Author Archives: reisespeaces

Just when you thought you had seen it all

I’ve come to know a place in nature. A very special place in Central Park called the Ramble. Along with the North Woods and Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the Ramble is one of the three woodlands in Central Park, which means if a tree falls, the park lets it be. When in any of these areas of the park you feel as if you are in the woodlands of New England stumbling upon streams, waterfalls, nature trails, and the chorus of birds chirping.

Instead of staying on the popular running “loop” in Central Park, I enjoy going off track and exploring every single path of these woods, which I’ve come to know, or so I thought. Yet each week, I realize, I missed something. First, I realized there was a famous bird feeding and watching area where locals and foreigners alike come to birdwatch and chitchat. It turns out that Central Park is one of the most diverse and top places in the country for bird watching. Then I came across a stream that led into a waterfall. Another time, I discovered an enormous boulder the size of a small mountain and when ascended positions you into a canopy of wonder: nature shrouds you and no humans are visible yet you are the middle of New York City. Later, I stumbled upon the infamous Cave in the Ramble where murders occurred decades ago and has since been sealed off. Each time I find a new vista of the Lake or the skyline, a place to spot turtles, or watch ducklings. I soon came to yearn for the Ramble, requiring a weekly dose of a windy path, vista, stream, or nature trail. Alas, I discovered what I thought was my final new path. That path was perhaps the most wonderful of all with a secret historic gazebo erected from reclaimed wood, perfectly suiting the pristine surroundings.

I arrived at a point after journeying again and again to the Ramble when I thought I had seen it all. Then winter came. The lush flora and leaves faded. The clandestine creeks became visible unlike I had ever seen. Although not as picturesque, winter certainly has its benefits like the beauty of a frozen lake and barren trees allowing you to see unseen vistas.

The Reis Release #15

The Reis Release aims to share thought provoking articles, podcasts, questions, and quotes related (sometimes loosely) to business and tech. I do this because I enjoy sharing content with friends, it helps me gather my thoughts, and motivates me to seek more. Each day I search for that article, podcast, interview, etc that provides that inspirational feeling, like the first time I heard Mr. Tambourine Man live.

While on the subway…

After listening to a Mitch Albom interview, I decided to read Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve been wanting to read this book since my mom chose a powerful excerpt  for a reading at my bar-mitzvah. I can’t believe I waited this long! There’s so much to say about it.

This is how I felt about Tuesday’s With Morrie. It’s a thing that is so good you want to savor it. You want to slow play time as you are falling in love with it and hope to return to that moment many times over. It’s like while enjoying a vacation or a Levain (I mean vegan) cookie, you try to savor it and never want it to end.

I also realized short good books (after this week and On the Shortness of Life from Seneca from last week) go well with my attention span. They don’t drag on and thus I don’t get stuck in them.

Onto the book. Morrie often repeats that by learning how to die, he learned how to live and philosophizes while on his death bed to his former favorite student (Mitch) who he had lost touch with. Interestingly, Mitch is afraid to face Morrie because he is the anti-thesis of many of his points on life, having been focused only on work, materialism, and power for the 16 years.

Morrie is a modern day Seneca and here are some quotes that resonated with me.

“Everyone knows they are going to die but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

“Do as the Buddists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?'”

“I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear.”

“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.”

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

While in bed…

One Strange Rock (on National Geographic. The first episode is free)

Okay, with a line up like this, there are high expectations. National Geographic + NASA’s best astronauts + Will Smith narrating. The first episode did deliver and I’m told by a friend he re-watched the series 2x already. A mix of nature, science, and technology. This hit a lot of my sweet spots. If you haven’t guessed it yet, the strange rock is Earth. The first episode takes you all over the world (an universe) from a flying river in the Amazon (if it were on the ground, it would biggest river in the world), to collapsing glaciers in Norway, and explains how the oceans, rainforests and deserts have a symbiosis via diatoms (single-celled algae). I found it fascinating that astronauts upon returning to Earth all seemingly no longer have a sense of nationalism but a deep sense that the Earth is one shared place with humans, the environment, and other living beings being crew-mates. Similar to what Morrie says, “We all have the same beginning–birth–and we all have the same end–death. So how different can we be? Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those that you love and love.” Separately, I feel the internet and cryptocurrencies are also making the world feel like one shared place.

