Peter Thiel talks about how in economics, competition and capitalism are opposites.
In a similar thread, I’ve been thinking about the effects of competition and grades when it comes to our education system. The system is set up with the belief that grades play two main roles: the role of measuring how much you’ve learned, and the role of motivating students to do better. But as a side effect, grades breed competition.
And then there’s learning. Just as competition and capitalism are opposites, I find that learning and grades are also opposites. Learning a very personal endeavor, and is always best achieved by having personal agency and drive to learn. By standardizing learning and encapsulating it within grades, we have taken out the most powerful force of learning and turned it into more of a routine.
And even though grades don’t inherently cause competition, they do create a quantified gauge of an arbitrary number that is supposed to reflect how well you’ve learned. But unfortunately, instead of serving as a guideline, many people use their grade not to reflect how well they have learned, but how well they will be able to avoid the punishment that comes with receiving poor grades – whether it be social, academic, or otherwise.
Learning is also a very organic process. It’s a process in which you take in knowledge presented by another human being and you integrate it into your own life. It’s almost an adaptation of knowledge into understanding and application.
I’ve found that I do my best learning through personal curiosity, creativity, and self-directed practice. I find that a very good way to get myself disinterested in a subject is to take a class on it.
Learning is most powerful when it is organic, and our education system is often the furthest thing from organic.
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.
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 (http://aquadesigninnovations.com/)
- 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 (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hard-Thing-About-Things/dp/0062273205)
- 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 (http://zerotoonebook.com/)
- Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman (http://www.amazon.com/The-Design-Everyday-Things-Expanded/dp/0465050654)
- The Art of War – Sun Tzu (http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-War-Liddell-Hart/dp/0195014766)
- Abundance – Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler (http://www.amazon.com/Abundance-Future-Better-Than-Think/dp/1451614217)
- Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Swan-Improbable-Robustness/dp/081297381X)
- Parting thoughts on life, work, business (39:05)
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.
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.
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.
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 (brighteyes-students.org) 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, http://tiffanydstone.com/
- Find out more about BrightEyes @brightEyes_news, firstname.lastname@example.org http://brighteyes-students.org/