Tinker, build, fiddle, and experiment

Tinker, build, fiddle, and experiment. Get your head out of the theory and into the practical.

Have a bias towards action. You will quickly learn if you like something or not.

Are you thinking of moving to a new neighborhood or town? Get an Airbnb and stay the weekend and walk through the main street.

Are you thinking about buying a new car? See if you can rent one for the weekend and give it a proper test drive.

Are you thinking about starting a new hobby like cycling, surfing, kiteboarding, fishing, or golf? Rent some equipment and give it a spin.

Once you’ve scratched the itch, you’ll get some authentic feedback, and you’ll know if you want to commit more time and money. The trick is starting small with a low commitment. It’s less intimidating, and it gets you going and saves you time if it’s not for you.

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Moving fast doesn’t have to come at the expense of quality or long term progress

Moving fast doesn’t have to come at the expense of quality or long term progress.

Make small moves and correct mistakes quickly.
Avoid irreversible decisions, so when you change your mind, you don’t have to start from scratch.

The quicker you learn and adapt to reality, the better.

Check your ego and listen to feedback. But you only get that feedback if you put yourself out there. Thinking about doing something while you are in the shower is different from being out there in the dirt.

When you are starting out, act as a field mouse foraging for food while the owl is hunting. Stay alert, be nimble, and use your size and speed to your advantage. Stack up the small wins and then take cover. Repeat and build momentum over time: the more forward momentum you have, the more significant the outcomes.

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The Tree of Knowledge

I’m intrigued by Elon Musk’s concept of Tree of Knowledge. He says, “it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

Vishal Khandelway created a helpful illustration to explain the difference between the trunk, branches, and leaves.

The trunk. Start here and build your foundational principles by reading biographies, history books, philosophy and other non-fiction.

The branches. These are podcasts, medium posts, new best seller books on Amazon, Op-eds in the Atlantic, NYT, Washington Post, etc.

The leaves. These are random tweets and Facebook posts. Back in the age of newspapers, these used to be Letters to the Editor. These are mostly noise.

Spend your time on the trunk and the branches. The leaves are seductive but don’t build help your build foundational principle that acts as your guidelines for making decisions.

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Always start with your principles.

Manage the downside

Seasoned risk takers manage the downside. When they fail, it’s never a knock out blow.

It’s like landing a plane on fumes, even if the final path to landing is a slow glide down to a makeshift runway. They pick the bailout area along the way, and if things don’t go to plan then they divert, land, refuel and regroup.

Increase your risk profile, but also increase the hedge against absolute failure. What’s your contingency plan, how do you mitigate loses? Don’t close your eyes, hit, and hope. That kind move only works in the movies.

Success is about persistence and repetition, but you can’t compete if you’ve crashed and burned along the way.

Keep tinkering

Persistence is a talent. I was at a talk the other day where a middle school teacher explained that her most successful students at the school were not the academically brightest, but the most curious and persistent. When I look back at my childhood and fast forward to where I am now, most of my school peers who’ve done beautiful things in life were the kids in the back of the class who were quietly tinkering on projects or were going deep on hobbies, sports, and extracurricular activities. They were working on things that didn’t offer up easy wins but were rewarding over time. They have taken that same skill in life and applied to business or academia. Persistence is the common theme.

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Authenticity scarcity

With the age of automation in full swing, we will be interacting more and more with software and hardware over humans. It’s an exciting time. Michael Fassbender’s role in Prometheus is a perfect example how androids will help older people on a daily basis. I also like the idea of TARS in the movie Interstellar. We’ll see the same trend in mobility, healthcare, finance, childcare, teaching, and sex. It’ll happen really slowly and then super fast. Humans will come to depend on AI the same way that we depend on family and friends.

With the tsunami of AI and Android assistance, people are going to lose touch with other humans. It’ll be possible to spend years alone with Androids and not see or touch another human. It will be like the space travel we see in sci-fi flicks where explorers live in space capsules protected from the harsh outside environment. These capsules will start to pop up on earth…first in hospices, then schools and then homes.

Over time people are going to crave real-life interactions again. There will probably be vacations zones and place that are Android free and zero technology zones. People will pay a premium for the imperfection of humans, whether it’s screwing up a food order, a casual conversation, while waiting in line, or brushing past someone on the bus. Things we take for granted or shy away from today, will be paid for and cherished.

Real life, authentic interactions will be something our grandkids only read about, but never experience. This thought makes me thankful for what I have today.

Catching creativity

Creativity sometimes comes in bursts. If I hit a blocker, and there’s nothing – the key is not to get frustrated and contrive creativity. Don’t manufacture something that’s not ready to come out.

Changing my routine, shaking up rituals or meeting with friends is a great way to unblock the flow. When it finally comes, I make the time to capture the creative flow. It’s like building a dam for the melting snowpack. Don’t let the precious water go to waste.