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Inner Game of Startups #27: OK, This Is Crazy

Yeah, I might be losing my mind.

Or preventing myself from losing my mind.

Either way, I'm doing something a little crazy that I know is right but still feels weird.

Read about it in the latest issue (subscribers only).

Politics is Still Stupid

I don't know how many times I've written about the stupidity of politics. Plenty.

I've given countless talks, podcast interviews, and most of my first three books were about how soul-sucking, distracting, useless, degrading, and pointless political involvement is. The combination of Public Choice theory, which explains how politics works and why it doesn't, and understanding social change, plus lived experience of working in politics, policy, education, and finally entrepreneurship have made it abundantly clear to me that politics is at best a ridiculous spectator sport. At worst a terrible addiction that makes you an asshole and a moron all at once.

I'm a political atheist. I don't acknowledge its power, because in my day to day life, I experience my own. It only matters when you believe it does. And I don't.

Politics turns friends into enemies. It breeds fear. It creates mental blocks and blinders to reality. It indulges the most socially destructive vice, envy. It deceives us into downplaying our own agency and becoming victims. It makes us feel pressured to pretend to know and care about everything.

Doing nothing. Having no opinion. Not following the news. These are steps towards personal emancipation.

Building a life you want. Cultivating mindsets that add to your sense of life. Going about your business as if you own your outcomes. These are steps toward a creative and fulfilling life.

These acts of productive omission and commission are indifferent to politics. Best case it's a distraction to the good life. Worst case it's destruction of the good life.

To all my brothers and sisters mired in the struggle, try walking away. See if your life doesn't improve.

Is Nature Delicate or Resilient?

If you contemplate nature you start to see a massive web of complex connections and causal chains. This organism feeds on that, which fertilizes this, which feeds that, which fertilizes this, which produces oxygen for that, etc. etc. It's mind boggling.

It can begin to feel like every single detail in nature is finely tuned to every other. Nature can start to seem very fragile. It makes you feel like preserving every single element precisely as they are at the moment of contemplation for fear the entire thing will collapse with the introduction or subtraction of a single element. As if a sneeze could destroy the world.

On the other hand, if you contemplate nature through time - the greater the epochs the moreso - a different feeling emerges. Changes in weather are adapted to with uncanny speed and ability. New elements are constantly coming and going, and not on predictable seasonal cycles. Freak earthquakes, volcanoes, weather fluctuations, meteors, solar activity, and interruption by other species (including exploratory humans) are the norm. There is no such thing as an "invasive species". If you look long enough, no species is really native to its current place of prominence and no ecosystem looks like it did in ages past.

Even on a smaller scale, if you've marveled at the way a tree will absorb a barbed-wire fence, you get the feeling that nature is the most resilient, adaptable, powerful, anti-fragile force imaginable.

The same goes for the human body. If you've suffered ongoing ills, undoubtedly the path to understand has led you to food allergies, posture problems, and other stressors compounding to gum up the works. It feels like your body is so preciously balanced that the slightest disruption will break it. Then you observe humans flourishing in every environment, adapting to everything from pure plant to pure meat diets, healing from broken bones, living after amputations, and bouncing back from the harshest conditions imaginable.

I think time is the trick-player here.

At any one snapshot of time, the balance is complex and apparently precarious. Big change can result from small changes. But when you unpause the scene and observe through time, the self-correcting and adaptive nature of the systems turns out to be a more powerful force than any insurgence at any single moment.

Both points of view are instructive. Yes, it's a vast, complex, interconnected causal chain. Yes, everything that happens has the potential to alter everything else. But yes, it also has more ability to adapt and thrive than you do ability to imagine how. Yes, it is anti-fragile and harder to break or tune than you think.

Let the intricacy and the strength give you pause and induce a sense of wonder and joy. Don't let either cause you fear or panic.

Insider Knowledge, Outsider Ignorance

There's so much noise on social media that people who don't matter in a particular niche can create the appearance to those outside that niche that they do.

This results in a lot of criticisms of niches that miss the mark. The critics take the loud social media personalities at face value and rip on the niche they represent. Except that to those who know the niche, those personalities don't represent the niche at all.

The ease of building a smallish brand around a certain milieu means faux leaders have an easier time convincing outsiders that they are leaders. This drives the knowledge of how things really work deeper to the inside. As more that doesn't matter becomes loud and public, more things that do become secrets.

This is an interesting paradox. When you see something you know deeply as an insider being covered by outsiders, you get it. But that means all the other areas where you're an outsider are probably not represented accurately either.

Truth seeking requires more tuning out than tuning in.

