Arm’s Length People

There are people you just want to keep at arm's length.

They're not bad. They're not at odds with you. In fact, they often seem just a little too aligned, and to say a little too much of the right thing.

You just don't quite trust them. Sometimes there's been no clear breach of trust, but you know with your knower that something is slightly amiss. And it is. Even if you can't peg why.

I once broke the world into three types of people: ideas dominant, angles dominant, and hustle dominant. The arm's length people are angles people.

Angling doesn't mean doing something bad. You can work angles to do good or bad, just like you can hustle or pursue ideas for good or bad. But by its nature, angling is about orienting oneself in relation to other people. Which means angles people are always reading the room to discover what other people value and adapting themselves to it. You can't trust this.

Of course some degree of reading the room and adapting to what pleases others is considered courtesy or social graces. If you have none, it's a bit boorish, or the result of autism or similar. It's not nice but it is honest.

The other extreme is not honest. When room-reading is placed above all other values you can never trust that person because they are not a person. They do not have a self. They are ghostly, unsolid. They are in a constant state of flux, perpetually morphing into whatever is reflected back to them in the positive responses of others. That means under the right circumstances, they could turn on you. You never really know them because there is no them.

It may sound selfless to be exceedingly sensitive to what pleases others, but it's really a form of narcissism. Idolizing how others respond to you is to idolize your own reflection. You can't discover and be who you are if you're obsessed with how you appear to others. And you can't be truly valuable and heroic for others if you don't have a self.

People read the room and angle to varying degrees. But certain people do enough of it that you just always feel like, "Yeah he seems like a cool guy, but something is just slightly off". Listen to your gut. You don't need more justification to keep that person at arm's length.

The Market Has Never Spoken Because It’s Always Speaking

Sometimes people think they know the future because of the present. "The price of X is higher than the price of Y, so X is more useful than Y".

This is a mistake. But it's easy to get sucked into.

Markets are incredible, wonderous things sending signals and incentives all across the globe and allocating resources always towards their highest valued use. Prices are the tool that reflect this and help us see and calculate. But the important word to hang onto in the above description is towards.

The freer the market, the better and faster resources move towards their highest valued use. But they never arrive there, because there is no such thing as "there". We don't know and can't know what the highest valued use of a resource is, we can only see how people subjectively value it relative to the other alternatives at any given time. Alternatives change. Preferences change. And a whole lot of other things change all the time. They are never not changing. So resources are constantly seeking out higher valued uses in every moment, but never arriving.

The more you know about markets, the easier it is to fall into the trap of thinking that they have already found the best use of resources. They work wonders and if you have seen the process and understand it, you can have great confidence that it will do a better job than any other process or individual mind at continuing to maximize resources and create wealth at scale. But this does not mean at any given time every single resource is being used in a way that could not be improved upon.

To say no innovation is possible sounds dumb on its face. Yet it's the implied conclusion many reach after getting a little too wrapped up in seeing how the market as a whole operates so incredibly. They lose the plot. The market is never efficient; in fact it only continues to move ahead because inefficiencies never go away so innovation and arbitrage continually happen. But the market is the most efficient process possible.

The market does not reduce surprises, it increases them. One of the things that make markets so superior to central planning is that they allow for and reward totally unlikely advances no one could've imagined. Accidents can become innovations. Knowing this, you've got to be wary of believing the market has spoken. It's always speaking and never perfectly communicating what it's trying to say.

The process is the thing, not the particulars produced by it at any given point.

The Reverse Magnet Tweet (or how to build a blacklist)

It's useful to broadcast your interests and passions through blogs, social media, podcasts, etc. It increases your "luck surface" and helps you connect with people and opportunities relevant to your goals. This is how you build a network of go-to people and enhance your ability to get things done. You have a running list of people to work with on various things.

It's also useful to know what kinds of people you do not want to work with. There are a lot of time wasters and bad fits out there, sometimes parading as good fits worth your time because they use similar language. Building a mental blacklist - "Avoid working with or relying on these people" - can reduce a lot of wasted time and annoyance.

One way to do this is to Tweet a not-very-nuanced take on behaviors or beliefs that you find difficult to work with. The people you don't want to work with will reveal themselves by jumping in to defend theoretical people in the comments.

For example, perhaps you've learned that people who think it's perfectly ok to be flaky, or are more worried about what they have a right to do than what creates value for others are a pain to work with. Maybe some of these types are lurking in your network and you don't know it. A Tweet like, "Being 5 minutes late is worse than not showing up at all" will reveal them quickly.

The take is extreme. Anyone with a brain can think of dozens of scenarios where it's not true. But anyone who shares your distaste for flakiness and defense of less-than-excellence in time management will smile and click like because they get the vibe. They've felt it.

