Stalwart Haiku


There's an energy

That wants you to get panicked

Refuse to give in

What Makes Money?


A discussion on the money properties of bitcoin and how to bootstrap a currency.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ0SH9G2w1w

Inner Game of Startups #40 – Free Issue for Everyone


The weekly newsletter is $5/month, but today's issue is free for everyone. I'm just that kind of guy.

Read it here.

Laughter Killed the Devil


There's a story about the theologian Smith Wigglesworth awakened in the middle of the night to see a dark hideous creature in the corner of his room.

"Who are you?", he asked.

"The Devil", it replied.

"Oh, just you?", he said as he rolled over and went back to sleep.

The Soviet Union had a major problem. Lawbreakers were everywhere. They were spreading pamphlets, posters, and graffiti of the most threatening variety to the ruling class. Satire. The most difficult part for the bureaucrats and armed thugs trying to stop it was they didn't always recognize it. Artists forced to create art for the party would lace it with inside jokes and mockery the average person would spot, but the self-serious government would not.

The government of New York wants you to know they will not tolerate freedom. Every citizen is a prisoner, condemned to their home and allowed brief outdoor excursions as long as they are alone. They want to enlist you to enforce this slavery. So they setup a special number. "Text this number if you see anyone violating our oppression." And people did text it. A lot. They texted dick pics in such a volume the government was forced to shut down hotline.

Evil is self-serious. Oppressors and statists can only live by fear. Fear is the only thing they have. If they are not feared, they are nothing. They are a threat only to the extent people fear them as such. There is nothing - nothing - done by the state and the dictators who run it that can be done if people do not fear them.

Courage appears to be the antidote to fear. In a way it is, but courage is such an equal and opposite force that when it meets tyranny the resulting spectacle can spread more fear. A courageous martyr sometimes inspires mass revolt, but often makes an example that sends people deeper into hiding.

Pure ideals and clear arguments can offer some resistance to tyranny. But the stronger those ideas, the more danger that they morph into tyranny themselves. Violent ideological revolutions devolve into a new form of tyranny.

But laughter cannot be defeated. It does not confront head on. It does not play the game evil wants to play, on familiar turf. It plays its own game, speaks its own language, a game and language the devil doesn't understand. It's confounding and unstoppable. It undermines the foundation of fear evil relies on.

The degenerate, unserious, self-interested rabble who don't respect anything enough to not mock it are a greater protection from tyranny than well-meaning high-minded intellectuals.

Don’t Let Imaginary Downside Prevent Real Progress


It's possible to ship too fast, but nobody does.

It's possible to followup too much, but nobody does.

It's possible to use too few words, but nobody does.

It's possible to benefit from doing stuff you hate, but nobody does.

It's possible to have too much curiosity, but nobody does.

It's possible to have too much belief in yourself, but nobody does.

It's possible to be too optimistic, but nobody is.

It's possible to chase too hard after your dreams, but nobody does.

Don't be distracted by what's possible for theoretical people. Only focus on what's progress for you.

The Act vs. the Art of Writing


Some days I write angry. The benefit is words come fast and easy. The downside is too many words come too easy. I tend to overwrite when venting.

Yesterday's post was like that. I sat down and it just came out. I re-read it (something - along with proofing and editing - I almost never do) and was a bit embarrassed by how wordy it was. When angry, I can string adjectives together the way my grandfather could string together curses.

Sometimes I think maybe I should be a more mature writer. Maybe I should take the time to write well, and ensure things look right before hitting publish. Then I come back to why I'm writing. It's for me. That's it. I write because the habit of daily doing so makes me better than if I don't.

On occasions when I write for third party publications I take a bit more time. I even proof and edit (well, I usually ask someone else to). But my daily posts are just for me to get done and out the door. Writing is not my vocation (I sometimes ponder what that would be like) so I'm not accountable to anyone for quality. I'm accountable to myself for creating value every day, and cranking out what's on my mind does just that.

