To Take Credit or Not?

“It is amazing what you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Not even gonna attribute this one (see what I did there?)

Just creating value without worrying about credit is a powerful secret weapon when it comes to effectiveness and building social capital.  A reputation as a generous doer who cares more about project completion than approbation will propel you to great heights.

But don’t you need a brand?  In the digital age, if people can’t find anything about what you do and create, won’t you miss out on opportunities?  Don’t you need to openly share your work and build publicly visible projects and a digital footprint demonstrating your interests and value?

Yes.  Absolutely.  Don’t hide.  Be open.  Review books on Amazon, answer questions on Quora, podcast, blog, engage your interests frequently and openly on the best platforms.  Be findable, knowable, and signal who you are and what you can do for others.

These principles don’t need to be in conflict.  If you publicly show your work, you can do so in a way that doesn’t greedily grub for credit.  You can be generous (not phony or falsely humble) in crediting others.  You can share honestly, not whitewash or over-hype your brand. (Without engaging in failure porn or oversharing to be “authentic”).

I’ve seen people who are good at doing without taking credit. They are tremendously valued in their circle of personal contact, but nowhere else.  They’re missing out on some opportunities.  They are appreciated only by those who know them.

I’ve seen people who are good at publicly sharing their work and building a brand, but who are so quick to take credit for everything both personally and digitally that real life people distrust them.  They are appreciated only by those who don’t know them.

The best is to combine both.

A digital footprint that pisses off your flesh-and-blood acquaintances with exaggeration, posturing, or credit-seeking will kill you long term.  All your opportunities and relationships will remain surface level.  No one wants to feel like every lunch conversation they have with you or every favor you do for them will end up on their blog, woven into some grandiose narrative that’s not exactly accurate.

If you can find ways to share honestly and humbly about what you’re interested in and working on that’s externally visible, while keeping the more internal personal stuff you do private, and looking for unheralded ways to help others, you’ll do best.

My colleague Chuck Grimmett is great at this.  You can find tons of examples of Chuck’s amazing and diverse interests and projects, professional and otherwise.  But I work with Chuck personally every day and I can tell you, what you see on his website is just a tiny sliver of all the value he creates.  The casual observer could easily find Chuck’s areas of interest and expertise, but his personal friends could tell you ten times as many ways Chuck is valuable and awesome.

That’s what you want.

You don’t want every little tiny thing you do for people to immediately be broadcast so that people who know you feel like every bit of value you create is publicly shared.  You want people who know you to say, “Yeah, her online presence is great, but her real-life work is even better.”  You want the show onstage be awesome, but the person backstage to be better.

Do so much that you couldn’t possibly document or take credit for all of it.  Be involved in building so many things and sharing so many ideas that there will be many instances where others get credit for things you’ve done.  Don’t try to correct the record.  Be so prolific no one can catalog it all, not even you.

Don’t hide.  Share.  But share out of interest and openness, not desperation for credit.  And always create a lot of value no one will ever know about except those directly involved.  The tip of the iceberg is pretty impressive above water, but what’s below the surface is even more immense and powerful.

(Ghostwriting and uncredited editing and creative projects for others are good ways to practice)

121 – The Podcast is Back!

After a hiatus, the podcast is back!

There will be a new episode of the Isaac Morehouse Podcast every second Monday going forward. These conversations will cover everything from cryptocurrency, education, finances, anarchism, and more.

In this episode:

  • Why the show is back
  • What to expect going forward
  • A new project from TK & Isaac
  • With a growing startup, two or three podcasts, daily blogging, and a new baby, how does this all work?

Links:


If you are a fan of the show, make sure to leave a review on iTunes.

All episodes of the Isaac Morehouse Podcast are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Interests Aren’t Intrinsic

If you’ve ever observed someone with a deep interest or passion and thought, “Man, I wish I had such a fire for something”, you’ve got it wrong.

They don’t have fire, interest, or passion as much as they have commitment. 

To even obtain deep interest comes from a dogged commitment to pursue something. What it is matters less than how it’s pursued. 

You can have passions too. Pick something and commit to go deep. 

We Will Never Live in a Post-Scarcity World

“Post-scarcity”, “Post-economic”, and “Post-capitalist” are meant to convey a fundamental shift in the principles of human action, wrought by technological advancement.  In reality, they are just cute linguistic hyperbole.

There is no change in wealth that can ever alter the basic science of economics. (In the Smithian and Mengerian tradition, not any of this modern macro math vodoo stuff).  Scarcity is a necessary attribute of reality, inseparable from the laws of identity and non-contradiction.  A is A; not-A is not A.  No matter how many zero-price widgets you have access to, every time you choose one, you forgo something else.

