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Month: April 2014

Quotes April 2014

Quotes April 2014

“Almost everything I have ever learned of value in life I learned from the cryptic words of old men and from getting my ass kicked by reality.” – Skinner Layne

“You can talk a man out of an idea he is happy with only by making him unhappy with it.” – Aaron Haspel

“Bitterness: anger that forgot where it came from.” – Alain de Botton

“At key points in life, and maybe most of the time, we don’t get enough attention from the people who really matter. Our best friend made friends with someone else; the elder sister who was the companion in all our childhood adventures started to get more interested in boys and homework and didn’t want to make Lego farms or build treehouses much any more. A father changes jobs and is often away on business; a mother goes back to work and a nervous three year old spends long mornings in a nursery with eleven more boisterous children. The person you pined for through adolescence hardly knew you existed. Someone you wished you could have been better friends with – witty, gregarious and good looking – never really made you feel part of their group. The people from whom we seek intimate attention, regard and even love may not mean to leave us bereft – but that’s what happens often enough.” – Alain de Botton

“It’s tempting to believe that people don’t do the right thing because they don’t have the right ideas. But in truth, we already have so many nice ideas at the back of our minds; the problem is, we don’t act on them, and we don’t do so because, at key moments, we lack reminders, motivation and encouragement.” – Alain de Botton

“What do I have to do to make sure we keep winning?” – Bill Russell

“Beliefs, like bad software, can get “locked-in” in society. Those that follow society’s dogmas without questioning whether or not they remain useful, may build entire lives or careers on outdated foundations.” – Carlos Miceli

“Finding a dedicated business partner is harder than finding a woman to marry.” – Alberto Brandão

“Have a few key areas of non-novelty; put everything else on the chopping block. Do have a long-term significant other. Do have a “home” that doesn’t change every year. Do maintain some traditions and routines. Cherish these routines. Then, experiment widely, take chances, and kill your status quo everywhere else – you’ll be investing in your memory bank, slowing down time, and increasing the meaning you feel when you take stock of your life.” – Ben Casnocha

“Managing clutter levels is how you tune the tradeoff between creativity and productivity.” – Venkatesh Rao

“Our modern technology is very good at telling us what is immediate and urgent, but less good at keeping us in touch with what is important. […] Religion can be seen as a gigantic memory-prompting machine that is always trying to get us back on track.” – Alain de Botton

“To be casual, relaxed, the person in every situation who tells everyone else not worry about it. Not the other way around–the agitator, the paranoid, the worrier or the irrational. Be the calm, not the liability.” – Ryan Holiday

“Love is our involuntary response to virtue.” – Stefan Molyneux

“There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas Edison

“Some virtues bloom forth with youth: being intelligent, energetic, curious and pleasant. Some virtues only ripen over time: other-centeredness, having a sense for how events will flow, being able to discern what’s right in the absence of external affirmation. These virtues usually come with experience, after a person has taken time off to raise children, been fired or learned to cope with having a cruel boss.” – David Brooks

“Under communism, the great thing was we knew it was all wrong in the media, so we thought quite hard. Nowadays, people think it’s right, so they’ve stopped thinking. That’s the problem.” – Alain de Botton

“How do you make a major career change?”

“How do you make a major career change?”

The biggest mistake many of us make when we feel the urge to change our lives or careers is to “look” for an answer, expecting to find somewhere someone or something that fits perfectly with who we are at that moment of our lives.

We look to make a change without dealing with the discomfort that comes with it.

We want that dream job, that great business idea, that perfect partner to materialize in front of us, so we can make a safe leap to a better career.

That’s not how the world works. When we want something better, we have to step into the unknown. The professional world is not waiting for us to go and ask whenever we’re ready.

Whether we want to improve our careers, skills, relationships, or mindsets, we have to accept first that we are lacking those things. First, we need to make a decision and conscious effort to go out to the world to look for the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The solution: Increase the randomness in your life.

Randomness is the key behind serendipity. For serendipity to occur, and for new things (job opportunities, ideas, connections) to make their way into your life, you need to tune up the amount of random inputs

Imagine randomness as a dial that you turn up or down depending on how clear our next steps are. When things are clear, we need to lower the randomness so we can get to work and execute. If we have too many things going on during a time where we need to focus on getting something done (e.g.: getting a PhD), it’s easy to get distracted and our output suffers.

There’s a moment in life to “buckle up” and get to work.

However, and this is the key: when things are less clear, when we know something is not working but we don’t know where to start to fix it, we need to increase the randomness in our lives. We need to get as many inputs as possible so we can increase the odds of serendipity occurring.

The reality is we don’t know WHERE the answer is. We can’t know who has the job we really want, we can’t know who’s looking for a business partner just like us, we can’t even know what we should know that we don’t know!

