Sphere of Influence and Sphere of Knowledge

Common wisdom is difficult wisdom.

Focus your attention on the things within your sphere of control or influence.

Some of the best and hardest advice to heed.

An interesting partner to this wisdom is this:

Have confidence in firsthand knowledge, and less with every degree of separation.

Just as you have a sphere of influence - things within your power to affect or alter - you have a sphere of knowledge - things within your power to perceive directly.

Never have I been more aware of the dangers of allowing second, third, and umpteenth hand knowledge to impact my worldview, my mood, or my sense of optimism or autonomy. We live in a world awash with information. Most of it is bad. I don't mean bad as in true news that I dislike. I mean bad as in the information is inaccurate, if not wholly fabricated or misrepresented.

In fact, it's gotten to the point that the more "official" weight information has - from well-funded media organizations or "verified" sources - the less likely it is to be directly provable, and the more likely it is to be false.

If I allow what I know about the world to be shaped by the sea of indirect information, I will know very little truth and feel very powerless. If I allow my perception to be shaped by what I directly observe, and add small dashes of indirect info with decreasing weight and probability the further removed, I will feel happier and more successfully navigate reality.

Where are these throngs of people irate over Starbucks holiday cups? I have never experience a single one first, second, or third-hand through real human contact. I have no experience of them in my reality. Yet if I believe the official stories, the world is full of them, and they are breeding conflict and discord. If I choose to believe the story told by strangers with a proven track record of lies, my life gets worse as does my view of the world. If I choose to believe my own eyes and experience and friends and acquaintances, the official storytellers look like useless hype men and fools at best.

Be wary of wandering outside your sphere of knowledge. Be curious, seek, explore, but do not treat indirect visions of the world utterly incongruent with your own observations as deserving of equal weight. Think probabilities. Think incentives. How likely is this source to be accurate given what they stand to lose or gain by you believing them? How immediately useful is this knowledge in improving your life or navigation of the world?

It sounds paranoid, but it brings the opposite. When you reserve most of your confidence for facts evident in your own experience, you are less paranoid. Every crazy story from distant sources brings less stress. You have a more solid hold on what you do know, and a looser grip on things farther afield that may or may not be true.

All I’ve Got

Some days just getting out my daily blog post takes everything I've got.

Some days the universe is screaming with every bit of energy it has that a blog post is not in the cards today.

Those are the days when I hit publish and tell the universe who's boss.

Mass Manipulation Haiku

You're not controlled when

You think something false, but when

You think others do

Hype and Bullshit in Bitcoin

Another fun conversation with "The Four Numpties" about the world of Bitcoin.


Inner Game of Startups #36: Beware the Big-Ass Vision

The promise and pitfalls of mega-visions for an industry.

Read it and all issues here. Subscribers only.

The Miracle of Placebo

The Placebo Effect is the most promising area of medicine and one of the most neglected.

Placebos work consistently for some percentage of people, in every imaginable form of pretend therapy, pretend surgery, and pretend prescription. They are more reliably effective than most "real" treatments. Oh, for almost no cost and without the side effects.

Everyone takes the effect for granted, but rarely is it pursued beyond, "If you think you're being treated your condition improves."

Surely this evidence of the mind-body connection is the most important possible part of health! Understanding the effect, and how to improve and direct the mind to effect the body, should be the number one most fascinating and most researched part of medical science!

Instead, chemical combinations with much less reliable effect and with myriad unknown and deleterious unintended effects are studied ad nauseam, compared against placebo (which they usually fail to outperform), and then all the head-scratching is about why the chemical didn't work instead of why the placebo did.

The most fertile, broadly applicable, reliable, affordable, safe, and sophisticated form of treatment the world has ever encountered gets short shrift. It is one of the most fascinating mysteries, sure to lead down rabbit holes that alter and improve our understanding of the most fundamental aspects of reality, yet hardly any "experts" seems curious about it. (A decent definition of an "Expert" is someone who has killed their curiosity with credentials).

In fact, when a positive result is discovered to be caused by Placebo, it is treated as a lesser citizen. "Oh that's not legitimate, it was all only placebo effect." Only Placebo? Only an improvement in health brought about by belief? Only healing through mindset shift; ideas generating direct physical results?

The most present and accessible form of treatment resides in the mind of every individual. We have no idea how much it can do, how for it can go, and how we might be able to enhance the power of our minds to improve our bodies.

What could be more exciting to a health researcher or practitioner than that?

Blind to Reality

It's exciting and troubling to know that human perception is limited to an almost inconsequential fraction of reality.

Light visible to humans is a narrow band of all light. Sound audible to humans is a tiny range of frequencies. And so for all the senses. We are surrounded by more magnetic, electrical, gravitational, and other fields than we can imagine. At all times. Everything is a sea of energy and we capture just a drop here and there.

The earth has a frequency. So does every plant and animal. The atmosphere is full of charged particles and ultraviolet rays.

For everything than we can see, there is infinitely more that we can't. We are bathed in reality and blind to 99.99% of it.

If that doesn't get you hyped for adventure I don't know what will!

Breaking the Rules

Sometimes I have a cigar for breakfast.

Just to remind myself that my life is my own and the distinction between weekend and weekday, work and play, relaxation and focus, is entirely up to me.

I have a pretty normal, productive routine. But sometimes I act it out without thinking. Just go with the motions. Can forget that it's designed and chosen by me. To refresh my sense of agency, I try to mix it up sometimes. Stay up late doing work. Read a book in the middle of the day.

Sometimes the purpose and power of self-imposed rules is forgotten, until they are bent or broken.

I want to be efficient, but I don't want to live on autopilot.

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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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?


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.

Roger Ver Talks Bitcoin

Fun convo with a great entrepreneur.


Inner Game of Startups Issue #39

Read it and all issues here. Subscribers only.

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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