It’s All A Luxury Market Now

From Grinda's post (linked to below)

From Grinda’s post (linked to below)

From Fabrice Grinda’s great piece, The Evolution of Marketplaces:

These end-to-end marketplaces won’t completely take over the market. By virtue of their structure there is a limit to their potential market share. However, by focusing on high end customers who value their time and the quality of the experience above all else, they may end up capturing a large share of the profits in the market. As a result sites like Suitey and Beepi are more of a threat to real estate brokers and car dealers than to Trulia and eBay Motors.

As income inequality increases it’s important (that’s 5 i’s) to remember that a disproportionate chunk of each market will be made up of the high-end users. Marketing becomes even more vital as competition for limited attention increases. From Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over:

The growing importance of marketing integrates two seemingly unrelated features of the modern world: income inequality and increasing pressures on our attention. The more that earnings rise at the upper end of the distribution, the more competition there will be for the attention of the high earners and thus the greater the importance of marketing.

Cowen’s prediction is that we see way more millionaires made… but whoever isn’t wealthy will be supported by taxes/government. They’ll live more comfortably than the poor do now but they won’t have much extra cash. (If you want more reasoning behind this, check out these two posts I wrote at StartupBros: “10 Reasons the Future Doesn’t Include Your Job” and “3 Skills You Need to Succeed in the Machine Economy“.)

Sounds like fun to me.




Taleb Interview Highlight Reel

A few highlights from a great interview with Nassim Taleb:

Current Strength, Not Prediction

…it actually taught us to try not to predict the catalyst, which is the most foolish thing in the world, but to try to identify areas of vulnerability. [It's] like saying a bridge is fragile. I can’t predict which truck is going to break it, so I have to look at it more in a structural form — what physicists call the percolation approach.


I recently read a few books on the French Revolution. I realized that the places that are vulnerable are not places where you have a starving lower class. You simply give them a little bit of bread and they are comfortable. The real danger is a rising middle class with thwarted expectations…


You are eventually going to pay back this fake growth — [which is] sort of like Madoff style growth. Is it growth? Well, it looked like growth but it’s not really growth if you discount it by the probability that you have to pay it back.

Safe Over-Confidence

There are some domains in which you can be as over confident as you want without harming you.

Life Peaking

Some people live for the peak. It’s not a good happiness strategy, but whoever said life was supposed to be a happiness strategy?

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move. – Jack London, The Call of the Wild

The Value of Repetitive Advice

ooroborosing over and over and over and over and over

ooroborosing over and over and over and over and over

I’ve been wary (even scared) of the repetitive nature of life for a while. (See this and that for proof.) Then The Art of Manliness ran an excerpt from the Stoic philosopher Seneca. His letters are worth moving to the top of your reading list (unless you of Nietzsche or Taleb there).

Once again words have created tangible change in my life (a good feeling for someone who loves smashing fingers into keys) by giving form to something I couldn’t believe in before.

Both excerpts are from Letter 94 to Lucius.

People say: “What good does it do to point out the obvious?” A great deal of good; for we sometimes know facts without paying attention to them. Advice is not teaching; it merely engages the attention and rouses us, and concentrates the memory, andkeeps it from losing grip. We miss much that is set before our very eyes. Advice is, in fact, a sort of exhortation.The mind often tries not to notice even that which lies before our eyes; we must therefore force upon it the knowledge of things that are perfectly well known.

The economist Tyler Cowen has repeated this sentiment a couple thousand years later (Seneca was born 5 AD) in his most recent book Average is Over. He believes that marketing – motivating people to action – is going to be the industry of the next couple decades. When machines are making all the physical stuff so cheaply… the humans can only compete in the ability to tell compelling stories.

Religions understand the importance of repetition as well. The philosopher Alaine de Botton writes in Religion for Atheists about how religions effectively repeat the same lessons in various ways. They ram the basics down your throat your entire life. Our schools teach for the test.

We remember barely anything from our intellectual and philosophical endeavors because of our obsession with novelty. It’s more impressive. It feels like progress to know something new. The harder work is in putting the knowledge you have to use.

This is obvious – you know that cigarettes, sitting, sugar, and Snooki are bad for you. You know veggies, exercise, and reading something that isn’t written for Young Adults is healthy. We know these things… we just don’t learn the basic lessons thoroughly enough.

Because we don’t repeat them. Knowing is useless without application. We feel we already know, and we do…

The soul carries within itself the seed of everything that is honorable, and this seed is stirred to growth by advice, as a spark that is fanned by a gentle breeze develops its natural fire. Virtue is aroused by a touch, a shock. Moreover, there are certain things which, though in the mind, yet are not ready at hand but begin to function easily as soon as they are put into words. Certain things lie scattered about in various places, and it is impossible for the unpracticed mind to arrange them in order. Therefore, we should bring them into unity, and join them, so that they may be more powerful and more of an uplift to the soul.

I’m working on editing an entire book about taking action. It’s about simplifying your intellectual life to create more space to take powerful actions.

At first it doesn’t make much sense. It’s a bunch of words about action. Just get up and take action!

But sometimes we need somebody to provide permission. It’s not ideal. Ideally we’d just do what we know we should every time.

Sometimes we need to believe, though. The right words help belief.

Even if we’ve heard them a million times before.

Noah: The Non-Review


I don’t know how to write movie reviews. (i.e. Spoilers galore for shore. Like, offensively spoilery.)

It took me seven times deleting the first line to get to that. “I don’t know how to write movie reviews.” Perfect. Brilliant.

It’s like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders just like Noah by writing that.

It’s very important.

But for real.

Noah built a huge boat. First he had a dream but didn’t know exactly what it meant. He had to go to his grandpa/shaman and drink hallucinogenic tea to understand the vision.

