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Month: May 2012



If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. – Isaac Newton

This is a list of people that have influenced me in one way or another. Some of them I’m very good friends with, some of them I’ve met or talked with only a couple of times, and some of them I have never met yet. I limited the list to people that have something I can link to. The idea behind this page is that you can read about them, and learn from them the same way I did (a harder task with people offline). They have much wisdom to share:

Josh Kaufman

Josh has changed my life in more ways than he can imagine. He has taught me the importance of systems in life and work, how to manage my energy, the craft of coaching, the importance of investing in people, the love for aphorisms, and more.

If I had be succinct about what makes Josh so impressive, it would be this: he knows how to live well. Work, family, leisure, personal growth, humility, patience and kindness are all elements that Josh has mastered, and he’s only 30. I look up to him in many more ways than just business knowledge. He’s a mentor and a real friend.

Sebastian Marshall

I’ve met many impressive individuals in my life, people that belong to the 0.1% of the population in terms of skills, influence, ambition, etc. But that’s all within the realm of humanity. Sebastian Marshall is on a separate category, though, because one has to be super-human to live the way he does. My guess is he executes, processes, learns and iterates 5x-10x faster than the rest of us.

However, his genes and work ethics are nearly as impressive as his concern for humanity, his desire to move the world forward, his willingness to sacrifice himself for the people and causes he stands for, and his consistent dedication to make everyone around him live better. A great commander that the world will miss when he’s gone. I’ll be eternally grateful for all he’s done for me.

Ben Casnocha

I can say three things about Ben, that I can’t say about anyone else. 1) When I met him I realised I had to step it up, he shattered many ideas I thought indestructible. 2) Every time I’ve had an epiphany, I realize Ben had it first. 3) He’s the only person younger than me that I’ve ever asked to mentor me. And I’m 24. A true lifelong learner and brilliant mind.

Ryan Holiday

Ryan is a weird case. I used to think he was just an asshole. And if I had one criticism towards him, is that he’s too harsh with the common folks. However, once you remove your ego from the process of reading him, you can’t help to admit that he’s a genius. And I’m not exaggerating. I’m positive that if someone runs some scientific test on him, they will prove that he’s actually a genius. His stoic writings always remind me of the values that matter: responsibility, civic duty and tranquility. For that, I thank him.

Alain de Botton

First with his TED talk, and then through his books, Alain de Botton is the reason I fell in love with philosophy. He sparked my interest in the likes of Seneca, Montaigne and Schopenhauer. His gentler vision of success is what I needed to hear at a certain moment of my life, and I’m grateful to him for articulating it so well.

Seth Godin

I rarely read Seth nowadays, but that’s because I read everything he wrote until some years ago. A master of inspiration, his influence was very strong in the beginning of my non-traditional path. His short book “The Dip” has been a key argument supporting my life choices when dealing with naysayers.

Clay Hebert

Clay, another mentor, believed in me early. From the moment we first talked, he has been encouraging and guiding me through the online world. Always willing to listen to my crazy ideas and proposals, I’m very grateful for his support. A good friend, a Seth Godin disciple (which says a lot), and a smart man.

Jun Loayza

My brother from another mother. A warm-hearted soul with a methodical and analytical business vision. A real, down-to-earth entrepreneur. One thing that never stops impressing me about Jun is his unparalleled work ethic. No one works harder than Jun. Everyone should learn some discipline from him. If I have to bet on someone becoming a millionaire before turning 30, I’m betting on Jun.

Colin Wright

I don’t even know where to start with Mr. Wright. We have shared so much, trying to separate the friendship from the lessons is hard. I owe a lot to Colin, he connected me with incredible people, provided advice and feedback in almost any idea I’ve had, and has been on the other side of hundreds of wonderful philosophical debates. A dear, dear friend, both online and offline.

Erica Goldson

Erica is, for me, a symbol of rebellion. And I met her at point in my life when I needed some rebellion. The biggest compliment I can give to her is that she made me nicer. Her love for humanity and nature is contagious, and her tranquility impressive. She may not be conscious of it, but she has taught me to slow down, and feel more. A beautiful person and spirit.

