Creating Disequilibrium is Good


Originally posted here.

There is no denying that our economy is undergoing dramatic changes. That brings not just difficulty, but also opportunity for entrepreneurs. In fact, the "creative destruction" of the market is part of what drives economic growth.

Putting aside the causes of our current economic troubles (except to say free markets are not the culprit), we can't forget that, though massive bubbles are not necessary, markets are by nature dynamic even in the most stable of times. This dynamism is not an evil to be avoided at all costs but the very thing that makes free economies so productive.

Classical economists often treated economic growth as a mechanistic operation that happened at a stable rate as a result of unchanging levels of investment and production — as if economies simply grew on their own as long as production was steady and inputs were not disrupted. The problem with this view is that, quite simply, the real world doesn't work that way. In 1911, economist Joseph Schumpeter's Theory of Economic Development radically changed this view, and his insights are still relevant today.

Schumpeter stressed the role of the entrepreneur in economic growth and argued that, far from a static maintenance of equilibrium in production, it was the entrepreneurial ability to causedisequilibrium that created wealth. The constant innovation of these economic actors shakes the economy up, breaking down old methods and building up newer and better ones.

It's not just increases in production that create wealth but a radical reforming of the way production itself is done. Think Henry Ford's assembly line. Such entrepreneurial innovations disrupt the unrealistic ideal of a stationary economy. They do destroy the old order — like the classic example of buggy makers losing their jobs when the automobile took hold — but they cause growth because what they create is more valuable than what they replace. Can you imagine halting the progress of the automobile in order to preserve buggy makers?

Schumpeter argued that the role of the entrepreneur was different from that of the inventor, manager, laborer, or capitalist. Entrepreneurs need not be wealthy or even especially intelligent. They may be all or some of these things, but that's not what makes them entrepreneurs. Schumpeter said the entrepreneur was the person who creates new combinations in production.

The creation of a new good or service — a new way to produce the same good or service, a new market for the good or service, a new source of supply, a new organization of the industry — these are the entrepreneurial functions. Such innovation does not necessarily require new invention, just a different utilization of available knowledge and technology.

As Schumpeter said in a 1928 edition of the Economic Journal,

"[I]t is not the knowledge that matters, but the successful solution of the task … of putting an untried method into practice."

The entrepreneur, by seeing and acting on different combinations of existing knowledge, products, and services, disrupts the economic order and creates growth. There is evidence of this "creative destruction" all around us: every year millions of jobs are created and destroyed, yet the overall long-term trend is continued economic growth.

The growth could not happen without both creation and destruction; it is the driver of growth, not a problem to be solved. If the economy were static — if jobs were never lost, prices never shifted up or down, investments never enjoyed large profits or major losses — we would not live in a stable utopia but a stagnant subsistence economy.

Don't be afraid to disrupt the economy. Look for ways that things can be done differently — goods, services, and production methods that can be rearranged, new technologies that can be better used. Right now, as the economy reshuffles, there are more opportunities to generate change than ever — the kind of dynamic change that we need to grow out of this slump.

Don't just sit there, create some disequilibrium!

Lies Are Boring


Ego & Hubris is the story of Michael Malice, told by American Splendor author Harvey Pekar in graphic novel form.  It's an incredibly entertaining read because Michael is incredibly honest.  Most of us tell lies most of the time, and they make for lives and personalities that appear far more boring than they actually are.

Some of the reviews I read for the book treat Michael as some kind of heinous person.  After all, he can seem vindictive and rude.  Like the time when his boss was being a jerk about him spending time with his grandmother who had cancer.  Malice later discovered the boss's wife got cancer and thought it served him right.  Sounds horrible when you read it.  But it's a very honest expression of a feeling many people would have in the same situation.  The difference is most people would lie about how they felt - to themselves and certainly to someone writing their biography.