Defining the Duration of Success

If it's just one game, you play on a hurt ankle.

If it's the start of a long season at the beginning of a long career, you don't.

How much to gut it out and push through sub-optimal conditions is contingent on how long the term of the goal. Stepping back to plan, plot, get setup, get optimized, get healthy. These are needed if you're going for the long haul. Stupid if you're in it for a sprint.

I've got to remind myself of this frequently. My goals have gotten much longer in life, but my play-through-the-ankle-sprain approach is deeply embedded. I'm trying to break the tendency so I don't break the ankle.

Make the Signal More Costly to Cut Through the Noise

From a Tweet thread.

We're drowning in information and almost all of it is terrible.

I remember a friend telling me of the coming "infocalypse" more than a decade ago. I didn't get the problem.

Now I see the pain everywhere.

Part of what we're doing at Crash is bucking this trend. Information is so cheap, every info problem is being solved with quantity.

We're juveniles in the info age. We're excited by this new low cost info so we just pump it out everywhere and apply it to everything.

Need more quality info? No problem, solve it with more quantity! Too much info?

No problem, let's build some AI or automated data crunching to reduce it down to something manageable!

Some places this works, in others it makes the problem worse. When it's almost free to make info, lots will get made. When all solutions focus on automatically reducing info overload, the cost goes even lower.

It's an arms race of every greater pieces of ever weaker info AI sifting for ever rarer good bits. Costly signals are one of the most valuable communication tools known to humans.

All this weak info overload presents an opportunity.

Create something costly, hard to replicate, and you have info 100x better than the crowd. In our space of finding and winning a job, we're making the end of the funnel (finalist interview and offer) way more efficient

By making the top of the funnel way less efficient!

You heard that right. The hiring arms race is to blast job ops to as many boards as possible for max reach. Make applying as easy as possible - click one button! - for max pool. Slap some keyword scanners or similar on your system and hope it weeds out the worst. You're left with a (smaller) undifferentiated mass to sort through. Yuck.

Candidated respond by trying to game keyword scanners, etc. so quality of auto filters declines rapidly.

Automation can be gamed.

Costly signals can't. Our approach at Crash is to make the first part harder.

Only if you really care about the company and role will you take the time to send them a costly signal - info that can't be re-used or copy-pasted to a dozen other jobs.

Only the most motivated will do it. Seekers go deep (learning and becoming more valuable in the process) creating projects and pitches for a few companies.

Hirers get a handful of finalists instead of masses of noisy chaff. This is just the tip of the "Secret".

I think raising the cost of creating and exchanging information (not necc money cost, more effort) is a better solution esp. for the most human of exchanges (dating, hiring, etc.) than ramping up quantity and slapping automation on it. To combat the Infocalypse, I don't think labels and filters and tags generated by bots are the solution. They only escalate the arms race. More cheap info in, struggles to reduce what makes it out.

Costly signals on front end are better.

Less cheap info in = better quality out.

Health Information is a Mess

I hate doing health related research.

Any medical stuff that's at all conventional is delivered as if the seeker is an idiot child. Surface level, full of prompts to go see a doctor. As if any old doctor will be knowledgeable on some super specific condition. It absurd. It's all a bunch of bland summaries created for the blubbering masses the medical industry thinks we are. Compartmentalized, cartelized, and hidden behind walls and calls to go see the experts.

Anything outside the walls of convention is on some low-fi website or forum and ends up fixating on one hidden truth or supplement. They find something valuable the conventional approach downplays, and become obsessed with it to the point of conspiracy theory, or application of a single idea as a magic cure all.

I want better information. And I want a House-like helper! A true medical detective who is passionately curious about finding the root cause and solution to health issues unique to each patient. I don't give a damn if they have some kind of medical license, I just want someone who's good at it, passionate about the process, an ally, and has some experience.

I cannot think of a single government intervention in the medical industry that makes it better, and I can scarcely find a problem with it that's not caused at least in part by government. Even patient acceptance of the paternalism of doctors is bred from years of government school factories.

If I could pick one industry to completely free from the tentacles of government power brokers and the rent seekers who feed them, it'd be medicine. We're sicker, poorer, less-served, and more ignorant because of the meddling.

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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Caveat Haiku

To favor freedom

Only when convenient

Is tyrannical

Rebellion is Harder than it Looks

When you watch The Hunger Games, or Braveheart, or think about the American Revolutionaries, it's easy to see yourself as one of them. Rebellion against a tyrannical power looks inspiring and enticing.

These portrayals are all about the people - of which you are one - against the big nasty government tyrant. You see the price paid by the rebels - physical threat, torture, death - and you see the inspiration they create and the crowd of people behind them. It looks doable.

