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Remember this Martin: the conclusion of Walden is Stoic

I ran across this quote from Walden yesterday. It is the last line in the book:

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard times. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”

Most people remember Walden for the escape to the woods, throw away busy life theme. But after two years on the pond his conclusion is you are where you are so love it. Don’t escape. Love it as it is. That is very stoic and fits with my experience.

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Remember this Martin: the conclusion of Walden is Stoic

I ran across this quote from Walden yesterday. It is the last line in the book:

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard times. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”

Most people remember Walden for the escape to the woods, throw away busy life theme. But after two years on the pond his conclusion is you are where you are so love it. Don’t escape. Love it as it is. That is very stoic and fits with my experience.

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Resilience The Journey

Remember Martin: love the suck

Read this interview with the Ranger Up founder today.

“You routinely get fed a shit sandwich and are not only expected to eat it, but eat it using the proper utensils, table manners, and a smile on your face so that the men and women under your command maintain motivation and discipline as you tackle the new surprise mission.”

“After a period of time you stop wishing or hoping or expecting good things to happen. That probably sounds negative, but it isn’t. When you stop counting on an outcome, you tend to start taking things as they come”

“And when you get to that point, nothing can break you. You’ve programmed yourself to deal with the hands you are dealt and not waste unhappy time pining for conditions or an outcome that simply doesn’t exist.”

“Everyone has a breaking point. For most people, that point is very low, which is why many people never push themselves past their comfort zone”

“And the dirty little secret is that everyone has a coward inside them, and if you really want to be tough, and I mean that both physically and mentally, you have to push that coward to the breaking point and then push past it every day. You have to embrace suffering, or in military parlance, embrace the suck.”

Remember this Martin. Life is not about avoiding pain. It is about training for it because it will come. The question is what do you do when it comes?”

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Remember Martin: Ask open-ended questions

Read this in a blog today: “Asking open-ended questions encourages the person you’re conversing with to think critically and therefore to be more engaging because open-ended questions allow the respondent, not the asker, to control the response.” In my experience, I agree.

My favorite Open Ended questions:

“How did you…”

“In what ways…”

“Tell me about…”

“What’s it like…”

I used some of these on my 4 year old during facetime today. Instead of “how was school?” which tends to get a one word “good” or “bad”. I asked “Tell me about school today?” and got a very long story with drawing, lunch, snacks, dancing, etc.

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DO this: What I learned

Remember Martin: Be wary of spectacle

I am in transit again. Sea->lax. In the airport lounge working. Monday night football is on. The Seahawks. Many of my friends are there. Many of them took the whole day off to go to the game. An entire day watching grown men play a game that most of them had exactly zero stake in.

This reminds me that my attention is one of the few things I actually have to give the world. There is a limited amount of it. Distractions are always pulling at my attention. But being a “sports fan” is another level of distraction. It is actually a commitment to watch the spectacle every time it is on. It is not a short term distraction like a game of poker. It can become an identity. People become attached to their status as a “fan”. All that time, all that attention toward a spectacle that does not improve the world or themselves in any way. Ok, if you are in that business and that is your life I understand being part of the spectacle. But what could be accomplished in the world if all the attention of all the fans of Monday night football did something else? It seems like an enormous squandering of an incredibly precious resources.

This is not a call to stop watching sports for anyone else. Only a reminder to myself why I chose to NOT be a “fan” of any spectacle sport. I have made the affirmative decision that I would rather spend my time doing just about anything else. It is an absolute negative return on investment for me. At one time I had season tickets to the Seattle Sonics. But I used those times to go with friends and family to create memories and close business deals. I have never read a sports page or online stat site in my life. The minute the game is over I am on with life. I use the spectacle as a connection framework to improve relationships. It is good for that. But I have never been attached to the games or teams themselves.

Remember Martin: be wary of spectacle. Be very choosy with your attention. If you attend spectacle do so in support of a personal relationship with those you are with. Not a commercial entity.

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DO this:

DO THIS: Upgrade your brain function

One of the amazing things I am able to do as CEO of Upgrade Labs is to run a bunch of NOf1 experiments on myself. Lately I have been very interested in how to upgrade brain performance in the short and long term. At Labs we have an astonishingly easy to use tool called the WAvi which tests things like brain voltage, beta/theta ratio, and P300 delay (a measurement of executive function). I recently ran a test on myself before and after a 100mg injection of NAD. The left is before, the right after. Brain voltage went up 38%! All the red areas are active. P300 delay was also improved over 20 percent. Which brain would I rather have? Yea the one on the right.

