More Public = More Private

It seems people with a high public profile almost never publicly discuss or reveal their private lives and thoughts.  They try to maintain as large a scope as possible for personal privacy.  They don't post pictures of their kids at the park, or status updates about fights with their spouses, except when carefully crafted to present a certain image.  That image is typically constructed and maintained not as a way to let people in to their lives, but as a protective barrier to keep people out of the real thing.

People with no public profile on the other hand, who are not household names, tend to put themselves out there with regularity.  You can learn astounding amounts of highly personal information and get a real slice of the personality of non-celebrities today through the prolific sharing on social media.  People voluntarily offer huge glimpses into their private affairs, perhaps hoping that more people get to know them.

I'm not sure what to make of this.  It seems possible that, the more people know who you are, the fewer people really know you, or at least the harder it is to get to know you; and the fewer people know who you are, the more people have a chance to get to know you easily.  I don't know if this is because your preferences change as you become more well-known, and you no longer seek to be known as much as rare privacy, or if it is because the type of people who put everything about themselves out there all the time are also the type who do not have the qualities that tend to result in becoming famous.  Or maybe it's something else entirely.  I'm not done with this thought.  Maybe I'll come back to it in another post.

Daily Blogging Haiku

To blog ev'ry day

Requires some lackluster posts

This is one of them

What’s Wrong with Social Justice?

Originally posted here.

What does “social justice” mean? To the extent that it is about justice—outputs being aligned with inputs; effect being aligned with cause; reaping reward and punishment in right proportion; proper alignment between humans in regards to what is owed and what is not—it is a wonderful thing. But then it’s justice, and needn’t be modified with the word “social.”

Though I’m not entirely sure what the term means, it is often used in reference to creating more material equality among people.  It implies that material relations between people are unjust, and to bring justice to them requires rewarding some at the expense of others. It aims to make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.

In other words, it is not really justice at all, as justice is about humans being in right relation to an objective (though subjectively discovered and understood) standard of right and wrong that is the same applied to all persons. Social justice is quite the opposite of justice, as it is about a desired relation between individuals against the subjective standard of other individuals. It is not about “where am I in relation to right,” but about “where am I in relation to you." (Most people don’t put themselves in the equation when talking about social justice. Instead they think, “Where is one group of persons in relation to another group of persons.”)

Not only is social justice the opposite of justice as properly understood, it is also a purely material concept. Justice is a moral or spiritual concept, which can have material consequences: you have violated a moral law by stealing, so to right yourself with that law you must pay restitution. Social justice is a material concept, which can have moral or spiritual consequences: This person has fewer possessions than that person; therefore we should feel outrage and redistribute goods. In this regard, social justice is a type of human and material idolatry. It makes other humans the standard against which to measure, and material possessions the unit of measurement.

Still, we wish to help those who need help. If material inequality causes unhappiness for the poor (though I sometimes believe it causes unhappiness for the rich as well through guilt and shame), there are two ways we can attempt to alleviate the unhappiness. The first is to try to reduce the amount of material inequality in the world. I address why such attempts fail in another article. The second way is to help people stop measuring their happiness against others.

Instead of putting it in terms of others, let’s start with you.

You are not free as long as your happiness is contingent upon the relative happiness of those around you. Rather than submit to this covetous instinct and try to raise yourself to their level or bring them down to yours, make the covetousness submit to you. Subdue it, overcome it, conquer it, and be free. It is deeply destructive to you and society to allow covetousness to go unchecked—indeed to feed it and condone it with attempts at making everyone more materially equal.

Do not be mistaken, behind the desire for material equality is the desire to be as good as or better than your neighbor. Those who feel the world is not right so long as some people have more things than others are not far from wishing ill upon the “haves” because they incorrectly assume this will bring good to the “have nots.” For your own happiness to be contingent upon the unhappiness of others—the rich, the talented, the beautiful, the undeserving—is a spiritual sickness. Covetousness may be tolerated and even praised if it is cloaked in the language of “social justice,” but it is covetousness still.

