What Intelligence and Insanity Have in Common


The brain's ability to make connections.

There are many forms of intelligence. But all of them I can think of have a lot to do with making connections.

Mechanical intelligence sees the connections between parts of a machine. Social intelligence sees connections between people. Physical intelligence makes connections between actions and re-actions. Creative intelligence sees connections between disparate ideas. Entrepreneurial intelligence sees connections between different goods or services, or a new nexus between supply and demand.

A low intelligence person takes the discreet items in the world individually at face value. A high intelligence person sees causal chains, analogies, parallels, and processes that bind the discreet items in various webs.

If you've ever witnessed a high connections person in action, it's fun and surprising. Where most people would see an umbrella over the lunch table, they'd see a wooden pole with canvas, think about their friend who sails boats, wonder about the material that makes sales vs. table umbrellas, then parachutes, then the different levels of wind-flow needed in each application. Before long they're working out how you might have a single supplier for each item, or a new kind of material. This is how theories and businesses begin.

(Think of Peter Gregory in the famous sesame seed scene from the show Silicon Valley.)

Our brain dices the world into discreet units for a reason. Seeing connections is a super power, but it can also be a curse. If you can't unsee them, and your brain goes on a high speed runaway connection binge, you might lose your grip. Each event, object, and activity cannot be encountered and engaged discreetly if your brain is reeling six levels deep on connections.

There's a reason meditative or hallucinogenic states where everything feels connected and all is one cannot persist while you try to brush your teeth and go to the office. Most of life is encountered in bites. And most of it has to be.

I think conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs have a ton of connection intelligence, but not a strong enough dissection filter. They see too many connections too much of the time. Pretty soon, everything reminds of everything else. Hence things like the "Illuminati confirmed" meme, where every shape, color, name, and logo on every product and commercial gets quickly connected to some kind of other symbol with occult meaning.

(Think of Jim Carrey's character in the movie 23.)

People often accuse paranoid conspiracy types of being stupid, or failing to see the meaning of things. The problem is they see too much meaning. They can't stop seeing meaning.

The trope of the mad scientist, or brilliant mathematician who descends into ravings with old age show the same problem. Too many connections.

But there's something interesting going on in there too. These are not stupid people, or people to dismiss out of hand. They see too many connections to handle, many of which aren't useful. But they see a lot of useful connections the rest of us miss in our fragmented world. There's insight to be found.

I'm not sure exactly how to cultivate the ability to make connections and guard against connection overload at the same time. But I suspect most of us are in far more danger of making too few connections than too many.

Proof of Work in Career Launch


This is a sort of nerdy way to frame the career launch process, but now that I've heard other people using the terminology, I'm excited to be able to do it too with less fear of being too hard to understand!

The career launch game is not what you think it is. It's not a numbers game. It's not a credentials game. It's a proof of work game.

Here's a post where I tell you to get in the new game!

The Danger Lies in the Gimmes


The Golden State Warriors are one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA.

They just gave up an NBA record 31 point second half lead at home in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth seeded Clippers.

Losing a game to an inferior opponent is not a surprise. Golden State's kind of dominance means they get lax sometimes and give up a game or two in a series where they're heavily favored. But giving up that kind of lead is insane. They got caught in the gimme trap.

Blowing open a 31 point lead when you're the better team means game over. Just play around and run out the clock with your bench. You can smile, relax, celebrate, and take the win for granted.

The danger isn't even so much slipping into the chill mindset. The danger is it's almost impossible to come back out of it mid-game. Knowing you once had a 31 point lead makes you reinterpret a 15 point lead as bigger than it is when the gap starts to close. Then it's down to ten, but no big deal. You hit another shot and feel fine. Then single digits. Then two possessions. Then one. By this time, it's undeniable that you can't take the game for granted, but it's too late to flip from victory lap to vicious because now fear has entered. You play tight. Embarrassment looms. You have no upside to winning now - it would still be a little embarrassing it got so close - only downside to losing. Your opponent is loose, freewheeling, all upside.

The Warriors got caught in the trap. Bad.

So now what?

It's possible this embarrassment is good for them. If they use it. Nothing snaps you into playoff hunger mode like getting walloped.

But it doesn't always work out this way. It depends how a team responds mentally to the loss.

If you treat it as no big deal, you're in a dangerous spot. Then again, if you treat it as a really big deal, you are too. The former could mean you're blinded by pride and still lacking hunger and respect for the game necessary to win. The latter could mean you cede mental territory to your underdog opponent and show that they shook you. You don't want to be relaxed, and you don't want to be afraid.

