How San Francisco Property is Too Cheap and Too Expensive


A quarter acre lot in San Francisco should cost a lot more than it does.

A three bedroom home in the Bay Area should cost a lot less than it does.

We're staying in a place this summer that fits both. It's too cheap and too expensive.

Anyone with half a brain can see the stupidity of NIMBY planners in SF who restrict new construction, renovations, and rentals such that housing prices are nuts. A seven mile square area with huge demand and hardly any structures taller than three stories is crazy. The overpriced properties are easy to spot, and so are the reasons why.

But regulations have even more bizarre consequences. They create both surpluses and shortages. Under and overpricing, mixing all the signals that emerge in a free market and help people adjust resources and behavior to create the most winners and biggest wins.

The house we're staying in is a great example. The owners weren't allowed to rent any of it out for five years, even though it has three separate floors with separate units. (They can't even replace the windows to allow more airflow when it gets hot.) Forget tearing it down for something that can house more people. This quarter acre slice of property is stuck with the shell of a home left here decades ago when demand was much lower.

This drives up the price of the unit as a single family home, making it overpriced in that category. But as a quarter acre city lot, it's underpriced. The value of this lot for a multi-unit apartment or condo complex has to be many times greater. But it can't be put to those uses, so it remains a stupidly overpriced house and tantalizingly underpriced piece of property.

What Hayek called the pretense of knowledge on the part of city thugs is visible everywhere here, creating what Mises called planned chaos.

San Francisco Residential Property Haiku


Too cheap for its place

Too expensive for its size

Slow death museum

The Status of Shower Thoughts


Yesterday, my colleague Dave said something like, 'I want to make sure this isn't just a shower thought'. We were discussing changes to our product, and he wanted clarity on what motivated the proposed changes, what we want to accomplish with them, and how we'd verify whether it worked. He was offering a gut-check on whether we were falling prey to shiny object syndrome.

His concern was valid and useful. But I found his choice of words kinda funny. It made me think about the status of shower thoughts.

When Dave thinks 'Shower thoughts', he thinks half formed epiphany that's not very serious. An idea that ranks pretty low among other kinds of ideas. Silly until proven brilliant. At least I think he does, it's possible I'm wrong. Sorry Dave, but you're stuck as an illustration in this post either way.

When I think 'Shower thoughts', I think of the climactic eureka of a long, unseen, subconscious process that's probably the best idea you've ever had. An idea that ranks at the very top among other kinds of ideas. Brilliant unless proven silly. The shower thought is a sacred thing.

Not all shower thoughts are good. But all shower thoughts are serious. I give them greater weight than ideas that come from planning exercises, whiteboarding, researching, testing, or other forms of idea generation. In my experience, the highest quality ideas - those that move me the farthest from current paradigms to fertile new ground - are shower thoughts. Arthur Koestler's phenomenal book The Act of Creation offers a theory for why this is. It's a favorite of mine, and helped me understand my own mental processes better and more fully embrace shower thoughts.

I'm not opposed to testing and research and other conscious, rational methods of idea generation, and shower thoughts need critical examination before they're operationalized. But if you shook me awake in the middle of the night and asked whether I'd prefer to take a big risk on a shower thought or a well-tested, focus-grouped idea, I'd yell, "Shower thought", then ask why the hell you're in my house in the middle of the night shaking me awake when you could just wait until the morning and read the blog post I write about it.

Kids Think About the Big Stuff


Walking to the office today I was listening to music I used to listen to in my teens. It was good, but it didn't move me like it did then. I miss those days when it was so easy to lose myself completely in a song. Music would take me to the depths of my soul, and make me feel contact with the most foundational questions.

These days, music is a good way to change my mood at the margins and an enjoyable experience. It's rare that it comes close to the penetrating depth of experience it once did. Part of the reason is that now my mind is mostly full most of the time. And not just full of sports scores and funny stories (though thankfully there is some of that), but full of hard problems with business and family and, occasionally, philosophy. Music is great, but I've got stuff to figure out and fast.

When I was younger, my jobs didn't involve much deep problem solving. I manned a cash register at a golf course, delivered papers, bagged groceries, and worked construction. The tasks and hours were known and the problems repeats. My personal life was about friends and fun. None of that was particularly hard or deep. So music enabled me to go deep on what was left. Stuff like the meaning of life and my own potential and purpose.

The questions and ideas I pondered as a kid were more important in the grand scheme of things than those I spend most of my time on today. This isn't self-condemnation, because I think part of the answer to my place in the cosmos is to solve the problems I'm working on now, which require more grounded, near-term focus. Still, that youthful ability to disconnect from the day and ask the eternal questions is a great thing.

A little more music, a little less podcast and audiobook listening. A little more mind-wandering, a little less problem-solving. Sounds kinda nice.

When Taking Away Options Increases Solutions


When you have a lot of resources, it can blind you to solutions. You face a struggle, and you assess your myriad options. They all have big drawbacks and high resource consumption, so you're stuck with no solution or one that might cost more than it's worth.

