be our salvation, we look outwards for inspiration, we seek the advice of gurus who have things figured out and subscribe to 110 newsletters about how the game should now be played. We look for ‘hacks’ and quick fixes. We look at ‘overnight’ success stories and discount the value of hard work.

We fail to look inwards. We fail to fight for the values that shape who we are, we fail to take stock of our own character, we fail to be authentic and real. We become cheap copies of what is real, and real copies of everything that’s fake.

We fail to embody the message that the inevitable wave of creative destruction is explicitly informing us of. Be creative and be bold. Instead, of looking inwards to find out how we can authentically do that, we cloud our minds with countless ideas, most of which are contradictory and devoid of substance, and we end up running around in loops and wondering how time keeps getting away from us.

Our lives turn into a tragedy instead of a triumph, and we never stop to contemplate why. We persist. We move faster in that same loop and we invite others to join in, in good faith of course.

Until one day, when nothing seems to be working anymore, we’re forced to take a step back, maybe even 5 steps back, and re-examine the premises underlying our mental models of the world. We wake up. We pay attention. We stop listening to noise and start paying attention to facts. We stop ourselves from hastily articulating our favorite, memorized manifestations of folk wisdom, and begin to think critically. To look in places where we least want to look. To grow suspicious of the very ideas that we’ve taken for granted. And then, we realize how much smaller our own world becomes. But paradoxically, we also realize how much larger it could be.

When you look closer

A recurring phenomenon in life is the inevitable change in your perception of people, and the rule is: the more you know someone, the richer the representation you have of them, and as a result, the more your perception will have changed.

When you first meet someone, they leave a first impression. Sometimes it’s positive, other times, negative. You meet them a few more times, and still you’re not really sure if you have a perfect read on them, but you think you do and based on that judgement, the relationship either gets deeper or falls apart.

But regardless of how many times you see this person, whether it’s 5 or 50, you’re seeing a distortion of who that person is. You know absolutely nothing about their history, their background, their real thoughts and feelings, what the people who know them the most think about them, their family, their secrets, their potentially malicious intentions, their future, their dreams, their integrity, their value system, their mental health.

And yet, based on few simple heuristics and lazy thinking, you make your decision to either proceed in this relationship or not. It’s actually quite miraculous that anyone of us decides to proceed at all. It could very well be that the person beneath the facade has the worst intentions towards us and is deliberately setting up a trap.

So how do we deal with that unfortunate reality?

Be alert.

Like most things, a lot easier said than done. Watch carefully what the person does and says, and take them both very seriously, and keep track. Put your memory to good use and if you can’t do that, then document.

If we are to believe, and it’s not a stretch to believe, that we are indeed a collection of multiple personalities, then it is plausible that at any given moment one of the hidden personalities will shine through, unexpectedly, in a moment of laziness. It’s even important we notice that in ourselves. In fact, it’s especially important to notice it in ourselves.

I would think that’s exactly what self awareness is. Watching out for our behaviors and noticing when something is off. The keenness of obersevation should especially be high with other people.

People slip up all the time. Spend enough time with someone who has malicious intentions, and no matter how well they try to conceal it, they’ll slip up. It’s only a matter of time. Sometimes, if you’re naive and forgiving, you’ll let it pass. You’ll give the person the benefit of the doubt, and that’s acceptable, but when you see signs multiple times, it’s time to make a move, or you’re dinner.

It’s rare to make these decisions because things are never black or white. Dangerous people will never walk around with ‘danger’ stuck on their foreheads, and it’s a lot harder to detect certain kinds of dangers.

Some people are dangerous not because they might kill you, but because they might systematically try to cloud your judgement. Some people are dangerous, not because they want make your life hell, but because they want to make your life great, so you’ll be afraid to leave them. Some people are dangerous, not because they want something you have, but because they will work very hard to make you think that they have something you want.

Human beings are dangerous in an infinite number of ways. They’re also great in an infinite number of ways. The best skill you could probably pick up in life is gaining the ability to accurately recognise both as fast as possible. Your life depends on it.

Being Cast Away

The Tom Hanks movie ‘Cast Away’ has always lingered there somewhere in my subconscious. There’s something about that idea that has always appealed to me. It’s kind of like a symbolic representation of a dream I have. Being cast away into a land of the unknown, with everything deconstructed, no safety, comfort, or security. The only thing that exists is potential and the only needs that exist are the primordial ones.

There’s a kind of purity to that image, and it’s impossible to find in the real world. Everything is cluttered, there’s nothing but messy, organized, accidental, and purposeful manifestations of years of societal tinkering. The environments are well defined, the routes are all outlined, there is nothing but order, too much order. But the destination is unknown, it’s a by-product of something far too complex to understand. And you’re only a node, a cog, a link, a rope.

In the empty Island, there’s nothing but nature. But it’s nature still undefined, still pure. And you have the opportunity to manufacture a new reality, out of FedEx boxes, out of remains of the old society that you deem useful.

Isn’t that the archetypical hero journey? To find the lost objects, and bring them back into use, for a more meaningful purpose. A pair of ice skates could result in a few hours of pleasure, or it could result in the difference between survival and death.

You want nothing but the essentials on the island. Food, water, and a friend to talk to, and maybe a creative avenue. That’s it. Well, that could be hell, or it could be transformational beyond belief. It could lead to undiscovered skills such as fish hunting, swimming, building. What would happen to people if they were pushed beyond their comfortable self-imposed limitations?

Could it be that stripping oneself of all the clutter around him lead to superpowers unrealized? Maybe. It’s worth finding out.