Becoming Optimistic and Definite


Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One deals with startup strategies to build a better future. Peter is one of the most recognized entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, a co-founder of PayPal, Palantir, and Founders Fund, and was the first external investor in Facebook.

The book details the philosophy and strategies necessary to create startups with exponential growth: creating monopolies, avoiding competition, betting on new technology, creating cults, the importance of founders, and more. The title, Zero to One, refers to two types of companies:

  • 0 to 1: Use technology to invent new products or services. Ex: Google, Apple, etc.
  • 1 to n: Copy or expand existing products or services. Ex: restaurants, gas stations, etc.
Peter Thiel Graph of Technology vs Globalization

This post focuses on chapter 6, You Are Not a Lottery Ticket, which develops different visions of societies. A society can have two types of visions:

  1. Definite: the future is clear, allowing you to craft a plan and try to build it.
  2. Indefinite: the future is unclear, preventing you from crafting a vision.

Building an ambitious vision makes sense if the future is definite. But if you think it is indefinite, you cannot visualize the future; you will give up trying to modify it, attribute changes to luck, and watch others make history.

Society also has two other perspectives:

  1. Optimistic: which looks forward to a bright future.
  2. Pessimistic: which is afraid of a worse future.

Combining these four definitions in a 2×2 matrix generates four quadrants of society’s visions.

Peter Thiel Graph (Optimistic, Pessimistic, Determinate, Indeterminate)

Now I will explain each quadrant using the examples from the book. Then I will explain Panama’s past, the present, and the road to an optimistic and definite future.

Pessimistic and Indefinite

All cultures have a myth of a decline from a golden age. A society with a pessimistic and indefinite vision foresees a worse future and does not know what it looks like or what to do about it. Historically this is the most common quadrant.

This is Europe’s quadrant since 1970, when the continent was subjected to a visionless bureaucracy, increased socialist policies, and enacted too many laws creating a straitjacket to innovation. From the inside, they know that they have unsustainable policies that will lead to hard times.

Pessimistic and Definite

A society with a pessimistic and definite vision foresees a worse future, has a clear idea of what it looks like, and is prepared to face it.

China is pessimistic and definite. Its growth strategy is to copy what has worked in the West without regard for innovation. In China, the middle and upper classes, which consume far more resources than the lower class, have expanded dramatically. China has 1.44 billion people (at the end of 2020) consuming natural resources. They are in trouble because demand is increasing, and natural resources are becoming scarcer, resulting in a higher cost of living.

From the outside, everyone thinks that China has a great future, but internally they are terrified of the brain drain and desperate to invest in other countries to get their money out of China.

Optimistic and Indefinite

A society with an optimistic and indefinite vision foresees a better future but only builds more of the same, so it does not make ambitious plans. Instead of working for years to invent something, optimistic and indefinite people like bankers, lawyers and consultants improve the processes of existing companies. In this quadrant, a few new startups are founded.

An indefinite person exclusively values money per se. In contrast, a definite person perceives money as a means to build ambitious goals.

Peter Thiel Graph on types of careers

Indefinite Finance: The financial industry represents indefinite thinking because it is one of the most significant ways to make money when you don’t have a concrete plan.

Indefinite Politics: Voters are more interested in how a politician reacts to an event or if he says something controversial than in their 20-year vision.

The US government used to coordinate solutions to big problems like nuclear technology and space exploration. Today, it focuses primarily on insurance and money distribution.

In politics and business, debating marginal processes or improvements has become the way to avoid working on ambitious master plans.

Indefinite Companies: Entrepreneurs are told to listen to the customer, make a minimum viable product, and iterate on that product until success. But, the lean methodology process has to be accompanied by a daring vision to get from 0 to 1.

Let’s take Apple as an example of an ambitious plan. Everyone has experienced good Apple product design. However, the most important thing that Steve Jobs designed was his company. He devised a multi-decade master plan to create products and distribute them. Steve Jobs changed the world by planning and understanding human needs from first principles.

A company with a definite master plan will consistently be underestimated by companies with an indefinite master plan — which are the majority.

Optimistic and Definite

A society with an optimistic and definite vision can imagine a better future, plan to achieve it, and work together towards a clear north.

From the 1800s to the 1960s, the optimistic and definite led the West. Scientists, engineers, doctors, and merchants built richer, healthier, and more productive societies. Each generation had more inventors and visionaries than the previous one.

