The Basic Model – How I Tackle Everything

The Basic Model – How I Tackle Everything

This is my definition for becoming a hacker and achieving desired outcomes in the modern economy….

The Universe

  • Things perceived to be completely under your control: OK
  • Things perceived to be somewhat under your control: OK
  • Things perceived to be out of your control: ERR

 

Things Perceived to be Somewhat or Completely Under Your Control

Forget things that are out of our control. If the company is getting sued for $5T, it’s in the lawyer’s hands, not the engineers or salespeople. But, there are things we can control, this is what we get paid for. Sales, Marketing, Engineering. Achieving results with things perceived to be, at least somewhat, under our control. Same applies to kids, house, relationships, etc.

 

How We Achieve

We leverage and obtain knowledge in three main ways. We do this to achieve desired outcomes – building things, selling things, suing people, defending people, healing people, making war, etc:

  • Things that are commonly known: Google it or use other specific knowledge bases
  • Things that are known by peers: Ask a peer
  • Things that are unknown: We figure this out ourselves, then make it common knowledge (write blogs, books, teach) or share it with peers (possibly too nuanced, complex or specific for knowledge bases aka tribal knowledge, wisdom, or mentoring).

 

Junior vs. Senior

Junior

  • Junior people use Google a lot
  • Junior people ask people around them a lot
  • Junior people figure out things that are unknown, but these are typically things that could be figured out by most other junior people
  • Junior people are productive, but do not tend to contribute a lot of “knowledge”  in quantity or quality compared to a senior person

Senior

  • Senior people use Google a lot
  • Senior people ask other senior people around them a lot, especially experts in other fields
  • Senior people figure out things that are unknown as well as things that are TOUGH to figure out quantitatively (specific skill) or qualitatively (wisdom). Junior people cannot typically figure these tough things out in an efficient amount of time, nor in a way that would provide proper risk/reward. These things can be so hard that perhaps, even other senior people cannot figure them out. Imagine sending a newb to lead 1000 tanks in Iraq – not going to happen efficiently.
  • Senior people are productive, and they are expected to contribute to mentoring (peers), as well as creating knowledge bases which can be used commonly (building their brand)

Unicorns

  • Unicorns are senior people that can also force themselves to do things for which they have no passion
  • They understand the psychological principle that you like what you do, not you do what you like
  • These people will become passionate about almost anything and hence, can do almost anything well

 

Contribution Velocity

Being able to achieve desired outcomes by figuring things out at an efficient velocity and sufficient quality is important to becoming senior. Essentially, this is my definition of hacking. Whether it’s breaking an encrypted hard drive, figuring out how to program something in a new language, program something you have never programmed before, selling a specific dollar amount of goods and services, losing weight and gaining muscle, or leading 1000 tanks in Iraq, these are all hacking.

When you are good at hacking, you are good at figuring things out that are both unknown and quite difficult, then quickly leveraging these new things to acheive your desired results. When you gain this skill in any specific discipline, you are a hacker. When you have been hacking for 20 years, and have achieved mastery in 5, 10, 20 or 30 “technical” disciplines, you may be considered senior. The more disciplines you master, the quicker you master new ones, essentially increasing your rate of mastery in new disciplines. When your skill of mastering new disciplines achieves a certain velocity, say one a year, it will be difficult for the job market reward you with appropriate financial compensation. Most technical disciplines lead to a financial ceiling on compensation in the job market. Hence, when people become very senior, they look for other rewards. Great and productive people, lax lifestyle, free time, free food, notoriety (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) whatever. This can lead to laziness.

That is, of course, unless you choose the disciplines of entrepreneur, salesperson, or bandit. These disciplines are basically unlimited in financial compensation or reward. Your ability to contribute is not limited, so your ability to garner a cut is also unlimited. A salesperson can sell $100M, then sell $200M, then $1B year after year. A bandit can steal as much as he likes. An entrepreneur can grow the company as big as his skills allow. Your ability to achieve is only limited by your hard work, creativity, quality of product, and ability.