Choice implies scarcity and is impossible without it.  To choose one thing is to not choose something else.  The thing not chosen is the cost of the thing chosen.  Everything has a cost.

This doesn’t mean technological progress can’t radically alter the things we choose and the margins on which decisions are made.  Sending information to someone far away was once very resource intensive in time, horses, etc.  Automobiles and planes brought it down exponentially.  Telegraphs and the internet make communication almost instantaneous for almost zero energy.  This doesn’t mean the transmission of information is exempt from scarcity, hence economic logic.  It only changes the costs, dropping one resource to near zero, while introducing previously unknown costs elsewhere.

Take email.  It’s almost instant and almost zero price.  But this doesn’t mean every human with internet access has all information from all other humans frictionlessly in their brain.  There is a high cost to sifting through the hundreds of emails that come to me every day.  To consume this “free” information is quite costly.  I must forgo other activities and fill up mental space that could be utilized for other tasks.  I must choose, weigh costs and benefits according to my subjective preferences, adjusting when supply and demand shift.  I must economize.

Changes in price do not change the laws of economics.  Neither do changes in preference curves, supply, or demand.  Even if you could cheat death, you could not cheat the laws of economics.  An infinite life still requires choice and trade-offs in each individual moment.  Economics is eternal.

An age of abundant information, food, medicine, or any other resource will radically alter the way we experience life.  But every one of those experiences is still better understood with rational choice theory and the basic economic principles of scarcity, price, supply, and demand.

We sacrifice the most valuable analytical tool in all the human sciences if we let ourselves be fooled by abundance into thinking it alters the basic logic of human action.

What the Warriors Have Done is Amazing

People talk about the Golden State Warriors like the New York Yankees.  As if some monocle-wearing rich asshole deviously rubbed his hands together and plotted to buy all the best players and gain an unfair advantage over the rest of the NBA.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

If I asked you ten, or even five years ago, “What are the odds that a largely irrelevant franchise with no history that hasn’t sniffed a trophy in forty years will be a championship contender and break the Jordan Bulls single season record of wins along with every other record in the book and be a league leading defense and offense with a bunch of jump shooters and no true center and only one undersized top ten draft pick who spent the first three years of his NBA career injured?”, what would you say?  Never gonna happen.

The Warriors have four all-stars, yes.  Three unlikely all-stars, developed through a system like we’ve never seen, with a mental and physical focus that far exceeds their athletic abilities, breaking every ceiling we thought they had.  They built something so unreal that it attracted the best free agent in a decade to join them.  Think about that.  Golden State did not buy greatness by picking up Kevin Durant.  They built greatness out of the discarded pieces of other team’s draft day.  Kevin Durant, already playing alongside another MVP caliber star, left to join this machine.

The machine was built organically.  It was built through the draft, but not with tanking and stacking number ones.  It was built with intelligence, and above all those most elusive and underappreciated aspects of any team: culture and chemistry.

The two C’s that make the New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs perennial powers despite having less flashy talent than nearly everyone else.  Golden State created it out of thin air in just a few short years while Steph was getting injured and no one was looking.  They were never supposed to get past the talent-stacked Clippers, let alone the Spurs, Rockets, Thunder, or the rest of the historically powerful Western Conference.  But they did.  Back to back seasons.  Shattering every record and expectation along the way.  With a bunch of guys nobody would ever try to build and NBA team around.

That’s what Durant joined.  And it was a gamble for him and the Warriors.  How often does a superstar join a system and both get a little worse?  How often do the two C’s remain intact when another ball-dominant player joins a cast that came up together and earned it?

I was skeptical of the KD acquisition.  I loved what the Warriors built and thought they needed more backups in the paint before more scorers.  In the regular season, my fears were borne out.  Steph looked like half of his killer self when KD was on the floor, and the very weaknesses (minus the bogus Draymond Green suspension and a few injuries) that made them vulnerable the previous postseason seemed no better.  Now it looks like my fears were unwarranted, and KD’s iso ability and defensive growth more than made up for what was sacrificed.

That makes it even more amazing.  KD became a better defender – first-team caliber defender – and passer.  Steph, and to a lesser extent Klay, struggled to find their game in the regular season with the addition of KD, but they never showed mental frustration.  They never checked out.  They never became victims or blamers.  When KD went down with injury, Steph showed why he was back to back MVP.  Those last 14 games of the regular season, he was the best player in the NBA.  Then the playoffs started, KD came back, and somehow they both managed to play like the best player on the team.  Then Klay got back in sync.