Examples of feats they executed:

  • 1843: A tunnel was built under the River Thames in London.
  • 1869: The Suez Canal was built.
  • 1889: The Eiffel Tower, the tallest building in the world for 40 years, was built in 793 days.
  • 1914: The Panama Canal was built.
  • 1931: The Empire State Building was built in 410 days.
  • 1937: The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 4 years.
  • 1945: The Manhattan Project produced the first nuclear bomb.
  • 1942: The Alaska Highway, consisting of 2,700 kilometers, was built in 234 days.
  • 1965: The United States Interstate Highway, consisting of 32,200 kilometers, was built in 9 years.
  • 1972: NASA put 12 people on the moon. The Apollo program started in 1961.

You can study more examples of optimistic, definite, and fast projects on Patrick Collison’s website, co-founder of Stripe.

In that era, the government did not only propose daring plans. Around 1940, John Reber, a school teacher who taught himself engineering, designed and promoted the Reber Plan — which consisted of constructing two giant dams in San Francisco, California. Building this would result in gaining 20,000 acres of land. Newspapers promoted this plan, and it went all the way to the United States Congress to discuss its feasibility. The army even built a 1.5-acre model. Unfortunately, they concluded the plan was not viable, so it was not built.

Nowadays, if a teacher designed and proposed such a vision, no one would take it seriously. If the vision came from someone powerful, they would tell him that his arrogance had clouded his sight. Until the 1950s, society welcomed big visions. Bold and grand visions of the future have become curiosities of the past.

You Are Not a Lottery Ticket

We must return to an optimistic, definite world, and startups are the most powerful tools to achieve that change. It starts with rejecting luck and daring to invest many years of effort into a clear and ambitious master plan.

Societies have shifted quadrants over the years. We must strive to move and stay in the optimistic and definite quadrant. Therefore, as a Panamanian citizen, the question I ponder is:

What quadrant is Panama in?

Before 1990, during the military repression of the dictatorship, the vision was pessimistic and definite. During this time, corruption was widespread, businesses could not operate freely, and there was a lot of oppression. It was clear Panama would become a shithole if it continued in the direction it was heading.

From 1990 to 2014, it was optimistic and definite. During that time, Panama expanded the Canal, built the first metro line, founded Panama Pacifico, increased immigration greatly, facilitated the creation of many new companies, and enacted a special regime for the establishment of multinational headquarters (Law SEM), which resulted in intense economic growth.

An important caveat is that at any given moment, some countries, like Panama, can fall in any quadrant, depending on the state of mind of the person giving the opinion. I’ll make a brief argument of opposite quadrants.

From 2014 to 2022, Panama had a pessimistic and indefinite vision. A big concern is that Panama might catch the “left-wing virus” and demagogues seize power, leading to a “second Venezuela.” I know many friends and business leaders investing internationally or taking out passports abroad “just in case.” Panama also has too many bankers, lawyers, or consultants and too few computer engineers or scientists.

From 2014 to 2022, Panama had an optimistic and definite vision. Panama can execute big plans. Let’s think about the organization and collaboration that took place to receive the Pope in 2019. Churches were renovated, thousands of new temporary homes were created, the biggest event ever in the country was executed, the subway expansion was accelerated, and much more.

In addition, Panama has a lot of entrepreneurs per capita; it is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America; it is building out a multi-decade master plan of metro lines and roads; it just built a cruise terminal in Panama City, expanded the airport, immigration is increasing, and every year we have more startups accepted to Y-Combinator.

Sometimes the quadrant depends on the eye of the beholder.

How can Panama become more optimistic and definite?

Building new companies and startups, growing tech, engineering, and scientists workforce, and betting on government leaders with bold master plans. The first step is to recognize that change is in our hands. We must create and work on concrete, ambitious, and aspirational master plans for our lives.

Those with the ability and desire to take business risks should dare to undertake them. Those of us who graduated from good universities should avoid the comfort of optimizing processes of the companies of yesteryear and help improve education for the rest.

My first job after college was within the old guard — a process consultant. I knew that path was not for me. So, inspired by some friends who founded a company, I ended up working in a Venture Capital fund in Panama. I learned about Silicon Valley from Paul Graham’s Essays and founder mentality during that time.

Founders are contemporary philosophers dedicated to changing the world with their companies. I tell recent graduates that getting a job at a big company or getting an MBA aren’t the only alternatives — you can start a startup or work for one. In his essay A Student’s Guide to Startups, Paul Graham explains this in-depth.