I do love the art of writing. I enjoy all kinds. Stories, marketing copy, curt emails, short blog posts, long-form articles, poems, songs, and Tweets. But the art is different from the act. For me, the act has to come first. The art will suffocate the act if I let it. I'll be stuck with beautiful ideas and no execution. So I focus daily on the act of writing, and only occasionally on the art.

Maybe in a different phase in life when priorities and goals shift, I'll focus more on the art. Not today.

Technocracy is Evil and Inhumane


The instant, simultaneous, total state takeover of the "civilized" world revealed how dire our situation is.

The battle of this generation is liberty against technocratic control; living, organic order vs. dead, clean chaos.

Order is natural, emergent, dynamic, unpredictable, useful, creative, and meaningful. It can't be wholly contained, but it can be harnessed, guided, played with, adjusted to, and discovered in a continual dance. It is moving into the future. It is an infinite, positive-sum game.

Chaos is stripped down, unnatural, incapable of growth or change, dead or decaying, empty, and devoid of depth. Once natural order is made wholly legible and containable, it has been killed. Life and control are anathema. Chaos is the result of attempting total control. It freezes the present and reverts to stagnate snapshots of the past. It is a finite, zero-sum game.

Chaos is not the result of freedom or the state of nature, order is. Chaos is the result of efforts to defy the freedom of the state of nature. Chaos results when liberty and life are stripped from the world and all that remains are sanitized elements easily countable, reducible, and containable.

Architect and philosopher Christopher Alexander made a life's work of studying the concept of "aliveness" in footpaths, windowsills, buildings, neighborhoods, and natural and designed systems of all kinds. His books offer many side-by-side photos of homes or other scenes, and ask the reader to, on a gut level, decide which is more "alive". Every single person agrees easily and quickly. We know the more living from the more dead when we see it, but understanding why is difficult. Alexander made great progress. Living systems are in harmony with natural human tendency. For example, humans are phototropic. We also like to sit after more than a few minutes. So a chair placed near a window harmonizes with these subconscious patterns, while a chair facing a windowless wall does not.

Social architects (who dwell in brutalist buildings that suck all life from the ground where they stand) do not observe and contemplate life. They calculate and scheme control. They want legible, definable utility, based on static definitions and stale answers without questions. They kill the human spirit the way a giant parking lot kills the view.

The Great Sanitizer

The state and the obsessive, maladjusted, soul-dead busybodies who pull its levers are always seeking to remove impurity and unpredictability from the world. That is the same as removing life itself. This is what Ayn Rand meant when she called collectivist, command and control philosophies "anti-life". That is the essence of what they are. To control is to kill.

The state wants to aggregate, categorize, sort, label, and track. James Scott describes in his several works the driving force of the state to make all persons and property "legible". If they cannot be defined into conceptual submission and measured until all surprise is extinguished, how can they be controlled? So states set about to kill the creative, generative forces that make life worth living.

C.S. Lewis, in the final installment of his sci-fi space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, describes a scientific institution (called N.I.C.E.) with aims at global domination. The reason isn't a lust for power per se, but a desire to make the world clean, free of germs and dirt and bugs and unpredictability, and all the shifting variables which make complete legibility impossible. In other words, they want to snuff out that pesky thing fueled by liberty that we call life.

Stranger Than Stories

These ideas used to seem a bit much to me.

Sure, some people are control freaks. Yeah, religious devotion to science is a contradiction to all reason and sometimes gets nasty. Yes, unspeakably awful ideas like eugenics have been a major part of every government in modern history (much as they might now deny it), but total rule by technicians whose greatest foe is unpredictability? Isn't that the stuff of bad Bond villains?

No.

It is the outlook I see as the greatest present threat to all that is good and true and just and humane.

Total global lockdown - the literal imprisonment of entire populations without even the pretense of wrongdoing by the state's own absurd and shifting standards - and introduction and embrace of oxymoronic phrases like, "Social distancing" came about not out of fear of some feigned foreign enemy or revolt against some unpopular dictator. They came about in an instant solely because the idea of planned chaos (to quote Ludwig von Mises) has so overcome the notion of spontaneous order.

