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Month: February 2016

Quotes February 2016

Quotes February 2016

“If looking for a job, salesmanship is key because competence visibility is often asymmetric. You see you are good, but I need to see it.” – Carlos Miceli

“How did you go bankrupt?

“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

-Ernest Hemingway

“Work can bring you a sense of fulfillment — but it pales in comparison to the enduring happiness you can find in intimate relationships.” – Ryan Stephens

“The only channel where information flows at the pace of change is people. Everything else is lagging behind.” – Carlos Miceli

“Curiosity is a luxury available to those with a long-term outlook of life.” – Carlos Miceli

“A life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.” – Alan Lightman

“Independent beliefs are earned. What you believe and WHY you believe it speaks the loudest about where you are and where you are going.” – Carlos Miceli

“The first non-founding employee at Instagram was neither an engineer nor a designer, nor even a marketer. The Instagram founders understood the importance of managing ecosystems and communities. Employee #1, Josh Riedel, was a community manager, tasked solely with managing the growing community of content creators on Instagram.” – Sangeet Paul Choudary

“Too many organizations—not just companies, but governments and nonprofits as well—still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science. They continue to pursue practices such as short-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes in the face of mounting evidence that such measures usually don’t work and often do harm. Worse, these practices have infiltrated our schools, where we ply our future workforce with iPods, cash, and pizza coupons to “incentivize” them to learn” – Dan Pink

“Part of what fueled social media’s rapid assent, I contend, is its ability to short-circuit this connection between the hard work of producing real value and the positive reward of having people pay attention to you. It has instead replaced this timeless capitalist exchange with a shallow collectivist alternative: I’ll pay attention to what you say if you pay attention to what I say—regardless of its value.” – Cal Newport

“The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.” – Cal Newport

“Who else do you think I should meet?”

“Who else do you think I should meet?”


Back in 2012, I was back in Buenos Aires after a couple of years of intense travel. It was the first time in a while that I was interested in creating value as an entrepreneur in my home town. During the previous four years I had been invested in developing relationships and projects with individuals around the globe that I met online. This was the period that gave birth to my blog, my first startup, my longest apprenticeship, the foundations of my international network, and a number of small experiments.

However, I quickly felt the tradeoff of my past international orientation: beyond my close circles of school friends and family, I didn’t know anyone in the city, nor I knew WHAT I should work on. All I had was enthusiasm. I was a guy with a decent-sized international network and a zero-sized local network, trying to make “something” happen locally. Tough spot.

At the time, I was working as a paid apprentice to my mentor in the US, so I had one thing going for me: I could look to invest my leisure time in new collaboration opportunities where I worked for non-monetary rewards. When money is not an urgent goal, one can create other forms of wealth faster, such as social capital or knowledge. If one is long-term oriented, these forms of wealth often lead to more money than a direct pursuit.

The first thing I did was look online who I wanted to meet. *I didn’t worry too much about why I felt like meeting them; my curiosity was compass enough. *The only criteria was: how likely is it that they are part of diverse networks, and did they lead an unconventional career (broadly defined). These traits were important because I wanted each person to open doors for me to even more people in the local scene, and because they would be more sympathetic and/or impressed with my own unconventional career decisions. If they were older, that was a plus too.

After identifying some names, I proceeded to a) cold email them, b) go to events or offices where they would be, or c) in a few cases, ask for an intro (for example, an Argentinian guy living in Thailand who found me through my English blog made the intro in Buenos Aires to who would end up being my mentor for 2 years).

I started meeting people for coffee or lunch as often as I could, sometimes four or five meetings per day. My approach in each meeting was the same:

  • Ask and understand their situation, goals, and assessment of Buenos Aires’ entrepreneurship and tech scene.
  • Tell them a bit about my background and what I wanted to learn about the local scene.
  • Ask how I could help them.
  • Towards the end, ask: “Who else do you think I should meet?”

My only request for them was to introduce me to someone new, anyone they believed I would appreciate. People want to help as long as it’s reasonable for their current commitments. This is specially true when it’s helping someone that shows potential, in case they end up going far in life. I was very young so potential was easier to convey.

Side note: One of the tradeoffs of getting older is that potential becomes harder and harder to communicate, and achievements (or lack thereof) start speaking for yourself.