The problem with these portrayals is they aren't very realistic. They make it look too easy. A common scene is a crowd of frightened, oppressed people, all of whom hate the tyrants equally but stand still only for fear of physical retribution, until a brave soul defies them. Even if no one says it, the rebel knows they all stand with her in spirit.

In the real world tyranny looks different and rebels rarely get praised.

The thing most often preventing resistance to tyranny isn't the guns of the tyrants, it's the people's love of tyranny. Rebels rarely inspire in real-time. Instead, their oppressed fellows hate them. They call them names. They accuse them of being selfish, ignorant, crazy, dangerous. They heap more shame and derision on the person who stands against the tyranny that oppresses them all than they do on the tyrants.

To defy tyranny does not make one popular among the oppressed, because the oppressed are part of the tyranny.

Our idea of sacrifice for a good cause doesn't go deep enough. It's not that you must have the courage to die for what you believe in. It's that you must have the courage to have your reputation murdered. You have to be willing to not only face physical threats from the state, but to be seen as evil by the majority of people. You will not only suffer for a cause, you will be utterly misunderstood and vilified by the very people you represent. They will view your cause as stupid and your suffering as just.

Why don't people stand up to tyranny more often? There's so many more oppressed than tyrants, and the oppressed have so much more power. Except that most of them view resistance to evil as evil.

If you stand for freedom don't expect to be saluted and thanked by your fellow man. Don't expect to start a movement. It rarely happens. You're more likely to lose your reputation at the hands of the masses than your life at the hands of the tyrants.

As I've written elsewhere, death is not the ultimate sacrifice.

IGOS Issue #30: What’s Going on in the World?!

The latest edition of the Inner Game of Startups Newsletter.

Available to all subscribers here.

Villages –> Cities –> Villages?

Humans used to mostly live in villages. Clusters of families where the adults did work and the kids roamed and observed and played and learned work by being around it.

With specialization, mass scale production, and technological advances the arrangement changed. People lived in neighborhoods or cities that were often much larger, adults commuted to cities during the day vastly larger still, and kids were shipped off to huge age-segregated clusters, before smaller immediate families came back together for dinner in the evening.

The benefits of technological progress are astounding and I wouldn't trade them. The benefits greatly outweighed the costs, which is why just about everyone who had the chance chose it. But shifting living arrangements were (often) one item on the cost side of the ledger. It was sometimes necessary, not necessarily optimal.

With increasing automation, software, robotics, and information access, the equation is changing again. Humans don't need to cluster together en masse for economic production. That means one of the costs we had to pay to get the benefits of economic progress has been removed. Now there is choice. You can do the commute to cities and office buildings while kids commute to age segregated schools thing if you want. But you don't have to.

This is a pretty new choice. And so far, only a handful of early adopters see an seize it. People can now live where they want with who they want with kids and adults alike doing their work and play near the home. Most people still do not realize this is an option. They are wedded to the status quo by inertia, not necessity.

Recent voluntary and forced quarantines are waking some people up to this possibility. More people than realized can work from anywhere. People also realize how they might want to change their living arrangements if they were to continue this more flexible, work and learn from home arrangement. For example, you might want to choose your neighbors more deliberately if you're spending more time in a village-like setting. If you and your kids social life and work life and learning will be more local, spontaneous, and collaborative, you might change the kind of natural environment you're in. Climate, house type, access to outdoors, etc.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a slow steady uptick in deliberate village-like communities. Clusters of families with some shared interest, ideology, religion, or profession who have adults who can work from anywhere on flexible hours and kids roaming around learning through mixed-age play and imitation.

It's possible the reason few people do this now is that few prefer it. It's also possible the reason few do it now is because they've been conditioned for several generations into the assumption that it's not on the table. More short-term experiments in this type of arrangement could inspire more to do it.

Sometimes Time is the Only Option

Sometimes you've just gotta do hard stuff.

Just look it right in the eye and plow through it.

Sometimes the only way forward is to continue digging ditches and piling inches of dirt.

Sometimes time and repeated effort is the only remedy.

There's no telling how long until things start moving on their own momentum. But there's no option but to keep making momentum bit by bit for as long as it takes.

Sometimes there's no escape from the pain.

Sometimes you gotta swallow the medicine.

The only thing worse is denial and delay.

That's what I've been working through both in business and my life in general. And I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I can't go back in time, but I can keep moving forward through time until time compounds effort into outcome, persistence into clarity, work into results.

No silver bullets or magic pills. As Morgan Freeman might narrate, just time and pressure.

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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