Strength in Memories


Strength in memories
Identities
Now come back to me
As unity
The stuff that moved me
When I was young
Holds a power still
Can come undone
Objectivity
Is no option
This one life that is
Where I stopped in
Can't get out of what
Gets inside me
Wired into systems
Can't divide me
Into little parts
Cleanly broken
Instead I'm fused in
Things heard, spoken
From day of first breath
To day of death
An unfolding arc
That beckons breadth
Unseen not unfelt
This changeless core
Animated by
The call to more
So bring it home now
Place where it starts
Is where to gain more
Depth for new parts

Playing Chess with the Market


I just talked to an entrepreneur friend of mine and he had a great phrase for what building a company is like.

Playing chess with the market.

I love this because building a business isn't so much about right and wrong, luck or skill. The outcome is determined by a series of moves made in response to another player whose mind you can never read. There are causal chains, but they're all theoretical. They assume certain actions by the other player that may or may not happen. In fact, it's like a never ending series of chess matches against a rotating cast of random opponents, where moves that worked the first five times stop working the next, and patterns you learned change.

This framing reveals how hard it is and make the challenge exciting. It also depersonalizes it a bit. Of course you won't get every move right or win every game. But you try to learn each time. Treating it like a game is a huge cognitive relief.

The Benefits of My Evangelical Upbringing


I grew up in a pretty conservative Midwestern protestant situation. I was homeschooled and church was a big part of our social life. There are plenty of things to mock and joke about in this milieu (and I do!) but there are some under-appreciated benefits.

There are benefits to not getting into sex, drugs, and partying as a young person, but that's not what I've appreciated most. As time has passed, I've seen other benefits I didn't think about at the time. I took them for granted and assumed they were omnipresent.

Those benefits are philosophical. Epistemological, not aesthetic.

While not ubiquitous in Christian upbringings, the particular niche of Evangelical Protestantism I came up in was very focused on intensive Bible study, theology, and examining questions of meaning, free will, good and evil. There was an expectation that you should be able to logically prove every belief, examine arguments against it, and wrestle until you had coherent, non-contradictory ideas. Discussing claims made in sermons and questioning their accuracy, alignment with scripture, or logical consistency was normal.

There was utmost respect for reason and analytic philosophy. Difficult scriptures were studied in depth, arguments on all sides examined, original Greek and Hebrew checked, historical context learned, and commentaries consulted.

I always enjoyed this. I liked studying the Bible and various theologians. I loved their debates and disagreements. I was fascinated by questions of fate vs. free will.

There was a sense in which we Christians always felt the need to, "Be ready always to give an answer for the hope that you have". You didn't just believe stuff, it was incumbent on you to really examine it and understand it, and be able to explain it even to antagonists. I remember diving into apologetics and preparing to be attacked from all sides by classmates and professors when I took college philosophy classes.

I was disappointed.

Everyone in the class was an atheist (this was the very early 2000's, before the resurgence of spiritual interest common today), but reflexively so. It was a default setting. No one had any arguments. None of them seemed to have examined anything. And it didn't seem to trouble them. I was looking for some fights! I wanted to challenge and be challenged. It was as if everyone - even those wanting to major in philosophy - didn't much care to examine the most fundamental questions of being and existence and morality and meaning. They would laugh at or dismiss ideas sometimes, but freeze up if asked to explain.

This was a real shock to me.

I had one TA who asked any theists to raise their hand. I was the only one. Some people snickered. He said, "Don't laugh. All the best analytic philosopher were theists. Aquinas would run circles around most of you. Do you know why? Have you engaged this stuff?" He was an atheist moving towards agnosticism, but he had mad respect for anyone who did good philosophy (I later discovered he became a Bhuddist and quit academia. He was my favorite philosophy professor, so I'm not surprised). There was one other philosophy prof who was a Christian, and everyone was afraid to debate him. I think he dreamed in airtight symbolic logic.

I didn't realize at the time that the intellectual tradition I'd inherited in all those Bible studies and debates and books was straight from Aristotle. The more I studied the history of philosophy, the more I realized I wasn't the one who was wacky or out of step. Questions of God and religion had been taken the most seriously by the most serious thinkers. The whole Protestant project was, in a way, a big philosophical "eff you" to those who said don't think for yourself, just act out the rituals. It was a celebration of reason. (This is not to say Orthodoxy and Catholicism do not retain a lot of sound philosophy, or that Protestantism always does. All religion tends to have interesting ideas at its core, and devolve into a less rigorous social movement subject to capture as it grows).

I often wonder how people go about their lives acting on important core ideas and assumptions without seeming to have any interest in or feel any necessity to examine, define, and make logical sense of those ideas and assumptions. Being wrong is one thing. Being uninterested in examining tacit truth claims is another.