If you watch interviews with celebrities, no matter how different the people's lives, the interviews are all quite similar.  They're boring.  Safe answers are given that keep up an image that will offend the fewest fans.  Fans pretend to want these lies.  When a famous person is honest, everyone feigns offense.

When politicians talk during campaign season, the mutual lying reaches absurd heights.  Imagine the shock - shock! - if a candidate for office said, "Yeah, I know there's some charity event to raise money for poor children tonight, but frankly I'm just too tired to go."  Or, "You know, my opinion on Sub-Saharan Africa doesn't really matter because there's not much I can do about it."  Honesty like this would be branded callous, and make a lot of people uneasy.  This despite the fact that every reasonable person would agree that it's OK to be tired and not feel like going to an event, even for a good cause.  Every would-be voter knows that Sub-Saharan Africa really doesn't matter all that much to them.  So why do they pretend they want it to matter to a candidate?

There's a lot of lying going on.  Public figures lie about who they are, what they do, and what they feel.  If they slip and let a little honesty through, the public lies and pretends to be offended.  It makes for a pretty boring spectacle.  It's one of the reasons I don't read or watch the news.  It's so phony and everyone knows it but no one dare admit it.  If we're all gonna play pretend, I'd rather follow professional pretenders in well-crafted pretend stories in the movies, novels and TV shows.

When people let their real questions out, and public figures give their real answers revealing their real feelings and thoughts it's pretty entertaining and enlightening.  The more honest radio interviews, for example, are usually done by people called "shock jocks".  Sure, they say some silly stuff just to be different, but they tend to also ask the type of questions most people actually want to know.  In the giant lying game of public life, we have to dub them "shocking", because nothing is more shocking than honesty.

We see it in celebrities but rarely in ourselves.  Part of the reason we don't talk honestly about ourselves is because we don't know ourselves very well.  We know the self we wish we were better than the one we'd actually be happy being, or the one we actually are.  Self-knowledge precedes self-honesty.

Sometimes I meet one of those rare people who, like Michael Malice, knows who they are and doesn't pretend to be otherwise.  It's refreshing.  They can be a little intimidating because they are used to honesty and can see through BS in others as well as in themselves.  It's also intensely interesting and challenging.  It reveals how shallow most human interactions are.

Our actual identities are far more interesting than the lies we tell about ourselves. The narratives and carefully constructed biographies we publicly project are boring and second rate compared to the fascinating truth of who we really are.

Learn the truth about yourself, and don't hide it.  We'll all have more fun.

Most People Go to College to Feel Normal


Most people don't go to college to learn. That can be done much easier and less costly in myriad other ways.

Most people don't go to college to become well-rounded. That can happen through any number of experiences.

Most people don't go to pick a career. They could try working different jobs to learn quicker, and most don't work in what they major in anyway.

Most don't go for the practical value of the credential. I've never met a college student who actually inquired with employers what they view as the best credential.

Most people don't even go to college for the social experience. How many examine all the ways to meet people, party, etc. and firmly conclude college is the best way for them to have fun?

Most people go to college to be normal.

It's the normal thing. They want to meet normal people, make normal friends, learn normal facts, have normal experiences, and appear normal to family, friends, and future employers. They take it on faith that college is good, beneficial, educational, career-enhancing, a great social experience, worth the cost, etc., rather than really examine these oft repeated tropes. They want them to be true because they want to list these normal reasons for doing what's normal.

College can be great. Besides, it's too late for most of us to consider alternatives. But if you are pre-college, ask yourself what you really want out of it. Look long and hard at other ways to get what you want. Weigh the costs. Be prepared if you find college is not the best way...you may discover your best path is not normal. Are you ready and willing to bear the social costs of an abnormal choice? It might be worth it.

Monopoly Is Everywhere; Monopoly Is Impossible


Concern over the power of "monopoly" is often given as justification for government intervention in the economy. It shouldn't be. There is no logically consistent definition of monopoly that warrants interference in market. Furthermore, government efforts to disperse market power tend rather to concentrate it, particularly among those best at playing politics, rather than helping consumers.