That is, at least, until you bump into things that are out of your control (cancer, global war, macroeconomic problems, etc)……

 

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Today We Brought You Home From The Hospital

Today We Brought You Home From The Hospital

It’s just before Midnight on September 26th, 2017 and today your mother and I brought you home from the hospital. Someday, when you are ready, I will share this letter with you because I think that reflection is important for personal growth. As the clock ticks past midnight, I am reflecting about a conversation that I had today with my mother, your grandmother, about what childbirth means. She said, that to her, giving birth to another human being is about the past, the present, and the future. I found this intriguing – she explained, that when you look at a child, you can see the past. Some of a baby’s physical features come from their grandparents – this is a looking glass into the past. Also, some of a baby’s characteristics come from each of the parents, who also experience the birth in the present. The parents and the baby will continue to live in parallel as the baby ages and matures. Finally, the baby will grow into it’s own individual person. The baby will be a mix of new characteristics, different from the past, different than its parents and grandparents, yet carrying a piece of the past forward. Sort of a way for the parents to live on – in part. Old and new together as one.

So, from this, I want to share with you three reflections today. One for each of – the past, the present, and the future. I hope that these might be useful to you in your life.

 

The Past

It was recently discovered that modern human beings have been around for at least the last 300,000 years. If most of our ancestors reached maturity around 15 years old, which is reasonable up until the last last few hundred years of human history, you and I both have approximately 20,000 generations of ancestors. Let this sink in. Even with my best efforts to search ancestry.com while your mother was pregnant with you, I could only find names for perhaps 4 or 5 generations at best. That means we have approximately 19,995 generations of ancestors for which we have no information, not even their names. Little is known, much is not.

This puts things into perspective. The things that we think are important, stressful or even joyful today, will become insignificant in the immenseness that is the past. Individual people, the generation that they are part of, the politics of that day, and even entire millennia will fall by the wayside to time. When life seems hard or difficult, try to remember this – think about how difficult it must have been for our ancestors 5,000, 20,000, and 300,000 years ago. Day to day life had very little convenience – it strikes me that the word “convenience” may not have even been invented until perhaps 5000 years ago.

I think about this every time I change one of your diapers 🙂 Our ancestors didn’t even have disposable diapers, much less the Munchkin STEP Diaper Pail (so that they wouldn’t have to smell your poopy baby butt).

 

The Present

Life is better now than it has ever been. This is, of course, a double meaning. Technology is better than it has ever been, but there is also a trend in 2017 toward doing Yoga, meditation, and practicing mindfulness (whatever that means) – basically focusing on the present as opposed to the past or the future. And what way is better than controlling your breathing (a bit of sarcasm), which is normally handled by your autonomic nervous system along with your blood pressure, but I digress…..

As I write this sentence, I can hear you squeak, coo and cry in the other room – I can hear one of the cats run up the stairs, and Christopher come in the room and nail the Moroccan Pouf in my office. These moments are precious. Raising you is going to be amazing, watching you grow, seeing you become your own person, separate from your mom and me.

Tonight, before I wrote this letter, I ran to the store, picked up the Munchkin STEP Diaper Pail, then went for a two mile run, took a shower, and changed your diaper – I believe for the fifth time. Today is never easy – the only easy day is yesterday (David Goggins, my 2017 man crush), because it is done.

 

The Future

The future is constantly happening – it’s a constant barrage of decisions. Keep running or quit – stay in college, or drop out – lift the heavier weight today, or change the programing because it’s too tough, procrastinate, or take action? This is the set of decisions that you will be bombarded with. We all are, but the sum of how you make these directions will take your life in small, incremental decisions that will add up to a huge amount by the end of your life. They will be difficult to see day to day – like heartbeats, breaths, and steps, they will seem small, but will add up to huge consequences, not only in life itself, but in the way you look at life and engage with it.

Park far away and walk two minutes instead of spending that exact same time driving. Save $5 a week instead of spending it on frivolous things. Finish the book before playing the game. Finish the homework before watching TV. These are the drills that are not enjoyable today, but create a happier life in future – which in turn makes it easier to do the new drills. In the end, you can end up with the same one year of experience five years in a row, or five years of new experience. Either way, you will be five years older.