Preview:

The Amazon (not the company) produces 20x the oxygen needed for all the people in the world, yet all of that oxygen is consumed by the plethora of animal and plant life in the Amazon consumes it (i.e. it does not nourish any humans)!

Why do you see different colors on the surface of the earth/ocean from space? It’s because of the color of trillions of microscopic diatoms which are the secret source of Earth’s oxygen supply!

Dead diatoms that fell to the bottom of the ocean long ago ultimately became salt flats in Africa and this dust reaches and nourishes the Amazon!

It’s still a mystery that Earth’s balance of oxygen has remained constant at 20.9% for thousands of years despite population growth and industrialization.

While on a walk…

Right now I spend roughly an hour a week at Whole Foods. A hundred and fifty years ago a person may have spent an entire day traveling to town to go the the market.

In the next decade, people will think I can’t believe you did that, the old way. You actually drove your own car? You actually went food shopping?

Soon our pantry, fridge, and freezer may feature Amazon’s “dash button” and automatically deliver the items which are running low. This will save countless hours spent shopping for food over a lifetime. Maybe even a chef robot can prepare a meal?

While there’s definitely a benefit of going to the store such as running into a neighbor or getting to choose the exact strawberries that I want (e.g. the ones that still have a fresh smell lingering), I think I’d rather spend that hour playing soccer. Anyway, at this point, I’m not sure an algorithm can support the way I buy food which is detailed below.

My food hierarchy:
* Avoid meat, dairy, processed food, and added sugar (i.e. a plant based diet).
* Cook my own food.
* Buy organic whole foods.
* Buy local/sustainable products.
* Eat seasonally.
* Seek diversity in diet over specialization (i.e. a smoothie with 20 ingredients may not taste as good as one with just 4).
* Buy products without packaging. If not possible, buy in bulk to avoid plastic/packaging waste.
* Save food scraps for composting.
* Freeze food to avoid potential food waste.
* When items are on sale, purchase additional to save for future use.
* If you must eat pork, it has to be the best kind.
* When on vacation, it’s okay to digress in order to experience the culture.

While drinking tea…

How would you feel if you were retiring abruptly from the job you love and your life was going to be cut short?

Well here’s what Lou Gehrig at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium in 1939 stated as he was heading into retirement after finding out he had ALS.

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” (Here is the complete speech).

I found this ironic because Gehrig held the consecutive games played streak at 2,130 and was known as the “iron man” of baseball. He was healthy yet misfortune got the best of him. What I love about his mentality and this playing streak is that it indicates he did what he loved everyday and reflecting back he had no regrets on how he lived each day over his 17-year career. Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day was a culmination of a fulfilled career (and life) despite only being 37 years old. 62,000 fans came out to cheer him on.

The Reis Release #14

While on the subway…

On the Shortness of Life (De Brevitate Vitae) – From Seneca

I found these moral essays from a Naval Ravikant recommendation and to my surprise Amazon let me “borrow” it for free with their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library , which is apparently offered to Prime members, albeit the book costs $0.99! This adaption of the work of the famous stoic, Seneca, is easily digested despite being “written” circa 49AD. I found his points provocative: questioning how one spends time on seemingly meaningless pursuits (for me, surfing the internet or checking my email constantly) rather than “learning how to live”. I was surprised how many of his “lessons” hold today and he frequently suggests that people of his day too had so many distractions despite no social media! Some of my favorite excerpts are below.

“Reasons for anxiety will never be lacking, whether born of prosperity or of unhappiness; life pushes on in a succession of engrossments.”

“There is nothing the busy man is less occupied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn. Of the arts there are many teachers everywhere; some of them we have seen that mere boys have studied so thoroughly that they could even play the master. It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.”

“Life is amply long for the person who uses it wisely.”

“No one is willing to distribute their money, yet among how many people do we see the distribution of their life! In guarding their fortune people are often tightfisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, which is the one thing they should have the right to be miserly over, they show themselves most uncontrolled.”

