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Month: December 2011

Quotes December 2011

Quotes December 2011

“The thin woman is far from being the svelte woman.” – Dr. Adrien Proust, Marcel Proust’s father

“An advantage of not going by too fast is that the world has a chance of becoming more interesting in the process.” – Alain de Botton

“After victory, tighten the straps on your helmet.” – Tokugawa Ieyasu

“Laughter is the only thing that will keep you sane.” – Drew Holcomb

“No one lives on the top of the mountain. It’s fine to go there occasionally — for inspiration, for new perspectives. But you have to come down. Life is lived in the valleys. That’s where the farms and gardens and orchards are, and where the plowing and the work is done. That’s where you apply the visions you may have glimpsed from the peaks.” – Arthur Gordon

“You can’t say that civilization don’t advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.” – Will Rogers

“Y’know how hard it was for people to have and raise kids throughout history? When I hear people saying they don’t want kids, not because they’re working on world-changing stuff like Albert Einstein, but just because they think they’d be happier without kids… I don’t know man, it shocks me. There’s been a chain of people brutally struggling and striving forwards throughout history, and you’re comfortable breaking that chain?” – Sebastian Marshall

“When a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him.” – Carlos Castaneda

“The best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen.” – Bo Peabody

“Having preferences means having weaknesses.” – Magnus Carlsen

“Anyone can delegate stuff they don’t like doing. What’s hard is delegating things you like doing.” – Robert Laing

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Embrace all change, not just change that benefits you.” – Carolyn Hax

“It’s so easy not to realize you’re under someone else’s influence. When we tell ourselves something, it’s always in our own voice, so it naturally seems like our idea. (Though we can often hear the influence when we say things aloud to others.)” – Carolyn Hax

“If people would take a second to define “credentials”, they’d realize that institutions don’t have the monopoly of credentials.” – Carlos Miceli

“Even when I’m railed at, I get my quota of renown.” – Pietro Aretino

“We need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t.” – Woody Allen

“Your mind will take on the character of your most frequent thoughts: souls are dyed by thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Instinctively, I’m against certainty more than anything else.” – Anthony Bourdain

“Go sir, gallop, and don’t forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time.” – Napoleon

“I have no problem with beauty, but it isn’t very interesting.” – Tibor Kalman

“The man, who in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week.” -Voltaire

“Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.” – Pierre de Beaumarchais

“Every Sauron considers himself a Boromir.” – Mencius Moldbug

“Suffering by nature or chance never seems so painful as suffering inflicted on us by the arbitrary will of another.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

“Winning is getting what we want, which often includes assisting others in getting what they want.” – Gerry Spence

“Clear language engenders clear thought, and clear thought is the most important benefit of education.” – Richard Mitchell

“The older we become, the more important it is to use what we know rather than learn more.” – I. J. Good

Book Review: Dumbing Us Down

Book Review: Dumbing Us Down

I’m not from the States, so this book wasn’t an obvious read for me, but when I got to it, I realized how essential Gatto’s ideas of schooling are. With his more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, and being the recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award, it’s safe to say that Gatto knows what he’s talking about. He knows how the system works, how to hack it, and what it does to the students. Let me assure you: the issue with schooling is global. Everything that Gatto points out as problems in the US, are issues that originated there, and then spread out to other countries.

The book is short, sort of a manifesto against traditional schooling, which is why I recommend it for anyone that still believes that traditional education is the best option for learning. Start here, if you dare. Get your beliefs questioned, become aware of the effect of schooling in all institutional levels, and carve your own educational path for you and your loved ones. Gatto does a brilliant job of articulating why schools were a corrupt enterprise from the start. The fact that we believe in them so blindly is only more evidence of their success. Perhaps, Gatto’s biggest point is the impact he sees from schools on our communities. By creating individuals disconnected from their own ideas and each other, it’s society that sees the greatest impact.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Dumbing Us Down:

“Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.”

“Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of them all: we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices; only I, the teacher, can determine what my kids must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions, which I then enforce.”

“Look again at the seven lessons of school teaching: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, and surveillance. All of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And over time this training has shaken loose from its original purpose: to regulate the poor. For since the 1920s the growth of the school bureaucracy as well as the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, has enlarged this institution’s original grasp to the point that it now seizes the sons and daughters of the middle classes as well.”

“In our secular society, school has become the replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith.”