Those who do not have the same level of respect for other people's time won't be able to resist adding nuance or pointing out how this kind of attitude might be unfair or limiting. This doesn't make them bad people, but it reveals to you who you don't want to have to rely on in high stress professional situations.

People reveal themselves when given the chance.

Talent is Always the Constraint

When I used to meet with entrepreneurs and owners who had built multi-million and even billion dollar companies I would always ask them the same question:

"What's your biggest constraint to growth?"

I never got a different answer. Every single one, without fail, replied, "Talent".

When I asked to what they attributed their success I always got some variation on the same answer too: "I found a great manager/COO/right-hand".

Humans are incredibly inventive. Though entrepreneurship is somewhat rare (less rare than most people think, and would be far more prevalent if it wasn't schooled out of kids by petty, pathetic bureaucratic morons), even just a handful of entrepreneurs have a lot more vision than they can execute on. They need people who have skill, and more importantly the hustle and willingness to try and learn, to help them bring things to life. There are just too damn few!

I suspect that if entrepreneurs had double the talent they'd be five times more productive. It's not linear.

Julian Simon understood that human ingenuity and talent are the ultimate resource. More humans with more freedom to explore and play and niche down would unleash untold benefits for all.

The perpetual talent bottleneck is far greater than any other bottleneck. Lack of good ideas, lack of money, lack of a market - all of these pale in comparison to lack of good talent, because good talent is the one thing that can overcome all the other hurdles. Good talent can adjust and adapt until they match the right ideas and market. Good talent can find or make the money. But ideas and money and market can't make talent. Only people can make people. And only people can raise people in an environment of freedom that lets them become talented and valuable to the world.

You want to make the world a better, freer, more prosperous, peaceful, and wonderful place? Go produce or adopt some kids and offer them a safe home and a lot of freedom. Keep them away from the conformity factories and movements or causes. Let them be kids. Curious, resourceful, mischievous, annoying, creative, destructive, tiring, and interesting. Increase their independence steadily until they're totally autonomous. They'll do the rest.

P.S. - Another thing every successful entrepreneur told me was, "For the right person, I'm always hiring". This is true for me as well. I am always looking for top-notch talent to help bring visions to life and grow ideas into something powerful. If that's you, pitch me anytime.

The Religious Forks of Bitcoin

Bitcoin SV (BSV) is Orthodox Christianity.

Bitcoin Core (BTC) is Roman Catholicism.

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is Protestantism.

The more I think about the protocol (doctrines), developments (practices), and culture (aesthetics), the more this analogy rings true. If you want to know the strengths and weaknesses of each implementation of the bitcoin faith, think about the strengths and weaknesses of these implementations of the Christian faith.

I might go in depth on this metaphor later in a podcast or something. I'm telling you, it pretty much nails it. Even the types of people typified by each.

How to See the Future

What technology that exists today has the ability to upend the way things are done a decade from now?

The ability to identify this is correlated with ability to predict the future.

A lot of people attempt to predict the future by going to the edge of technology and imagine changes brought by inventions that don't yet exist. "Once AI is able to do X, it will change Y in the following ways" kinds of predictions are very unlikely to be accurate. There are too many variables.

Instead, find technologies that actually exist and work well today, but very few people realize or use them yet. Not because of a fundamental limitation of the tech, but because the knowledge of it and human skill able to use it aren't yet widespread. Then you eliminate the biggest variables around the if, when, and how of the new tech. You can focus on the implications and industries affected.

There are other factors beyond just technology, like trends, norms, beliefs, politics and culture. But those are also more variable and less able to be pinned on a timeline than technology. They affect each other, but new tech, if it makes people's lives easier, is very hard to bet against over a long enough time horizon. People want more for less. Once they've tasted it, they want more of it, and to sell it and take it to its limit. Any tech that can do more with less is highly likely to shape the future, and cultural narratives tend to bend around it.

It's easy to assume any useful tech in existence is already being fully exploited. This is the theoretical economist trap. If you understand and appreciate the power of markets and human self-interest, it can be hard to understand just how unevenly capital and knowledge are distributed at all times, and how much room for innovation always exists. Not just tech innovation, but business model innovation that can deploy existing tech that is underutilized.

There is tons of this all around us all the time. Tech that works wonders but is in "deceptive mode", relegated to small circles of hobbyists, or weird applications that under-exploit its potential.

I think bitcoin fits into this category.

Bitcoin as it was invented and released to the public over a decade ago does a few things that have staggering potential. The ability to attach monetary value to the transfer of information, and do so at levels as small as a 1000th of a penny instantly and globally is incredibly massive. To do this with no trusted third party or single data repository is even more massive. This is all possible right now today with no need for any new inventions. Hardly anyone knows it.