Devotion to the fiction that men with guns and laws and stolen money can control microscopic pathogens we barely understand animated the acquiescence to complete boot-licking servitude. Anything - anything! - but unpredictable organic nature in all it's life-giving danger and beauty. We must collectively pretend we can eradicate uncertainty, all physical and spiritual casualties be damned.

When Science Died

The oxymorons in the air are rooted in a deeper one.

"Belief in science".

That's a phrase people have been unironically uttering with increased frequency for at least a few decades.

"I believe in science" is a contradiction in concepts. It is meaningless, used only to signal superiority by unthinking people who are scared of unknowns.

Belief means to assume the truth of something and act on that assumption without fail. Science means to assume the fallibility of everything and never stop trying to prove it false. I would like to be charitable and say that people simply mean this in a tongue-in-cheek way, to say they are religiously devoted to questioning everything.

Except the complete opposite is true everywhere you see "belief in science" trotted out, or true skeptics called "deniers of science". The scientific process is nothing if it is not a perpetual threat to the consensus view. Yet the word has come to mean nothing more than blind defense of the consensus view. Scientism is antithetical to science.

Similarly, those who question mainstream ideas (not merely ideas, but the violent imposition of those ideas) are called "believers", and those who crouch and lick the hand that whips them are called "skeptics". If Orwell never seemed relevant before, he surely does now.

A History of Inhumanity

Those with rabid, hateful, desperate, lurching faith in state agents to neatly destroy organic order and replace it with clean chaos are naive about the power of the state to do harm. Even granting stupidly charitable assumptions about the state's goals being good to begin with, bureaucracies being capable of carrying them out perfectly, and no unintended consequences resulting, there is no instance in the history of the organized crime that calls itself government where states did not venture far beyond what the public knew or desired.

Did you know every single state in the United States had forced sterilization programs at one point? Health departments with an explicit goal of reducing the population of blacks, handicapped persons, poor people, and other "undesirable" individuals surreptitiously injected people to prevent them from procreating. The last state to finally end the practice was North Carolina, and it didn't end until the 1980s.

Citizens are aghast at the atrocities of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. We would've resisted such horrors! Except most of the time we don't know they're happening. Because we trust the scientific central planners.

Liberty is Life

We don't understand reality.

Hayek famously said the "curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design".

Not just economics. The task of every thinking person is to discover the limits of our knowledge. To replace answers with questions, arrogance with curiosity, intellectual death with life.

One of the greatest casualties in rule by diktat is experimentation and discovery. We don't know anything about the human body, virology, epidemiology, or any of the other specialized fields of human health. The absurdity of assuming one small body can accurately surmise and prescribe a single path for all people in all places and times is beyond the pale.

Millions of messy experiments. People with dramatically different risk tolerances, trying dramatically different approaches. Sharing their feedback. Profiting from effectiveness, losing from error. This dynamic churn is the source of all progress. To decree a single plan backed by the threat of murder (as every single government law is) is to destroy humanity's best hope of flourishing.

Julian Simon famously shot down the doomsdayers who fear human life and liberty above all (excepting of course their own) by winning a bet about the availability of resources as population expands. But his bet was a gimmick compared to the profound insight of his masterful book, The Ultimate Resource. Simon points out that individual humans, free to explore and try and fail and succeed and compete, are the source of progress not only for the human race, but the entire natural world.

We are relentless problem solvers. But we do it in messy ways not fun to watch and even harder to catalog in textbooks. We teach and learn through experience and consequences. We progress when we do the most outlandish things all the smart people thought were pointless. Our glories and triumphs are utterly illegible. Historians and bureaucrats have no choice but to guess, fudge, lie, and misinform, because to accurately chart the true path and nature of progress is impossible.

We don't know what ingredients matter most or what will work best. That is precisely why we need the free and open contest of liberty to discover it.