I'm not looking down on people who are uninterested in or not conversant in inquiry into these things. I just don't understand it. And because I value getting to the why of things, I am very grateful that I grew up in an arena that prized the most foundational questions, and expected one to be intellectually and morally accountable for their own beliefs - and comfortable being a bit of an outsider.

I must've seemed so weird. An early teen spending hours underlining, cross-referencing, diagramming, checking translations in my Hebrew-Greek keyword Bible, writing arguments and counter-arguments. Fortunately in my social circles, it wasn't weird at all.

Making Peace with Getting Older


My brother just turned 38. He said getting older was more difficult at 35 and 36, but now he's adjusted to it and doesn't mind at all.

I'd never thought about this explicitly, but it felt true for me too. I'm 36. In my early 30's, I still felt young and, like all the rest of my life up until then, never really thought about age. But age 34, 35, and 36 all seemed to be big turning points. Somewhere in there, framing changes. Nothing I do in my life from here on out has any additional value for being done "early".

Of course we all love being thought highly of by others, but being seen as ahead of my peers by the outside world isn't the real thing I cared about. It's not just a sense of drive, speed, and trajectory. It's a sense of freedom and looseness. Early in the game, you feel you've got enough time to pivot and make up for just about any crazy thing. There are infinite re-inventions and new directions. The course is so early that small deviations can result in huge changes in the long term.

Visualize it in a really practical way we're all familiar with. Investment projections. You've seen those charts that show likely return at age 70 or whatever of $100 a month invested from age 20. If you don't start until 30, the difference at 70 is immense. (At historical rates, we're talking $3.9M if you start at 20, and $1.1M if you start at 30. Play around here if you want.)

Now apply that not just to finances, but everything. The later you go, the smaller the end of life impact. There is a sense in which leverage decreases as you age.

But that's not all there is. Leverage also increases, because you begin every day with a larger accumulation of human capital than the day before. You have more to deploy on every move you make. You don't start from zero. You don't have as much time as when you were young, but you have more of everything else.

After turning 36 last year, and especially after moving into an advisor role for my first company Praxis at the end of 2019, I no longer feel pained by aging. I closed chapter one in The Life and Times of Isaac Morehouse (a running joke with my kids). Young man Isaac started and built a company, made a difference, overcome a lot of shit, had fun, and handed the reigns to the next generation. Medium-aged Isaac is just beginning. And he's got all kinds of assets no young man ever could.

It's a great feeling. I like aging. I like change, and I'm not super sentimental. No, I don't like the increased need for body maintenance, but everything else about getting older is fun, or at least not unfun. I've more than made my peace with it.

At least for now. There's probably a next tier, maybe when my kids start to leave the house and set off, where I'll have to make peace with a new stage.

AFC Championship Haiku


Titans versus Chiefs

Smart, simple, boring, versus

Complex, exciting

Different Kinds of Know-How Seem to Have Different Rates of Entropy; But Why?


I recently ran a workshop for Praxis participants on job interviewing. It was so so. I didn't do a great job and wasn't particularly pleased with the outcome.

I used to do workshops like that a lot. And I got pretty good at them. It's been several years and I only took about 5 minutes to prep, assuming I'd pick right up where I left off. But apparently, running a workshop is not like riding a bike.

It got me thinking about different types of learning, different types of know-how and mastery. It doesn't matter how many years it's been, riding a bike and swimming are no harder. You learn them once and the know-how sticks, without decay.

Why aren't workshops like this?

It can't be due to the physical nature of biking and swimming. Because basketball is not the same. Even if the form of a jump-shot stay largely intact (only if you put in enough reps when you learned, even then the form can start to decay a bit), the shooting percentage plummets after long absences from the game. It's true, getting the percentage back up to playing-days average is quicker than originally getting to that average, but not very quick.

And language is not a physical task, but seems more like bike riding. I can't speak Spanish. Until I visit a Spanish speaking country. Then the same proficiency (not very, but enough to get around) I first learned as a teen comes back in almost an instant, maybe an hour or two. Same for accents and impersonations and parts of songs. If I learned years ago, it never really decays. Worst case, I forget, hear it one more time, and it's right back.

I can't spot an easy pattern in the, "Need to stay in practice to keep it sharp", and, "Never really decays", types of know-how (I'm not saying knowledge, because that seems more like info only, and I'm not saying mastery because I'm not a master at most of these examples). It's like different kinds of know-how have different rates of entropy, and different refresh rates. It's a lot easier for me to get back to up to snuff with running workshops than it is with basketball (even if I control for the physical decay of being slower with age. Shooting percentage alone is harder to re-acquire).