After meeting many entrepreneurs and learning about them, I decided to undertake a new venture myself. In 2014 I co-founded Porta Norte, a new-urbanist solarpunk master-planned community of 650 acres (262 has.) with a multi-decade master plan. The mission is to expand Panama City so that the residents of Panama can live in walkable neighborhoods connected with nature and with public spaces full of culture. It is a definite and optimistic vision.

We should applaud, support, and invest in startups like Cuanto and Panadata, the first two startups to go to Y-Combinator in Panama — which is harder than getting accepted to Harvard. I am honored to be an angel investor in both startups in their first round.

Let’s encourage entrepreneurs and governments to think big. Let’s brainstorm, support, and bet together on daring, definite, and optimistic plans such as:

  • Building Startup Cities.
  • Building a beach in Avenida Balboa.
  • Creating a ferry system to connect the coasts.
  • Developing a top Computer Science university.
  • Producing local energy to achieve energy independence.
  • Building energetic self-sufficient buildings and neighborhoods.
  • Connecting America with a highway between Panama and Colombia.
  • Connecting Panama, Colombia, Central America, and America through a high-speed train.
  • Increasing immigration of scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, entrepreneurs, and builders.

What other plans can you think of? Which startups, companies, or existing plans are worth supporting? How can we help build a definite and optimistic society?

If you have an ambitious, definite, and optimistic plan for Panama or the world, please share it in the comments, talk about it among friends, help it become a reality and ideally execute it. Let’s become optimistic and definite to build a better future together.

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Hipster Foresight

Curiosity leads to finding new interests. Following your interests makes you interesting. At the same time, doing things out of the ordinary makes you a hipster.

Hipster is a loaded word. However, some qualities of hipsters that come to mind are authenticity, open-mindedness, daringness, and addiction to newness —constantly trying out new things.

Hipster foresight is the abbreviation of the concept that hipsters have a remarkable ability to foresee trends or create them. The key insight is focusing on your genuine interests rather than guessing what people will like.

Jorge Garcia, my friend, coined the term hipster foresight. He explained the concept with his interests in college that have become mainstream later, including meditation, new urbanism, nootropics, crypto, fasting, longboards for micro-mobility, and many more.

Hipster influencers are not only good at judging trends; they kick-start them. They are trendsetters. Tim Ferriss is the leader and embodies the hipster influencer movement. He has summoned an army of hipster influencers with his podcast and books. Tim has influenced me deeply since 2010. Actually, Jorge introduced me to his work. Tim helped me discover interests which helped me refine my judgment on trends.

We have seen our interests become widespread before. For example, in 2012, after coming back from college, one of our favorite trips was to go to the only place that sold craft beer and do a beer tasting with ceviche and yukitas picantitas.

We were very interested in craft beer. Therefore we got together with a group of friends, started brewcrewpanama to brew craft beer in my home. I had to smuggle the grains through the airport to brew the beer —it was a hassle. We ended up brewing about 600 beers for two years. I even pondered starting a brewing company, but I expended my energy starting Porta Norte.

Today you can find craft beer in every restaurant and supermarket. By the way, the same thing will happen with olive oil. I am addicted to it. Therefore, high-quality olive oil, not sold in Panama, will become mainstream.

One recent example of Jorge’s hipster interests is men’s clothing with patterns like those found in women’s clothing. Why? A couple of years ago, he received a beautiful guayabera with colorful mola art as a gift. He loved it and wanted more shirts like them. In addition, he gathered feedback from other people with artful shirts. As a result, he can extrapolate his taste to the rest of society and project probable scenarios. Thus concluding more men will use shirts with art and color.

Sometimes your interests don’t get widely accepted. Maybe it is too niche —for now. But remember, the more interests you explore, the better refined your visioning skills are.

Nowadays, I am interested in nomad capitalism, being a sovereign individual, mountain bikes, solarpunk visions, decentralized autonomous organizations, and progressive technological communities. Let’s see how these play out in the long run.

The biggest hipster foresight I am betting on is walkability, active lifestyle, and lively public spaces –basically, human-centered design.

I ask almost everybody who comes back from Spain to Panama what they thought about Spain. The answer is always a version of how much they loved walkable streets.

I am incorporating in Porta Norte many interests such as trees, cycling lanes, plazas, amphitheaters, parks, hikes, mountain biking, trails, art, and more. I understand cities designed for people will have higher demand.