It is the same with ideas. John Milton said it is best to let truth and falsehood grapple, because truth is the stronger in the long run. The sycophantic obeisance by every major media outlet and online platform to moronic political power-seekers is the opposite of this dynamic discovery process. Labels and warnings about "fake news", removing ideas that deviate from those spouted by humanity's lowest lifeforms (politicians and bureaucrats), and propping up "official" ideas are bad for curiosity, bad for liberty, bad for progress, and bad for life.

The Renegades

Historian Thaddeus Russell (driven from academia by the mindless literatti) documents how the least reputable people tend to expand human freedom, and thereby progress, opportunity, happiness, and meaning. I don't think you have to be a deviant or a scoundrel in order to enhance liberty, but I do think those who resist the drive for a sanitized world will be labelled as such, and those already labelled as such are less likely to cave to prestige and pressure.

The cold dead hand of Communism could no longer control Poland, not because respectable ideologues educated enough people on the virtues of freedom, but because the illegal underground market became bigger than the respectable above ground one.

Humanity needs gray markets, black markets, shady people, fringey people, all kinds of people running all kinds of experiments. Ideas bumping into ideas and exploding into new ideas. Bad ones. Good ones. Easy ones. Hard ones. Dangerous ones. Safe ones.

Unpredictability, unknowability, dynamism, the organic nature of emergent phenomena, entrepreneurship at the edges, opposition to expert consensus - that is human liberty. That is life.

We don't need more experts. We don't need more controls. We don't need to eradicate variability. We need gritty, dirty, messy, imperfect, unpredictable, wild, untamed, dangerous, beautiful human freedom.

Fuck the cold metallic gloved dead hand of human chess playing technocratic ghouls who want to squelch and contain and document and track and sterilize it to death.

The man who knows freedom will find a way to be free.

Long Weekend Haiku


I would've finished

all my house projects, except

I had too much time.

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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Inner Game of Startups #42: Controversy, money, and vision


This week I talk about the balance between a personal brand and a company brand, how to not get sucked into current events, and why startups can fail due to too much vision and too much money.

Read it and all issues here.

The Obsessive Tendency to Turn Everything Into a Game


I can't seem to help turning things into games.

I tell myself I'm going to go for a leisurely swim and just go as long as I feel like. Pretty soon I'm counting laps, counting strokes per lap, and giving myself little challenges to meet.

It's like this when I shoot hoops, vacuum the floor, wash the dishes, sit by a fire, or respond to emails. It doesn't matter what it is, I almost always end up gamifying it.

I'm not sure if this is good or bad or a bit of both. I mean games are definitely good sometimes, especially for really monotonous tasks. But the games aren't necessarily fun. Sometimes they are, but mostly they're a result of some kind of OCD tendencies I have to quantify and patternize every task and always - always - find ways to do it better or faster, even when that has no bearing on the outcome or when the entire goal of the activity was just to relax.

Occasionally I can just doing things without little sub-tasks and challenges within, and it's kind of nice to have an open-ended, non-timebound experience, where the activity is one whole rather than a bunch of parts. Writing is one of the few things I can do that way (though I often gamify that too).

I'm not sure if I do this because it reduces the scope of the goals to nearer term, or because it keeps me from getting bored, or for some other reason I should seek counseling for. Maybe this is universal.

Stories Open Doors


Learning to tell stories is an incredible skill. But learning to think in stories is even more fundamental.

A narrative arc is more memorable and impactful than factual bullets. The ability to create narratives is what allows attracting friends, collaborators, investors, customers, and fans.

Storytellers are interesting people who get interesting opportunities. Not just those who tell anecdotal tales, but those who weave all of life into layers of narrative. The price of wheat is not merely an economic fact, it's part of a story that started somewhere and will end somewhere. And it's probably nested in other stories.

But telling stories starts with thinking in narrative arcs instead of dots.

I've seen this illustration several times (I'm not sure the origin):

Data To Wisdom Via Information, Knowledge & Insight ...