“In centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn.”

“Networks divide people, first from themselves and then from each other, on the grounds that this is the efficient way to perform a task. It may well be, but it is a lousy way to feel good about being alive. Networks make people lonely. They cannot correct their inhuman mechanism and still succeed as networks. Behind the anomaly that networks look like communities (but are not) lurks the grotesque secret of mass schooling and the reason why enlarging the school domain will only aggravate the dangerous conditions of social disintegration it is intended to correct.”

Book Review: Cognitive Surplus

Book Review: Cognitive Surplus

This is a great book to have an idea of how the internet is changing the way we collaborate. Social media in particular, is more than just a way to get likes and re-tweets. It’s more than just a way to reach fans, and have an online presence. Its real impact is changing our notion of what’s valuable, what’s interesting, and how we all collaborate with each other to make more of it.

Clay Shirky, who became popular because of his best-seller “Here Comes Everybody”, is back tackling the topic of people connecting with each other, and shows why he’s one of the best in analyzing the effect of the internet and its tools on our lives. The one thing that I enjoyed most of the book is seeing someone defend what people create online, whatever that is. Bloggers reporting news, people being offensive on YouTube, countless funny but unproductive sites, these are just some of the most frequent areas of criticism from the elites.

Of course, coming from the group that’s being hurt the most by the now non-existent barriers to publish, this criticism is not surprising. It’s refreshing to see Shirky, as a scholar, defend the amateurs and their collaboration for once. “Cognitive Surplus” is well-researched, well written, engaging and relevant.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Cognitive Surplus:

“The ability for community members to speak to one another, out loud and in public, is a huge shift, and one that has value even in the absence of a way to filter for quality. It has value, indeed, because there is no way to filter for quality in advance: the definition of quality becomes more variable, from one community to the next, than when there was broad consensus about mainstream writing.”

“Similarly, when publication – the act of making something public – goes from being hard to being virtually effortless, people used to the old system often regard publishing by amateurs as frivolous, as if publishing was an inherently serious activity. It never was, though. Publishing had to be taken seriously when its cost and effort made people take it seriously -if you made too many mistakes, you were out of business. But if these factors collapse, then the risk collapses too. An activity that once seemed inherently valuable turned out to be only accidentally valuable, as a change in the economics revealed.”

“Every service that wants to harness the cognitive surplus at large scale faces these trade-offs. You can have a large group of users. You can have an active group of users. You can have a group of users all paying attention to the same thing. Pick two, because you can’t have all three at the same time.”

“One of the weakest notions in the entire pop culture canon is that of innate generational difference, the idea that today’s thirty somethings are members of a class of people called Generation X while twenty somethings are part of Generation Y, and that both differ innately from each other and from the baby boomers. The conceptual appeal of these labels is enormous, but the idea’s explanatory value is almost worthless, a kind of astrology for decades instead of months. Generations do differ, but less because people differ than because opportunities do.”

Two Way Journalism and 1000 Little IPOs

Two Way Journalism and 1000 Little IPOs

Steven Johnson, best-selling author, talks about Disney’s recent acquisition of Babble, a parenting site:

The coverage of the deal thus far has focused on two primary angles: either Disney acquiring a “hipster” parenting site, or the vindication of the blogger-network content model. (Babble runs a large network of “mommy bloggers,” as they have come to be called.) But I think there’s a simpler lesson here that’s being overlooked. Babble was a cultural and commercial success because It took on a topic that was exhaustively covered by existing media, and wrote it in a fresh, nuanced, and more complex way.

There are two key takeaways from this deal. First, there’s room for both kinds of journalism. On one hand, traditional journalism with its politics and big budgets that can support extensive research for complex projects. On the other hand, “amateur” journalism, with their original agenda-free voice. If there’s still a debate, it’s because we’re failing to see that both styles are necessary. More from Johnson on this point:

The success of Babble should be a corrective for all those folks who think that the Web has lowered our journalistic standards, or that original, provocative writing online doesn’t have a business model to support it. Yes, Babble was not a commercial success on the level of Facebook or LinkedIn or Zynga. Content sites don’t have that kind of scalability. (Though they may well have an easier path to profitability.) But Babble did make a tidy return for their investors…

The second takeaway is, IMO, even more important, and it’s something Johnson noticed as well:

The commercial viability of the web shouldn’t just be about a handful of billion-dollar IPOs. It should be about a thousand smaller-scale successes, where new voices can both find an audience and create sustainable business models. Babble managed to do both those things in just a few short years — and that’s great news for all of us.