Advocates for material equality sometimes claim that fighting against the sin of greed is the motivation for their meddling with and redistributing the possessions of the rich. It is doubtful taking from someone will help them conquer their greed. Nonetheless, even if the rich are greedy of their possessions, it is better to remove the plank of covetousness from your own eye before removing the sliver of greed from your rich neighbor.

The desire for social justice is really not about society at all. Nor is it about the rich, nor is it about the poor. It is about you. You must win your internal battle. You must overcome the tendency to make your own fulfillment contingent upon the wealth and poverty of others.

We all have the impulse to wish ill upon our neighbors as a way of making us feel better about ourselves. It is destructive, but difficult to overcome. I am ashamed to say I often cheer when a great sports team loses. It makes me feel better about the teams I love to see the teams I don’t lose. This is the same impulse behind activism for social justice, but at least in the arena of sports my desire is harming only my own spirit. I am not acting on that desire and seeking to pass legislation to take the trophies and salaries of the winners and give them to my teams.

How much more destructive when this covetousness leads us to condone and even take joy in the breaking up of a large business or the forcible extraction of money from our rich neighbor. These actions are meant to bring one down ostensibly to bring another up. We enjoy these actions when our heart does not find fulfillment in an objective standard of right, but in comparison to those around us.

I do not mean to imply that any desire for improvement—material or otherwise—is bad or that ambition is bad. Indeed the desire for progress is natural and God-given, and if we ever lose the desire to move and grow it will cause an unhealthy stagnation. The key is to know yourself and discover what it is that you need to seek to be fulfilled. Discover the standard, the direction in which you need to move and channel your ambition and desire for progress toward that. The moment we become seduced by those around us or the standards they have set for themselves we lose sight of our true self and what makes us free and fulfilled.

Do not be a slave to the position of others. Take joy in the success of others and sympathize with their failures. Seek to be free from covetousness, and when you are, others will be drawn to that freedom in you and begin to realize it in themselves.

Political agitation for social justice treats the problem as the remedy. It focuses on making us more materially equal and encourages us to look not within ourselves or a fixed standard of right to find fulfillment, but to our position relative to those around us. It draws more attention to our material positions relative to each other, and distracts from our spiritual position relative to Truth.

It is good to help those who are suffering, but not by making them more like others, but more like themselves. There is no virtue in trying to make people more materially equal; there is great virtue and freedom in finding fulfillment despite material inequality.

It’s Not Always About Scalability

In the business and startup world scalability is the word of the day.  Products that can be built once and used infinite times by infinite consumers are the ultimate prize.  The hype might cause us to overlook other valuable products and services.

The quest for scalability makes sense with software, online products and social media applications.  They can be built relatively cheaply, honed in beta mode, and then sold an infinite number of times at no additional production cost.  But it's not true that scalability equals profitability, nor is it true that the inability to costlessly scale means lack of profitability.

There are countless examples of great products and services that are non-scalable, yet highly profitable.  Personal trainers, legal counsel, health care, home repair, tutoring, food production, etc., etc., are not scalable.  Sure, they realize some economies of scale as they grow, but each new customer means new inputs like labor, raw materials and time.  It's also true that some of these like legal or health advice or general education can be produced once and shared infinitely at zero marginal cost online.  But that is not the same as a visit with a physician who gets to know your unique symptoms and gives a tailored recommendation.

In fact, most of the best things in life are not scalable.  I can't produce quality time with the family, or a night out at a fancy restaurant with my wife once and reuse it over and over at zero cost.  There is no demerit in a product that is not scalable.  One of the great virtues of the things that are scalable is precisely that they free up so much time and so many resources that can then be devoted to things that are not scalable.

Modern technology opens a world of possibility and the ability to realize amazing returns on small investments due to scalability.  But don't overlook the innovation, benefit, and profitability of non-scalable or less scalable products.

Agree With Everything for a Day

A good friend told me he experimented with something totally out-there: agreeing with everything.