These are all different ways to see facts. But none of them weave a story. There's no narrative in the dots or the colors or the lines or the connections or paths. They are facts with relationships, but they stop short of a narrative arc. Yes, there is wisdom in seeing that point A follows a path to point B. But why? How? For what purpose? What happened when the path was completed? What was going on before?

A narrative thinker will see these facts and be able to construct a story - a beginning, middle, and end - with motivations and purpose involved. Stories have teleology, facts do not.

The ability to see a meaningful story in any person, event, or series of facts leads to the ability to communicate in narratives. You can connect dots for reasons, and show the future if the dots continue to connect.

Thinking in story helps you be more interesting because it helps you be more interested.

When someone tells you, "I'm an engineer", instead of filing this as a fact in your mental Rolodex, you immediately want to know the story. How did they end up an engineer? Is this the end of a long journey, the beginning of a new story, or the middle? Curiosity drives you to ask good questions, good questions make connections, and connections lead to opportunities.

Discovering, telling, and re-telling your own story is a great place to start. Why are you sitting there reading this right now? What led you here? Why? What does it mean for the future?

Alternating Energies


I've discovered I have the best weeks when I can alternate frenetic days with deep dive days.

Several days in a row of either deep work (writing, thinking, planning) or loud work (people, podcasts, emails, tasks) and quality declines. But If I can have a single day of lots of calls and being "on" with other people, followed by a day doing mostly alone work, I get the best of both.

I can pour myself into the demanding work knowing tomorrow will be a respite. As I've gotten older, I definitely prefer the quiet work to the loud, but I need the loud stuff in some minimum quantity, and my work requires it more than that anyway. So I try to carve out days or half days in between the loud work to have plenty of quiet work.

Both types of work require energy, and both can give energy back if done right, but switching between energy states is optimal for me.

Keeping Focus Without Retreatism


I wrote yesterday about the information war. We're bombarded with so much information if we are tuned in it's impossible to think.

But I don't think the long-term solution is total retreat from the world at large, or what Venkatesh Rao calls Waldenponding.

The bad information experience is like artillery perpetually pounding around you, driving you mad. But there's another kind of information experience that's more like a constant stream. It flows endlessly, every moment bringing past new things. You can wade in, you can get refreshed by it, you can have fun, catch valuable bits, and you can also drown. But the info stream is not inherently hostile or trying to make you useless like the info artillery. You can step back onto the banks and just observe without getting immersed. You can contribute to it, consume from it, or use it for inspiration to create.

The info stream has always existed, even before computers and cell phones, radio and TV. It's the scuttlebutt, the gossip, the collective conversation we call culture. It's trends, fads, ideas, fashions, commerce, and events constantly moving around us.

The digital world has broadened the stream to include more participants, and the flow is faster than ever. But each individual also has more control over their experience of the stream, how they consume, and especially how they contribute.

Waldenponding sounds both difficult and welcome when under constant fire by the info artillery. If only we could go screenless and escape, we'd become whole beings and achieve spiritual enlightenment, we think. But I think the urge to retreat entirely is another form of delusion, less dangerous perhaps than the delusion of thinking it's all real and urgent and important, but a delusion nonetheless.

It makes more sense to take control of your relationship to information, rather than be controlled by it or completely shielded from it.

First, get the hell out of the bullshit battlefield. Don't let yourself be bombarded. Don't sit there and get shelled to oblivion. Get away from the noise and chaos and need to always know the news and have an opinion.

Breathe.

Maybe wander the quiet woods for a bit after leaving the battlefield. When you're ready, approach the stream. Look at it as something beautiful and fascinating. Respect it as something powerful and dangerous. Wade in from time to time as you are able without getting swept away. You'll get stronger and form a better relationship to the stream over time. Make it a part of your existence that serves you, not the other way around.

And when you realize it's pulled you under, or that you've wandered away from the stream metaphor altogether and are back on the battlefield, exit again. Go back to the woods.

Metaphors are how we make meaning. The conscious navigation away from a battlefield to a stream can help reset your engagement with the world of endless information. At least it does for me.

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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