In my experience, the best way to expose yourself to randomness, bar none, is meeting other people. Not people like you, but people from different fields, ages, nationalities, industries, etc. Talking to people in your circles is very limiting when you’re thinking of changing careers, for obvious reasons.

Put yourself in situations where you can maximize meeting more people, and you’ll slowly be increasing the new inputs in your life, that will eventually lead to serendipitous discoveries for your career.

On “Locked-in” Career Dogmas

On “Locked-in” Career Dogmas


I was recently chatting with a friend about people’s tendency to do things that are inefficient and/or expensive compared to superior, newer alternatives more aligned with what the professional world demands today. In this instance, someone I knew chose to return to his Alma Mater for an 18-month long Masters program “to learn finance and meet new people.”

What puzzled us were not the goals, but the path chosen to achieve them. My friend worked very high in the corporate ladder within the Finance industry, and he agreed with me: with today’s technology, you don’t need to spend that much time or money to learn finance. And to add social diversity to your life, it is not difficult to find more diverse settings than the university one already graduated from.

The problem I see is that information alone does not change beliefs or behavior. Showing someone a cost-benefit analysis comparing more efficient and effective alternatives doesn’t work. People don’t make decisions based on reason, but on feelings, motivations, and insecurities. When we follow dogma, like defaulting to university education when we want to advance our careers, it usually originates from a fear to question what everyone around us proclaims as true.

As my friend Gabriel puts it, dogmas come with a package: believe this, behave this way, and you get these perks and friends. As long as you color inside the lines, everyone has your back. Most of the dogmas we follow are rooted in social acceptance, not effectiveness. When we follow a path that clashes with the path our family, friends and colleagues are following, we’re basically saying “I disagree with your way of doing things, and I believe this path is better for me.”

We fear the freedom and responsibility of doing things the way we think they should be done.

We Are“Locked-in” to an Old Thermostat

Our environments dictate what we should and shouldn’t do. As Josh Kaufman explains, people are essentially very complex perceptual control systems (like a thermostat): we act in ways that keep our perceptions of the world within acceptable boundaries. We don’t put on a coat because cold weather forces us to. We put on a coat because we feel cold and we don’t want to feel cold.

In other words, we change our behavior when we feel that something is wrong, but the tricky part is that the boundaries that determine what’s right and wrong depend on the context. In life, the context is other people, and the boundaries are the dogmas that we accept. If the people around us say “go to college, whatever it takes”, not doing so will feel bad, despite of the cost or results. It’s as if other people numb us to feel the consequences of poor decisions.

The thing is, you can’t change how people around you think. The only way to abandon poor and outdated dogmas is to change your context for one that supports and encourages your beliefs. Like Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and Chairman of Linkedin puts it: “The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”

We fear the social consequences of doing what works best for us.

Change Your Environment, Change Your Beliefs

In his book “You’re Not a Gadget”, Jaron Lanier complains about the “lock-in” effect: a certain software, despite far from being optimal, becomes so widespread that it is impossible to replace or change because of the required effort. He uses MIDI, a technology that allows musical instruments to communicate with each other and with computers, as an example.

We can see the same “lock-in” effect in many aspects of our life where people stick to a belief that no longer works well:

  • You need to go to college to learn X content or skill.
  • You need a degree to get a job.
  • You deserve a paycheck for doing any kind of work.
  • You should raise money if you want to have a successful startup.

How we learn, how we work, and how we get ahead in life are just some of the areas where we are locked-in to inefficient belief systems. What’s the solution, then? Well, it’s not what most people do: hope that the world wakes up and decides to change so we don’t have to. The amount of effort that is necessary for a society to change its locked-in beliefs is so big it rarely happens.

However, as individuals, we are quick and nimble. We can change our context in the blink of an eye. We can move into a new environment, a new “thermostat”, and immediately break free from locked-in beliefs. While a person’s desires can get him or her the label of a crazy, erratic dreamer in one environment, he or she can be admired and encouraged to pursue those same goals and cultivate the same passions in another environment.

The history of the world is full of “weird” people that needed a different environment to have their talents recognized and encouraged. Getting ahead in life and breaking free from “locked-in” beliefs involves a lot of context-switching. It involves a lot of meeting new people that can help us go through the journey and get where we want to go.

Nowadays, sticking with outdated locked-in beliefs has worse consequences than ever before. Locked-in beliefs may be “inefficient” for society, but for a person that translates into not finding the right job, or not getting compensated, or not knowing how deal with the challenges of entrepreneurship, or wasting too much time and money in bad ways of learning. These are very real consequences.

In the end…

Locked-in beliefs remain as long as we let society dictate how we should think, feel, and live. But we don’t have to be passive. We don’t have to wait as life passes us by. We don’t have to quiet our calling.

We can break free and be in an environment that helps us get to where we want to go.

In the end, breaking free is about daring to take a step outside of our comfort zone, where new challenges and opportunities await.

In the end, breaking free is about having a bit of courage.

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