I tried to understand how to help them, didn’t act needy or impatient, and my request was simple, so almost everyone introduced me to someone else. In 6-8 months, I went from not knowing anyone, to being one of the most connected 25 year olds in the city. In my talks I sometimes say that 2012 was “the year of the coffeeshop”, because of how much time I spent there meeting new people.

This period of my life led me to three key local networks:

1) Joined a small private club that would invite renowned experts to hear them explain complex or controversial ideas, or showcase a strong personal story, and then have a dialogue with us. I was able to meet or identify local leaders in different fields, which helped me paint a richer picture of Buenos Aires’ opportunities in my head.

The founder of this club used to say that “networking was collateral damage” for the club, since he would prefer each meeting to be about listening to the expert instead of trying to make professional connections. Seeing how many of the original members have launched multiple successful projects together, it’s obvious that the tight networking was beneficial for everyone. To this day, this club hosts one of the most diverse and curious groups of people of Buenos Aires.

2) After meeting my mentor and being hired by him that same day (story for another day), I helped launch and became an assistant professor at a now-famous creativity program. Because of its limited availability, high pricing, and the reputation of its founders and teachers, this workshop attracted accomplished individuals from all fields. In fact, the main criteria for selection is background diversity in the participants. I pursued working with this guy precisely because of the range of his connections.

3) Started a group of young curious people, which combined online interactions with in-person meetups and retreats, to discuss life and business deeper than we usually would in our more traditional social circles. This group gave me some of my current closest friends, at a time where I felt misunderstood because of my interests. It also became a massive source of introductions, clients, jobs, etc. not only for me but for many of the other active members of the group. The group grows daily and it has now +700 members.

I no longer go to the secret club, nor do I frequent the creativity program’s networks. I co-host a monthly dinner in the group I started, but that’s it. Nowadays I have a better understanding of the opportunities and roadblocks in the local scene.* My focus transitioned into execution and avoiding distractions such as active networking.*

The lesson I want to stress from my “people exploration” process is that instead of asking ourselves “What should I do?” when looking for our next career step, we should instead ask “Who should I meet? Who is out there that has some perspective, some connection, some idea, that could trigger the changes I desire in myself?”

Sadly, this is not a popular notion. We see people as doors to opportunities like jobs or customers, but we underestimate them as doors to new ideas or ways of thinking. We believe the way out of a career crossroad is “thinking hard” or talking with those that we know, while in reality, there are more opportunities and ideas OUTSIDE of our immediate networks.

As long they are not incentivized to push a certain agenda (media, events, “experts”, etc.), people remain the most curated and up-to-speed source of objective information. The value of having a robust and diverse network is that the more people you know, the better the odds you will know WHO is the answer to each question or struggle you have.

The role of curiosity in a collaborative world

The role of curiosity in a collaborative world


One of the most important books I read in my life is “The Rapture of Maturity“, by Charles Hayes. While the content is not revolutionary (we’ve been writing about how to lead good lives for thousands of years), it found its way to me at a key period of personal introspection.

One of the main points in the book, which has been a driving force behind all I do, is that maturity means lifelong learning. Misrelating, Hays says, is humanity’s biggest problem, and it arises from people not learning about each other:

“Learning about the world makes it smaller. Learning about people who are great distances away brings them closer. Learning about enemies offers a chance for improving relations. Fully comprehending the forces behind human inequality gives us the capacity to achieve maturity and to help forge the capstone of civilization.”

Another concept Hayes focuses on is authenticity, a key requirement if we are interested in learning and reaching maturity:

“My quest has been to show that the quality of our existence depends upon learning. By learning I mean, not the rote memorization of facts, but sincere efforts aimed at better understanding the very nature of knowledge and the tenuous, cultural construction of the things we call reality. I’ve come to the conclusion that rapture and maturity are reciprocal products of authenticity, and that authenticity involves living your life as if you are really interested in it.”

The road to a society made up of mature, authentic, empathic individuals begins with people being interested and wanting to learn about the world. It beings with curiosity.

What inspires curiosity?

It’s my experience and observation that some people aren’t curious. They don’t want to find better ways of doing things, or find out how they might be wrong, or discover new fields of information. They don’t want to expand their views of reality.

