Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Isn’t a swan white? (The Black Swan Book Review)

Isn’t a swan white?

In the past, this was a common humorous expression to retort a ridiculous question or comment.

It was based on historical records that reported swans had white feathers. A black swan was impossible.

 It was only when the English discovered Australia that they discovered black swans. As a result, people no longer use this expression.

What the author of The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Talen, is warning us about is events that we cannot possibly predict.

Events that we can’t possibly know. Events that are going to happen, the ones which will effect us the most.

What is a Black Swan?

A “Black Swan” is defined as an event characterized by rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective predictability. Such events have a much greater effect than we usually suppose.

These extreme events have a catastrophic impact to the direction of the future in the way things emerge.

There’s argument present which states we can more or less rely on the past.

History can help us right?

Not so fast.

A Black Swan is something you can’t predict beforehand. You cannot plot it and plan for it. Doing so could lead to catastrophic results.

This leads us to another theme of the book: over confidence.

We humans are prone to be over confident. This makes us take on risks.

These risks can be very harmful. Thus, making one think that we can predict and control our future.

If you think about it, our world today is such a complex intricate system that it’s safe to say that trying to predict our future is a difficult, if not impossible, challenge.

With such a complex system, we humans create “short-cuts” or biases. And these biases can lead us down the wrong path. It’s tough because we cannot escape our own biology.

With that said, risk plays such a critical part of our lives.

If you do not manage risk, your life is essentially a ticking time bomb.

This doesn’t come to a surprise, but what exactly do we do with risk?

We all have different goals, lives, and circumstances; we need to look at general frame works with simple rules:

1. Don’t do anything in life that doesn’t have an upside. For example, let’s say that you’re in your car heading home from work. You’re tired, hungry, and just want to relax. All of a sudden some guy recklessly cuts you off for no apparent reason. You’re irritated and you decide to get out of your car and start an argument. The guy also gets out of his car and runs towards you. What you don’t know is that he has a knife. Now what is the upside of getting out of your car to argue? There is no tangible upside. Even if you managed to win the fight you could possibly break your hand or get injured, negatively affecting your health. You could possibly get sued, negatively affecting your finances. Even your happiness is effected because you can possibly go to jail. In other words, unless it’s a life or death situation (upside because your health is at risk vs. no health if you’re dead), don’t get out your car because there is no upside.

This may seem obvious, but it often goes unnoticed for many. To look at this technically, for every unit of risk you take, at the bare minimum, you would like to receive a unit of reward-ideally more. This concept is so fundamentally simple, however so many of us are crippled by inaction. We are crippled by the “risks.” Too many people put so much value and focus on the risks as opposed to the rewards.

2. Reactions increase risks. To be able to think through the worst case and realize that the worst case isn’t so bad is a skill that many might know but very few people can execute. Once you realize most risks aren’t that risky, life takes on a trajectory. For example, you’re a single parent at a job that doesn’t pay that well and you can’t make the rent. Your first reaction(s), would be to freak out which would lead to anxiety and loss of sleep. You basically put yourself at a disadvantage.

However, what if you have the option to live with your parents? Most people would say “but, I have kids and it will be tough.” What they don’t see is that this might be a lifelong lesson that teaches their kids to truly appreciate money and help them in their life. Now, I’m not naive to the fact that it’s challenging, but it’s not always as bad as it seems. Sometimes the most challenging part of your story is the “coolest” part and possibly could inspire someone else.

3. Living an under-performing/sub-par life. What’s a sub-par life? Being afraid of all the wrong things in life. Shift your focus on not living a crappy life as opposed to public speaking or approaching someone. It’s a game we are constantly playing. We are always optimizing for an under-performance.

4. Over optimism. When it comes to love, most people think people will love me for me. So we can let ourselves go and under-perform and thus we get over optimistic because we will find someone regardless. With all due respect and practicality, life doesn’t work that way. In reality, if we are truly being honest with ourselves, we tend to be attracted to people who are surviving and thriving. It’s not just one factor. If you had one choice of choosing someone who is over performing or someone who is falling apart in the aspects you care about, who would you choose? It’s tough, but to get what you want you have to be good enough so that what you like pursues you. When you feel like you are owed something, it will lead you down the wrong path.

Most of us under-perform because we feel like everything will work out just because. It won’t unless we make it. The laws of the universe supersede our own optimism. We are over optimistic. We are over confident. We create unnecessary risks.

My name is Romario Villanueva.  Entrepreneur & blogger. I'm a graduate from Rutgers University and love books. I love all things business, psychology, and basketball. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook and LinkedIn

Monday, January 22, 2018

Where do good ideas come from

Right now there is no better skill to posses than the ability to come up with good ideas.

What’s the reward for good ideas?

A good idea can put you and your team on an entirely different trajectory.

The problem? Most assume their idea is good and go after concepts that won't work or don't fill a pain point customers might have.

Ideas are easy to discount. They are also easy to create. The value of a good idea might not be a billion, but it could still be substantial for you.