Traveling is one of the best ways to calibrate your hipster sensor. When traveling to hipster places, pay attention to people, extract their habits and tastes, and try them out. My calibration comes from traveling around the world and living during my college years in Austin, Texas, one epicenter of hipster culture.

Hipster foresight is a skill that probably peaks in your twenties. Afterward, as you acquire more responsibilities and lose free time, your skills dwindle —unless you fight it. Do so by daring to be different, traveling widely, and carving out space to try new things; it will enhance your worldly wisdom and investing capabilities.

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One Operating System

I study startup founders as a hobby. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, has explained on youtube and podcasts his way of thinking about philosophy, health, productivity hacks, etc.

One great insight he said is that having one good-enough operating system is better than having many separate great systems. Jack decided to go all-in with apple — which is not only good enough but great.

So did I. I was more than halfway in already. Now I own almost all apple products, and they have made my workflow seamless. I read the manual for my iPhone, and it helped me understand the ecosystem deeper. The learning curve for new products is much lower — things work. I always try out their new software and hardware to see which ones stick. I am writing this on my iPad, on apple notes, with my apple pen.

Jack’s most used app is apple notes. When I heard about it, I did it too for experimenting, and it became my most used app too.

My screen time last week with apple notes on the lead:

iPhone - iPad Pro

<< Copy what’s best of what others have already figured out. >>

First draft of this post in apple notes:

Meditations Archives - Meditations Archives -
In apple notes, I can copy my handwriting and paste it as text easily.

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A lever is a tool used to increase power with low effort. Using a physical lever, you can easily lift things that weigh much more than you —like a car— with minimal effort.

Leverage is the use of tools for your maximum advantage. It can multiply the outcomes from your effort, skill, and judgment. Leverage can help you achieve your life goals like financial independence, creating a movement, or a massive business with fewer competitors.

Archimedes, the most famous mathematician and inventor in ancient Greece, once said:

“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.”

Archimedes using a lever to move the world
Archimedes lever, from Mechanics Magazine, published in London in 1824

A bicycle is a form of leverage for movement; you can move much farther and faster with it. In this video of Steve Jobs, he explains a study of the world’s species and their ability to move from one place to another. In the study, humans ended up in the bottom half, but if you gave them a bicycle, they ended up #1 in the world. He uses this example to explain: “For me, computers have always been a bicycle for the mind. Something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.” Computers are a form of leverage for the mind.

Now let’s detail the types of business leverages in chronological order.

Labor: It means other people working for you. Labor is the predominant form of leverage since the dawn of man. 

Arguably labor leverage is the worst form of leverage. Managing other people is incredibly messy because it requires tremendous leadership skills, and it is hugely competed over. 

You want the minimum number of people with the highest output, working with you to use the following forms of leverage that are more powerful and interesting.

Money: It means using money to work for you. It has been around for only thousands of years, so society understands them less well than labor. 

This leverage converts to other types of leverage. It scales very well; if you can manage money well, you can handle more money better than manage more labor. It is an excellent form of leverage, but it is hard to obtain because you need to build up a reputation first.

Money has been the predominant leverage for wealth creation in the last century. Those who control the infrastructure of money have benefitted the most. 

Products with no marginal costs of replication —media and code— are the newest forms of leverage.

Naval Ravikant

Media: It got started with the printing press, and then it grew stronger with broadcast media. Now the internet and code had made this leverage explode.

Media means using the internet to spread content through social media, books, blogs, podcasts, or videos to gain influence and power.

A couple of hundreds ago, to spread a message by voice, you had to give a lecture at a University, now you can buy a cheap microphone, a computer and reach millions of people through the internet.

Code: It means programming and using computers to create products and services.  

We have an army of robots at our disposal on the internet; we need to learn how to use them. Hence the importance of learning to code to speak their language. 

Media and code help create the new fortunes of the world. They are permissionless; you can do it by yourself without the approval of anyone. They even enable labor and money to be more permissionless with the rise of communities and crowdfunding.

The older the leverage, the more time society has had to learn it, thus higher the competition —which you want to avoid. This is why it is essential to invest in the newer ones —digital leverage.

Jack Butcher Diagram on Digital Leverage
Jack Butcher’s Diagram of Digital Leverage

Pick Business Models with Network Effects

When choosing a business model, you should be aware of leverage that arises from network effects.

A network effect is when each additional user adds value to the existing user base. Network effects come from computer networking. Bob Metcalfe, who created the ethernet, famously coined Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a network is proportional to the square of the system’s number of connected users. If a network of size 10 has a value of 1,000, then a network of 100 would have a value of 10,000.

