Monday, December 31, 2018
........................and brave with your business.
Generosity in terms of free work, constant discounts, and plenty of uncompensated overtime isn't really generous. Because you can't sustain it. Because soon you'll be breaking the promises you made.
On the other hand, showing generosity with your bravery, your empathy, and your respect is generous indeed.
What you customers want from you is for you to care enough to change them.
To create tension that leads to forward motion.
To exert emotional labor that will open them up to what's possible.
And if you need to charge a lot to pull that off, it's still a bargain.
-Seth Godin, This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See
In the right relationship between elites and the public, the former acts as exemplars to the latter. They embody and live out the master narratives. We can think of George Washington returning to his farm after the Revolution as a striking example. Abe Lincoln in his childhood log cabin and Tom Edison chasing the perfect filament also fit the type. It almost didn't matter what these historic figures were like in person: whether they were lovable or jerks. The outline of their lives had displayed magnificently admirable traits, and previous generations of Americans agreed with Ortega on the power of exemplarity to raise human life to a higher plane.
The quality that sets the true elites apart -- that bestow authority on their actions and expressions -- isn't power, or wealth, or education, or even persuasiveness. It's integrity in life and work. A healthy society is on in which such exemplary types draw the public toward them purely by the force of their example. Without compulsion, ordinary persons aspire to resemble the extraordinary, not superficially but fundamentally, because they will to partake of superior models of being or doing. The good society, Ortega concluded, was an "engine of perfection."
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
I will great this day with love in my heart.
And how will I speak? I will laud mine enemies and they will become friends; I will encourage my friends and they will become brothers. Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip. When I am tempted to criticize I will bite my tongue; when I am moved to praise I will should from the roofs.
Is it not so that birds, the wind, the sea, and all nature speaks with the music of praise for their creator? Cannot I speak the same music to his children? Henceforth will I remember this secret and it will change my life.
I will great this day with love in my heart.
-Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman In the World
Sunday, December 30, 2018
"M100 is appropriately known as a grand design spiral galaxy. It is a large galaxy of over 100 billion stars."
All the information you want (and a larger photo) is here
If you are interested in the "are there more stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach" question, you can pursue answers here.
When your tribal mindset takes over, you demonize the other side and never question your own beliefs. I think we need to do the opposite. We need to take the most charitable view of those with whom we disagree. And we need to examine our own views critically, as if we were trying to knock them down.
-Arnold Kling, as culled from here
Saturday, December 29, 2018
“But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans. To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues. For the learning of every virtue there is an appropriate discipline, and for the learning of suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy.
“But if philosophy is to serve a positive purpose, it must not teach mere skepticism, for, while the dogmatist is harmful, the skeptic is useless. Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or of ignorance.”
-Bertrand Russell, as culled from his essay, Philosophy For Laymen
I will greet this day with love in my heart.
And how will I do this? Henceforth will I look on all things with love and I will be born again. I will love the sun for it warms my bones; yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit. I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars. I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart; yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul. I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due; yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.
I will great this day with love in my heart.
-Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman In The World
Charles Bukowski was an alcoholic, a womanizer, a chronic gambler, a lout, a cheapskate, a deadbeat, and on his worst days, a poet. He's probably the last person on earth you would ever look to for life advice or expect to see in any sort of self-help book.
Which is why he's the perfect place to start.
-Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*uck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life
listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he's about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back
really? I asked.
really, he said, and this job is just like that, none
of the others want anybody to get out of
here. that's just the way it is
in the postal service!
I believe you, I said.
just then the supervisor walked up and said,
you fellows were talking.
there is no talking allowed on this
I had been there for eleven and one-half
I got up off my stool and climbed right up the
and then I reached up and pulled myself right
out of there.
it was so easy it was unbelievable.
but none of the others followed me.
and after that, whenever I had crab legs
I thought about that place.
I must have thought about that place
maybe 5 or 6 times
before I switched to lobster.
-Charles Bukowski, The Great Escape
Friday, December 28, 2018
"One of my proofs of a loving God, is in the provision of catastrophes, especially those man-made through lapses of prudence. We learn from experience. Or we don’t learn, in which case we have the benefit of catastrophe, again. One generation replaces another, and perhaps we never learn; but the potential is always there."
-Richard Warren, from this anti-bot post
"There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions."
"In this country all a man need to do is to attain a little eminence and immediately he begins to talk. Usually his eminence is financial, and the greater this eminence the more he talks and the further his voice reaches. I don't blame the rich people for talking; many of them don’t know what else to do with themselves. The fault is with these who listen. If no one would listen no harm would he done. But the American people are willing to listen to any one who has attained prominence. The main fact is that we've heard a man's name a great many times; that makes us ready to accept whatever he says. … We listen to the one who talks the most and loudest."
-Charles Proteus Steinmetz, 1865-1923
The quality of your "concerted action in the marketplace" is really dominated by the force, or lack thereof, of your intention. Most people think that intention just means saying, "I'll do my best." When people say that to me, I run a mile. "I'll do my best," is the mind's way of saying, "I'll trot out there and play around doing busy work for an hour or two, and when the project doesn't succeed or realize its full potential, I'll be okay because I have my excuse already pinned on the wall."