What is this monopoly thing that is so feared?

Monopoly is often described as two-pronged: complete control over a unique resource, and the ability to be a “price maker”. ("Price maker" means to set the price you want to sell at rather than responding to market conditions and being a "price taker"). Once you define monopoly, you realize what a meaningless concept it is. One of the two prongs is inevitable; the other is impossible.

If monopoly means control over a unique resource that no competitors can sell, everything is a monopoly. Every single product is unique. I have a complete monopoly on the product “public appearances by Isaac Morehouse”. No one else can offer it. What kind of power does this give me?

Sadly, I cannot charge whatever I want for public appearances simply because I have a monopoly. I've tried, and so far no one has been willing to pay $50,000 for this unique good over which I have sole control. (Email me if you're interested.) In other words, I (and everyone and everything else) satisfy the first prong of the definition of monopoly, but that doesn't help me with the second prong. I'm not a price maker.

In fact, no one is a price maker. OK, I suppose anyone can make any price they want to, but in order to actually sell something – no matter how valuable – they're constrained. Think of a product that you need badly and can’t really live modern life without. How about gasoline. Why doesn’t Exxon start charging $20, $100, $1 million per gallon at the pump? What would happen?

Life would change pretty dramatically for some people, maybe just at the margin for others, but almost no one would pay that price. Even if all the oil in the world were controlled by one company (a scenario almost impossible to imagine absent government intervention), they still would not be a price maker.

Even complete control over a resource that people really need does not a price maker make. The firm faces substitute goods as a very real form of competition. McDonald’s burgers are not competing only against Wendy’s burgers. They are competing against Subway’s subs, mom’s PB&J, or going without lunch altogether. Firms are held in check not just by substitute goods, but by potential competition. If gas is too costly, new or old technologies become more profitable. Bicycles and solar cars both take a chunk of consumers.

So the first prong of monopoly, control over a unique resource, is everywhere. The other prong, the ability to be a price-maker, is impossible. In reality, firms and consumers are constantly moving up and down to varying degrees on being price takers and makers. There is no complete maker or taker. The market is a process of discovery, and if we want the best outcomes, we need to worry about keeping the process free and unencumbered, rather than the particular distribution of resources among firms at any given snapshot in time.

Efforts to fight the myth of monopoly and make the market look more like make-believe “perfect competition” make things worse. They often result in the one kind of monopoly that is dangerous; the one maintained by force. Forced monopoly, or forced price floors or ceilings, or the breakup of firms or the prevention of mergers, or any other intervention creates artificial markets. They shift entrepreneurial activity away from innovation to serve consumers and towards efforts to ensure regulation benefits me and harms my competitors.

We're all monopolists, yet none of us are price makers. Stop worrying about it.

The Myth of Self-Regulation


No business, product, service or industry can self-regulate. All must and will be regulated by some external entity. The question is who or what?

In a market, regulation is inescapable. Firms are regulated by wholesalers, retailers, capitalists, workers, packagers, shippers, competitors, consumers, shareholders and public opinion. These myriad regulators are exacting. They apply pressure from every angle, on every aspect of business. Get sloppy with your purchasing practices and wholesalers make better deals with your competitors. Overlook product safety and consumers and public opinion slap you down. Make frivolous expenditures and your source of capital and shareholders head for the hills. Drive too hard a bargain with employees and productivity declines or they leave you for another firm.

Firms have room for experimentation and risk-taking, but they have full responsibility to all of these market regulators for the outcome. No firm is a "price-maker" in a market. No firm is a compensation, safety, or policy-maker in the market either. All the parties to which they answer set the terms. Oh sure, firms can do what they want; unless they seek profit. Profit demands that they obey the regulators that fill the market across the whole production chain. It's not easy.

Firms that have become successful and large tend to get tired of the constant regulation. They want a reprieve from the demands of stakeholders. To gain freedom from the regulating market, firms seek the comfort and stability of government regulation.