Metcalfe's Law
Diagram of Metcalfe’s Law

The classic example of network effects is language. Let’s say that there are 100 people in a community. There are 10 languages and 10 speakers per language. Now the community has to incur the cost of translation. If all 100 spoke the same language, it would reduce friction and eliminate the translation cost, thus facilitating value creation.

Let’s say one of those languages is English, and 1 additional person learns English. Now 11 people know English. The next person who wants to learn a new language will probably choose English —the most used language. Then this reason becomes stronger, and eventually, the majority end up speaking English, and the rest of the language will vanish slowly. The network effect is why the whole world will probably speak English or Chinese in the long term —at least as a second language.

The internet is a significant lever, and people who want to communicate on the internet are forced to learn English because it is the most used language. If you don’t know English, you will have a severe disadvantage in your education because there are so many internet resources that have not been translated. On top of that, translations are usually worse than in the original language. If you want to be technically competent in computers, you need to know English because it is the language of the best sources.

In business, network effects often have scale economies: the more you produce something, the cheaper it gets to make it, thus increasing margins, creating barriers to entry and monopolies. An example of scale economics can be Google, which has the biggest market for search and a monopoly.

Technology and media products have zero marginal cost of reproduction: additional consumers add no additional costs. For example, a famous podcaster can have 100 million more listeners without any additional costs.

When thinking about businesses, think about how each additional customer could add value to each other. Pick a business model where you benefit from network effects, scale economies, and low marginal costs. 

From Laborer to Real Estate Tech Startup

Now let’s go concrete. The following are examples of how leverage increases in the real estate industry:

  1. Laborer: Someone orders them around in a construction site to carry things around. A laborer with more leverage uses tools like a bulldozer to gain more power and get paid more.
  2. General Contractor: They hire and coordinate a team of laborers. They are accountable to the results, thus having more risk if things go wrong but a higher reward than laborers if things go right.
  3. Property Developer: This might be a general contractor who did a bunch of remodeling, and now they search for run-down places to fix and sell them. They might even raise money from investors. To do this, they need more skills like understanding markets, neighborhoods, government approvals, and more.
  4. Famous Developer or Architect: They gain a reputation for doing great projects, and that by itself increases the value of a project without much additional effort.
  5. Urban Real Estate Developer: They build entire master-planned communities like Porta Norte. They need to understand, construction, infrastructure, greenfield development, earth movement, urbanism, market dynamics, marketing, politics, financing, management, architecture, and a bunch of other skills.
  6. Real Estate Fund: They invest in property developers, real estate developers, hotels, malls, etc. They understand the financial markets, raising money, corporate governance, and real estate. They may not want to manage workers or operate a project.
  7. Real Estate Technology Startup (aka proptech): They understand real estate, the industry’s inefficiencies, technology, how to recruit developers, write code, build the right product, and raise money from Venture Capitalists. A proptech would combine all types of leverages:
    • Labor of the highest output: computer engineers, product managers, and designers.
    • Money from venture capitalists and their own.
    • Media using the internet for distribution.
    • Code to create software.

This venture is a very high risk, high reward that could end up with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and an IPO.

Develop Leverage

If you want to be more effective, then you must arm yourself with leverage. Your impact becomes bigger by combining all types of leverages aligned towards a vision.

Ask yourself: Am I skilled in the newer types of leverages? What are my strengths in every kind of leverage? What is my rate in each leverage? Rate them from 1 to 10. Ask the people who know you best how they would rate you in each type of leverage. What came out of my exercise is the following:

Black and White M - Number

It is much easier for me to improve 2 points in code or media rather than 2 points in labor, and it will help me improve my abilities to use newer and less competed types of leverage. I invite you to do this simple exercise.

Reflect on what type of leverage you need in your life. Right now, it is more important for me to learn about media leverage; that is why I have invested in my communication skills by creating my podcast, YouTube channel, and blog. I lead a project that benefits the most from this type of leverage. If I wanted to start a proptech startup or invest in them, I would invest in code leverage.

Make sure you pay attention to the most useful leverage for you right now and create a roadmap.

Learn about leverage to allocate time, money and effort well. It will help you be more effective, recognize trends and how things grow big. As Charlie Munger once said:

What helps everyone is to get in something that’s going up, and it just carries you along without much talent or work.