That's a hard line to straddle. Harder the more successful you are. Overconfidence in your ability to win without trying or fear of losing what you have are impossible to avoid once you've achieved greatness. But you can't indulge them for long. Success is a great reward but a bad teacher.

Will the Warriors once again find that spot between fear and pride? Can they muster the seriousness, learn the lesson, and come back with no desperation or relaxation?

All games are mental games. And while casual fans may find dominant dynasties boring, they are the most interesting thing in sports to me. The mentality needed to stay successful is rarer and harder than what's needed to get there. Heavily favored teams have to level up their mindset and deal with the demons of success and expectation.

I can't wait to watch.

What If You Killed the What-Ifs?


I was talking to a friend this morning who was in a bad place. He'd forgotten to do some work over the weekend, and he wondered how to handle the inevitable let down when his supervisor found out.

He asked what he should do. I asked what his options were.

He said there were two. He could try to fake that he'd done the work and do a terrible job on his deliverables. Or he could preemptively fess up, say sorry, and ask how best to make it up this week.

I said option two sounded like it had a higher probability of limiting the damage than option one.

He responded with a series of 'What ifs'. He was imagining all the bad things that might happen. I said okay, what about option one? Same what ifs.

I asked him if he could control what the supervisor did in response to whatever approach he chose. He said no. I said, "Then forget the what ifs. They are irrelevant. They'll happen regardless. Focus on what you can control and pick the course of action with the highest probability for the least painful outcome. Then stop thinking about it."

He felt paralyzed by the what ifs. Stressing over eventualities he couldn't control froze his decision making process. He was going to default to option one, not because he thought it was better, but because he never had time to think clearly and choose due to all the worry about what might happen two steps down the road.

Kill the what ifs. Take the step in front of you based on the best evidence you have. See what happens. Take in the feedback. Adjust. Choose the next step.

That's it. It really is that simple. But it's hard. We worry a lot about many things out of our control, or only potentially in our control in the future based on a series of responses out of our control.

If you want less stress, think about fewer things. But think about them well.

Vacations


I've never been a big fan of vacations. I enjoy seeing new places and having fun experiences outside the daily routine, but I've never much enjoyed the whole not working part. I'd rather bring my laptop and do some work while experiencing new things.

But I've started to enjoy the vacation concept more, except in fragments. Rather than a vacation from everything, I'm trying out mini vacations. Pick one thing to take a vacation from for a day or a week and do it.

It's a great way to learn more about what role various activities play in my life too. A vacation from social media, or reading, or alarm clocks reveal stuff about my current habits and lifestyle that I may not know just from thinking about it.

A Few Old Bars


Just found this in a Dropbox folder from a few years ago. I gave myself a challenge to write a song every day for 30 days. Day one I tried to get things warmed up and shake the rust. I ended up referencing a bunch of intellectual influences in verse. Definitely needs some work, but it was a fun change of pace and I was able to hammer it out in only a few minutes.

The way I write, I must embrace,
And face. The fact. That I’m. A hack.
Ready rhyme and predictable pace
It’s in. My blood. I can’t. Go back.
So sappy ballads with screaming pipes,
Here I come to shout some tripe
To crash some trash with blasting words
Slap the bass like I’m the worst
Spit the verse
Break the curse
No writer’s block, it doesn’t exist
Resistance is a bitch through which to persist
So Robert Fritz the shits out of this
And Press the Field to find self two,
The self who, Koestler says I create through
Eureka’s leaking from the words I’m speaking
Tap the Source, be the Source, doesn’t really matter
Just bust the verse through the ‘verse mind over matter
Flatter, to control
Flatter is the death
Flatter is the vision
Of only height and breadth
No depth in that, gotta ascend from the flat
Land in two dimensions, now three, now four
How many more limited only by perception
Depth without direction, no arrow of time
But timeless rhyme can unwind on a dime
What’s wound up and found in
The cream of the mind
Over matter, minefield of the battle
Only suckers see victory
Remnants see infinity
Games, not sums
Fun, not zero
Self, not hero
Burn while Nero
Loses his mind, corrupted by power
Absolutely, Acton in action,
Acting astutely
Self-interest directed, with bad incentive
Not self-interested deflected,
Don’t neglect this, protect this
Wherever the self is
Freedom is found where spirit meets ground
Patterns emerge where freedom is spurred
Only belief can resist the thief
In the night he comes, but I’m ready
“Oh, it’s just you?” I’m steady
Six rings make the greatest, so I best get busy
I’m only getting started, day one, I’m not dizzy
No knockout punch for me, but resistance
On the run, on its ass,
Never said it would be fun, just said it would be done
So here it is, there it is, now I did it
Day one.