Your mind is your best friend, but it's also an enemy. Not only because it has a vested interest in limiting what you believe you can do, but also because it has a way of selling you short. Isn't it interesting that whenever a group of people set out to develop a project, that project usually falls short of everyone's expectations? In real life, things never quite pan out the way one thinks they ought to. Why is that? Because the ego-personality is happy to spend four hours in a meeting talking about building apartments on the beach, but it isn't at all happy spending eight hours actually hauling cement or delivering sales pitches to prospective buyers. Imagination and "concerted action" live in different neighborhoods.
-Stuart Wilde, The Trick to Money Is Having Some
Thursday, December 27, 2018
17. Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4
Several years ago, after one of my talks, a man came up to me and said, "All this 'lean on God' stuff isn't me." I told him that, in my own life, whenever I haven't leaned on God, I've found myself leaning on something or someone I'd have been better off not leaning on!
-Marianne Williamson, The Law Of Divine Compensation
A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of World War II, was called "the Little Flower" by adoring New Yorkers because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and wherever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.
One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It's a bad neighborhood, Your Honor," the man told the mayor. "She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson."
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, "I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions -- ten dollars or ten days in jail." But even as he pronounced the sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero, saying, "Here is the ten dollar fine, which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
I'm dying, Spenser," the man said.
I nodded, not knowing what else to say. An early-summer rain beaded down my office window, dark gray skies hovering over Berkeley and Boylston as afternoon commuters jockeyed for position out of the city. Their taillights cast a red glow on slick streets. Somewhere a prowl car hit a siren, heading off to another crime. The man sitting before me smiled and nodded, his hands withered and liver-spotted. His name was Locke.
"How long have we known each other?" Locke asked.
"A long time."
-Ace Atkins, channeling Robert B. Parker in the Spenser novel, Old Black Magic
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
.........................................to avoid frustration, ponder, from time to time, the value to others of your output.
And at work, plenty of us, because we’re ambitious or frustrated or just because we live in a capitalist society where our worth is determined by our output, are hoping to get more done in 2019. Luckily, the Twitter feed for Inc. magazine is here for you, as earlier this week the magazine recirculated a 2017 story about getting a “fast start to your day,” gleaned from the wisdom of billionaire tech entrepreneurs. Their advice: Wake up before dawn and sacrifice your mornings to the gods of productivity.
-Rachelle Hampton, excerpted from here
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Monday, December 24, 2018
Sunday, December 23, 2018
"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long run. Habits are a double-edged sword. They can work for you or against you . . . If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results
But teaching kids that failures, insults, and painful experiences will do lasting danger is harmful in and of itself. Human beings need physical and mental challenges and stressors or we deteriorate.
-Lukianoff and Haidt, The Coddling Of The American Mind: How Good Intentions And Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure
Saturday, December 22, 2018
. . . even the simplest human events constitute complex systems ruled by nonlinearities. Within such systems, teasing out a single episode and proclaiming it the prime mover makes as much sense as to pick a grain of sand and calling it "the beach."
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt Of The Public: And The Crisis Of Authority In The New Millennium
But the exhortation that all development discussions must lead within five minutes to a recommended philanthropic action inhibits clear thinking. Actions follow principles and understanding. . . . There is a fear of inaction and indifference on the tragic problems of global poverty, which I share. But wrong actions are equally a danger, and they may create more indifference and disillusionment when they fail. It is critical to get the principles of action right before acting . . .
-William Easterly, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor
The question before us is a relatively simple one: What would be the criteria for removing our remaining troops from the Iraqi, Syrian, and more general Middle Eastern conflicts? Or, for that matter, from Afghanistan, where we have been trapped for more than 17 long years of still open-ended occupation?
If the answer to that question is that only when each of these countries is a healthy pro-American democracy, and Islamist terrorism has ceased to be an “enduring” threat to the West, then the answer, as the old Bob Mankoff joke has it, is “How about never — is never good for you?”
-Andrew Sullivan, as he begins this essay
"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, no one can help you as much, not even your father or your mother."
-Buddha, as copied from the epigraphs to this book
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better that you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, as culled from his Essay On Self-Reliance
Friday, December 21, 2018
It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everybody will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn't particularly notable - sometimes it isn't even noticeable - but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make overtime is astounding.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
......ask an adult family member what they want for Christmas:
What do people want?
If you ask them, you probably won't find what you're looking for. You certainly won't find a breakthrough. It's our job to watch people, figure out what they dream of, and then create a transaction that can deliver that feeling.
-Seth Godin, as extracted from This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See
“The problem that we have with a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. Because of this, our spirit is poisoned instead of nourished.”
Thursday, December 20, 2018
"Never taunt your enemies; especially when they are more numerous and have been drinking."