He said he made a conscious effort, as a sort of experiment, to find a way to agree with every statement, worldview, attitude and belief he came across, no matter how incorrect or crazy it seemed.  The results were pretty invigorating.  Not so much that he found new value to beliefs he previously discarded, but more because his enjoyment of life, resilience to the unsavory words and actions of others, and ability to find laughter and entertainment all around him increased.

Give it a try, just  for a day.  Resolve to accept everything you hear today as true.  See what happens.  Every opinion has some kind of truth in it, even if twisted or put out of focus in some way.  Look for the nugget you can agree with.

If you're a big sports fan and you see a post about how sports are shallow, and numb children to violence, and are corroding societal values, agree with it.  Find the interpretation of the statement that you could see value in, decide to take the statement as such, and without qualifiers say to yourself, "That's true."  When you see a comment on the post that says, "You small-minded fool, sports are uplifting and a great way to channel aggression and tribal instincts in a playful and non-harmful context.", say to yourself, "That's true", without giving further explanation to the apparent contradiction.  Find a way to be mentally at ease with granting the label "true" to both statements.

I've tried this a few times and have been surprised at just how entertaining and challenging it can be.  It requires some serious mental stretching and imagination, but it's an addictive kind of game; I found myself looking for more and more extreme claims, just to test my ability to treat them as true in some essential form.

Rebuttals and rejoinders and back-and-forth over ideas are fun and productive.  Analysis - the systematic division, categorization, and counter-position of concepts - is fruitful.  But it also comes naturally, and often too emphatically.  Try a radically accepting approach that synthesizes everything, just for the fun of it.

This blog post is true.  So is your objection to it.

Inequality vs. Favoritism

Inequality is inescapable and morally neutral.  There is no virtue in trying to eradicate it, and it makes no sense to talk of reducing it.

My children were born unequal.  They will remain unequal as they learn, achieve and acquire.  Any efforts to make them equal do harm to all parties involved.  Many people agree that I could never make them equal, but maybe I should try to make them more equal.  Equality is not a more or less concept, it is either or.

3 is not equal to 2.  Neither is 4 equal to 2.  It is meaningless to call one more equal to 2 than the other.  We could say that 3 is more equal to 2, because it is only one whole integer removed from 2.  We could say 4 is more equal to 2 because it is divisible by 2, and only one even number removed.  It is entirely dependent on our frame of reference.  Equality between individuals is as impossible as equality between 2 and 3, and degrees of inequality are entirely subjective; a matter of perception, different for all observers and participants.

It is fruitless to attempt to lessen inequality or increase equality.  In fact, it's worse than fruitless, it is destructive.  Not only does it produce arbitrary and unpredictable results which disillusion and demotivate the targets, it fuels strife, envy, and limiting one's potential to the achievements of their perceived betters.

Still, there is something to the desire to create equality.  I would be a terrible parent if I lavished gifts and affirmation, or insult and condemnation, on one child far more than the others.  Not because it would make them more unequal; they are and will always be unequal.  But because my deliberate action of applying the family rules, mores and norms selectively and unfairly would break trust and breed conflict.  I would be engaging in favoritism, either negative or positive.

I will not try to clearly define favoritism, because I think putting it into words actually makes it less understandable than if we stick with our intuitive and tacit understanding of the term.  It is not merely acting differently towards different people.  If I speak Spanish to a Spanish speaking person and English to an English speaking person I am not acting uniformly towards them, but I am not showing favoritism.  Interacting with my unequal children in ways that best resonate with their unique "language" is not favoritism either.  Favoritism is when the spoken or unspoken rules of the house are not consistently applied.

If it is known that doing X chores will get you Y payment, or that treating Dad's iPad carelessly will result in less access to the iPad, these norms must be applied in a uniform way.  I may communicate the norms and remind my children of them in different ways based on their individuality and inequality, but if one kid gets paid more for the same work, or one gets access to the iPad despite throwing it against the wall and the others don't, I'm engaging in favoritism that damages everyone.