While in bed…

What lies 2 miles below the earth’s surface? (60 Minutes segment. Watch it soon before it goes behind their paywall)

This was a fascinating episode for three reasons. One, I’m a former gold bug and the segment details the operations of a gold mine. Apparently mines are diminishing at a rapid rate (e.g. of the 11 longtime goldmines in the area of South Africa, only three are still around) because now they must dig so deep to extract the gold which is too costly. Two, I felt like this was the real life version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. “We plunge 450 stories straight down. It’s the longest elevator ride on Earth. Picture five of New York’s World Trade Centers stacked on top of each other. We dropped two miles in a couple of minutes and emerged in an underground city. The noise from the drills is deafening. Massive air conditioners cool the tunnels but it can still reach 120 degrees down here.” And three, the depth of the cave drew a Princeton Professor of geoscience to research there and he uncovered water that is over a billion years old, ancient salt (he’s been searching for twenty years for this type), and tiny worms living in a pocket of water 5,000 years old! I bet there’s no plastic in that water . Also, the finding of these new creatures led them to think that it’s worth digging for life on Mars!

While on a walk…

How many is enough? 59. I have 59 tabs open right now on my browser.

A few opened today. Several open for days. Many open for a week. Most open for weeks. Some open for a month.

I can’t close them. Why? I tell myself it’s because I have a voracious appetite for learning but I realized that is all wrong.

Our thinking is that everything matters. We have to go onto the next thing, then the next thing, and the next thing. We think each click matters. It turns out very few of them matter. The clicks that do matter such as learning how the wolves came back to Yellowstone  can change your life but these are one in a hundred or maybe even one in a thousand.

Did you ever check your browsing history for a day? It looks like a never-ending list of clicks. Which of these clicks were actually meaningful? If you only had three clicks per day, what would you click?

While drinking tea…

“Chiming in on the issue of day is a trap because it protects us from having to take responsibility for a larger point of view. If Descartes had spent most of his time chiming in on the intrigues of the court we would’ve never benefited from any of his work. We don’t care which duke was hurting which baron of those days. Most of it is not very good entertainment and I don’t want to be part of that cycle.” – Seth Godin on the Good Life Project podcast . This is the best articulation of why I’m off social media and prefer to stay away from nearly all news. Said another way, by Naval, “I don’t care about current events because it’s temporal and I’d rather talk about something permanent”.

The Reis Release #13

While on a walk…

Well in this case, not on a walk but on a run. Have you tried “plogging” which is a new fitness craze sweeping Sweden and the world? While running, carry a bag, and pick up trash along the way. While this may be commonplace for some trail runners, I would love if Patagonia designed a running backpack specifically for plogging. Perhaps local businesses could partner with their community to provide discounts for beautifying their streets. Who wants to go plogging?

So I invite you to my birthday celebration

When: 10:30AM until 12:30PM
Where: Central Park (meeting location 69th and 5th ave). Then our apartment.
What: Experiencing nature in the city followed by a light brunch at our home.
* A walk to some of my favorite spots in Central Park, including the Ramble’s (one of the three woodlands in Central Park) hidden cave, waterfalls, and a few of my favorite vistas.
* Along the way we will be plogging (we can walk though), recycling trash found along the way to clean up Central Park. This part is optional but highly encouraged and the “winner” will receive a gift.
* Then a short walk back to my apartment for a light homemade brunch.

Weather: Dress warmish as Dark Sky says it will be mid-40s (figure an hour of walking).

Who: Significant others, friends, pets, and children welcome (as long as they can keep up!)

Please let me know if you plan to come!

While on the subway…

Adam Gazzaley | The Medical Potential of Video Games  (After On Podcast)

Adam is the head of a lab at UCSF that leverages technology to improve brain function. He is a neurologist and embarked on this journey by realizing that drugs were too blunt. They target neurotransmitters (only one part of the network) and not the neural network (the web of neurons). Thus we require high levels of dosage, causing many side effects. He then began exploring more personalized treatments.

Experiences activate the brain, which is the basis for any kind of therapy, including education. His premise is to create an experience that changes the brain for the better, kind of the opposite of how soldiers experience PTSD. How is he doing this? With video games! Video games allow for personalization, are adaptive, and fun too! Imagine playing a fancy version of Mario Kart instead of taking Adderall.

