Early Customers Are Heroic

Every transaction has two sides.

Every business is based on transactions.

That means for every awesome business success that grew from nothing, there are two parties that made it possible.

The founders and the first customers.

Early adopters are no less heroic and integral to breakthrough successes than founders.

Here’s to the first customers of every big, bold, crazy idea!

But is it Real?

There are a lot of layers of social signaling out there.  So much so, and it’s rewarded so heavily in online dopamine hits, that it’s easy to focus entirely on achieving better signals of status at the expense of achieving real value behind it all.

When it comes to products, companies, or cryptocurrencies, just use the damn stuff or don’t.

When it comes to your personal goals, just make progress and add value to yourself or don’t.

When it comes to business, just make customers happy or don’t.

Those are really the only choices that matter.  Back it.  Make it real.  Forget about all the framing and posturing and stressing over attention or the need to stake and proclaim a position on every idea and event you hear about.  Screw all of that.

Build the stuff you care about.  Create value.  That’s it.

The Most Contrarian Thing You Can Do

Be an optimist.

Insist on finding something valuable, useful, and promising in every person and idea you encounter.

The rebel, non-conformist, or contrarian is usually thought of as negative, critical, skeptical, and pessimistic.  They find flaws in common tropes and beliefs.  That’s all well and good, and a critical eye is necessary, but it’s easy to mistake negativity for genuine insight or analysis, and it’s socially more rewarding and safer to be a critic and pessimist than an optimist.

Take any news item or phenomenon and spout off about what you think is wrong with it.  You’ll get some hate, but you’ll get a ton of love too.  People are ready for that.  It’s easy, and doesn’t demand much of you.  You can learn how to critique just by watching everyone else.  Critics are a dime a dozen.

The real radical is the relentless optimist.  Try that.  It’s really hard.  It’s lonely.  Everyone has a “yeah but” to your creative take.  But the reward to demanding to find something good or useful from everything is massive.  You begin to see the world as an endless source of opportunity and enjoyment.

Join me in rebel optimism.  It’ll be great.

In Favor of Impetuosness

I’m a big fan of action bias.  Even to the point of impetuousness.

It’s not that impetuous action doesn’t have costs.  It definitely does.  It lacks precision, it’s sloppy, never perfect, and sometimes just wrong.  But the cost of correcting an impetuous action is generally low, and the feedback you get is quick and clear.  The knowledge gained from ten impetuous actions that fail is worth more than the marginal mental improvements you can make to one untaken action.

Time is our most bounded resource.  Every unit of time you can use trying something and getting feedback is superior to a unit used not trying something.  There’s a great illustration I’ve come across many times about a pottery class.  Half the class is told to spend a week making the best pot they can, and half are told to spend a week making as many pots as they can.  Guess whose pots were better at the end of the week?  Gotta get those reps in!

One way to increase action bias is to adopt the “strong opinions weakly held” mindset.  When you have an intuition or idea, act as if it’s true, but hold that truth loosely as you await feedback on the action.

How You Work Leads to Where You Work

It doesn’t matter what your current job is.  It could be fast food, babysitting, a cool tech company, or construction.  You can leverage it into a great next step.  One of the best ways that almost everyone overlooks is by loving your current role and treating it with enthusiasm and pride.  And letting it show.

People who are always pumped about their work and clearly proud of what they do, sharing successes and trials, genuinely promoting their company, coworkers, and the mission, are people others want to work with.  If you’re living and breathing your job and clearly working to create value every day with joy, everyone who sees that will want that same enthusiasm for their company.  They’ll want to work with you.

How you work matters.  People notice.  If you work out loud with excitement in your current job, it will enhance the opportunity to find your next job more than you know.

The Secret of Selfishness

One of the great secrets I’ve discovered is that determining to find something beneficial and refusing to be merely a critic of anything I encounter changes my entire outlook and sets fire to my imagination.

I’m not very good at it.  The critic is easy.  Especially when you can justify it by claiming to be discriminating, skeptical, or prudent.  But really it’s none of these things.  It’s lazy.  Every person, thing, or idea encountered can be mocked, deconstructed, or criticized with little effort, intelligence, insight, and even less benefit afterwards.  The habit of criticize first closes the mind and shrinks the world we inhabit.

There is amazing untapped power if we’re willing to shut down the critic.  This isn’t about being an altruist.  You don’t even need some grand love of mankind to try it.  You need to be more selfish.  You need to want – to demand and resolve – to get something of value from every interaction and encounter.  You have to stubbornly refuse to let the critic blind you to the benefits in everything.  You must commit to penetrate the easy to ignore or deride surface and find something of value to take with you to the next experience.

If you can tap into this secret selfish power, you will see things no one else sees, enjoy things others ignore, and build social and material wealth where others burn them.

The Success of Your Friends is Your Success

Envy is evil.

Not just for its corrosive effects on society, but for what it can do to undermine your own success.  Envy makes you bitter and joyless.  Worse, it blinds you to your own potential and the opportunity around you.

If the success of those around you makes you less happy, you’re in a death spiral.  Conversely, one of the great secrets to personal growth and achievement is the realization that the success of your friends is your success.  Not metaphorically, and not just ’cause it gives you feels.  In a very literal sense.

You can think of it as a formula:

YC = YS*FS

Your ceiling equals your success times your friends success.  Let me give a simple example to illustrate.  If you succeed at coming up with a  brilliant idea for a business (YS goes up with the idea) and you have friends who have succeeded financially (FS is high), they can invest in your idea or connect you to those who can, which multiplies the total yield from your effort.

Given the above formula, there are several ways to raise your ceiling.  One is to increase your success directly (grow YS).  Another is to increase the number of people you consider friends (grow F).  Another is to increase the amount of success your friends have (grow S).

The more people with whom you are friendly, and the more you embrace and support their success, the more you multiply your own efforts and raise your personal achievement ceiling.  Each year that passes, if you keep investing in FS, it will compound.  I have friends whose success has led to them meeting people who were really valuable to the success of other friends, so I connected them, increasing everyone’s success, and later those successful friends were able to connect me to people who could help with what I’m doing, etc.

It’s sort of like Metcalfe’s Law for your personal network, except better.  I doesn’t just grow in value with each new node, but each node grows in value as each other node grows in value as well.

Be generous with who you consider a friend, and take joy in all their successes!  It will catapult your efforts. (But remember, no matter how high FS, if YS is zero, your ceiling will still be zero).

Friends are Individuals, Enemies are Collective

I had the misfortune of sitting in a hotel lobby that had TV news playing today.  At some point, the anchor said something about, “The Russians”.  It struck me how odd, and subtly dangerous this language is.

Foreigners, far-away peoples, threats, enemies, or those we fear get labelled as a giant unified collective.  In reality, only individual humans act.  “The Russians” cannot do or say anything, only individuals can.  But it’s too complicated and nuanced when you’re telling yourself a simple us/them, good/evil story.

Think of the groupings that get labelled in this way.  “The Chinese” is another big, monolithic bogeyman.  But if the Prime Minister of Britain says something, headlines don’t talk about “The British”.  If a Canadian politician speaks, no one says, “The Canadians want NAFTA”.  And, of course, no one who lives here would dream of giving every individual human in the United States a single identity.  Can you imagine trying to answer, “What do the Americans want?” about any topic?

I get it.  It’s a shortcut to prevent mental overload.  Far-away stuff we know little about is much easier to lump together as “the chaos/threat out there”, like the old maps with, “Thar be dragons” on the unknown places.  Still, it’s wise to catch yourself when using sweeping collectivist labels for diverse groups of individuals and ideas.

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