Holly Hoffman

Holly is the reason I got involved in social media in the first place. She was the first person I ever emailed asking for advice, and the person who encouraged me to blog in English. A true warrior, with the wisdom to show for it. She’s put me in my place more than once, and I needed it every time. I consider her a mentor, and a very good friend.

Adam Gilbert

I never understood the power of a healthy body and lifestyle, until Adam started helping me. He was the first blogger I ever followed, and someone I wanted to work with for a long time. When I finally did, I was elated. His patience, support, energy and commitment are unmatched. Much of my daily energy and clarity I owe to Adam.

Monica O’Brien

Another one of my best friends, online and offline. Monica and I have been through a lot together, and she has taught me many lessons about what we do for a living, and business in general. She is very sharp and analytical, so her insights are always invaluable. She has guts, intelligence and a great sense of humour. Every conversation we have leaves me smiling.

Jenny Blake

I’ve labeled Jenny Blake as “the best thing on the internet.” First person who I ever skyped with in English, she has been supportive ever since. She has connected me with great people, and always offered valuable feedback to my ideas. Here’s what’s unique about Jenny in social media: every blogger loves her. Her energy, smile and work ethic can get anyone moving and feeling good. A great friend who you can’t help but to love.

Paul Graham

I still remember the first essay I read by Paul Graham, about the addictiveness of technology. I’ve read all of his writings, and I find myself quoting him often. I thank Graham for taking the time write such detailed articles about controversial and relevant topics. A modern philosopher and value creator, in every sense of the word. Can’t wait to meet him someday.

Adam Carolla

Besides making me laugh, Adam has done much more: he has inspired me to want to speak passionately about what I believe, while being funny if possible. Also, as someone who is very interested in podcasting and interviewing, there’s one thing Carolla does best than anyone else in the planet: he can keep an entertaining monologue going for as long as he needs, an underrated skill. He’s more than a comedian, he’s a deep-thinker with a big conscience.

Steve Jobs

The Einstein of our generation. In an entrepreneurial time where design, creativity and emotions became as important as science and technology, Steve rose above everyone else. Looking back, his Stanford speech was a mainspring for my challenge of tradition and conventional paths. A genius that won’t be forgotten.

Sir Ken Robinson

Similar to Steve Jobs, Sir Ken Robinson’s speech was a turning point in my relationship with education. I used to see education as this rigid path, and something that was passed on to me from someone higher in a hierarchy. Of course, I was wrong, and Sir Ken helped me see that. Meeting him is a goal I hold seriously, and the day I get to do that, I’ll make sure to thank him first.

Patterns Lead to Joy, Creativity

Patterns Lead to Joy, Creativity

I was talking with a client and friend about his next career moves. He explained that he was concerned about trying to learn a particular skill that he felt he sucked at. Later that day, my 12-year-old brother said that he liked drawing, but he wasn’t good enough at it, so he didn’t see the point in taking drawing classes.

I realize this is a consistent myth in our society, so I’ll quote the great Cal Newport:

“You don’t like something and then you do it. You like something because you do it.”

This is very important. For jobs, hobbies, businesses, whatever. It’s critical to get into this mindset of seeing our skills as flexible and malleable. It’s important to know more before giving up. I’m not saying know everything, but know more. You don’t need to become an expert to see if you like something, but you do need to give it a shot.

The more you know, the longer you can do it.

The more you know, the more you can do.

The more you know, the more you enjoy it.

The more you know, the clearer the incentive.

The more you know, the more rewards you find.

The point is this: Don’t try to predict your commitment to something. Your commitment will vary as you learn more about that something. Don’t sabotage yourself too early because you claim that you don’t like that something. Of course you don’t like it, since you don’t have a clear effort-reward connection yet. You don’t know enough patterns of that something.

As one learns and sees more patterns, the understanding of what’s possible increases, and creativity sets in. Once a skill stops being a simple repetition of what other performers created before you, and you start to own your skill by allowing yourself to create your own patterns, that’s where enjoyment and obsession show up.

Give it that much time, learn some patterns before giving up.