He started with a game to solve distraction and help attention. During the game they record brain activity. They also employ electrical stimulation while playing the game, which makes it more likely neurons fire. The game is now in final approval with the FDA and is the first non-drug treatment for children with ADHD. The results so far have been promising and the effects were similar to stimulants.

Another game he is working on is, Body Brain Trainer, incorporates physical and cognitive fitness at the same time. He believes this can lead to more cognitive benefits because physical fitness has benefits on brain health. Their special sauce is the adaptive nature of the games. As you focus better and are faster/more accurate, the cognitive challenges increase each moment (getting harder as you getting better). One example, they monitor your heart rate/Vo2 max and the game knows your limits, ensuring you reach that. This allows you to push your cognitive and physical fitness to the edge at the same time, which is rare to do unless you are a world-class athlete.

This got me thinking, we (or machines) may be able to create humans on a new level with physical and cognitive programs designed specifically for each of us. Here’s an analogy, perhaps the best college baseball team today could beat the Yankees in the 1920s. These legacy Yankees didn’t have the same training, equipment, nutrition, and physical abilities. Our education and training today is still quite inefficient and lacks personalization. In 20 years, our intelligence may look like the 1920s Yankees, compared to a young adult who was able to leverage these advanced video games.

His points on consciousness got my mind racing. We interact with the world in two ways: top down (how you perceive the world driven by our goals) and bottom up (how we interact with the environment independent of our goals, or said another way automatic responses). His theory of consciousness is that it happens in between top down and bottom up. Animals/organisms only responding to the environment (bottom up) don’t have consciousness. I’m taking that a step further, what if we also don’t control our top down. What if the likes of Facebook, Google, or some futuristic video game guides (controls) each decision in our life based on our data and “preferences”? Not only will we be zombies without a conscious, but we’ll have no freewill.

While in bed…

The Planet Has Seen Sudden Warming Before. It Wiped Out Almost Everything  (NYTimes)

I was hooked from the first sentence, albeit I’m very interested in climate change. “Some 252 million years ago, Earth almost died.” I’ve long known the earth has a magical healing power and ability to balance itself in mysterious ways. As I recently mentioned, from the NatGeo show One Strange Rock, “It’s still a mystery that Earth’s balance of oxygen has remained constant at 20.9% for thousands of years despite population growth, industrialization, deforestation, and pollution.” The article states that, “In some ways, the planet’s worst mass extinction — 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian Period — may parallel climate change today.” Scientists for the first time have now been able to simulate how this happened and what the ramifications were.

The articles concludes 96% of ocean life disappeared during that episode. If that happens again, life will return but I’d imagine all sorts of new species as different dynamics in the environment will cause life to evolve in alternative ways. However, can the miracle of humans separating from chimpanzees occur again?

We still don’t know how we split in the first place and perhaps therein lies the answer. As Yuval Harari writes in Sapiens, “Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.” He later continues, “The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution. What caused it? We’re not sure. The most commonly believed theory argues that accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language. We might call it the Tree of Knowledge mutation.”

It is promising, that life would likely return (in some form) and perhaps more promising, that we now have the means to deeply study this prior episode to improve our current situation. However, it is sad, that as the lead scientist notes, “Left unchecked, climate warming is putting our future on the same scale as some of the worst events in geological history.” What are you doing to stop this (besides coming plogging on Sunday)? I heard Naval Ravikant say something that always resonated with me, “how can any parent not be an environmentalist?”

While drinking tea…

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir. This is true in so many ways. From the diatoms which are micro algae that are the salt of life, to all of our mitochondria tying back to a single woman, to A journey to thank all the people responsible for your morning coffee, to the wolves of Yosemite changing the rivers.