The idea of privatizing the social experience where both parties had to agree in order to connect and be friends took FaceBook way beyond Friendster & Myspace ever reached.

Yes it's true that good ideas have the potential to change your bank account. Good ideas can also have the potential to change your body.

Just be careful the next time you're dismissing the value of an idea.
Ideas from a magazine or a book could plant the seed of every great thing that could happen.

If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to lose yourself in this modern world.

The difference between our species and others, we can come up with ideas to project for our future.

Sometimes for good and unfortunately sometimes for bad.

Below are some Good Ideas from this book

Superlinear Scaling

As life gets bigger it slows down. This is a biological pattern found throughout life. We use negative quarter power scaling to explain this. It’s a logarithmic grid that shows that metabolism scales to mass to the negative quarter power, Kleiber's law.

The question in hand was, if Kleiber's law can be applied to one of life's largest creations: cities - a super organism?

What was discovered was that Kleiber's negative quarter power scaling governed the energy and transportation growth of a city living.

However, there was some data that did not obey Kleiber's law. Every data point that involved innovation or creativity - patents, R&D budgets, creative professions, inventors - followed a positive, not negative, quarter-power law.

What this meant was that a city that was ten times larger than it's neighbor wasn't just ten times more innovative, it was seventeen times more innovative. As cities get bigger, ideas are generated faster - super linear scaling.

The pace of innovation and ideas are directly related to the pool of information you are drawing from.

Some people say books are not where you get great ideas. People say you get good ideas from self-experience. But above scientist have proved that to not be the best answer.

Think of yourself as a small town and books are the pool you draw from. If you read 1 good book, your pool is too small. But if you read 50 books per year, you aren't going to be just 50x more knowledgeable, but 130x more knowledgeable. It’s exponential.

And it's not just the number of books we read that matter.

If you’re a doctor don’t just read healthcare books. Read something in the arts or humanities. Expand and you will increase your pool of knowledge.

The caveat, if you expand your knowledge to bad books it will work against you. The rate of bad ideas will increase and you won’t get ahead.

Tips if you can't completely change your environment
  • Cultivate hunches by writing
  • Keep your folders messy, disregard order
  • Embrace serendipity – put yourself in places where you can run into people
  • Make generative mistakes – experiments that generate new ideas
  • Take up some new hobbies be eclectic.
  • Frequent cafes, liquid networks you bump into friends and strangers – constant moving
  • Follow the links – don’t let your fear get the best of you in new social relationships
  • Let others build upon your ideas. Allow them to work – collaborate. Don’t be close lid.
  • Borrow & recycle to reinvent.  (Good artist copy, great artist steal).
The 10/10 rule 

It takes a decade to build a new idea and a decade for mass adoption. This is the pattern that most good ideas follow throughout history.

However, there are some exceptions. One that stood out was the story of YouTube, which went from idea to mass adoption within 2 years.

In essence, it turned the 10/10 rule into 1/1.

The question is how?

We seen it time and time again. We seen ideas being built, only to sort of never catch on. Some ideas might just be ahead of its time or not viewed in the right perspective.

Yes, there is a natural curve to ideas, but the best way to use them is to connect not disconnect. You cannot hoard your ideas and expect them to age to perfection.

This comes from the paradox that is often taught in school that competition is the only thing that stirs up good ideas. This isn't necessarily the case, good ideas also rise in crowds and collaborations.

The best way to approach your ideas is to look at solid other ideas and build on top of it. It cuts the curve a little.

Become part of that web of knowledge and from that web of knowledge your ideas grow.

Stock up your Kitchen

There is a time to think a lone, but too much is counter intuitive.

Isolation isn’t the answer.

In order to create an idea that changes the world or even your life, you need to rub shoulders.

You need to stumble across something or someone that lets you see from a different perspective. This lets you see the missing piece. That missing ingredient.

You need a fully stock kitchen.

What I mean by this is, you may be extremely smart, but your kitchen may not be fully stocked. Go out and get these ingredients to create something magical.

There's only so much one can do with too few ingredients.

Not only that, but having too few ingredients adds to the difficulty.

Sorry for the kitchen metaphors, but that is really how it’s going to be with ideas and your mind.

The concept of deep dive

You can’t do a marathon every day, but you can walk a bit every day.

When speaking about physical training, you really shouldn't exhaust yourself by doing something strenuous daily. For example, training such as HIIT daily has a negative impact on your goals and your central nervous system. Same can be said of doing an Ironman  daily. Despite this fact, you can still stay relatively active daily.

In other words, you need different levels of intensity.

Similar to physical training, you don’t need to read a book a day. But you can read a little every day.

Not only do you need a continual flow of reading, but you need times to increase the intensity.

Perhaps once a month, take a weekend to make time to read what would take you usually 2 weeks to read. Go a little crazy at least once a year, and take a week to read dozens of books.

The idea is to get in a deep state of focus and let those new ideas, old ideas and your current thoughts coalesce and formed something unique.