Love Your Company and Others Will Too


I read a lot of job postings. Most of them suck. No wonder talented young people don't fall over themselves to apply.

I'm endlessly fascinated by just about every business I encounter. The model, the strategy, the supply chain, the customer acquisition process, etc. I have a hard time understanding people who aren't fascinated by it. Especially when they work there. Especially especially when their job involves recruiting others to work there.

Most job descriptions are functional and boring. They use tons of insider jargon, and rarely talk about what the company does for customers and why and how it creates value and how the role is a part of that. "The Sales Operations Assistant reports to the blah blah, and engages in strategic market research and lead generation activities to assist the Sales Team as well as cross-organizational processes involving the CRM and marketing automation platform." Kill me.

Those things are all actually really cool! But an outsider doesn't know that. What gets me is it's written like even the insider doesn't know it's cool or what purpose it serves or why that purpose it awesome.

And you can't fake it. Some postings realize the problem I'm describing, and so they try to connect to the 'why' of the company and show the softer, mission driven side. It comes off like a motivational poster. Trying too hard. "At Acme Corp, we care about our people, our clients, and the broader community impacted by our logistics support software. It's about making the world a better place." It's like some focus-group wrote it under the influence of an HR conference called "Empathy and You: Beyond the Bottom Line." Ugh.

But if you really, truly love your company it will come through. If you find it fascinating, it will come through. If you get excited about getting more awesome people to come see how cool your work is and be a part of it, it will come through. They will want to. It's infectious.

What if a posting were more like, "This is a pretty awesome role. We've got all these business owners out there struggling to organize the products they sell. So we made a super awesome, easy tool that keeps track of it all so they don't have to. The problem is, most of these business owners don't know about it! So our sales team reaches out to let them know and see if we can help. They do a lot of calls and meetings to show them the software. But they need help staying organized too! This role is all about going through lists of businesses who might love our product, researching them, and figuring out which are the best fit, then helping the sales team find the best way to contact them. There's a lot more, and you'll learn it quickly when you join!"

Of course in a real company you could do much better. But I'm already excited about this role just thinking about it at this imaginary company!

If you want employees who love the company, start loving it more yourself.

If You Want Clear Thinking, Get Money Involved


I talk to so many young people who cannot think clearly about life decisions.

Most of the time, it's because they have too little money involved.

I don't really want to go to college, but maybe I have to?

I'm not sure if I should take this job because it might not be my passion?

Do I really want to move to a new city?

Those questions get a lot clearer when mom and dad aren't paying tuition, paying for your car and cell phone, or providing a rent-free living space.

College is the easiest and most extreme example. Ask a young person who's tepid on the idea of attending and they'll torture themselves trying to work through the pros and cons. Then say, "It will cost you $50,000. You've got to come up with that on your own." All of the sudden, it looks like a ridiculously stupid deal. Because it is.

College savings accounts from mom and dad blind young people to the truth of their situation. Something everyone else says is important, and it's "free", becomes too hard to turn down, even though you know it's not going to move you closer to your goals.

The more skin in the game young people have the sooner, the better they'll get at self-knowledge, analysis, risk-taking, and decision making.

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 Hot Hand


I'm watching the Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson got hot and now the entire team is going out of the way to do everything they can to get him the ball and set him up for a shot.

Golden State does this more extremely for hot Klay than any team for any player save the Lakers in Kobe Bryant's final game.

I'm trying to think about relevant analogies in other areas. When does someone have the equivalent of the hot hand? How can a team go out if it's way to feed the heat?

Music as Programming


I used to treat music as a consumption good. (Unless I was making it, then it was an act of creation, maybe with a dash of consumption thrown in).

I chose music based on the mood I was in. I consumed as a reflection of my state of mind. I let my feelings dictate and the music followed.

In the last few years, I've started to reverse the relationship. More and more, I use music to create my mood, not just resonate with it. I choose a state of mind I want to be in, or identify one I want to snap out of, and go find the music that will do the trick.

Some music is so powerful that you cannot maintain a certain mindset while listening to it. TK Coleman claims it's impossible to be unhappy or afraid with Christmas music playing. I'm not sure about that one, but I am sure certain music eliminates the possibility of certain mental or emotional states.