Then you take away all those resources and make the problem a must-solve. Somehow, you find one. And it's pretty efficient.

I don't know why, but it's just too much to ask of the human brain to find these solutions when we don't really have to. Resource constraints force exploration of corners of the brain otherwise missed.

Always Simpler


Six years ago I had an idea. I thought it was simple. I set out to build it.

In my head, it would go like this:

Simple idea --> traction --> add a bit more complexity --> traction --> add a bit more complexity --> etc.

Eventually, this simple idea would be a massive mothership.

In reality, it went like this:

Simple idea --> little traction --> make it simpler --> little traction --> make it simpler --> bit of traction --> make it simpler --> almost meaningful traction --> make it simpler --> traction --> etc.

Eventually, the idea might be simple enough to be massive.

At every step, I thought I'd stripped to the bone. Made every non-core compromise. At every step, the big discovery and the big challenge was figuring out I hadn't simplified enough.

The simpler a big idea or product, the harder it is to build.

I'm still trying to simplify every day.

If You Hate it You’re Not the Audience


A lot of people who work in venture capital hate the show Shark Tank.

They feel it portrays an unrealistic image of investing; one that will spread and cause viewers to misunderstand the business and then go on to make terrible choices because of it.

There's definitely a bit of the Theoretical Man argument going on here, but it's more than that. The investors who hate the show aren't the show's audience. They misunderstand the show's purpose (besides to entertain).

They compare the show against what they would put in a TV show about investing, which is all the stuff they think is important. But they're so deep in the business, they don't realize how many steps a total noob must take to even understand what they consider basics.

I love Shark Tank. I used to watch it with my kids. It exposed them to tons of new concepts. The idea of building a business with someone else's money was novel. The realization that you've got to have a story that's compelling enough to convince the holders of that money to join. The concept of a "pitch". The understanding that a good pitch and a good company aren't always the same thing. The realization that investors can be wrong and can be jerks. And founders can be nice or idiots. The knowledge that investors might collaborate or compete with each other on deals while remaining friends.

It doesn't even matter if the stories are real or realistic. Uninitiated viewers take away the basic insights. These are so basic that VCs forgot everyone doesn't know them. But if someone doesn't know it yet, there's no way they'll understand a Medium article about power laws and term sheets.

When you hate something popular, it's prudent to pause and consider there's probably something in it that is doing something for those who love it. You don't have to love it, but it's probably not supposed to serve your ends anyway. If you can discover the reason it brings value to others, you might navigate the world more effectively and enjoy it more.

(Still trying to understand this when it comes to Old Town Road. I'm not ready to give up yet...there must be something valuable in this song to those who like it).

How to Weaponize ‘Normal’ for Your Benefit


It's 80 degrees in San Francisco today, so naturally they've issued a heat advisory.

This is comical, since I've lived in Charleston, South Carolina for the last decade where it hits 100 and humid. But it's to be expected. 80 isn't normal here. Abnormal is harder for humans to handle than any objective material suffering.

I remember when we first moved to Charleston and saw alligators dotting the banks of neighborhood ponds, right behind houses with small children and no fences. This is crazy. Unless it's normal. My knowledge of gator risks hasn't changed at all, but my fear of living on a Southern pond has disappeared. Just because no one else seems to think it crazy. I guess it isn't.

Every time an inch of snow falls in the South, northerners have a good laugh at the overreaction. I grew up in Michigan, and the need to start your car 20 minutes before driving was totally normal. No one treated it like a big deal so it wasn't.

The normalization effect is amusing, but it can be really powerful if you weaponize it for your own purposes. Whatever stuff interests you, or whatever you want to accomplish can be viewed as crazy fantasy or totally doable. It depends who you're around.

I've written before that I don't think it's primarily genetics or connections that cause the children of so many actors and athletes to become actors and athletes. I think it's the normalization. Those career paths are seen as obvious, almost given, and therefore they are.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, put yourself in environments where that's not super special. If you want to make a living selling art, put yourself in environments where nobody thinks that's odd. If you want to avoid a stale, stagnant life, find environments where people are shocked and aghast at stale, stagnant lives.

Humans can be perfectly content living on the side of cliffs, in floodplains, on marshes, in deserts, around deadly predators, horrible insects, frozen tundras, remote plains, and dense, dirty cities. As long as others seem to think nothing of it, neither will you.

Go where your idea of life, or your biggest challenge is considered normal and you'll increase the odds of achieving it.

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.

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How San Francisco Property is Too Cheap and Too Expensive


A quarter acre lot in San Francisco should cost a lot more than it does.

A three bedroom home in the Bay Area should cost a lot less than it does.

We're staying in a place this summer that fits both. It's too cheap and too expensive.