Decide what you want and make small incremental steps towards it because five years from now, you will be five years older whether you do it or not. The small incremental steps build upon themselves. This can end with feeling either content or regret. Primates are not very good at imagining the future, much less deciding what they want. Practice that skill and you will be happier over time instead of less happy as you age.

 

Conclusion

I can tell you with 100% certainty, I feel better today than I ever have. I have you sleeping in the other room with mom and the cat (Christopher) driving me nuts licking the Moroccan Pouf. I feel this good because I am content with the choices I have made to get here and I am confident that we can raise you with a better life than I had growing up.

You will face challenges in life, but I hope you will have immense opportunity as well. I want to take you to the tops of snow covered mountains, the centers of huge metropolises, and the coves of tiny islands in the middle of huge oceans because growth comes from seeing, learning and experiencing as much as possible. I will do my best to show you all the beauty that the world has to offer.

The future is bright….

Love You

Dad

 

 

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Cookie: Glaciers -Vallée Blanche, France – Snowboarding Taught Me That I Am Not a Nihilist

He screamed at me, “Il n’y a pas d’hélicoptère pour te sauver” which in French means, there’s no helicopter to come save you. I didn’t respond. I was somewhere above 10,000 feet, in waist deep snow, and I could barely move or breath. I was on a mountain in France snowboarding and I had just crashed for like the fifth time. There were giant holes in the earth everywhere. I was beginning to realize that for all my training, I just wasn’t prepared for this. It sucked bad. This was type “3 fun” – but I didn’t know it at the time.

That never existed where I grew up – we just tried to kill each other in the playground, or on the way home from school. If you are like me and you have never heard of type 3 fun, let me explain. Basically, rich white people invented this system of “types” of fun. They range from type 1 to type 3 and almost always include some sort of outdoor activity. Essentially, almost none of the people who are into type 3 fun grew up in the inner city, so at some point in their late teens, early twenties or maybe even thirties, they realize that they need to risk their lives to feel alive. Go to any ski resort, mountain bike trail, or chat with a mountain guide and you will hear this nomenclature.

Since then, I have added my own new level, type 4 – with type 3 fun, mother nature is completely neutral and cold. She doesn’t actively try to kill you with all of her intellect and wisdom. But, humans do, and they are annoyingly crafty – that’s what I call type 4 fun, and I reserve it for war and combat. But, I digress….

 

Getting up the mountain didn’t scare me too bad, it was actually pretty fun. You take this cable car up to what they call the Aiguille du Midi, which in English means roughly middle shard, I guess because of how steep the rock point is at the top. It’s not until you enter the ice cave and then creep out onto the ledge, that things get real. There is an obligatory warning sign, saying you are responsible for yourself – but what you see past it is what gets to you. What is that ridge? What are those small black dots moving around at the bottom? Are those ants? God no, those are people. I have to go down that ridge? Down there? WTF, this isn’t Disneyland, this is a real glacier and it will kill you if you are not careful – hell, maybe even if you are.

 

When we started to rope up, I became starkly aware of my biological processes. My breathing, my smell, my vision, my heartbeat, my bowls. I was alive. I had to dig in my cookie jar to find the courage. I paid to be here right? I had to do it? What are you made of Scott? Not fighting a 6 year old over your Legos anymore. This is real. Worse, I had been in Europe for about two weeks at this point, and I had found out a week before that I had a baby on the way. This was a bad idea, and I knew it.

 

Actually, hiking down the ridge ended up being easier than I expected. It wasn’t until we got down to the “top” of the glacier, and the wind started to blow at 40 or 50 miles per hour, that I started to get nervous again. Once we started, it became almost perfect. The wind died away, the sky was blue, and the snow was great. It was absolutely beautiful.

 

This is when things got bad. As the snow got deeper, I crashed a few times, and the altitude was difficult to deal with – I couldn’t breath well. I couldn’t stand back up fast enough when I crashed, and the guide started yelling at me. It was just him and me, but he was in a rush, I have no idea why. I was at the point where I was saying to myself, “I will never do this again.” What the hell was I doing here? Then, it got worse….