-David Warren, from this post (in which he sent me scurrying to the dictionary, looking up the word usufructuary)
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I can't predict whether top-down democracy will endure: but the momentum of events over the past decade and more is pushing the democratic world in a specific direction. First, the great hierarchical institutions of the industrial age are toppling -- the political parties, as we have seen, are in a state of dissolution, and even chunks of the nation-state are splintering off. The times favor fragmentation, if not disintegration. Second, the present elite class has disqualified itself from reforming the system. It has no interest in taking on the job, and would have no clue how to proceed if it tried. The elites, like Icarus, appear content to glide above the masses until it's too late to avoid a crash.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt Of The Public
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Whereas in March 1520, when the Spanish fleet arrived, Mexico was home to 22 million people, by December only 14 million were still alive. Smallpox was only the first blow. While the new Spanish masters were busy enriching themselves and exploiting the natives, deadly waves of flu, measles and other infectious diseases struck Mexico one after the other, until in 1580 its population was down to less than 2 million.
-Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
That Summer Rush published his own 363-page opus on the epidemic: An Account of the Bilious Remitting Yellow Fever, as It Appeared in the City of Philadelphia in the Year 1793. He explained in the preface that it had been delayed "by the want of health" and that he had gone ahead and published it "under the great disadvantages, of having been hastily copied from my notes, amid frequent professional interruptions," only because the end of summer was fast approaching, and if the yellow fever returned, he wanted the nations's capital, and all American port cities, to have his account as a resource.
-Stephen Fried, Rush: Revolution, Madness & The Visionary Doctor Who Became A Founding Father
So, imagine you are the leading medical practitioner in a city of 50,000 and five thousand citizens die in a single summer from yellow fever. Further, you have no idea of its actual cause (a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. Please remember that the existence of viruses wasn't discovered for another hundred years), nor do you have any idea of a cure (there still isn't one). Although he tried various concoctions, including the use of mercury chloride, purging and blood-letting were the main tools in his medicine bag. It is a miracle more didn't die.
..............will have noticed a name change in the header above. My long-term partner in the real estate brokerage business recently decided it was time for him to retire. He has kindly allowed his name to be connected to this blog, with no editorial input, for the past nine years. It just seemed appropriate, out of respect to him, to retire his name from these pages as well.
Elites today have no idea how to speak to the public, or what to say to it. They have shown little interest in trying. The hyper-educated individuals who ran the Clinton campaign were utterly indifferent to public opinion: they believed in big data. An algorithm nicknamed "Ada" delivered "simulations" of opinion to the campaign staff. Ada was the public as elites wish it would be: safe, clean, and speaking only when spoken to. The voter in the flesh was clearly perceived by this group as an alien and frightening brute. His very existence was deplorable. The shock of election day followed naturally from such distortions of distance.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt Of The Public
"My answer to this question led me to express my hearty disapprobation of the mode of education which makes the first knowledge of boys to consist in fables, and thereby leads them to reject the truth."
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
-a popular paraphrase of a G.K. Chesterton passage from here
"I thank you for your polite wishes to see me restored to public life. There was a time when I would have accepted of an Appointment Abroad. . . . But the time is past -- for my accepting of that or of any other appointment in the Government of the United States. -- I already see a System of influence bordering upon corruption established in our Country, which seems to proclaim to innocence & patriotism to keep their distance."
Benjamin Rush, as excerpted from a 1789 letter to John Adams, as printed here
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Morally neutral approaches to poverty do not exist. Any approach to development will either respect the rights of the poor or it will violate them. One cannot avoid this moral choice by appealing to "nonideological evidence-based policies" (a popular phrase in development today).
Authoritarian development is also a pragmatic tragedy. History and modern experience suggest that free individuals with political and economic rights -- call it free development -- make up a remarkably successful problem-solving system. Free development gives us the right to choose amongst a myriad of spontaneous problem-solvers, rewarding those that solve our problems. These public and private problem-solvers accomplish far more than dictators who implement solutions provided by experts. We will see how free development allows the squeaky wheel to get the grease, while authoritarian development silences the squeaky wheel -- perhaps with a police raid and a prison term.
The technocratic illusion is that poverty results from a shortage of expertise, whereas poverty is really about a shortage of rights.
-William Easterly, as excerpted from the introduction to The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor
It is important to appreciate that the financial system is complex, not merely complicated. A complicated system, such as a smartphone, has a fixed structure, so it behaves in ways that are predictable and controllable. A complex system has an evolving structure, so it can evolve in ways that no one anticipates. We will never have a proven understanding of what caused the financial crisis, just as we will never have a proven understanding of what caused the first World War.
-Arnold Kling, as culled from this ten year old essay
Musings on Markets has an interesting post about how one might think about General Electric today. In between the lines are lessons for all businesses. Two excerpts:
"If there is a lesson to learn from GE's fall from grace, it is that even the best conglomerates are built on foundations of sand. Note, though, that while this lesson may be learned for the moment, it will be forgotten soon, as are most other business lessons are, and we will surely repeat the cycle again in the future."
"Don't get me wrong! Jack Welch was an inspirational top manager, a man with vision and drive, but he was also an imperial CEO, who made his board of directors a rubber stamp for his actions. As we look at a new generation of successful companies, this time in the technology space (the FANG stocks and the Chinese giants), with visionary founders at the top, it is worth remembering that power left unchecked in any person (no matter how smart and visionary) is dangerous."