What’s the current rate of your reading? And how can you incorporate an intense session? It doesn’t necessarily have to be physical books. It can be audios or videos, something that will help you in your life.

Be sure to checkout some of our other book reviews and knowledge bank.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why do only certain people become successful?

Why do we as a society focus so much on the average of something?

You see it on TV in the news and hear about it from friends, it's all about studying the average. Our scientific reports are also all about the average.

The average person sleeps this many hours. The average person reads this many books. The average salary in my field is...

Forget average.

You study average you end up with average.

Focus on what exceptional people do differently- outliers.

In this fascinating book, Malcolm Gladwell takes his readers on an intellectual journey through the world of the exceptional, the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful people, the people he call —“outliers”.

Gladwell poses a question I tend to wonder a lot myself: what makes high-achievers different? What is so different about the people who rise to the highest point in life?

I'm sure at some point you wondered about this too. The answer posed to the question above is we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. All of these he emphasizes are determining factors in success.

The book uncovers all sorts of amazing stories why gifted people never reached their potential too.

One thing I want to focus on is that there is a big emphasis on luck. It's not the typical luck you and me think of. Gladwell cuts a fine line between explaining luck as in you being born into a wealthy family and opportunistic luck such as being born healthy.

Most might not put any stock into their health as luck (until they are unhealthy). But at the end of the day, that's luck. But if you don't take advantage of that opportunity, it won't amount to anything.

Some people think of luck as black or white. If you're born unlucky, then you have no chance or if you're born lucky, therefore things will automatically come to you. It's really not that way.

You have to grab the opportunity.

Takeaway point: No matter who you are, there is some luck in your life and you have to put emphasis on grabbing that opportunity.

The good news about life is, you only have to grab hold of 1 opportunity, magnify that and get it large enough to make up for the other things in life that you aren't that lucky in.

Below are 7 valuable lessons to keep in mind when we speak of those who reached their pinnacle, the successful.
  1. Success is more than the outer layer, go for the deep layer.
  2. The 10,000 hour rule. To be great at anything, it requires at least 10,000 hours of practice.
  3. Deliberate and consistent practice. Don't practice without a purpose. Instead, make a conscious deliberate effort to get better every day.
  4. It's not how good you are, but about how good you want to be. Take advantage of your opportunistic luck. (Bill Gates, a young computer programmer from Seattle whose brilliance and ambition outshine the brilliance and ambition of the thousands of other young programmers. This was the story the media portrayed. This was what we all knew but then Gladwell takes us back to Seattle, and we find out that Gates’s high school happened to have a computer club when almost no other high schools did. Also, he took the opportunity to use the computers at the University of Washington, for hours on end. This gave him hours and hours of practice and by the time Gates turned 20, he had spent well more than 10,000 hours as a computer programmer).
  5. You can model success stories. You can also get into constant deliberate practice and become a master at what you want to do in life.
  6. It's rare to be great at multiple things in life. Focus on mastering one thing!
  7. Every success story involves friction and resistance. Things won't be perfect right off the bat. You will see gradual improvement over a length of time. Most give up when the pressure is at its highest. Little do they know success could just be around the corner.

Leave a comment below and share: What's your opportunistic luck? It can be an area in your life or event.

Monday, January 15, 2018

How you can solve your hardest problems in less than 20 minutes a day.

In the modern world, it’s very easy to get distracted.

With a few clicks of a button, we can go from one shallow thought to another shallow thought. This leaves us not fully realizing the impact of a decision or action on many aspects of our life. 

Part of the reason this is because of our in ability to focus. 

We get easily distracted…

What you want to do in life is to cultivate focus through a technique called productive meditation.
Productive meditation isn’t some weird or mystical thing.  In essence, it’s really just structured thinking

The goal is to make your thinking more effective and more valuable. 

The reason productive meditation is great is that we can somehow take a period where we are occupied physically, but not mentally and still focus on a single well-defined problem.
Instances such as driving a car in a commute, walking your dog, jogging around the neighborhood do not require mentally demanding deep work.

Typically, when we walk, our minds tend to wander or flit from thought to thought. 

Instead of this, Cal Newport recommends to think intentionally about a hard problem in your life to solve. 

The keyword is intentionally. 

Now, as you take your walk and think about this hard problem in your life, you will get distracted or keep looping around. We all do.

The key is you have to gently guide your brain back to that specific thought process to the solution. That is the meditation part. Most just let the distractions get the best of them for hours.

When you are aware of what's occurring, you can make adjustments with some effort. Your stale shallow thinking slowly evolves to deep thinking. Deep thinking gets you closer to solving your important problems.

The idea is to take 20 minutes a day to solve the biggest problem in your life, whether it’s personal, business, family or friends and thinking it through deeply. 

This type of brain training through a span of 3 months, 6 months and on,  will allow you to gain the ability to focus completely and deeply in those full 20 minutes. 

Give it a try. 

You and your thinking are worth it.