  1. Some concepts in this blog post came from the extended tweetstorm of Naval Ravikant:

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Meeting Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz (1986 – 2013) was a thinker, writer, programmer, entrepreneur, and hacktivist who helped shape the internet. Check out his accomplishments in Wikipedia. Aaron embodied the hacker mentality—fix everything.

A month ago, Aaron’s mother made this tweet remembering him. Someone replied with one of Aaron’s blog posts called: HOWTO: Be more productive. I was curious, so I read it. It was deep and insightful. I started to learn more, and then I went deep into the rabbit hole.

Since then, I have read over 40 of his blog posts, watched some of his YouTube videos, discovered new books, ideas, and developed new habits.

Next, I will talk about my favorite posts:

What is going on here?

Aaron explains the reason of being of his blog. For him, writing is a tool to shape yourself as an intellectual craftsman and develop your communication skills. His blog is about capturing experience and using them for reflection. It is also an opportunity of developing unconventional thoughts.

“…becoming a scientific thinker requires practice and writing is a powerful aid to reflection. So that’s what this blog is. I write here about thoughts I have, things I’m working on, stuff I’ve read, the experiences I’ve had, and so on…I don’t consider this writing, I consider this thinking… fundamentally, this blog is not for you, it’s for me. I hope that you enjoy it anyway.”

A Non-Programmer’s Apology

He goes into the philosophy of A Mathematician’s Apology, where the basic premise is to do what you are good at. Aaron finds himself in a paradox because he is a great programmer, but he prefers to be a ‘mediocre’ writer.

“And writing code, although it can be enjoyable, is hardly something I want to spend my life doing.
Perhaps, I fear, this decision deprives society of one great programmer in favor of one mediocre writer. And let’s not hide behind the cloak of uncertainty, let’s say we know that it does. Even so, I would make it. The writing is too important, the programming too unenjoyable.”

What It Means To Be An Intellectual

These are my favorite quotes:

“…not simply accept things as they are but to want to think about them, to understand them. To not be content to simply feel sad but to ask what sadness means. To not just get a bus pass but to think about the economic reasons getting a bus pass makes sense. I call this tendency the intellectual.”

“Language is the medium of thought, and so it’s no surprise that someone who spends a lot of time thinking spends a lot of time thinking about how to communicate their thoughts as well. And indeed, all the intellectuals that come to mind write, not because they have to or get paid to, but simply for its own sake. What good is thinking if you can’t share?”

I love to understand how stuff works and share it with people. My internet experiments make it evident I am always trying to communicate better.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was trying to describe me. He said I was a “cool geek”; because I studied a lot and was good with people. I understood what he was trying to say, and I felt proud. Now, because of this blog post, I can suggest a better description, an intellectual. The funny thing is that word ‘intelectual’ is not used in Spanish. We should dust off that word and make it aspirational.

HOWTO: Be more productive

Some of his tips:

  • Works on important problems.
  • Create lists.
  • Make more high-quality time by not going to school or work.
  • Carry a pocket notebook.
  • Avoid interruptions.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Talk to cheerful people.
  • Simplify problems.
  • Convince yourself your work is fun.

He was friends with Paul Graham. Imagine having PG as a friend; that is a high-leverage friendship.

Believe you can change

He explains Carol Dweck’s study about children with fixed mindset vs. growth mindset and how it can be transformed. This transformation is the essence of his series Raw Nerve. A good habit is to see ourselves objectively and find new areas where we have a fixed mindset so we can transform it.

HOWTO: Read more books

“I’ve read a hundred books a year for the past couple years. Last time I mentioned this, a couple of people asked how I could read so many books. Do I read unusually quickly? Do I spend an unusual amount of time reading? I did a simple calculation: The average person spends 1704 hours a year watching TV. If the average reading rate is 250 words per minute and the average book is 180,000 words, then that’s 142 books a year. To my surprise, I wasn’t reading nearly enough books. So I’ve taken some steps to read more:”

You can find his top recommendations in his Book Reviews. Unfortunately, the reviews are full of broken links. An example of what you will find in his compilation of yearly book reviews:

44. The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

This book touched me deeply and made me rethink the entire way I approached life; it’s about vastly more than just tennis. I can’t really describe it, but I can recommend this video with Alan Kay and the author that will blow your mind.

It is about hacking the process of learning. Please, do yourself a favor and watch the video in the link above (repeated here). It blew my mind.

I will try to read the books he loved the most so I can Stand on the Shoulder of Giants.