This is logical. Learning is painful and slow (which is why most people change their lives after something happens TO them, not because they seek it). Learning requires us to abandon some belief we spent energy building, or rearrange our view of the world, and then build new mental models. Whether that’s a religious belief, or how to be single again at 50, or how to get to the office faster, learning demands effort and time.

I believe daily life makes curiosity a tough ask for most people. Learning requires investing our resources and delaying gratification, tradeoffs some people just can’t accept in their current circumstances. Most people are too tired or worried or in too much pain to care about being curious.

Go tell a mother of four, with no high school education, poor grammar, health issues and an abusive husband: “the jobs you are looking for are in risk of being automated, so you should be learning to code.”

It’s not that job automation may not happen, or that she shouldn’t learn new skills. She should, but she just can’t care about it. She can only care about what’s happening today. About making it to the evening and surviving her daily battle.

This is where most people live. In today. Curiosity is a luxury saved for those with a long-term outlook of life. Most people don’t have time for curiosity. Whether that’s because they struggle with medical conditions, or depression, or social insecurities, or boredom, or isolation, or financial struggles, most people can’t think about tomorrow. They are struggling with today, every day.

What are the conditions for curiosity to flourish?

In order to want to learn and grow, we must create circumstances where people can feel that learning is safe and relevant. There are three conditions for curiosity to flourish:

1)* We must be rested.* Whether it’s physical exhaustion at the end of the work day, or emotional fatigue because it’s hard to be “me”, people don’t want to learn when they are tired.

2)* It must help us today.* A major obstacle for adopting new information or behavior is the poor narratives behind them. People drink diet soda and think it’s healthy. Interpreters resist translation technology. We let media and politics label and simplify different human perspectives, fragmenting our collective efforts in the process. When it comes to tech advances, or economic trends, or social clashes, or health advice, the narrative matters. If we want people to expand their views, and embrace change, we need stories that put each person as the protagonist and help them see how this is relevant for them today.

Dan Ariely calls this “reward substitution”: give short-term incentives to trigger behavioral change today, that is aligned with the long-term outcome, instead of only giving long-term incentives.

3)* Our identity must be protected.* We don’t want to learn when our sense of self is at stake. To acquire the confidence to feel comfortable about our unique aspirations and let our path provide our sense of self is, I believe, the hardest journey of all. Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

From a short term standpoint, it’s more logical to define ourselves through our nationality, job title, religion, etc. Questioning who we are and where we are headed is not worth the effort for someone already overwhelmed with a sense of doubt every day. A flexible, inner-driven identity is the consequence of a lifelong journey of learning, not the starting point.

My goal is to help people find contexts where spending their energy learning means also addressing their pressing life concerns, and feel safe enough to take learning risks without feeling an immediate threat to their identity. And I believe the only place where we can find this is in our careers and in our work.

Work is the only area of life that can both provide short term stability, in form of salary, relationships, belonging, and also provide long term aspirations, in form of fulfillment, mastery, transcendence and more.

Here’s the kicker: *in the networked age of the Internet, all work involves collaboration. *Whether we want better jobs, employees, customers, partners or ideas, we have to look for people that offer what we need, and needs what we offer in exchange. Understanding who to talk to, where to find them, and what kind of conversation we should have with them, is the key to tapping all human potential.

Figuring out how to maximize collaboration with today’s pros and cons of technology is the path towards a bright future for careers all around.

This is what this newsletter is about: understanding the how to have healthy careers and businesses in a collaborative world.

I believe a rise in mutually beneficial alliances can lead to a rise in curious individuals. When we can customize our work environments and relationships so that people acting curious is in everyone’s best interest, then we can see a mature, authentic, fair society.

Interview: The Startup of Your Personal Life

Interview: The Startup of Your Personal Life


Was recently interviewed by Laura Coe on her podcast “The Art of Authenticity” and it was great – definitely check it out. We talk about how I decided that my next startup would actually be my life. Some points we discussed:

  • The most common modern career struggle: I know I want to do something else, I just don’t know what. That sentence didn’t exist 30 years ago.
  • Wouldn’t it be great to be able to manipulate serendipity? To do so, we need to put ourselves into more random situations.
  • You need to have problems in your life in order for you to want to do something. The worst position you could be in is apathy.

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