Anyone with half a brain can see the stupidity of NIMBY planners in SF who restrict new construction, renovations, and rentals such that housing prices are nuts. A seven mile square area with huge demand and hardly any structures taller than three stories is crazy. The overpriced properties are easy to spot, and so are the reasons why.

But regulations have even more bizarre consequences. They create both surpluses and shortages. Under and overpricing, mixing all the signals that emerge in a free market and help people adjust resources and behavior to create the most winners and biggest wins.

The house we're staying in is a great example. The owners weren't allowed to rent any of it out for five years, even though it has three separate floors with separate units. (They can't even replace the windows to allow more airflow when it gets hot.) Forget tearing it down for something that can house more people. This quarter acre slice of property is stuck with the shell of a home left here decades ago when demand was much lower.

This drives up the price of the unit as a single family home, making it overpriced in that category. But as a quarter acre city lot, it's underpriced. The value of this lot for a multi-unit apartment or condo complex has to be many times greater. But it can't be put to those uses, so it remains a stupidly overpriced house and tantalizingly underpriced piece of property.

What Hayek called the pretense of knowledge on the part of city thugs is visible everywhere here, creating what Mises called planned chaos.

San Francisco Residential Property Haiku


Too cheap for its place

Too expensive for its size

Slow death museum

The Status of Shower Thoughts


Yesterday, my colleague Dave said something like, 'I want to make sure this isn't just a shower thought'. We were discussing changes to our product, and he wanted clarity on what motivated the proposed changes, what we want to accomplish with them, and how we'd verify whether it worked. He was offering a gut-check on whether we were falling prey to shiny object syndrome.

His concern was valid and useful. But I found his choice of words kinda funny. It made me think about the status of shower thoughts.

When Dave thinks 'Shower thoughts', he thinks half formed epiphany that's not very serious. An idea that ranks pretty low among other kinds of ideas. Silly until proven brilliant. At least I think he does, it's possible I'm wrong. Sorry Dave, but you're stuck as an illustration in this post either way.

When I think 'Shower thoughts', I think of the climactic eureka of a long, unseen, subconscious process that's probably the best idea you've ever had. An idea that ranks at the very top among other kinds of ideas. Brilliant unless proven silly. The shower thought is a sacred thing.

Not all shower thoughts are good. But all shower thoughts are serious. I give them greater weight than ideas that come from planning exercises, whiteboarding, researching, testing, or other forms of idea generation. In my experience, the highest quality ideas - those that move me the farthest from current paradigms to fertile new ground - are shower thoughts. Arthur Koestler's phenomenal book The Act of Creation offers a theory for why this is. It's a favorite of mine, and helped me understand my own mental processes better and more fully embrace shower thoughts.

I'm not opposed to testing and research and other conscious, rational methods of idea generation, and shower thoughts need critical examination before they're operationalized. But if you shook me awake in the middle of the night and asked whether I'd prefer to take a big risk on a shower thought or a well-tested, focus-grouped idea, I'd yell, "Shower thought", then ask why the hell you're in my house in the middle of the night shaking me awake when you could just wait until the morning and read the blog post I write about it.

Kids Think About the Big Stuff


Walking to the office today I was listening to music I used to listen to in my teens. It was good, but it didn't move me like it did then. I miss those days when it was so easy to lose myself completely in a song. Music would take me to the depths of my soul, and make me feel contact with the most foundational questions.

These days, music is a good way to change my mood at the margins and an enjoyable experience. It's rare that it comes close to the penetrating depth of experience it once did. Part of the reason is that now my mind is mostly full most of the time. And not just full of sports scores and funny stories (though thankfully there is some of that), but full of hard problems with business and family and, occasionally, philosophy. Music is great, but I've got stuff to figure out and fast.

When I was younger, my jobs didn't involve much deep problem solving. I manned a cash register at a golf course, delivered papers, bagged groceries, and worked construction. The tasks and hours were known and the problems repeats. My personal life was about friends and fun. None of that was particularly hard or deep. So music enabled me to go deep on what was left. Stuff like the meaning of life and my own potential and purpose.

The questions and ideas I pondered as a kid were more important in the grand scheme of things than those I spend most of my time on today. This isn't self-condemnation, because I think part of the answer to my place in the cosmos is to solve the problems I'm working on now, which require more grounded, near-term focus. Still, that youthful ability to disconnect from the day and ask the eternal questions is a great thing.

A little more music, a little less podcast and audiobook listening. A little more mind-wandering, a little less problem-solving. Sounds kinda nice.

When Taking Away Options Increases Solutions


When you have a lot of resources, it can blind you to solutions. You face a struggle, and you assess your myriad options. They all have big drawbacks and high resource consumption, so you're stuck with no solution or one that might cost more than it's worth.

Then you take away all those resources and make the problem a must-solve. Somehow, you find one. And it's pretty efficient.

I don't know why, but it's just too much to ask of the human brain to find these solutions when we don't really have to. Resource constraints force exploration of corners of the brain otherwise missed.

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.

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