The Reis Release #12

What to do before 2018 ends…

Frank Abagnale: “Catch Me If You Can”  is an amazing repository of lectures)

I happened to watch the first 20 minutes of this talk a few months ago but stopped despite Frank being a riveting storyteller because I knew a lot of the story from the movie. Then I saw Kapil Gupta (more on him in the next section) tweet about it being one of the best talks he’s heard, particularly starting at minute 21:30. So I watched the remaining five minutes and then watched it again. Frank has a presence about him that speaks deep truth and loyalty. He went on a wild ride around the world by stealing money and was all about deceit, which is ironically the anti-thesis of his matured nature. There is a sincerity he brings, having hit rock bottom in a French prison, repaying his debts over 30+ years, and then relaying what he learned to us. He states, “What is it truly to be a (wo)man has absolutely nothing to do with money, achievement, skills, accomplishment, degrees, professions, or positions…Steven Spielberg made a wonderful film, but I’ve done nothing greater, nothing more rewarding, nothing more worthwhile, nothing that’s brought me more peace, happiness, and joy in my life than being a good husband and a great father.”

While on the subway…

The truth about hard work – Naval Ravikant & Kapil Gupta

I just heard of Kapil Gupta for the first time via a list of the top podcasts of 2018, noting this podcast. Only a week later, my favorite “virtual mentor” Naval Ravikant had a conversation with him. Their clarity of thought is unrivaled and they delve into what hard work, failure, and leadership means in the deepest of ways. Kapil Gupta MD is a world renowned coach to CEOs, professional athletes, and celebrities.

They both start by breaking down hard work and Kapil criticizes it saying, “Hard work has become its own game. It’s like meditation in the way it becomes a competition. So the thing you’re really seeking, becomes replaced by the game of hard work. Hard work, like effort, becomes its own goal.” Along these lines, Naval says, “To the experts, what looks like hard work from the outside, is play from the inside. So a good area to focus on – an area that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you – That’s your superpower and where you’ll outperform everybody.“ Kapil continues, “I think a lot of times hard work is done in order to have an excuse for the mind when the mind comes asking, ‘How come you didn’t make it?’” I wish I had this mentality earlier, because I recall being an analyst and putting in hours of work just for the sake of working hard. I align with Kapil that work (and your career) is a journey or as he puts it, “Failure is ultimate failure. Not getting to where you want to go ultimately. Everything is experimentation along the way.”

Naval again impresses me with his concise truths: “Management is telling people what to do. Leadership is getting them to want to do it themselves.” He then references some great imagery on leadership from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Kapil states, “Humans do many things in order to satisfy those who are watching them.” Naval states, “Real truth is hard to speak”. Profound, but understanding tactics on how to deal with these facts would be helpful since we constantly face them. I also often grapple with telling someone the truth, if it could be damaging to their psyche. I try to do things for myself and not to impress others but that’s much harder unless you work for yourself. For example, here is Why I Run.

I run for myself. Not for a race. Not for anyone else. Not against anyone else.

Without a phone. Without a watch. With just my running shoes and me.

I depart to explore a new part of the world like the explorers did, only if it is for a half hour. I run to take in the surroundings of the outside world. I run to move forward. I run to keep my body fit. I run to take in the cold air and feel it in my lungs. I run to separate from everybody else but me. I run to lose focus on everything except my steps.

I run, most of all, because it makes me feel good.

While in bed…

The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu  (from the NYTimes)

This article on the convenience from Columbia University Professor Tim Wu really resonated with me. I often imagine the way we do things today will be antiquated in a few years and thus we are wasting time food shopping or even answering a simple question for a friend when Google has the answer instantly (taking away your most precious resource of time). I also have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Its carbon footprint from individual boxes and packaging pains me yet it is so much more convenient and often significantly cheaper than retail alternatives in Manhattan.

Preview:

“As Evan Williams, a co-founder of Twitter, recently put it, “Convenience decides everything.” Convenience seems to make our decisions for us, trumping what we like to imagine are our true preferences. (I prefer to brew my coffee, but Starbucks instant is so convenient I hardly ever do what I “prefer.”) Easy is better, easiest is best.”

“Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.”

“Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.”

“Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him. Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.”

