Weekly Review #85: Female retweets, Raising billionaires, and Should vs Must


Men are retweeted more than women, because male hashtags express content, not emotion. Hm, I see evidence like this everywhere, hope it’s not confirmation bias to my hunch that men are more analytical, women more emotional. Both are important!

The Story behind the Productivity App Momentum is a helpful backstory about the journey to the top of the Chrome store.

Relying on a single marketing channel will doom you to failure - here’s a postmortem of a founder who relied on SEO

Early Slack internal memo on shaping markets, not just products, is a great read for any true innovator.

Pigeonly serves the US prison population through streamlining mail, sending photos, and the like. Founded by a former prisoner. What a great, underserved market!

Max and Mila is an app for swiping through potential baby names with a partner, towards agreement. Apparently there’s more than one app like this, too.


Sex life matters more than money towards happiness. Stats back it up – it’s about fulfilling relationships. Speaking of which, that myth about money not buying happiness past 75k/year isn’t true. It’s based on a study that measured happiness by how many times someone experienced positive emotions in the past 24 hours. When you measure happiness by the disparity between the life we want to live and the reality, things get more complicated.

Charles Tips on how to prepare kids to be billionares: is a great read:

“There is only one path to getting wealthy: exploit opportunity. The whole purpose of what I’ve stated above is to equip your children with the tools to spot and build on an opportunity to add value to the world. 

How will you know you’re on the right track? The vast majority of people you meet are inert. One in ten or twelve has scalar energy–they liven up the event. One in a thousand or so has vector energy–the ability to channel effort to a purpose and pull others in their wake. The only way a human being begins to become a vector force is to Find and Embrace His or Her Passion, and that can be a bit quirky. 

You should be getting glimpses of that talent to pursue purpose with passion all along, but it doesn’t mature until adult years. It is such a rare thing that schools are not at all equipped to teach it. Even the best MBA programs teach you how to go to work for that guy rather than be that guy. So, if you can pull it off, you will not only have enriched your children, you will have enriched the world.”

Sam Altman on turning 30 echoes Charles- the days are long but the decades are short. Cut out the negative, ruthlessly pursue the positive.

The rationale behind the SCOTUS dissenters in the landmark gay marriage case this week (yay!) is interesting: TLDR the Constitution says nothing about marriage. Letter of the law, yes, spirit of the law, no. It’s an old piece of paper! Write laws that fit the times!


VICE’s Tao of Terence Mckenna is a counterculture primer on the counterculture icon. I need to explore this guy’s work more.

Paul Krugman battles Austerians in what would be a boring economic article but was turned into an awesome Flash sidescrolling beat-em-up. More articles animated  like this please!

Elle Luna on The CrossRoads of Should and Must is a tech manifesto that I somehow missed from last year. Should is what everyone else tells you to do; must is what you really want to do, what your heart tells you to do. For Elle, she designed killer app likes Uber and Mailbox, but really wanted to be a painter, and now she is.

Raises big concerns in my mind – but good for her. Isn’t the output of a designer more valuable than art? I’d say she positively impacted way more people doing her Shoulds than her Musts, which is a better path towards fulfillment than doing what makes you feel good. Everyone has their own path, I guess.

Until the robots take over, though, it’s a privileged person indeed who can afford to take the Must path, both metaphorically and financially.

Don’t Give Advice; Share Experiences

Image from Pryere on flickr

My blog can come off as pedantic and scolding. Anything that pretends to offer ‘life optimization’ tips would be, what with all the ‘you shoulds’ and ‘you shouldn’t's. Yet I have no idea how to live well, broadly speaking. I’m figuring out as I go, just like everyone else. Even geniuses are novices outside their narrow fields of expertise. But we can all share what we learn in the process, and enrich the lives of others along the way.

So here I go, telling you how to live once again. I say you shouldn’t ever tell someone what to do. You can only tell them what worked for you. Nobody knows what you should do except you – you are the only one who has the necessary information. you have more information about the decision at hand than anyone else on Earth. You alone know where you’ve been, what you want, how your mind works, where you might like to go – the works.