Instead, most people imagine a future for bitcoin where it becomes gold, then currency, but only if something new gets invented. Most people think bitcoin can't operate at scale and can't handle tiny payments. They are trying to predict the future based on stuff that still needs to be invented. Too many variables to be accurate. That's because what's become known as bitcoin - BTC - stripped out all the functions bitcoin was designed with that let it scale and handle tiny payments instantly. So BTC has to try to solve that all over again and hasn't yet.

Meanwhile, what bitcoin originally was is still operational and working today. It's under the ticker BSV and almost nobody realizes how well it works, and those who have heard of it hate it for personal, cultural, and political reasons. Right now, today, it is doing transactions instantly and globally for 1000ths of pennies as it was designed to do. Nothing new needs to be invented for it to work.

Whether BSV or something else like it, the cat is out of the bag. Current tech right now today can do this. That means the best way to predict the future is to imagine what instant global monetary transactions tied to bits of information from 1000ths of a penny to billions of dollars means. Think through every industry and application. Consider what is not possible today that this makes possible.

Sure, some current businesses will get more efficient. But the real power of prediction comes from finding things that are literally impossible without this tech that only become possible with it. An entirely new model for the internet could emerge. Problems with the information age currently being solved in frustrating, ham-fisted ways (free use, sell user data; trusted third parties; etc.) could be solved in straight-forward efficient ways.

The tech is here. The knowledge and skill and application is not. In ten years, what will be built on it? That's how to see the future.

The Podcastification of Everything

What if you could match up any people in the world to discuss something and just listen?

I tweeted this morning that I wish there were a service for getting interpretations of medical imaging where you could browse any available docs or specialists across the world, book 3-4 of them, and do a live Zoom where they view your MRI results and share their opinions, debate, and discuss.

Besides the value of being on-demand, getting multiple opinions in a single meeting, and having a global marketplace to choose from, another huge value of this approach is the opportunity to hear other people discuss and converse with each other. Being a spectator on a good conversation is an incredible way to learn.

Podcasts have made this more clear than ever, by blowing the doors off the formerly controlled and scripted process of formal interviews. I tune in almost every day to hear two or more people I've never met have conversations about stuff. It's engaging in a way that hearing a speech or reading an article isn't, and 10x more valuable than formal debates or panels or interviews.

Imagine if you could take the benefits of the podcast format and add some customization based on need, person, and topic? One obvious way to do this is to start a podcast yourself, which allows you to speak with experts you'd never be able to reach without one. You can ask what you want, or even bring on others to ask with you. But it's a lot of work. If there were more ways to create podcast-like conversations between people of your choosing, it could open amazing possibilities.

I mean hearing different surgeons, docs, and practitioners give their takes on an X-Ray and treatment approach in a real-time multi-party conversation would be so amazing and useful not just to you, but even other people who might want to listen. This is just one application.

It's kind of like bringing the Socratic teaching method out into the broader world.

The Weight of Reality

Reality has a weight.

Its weight is directly proportionate to ability to perceive it. The more the fish can understand the concept of water, the wetter it feels.

It's not quite accurate to say life only gets harder, or more complex. These are often true, but even when the simplicity or ease of existence increases, so does the weight. Life gets denser and more real the deeper we go into it. Time and change cause the accretion of reality.

Live long enough and someone close to you will die. That experience alone makes reality heavier in a way that can never be undone. Someone who has suffered or been close to tragedy cannot ever get out from under the increased weight of reality brought by the events.

Maybe that's the point.

Maybe reality is really, really unimaginably heavy. Maybe that's inseparable from its beauty, power, and divinity. Maybe the time and sorrows we move through expose us to more of this weight only because they make us able to handle it. Maybe a deeper understanding of sorrow and the possibility of pain is the only thing that equips us to experience more of the fullness of joy and beauty and all the other unnamable facets of reality.

In The Great Divorce C.S. Lewis paints a picture of heaven that is not easy to experience. It hurts to walk on the grass because the new entrants into heaven aren't dense enough, while heaven is as dense as anything could ever be. They have to become more real to experience the pleasure of grass bending underfoot. They have to increase their weight to not be crushed by the fullness of reality.

I think that's more than a metaphor, and I think it begins before death.

Death is certainly some kind of doorway, but I suspect the process of embodying our full form, experiencing and uniting with the fullness of reality, or Theosis, as the ancient Christians called it, begins when we do. Coming into the fullness of heaven begins on earth. Reality gets heavier the further we move into it, and without realizing it, we get more capable of moving into more of it.