Note: Even being competent but not great at many things is a skill on its own, a form of greatness. You learn to love doing a bit of everything. You learn to love not getting to love any particular thing, which gives you room to appreciate many more things.

Should kids be entrepreneurs?

Should kids be entrepreneurs?

Going through my bookmarks, I saw two articles from July that caught my attention. The first one, from Science Daily, explains that popular TV shows teach children that fame is the most important value. No surprise there (sadly).

The second article is about a Teen-only incubator announcing its first startup class.

This got me thinking… Is it possible that entrepreneurship has become a fad, the new cool thing that kids want to do? It seems like it, at least in certain circles.

Now, of course dreams of launching their own company are better than dreams of becoming the next Paris Hilton… But this may still be a problem. It’s still a fad, a choice that manages to escape the question that every decision should answer:

Should I do this?

Nothing is 100% objectively good. Everything should be put under personal scrutiny, and analyzed to see if it’s a good decision under our circumstances. Kids assuming that launching a startup is always a great thing is just as wrong as kids assuming going to college is always a good thing. Everything depends, but I worry that we’re not giving them a chance, we’re attacking their choices early enough to prevent them from exploring less popular possibilities.

Kids are vulnerable to what we tell them they should do, whatever that is. Maybe the problem it’s not about what we tell them, but about telling them anything at all.

I’m not only concerned about their lifestyle choices (or lack of choices), but also about what their output may be. I don’t think all startups are a great thing. I don’t think all companies are a great thing either. I think there’s a lot of crap out there. For example, I think there’s a lot of gaming companies that accomplish nothing other than make people waste their time. I’m with this guy, and this guy.

That’s why kids rushing into thinking about startup ideas, may lead to an increased output of stupid-but-profitable companies that we’d be better off without. There’s always exceptions, but in general, I’d rather have kids see and encounter problems once they make their own personal choices in adulthood, and then launch a startup to solve that problem, than to see them try to get some quick idea in pursue of some cash that may solve nothing.

Look, I’m all for exceptional people. A kid has a startup idea and wants to launch it? Good, let him compete with the big guys. If it’s good, his age won’t matter. But having a teen-only incubator lowers the competition, and distracts them from what adolescence should be about: Exploring and working on themselves.

On Designing for Behavior

On Designing for Behavior

Jenova Chen, creator of a recent videogame titled Journey, explains his views on gamers’ behavior:

There’s this assumption in video games that if you run into a random player online, it’s going to be a bad experience. You think that they will be an asshole, right? But listen: none of us was born to be an asshole. I believe that very often it’s not really the player that’s an asshole. It’s the game designer that made them an asshole. If you spend every day killing one another how are you going to be a nice guy? All console games are about killing each other, or killing one another together. Don’t you see? It’s our games that make us assholes.

I love finding quotes and examples on the importance of design in changing behavior. On his popular book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explained that the design of a form can affect people’s decision to whether or not become organ donors. Or for example, there’s this great experiment on how to get people to use the stairs instead of the escalator:

The idea that we control everything in our lives and that we make only conscious decisions is so engrained in our ego, that we waste the opportunity to make actual change. Read this sentence as many times as needed, and let it sink in:

The way we act depends on the design of our choices.

Yes, it makes reality a bit more complex, because now we’re not some rigid pack of traits, but a set of malleable habits that we can change if we redesign our choices. It adds responsibility to our lives, because we no longer can hide. We now face the decision to either change the design of what we’d like to improve, or shy away from our chance to make things better, the way we’d like them to be.

This has been my message with education alternatives lately. Stop trying to find the panacea. It doesn’t exist. We don’t need to find the perfect system of education. We need to create a better design of educational choices, so everyone can make the right one for their particular situation.

This is why system implementation works so well. If you want to get on a diet, don’t resist the urge to eat ice cream, just don’t buy it in the first place. Change the system and design of the eating choices in your house.

If there’s one thing that’s very powerful in today’s complex world, is understanding how to design a system that gets yourself and others to act the way you envision it. Be responsible, embrace the task. Let’s design more systems where we don’t kill each other.

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