Government regulation is nothing like market regulation. It's yoke is easy for the well-connected and deep pocketed, but often unbearable for the shoestring upstart. Market regulation is blind to size, wealth, political affiliation, slickness, religion or creed. Government regulation is built upon them.

Market regulation keeps an open invitation to anyone who wants to join the ranks of regulators; though promises no one their opinions will have a final say unless they prove worthy across the market. Government regulation is strictly closed off to anyone except those long-loyal to the party in power, and promises that the elite cadre of regulators' opinion is final and binding. Market regulation is nimble, swift, constantly adapting, inescapable and unrelenting. Government regulation is ham-handed, slow, hidebound, avoided with a little craftiness, and backs off for a favored few with the right mix of political moves.

Market regulation is created and enforced by parties that stand to gain or lose by the actions of the regulated; parties who gain real-world expertise on the regulations effects. Government regulation is created and enforced by parties with no connection to the regulated actions or items, except the few politically connected firms that agitate for it. Market regulation draws on the dispersed knowledge of millions across the globe, from experts to anonymous users. Government regulation pretends a handful of elites can outthink the millions.

Market regulation seeks only the betterment of all market participants, regardless of which firms offer it. Government regulation seeks to destroy some firms for the benefit of others, regardless of what they offer market participants. Market regulation is by the many, for the many. Government regulation is by the few, for the few.

Self-regulation is not an option. The question is who's a better regulator, markets or government?

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Public-Private Partnership’


It's long been a trend for local and state governments to create agencies and entities that are supposed to enhance commercial activity in their area.  There are myriad legal and logistical arrangements, but they all have some common features.  They're all reliant on government in structure and law, they all use taxpayer funds to accomplish their projects, and they all love to use newspeak phrases like, "public-private partnership" to describe their activities.

An online dictionary definition of partnership is useful:

"A legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labor for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses."

And,

"A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal."

Clearly, government economic meddling projects do not fit either of these definitions.  How can "the public" enter into a partnership?  How can "the public" share in profit or loss?  In reality, governments take money from people in their vicinity by force, then they give some of it to suits in an agency who give it to favored businesses and investors.  "The Public" never agrees to anything.  There is no mutual cooperation and certainly no responsibility or profit/loss sharing.

The absurdity of calling it a partnership can be illustrated with the following thought experiment.  Imagine your friend took some money from your wallet, deposited it in his checking account, kept most of it for himself and gave the rest to another guy to start a business.  No strings attached, just a gift of start-up capital.  Then your friend started publicly talking about how this was a partnership between you and startup guy.  After getting over your initial anger that he took your money and didn't even consult with you before throwing it after some business venture, you try to consider the possible upsides of this unjust act.  You ask him if that means you will own shares in the company.  No.  Does it mean you get some percentage of any profit?  No.  Do you get an interest payment on your stolen and loaned money?  No.  He assures you it's OK though, because neither are you on the hook for any losses (besides of course the loss of the money he already took, which you'll never see again.)  In other words, this is nothing like a partnership.

What you get is money taken from you, spent on middle-men who are paid to give the rest to whatever business they want to.  You are not a partner, you are a victim.  Partnership implies consent.  Partnership implies shared benefit and responsibility   Partnership implies choice.  There is no such thing as a public-private partnership.

When We Met


Water falls over these rocks
Lashes brush your golden locks
Leaves burn crisp in flaming sun
All my tries a glance have won
Glowing snowfall in streetlight
Stealing kisses in the night
Humid air and glowing moon
Your eyes know I’m leaving soon
Whisper softly ancient verse
It was love that found us first
Simply drawn to what you knew
And I followed e’r you flew
Taken in by lovely form
Feeling the still waters pour
Water falls over these rocks
Overcomes all human clocks
Timeless space through which we flew
Knowing I, by knowing you
Sharing thoughts without a word
All the lines we knew were blurred
Led to where we make our life
Here we are with pleasure rife
Water falls over this place
Back to then it all can trace

Institutions Can Improve Even If People Don’t


Originally posted here.