Something I learned from his reviews was to pay attention to the writing skills of the author. I must write more to fine-tune my calibration.

I share many interests with Aaron. But, one that surprised me was his interest in urbanism. He read many books on it. Robert Caro wrote one of his favorite nonfiction book, The Power Broker. It is the biography of Robert Moses, a public official who promoted car-dependent growth in New York. 

Aaron liked walkable urbanism. He said so throughout many essays. One example:

“All the apartments seemed to be on the floor above the normal street life; the two deeply intertwingled; just the way I like it. (See The Death and Life of Great American Cities for more reasons.)”

He is referring to the book of Jane Jacobs. She was one of the most influential people in favor of walkable, mixed-use urbanism in New York.

I also saw his documentary: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, which you can find free on YouTube. In it, they interview Aaron’s family, his girlfriends, his lawyer, and they show snippets of Aaron’s videos. Late in the documentary, they talk about his “crime” of downloading millions of scientific journals. Jail time was inevitable—the pressure was overwhelming—so he committed suicide. When this subject came on the documentary, the creator of the World Wide Web said:

Aaron is dead.
Wanderers in this crazy world,
we have lost a mentor, a wise elder.
Hackers for right, we are one down,
we have lost one of our own.
Nurturers, carers, listeners,
feeders, parents all,
we have lost a child.
Let us all weep.

– Tim Berners-Lee

When Tim was three sentences in, I shed tears. I got up, went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and sobbed for a while. I pulled myself together and went back to the couch. I continued. Two seconds in, Tim finished with let us all weep, I started crying convulsively.

I met Aaron Swartz 7 years after his death, and I feel like I lost a close friend. I am in shock at how I could develop such an emotional connection. That is the power of good, authentic writing.

He makes me want to be a better person. After learning about him I am hopeful and sad. Hopeful because there must be many people like him around. Sad because I have a few relationships with people like him.

His blog and style struck a chord. They are nonfiction, clearly written, few paragraphs, and focused on insights he has learned about life. It is an inspiration for my blog.

How can someone be so wise from such a young age? How can we create more people like that? What else would he have done?

Lawrence Lessing, his friend, and mentor tells us what he valued professionally: a corrupt-free government. The following is a quote from this interview:

Aaron trapped me into giving up my work on internet law and copyright policy to take up work on political corruption. He came to me and said, “I don’t think you’re going to make any real progress on what you’re doing while there is still deep corruption in the way the government works.” At first, I tried to push him off. I said, “Aaron, it’s not my field as an academic.” Then he said, “Is it your field as a citizen?”

Lawrence Lessig

Let us follow his legacy and make the world a better place.

If you are interested in reading more, I recommend reading his blog. Start with The Archives.

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Imagine a new reality…

You have a new body and mind. Identityless. You possess the skill to learn and experiment rapidly. Your basic needs are covered. How should you act? After some confusion, you ask the fundamentally important question.

What is the purpose of life?

Expand consciousness and increase energy.

To pursue this journey, you must learn about:

  • Skills
  • habits
  • evolution
  • awareness
  • technology
  • the environment
  • the mind & body
  • the micro & macro
  • commerce, art & science
  • the past, present & future.

Next steps:

  1. Learn how to learn.
  2. Study the 3 best fundamental books on what you wish to learn about.
  3. Experiment, explain and apply to life.
  4. Keep iterating.
  5. Repeat with a new subject.

So, what is your purpose in life?

Align your everyday actions with it.

Yoga in India

At the end of a two week family trip to India, I made this video. I asked Varinder Singh, our tour guide about the most valuable message worth spreading.

Varinder is a college professor of history in India. He has a degree in meditation and the science of living. Here is the secret sauce of how to spread peace and happiness in our society.

Henry / Varinder

Can you tell me about yoga and meditation, your personal practice, and how it has impacted India?

Most people believe that yoga is just 1 thing, but we divide it into 3 parts.

The 1st is physical exercise. You do different postures while standing, lying, and sitting.

The 2nd is breathing exercises. According to Indian people, breathing exercises are more important than physical activities. Breathing exercises make us strong inside our bodies. We increase energy, and we believe that our body regenerates dead cells. We have millions of cells that are dead, and this is a chance to create new cells. There are 5 or 6 forms of breathing exercises.

The 3rd is meditation. Meditation is when you sit silently and concentrate your mind. When you start your practice, you can meditate for brief periods and expand those periods with constant practice. Meditation means absolutely no ideas or thoughts can come in your mind. It is the space between thoughts.