It makes me wonder about other kinds of know-how that I've never really ignored for long periods. What about social intelligence? What would happen if I was a hermit for half a decade? Would I lose my ability to work a room? How about writing? I've never not written regularly since I first learned. Is it more like bike-riding or basketball? If lost, how fast could I refresh and get back to where I am now?

I've always been fascinated with the process of learning, the act of creation, the art of obtaining tacit and explicit knowledge, the interplay of the conscious and subconscious in the brain, and the idea of "embodied" knowledge.

The more I think and dig, the less I understand the human brain (biologically) and human knowledge (epistemically and ontologically).

PS - It's probably also true that I am not a perfectly accurate judge of my then vs. now skill levels. Self-awareness changes, and memory is imperfect. It's likely I remember myself a better basketball player or speaker than I really was. It's comforting to think after a lackluster performance, "It's just because I'm rusty", instead of "That's about as good as I've ever been."

The Inner Game of Startups, Issue 21


The latest from my private weekly newsletter on building a startup.

Read and subscribe here.

Preparation


I'm trying to get better at preparation.

It may seem weird, but prep gets more important the further I go in my career, not less. It's true that with more experience winging it is easier. But it's also true that with more experience there are far fewer low-stakes, dubious value activities.

I've gotten expert at saying no. That means the stuff I do is disproportionately high value, or high potential. If I'm going to do it it's gotta be worth doing.

And if it's worth doing, it's worth prepping.

Even a 20 minute phone call is worthy of at least as many minutes of prep, background, research, outlining, goal-setting, and getting in the right frame of mind. Maybe two or three times as many.

I've only begun to realize this, and it's a challenge. I'm a snap judgement gut based wing it kind of guy. But the prep pays. If I'm going to show up, I want to do it with intention and focus. I want to know what I'm trying to get.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

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Blog Archives

Archives

Strength in Memories


Strength in memories
Identities
Now come back to me
As unity
The stuff that moved me
When I was young
Holds a power still
Can come undone
Objectivity
Is no option
This one life that is
Where I stopped in
Can't get out of what
Gets inside me
Wired into systems
Can't divide me
Into little parts
Cleanly broken
Instead I'm fused in
Things heard, spoken
From day of first breath
To day of death
An unfolding arc
That beckons breadth
Unseen not unfelt
This changeless core
Animated by
The call to more
So bring it home now
Place where it starts
Is where to gain more
Depth for new parts

Playing Chess with the Market


I just talked to an entrepreneur friend of mine and he had a great phrase for what building a company is like.

Playing chess with the market.

I love this because building a business isn't so much about right and wrong, luck or skill. The outcome is determined by a series of moves made in response to another player whose mind you can never read. There are causal chains, but they're all theoretical. They assume certain actions by the other player that may or may not happen. In fact, it's like a never ending series of chess matches against a rotating cast of random opponents, where moves that worked the first five times stop working the next, and patterns you learned change.

This framing reveals how hard it is and make the challenge exciting. It also depersonalizes it a bit. Of course you won't get every move right or win every game. But you try to learn each time. Treating it like a game is a huge cognitive relief.

The Benefits of My Evangelical Upbringing


I grew up in a pretty conservative Midwestern protestant situation. I was homeschooled and church was a big part of our social life. There are plenty of things to mock and joke about in this milieu (and I do!) but there are some under-appreciated benefits.

There are benefits to not getting into sex, drugs, and partying as a young person, but that's not what I've appreciated most. As time has passed, I've seen other benefits I didn't think about at the time. I took them for granted and assumed they were omnipresent.

Those benefits are philosophical. Epistemological, not aesthetic.

While not ubiquitous in Christian upbringings, the particular niche of Evangelical Protestantism I came up in was very focused on intensive Bible study, theology, and examining questions of meaning, free will, good and evil. There was an expectation that you should be able to logically prove every belief, examine arguments against it, and wrestle until you had coherent, non-contradictory ideas. Discussing claims made in sermons and questioning their accuracy, alignment with scripture, or logical consistency was normal.

There was utmost respect for reason and analytic philosophy. Difficult scriptures were studied in depth, arguments on all sides examined, original Greek and Hebrew checked, historical context learned, and commentaries consulted.

I always enjoyed this. I liked studying the Bible and various theologians. I loved their debates and disagreements. I was fascinated by questions of fate vs. free will.

There was a sense in which we Christians always felt the need to, "Be ready always to give an answer for the hope that you have". You didn't just believe stuff, it was incumbent on you to really examine it and understand it, and be able to explain it even to antagonists. I remember diving into apologetics and preparing to be attacked from all sides by classmates and professors when I took college philosophy classes.

I was disappointed.