Airlines are loaded with passengers who surf the Internet while soaring through the air, chatting in real-time to anyone else on the globe, posting in social media, shopping, and downloading and reading books on a wide variety of readers. Such a scene would have astonished a person living 50 years ago, to say nothing of a person living 500 years ago.

How do we account for this? A person born five centuries ago is probably just as smart as someone born today. The raw material of the human brain has not changed much during this span of time. Yet people are today infinitely more capable of accomplishing almost any task imaginable than people in 1512.

The greatest navigator of centuries past would have found it a monumental task to leave from one destination and arrive at a precise latitude and longitude halfway across the globe, and it would have taken months. Today, a half-witted teenager can use Google Maps and modern transportation to accomplish the same feat in a single day.

The greatest communicators in the past were unlikely to reach 1 million people with their ideas in a lifetime. Today, the most-incoherent celebrities can reach millions in minutes on Twitter. Conversely, if the greatest scientists today were sent back in time, they would be able to achieve almost nothing absent computers and modern lab equipment.

A weak and feeble worker today can move more tons of earth than the strongest shovel-wielding excavator of the past. Given the inherited technological progress of humanity, even an average Joe can do amazing things with ease. It does not take a superior human to achieve superior results.

Economically speaking, the marginal productivity of workers increases with the capital and technology available to them.

But let’s broaden the point to issues of morality. How can we become better people — more peaceful, cooperative, and creative — in the same spirit in which we have become more effective and productive with better technology? We need better moral “capital” and moral “technology” that enables morally superior outcomes even without morally superior people.

The moral technology I am speaking of is social and political institutions. A person born today is no more or less likely to be moral than a person born 500 years ago, but they can be more or less likely to act morally based on the institutions around them.

Moral institutions change and evolve just like technology. They can reduce or expand not only the morality of individuals on the inside, but the harm or good caused by their actions on the outside. The most saintly person born into a world where slavery was the norm would have very limited ability to stop the practice, though she could abstain from participating in it at great personal cost.

A horrendously evil person born into a world where slavery is considered abhorrent would be unable to lord over slaves, without tremendous personal cost. It is entirely possible that many people living today have it in them to be on par with the worst slave masters in history — only the opportunity for their evil does not present itself, given the progress in this area of our social and political institutions.

This does not mean that individual choices are meaningless. Far from it. A moral person can always do good within their institutional framework, and a good framework can exponentially enhance the good one can do. Individual choices are vastly important.

But in order for the world to be free of oppression by states, for example, it does not require that every individual be an angel or that the average morality of the population be better than it currently is.

How can institutions improve if morality does not? Institutions are ultimately the result of our beliefs. Better beliefs will result in better institutions, but better beliefs do not require morally superior people any more than beliefs in a heliocentric solar system require more-intelligent people.

Many people believe the Earth revolves around the sun not because they are smarter than ancient peoples, but because they grew up in a world where that was accepted. Many people believe slavery is wrong not because they are morally superior to all people from ages past, but because they grew up in a world where slavery was condemned.

The broader social narrative creates the institution. But where does this narrative come from? Here’s where individuals come in again.

Progress typically begins with iconoclasts and radicals espousing and experimenting with ideas that challenge the status quo. This is true of technological, intellectual and moral progress. The few who advance these radical ideas attract small, but influential followers, and some minds are changed by argument alone. But the real change comes when discussion turns into demonstration.

When the Wright brothers got off the ground, when slavery ended in some countries and the economy did not collapse — these occasions did more to change the prevailing beliefs about manned flight and slavery than did the necessary intellectual work that preceded them.

People do not have to possess superpowers to learn and adapt. All humans do it. Learning even to reject foundational and dearly held beliefs is possible and frequent in history, especially because the change typically takes place over several generations, so that each generation has to learn to give up only a part of the cherished belief. When it is understood that a new belief will result in better outcomes, it can be adopted with relative speed and ease, sometimes without any conscious “a ha!” moment at all.