Dray and the bench still haven’t gotten it going at full speed in the finals, and Zaza has been a downright liability.  Yet they are up 3-0 against one of the greatest rosters I’ve ever seen, and a team that in many ways is their opposite.  Cleveland has more top 10 draft picks than any team in NBA history.  They have the most expensive payroll in history.  They have three guys who were all full-blown team leading all-stars before they came together.  They didn’t build an unlikely machine with culture and chemistry, they bought all the best pieces they could with a singular focus on beating the Warriors.  Cleveland doesn’t have to worry about getting to the finals in the East.  They could bench two of their big three and cruise past their ridiculous Eastern opponents.  They can build entirely for the finals.  Golden State doesn’t have that luxury in the West.

The reason Durant joined this unlikely superpower – culture and chemistry – is the reason they’re up 3-0.  You never see Golden State lose their defensive focus, no matter how many bad calls or bricked shots or big runs or rowdy crowds happen.  They never stop passing to each other.  They never stop pushing the ball.  They never visibly shrug in defeat when the opponent hits a clutch shot (yeah, I’m calling you out LeBron).  They just stay so…composed.

Game one was all interior basketball.  Fluid movement, no turnovers, get to the rim.  Game two was sloppy and loose, but both Steph and KD outplayed LeBron, and Klay outplayed Kyrie.  Dray was Dray while Tristan disappeared for Cleveland (a sign of lacking the two C’s).  Kevin Love did all he could, but it wasn’t enough.  Game three was all about hitting enough dagger threes to stay within arms length as Cleveland went on a tear in front of the home crowd.  Then, in the clutch, it was culture and chemistry that toppled the bitter, eratic, weirdly passive choke job of the Cavs down the stretch.

Call them a superteam if you want.  Say it’s unfair that KD joined.  When I look at Golden State I see David, not Goliath.  I see an unlikely undersized crew who built something no one ever thought we’d see and used it to attract a top-flight star to a franchise no one would’ve expect him to join a few years earlier.  If it’s so easy, why doesn’t another irrelevant franchise like Minnesota just draft a few small, injury-prone late first rounders and build a team that attracts the best free agent in the world?

KD didn’t make this monster team, this monster team created stars out of thin air in Steph, Klay, and Dray, and their once in a lifetime culture and chemistry attracted KD.  It not only attracted him, it has elevated him to the best player in the league today.

Success is the second greatest threat to culture and chemistry.  Let’s see if they can finish an historic sweep this year, and keep that magic going for many years to come.  This is something we’ve never seen before.  We are all witnesses.

I Don’t Like Level Playing Fields

I want a stacked deck, a tilted field, an unfair advantage.  Otherwise, it’s probably not worth playing.

Not just when it favors me.  I’ll take an unlevel playing field in either direction before a level one.

On a macro scale, level playing fields are important.  Laws, norms, and rules work best when they are equal and predictable.  But on a personal scale, I look for unlevel playing fields.

On the downhill side, I don’t want to invest my time and energy into areas where I have no unique advantage.  I don’t play around in the stock market or real estate market because I have no unique skill, insight, or knowledge there.  I have, at best, the same advantage as the average person, so I’d be entering a crowded, level playing field with everyone else.  It’s largely out of my control, with little connection between effort and outcome.

An unfair advantage can be information, skill, relationships, geography, or even risk tolerance.  I put money into crypto early because I believed I had more knowledge and insight than the average person given my monetary economics interest and network of techno-anarchist friends.  I didn’t quit my job and go all-in as a crypto trader, because my advantage over the average person was small, but I did do some.

A friend of mine went big into crypto, even though he started out with less knowledge than me.  His unfair advantages are an incredibly high risk-tolerance and more free time than most.  His comfort with massive risk and hours he can devout to study and experimentation give him a big edge over the average person.  A better place to put resources than in some market where he brings nothing unique to the table.

I put 99% of my time and energy into Praxis.  It’s the area where the field is tilted most in my favor.  I have a unique blend of skill, experience, network, and knowledge that make my efforts in an ed startup bring returns far above the average person.  A dollar or an hour spent on Praxis is likely to return many times more than the same resources spent in any other arena where I’m among a throng of look-alikes on a level playing field.

On the uphill side, I want to change the world, have massive returns, do something truly unique, and achieve greatness.  That doesn’t happen in arenas where I’m basically the same as everyone else, and it might not happen if I’m always playing downhill.