Everyone in the class was an atheist (this was the very early 2000's, before the resurgence of spiritual interest common today), but reflexively so. It was a default setting. No one had any arguments. None of them seemed to have examined anything. And it didn't seem to trouble them. I was looking for some fights! I wanted to challenge and be challenged. It was as if everyone - even those wanting to major in philosophy - didn't much care to examine the most fundamental questions of being and existence and morality and meaning. They would laugh at or dismiss ideas sometimes, but freeze up if asked to explain.

This was a real shock to me.

I had one TA who asked any theists to raise their hand. I was the only one. Some people snickered. He said, "Don't laugh. All the best analytic philosopher were theists. Aquinas would run circles around most of you. Do you know why? Have you engaged this stuff?" He was an atheist moving towards agnosticism, but he had mad respect for anyone who did good philosophy (I later discovered he became a Bhuddist and quit academia. He was my favorite philosophy professor, so I'm not surprised). There was one other philosophy prof who was a Christian, and everyone was afraid to debate him. I think he dreamed in airtight symbolic logic.

I didn't realize at the time that the intellectual tradition I'd inherited in all those Bible studies and debates and books was straight from Aristotle. The more I studied the history of philosophy, the more I realized I wasn't the one who was wacky or out of step. Questions of God and religion had been taken the most seriously by the most serious thinkers. The whole Protestant project was, in a way, a big philosophical "eff you" to those who said don't think for yourself, just act out the rituals. It was a celebration of reason. (This is not to say Orthodoxy and Catholicism do not retain a lot of sound philosophy, or that Protestantism always does. All religion tends to have interesting ideas at its core, and devolve into a less rigorous social movement subject to capture as it grows).

I often wonder how people go about their lives acting on important core ideas and assumptions without seeming to have any interest in or feel any necessity to examine, define, and make logical sense of those ideas and assumptions. Being wrong is one thing. Being uninterested in examining tacit truth claims is another.

I'm not looking down on people who are uninterested in or not conversant in inquiry into these things. I just don't understand it. And because I value getting to the why of things, I am very grateful that I grew up in an arena that prized the most foundational questions, and expected one to be intellectually and morally accountable for their own beliefs - and comfortable being a bit of an outsider.

I must've seemed so weird. An early teen spending hours underlining, cross-referencing, diagramming, checking translations in my Hebrew-Greek keyword Bible, writing arguments and counter-arguments. Fortunately in my social circles, it wasn't weird at all.

Making Peace with Getting Older


My brother just turned 38. He said getting older was more difficult at 35 and 36, but now he's adjusted to it and doesn't mind at all.

I'd never thought about this explicitly, but it felt true for me too. I'm 36. In my early 30's, I still felt young and, like all the rest of my life up until then, never really thought about age. But age 34, 35, and 36 all seemed to be big turning points. Somewhere in there, framing changes. Nothing I do in my life from here on out has any additional value for being done "early".

Of course we all love being thought highly of by others, but being seen as ahead of my peers by the outside world isn't the real thing I cared about. It's not just a sense of drive, speed, and trajectory. It's a sense of freedom and looseness. Early in the game, you feel you've got enough time to pivot and make up for just about any crazy thing. There are infinite re-inventions and new directions. The course is so early that small deviations can result in huge changes in the long term.

Visualize it in a really practical way we're all familiar with. Investment projections. You've seen those charts that show likely return at age 70 or whatever of $100 a month invested from age 20. If you don't start until 30, the difference at 70 is immense. (At historical rates, we're talking $3.9M if you start at 20, and $1.1M if you start at 30. Play around here if you want.)

Now apply that not just to finances, but everything. The later you go, the smaller the end of life impact. There is a sense in which leverage decreases as you age.

But that's not all there is. Leverage also increases, because you begin every day with a larger accumulation of human capital than the day before. You have more to deploy on every move you make. You don't start from zero. You don't have as much time as when you were young, but you have more of everything else.

After turning 36 last year, and especially after moving into an advisor role for my first company Praxis at the end of 2019, I no longer feel pained by aging. I closed chapter one in The Life and Times of Isaac Morehouse (a running joke with my kids). Young man Isaac started and built a company, made a difference, overcome a lot of shit, had fun, and handed the reigns to the next generation. Medium-aged Isaac is just beginning. And he's got all kinds of assets no young man ever could.

It's a great feeling. I like aging. I like change, and I'm not super sentimental. No, I don't like the increased need for body maintenance, but everything else about getting older is fun, or at least not unfun. I've more than made my peace with it.

At least for now. There's probably a next tier, maybe when my kids start to leave the house and set off, where I'll have to make peace with a new stage.

AFC Championship Haiku


Titans versus Chiefs

Smart, simple, boring, versus

Complex, exciting

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

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