When you meditate, you will see stars and bright colors with your eyes closed. This means you are meditating. If this does not happen, you are not.

When you have advanced your practice, you will find a circle in front of your eyes. At the initial stages, the circle will be tiny. It will not be a 360 degrees circle. When this circle appears fully, that means you are going towards 100% meditation.

Sometimes when you are approaching full meditation, your eyes do rapid blinking. If you do not open your eyes, that means you are continuing the meditation. If you open your eyes, that means again you have to start again. This is a slight disturbance in your meditation. This is one kind of interference. When you feel this one, open your eyes and try again to meditate.

Henry Faarup Humbert en India
Everybody happy singing and dancing

Around 75% of India’s society does yoga. How has this impacted India?

I will give credit to our culture, religion, literature, traditions, and our family system. This has been our tradition for 4,000 years.

We live in an extended family system. People of different ages live in the same house and learn from they learn from their parents or grandparents. They teach us from childhood how to perform the various practices and exercises of yoga and meditation.

Most people have the concept that only rich people do yoga and meditation, but I do not agree. Poor or middle-class people do more yoga and meditation in comparison to high-class society. Why is that? High-class people are more busy multiplying their money. They have a materialistic lifestyle.

On the other hand, poor and middle-class people, even though they have limited resources, have a lot of time and are happy. They are satisfied with those limited resources, and with their time, they can do more yoga and meditation.

It is also related to health and medicine. Most people believe that if they do not do yoga and meditation, our body will be affected by some disease. When we are concerned, we go to doctors, and it is costly. Being hospitalized is expensive. Yoga and meditation help you balance your blood pressure, nervous system, digestive system, heartbeat, and metabolism.

How can other countries achieve similar results?

For a new country, I would say the media and, most importantly, classes in school. That will be the most effective because young boys and girls will learn in school and eventually teach their parents.

The government can also start awareness programs. The education department should take the initiative to introduce this in schools.

Has the government helped to make it widespread?

Oh yes. In most schools, you will find a yoga instructor. Every day there are 1 or 2 periods were students do yoga and meditation. There are many Non-Governmental Organizations too.

Gurus are also responsible. These gurus spread the message of yoga and meditation mainly through their ashrams.

Henry en India

You told me there was a television channel focused on yoga?

We have several channels. These channels invite many yoga instructors, so they have a chance to talk directly to the people through media. They talk about the benefits of yoga and meditation. This is how yoga is trendy in India.

Thank you for teaching me this. This journey was a fantastic experience.

Your welcome. Thanks. 🙏

P.D.: This is also a call to yogis, helping with the creation of this culture in Porta Norte. Let’s unite. 💪

Henry y Coach en India
Farewell at the airport. Good bye my friend.

Train computer skills

Learning to use your computer better is a high leverage task that almost no one does. When we learn how to use our computers better, we save time. Computer programs give you actual real-world superpowers where you can do analysis, calculations, and exploration.

Let’s say you trained 1 hour a day on how to use programs like Gmail, photoshop, google earth, excel, Wix, Salesforce, QuickBooks, etc. better. Let’s estimate this hour saves you 1 minute of work per day for the rest of your life through automating processes or making you more agile using programs. It also makes you more productive. If you restrict your computer to work days, then you use your computer around 240 days per year, which gives you 240 minutes saved per year, which translates to 6 hours of work saved.

Every hour invested in training saves 6 hours of work within the next year.

Sometimes the result of the training might be zero minutes saved, but other times it may be 30 minutes saved or more. Every day you train, you learn how to learn a computer program better, so minutes saved per day or productivity should increase. The lower boundary of minutes saved per year is 0, and the upper limit is extremely high and growing.

What other tasks are as high leverage? Please, enlighten me.

How do you fill the last sentence?

Where are you?
How can I capture you?
I think to have graced it merely a handful of times
Is it love? Intimacy? Purpose? Religion? More?

Only you have the power to emulate ecstasy
We seek knowledge to try and acquire utter happiness,
But this is the same reason why we can’t
How can someone be completely content?
Is it only by temporary stretches of time?

The most thrilling experience?
To catch something perceived uncatchable
Thriving to seize it causes genuine fulfillment
But…what happens when you do?

Is the root of _____ eternal pursuit?

I wrote this poem in my last semester of college — in 2012. I was thinking a lot about what I should do next. You can find my answer in the link to this post.