Taking Advice is Outsourcing Personal Decisions

To let someone else decide what is best for you (which is essentially what you do by taking advice) is like a CEO outsourcing a tough business decision to a consultant.It makes the CEO’s job easier, but there’s no way the consultant knows what is best for the company. They know what has been best for similarly sized companies in the past, but that’s irrelevant; we’re not talking about those companies. 

In Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things, he mentions being paralyzed with doubt and uncertainty when his company was in dire straits, because he knew that no matter how much advice his well qualified advisors and fellow executives could give him, they only know pieces of the puzzle. He alone as the CEO had it in its entirety. As he should – the CEO’s job description is to know everything and make the executive decision that will steer the company safely forward.

That said, there’s a reason CEOs hire consultants and advisors. Why slog through some problem from square one when there’s millions who’ve confronted the same issue before you? Thus exists the fields of coaches, consultants, advisors, psychiatrists, and so on. They’ve seen your problem before, which means they’re better prepared to help you deal with it. Why not pay them for their hard-earned experience and do exactly as they say?

Advice Is Individual Experience Generalized

This VC explains why not perfectly: “Advice is one person’s experience generalized. It’s a single point of view with all kinds of survivorship and attribution bias. Advice can be terribly dangerous when used as a substitute for thinking.” There is value in advice, but it can never compare to the efforts of a well-informed individual who knows their own needs better than anyone else. How, then can one effectively take advice into account?

Scott Britton uses two axioms to help him take advice constructively that could work. He asks himself “Does this person understand my current position” first, so that he can rank the advice appropriately. Sometimes your spouse has better advice than the expensive advisor, because they know you better. Don’t discount intimacy for expertise.

Secondly, he asks himself “Do I want this person’s life?” Since advice is individual experience generalized, if followed it will likely lead you to the same point that the advisor currently occupies. Similar to the saying ‘never trust a skinny cook’, never take advice from someone you don’t respect. The advice of those you do respect can be the best, but make sure you think through the framework they used to get there for yourself.

For example, I immediately purchase books when more than one person I admire recommends them to me. If two such people recommend that book independently, it must be worth my time, and the investment cost is low. If they recommend something bigger, like a trip, expensive course, or the like, I will think it through more seriously. But since I respect them and ‘want their lives’, so to speak, I take the advice seriously.

Life Is a Dark Room We’re All Fumbling Through Together

This is the best way to take advice. Find someone with expertise who knows you well, and remember that they are a different person with a distinct life path and goals. Use their experience to come up with the best result for you. Likewise, there’s no reason to tell someone what to do;  but sharing what you did and how it worked or didn’t will be helpful.

That’s what I (and most nonfiction writers, I daresay) try to do – not give advice but rather, to share what pitiful few things I have figured out in life. This blog is fundamentally descriptive, not prescriptive. We all face similar problems in life, and sometimes a second opinion comes in helpful. Plus there’s the value of a fresh perspective; another pair of eyes out in the world helping expose you to things worth knowing.

Life is a dark room that we’re all fumbling through together. We don’t know where we are or where we’re going, but we know where we’ve been. So we shout directions back to loved ones, alerting them to something dangerous here, and something lovely there. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to trust the directions of those ahead of us, much less if what they’re talking about is at all relevant to our position.

Weekly Review #84: Hacking App Retention, 9 to 5 Alternatives, and Integral Philosophy


Growthverse is one big gorgeous ecosystem that relates all the marketing tools available today (mostly enterprise stuff though)

Helpshift has a solid series on improving your app retention numbers

Tell Google algorithm to find shapes in photos, then run it again and again until those shapes actually appear. Crazy!


Chairman Zhang built a 60 story skyscraper in 19 days, and that’s just the start. Vertical cities built out of lego concrete is next (!)

My buddy Nat has another great post for college students looking for alternatives to the 9 to 5.

MUSE headbandsenses your brainwaves and matches it with music. Not sure if I trust the tech, but sounds awesome.

Big Reddit AMA about starting the Wet Shave Club is a comprehensive look at what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Definitely check it out, along with this hilarious Hacker News post about the lengths people will go to imitate their favorite founders.


Slate review of Lev Grossman’s great The Magician’s Land  points out that the story is more about Julia than Quentin, although both are Lev. I asked the author himself at a recent book signing whether such personal modeling was intentional, and he said “I just tried to imagine awesome things, and by the end I realized they all fit into my life.”