While I was able to feel the effects of nad in prior trials, this is the first visual and measurement I have of what is actually being upgraded in the brain. Very cool stuff. With anything you are considering to add to your life, design a way to test and quantify how it is working and to what degree. I am going to repeat this test with caffeine and nicotine and a couple other things to compare the magnitude of the changes for different things. Stay tuned…

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DO this: Media Reviews Uncategorized

DO THIS: read “A calendar of daily wisdom” from Tolstoy

Ryan Holiday recently mentioned an all but forgotten book from Tolstoy which the author claimed was really his culminating life’s work. A Calendar of Daily Wisdom is Tolstoys attempt to summarize the best advice he had read over his lifetime into a daily inspirational work that could share his version of how to live a good life from authors and thinkers around the world. He quotes from the likes of Kant, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, the Bible, the Koran, and event the Talmud. It is wide ranging and refreshing in how much similarity there are in the core ideas across cultures and time. While a bit heavy on the religious themes and invocation of faith in a higher power, it is clear that the goal of all philosophy and religion is to give is insight to live a good life NOW. I have added reading the days inspiration. From this to my morning routine and I recommend you do too.

Some selected quotes:

One of the key questions we face is whether our lives end after death. Whether we believe in eternity or not determines our actions. Therefore, it is crucial that we determine what is mortal in us, and what is eternal, and that we cherish those things eternal. Most people do exactly the opposite.—After BLAISE PASCAL

It is not the place we occupy which is important, but the direction in which we move.—OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

The only real science is the knowledge of how a person should live his life. And this knowledge is open to everyone. Leo Tolstoy

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DO this:

DO THIS: Best public speaking advice I have received

I do quite a bit of public speaking.  At one time I spent six months with a TED talk coach.  I believe the TED folks have dove very deep into what makes a compelling presentation, especially of an idea.  And most talks are really selling ideas, getting buy in from the audience on something in a way they were not previously thinking about.

These are the four most important takeaways from that coaching.

  1. Practice out loud. In front of a mirror.
  2. Few slides as possible.  One to three.
  3. Care.  About your subject. About your audience. (see #4)
  4. Honor the time your audience is giving you.  Give value.

 

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DO this:

DO THIS: Test your health age (I am 37 vs 55 biological)

I am a nerd about data.  One thing I constantly do is take different tests which measure different health metrics.  One which has been very scientifically validated is the World Fitness Test.  It is a questionnaire that uses an algorithm to calculate VO2Max so you can take it online.  While I prefer the actual VO2Max test done in the lab, these algorithm results are similar to actual, so their science is good.  I am 55 years old biologically and have the fitness level of a 37-year-old.

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What I learned

As this about any investment you are considering making…

I do a lot of private investments, over 90 so far.  People are pitching me all the time.  I have made many bad investments and a couple of good ones.  The other day this questions popped into my head after one pitch:

“Am I getting paid or getting laid?”

“getting paid” means investing in a strong business with good fundamentals, strong team, and great growth (actual not pro forma).  Even if the business isn’t profitable, if there are solid fundamental margins, they are able to attract customers at a good cost and they are solving a real need, the business is likely to work.  As I evaluated all my investments, the ones that I was “getting paid” returned about 4X the average return.

“getting laid” means investing in a sexy dream.  The team may be great, the market is huge, the product idea sounds amazing, but the execution has not delivered the fundamentals yet. There is still much execution to turn the dream into a product and a business.  Many times founders want a valuation of over $10M for their dream with little or no execution.  As I evaluated all my investments, these tended to perform below average.  Basically because it took more money than the founders thought to execute and “get paid”.

Now the Unicorn is BOTH.  A strong fundamental business in a huge sexy dreamy market.  There have been a couple of those, having nothing to do with my intelligence in picking them, just pure dumb luck.  The Unicorns performed 10-20X the average. That is why they are unicorns.

I am not telling you how to invest, or which type to invest in.  This is just one of may questions I ask myself before investing.   I weigh this against the valuation, stage, management team, my investment size, risk tolerance at the time, and make a decision.  What asking this question has done for me is to REDUCE the number of “getting laid” deals I do.  Not because there is anything wrong with them, but I can identify them up front more easily and I know the average returns are less.  So I tend to pass.