Uniform application of the family norms will result in inequality, as is inevitable with unequal children.  Some will get more chores done and earn more money.  Some will have a hard time controlling emotions and end up throwing the iPad and losing access to it.  Their nature and choices will produce unequal results.  There is no evil in this.  To aim at equality puts the focus on outcomes; the relative positions resulting from individual actions within an institutional context.  This is a meaningless point of reference, and incredibly poisonous when chosen as the basis by which to judge institutions.  It devolves into, "Anything that rubs me the wrong way, or anything you excel at must be curbed."  It's a sentiment that coddles and nurtures our least civil and humane and most barbaric and short-sighted tendencies, usually in the name of the opposite.  It is the uniformity of treatment in relation to the understood rules and norms that matters, not the inequality that results.

The attempt to make my children equal, or more equal, or even treat them equally is futile and destructive.  It is enlightening and beneficial to keep an eye out for favoritism and uniform application of the rules.  I have to check my tendency to selectively apply the mostly unspoken institutional arrangements of the family, and it's healthy to audit myself in this way.  But the minute I make equality the goal, confusion and frustration take hold, and the rules become more, not less, arbitrary.

Of course society is not a mirror of the family, but the lessons still apply.  To seek equality, or more equality, or less inequality, is an unproductive pursuit, and typically a mask for other frustrations we're trying to ameliorate where we want the moral sanction of our peers to do so.  Drop it.  Inequality is morally neutral and needn't be resisted or defended.  Focus on reliable and fair institutions that don't systematize and reward favoritism, but make it harder and more costly.

Switch the Default to Neutral

Yesterday I talked about the virtues of remote work.  The point was not to prove remote work is better, but to change the default assumption.  The default position in nearly every firm is that workers must work together in an office.  The prospect of remote work is treated with special scrutiny, and it must prove especially valuable to be tried.  Meanwhile, the default of on-site work is given no scrutiny whatsoever, simply because it is the default.  What happens if we change our default to neutral?

Not just in the case of remote vs. on-site work, but in every choice between methods or worldviews there is much to be gained by switching the default away from the status quo and to an open position, ready to compare alternatives side-by-side.  One needn't go out of the way to see the merits in a different point of view so much as back off a little from the currently favored view and see how it stands up to scrutiny.

Probably the most difficult areas to have a neutral default are those involving authority.  We tend to assume the best about authority and make it the default position, while we fear the worst about freedom and put it on trial.  Consider prevailing views about the state and state provided services.  The idea of fully private roads, or protection, or adjudication, or education, or charity are immediately met with skepticism and myriad objections in our minds.  They are compared to our idea of how things should be, and almost never to how things actually are under state monopoly.

Our default position is that a single authority is better at most things, but how often do we zoom out and analyze from a neutral default?  What happens when you compare government controlled postal delivery with private in a detached way, as if a disinterested observer from another planet?  What about other services?  The default position deserves analysis equal to that which we give to new ideas.

It's not only government authority we default to.  I've found that as a parent, my default position is that raising kids on the power of my authority and say-so is better than giving them free reign and treating them like rational agents.  Turns out the default is wrong.  No, kids are not fully capable of making sound choices, especially at a very young age, but I've been amazed at how well - indeed how much better - they do when I back off and leave more choices in their hands.

The first time I heard radical ideas about unschooling, free schools, unparenting, and other laissez faire methods of interacting with children, I demanded answers to all the hard questions and difficult situations that may arise.  I examined every angle and poked holes in weaknesses I saw in each approach.  Had I ever been so rigorous in examining the more regimented style of traditional education and child-rearing?  Had I put my default assumption, that kids need order imposed by external forces, to any real test, mentally or in practice?  I was having a nice romance with the default position and failing to see its weaknesses, to the detriment of myself and my kids.