While on a walk…

I recently sent a short email but I realized that Gmail actually composed the majority of the message with their new “Smart Compose” feature. Is it wrong to sign my name without acknowledging that I didn’t really write most of the email? Google may soon have the ability to tailor messages to your unique style based on your prior emails or maybe mimick a famous author and write entire paragraph responses (much better than us and with no grammatcal errors). What if I could pay a premium to get access to Google’s knowledge base wherein Gmail comprises the ideal email based on the recipient’s data, which will help sway the course of say a business negotiation? The likes of Amazon and Google are already doing this directly to you, but what if they can do it for you? What this ultimately implies is machine to machine communication because eventually the other side of the negotiation would also use this AI. Oh but then we won’t be needed…

While drinking tea…

As we close the year, I leave you with three quotes.

“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.”–Henry David Thoreau

We are all architects of a temple and what we plan/envision with compound interest, year after year, can come true with practice, persistence, and passion. This is a lifelong process of learning and improvement.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”–Walt Whitman

I hope you have spent time with those you love this year and if not, make it a higher priority for next year. It’s likely not too late.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” –Claude Monet

We all have the ability to continue our work and refine it. If you haven’t completed a passion project this year or you are building out your skill-set, there is always next year but do keep in mind, time is not on your side. Yuval Harari suggests in the future we will have to refine our skills every year and jump from industry to industry as jobs get replaced. It’s not to early too practice this! Oh and did Monet abandon Water Lilies? Most ponds have frogs.

The Reis Release #11

While on the subway…

Tim Chang – Consciousness Hacking (On the Kevin Rose podcast)

Tim Chang is unlike most other VCs. His knowledge on bio/conscious hacking appears unparalleled.

On biohacking, he’s most excited about cross correlations across multiple sensors. For example, combining many biomarkers such as heart rate, heart-rate-variability, movement, and skin temp can lead to profound human insights. He mentions the evolution of wearable devices from wrist, now finger (check out Oura ring), and soon much smaller devices like an earring perhaps or maybe even something ingestible?

He is constantly doing A/B testing on biohacking. He’s realized his experiences all come back to a few basic facts and thus he renounces a lot of biohacks: Get proper sleep, eat clean, fast, move frequently, mediate, and have healthy relationships. It’s boring to hear that because we all want want silver bullets.

I really liked how he said there is “one mountain top but infinite ways to get there and that your journey isn’t necessarily right for anyone else”. Applying this to self-improvement, he suggested there are a wide swath of tools such as neurofeedback, Buddist meditation, entheogens, and binaural tools. He delves into a neurofeedback procedure he had that recorded his brainwaves and sent them back for 15 seconds. “It gets you into a deep state as if the brain is seeing itself. It was like a meditative state that would take you a week to get to but achieved in seconds.”

He recounts an anecdote and uses it as a metaphor for life. At Burning Man, diffraction glasses were distributed so when you look at light you see hearts, dollar signs, happy faces, or unhappy faces (depending on which glasses you got). The way you perceive the world shapes your reality. You wear those glasses long enough and it becomes your reality.

On slowing down time, he notes we fill our day with tiny to-dos and chores. Where does time go? What if could make every moment feel like forever. He tells of a three hour lunch in Sardinia he had that felt like it lasted for a week, making time have a fullness.

More on time, he suggests savoring the in-between moments. For example, when walking between meetings or waiting in line, think of these moments not as dead time but make it alive by noticing what’s around you.

He is skeptical of probiotics, which I have also heard from a lot of sources because they are not very “bioavailable” (i.e. despite claiming to having billions of bacteria, most of the bacteria die before you get to consume them). Then he mentioned “stool transplants” being much more effective. Yes, you read that correctly. Basically taking someone else’s stool and replacing yours to obtain their bacteria.

While in bed…

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari

I’ve shared before a podcast from Yuval’s book tour and most of you know him already from Sapiens. I was highlighting the book but soon found myself highlighting an entire page, then the entire next page, and then the next page. Each paragraph is so thought-provoking, even Bill Gates wrote about it. His book Sapiens was about human history/evolution, Homo Deus was about his predictions on the future of humans, and the 21 Lessons provides a philosophical and historical perspective on the present.