You know that vision already – humanity destroyed the world so The Creator (that’s what they call God in the movie) is going to drown everybody except for two of each animal.

Humanity is just gross. They are sinners and they lust and are all humany. Ew.

Noah thinks that The Creator wants all humans dead. So he informs his family that they will all bury each other.

At some point Noah is supposed to kill a baby. He says something like, “Creator, I regret to inform you that I can’t put this knife through this baby’s eye.”

At first he thinks that he failed Him. Then later he realizes that He gave him the choice.

Half the time Noah is a hero because of his insanity and because of the miracles that follow in its wake. The holy vision is beautiful until it’s not. Noah didn’t realize when the mission was over.

Noah was all or nothing all the time. Once he realized that we’re all sinners he became blind to anything non-sinning in humans. He couldn’t handle not being 100% good and so he thought he had to die so the non-human creatures could have the world.

Why are humans always evil and animals are always good? Excess? I don’t know. We’re too good for our own good.

Later, Noah lowers the bar. That’s his big win.

He realized that there’s love in humanity. That every generation has the ability to inject a little more kindness into humanity. A little more love. His focus shifts from the evil to the good.

That’s the mission when the flood goes a way. A little more love.

Nothing heroic. Just little acts of love.

Love-Noah is less exciting than Arc-Noah. He’s not fighting off hoards and he’s not demanding miracles from The Creator. He’s just plodding along. Planting things with his wife, passing Manhood on down to his grandkids, making babies and then making them as good humans as he knows how.

That’s his most sacred mission now: A little bit more kindness.


The Pervert’s Guide To Being Yourself

There is a philosopher names Slavoj Vivek. I told a friend he has perfected the art of sounding insane and obvious simultaneously. You can see him interpreting movies for nearly three hours here (it is amazing):

The movie opens with the following line:

The problem for us is not if our desires are satisfied or not. The problem is how do we know what we desire. There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural, about desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire.

Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire.

Soon after we see an excerpt where a girl is looking into a train which is more a series of dreams. She is like a person watching TV watching the channels float by. At the end of the train there is a man with a drink. Their exchange, in part:

Guy: “Looking in?”

She nods.

Guy: “Wrong way. Get in and look out.”

A couple lines Continue reading

Knowing Something Isn’t Saying It

There’s a great post over at Farnam Street about developing grit. Here’s a excerpt that struck me:

The thing to embrace is probably the information that’s carried in failure. Not, I failed. I’m going to get up. I’m going to be resilient. But why did I fail? How do I adjust so that the probability of failure is lower in the next round, when in fact, I am going to get up again and do it.

When you look for what you learned it’s because you already know there will be a next time. A person who’s given up doesn’t take the time to learn.

There’s more power in the deep assumption that you will get up again then there is in affirming that you will get up again. To paraphrase Nietzsche: we don’t have to say what we actually understand.

The best things are built indirectly, almost accidentally.

Just like measuring happiness makes it harder to be happy, measuring grit makes it harder to be gritty.

It’s easier to ask, “What do I do differently next time?”

4 Counterintuitive Reasons You’re Unhappy

Nassim Taleb (my intellectual crush) first introduced me to the idea of via negative, get rid of the bad instead of adding the good. The idea is that most of our misery comes from extra treatment (in medicine), bad questions, worse assumptions, and so on.

It will help your health more to stop smoking (or stressing) than to add broccoli to your diet.

Instead of focusing on being happy focus on getting rid of the things that make you unhappy.

Take away your desperate need to find passion, love, and meaning and you’ll find them waiting in the flow of doing good (or bad) work.

Psychology Today ran Continue reading

Spartan Leadership

gates of fire

Fiction is usually considered “useless” besides increasing empathy and entertainment value. The New York Times ran a piece about CEOs who consider great fiction and poetry to be invaluable in running their businesses.

I’ve never seen leadership summed up (and a few paragraphs later, demonstrated) in a more powerful way in any non-fiction work detailing the subject. Simplicity, practicality, and badassery seem to run together. Here is an excerpt from Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire:

The Spartans have a term for that state of mind which must at all costs be shunned in battle. That call is katalepsis, possession, meaning that derangement of the senses that comes when terror or anger usurps domination of the mind.

This, I realized now watching Dienekes rally and tend to his men, was the role of the officer: to prevent those under his command, at all stages of battle – before, during and after – from becoming “possessed.” To fire their valor when it flagged and rein in their fury when it threatened to take them out of hand. That was Dienekes’ job. That was why we wore the transverse-crested helmet of an officer.

His was not, I could see now, the heroism of an Achilles. He was not a superman who waded invulnerably into the slaughter, single-handedly slaying the foe by myriads. He was just a man doing a job. A job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self-composure, not for his own sake but for those whom he led by his example. A job whose objective could be boiled down to the single understatement as he did at the Hot Gates on the morning he died, of “performing the commonplace under uncommon conditions.”

Simplicity in Action

I rebooted my meditation practice for the 57th time last week and was reminded of the power of simplicity. We read quotes from great artists all the time celebrating the simple life as the ideal. We smile, imagine ourselves on a beach watching the waves crash in. We imagine not having to do anything.

At least that’s what I do. Which, of course, is all wrong.

Simplicity is about doing instead of thinking. It’s about consistent, deliberate action.

Simplicity is literally found in action.

Let’s consider examples from across life:

1. Thinking

A simple mind isn’t dull, slow, or stupid. It’s responsive instead of reactive. It considers a longer timeline and wider perspective instead of only the immediate circumstances. Simple thinking is focused and so it is deeper and more nuanced.

Your anxious mind fights simplicity. It fights Continue reading