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In Life

By Daniel Kao

The Narrative Fallacy – Why Looking Back can be Deceptive

On 30, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

Humans usually remember things best when told as a story.

Stories that are emotional are engaging and memorable, while an overwhelming list of facts generally is not. And because of this simple fact of human psychology, we find ourselves drawn to stories of our favorite heroes, and attempting to analyze their lives in order to validate what we do.

The narrative fallacy, as popularized by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan, states that humans have a tendency to oversimplify and explain past events from the bias of their worldview.

Any past event can be explained in an extremely large variety of different ways, and the explanations can be unbelievably far apart. In fact, how many times have you heard two people make two conflicting points from the exact same story?

It’s a common thing to say that the dots always connect looking backwards, but more often than not, they connect because we find some way of explaining the dots so that it supports our hypothesis.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with telling stories. Stories are a great way to inspire and emotionally connect with others, but it’s also easy to get blind-sighted when we take the story-teller’s interpretation as gospel.

I’ll be the first to say that the dots don’t always connect looking backwards, and I’m completely okay with that.

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In Podcast

By Daniel Kao

Chris Yin on Fulfillment, Entrepreneurship, and Building Products that Matter

On 27, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Podcast | By Daniel Kao

Chris Yin has a huge passion for using startups to build products that make a difference! He has worked both at small scale startups as well as larger startups and has some great thoughts for young aspiring entrepreneurs. Listen in as Chris shares about fulfillment, entrepreneurship, and building products that matter.

Show Notes and References

  • Chris’s background, thoughts on moving from Xpenser to Coupa (2:20)
  • Process of starting Pathways Ventures (6:00)
  • Aqua Design Innovations (
  • Invest in people, not ideas (12:40)
  • What to learn from failure (14:35)
  • How Chris got interested in entrepreneurship (18:35)
  • Being driven by the desire to learn (20:50)
  • The mentors that have shaped Chris’s life (22:02)
  • The difference between tactics and mindsets (23:55)
  • The books that have had an impact on Chris (24:36)
  • The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz (
  • What recommendations would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs? (25:10)
  • What does success mean to you? (30:52)
  • What do you morning / daily rituals look like? (31:45)
  • What books would you recommend most to people? (34:10)
  • Zero to One – Peter Thiel (
  • Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman (
  • The Art of War – Sun Tzu (
  • Abundance – Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler (
  • Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (
  • Parting thoughts on life, work, business (39:05)
  • @chriseyin

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Reaching Your Peak and Maintaining Vision

On 22, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Productivity | By Daniel Kao

In the past, I’ve written about how to get through unproductive slumps in your days, and how to maintain vision over many days.

Today I’m going to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum: What happens after you achieve something so great and are unable to top it?

Imagine being an astronaut who was part of the Apollo program in the 1960s. After preparing years for your great space expedition, it finally happens. You take a trip to the moon, see the famous view of the earth as a small blue marble with your own eyes, collect some samples form the surface of the moon, and then return home to earth.

How do you reintegrate back into what life was before after such an experience? It’s a general challenge for people who reach the top of their game to maintain vision and continue on. We find that many athletes, astronauts, entrepreneurs, actors, and otherwise aren’t always satisfied after their accomplishments. They’ve accomplished their impossible life dream, but something doesn’t sit right. Some of them find themselves depressed, lost, and unfulfilled.

You may not have gone to the moon or sold a company for millions of dollars, but I’ve found that to the extent you’ve set your dreams is the extent that achieving dreams will produce this effect.

It’s easy to think that you’ll be happy after you achieve x or y, and then spend years working to get there, only to find that reaching that point leaves you still unsatisfied.

The point isn’t to find satisfaction in the achievement of your dreams, but to be satisfied as you live on a daily basis.

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Uncovering Secrets – Mindsets Toward Building the Future

On 17, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

In his most recent book, Peter Thiel talks about secrets. Secrets in the sense of truths that have not yet been discovered that will help the human condition. These are secrets that, once discovered, will give a lucky researcher or entrepreneur the ability to capitalize on their secret.

It’s easy to believe that there are no more secrets in the world, that what we see and experience on a daily basis is about as good as it gets. But as Moore’s law (that processing power for the same price point doubles every 18 months) suggests, technology, and innovation as a result, will only increase at an exponential rate.

People who believe that there are no more secrets to be discovered find themselves in a fixed perspective when it comes to the world. They do not see how things can get better, and so they don’t try to improve them. Most people fall into this category, as they simply do as their told and build their life in the constructs of today and not for what the future will be.

Next, you find people who believe that society is not a static construct, and that innovation is happening incrementally. These people will generally look at the past, and linearly extrapolate what has happened in the past into what will happen in the future. These people usually will think in terms of how much improvement has happened between yesterday and today, and predict that tomorrow will increase the same amount.

Last, and most uncommon, you find the people who seem to be completely out of their mind, but these are the people who truly understand exponential thinking and looking to the future. These people understand that the future will be full of things that are completely unimaginable in the present, and that preparing for the future is not merely adding previous rates of change. These are the people that will dig for the secrets, and test what they hypothesize.