Neither technological nor institutional progress is inevitable. History is replete with times of retrogression and collapse. When there are no radicals challenging the status quo, innovating and demonstrating new and better beliefs, it is not long before the prevailing institutions stagnate or advocates of a romanticized past win the day and drag humanity backward.

Progress is not inevitable, but progress is entirely possible even with flawed humans like us. Our beliefs can change as we learn better ways of doing things, and with our beliefs will change our institutions. Better institutions — free institutions, rather than coercive ones — will result in a better world.

We ought to continue to discuss and demonstrate the fact that states — their oppressions, confiscations, impositions, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and war — are not necessary or beneficial. Better morality is always better, but if we change the prevailing narrative about states, we can live in a stateless world even without a saintly populace.

It is a false and arrogant belief that only angelic geniuses are capable of believing that statelessness is possible and desirable. If a bunch of idiots can live in a world of technological wonder, so too can a bunch of jerks live in a world of freedom.

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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79 – FwTK: Why Haven’t You Auditioned for American Idol?


This Friday TK and I are taking a break from live discussion...but you still get to hear his ideas!  This episode is a chapter from the audiobook version of Why Haven't You Read This Book?

The episode includes the book's introduction as well as a chapter, read by Mitchell Earl, that tells TK's story of throwing caution to the wind and traveling cross country to audition for American Idol.

Next week we'll be back taking listener questions, so send them our way via palmet.to, email, or social!

Enjoy, and download a free chapter of the audiobook at whyrtb.com.

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

My Kid Learned More from Mario Maker than I Did from a Marketing Major


Mario Maker teaches marketing
Image courtesy my iPhone. Weird mustache courtesy Nintendo.

I'm not kidding.  I just watched my kid grasp basic marketing truths that took me years in the professional world to get. (I might be a bit daft, but that's another story).

I didn't end up graduating with a major in marketing, but it was my major for several semesters of useless university.  The only things I remember from those classes are the words "target market" with no real context.

That's just it.  I needed a lived context.

So my son builds these levels on the WiiU game Mario Maker.  He's posted some of his favorites to the network so others can play them and, if they like them, give them a star.  He checked in the other night only to find two of his favorite creations had been removed from the network because they did not get enough stars in a given time span.

Here comes the pain.  And the learning.

I watched him go through all the stages of grief.  "That can't be right?!"..."How dare they!!"..."Maybe if I tweak it and change the name I can re-upload it?"..."It's hopeless.  What's the point of building levels"...and finally, after a long grieving process lasting almost minutes, acceptance.

Unaware of how enthralled I was with watching this unfold (because I pretended to still be reading) he repeated the entire situation to me, making a point to vent his frustration because of how hard he worked.

"The worst part is, that's the level I worked on the longest and it was my favorite!  Some of my other levels are just silly and were easy to build, and they have more stars than this one.  I wonder why?"

Big Important Marketing Lesson #1: The labor theory is bunk

Karl Marx and a lot of other confused social scientists with bad beards (Adam Smith gets a pass on this one...no beard) like to claim that value is derived from the cost of production - the amount and difficulty of the labor that goes into it.  This is clearly false, and my son now knows it.

Even if you know this from a (rare) good economics teacher, you probably don't really know it in your gut and know how to plan around it until you've experienced it.  Some of my favorite, most labor intensive blog posts get no love, while some silly Haiku I tap into my phone in a few seconds might get...well, a little more love at least (I guess my example isn't that dramatic after all, since my readership isn't that huge...Hi mom!).

This is an important lesson.  Sure, content is king.  Yes, build a better mousetrap.  The problem is that what you think great content and better mousetraps look like mightn't be the same as what customers think.