Sometimes you have a default for well-developed reasons: you have examined multiple options and found one far superior, so until further notice, it will be the default.  This makes sense and needn't be abandoned as an efficient way of giving new ideas the basic smell test.  But ask yourself how many of your defaults fit into this category?  It's surprising how many default assumptions we've never actually examined.  We assume our assumptions exist for good reason, but many do not.

Upon examination and experimentation, we may well arrive at the status quo as best option.  But if we never take a close look at our assumptions we do ourselves a great disservice.  You needn't excitedly embrace every new idea or temper your skepticism about it.  Simply change the default position to neutral.  Be careful; your whole world may change.

Signals vs. Output

At a time when transportation and communication were incredibly costly if not impossible, large firms where everyone worked in the same building at the same hours greatly reduced transaction costs.  Today, there are cases where transaction costs and other costs of doing business are actually higher when colleagues work together in the same building.

In a large, complex workplace full of professional obligations, hierarchies, duties, friendships, tensions, and coordination problems, signals can become as important as outputs, sometimes more.  What you produce is one thing - so long as you create more value than the next best alternative for the cost, you're good for business.  Except you don't work with calculators, you work with humans.  What your colleagues perceive to be your value - or worse yet, your activities - will determine your compensation and responsibilities.

In order to make sure you are in good standing, you have to produce not only what's on your job description, you also have to signal to your coworkers that you are valuable, and a generally decent person with whom they want to work.  A common signalling mechanism is to talk to your coworkers a lot, about work and non-work related things.  Another is to hardly talk at all because you've got your face buried in your monitor all day looking like you're really focused.  Another is to send lots of emails or call lots of meetings.  Of course if you're not producing anything, these signals will only get you so far.  But it's surprising how far they can get people in some work environments.  That's where this business of being in the same building comes in.

It's a lot harder to get away with signaling value instead of producing it when you are stripped of the shared office environment.  You can't be seen at your desk looking busy because you're not seen at all except via video conference.  You can't chat up your coworkers unless you have something specific that warrants a call or email.  It's more cumbersome to call meetings, so you have to think more carefully about whether a meeting is needed before doing so.  Emails can fly with ease, but without the face time, you risk having them misinterpreted and have fewer ways to gauge if they're annoying people; this tends to make them more risky and costly.  In other words, many of the signalling options are not open to you, so productivity is the major way to measure your performance.  This is good for value creation.

Many people see the downsides of remote work - loss of camaraderie, loss of easy pop-in conversation, technical problems with conferencing, etc.  These are real costs, but they are the greatest in the initial training months for new hires.  After a modicum of familiarity with the people and processes of a workplace is achieved, these costs go way down.  As far as camaraderie, a growing number of people seem to maintain some of their best relationships via Facebook today, so it is not impossible to achieve a pretty deep level of kinship among remote workers who might get together in the flesh on occasion.  As for those pop-in conversations, those are actually more of a cost than a benefit.  When you don't have the ability to invade someone's office for five minutes any time you're walking by, you find more efficient ways to bundle your questions together, or you ask via email which allows them to respond when it makes the most sense, or you call or text if urgent.  Communication prioritization tends to emerge, improving efficiency.

Another objection is that some people just aren't wired for remote work and couldn't get anything done outside an office environment.  It is absolutely true that individuals have different work habits and different ways of getting in the creative zone, but this objection strikes me as far-fetched.  If an employee really can't produce anything unless they are seated in a room full of other employees, maybe they're not getting anything done anyway.  The people that coworkers worry about working remotely - "Oh man, if that guy worked remote, I'd never get responses from him and he'd be at the beach all day" - are probably people they should be worried about in the physical office.  If a person couldn't produce without all the trappings of the building, chances are good they are not producing with them, but rather taking advantage of all the signalling devices remote work does not offer.  Perceptions are easier to control in an office, therefore the cost of producing less is lower because you can make up for it with signals.

