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In Podcast

By Daniel Kao

Lakshya Datta on College Experiences, Writing, and Starting a Company

On 25, Nov 2014 | No Comments | In Podcast | By Daniel Kao

“We might as well not limit our ambition, do a favor to our future self, and not limit how big you dream. Because I think if you dream realistically, it’s not a dream.” In this episode, Lakshya shares about his college experiences and starting his own company.

Show Notes and References

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

Life as a Dichotomy

On 17, Nov 2014 | 2 Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

The two common beliefs when talking about life principles is that either they are absolute or they are relative.

I’d like to suggest that most principles that are true also have opposites that are true. More often than not, they’re two sides of the same coin. Being successful has never been about fitting in with a crowd, but about standing out. Standing out in ways where you’re doing things so extreme that the people around you don’t fully understand you, if at all. It’s about doing things that are so extreme and different that no one else is doing in order to create opportunities that no one else will have.

Throughout history, the most successful and well-known individuals have always been people with extreme strengths as well as extreme weaknesses. It’s the extreme traits, not the fact that they did everything by the book, that they made something noteworthy. All the famous inventors, scientists, philosophers, revolutionaries, and entrepreneurs had someone try to talk them out of it at some point.

But on the contrary, life isn’t usually very enjoyable when things are taken to the extreme. Blending in is easier, more comfortable, and less resistant to making friends with the people around you. The entrepreneur that tries to fit in with a crowd isn’t going to get much further than everyone else in the crowd, even though they may have a better social life. Being surrounded by like-minded people is powerful, but yet limiting. And having a powerful mentor can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

While both of these are deeply valid points, they exist in contradiction to each other. It’s hard to distinguish when you should do something despite what an expert says, and when you should listen to what they say as a mentor figure. It’s hard to know when to stand out and when to blend in, and when to persevere or pivot.

The challenge of the entrepreneur isn’t in the risk, but understanding when to take which extreme in order to build a company that truly matters.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of young, ambitious millennials at the Thiel Summit in downtown Vegas. In the midst of Peter Thiel talking about finding something to believe in that few people would agree with, I found many of my peers trying to fit in with what people around them were doing. Many of the summiters weren’t taking the message as a challenge to find the unique truth to hold onto, but trying to integrate themselves into a growing community of people who believe similar things from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

Whenever I find that too many people believe the same thing that I do, I take the time to reconsider what I really believe.

I don’t do this to purposely stir up controversy (although I used to), but to identify the nuances that make what I believe in uniquely different than what most other people believe. I like to explore the extremes in order to see how far I can stretch my perspective and understanding in order to better identify how to think about things.

In fact, I find that sometimes doing the exact opposite of conventional wisdom gets you closer to your goals than following the conventional wisdom.

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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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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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