There are two potential solutions: the product solution and the marketing solution (best used in tandem).  The product solution is to learn from what people do like and make products more like that.  The marketing solution is to learn what feelings people want to experience when using your product and do a better job of attaching those feelings to it, finding the niche of people who will "get it", and getting the word out to them.

My son, a very stubborn and independent creative type not keen on compromising his design, immediately went with the marketing solution.

Big Important Marketing Lesson #2: 1,000 true fans, social proof, list building...

This is really a lot of lessons piled into one, but it all happened so fast it was like a single epiphany for my son.  It took me a long time to understand the value of building a "tribe" of loyal fans or customers (Hi mom!).  It took me a long time to see the value of capturing leads, doing personal one-on-one outreach to influencers and early adopters, and touting the real stories of happy customers to help draw in the more risk-averse with social proof.

My son had the epiphany less than ten minutes after his teary explosions during the second and fourth stages of grief.  Here's how it went down.

He jumped onto some sort of chatroom type thing in the game and posted a question asking if anyone else had been frustrated by having a level removed for too few stars.  In minutes he was conversing with three or four others.  He checked out their profiles and levels.  He followed them.  They followed him.  Then they somehow came up with an agreement.  They would give each other the name of their newest levels and all play each others and give them a star, ensuring three quick stars, pushing it nearer the top of the newly added levels, raising the profile and keeping it from getting removed.

It was late and I was going to bed.  He doesn't like to be the last one up, so he begged me to wait a few minutes while he dutifully played and starred some of their levels.  He double checked and verified that his new coalition had done the same for him.

Damn.

He went out and talked with people, built a tribe around a shared frustration, collaborated to find a solution, and engaged in what MBA douchebags might call "synergistic strategic partnerships" (I don't know if MBA's would actually say that, but I imagine they would and this is my article).  He added them to his followers so that there could be accountability, followup, and future collaboration.

As a dad one of my solemn duties is to always think my kid too quickly plays the victim and doesn't take things into his own hands.  It's the kind of self-righteous worry a parent feels entitled to.  Except this time he robbed me of the opportunity to start waxing about how in my day we had to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and mustached plumbers didn't get any stars from anybody.

After a brief moment of feeling a victim of the system and being angry with idiot consumers who don't appreciate good product, he saw his frustration as an opportunity.  Surely someone else felt the same?  Surely there was a way to work around it?  And he did.

He realized that intentions don't matter, value creation does.  But value creation is not just in the product, but the feeling people have about it, the reasons they have to care, the connection you build with them.  Now even before building a level he preps his loyal allies to reduce the risk and boost the ratings when it is released to the network.  This is what authors do with their emails lists (sign up for mine here, I have another book coming out and you can be one of the early reviewers...you too mom!).

Teachers Aren't Very Good Teachers

My kid isn't some kind of special genius.  The world we live in is the most resource, information, and opportunity rich in human history.  If kids freely engage the world and follow their curiosity and intrinsic goals they will encounter a more diverse range of ideas and experiences than we can imagine.  When I try to directly teach my kids this stuff they scoff or sigh or roll their eyes or play dead hoping I'll go for help so they can finally escape my words of wisdom.

In fact, unless we actively work to suppress it our kids urge to learn, experiment, innovate, create, and adapt will blossom.  That suppression often takes well-meaning forms like direct, mandated instruction from adult "experts" who know almost nothing about Mario Maker or other contexts kids actually care about.  It takes the form of classrooms and textbooks and tests and pressure to careerify interests.  It takes the form of parental worry that if their kid doesn't learn the same bunch of arbitrary, mostly useless facts they were forced to memorize at the same age they did everything will fall apart and society will crumble.

Relax.  Your kid is going to be fine.  Even if they play a lot of video games.

......................................................................