If you call a remote employee and they don't answer in a few minutes, you start to wonder if they're working at all or just gallivanting about town.  The inability to see them around during the day raises suspicions when they are slow to respond.  This forces them to build trust by a reputation of quality and timely work to stave off any negative perceptions.  Contrast that with popping in to talk to an on-site employee.  If they're not at their desk, you don't think anything of it.  You know they're in today, so you just assume they had to step out for a minute.  Just by being in the building and being visible, they buy themselves a little more good-will and can get away with a little more.

Clearly there are some kinds of work that make remote locations far more difficult, and some make it impossible.  But the technology available today makes remote work incredibly attractive to employees and employers (check the cost of office space in any major city).  Most workplace cultures haven't really adapted to this shift in transaction costs and still place a premium on being in the building; to their detriment.  There are great and growing benefits to remote workers - and taking it a step further, to contractors for many if not most roles - and firms would do well to explore them.  Try making one department remote for a month and see what happens.  You might be surprised.

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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Newest Book Now in Audio Format

"Why Haven't You Read This Book?" is now available in audio format!

Huge thanks to Mitchell Earl for his work narrating the book and getting it added to Amazon.  You can get it with an Audible subscription.

Additionally, Mitchell setup an awesome way to get any chapter from the book for free here.  Since each chapter is a totally unique story from a unique author, you can simply pick your favorite and listen as a stand-alone audio essay.

Episode 68.5: FwTK – Wishful Thinking, Delusion, Coding, and Language

Today we discuss my threatening letter from the municipal business license office, TK's appearance on the Tom Woods show and some critical comments he received, whether believing in your own power is delusional, why wishful thinking is the source of all the good stuff, why faith is not the absence of logic but a remembrance of it, whether coding is a skill every will need or no one will need, old-timey radio voices, and more!

Mentioned in the episode: Rebecca Black, Child's Play, Become a Rich Employee, Web Browsers Beat GPA's, Shaquille O'Neal shooting threes, C.S. Lewis, Marc Andreessen, Game of Thrones (no spoilers), and a lot more I'm probably forgetting.

Oh, and believe it or not, this is the 100th episode of the podcast!  Why is it numbers 68.5?  Several episodes like "Ask Isaac" and other special features are not numbered.  But 100 total episodes posted nonetheless.  Make sure to rate and review us if you like it!

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Apprenticeships Aren’t Just for Welders; Startups Aren’t Just for Coders

I make the case over at the Praxis blog that apprenticeships, especially at startups and growing small businesses, are the best possible way to learn and build an awesome career.

Be around people who are doing what you want to do.  Create value for them.  Don't just theorize, but practice.

"There is no better way to be a part of something meaningful, to learn what entrepreneurship means, to get a great job, and to take the first steps in an exciting career and life than to apprentice at a startup.

Not everyone wants to write code.  And startups need more than just coders.  They need people who love people!  People who want to learn marketing, sales, and operations.  People who are eager to contribute to a powerful vision and help it grow.

If you want to build an amazing career and be a part of the entrepreneurial Renaissance there’s no need to wait on the sidelines or blast out resumes and hope."

Check out the post and check out Praxis if you want to build a great career today!

“I Hated School but Thought I Had to Do More of It”

One of the youngest participants in the Praxis program, Charles Porges, was just hired on full-time at his business partner, even though he's not even halfway through the apprenticeship.

No one, Charles included, assumed someone straight out of high school could be doing amazing work in project management and analysis at a growing startup.  If you're not loving and excelling at formal schooling, how can you build a career and succeed in the market?  Turns out the opposite is more often true.  The academic-focused world tends to devalue what the market values and vice-versa.

Charles' story is inspiring to me.  Not because he got a job without the debt and waste, but because he's happy and fulfilled in a challenging, meaningful work environment.  That's what it's all about.

I'll let him tell the story.  Here's what Charles shared with the Praxis group:

"Yesterday was my first day of working full-time at my business partner.

Words cannot express how ecstatic I am to be in the position that I currently am. Every single day of work is extremely valuable for both my business partner and myself. Not to mention, I believe deeply in the product, and my boss is one of the most interesting people I've ever met. Every one of my interactions with him has been both positive and meaningful.