One of the great challenges is to accept the increasing weight of reality without becoming increasingly somber. To know and experience that weight and allow playfulness and laughter to increase in weight right along with it. The truest joy is solid as steel. Ever increasing reality is an immense load to bear, but an at least sometimes light heart is stronger than an always heavy one.

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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When You Can’t Afford to Be a Fan

Being a fan or a member of a movement makes you stupid.

It can be worth it when the stakes are low.

For example, being a dedicated sports fan can be worth the price of the stupidity it brings.

You lose the ability to objectively reason about your team, your rivals, or the referees. You see things through a lens warped by your commitment to the team. Most of all, you become susceptible to getting led to delusion and false hope by whatever hopium peddler comes around. You can't help but believe THIS will be the player/coach/manager to save us.

But you gain the escapist enjoyment of fully giving in to the experience. You get lost in it, experience as epic, inspiring, and heroic moments that a non-fan would get nothing from. You get to live a drama. Like a good movie, you want to actually feel the ups and downs as if it were your own life.

The loss of clear thinking that comes with sports fandom has a small cost. Being blind to the realities of sports doesn't hurt you much in life.

Being a fan or dedicated member of a movement in other areas can be very costly.

If you're too emotionally invested in a technology, brand, ideology, political party, or leader the resulting stupidity can be very costly. You can lose lots of time, money, sleep, trustworthiness, friends, opportunities, autonomy, and sanity. The blindness of a fan makes them prone to wander off cliffs.

When someone points out a flaw in the thing you're a fan of, does it causes you pain? Is your first instinct denial or rebuttal? That's a good sign you're probably being made stupider and less useful to yourself by your fandom.

Critics may be wrong, and your rebuttals may be right. But if your hackles get raised before you've even formed a rational thought about it, it's a bad sign.

Humor is another sign. If you can't point out and laugh at and satirize weaknesses in the thing you like, you're probably too deep into fandom. All movements are dangerous, but any movement that isn't laughing at themselves a lot is especially dangerous. Self-seriousness is the path to delusion.

Hold your likes lightly.

Just Listen to It

Sometimes your inner voice tells you something.

Sometimes it's out of left field or in the middle of a restless night.

Listen to it.

It doesn't always make sense, but acting on what you know in your gut always leads to better outcomes than trying to overcome it with your head.

Put in the Work Haiku

The end doesn't come

After doing all the work

The end is the work

Courage and Cowardice Aren’t Always Easy to Tell Apart

There's a funny idea about courage floating around.

People get called courageous for loudly denouncing things they believe are evil. But that alone is not courage.

Yes, taking a stand against evil can be courageous. But only if it is scary, painful, and costly to do so. If there is no cost, it's not courage.

Most of what gets called courageous has no cost and brings no pain. To denounce as evil something everyone already believes is evil, or something with no power to do you bodily or reputational harm, is not courageous.

As a silly example, calling Hitler a piece of shit on Twitter is not courageous. Everyone agrees, Hitler has no power, and nothing bad will happen to you for saying this. Calling Hitler a piece of shit on live radio in Nazi Germany in 1940 would be a different matter.

We like to credit ourselves for courage when we stand against things that cost us nothing. It feels good to pile on when something has been deemed bad in the popular narrative. Gotta make sure to get our name on the record calling bad what everyone else calls bad! But this is easy, and of almost no value to anyone. It can make us smug and lazy and self-righteous and cause us to overlook our own capacity for cowardice.

At all times in all places there are evil things praised or accepted as good. With time and distance they may be seen for the evil they are. Courage is standing against those evils when they are viewed as good by the masses and when it costs you to do so.

Damn. That puts things in a different light. Most of the "taking a stand" we think we do isn't anything more than going with the flow, which is indistinguishable from cowardice.

By the way, you can be courageous and wrong, or cowardly and right. Just because it takes courage doesn't guarantee it's good. But as a general rule, acts of cowardice are far more likely to lead to something bad than acts of courage. And praising cowardice as courage is always a bad thing for social incentives.

Be Ungovernable

I'll never forget the story of the communist regime in Poland throwing in the towel and giving up because the people were "ungovernable".

Be ungovernable.

If you don't want to be oppressed, harassed, cajoled, propagandized, gaslit, brainwashed, abused, taxed, regulated, and coerced into submission, the only real solution is within yourself. Let your very existence be an act of rebellion.

The kind of person who just thinks different and acts in accordance with their own internal guide takes immense resources to control. Eventually, would-be rulers have to give up and go find less exhausting marks. Many people may try to oppress you. They may succeed in making your life miserable and inflicting suffering. But don't ever let them succeed in controlling you with the ease they need to sustain it.

You belong to no man. They can cage or kill you, but they can't tame you if you choose to remain free.

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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