He begins by saying we never enjoyed peace or prosperity like this before. “For the first time in history, infectious diseases kill fewer people than old age, famine kills fewer people than obesity, and violence kills fewer people than accidents.” He soon juxtaposes this with the fact that the technological revolution might push billions out of work creating a ‘useless class’. He notes, humans have two abilities, physical and cognitive. Previously machines were only competing with us on raw physical abilities, but now AI is beginning to outperform us in more and more cognitive abilities.

I was intrigued by his arguments about AI taking over all forms of art and designing art exactly to suit our inner most desires. Of course, since your web browser is tracked, Google will know you well and, in fact, they may know you better than you know yourself by incorporating biometric sensors: “the algorithm knows it because your heart skips a beat and your oxytocin levels drop slightly whenever you hear that annoying part. The algorithm could rewrite or edit out the offending notes.” He continues that personalized art may not catch on because people “prefer common hits that everybody likes.” He claims, yet maybe with a massive biometric database the algorithm could produce global hits for millions of people.

He discusses that “during previous waves of automation, people could usually switch from one routine low-skill job to another.” However, now the jump is too hard. Yes, AI does lead to additional jobs: “the replacement of human pilots by drones eliminated some jobs but created many new opportunities in maintenance, remote control, data analysis, and cybersecurity. The US  armed forces need thirty people to operate every unmanned drone.” Taking it a step further, no job will be safe and the drone pilot may have to reinvent herself again ten years later, because flying of drones was automated. And what will that do to the human psyche? “It is far from clear that billions of people would be able to repeatedly reinvent themselves without losing their mental balance.”

He summarizes why we are at an inflection point, “For we are now at the confluence of two immense revolutions. Biologists are deciphering the mysteries of the human body, and in particularly of the brain and human feeling. At the same time computer scientists are giving us unprecedented data-processing power.” I’m completely fascinated with what is to come for a lot of these fields such as CRISPR, the microbiome, and biohacking.

Preview:

“Who will have the time and energy to deal with all these illnesses? In all likelihood, we could just instruct our health algorithm to deal with most of these problems as it sees fit. At most, it will send periodic updates to our smartphones, telling us that seventeen cancerous cells were detected and destroyed. Hypochondriacs might dutifully read these updates, but most of us will ignore them, just as we ignore those annoying antivirus notices on our computers.”

“When a monkey, mouse, or human sees a snake, fear arises because millions of neurons in the brain swiftly calculate the relevant data and conclude that the probability of death is high. Feelings of sexual attraction arise when other biochemical algorithms calculate that a nearby individual offers a high probability of successfully mating, social bonding, or some other coveted goal. Moral feelings such as outrage, guilt, or forgiveness derived from neural mechanisms that evolved to enhance group cooperation. All these biochemical algorithms were honed through millions of years of evolution. If the feelings of some ancient ancestors were wrong and as a result that person made a fatal mistake, the genes shaping these feelings did not pass on to the next generation. Feelings are therefore not the opposite of rationality—they embody evolutionary rationality. We usually fail to realize that feelings are in fact calculations, because the rapid process of calculation occurs far below our threshold of awareness. We don’t feel the millions of neurons in the brain computing probabilities of survival and reproduction, so erroneously believe that our fear of snakes, our choice of sexual mates, or our opinions about the European Union are the result of some mysterious ‘free will.’

While on a walk…

What is enough? How does one reach enoughness?

I’m thinking about this in two capacities 1) trying to abide by what Adam Robinson talks about in becoming the best version of yourself which is finding magic in every moment of your life and 2) as we approach year-end, have I achieved my personal goals as well as my gave back enough.

Doing means getting the work done that is required. Doing means giving directions to tourists who stop you in the street. Doing means giving when asked.

But that surely isn’t enough. Surely you won’t be remembered when you are gone just by doing when asked.

Doing more means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to. Doing more means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions. Doing more means inviting strangers to your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal.

But is that enough? How will we know?

Doing enough means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to and it’s after 10PM. Doing enough means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions and buying them a pastry at your favorite bakery. Doing enough means inviting strangers into your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal when you can barely afford it.

The only way to ensure you are doing enough is “whatever you want to do, think higher and feel deeper” as Elie Wiesel said to a crowd of 1,200 students at Boston University. Only you will know when you reached enoughness.

So will you do, do more, or do enough?