I discovered this excellent philosopher named Ken Wilbur, who attempts to tie together all human knowledge (eastern, western, science, art, all of it) into one theme he calls Integral Philosophy. Mark Manson has a good intro to his stuff – I’m still exploring but am excited by how much this lines up with my subjective/objective writings.

Four Fires That Fuel Entrepreneurs Through The Grind

from Montecruz Foto on flickr

originally posted at Startup Grind

There’s no logical reason anybody should want to be an entrepreneur. The only guarantees are zero job security, truly dire success rates (90% of startups fail), and years of lonesome struggle against titanic opposing forces. Why would any sane person willingly choose this path over the safer road of graduate school or an established career path?

It comes down to the person. Any successful entrepreneur must have a primal forge powering their resolve, or else they will succumb to the forces of monopoly, apathy, or disbelief that work constantly against their fledgling enterprises. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurial because they have to be; it is not a choice but a compulsion. They are driven by emotional instincts that override common sense and allow them to push forward through tremendous obstacles.

For this is the defining feature of successful entrepreneurs -  not intelligence, cunning, or domain knowledge, but resolve. Call it perseverance, call it grit, call it whatever you like, but entrepreneurs don’t give up. There’s a reason they call it the Startup Grind.

As Elon Musk puts it, “Starting a company is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss.” No human can withstand such an experience without a blind fire to fuel their resolve.

Such fires eat their owners alive, since they can never truly be sated. As Michael Lewis relates in his book The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story,

“The person who makes his living searching for the new new thing is not like most people, however. He does not seriously want to sink back into any chair. He needs to keep on groping. He chooses to live perpetually with that sweet tingling discomfort of not quite knowing what it is he wants to say. It’s one of the little ironies of economic progress that, while it often results in greater levels of comfort, it depends on people who prefer not to get too comfortable.”

Entrepreneurs must recognize which base instinct is fueling them, and learn to relish the process as well as the product. Otherwise they will end up unfulfilled, no matter how many IPOs left in the wake.

After years of living in Silicon Valley, dozens of conversations with entrepreneurs, and personal research, I’ve noticed that most entrepreneurial motivations come down to one or more of the following:


An entrepreneur motivated by money does what she does because she sees a business opportunity in it, and nothing more. She may have domain knowledge, see a unique opportunity for arbitrage, or possess a profitable vision, and so she ditches the paycheck of normal business in favor of the potential for even bigger riches.

Many people erroneously assume that money is the only reason entrepreneurs do what they do. But it is actually the weakest of the motivations, since the desire for money is an extrinsic one – it comes from culture, not from the inside. We all know money can’t buy happiness, and the money-preneurs do too. But even so, they tell themselves things will be better if they had a bit more cash. They will always chase after the next dollar, and likely stretch their consumption lifestyle to match the paycheck no matter how large it becomes.

Extrinsic motivators like money will never bring meaning or satisfaction to those that seek them – one must find motivation intrinsically, within oneself. Here are 3 intrinsic motivations, but they vary in intensity.


The curious entrepreneur is motivated by the need to know and understand. They are autodidacts, who long ago realized that they could learn more outside of the classroom than in it, and so began teaching themselves through voracious reading and networking with industry experts. At some point they found a hole in the public body of knowledge; a piece of information that does not exist but should.

It is at this point that the autodidact becomes an entrepreneur. They use their specialized knowledge to create something new, be it information or a piece of technology. As long as it’s useful to others, it can be sold, and then the academic becomes the businessman.

Curiosity is a stronger motivation than money because it is intrinsic, and because the process of learning is more enjoyable to them than the process of earning money. Money is a commodity you must spend to use, but knowledge provides value to the owner through possession alone.

Such entrepreneurs are thus more powerful than those driven by money. But unless they also share qualities of the last two motivations, they will not match them in ferocity.


Remember the saying “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned?” The same is true of the entrepreneur driven by injustice. This person experienced a wrong early in life that they haven’t been able to shake off.

It could be anything, or nothing: maybe nobody took them seriously, maybe their parents mistreated them, maybe they were ostracized on the playground. Whatever the wrong was, these people carry that feeling with them into adulthood, and they draw power from it.