The guide yelled for me to stop – we looked down, and I saw why. There were giant holes in the glacier, called crevasses. They would definitely kill you or hurt you very badly if you fell in. Worse, he had already told me that helicopters didn’t come up here (I now know that they do). We started to navigate down and around the giant, gaping holes in the earth, but at some point took a path that to me looked like there was no way through.

 

The guide seemed mad and uneasy, as if this was my fault. We came to a point where there were two giant holes and we had to go between them. It looked like there were really only a couple of safe feet to navigate through – like some kind of sick version of Angels Landing. It wasn’t until I returned home that friends, would tell me that this was most likely a snow bridge over a crevasse, not between. We should have been roped up.

The guide paused for a short amount of time, then gracefully slide his way between the the holes. He didn’t stop immediately after he made it through – I actually thought he might leave me. I started to get even more nervous. I looked down at my right hand, and I could see it trembling through my heavy coat and mittens. Fuck…

I paused, and this felt like the longest pause of my life. It’s hard to explain what happened during that pause. It was similar to crazy stuff I had done when I was younger with my best friend Chris Oblisk – that point just before doing my first back flip off of the railing of the 35 foot Doodlebug train bridge into the Cuyahoga river by our house – or that moment when I see the eggs in the air, about to impact a car load of gangsters in a 64 impala with a beautiful, glimmering, metallic paintjob. But, this was different. I couldn’t discern if it was because I was older and it had been a long time, or if it was because I had more responsibility now. I remember all of this going through my head standing there, looking down – in a split second…

I knew I had to control every part of my mind and body to make myself go through. I had never done anything like this – it seamed so remote, I’m not sure whybthat mattered to me. I was scared and I was mad – I was pissed actually. I think that helped. It felt like I waited 30 seconds, but from the video I took with the GoPro on my head, it’s easy to tell it was only about 3-5 seconds. I began to slide sideways, and my body did everything I commanded it to – I remember correcting my speed so that I wouldn’t fly over the edge. I made it. Actually, with very little physical trouble. It was all mental.


 

So, I did it – I really didn’t have any other choice. I put myself there, and I had to get out. I remember digging deep into my cookie jar right before I slid down. It was a strange sense of having “no control” and “complete control” at the exact same time. Well, that’s a new one.

So, that’s another cookie in my cookie jar. I have fought other men, been beaten and kicked in the head, but nothing has ever scared me as much as those crevasses. I guess that’s just a taste of type 3 fun – it’s not like it was 10 days in the dessert or anything. They say I’m cursed to want more, but I don’t think so. We shall see….

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Cookies in My Cookie Jar

Cookies in My Cookie Jar

Have you ever been scared, like really scared – like so scared that you question who you are? So scared that you reflect on what you want to be? I grew up that scared – it took me a long time to admit that to myself. I was a scared little kid and I was never sure who I was. In fact, until I watched this video by David Goggins, I didn’t even have the mental framework to see it this way. You might just dismiss Goggins as a psychopath, a genetic freak, or just so different from you and me that his advice is useless – but I don’t think so.

He made me realize that, we are all scared, we are all unsure of ourselves, especially when we are suffering. And, from this suffering, comes growth, but only if you reflect. Reflection with discipline is even better – like a martial art. Goggins mentions that sometimes, when he is suffering bad, he thinks to himself, “Am I this guy? Am I tough enough? Am I just a scared kid?” He’s says that when this happens, he digs in his cookie jar – three hell weeks (Navy SEALS), Army Ranger school, air tactical training, 67 thousand pull-ups (yes, 67 thousand) to train for the 4030 in 24 hours record he set back in 2013 – an then he remembers who he is, yes, he is that tough, yes he can do it. A lot of cookies in the jar say yes…

Now, I don’t have a cookie jar anywhere close to his, you probably don’t either – but, we do have cookie jars, and we can dig deep – probably deeper than we are digging right now. The cookie jar doesn’t contain things that you wanted to do, it contains things that you did. They caused you to suffer and grow. That’s why I am undertaking a project to document my cookie jar. I’ve discussed and told stories of these cookies many times, especially with some of my best friends. But now, I want to organize and clarify my mind, so that when I have these conversations, they are crisp and useful for the people I discuss them with. I want to be a better friend, more motivational, and I want to become a better person myself.