While drinking tea…

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” – Leonardo Da Vinci. This certainly ties in with doing enough because you’ll feel it, maybe in your sleep that night. Your body will ache of work or you’ll be in bed unable to fall asleep because of too much delight. And if you do enough, your hands will become magic wands and you’ll find a rabbit behind every hat. But of course, in the end, enough and well spent is all measured by you.

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Why I Run

I run for myself. Not for a race. Not for anyone else. Not against anyone else.

Without a phone. Without a watch. With just my running shoes and me.

I depart to explore a new part of the world like the explorers did, only if it is for a half hour expedition. I run to take in the surroundings of the outside world. I run to move forward. I run to keep my body fit. I run to take in the cold air and feel it in my lungs. I run to separate from everybody else but me. I run to lose focus on everything except my steps.

I run, most of all, because it makes me feel good.

Specialized vs Diverse

When you make a smoothie with just bananas, strawberries, dates, and cashews chances are it will taste just great. This is a specialized smoothie.

When you make a smoothie with banana, strawberry, kale, blueberry, acai, dates, almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds chances are it will taste just all right. This is a diverse smoothie, which has a lot more antioxidants and nutritional benefits but many flavors mixed together diminish the taste. In the long run, however, the diversity of ingredients will lead to compound benefits to your health.

When you have a specialized career, chances are in a few years you will feel the effects of sameness, inertia, and little personal/professional growth unless you truly are obsessed with the topic. You will eventually seek diversity in your work, day, and learning. If you stay too long, your specialized skillset will only make you more qualified for more of the same.

When you have a diverse career, you are exposed to a broad array of projects, people, and situations. In the long run these diverse experiences foster staying in your career for longer and make your skillset more adaptable to other industries.

I like my smoothies diverse and I’m not prioritizing for taste. I’ll eat my career the same way!

How much is enough?

What is enough? How does one reach enoughness?

I’m thinking about this in two capacities 1) trying to abide by what Adam Robinson talks about in becoming the best version of yourself which is finding magic in every moment of your life and 2) as we approach year-end, have I achieved my personal goals as well as my gave back enough.

Doing means getting the work done that is required. Doing means giving directions to tourists who stop you in the street. Doing means giving when asked.

But that surely isn’t enough. Surely you won’t be remembered when you are gone just by doing when asked.

Doing more means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to. Doing more means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions. Doing more means inviting strangers to your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal.

But is that enough? How will we know?

Doing enough means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to and it’s after 10PM. Doing enough means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions and buying them a pastry at your favorite bakery. Doing enough means inviting strangers into your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal when you can barely afford it.

The only way to ensure you are doing enough is “whatever you want to do, think higher and feel deeper” as Elie Wiesel said to a crowd of 1,200 students at Boston University. Only you will know when you reached enoughness.

So will you do, do more, or do enough?

Tap Dancing with Each Step

Warren Buffett says, “choose a job where you will jump out of bed each morning or feel as if you are tap dancing to work.”

Or as Confucius says, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Well what if we can live our entire lives as such? I think this is rare but I see someone do this each day in all aspects of life. Who could this wise person be, following in the footsteps of two great minds, Buffett and Confucius?

That person is my 1.5 year old daughter, Ellie. She went straight from crawling to running. She never walks, unless I’m holding her hand and thus holding her back. She runs from the kitchen to the playmate. When I open the door to the apartment, she runs down the hall to the elevator to press the button. When she sees something new and exciting in the living room, she sprints there, laughing and smiling along the way. When I ask for a hug, she races into my arms.

How can she be so excited about a ball, a stuffed animal, or a magnetic block? When she arrives at the object she is intensely with it, albeit sometimes only for a few moments. Looking at the object and only the object. She feels its texture, she picks up and bangs it to hear what it sounds like, and usually licks it to see what it tastes like.

When does this fade and why? She realizes the world is exciting and we need to take it all in with our senses. Although this mentality clearly fades in adults, the impression it’s left on me remains.

If I could only approach each moment of the day with that spark, that smile, and that presence, I know I will be a happy man. That’s something I’m working on but if I fail, seeing that I have a happy child, at least I know I’ll be a happy father.