This time about one year ago, I was in online high school, dreading every second I spent in front of my computer. My days were filled with meaningless assignments, time-wasting projects, and a feeling of hopelessness.

And not too long before that, I was in public high school. I felt like I was in a prison for forty hours a week, and on parole when I had to complete hours upon hours of homework. Most teachers were up to par with your average DMV worker, and almost none of my peers shared my ambition or intellectual curiosity. I was nothing short of depressed, and there were many days where I wished I simply didn't have to wake up in the morning.

Ever since I joined Praxis, I've felt like I have been living a different life. Not only am I free from the cage of state-mandated education, but I know that every action I'm taking is for the purpose of creating a better version of myself. My Praxis advisers have been instrumental to my success in the program so far, and I would like to thank them for all of their guidance. I do not know where I would be without this program.

I only wish that I could talk to my younger self and tell him that there is another way!"

If you want to apprentice with a startup, get coaching and rigorous personal development, and learn by doing, let's talk about Praxis.  Whether you're coming out of highschool like Charles, in college and wilting, or have a degree but aren't happy with your career prospects, we can help.

If You’re Flaky, Be Good Flaky

Some people are flaky.  Always flitting from thing to thing, idea to idea.  By the time others get on board they've already moved on.

If this is you don't fear.  You don't need to curb your curiosity or appetite for change in order to be successful.

Flaky can be a good thing.  I know people who channel this ADD tendency into amazing productivity.  They get excited by a lot of different things and their attention shifts rapidly, but they act on that excitement immediately.  These are people who no sooner get excited by an idea and they're blogging about it or buying three books on Amazon.  They read the subject, launch the club, have the conversations, and start the project.  They may leave loose ends and sometimes move too quickly, but they leave a beneficial surplus of ideas and energy in their wake that gets picked up by others.

Good flaky shifts attention rapidly but "ships" just as rapidly.

Flaky can be a bad thing too.  I know people who have the same ADD tendencies but with each new interest it's only talk.  They constantly talk about what they're going to do, what new thing they've discovered, the newest solutions, movements, cures.  They always have something in progress or "almost ready".  Articles they want to write, websites about to launch, events they are planning with their friend, some new thing or another.  They get you excited but don't deliver.

Bad flaky shifts attention rapidly and never "ships" anything.

Productive flakes are fun and can be a boon to a team or cause.  It's pretty easy for people to know their strengths and limitations.  They don't do well in long-term managerial roles, but they are great for creative projects and rallying people around short-term visions.  They are the kind of people who get away with breaking rules.  People accommodate them and don't demand as much predictability and consistency.  They can be late.  They can drop communication sometimes.  They can forget things.  These are annoying but known traits that become tolerable given the constant production.  Just when you're about to get mad that a ball was dropped, a brilliant piece of work you never expected emerges.  Getting sh*t done covers a multitude of eccentricities.

Unproductive flakes are frustrating and drag projects and people down.  They have the same exciting energy and stream of ideas at first, which makes the failure to deliver all the worse.  The roller-coaster of expectations and disappointments gets old fast.  They get ignored.  They burn through social capital.  Their emails don't get responses.  Ideas and a fun attitude are not enough.  If you're not shipping they become annoying.  The bad flake turns their greatest asset into a liability.

It's pretty simple.

If you know you have ADD tendencies, be a good flake.  Immediately act.  Don't let the moment of inspiration go.  Your lack of long-term focus doesn't have to ruin you.  But overcome the fear or insecurity or laziness or whatever holds you back and act on your inspiration immediately, always, every time.  You'll amass a great body of work, gain a solid reputation, and have a lot of fun.

Whatever you do, don't talk about your latest passion unless and until you've shipped something to show for it.

(If you're not at all prone to flakiness, this post isn't for you.  Sorry.  You have a different challenge with too much cost-benefit analysis or an obsession over options.)

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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