When I tell people that they should do their own thing because the tools to succeed are there, this is what I mean. This is the real value of the low costs of technology: Improving the standard of living a little for


The number of super-rich people is small, and it’s only going to get smaller. You can certainly try to get there, but taxes and popular opinion are not very friendly with the super-rich. On the other hand, going after a profitable small business, thanks to the use of low cost technology and communication, is a much surer bet. Not only in financial terms, but it’s also the best bet to achieve the three keys for satisfying work, according to Malcom Gladwell: Autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward.

Think about it this way: what is the first clear advantage that people mention when talking about jobs? Safety. Which means, lower risk. Well, that’s what I mean with the tools being here for people to go solo: it’s no so risky anymore. The more people realize this, the more happy stories like Babble we’ll have.

The Future of Hiring

The Future of Hiring

Hiring is broken. Actually, it’s always been broken, we just didn’t pay attention. The traditional system of sending and receiving thousands of resumés was never a model of efficiency. In their book “Rework”, the guys from 37 Signals explain what we all know about most applicants and their resumés:

“We all know resumés are a joke. They’re exaggerations. They’re too easy. Anyone can create a decent-enough resumé. That’s why half-assed applicants love them so much. They can shotgun out hundreds at a time to potential employers. It’s another form of spam. They don’t care about landing your job; they just care about landing any job. If you hire based on this garbage, you’re missing the point of what hiring is about. You want a specific candidate who cares specifically about your company, your products, your customers, and your job.”

The reason we didn’t notice that having resumés and recruiters plaguing the job market was a bad idea, is because we could afford it. It was fine to have that system 50, 20, even 5 years ago. Wasting was a part of life. We bought tons of crap, watched many hours of TV and got only the minimum education necessary to get a job. Each of those philosophies are based on one big assumption: we have plenty of resources to spare.

Well, reality has caught up with us. That lifestyle is no longer sustainable. In terms of hiring, paying a recruiter consistently to find someone who is always a gamble, is not an optimal way of allocating resources in our time. And there’s probably nothing more important for a business nowadays than an optimal allocation of resources.

In a fast-paced changing environment, resilience is king. Having the right systems and tools, lowering costs and improving productivity, these are the methods towards profitability that businesses are embracing now. In most cases, hiring is too expensive, because we’re doing it wrong.

The main problem with the traditional hiring system is that it places all the responsibility on the business. Job applicants are only sending some letters or emails, but it’s the businesses who are spending money trying to pick the right candidate. Expensive process, questionable ROI. We need a better way.

Originally, I was going to write about how to evaluate people without college degrees, but that’s the wrong question to ask. A better question would be: how are we going to evaluate ANYONE? Granted, there may be a very small group of fields of study where academic excellence leads to professional excellence, but it’s not representative. In most situations, a degree or a resumé don’t mean competence.

The solution is to balance the evaluation game. The person hiring shouldn’t be the only one judging competence. This is the fundamental shift that we need to go through: better self-assessment. As we become more empowered as consumers and learners because of the available technology, we also carry a bigger load of the responsibility. We have to stop thinking in terms of paychecks, and start thinking in terms of value creation.

This is my problem with all the protesters worldwide demanding for more and better jobs. They see jobs as rights, instead of ways to create value for businesses and society.

When we think in terms of value creation, the number of suitable jobs for each person drops dramatically, but the impact of the ones that remain increases. When we see look for where we can help the most, we find out the right jobs, and recruiters find the right employees.

The future of hiring is a two-way street recruitment. Job applicants, college degree or not, evaluate the businesses where they can have the biggest impact (whether those already exist or they have to create them), and then the MARKET evaluates if they are a good fit. Maybe it’s a recruiter, maybe it’s consumers, who will evaluate us is besides the point. What matters is that only what creates value gets accepted by society.

We need to embrace uncertainty, become entrepreneurs in everything we do, develop our skills consistently, and aim to create value. If we need to start a business or become freelancers, so be it. We need to step up to the challenge, and accept the burden that our ever-increasing standard of living has placed upon us.

Simply put, the future of hiring is one with more value, but less hiring.

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