Think about this: how many people today sit around discussing the billion dollar ideas of the present, and dream about how they wish that they were the ones to have come up with these ideas? How many people look back at the markets 20 years ago and introspect on how easy it would have been to start a company at that time? Unfortunately, most people do this.

They do this in a way where they completely ignore the present, and the mass amount of secrets still yet to be uncovered. I bet that in 20 years people will be looking back at the 2010s as such an easy time to start companies and build their ideas.

Here’s a secret: there are still infinite amounts of secrets to uncover.

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In Podcast

By Daniel Kao

BrightEyes Podcast Episode 1 – Tiffany Stone

On 13, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Podcast | By Daniel Kao

I’m extremely excited to announce something that I have been working on for the past couple of weeks.

Ever since I started diving into the world of podcasts about a year ago, I’ve wondered what it would be like to host my own.

As a team member of BrightEyes, a study tour program that provides undergraduates at UCSD with the opportunity to experience an industry firsthand, I’ve decided to leverage the BrightEyes platform for my podcast. In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing one of my mentors and the founder of BrightEyes herself.

Tiffany is the founder of BrightEyes, Marketing Coordinator at Sols, UCSD Alumni, among many other things.

The BrightEyes Podcast is the official podcast for BrightEyes. Tune in every month for a new podcast! The podcast features various individuals part of the BrightEyes community. BrightEyes team member, Daniel Kao, will be joined by founders, investors and various industry professionals to chat about college to real world transition, career development, industry trends and startups. Visit our site ( to learn more about the program and what’s next!

Give this podcast a listen, and feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments!



Show Notes and References

  • Tiffany’s background (2:09)
  • How Tiffany began exploring careers in college (3:30)
  • Tiffany’s trip to New York and how that impacted her career (5:18)
  • How do you reach out to professionals? (7:02)
  • How did BrightEyes get started? What were the challenges in the beginning? (8:56)
  • The two years of BrightEyes tours, and the difference between them (11:52)
  • Where BrightEyes is headed in the future (15:45)
  • Self-awareness and the power of knowing yourself (17:52)
  • Networking is about adding value and building a relationship (21:05)
  • What it’s like to be on the mentor side of the relationship, and why Tiffany does BrightEyes (23:35)
  • What is it like to be a female in a very male dominated industry? (25:30)
  • What does success mean to you? (28:29)
  • What advice would you give your 10 year younger self? (31:10)
  • What daily routines are crucial to your life? (31:52)
  • Find out more about Tiffany @tiffanydstone,
  • Find out more about BrightEyes @brightEyes_news,

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The Psychology of Pitching

On 10, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

I used to be the shortest, weakest, and most annoying kid on the planet. I was extremely socially awkward.

I had no idea how to talk to anyone. Most of my attempts to make friends in elementary school turned sour, and it’s a miracle that most of my closest friends ever became friends with me. In fact, most of my childhood friendships started out with a great deal of conflict.

I never naturally picked up social cues, which has driven me to pay much closer attention in recent years, and construct frameworks for how I can present myself and interact in different social and professional situations.

In my years spent thinking about social constructs and how people interact with each other, I’ve found that time and time again it boils down to the psychology of how people see themselves and others, and how that influences the way that they think.

I’ve observed many things through people watching. Whether it be a teacher in a classroom, a family in a restaurant, or a boyfriend and girlfriend talking to each other in a cafe, it’s extremely fascinating to pick up on the body language, verbal language, and other cues that people give each other.

And as I’ve dived deeper into the world of startups, venture capital, and business in general, one aspect of social interaction that I’ve been studying more is the art of pitching.

Pitching is a very unique art for a number of reasons.

  1. Pitching is always about one party winning the other party over to their side to accomplish what they want. In other words, at the end of a pitch, either the salesman gets their way or the candidate gets their way. The best way to do this is by convincing the other party to get on your side, so that you both get what you want.
  2. There are many different approaches to convincing the other party to join your side, many of which are effective, and others extremely detrimental.
  3. There are also many defense mechanisms that people being pitched to will use in an attempt to maintain power.
  4. Pitching is an emotional appeal presented as a logical proposal.
  5. Pitching is an art loaded with underlying psychology, power conflicts, etc. that is difficult to observe.

Recently, in working on my own startup, my cofounder and I were introduced by Chase Jarvis to a book titled Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff.

The book talks in detail about many of the different frames when it comes to pitching and negotiation, and gives specific examples of how these frames come into play during a negotiation.

As I’ve begun implementing many of the tactics that Klaff mentions, here are my key takeaways.

  1. It is easier to do a pitch from a place of higher status. People want what they can’t have or what is moving away from them. If you pitch by begging and being needy, you put yourself in a beta position and are easily disregarded. However, if you explain that there are many people willing to take your deal, and that you only have a small window of time, they become much more interested and willing to negotiate.
  2. Don’t get bogged down into the details during the pitch. The analyst frame will suck all the energy out of the pitch, and turn it into a very dry and dead pitch session.
  3. Prize what you have to offer, add scarcity to make an offer more appealing to your prospects. Prizing can even mean limiting the amount of time you spend pitching, in order to communicate that you are in high demand and working with you will be valuable.

Those simple principles are enough to make any pitch a million times better.

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