In many ways, Praxis faces an unlevel playing field to our disadvantage.  Most of our customers are choosing between Praxis and college.  Universities enjoy billions of dollars in forcibly extracted wealth, regulations that make degrees mandatory, universal social approval, and decades of compulsory school conditioning young minds to get a degree.  The market in which we operate is far from fair, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why?  Because to really upend the status quo on an unlevel playing field, you can’t get away with a 5% improvement.  Not even a 100% improvement will do.  You need to create something 5-10x better to grab attention and get people to leave the well-worn path.

This means two things: First, to compete on an unlevel playing field, good is not an option.  To survive requires greatness.  In a free market for education, we could survive running a three year program for $50,000 that gives a 50% chance of getting a job.  It’d be better than most colleges.  The uphill battle we face against the status quo means we have to be way, way better, not just marginally better.  One year, zero cost, 98% employment rate better.

Second, unlevel playing fields scare most people away.  Potential competitors see the tilt in favor of the status quo and conclude any effort to fight it would be futile.  Barriers are your friend, because that’s what keeps everyone else from going where you’ll go.

Give me an unfair advantage or disadvantage over a level playing field any day.  I don’t want to be average, I want to have some real fun crushing it with massive returns and/or fighting as an underdog.

Why I Love Robinson Crusoe

The first time I picked up Robinson Crusoe, I was in love.

This guy is stranded on this island, and he doesn’t just survive.  He builds.  I absorbed every detail about his daily accumulation of objects, his development of processes, his constant improvements to his shelter-turned-fortress.  It felt so good, and so right, how every day he made more of what he had.  His own little world was forged from this desolate place.  He was a king.

I took personal pride in what he built.  As the book described the trees he planted being bent to grow around his structures, and the multiple layers of protection, backups, emergency stores, and contingencies, I felt the same way I do crossing an item off my to-do list.

I never understood why I loved that book so much.  I still don’t fully understand it, but I think it has to do with independence, progress, and control.

Two decades after my first encounter with Crusoe, I found myself addicted to a new piece or creative content.  When things with my business or family got really stressful – and stressful in ways that felt largely outside of my control – I’d gravitate to my phone and immerse myself in my new addiction every spare minute waiting for the microwave to beep or the kids to brush their teeth.  Clash of Clans on the iPhone.

I started from scratch and built a village, piece by piece.  Raids were buffeted, resources obtained, and every day, despite attacks and setbacks, progress was made.  Walls became stronger, buildings larger, extraction devices more efficient, armies more powerful.  I felt the same elation that reading Robinson Crusoe generated.  I was methodically conquering the environment to build wealth.  It was all in my hands, stoically fulfilling daily tasks and watching capital accumulate, which made the tasks more efficient and the accumulation greater, over and over until a shack became a castle.  And then a better one.

The catharsis provided by the book and the app felt the same.  A place I get could lost in.  A place where my efforts and persistence alone allowed a steady growth in stores.  It’s the opposite feeling of a traffic jam, where progress is entirely out of your control and feels completely up to chance.  Sure, raids or bad weather could set back my clan or Crusoe’s efforts, but these could be factored in as known risks, and made the game of building with them in mind all the more fun.

I never got excited by Crusoe enjoying the fruits of his labor.  Just the building itself.  I never had a goal with Clash of Clans to gain social approval or win some tournament, I just wanted my village to get stronger.  When I played LEGO as a kid I never wanted to do anything with my buildings and cities, I just wanted to keep building and upgrading them.  I never understood friends who wanted to “play” with them.  They are for building!

There’s something cathartic for me in gradual, steady, individual progress, notched every day.  I guess that’s part of why I blog every day.  I’m amassing a wealth of posts, and no one and nothing can stop me.  It’s my project, and it will steadily grow.

Building is my happy place.

If You’ll Give Up Easily, Give Up Now

When you pursue an opportunity sometimes you meet resistance.  You can push through it or quit.  Both are acceptable and there’s a right time for each.

Here’s my theory: If the resistance is enough to make you quit, you never should have pursued it in the first place.

If I’m going to start something, I try to ask myself, “Am I willing to stick with this even if I face resistance?”  If not, I don’t start.  If yes, I remind myself of this little internal conversation later when I meet the resistance.

Few things make you look worse than to go after something only to take your first ‘no’ for an answer.  And few things are worse for your confidence and focus.  The answer is not to persist in everything – a great many things should be abandoned.  The answer is to learn from the fact that you didn’t care enough to persist, and try to foresee that before you begin the next time.

If it’s not worth a big effort, don’t put in a small effort.  That smaller number of things you go after will get a more intense stream of your attention, be more fun, and succeed more often.