Here are a few other examples of learning by doing from my own life:

Why LEGO is more valuable than algebra

How my son learned to read when we stopped trying to teach him

78 – Doublethink Jointasode with Jeff Till


Entrepreneur, podcaster, free thinker and good friend Jeff Till joins me to expand on a Facebook post about “doublespeak” or “doublethink” where a policy idea is mistaken for (or purposefully replaced by) a more genuine objective or desire. Here we talk myths about school, the law, the military, welfare, and regulation.

We do a mish-mash of both of our podcasts - even the intro music!  Huge thanks to Jeff for his sleek editing and adding some relevant and fun sound clips.

The post the episode is based on:

Just about every argument for school is actually an argument for the value of education that proves nothing about the value of school.

Just about every argument for law is actually an argument for the value of order that proves nothing about the value of law.

Just about every argument for welfare is actually an argument for the value of compassion that proves nothing about the value of welfare.

Just about every argument for the military is actually an argument for the value of security that proves nothing about the value of the military.

Just about every argument for regulation is actually an argument for the value of safety that proves nothing about the value of regulation.

Doublespeak is alive and well. Those who succeed in making the name of their pet policy linguistically interchangeable with a basic universal value always get to play offense.

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

The More You Risk the More You Learn?


Here's a relationship I'm exploring right now:

The amount you learn is proportionate to the amount you risk.

I'm not sure if it's universally valid.  There are probably exceptions.  Still, the more I think about it the more I like it.

It's important to note that "risk" is subjective.  An increase in risk is an increase in the probability and/or magnitude of a result that forces you to do something you'd prefer not to.  Risk can be material, emotional, physical, or psychological.

If you work for an established, large corporation you will learn things.  If you work for an early stage startup you will learn more things.  If you start your own company you will learn even more.  Each stage ratchets up the risk, in this case financial and social (status loss in event of failure), and the learning goes with it.

Physical risk seems to follow the same pattern.  To learn new moves on the court or field you have to be willing to try them.  Each new move has an increased risk of failure or even injury.  Adventure athletes can probably attest to this at the most extreme, where loss of life is a legitimate risk the physical and mental knowledge gained is likely tremendous.

Even in pure intellectual pursuits I expect this is true.  Sitting and reading or contemplating seems an inherently riskless activity but it's not.  What you can learn is limited by what you explore, what questions you're willing to ask, and how far you're willing to go for answers.  If you safely examine comfortable, socially acceptable ideas you may learn a few things.  But the real learning comes when you push yourself and explore things with potentially risky ramifications.  If your beliefs were to change how uncomfortable would it make you?

This doesn't mean intellectual risk taking is simply reading people diametrically opposed to your own views.  This is one of the least risky things to do.  More likely it involves reading someone reasonable with a number of foundational beliefs in common but with some unexpected angle or paradigm you've never considered.  Imagine a knowledgeable libertarian, for example, reading a radical socialist.  Not very risky.  It's easy to predict what will be argued and responses are already at hand.  It's riskier for a libertarian to read an anarchist who builds on the same foundation but extends the ideas into more radical territory - territory that might make one seem "impractical" at cocktail parties.

So what does it mean if the more you risk the more you learn?

The conclusion shouldn't be that more risk is inherently good.  We all love the word "learning" but there is nothing inherently good about learning either.  Don't necessarily feel guilt for not risking and therefore learning more.  There are plenty of instances where reducing risk, and therefore learning, is the better path.  I'm sure if I played chicken with an oncoming car I'd learn a lot about myself that couldn't be learned any other way.  Doesn't mean I should do it.  I'm not sure knowledge helps if you're dead (then again, how can I know without trying...)

But I think there are some valuable implications to the risk/learning relationship.  If you know your own goals and are honest about them it can help you make decisions.  If you place a tremendously high value on learning something in particular you might consider higher risk situations that will impart a higher level of knowledge.

This is related but (I think) a little bit different than Nassim Taleb's powerful concept of "skin in the game".  Skin in the game is about getting more value out of the decisions you do make by being more invested in the outcome, whereas the risk/learning relationship is perhaps slightly broader and has implications for the kind of decisions you make in the first place.

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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