The Cookie Jar

  1. Cookie: First Grade – Mason Elementary School – Leslie, You Stole My Lego Space Shuttle From the Science Fair
  2. Cookie: Fourth Grade – Mickie Bright – Chris Calise and Mark Chase Me Home Every Day
  3. Cookie: Glaciers -Vallée Blanche, France – Snowboarding Taught Me That I Am Not a Nihilist

 

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Cookie: First Grade – Mason Elementary School – Leslie, You Stole My Lego Space Shuttle From the Science Fair

Cookie: First Grade – Mason Elementary School – Leslie, You Stole My Lego Space Shuttle From the Science Fair

It was the science fair at Mason Elementary School, 1982 and I knew exactly what I wanted to submit – a Lego Space Shuttle – It wouldn’t be until years later that the Challenger exploded. I would build it from scratch. Back then, there were no instructions for this shit, you had to build it yourself from white and black bricks. Hours and hours spent designing the shape of the space craft, the robotic arm that extended from the bay. I used almost all of my important Lego blocks to build it. This was high tech stuff and it had to be modeled perfectly. This was critical to a six year old’s brain and it was my chance to shine. Everyone would revel in it’s perfection.

Not quite – I had built my work of art, and submitted it to the science fair. It was accepted and on display at Mason Elementary School. It was on a typical four foot, folding table with the obligatory card board walls. I had a vague insecurity about it’s construction being actual “science” because it didn’t include math or chemistry but I was still proud nonetheless. I remember gazing at it that morning, reveling in all it’s beauty, before heading to class. The science fair table was sacred, and it denoted a thin red line, a social contract, which would keep my work of art safe from prying hands that might want to touch it. Not quite – somebody stole it.

I was heart broken when the teachers told me the Lego Space Shuttle was missing. They had no idea who took it – but I knew who it was. There was this kid named Leslie, and even to this day, I remember that we always had a little bit of tension. I don’t know how I knew it was him, but I knew! I immediately confronted him about it. In front of the teachers, he denied it. Once they were gone, he made some comment that didn’t admit that he did it, but challenged me to do something about it. The teachers weren’t going to help – the principal wasn’t going to help – there was nothing that my mom could do. We really didn’t have the money to replace my Legos, we were poor. I just wanted my Legos back – that’s really all I wanted.

At this point, it’s important to point out that I went to an inner city elementary school in the early 1980s, in Akron, Ohio – Rubber City – well, a failing rubber city where people had been losing jobs since before I was born. In fact, the economy shrunk pretty much every year I grew up. I don’t remember the exact demographics of the school, it was probably about 50% white and about 50% black, but on the playground, or walking home from school, I would often be a minority. On the playground, girls jumped rope and sang songs, boys beat boxed in big circles and did back flips off the outside school wall. I was friends with mostly black kids, but there were still racial tensions and everybody knew it – even at six years old, I had heard stories of white kids getting beat up, by groups of all black kids, etc. It was like mythos or legend. Every white kid knew, you didn’t try to fight a black kid, especially when he had three brothers, and you have no backup. It was madness, I couldn’t win.

I didn’t care – he took my fucking Legos, and I knew it! Besides, most of my friends were black too. It was a wash – I didn’t care. I was a scared kid, but there had to be justice.

I challenged him to a fight after school.

He gladly accepted. I was scared, really scared. What did I do? This was going to suck. His brothers and him were going to beat me up in front of the entire school – and I knew it. It didn’t matter, I had to do it now.

I remember watching that clock, waiting for the school bell to ring – like a fight bell in a boxing match. I watched the second hand tick slowly by on that old, school clock against that drab, tan, school wall paint.