Entrepreneurs driven by injustice are more ferocious than those driven by money or curiosity because for them, it’s personal. They seek validation beyond all else, which makes starting a business a great way to receive it in the form of money, press, or success.

I doubt such people will ever be able to feel fulfilled unless they address the wrong directly. You cannot fill a hole in your psyche with business alone. But as long as they have that fire burning, they are as driven as any person can be. They will outwork all others in their quest for validation, although they may lose relationships along the way to suspicion or distrust.

That said, a legitimate business survives solely on the value it provides to society. Hopefully the good provided in such cases outweighs the bridges burned along the way.


The last type of entrepreneur is the most powerful, for they are in the game for love of the game itself, not the outcome. They are not driven by the pursuit of knowledge, money, or validation so much as the pursuit itself – to accomplish something worthy of being accomplished.

I have seen a variant of the this sentiment reflected again and again when talking to entrepreneurs. Sometimes they can’t quite capture it in words. It took a non-native English speaker to cut close to the heart of the matter – he said “I do this because it is the only thing that makes sense.” Such reductive logic brings to mind climber George Mallory‘s timeless answer to the question of why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest: “Because it’s there.”

The passion entrepreneur rejects the safe, established life because it is the only way to live for them. They are people who ‘prefer not to get too comfortable’. They will never be happy with a clean suburban house, 2.5 children, and an assured retirement. A life lived without risk and adventure is not worth living. The passion entrepreneur does not ask Why, but Why not? They endure the trials of entrepreneurship because it is the only thing they see worth doing.

This is why the entrepreneur motivated by passion will always win over those motivated by money, curiosity, or injustice. They eat hardship for breakfast, not because of what it brings, but because they are looking for hardship. The passion-preneur will win every time, because they take a whipping from the world and come up asking for one more.

The curious entrepreneur may turn away, content with the knowledge gained thus far. The money entrepreneur may turn away to find another way to generate revenue with less hardship. And the injustice entrepreneur will bear it all, hoping that the world takes notice of his sacrifice. But the passion entrepreneur endures because this is what she came for.

What fuels you through your Startup Grind? Is it passion, or something else?

Weekly Review #83: Messaging for Moms, Overwork in Tech, and Personal Finance in Your 20s


Penroads connects you to travel partners in your intended destination, Favobook compiles book recommendations of famous people, Inkshares crowdfunds book ideas, and the Jott Messaging App is all the rage for tweens since it doesn’t use data and combines Snapchat ephemerality with Instagram’s ease over the functions of a messenger.

Kevin Xu noticed his mom wants to know all about him but he didn’t like messaging her, so he built an app to connect moms to their kids. 

Treehouse has 4 day workweeks yet is doing great, in a solid piece by the founder noting how often startups tend to overwork their employees. The story of this Yelper who quit the tech industry is a classic example – coders get paid so much to do routine tasks that they feel they have to earn their keep and end up burning out.

One Founder compares his experience in 500startups and Ycombinator - the former is about hustle, and the latter about customer/product development.

Pitchpigeon shares the tactics used to ensure a successful hacker news launch – it’s a tricky platform with it’s own esoteric rules, so read up.

The Skyscraper technique is a surefire way to increase web traffic – piggyback off existing resources like ’10 best sites for X’ and link to your own stuff.

Whitepaper Analyzing VC Influence at the earliest stages warns that it’s not just who you know, it’s who you approach first.

This Wired piece on everyone having the same plan for tech’s future is telling – Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all building the same features into their phones – what’s next, interoperate-ability?


Danielle Morrill shares what she wants to stop doing in 2015 is a transparent post about balancing tech with a life.

Personal Investing for 20 somethings is a stellar post by my buddy Nat on how to start saving early in your life. Couple it with Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich and you’ll be set for retirement!

Ryan Holiday Shares Strategies for writing books - my favorite one is the fact that ‘your life is material’ – anything you do in real life can find it’s way into your book, so take notes!


The Top 20 Highest Grossing Youtubers worldwide all play videogames and unwrap childrens toys. What the heck?

Emojitracker tracks all emojis used on twitter in real time in one glorious leaderboard.

Underground Drone racing in Australia is super fast, super illegitimate, and super fun.