I still listen to music as a consumption good, but I listen as a capital good a lot more now. It's an investment in my mindset, and when properly calibrated, works wonders.

The Delicate Art of Listening but not Listening


"If I asked people what they wanted, the would've said a faster horse." -- Maybe Henry Ford

Changing the world means showing people something they couldn't tell you that they needed.

Nevermind. They can and do tell you what they need. Just in the wrong language.

People will tell you what they need in a language composed of what they see around them. You need to listen carefully to the meaning but ignore the language. When they tell you "faster horse", you listen and take it seriously as a clue to a problem while ignoring it completely as a solution.

Why faster? What does a horse do? Get you from A to B. OK. That's a real problem people are telling you they want solved. Better A to B travel. Listen to that. But ignore the word "Horse". That's a solution word. For real innovation, you don't want to listen to their solutions, only their problems.

If their solution was awesome, it'd probably already exist. But their problem is a source of all kinds of inspiration and opportunity.

This is a weird kind of listening. You can't play the tortured creator who hates consumers because they demand things you think are crappy. The consumer is king and deserves utmost attention and respect.

But you can't treat them as a solution generator either, and focus group your way to innovation by asking them to design it for you.

Your job is to be more keyed in on the problems people feel than anyone else. Listen to the pain. Your next job is to be less keyed in on the expected and proposed solutions than anyone else. Ignore the remedies.

That's how you change the world. Introduce something nobody was asking for but everyone was asking for.

Easy, right? ;-)

What Intelligence and Insanity Have in Common


The brain's ability to make connections.

There are many forms of intelligence. But all of them I can think of have a lot to do with making connections.

Mechanical intelligence sees the connections between parts of a machine. Social intelligence sees connections between people. Physical intelligence makes connections between actions and re-actions. Creative intelligence sees connections between disparate ideas. Entrepreneurial intelligence sees connections between different goods or services, or a new nexus between supply and demand.

A low intelligence person takes the discreet items in the world individually at face value. A high intelligence person sees causal chains, analogies, parallels, and processes that bind the discreet items in various webs.

If you've ever witnessed a high connections person in action, it's fun and surprising. Where most people would see an umbrella over the lunch table, they'd see a wooden pole with canvas, think about their friend who sails boats, wonder about the material that makes sales vs. table umbrellas, then parachutes, then the different levels of wind-flow needed in each application. Before long they're working out how you might have a single supplier for each item, or a new kind of material. This is how theories and businesses begin.

(Think of Peter Gregory in the famous sesame seed scene from the show Silicon Valley.)

Our brain dices the world into discreet units for a reason. Seeing connections is a super power, but it can also be a curse. If you can't unsee them, and your brain goes on a high speed runaway connection binge, you might lose your grip. Each event, object, and activity cannot be encountered and engaged discreetly if your brain is reeling six levels deep on connections.

There's a reason meditative or hallucinogenic states where everything feels connected and all is one cannot persist while you try to brush your teeth and go to the office. Most of life is encountered in bites. And most of it has to be.

I think conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs have a ton of connection intelligence, but not a strong enough dissection filter. They see too many connections too much of the time. Pretty soon, everything reminds of everything else. Hence things like the "Illuminati confirmed" meme, where every shape, color, name, and logo on every product and commercial gets quickly connected to some kind of other symbol with occult meaning.

(Think of Jim Carrey's character in the movie 23.)

People often accuse paranoid conspiracy types of being stupid, or failing to see the meaning of things. The problem is they see too much meaning. They can't stop seeing meaning.

The trope of the mad scientist, or brilliant mathematician who descends into ravings with old age show the same problem. Too many connections.

But there's something interesting going on in there too. These are not stupid people, or people to dismiss out of hand. They see too many connections to handle, many of which aren't useful. But they see a lot of useful connections the rest of us miss in our fragmented world. There's insight to be found.

I'm not sure exactly how to cultivate the ability to make connections and guard against connection overload at the same time. But I suspect most of us are in far more danger of making too few connections than too many.

Proof of Work in Career Launch


This is a sort of nerdy way to frame the career launch process, but now that I've heard other people using the terminology, I'm excited to be able to do it too with less fear of being too hard to understand!

The career launch game is not what you think it is. It's not a numbers game. It's not a credentials game. It's a proof of work game.

Here's a post where I tell you to get in the new game!

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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