The moment of reckoning had come. It was time to face my beating. I headed outside behind the school, to the grass field which would be my point of demise.This was like the first grade version of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight, people were talking about it. There was already a huge group of kids waiting and this was back in the 80s when elementary school included 6th grade, so some of these kids were big, really big.. I remember apprehensively pushing my way to the center of a huge crowd of almost all black kids. It was intimidating and Leslie was already waiting for me – it’s funny now, but I remember it like yesterday, he had a 1″ afro in the style of Gary Coleman. Existentially, we probably even looked cute, but this was serious business to us. It began pretty quickly and I have to admit, I was pissed. I just kept thinking about my Legos. If I couldn’t have them back, I was going to try to punish him. We fought and fought and fought. I remember flashes – the ground, the school building, the smell, our grunts and yelling from the kids around us. It felt like forever. It felt like 40 minutes. In reality it was probably only seven.

To my surprise, his brothers did not jump in. To my surprise nobody else jumped in. To my surprise, I didn’t get beat up – I didn’t win either. It was a draw. We fought and fought, but neither of us could score the defining blow, or make the other kid give up. The crowd was not pleased, but everybody dispersed, and I walked home. All in all, not too bad. It wasn’t until years and years later, studying Anthropology, that I realized that there are social sanctions – it was probably quite unlikely that the crowd would have allowed his brothers to jump in to beat up a six year old. But, those complex social interactions were way too much for me to understand at the time.

The story doesn’t end happily ever after though. For weeks, his brothers did chase me around after school, in the hall ways, and on the playground. The teachers and principals in inner city schools can never do anything about violence, it was a way of life. One time, they caught me in the bathroom, pinned me down and held my head down by the toilet. I remember feeling so trapped. I hated not being able to move and I remember the white porcelain of the toilet bowl like the Eminem song. But worse than any of that, I never got my Legos back, that’s all I really ever wanted. There was a hole in my heart that lasted for years. That was the first cookie in my cookie jar.

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What Makes Good Music? Technical Or Appealing?

What Makes Good Music? Technical Or Appealing?

After talking to a friend recently, I realized that many people do not understand how competitive writing music is. When you walk into Guitar Center, pick up a guitar, sit down and start playing, only then do you realize that the guy next to you is playing rock opera that he has practiced like a million times, he is doing it to show off to other musicians. Then, you realize it is competitive. When you walk into a small, local instrument shop and the owner says to you, “this is a really nice guitar, you should check it out”, then instead of handing you the instrument, proceeds to rock out some ungodly complex riff, you realize it’s competitive. Finally, when you are in a band, it never fails, that if you play out enough, you will eventually have “friend bands” and “enemy bands.” Trust me, it’s as competitive as an sports or martial arts meet.

This is the evolution of music in general, but metal music makes takes it an impressive level. It’s competition taken to the finest. Basically, technical complexity is held above most other aspects. Melody, story, tone, are all held constant, but technical complexity is celebrated. Classical music is even more competitive, it’s music that is really only appreciable by other musicians and those who are very educated in music. Music by musicians, for musicians. It’s more of a technical endeavor like breeding plants or programming.

Pop music on the other hand, is written for the average person, sometimes to the exclusion of any technical merit. To consistently write music that is appealing is it’s own special challenge, this is why Nashville exists.

So, this brings me to the philosophy I am taking with my nnext band. I am not trying to write music for other musicians, nor am I trying to write music exclusively for the masses. I think there is a happy medium where the music is technically challenging enough to be fun, the lyrics contain subject matter broad enough to appeal to the masses, but deep enough to appeal to philosophers. The goal is to write consistently good music and I believe that is as big of a challenge as writing technically complicated music. Oh, and if we can do this consistently over and over and over, we will be better than any other band in the world!

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A Reflection on Travel and Learning in 2016

A Reflection on Travel and Learning in 2016

From a travel and learning perspective, this was one of the best years of my life. I did a ton of travel which I never dreamed would have been possible.  I have always loved cities and I continue to love exploring them, but this year, I started to get out into nature mo read more

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