Impressions from Beijing

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Beijing looked like the setting for an 80s dystopian film when I arrived one cold and foggy February night. Soviet style skyscrapers hulk indistinctly along the horizon, and the air is a bit hard to breathe, due to the combination of the shocking pollution levels and the unrestricted indoor smoking that makes everything smells like nicotine. The streets themselves remind me of Mexico, with crumbling concrete, dirtied planters, and the occasional whiff of feces. Yet there are far too many metro lines, skyscrapers, and expensive cars for this to be a Third World country. Here’s what else stuck out to me from the trip, along with my attraction recommendations:

China is Struggling With Development

That’s the general impression I got from my short time in China – that of an almost feudal country experiencing the acute growing pains of the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution, and a population boom all at once. I saw signs everywhere – the gleaming suburban skyscrapers with bare concrete floors, the freeway overpasses with poorly cut rough edges, and the fancy cars all fighting their way through intersections and pedestrians in a dance only slightly more dignified than the chaos I see in web videos of India

Take the public toilets, for example. They’re both everywhere and free (a combination that neither the United States nor any of supposedly developed Europe can figure out), but you’ll never know if you’ll encounter modern sitting toilets or the infamous old squat ones, which I still can’t manage without a hand on the wall. And there’s never toilet paper available – for a hilarious reason I only learned later on. The public toilets were all fully stocked to begin with, but the older Chinese will take any resource that isn’t nailed down as a matter of habit. To the generation who remembers the times under Mao, even toilet paper is a precious resource to be hoarded, so they stock up whenever they can. Apparently the authorities stocked the whole city with enough TP to last for weeks before the Olympics, but it was all gone within days, so they don’t bother anymore. This absurd reality just turns me into a thief as well – I took to stealing a few extra squares at nice restaurants so that I’d have enough for the rest of the day.

Here’s a another insightful gem – one month before world leaders converged in Beijing recently for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference, China shut down every factory in Northern China in order to keep the city clean of pollution during the event. For an entire month! Not without reason, however – compare China’s ‘so out of touch with reality it’s funny’ air pollution meter with that of the US’s, and you’ll see why they want to clean up for Obama.

I got all these facts from an Iranian-American expat named Ali who has been living in Beijing working for Audi for four years. He says that any foreign company who wants to do business in China has to enter a partnership with a local company and split everything 50/50 or even 60/40 in favor of the locals. This worked out fine for years because the factories faithfully follow the foreigner’s design and quality specifications, but recently the balance of power has begun to shift. After Audi invested millions in a huge factory in the North, China copied the entire thing using knowledge gained from the partnership and started pumping out their own cheaper cars. That’s the gamble international brands take when they enter the country: they get access to the massive Chinese market at the price of sharing their business secretes with wily Chinese bureaucrats. They recognize that we need China more than China needs us.

Chinese People are Friendly and Lawless

That all sounds rather fatalistic, so let me contrast that with the striking friendliness of the Chinese people, especially when compared to their global image. I came here expecting rigid Communist rules, an unsmiling, hard-working populace, and a generally unpleasant place to be. And at first it was so, since Mandarin sounds angry by default and everyone is remarkably pushy in lines.  But every Chinese person I met in person was incredibly friendly and willing to help, almost to a fault. I could see why the Western expats I met had decided to stay. The cost of living is cheap, and rules are few, outside of a few non-negotiables like drugs. Just look at the rampant jaywalking, red-light running, clockwork street fireworks, and mothers helping their infants pee in shrubbery for evidence of that.

A few more mind-boggling China facts while we’re at it:

  • China poured more concrete in the past 3 years than the United States did in the entire 20th century (link).
  • Beijing International Airport has 3 terminals: 1 and 2 are mostly domestic, and 3 is international. Terminal 3 alone is bigger than all four of London Heathrow’s concourses combined.
  • During Chinese New Year, over 600 million Chinese move from the cities back to their hometowns and back again. This is the largest regular human migration in history and makes train travel impossible during such dates.

Internet is Restricted, But Not Really

China has heavily restricted Internet, which means any sites outside of some invisible arbitrary list of the governments’ show up as server errors – if you didn’t know what was going on you might be forgiven for thinking that your connection is just really bad. Most American services are blocked and replaced with Chinese equivalents – from social media like Facebook to nigh-utilities like Google, which makes things tough for us foreigners. Since my default browser is Chrome, I couldn’t even search using the network bar, and had to navigate to the Chinese Google Baidu, and then puzzle out which hieroglyphic meant ‘Maps’ or ‘Images’. Luckily I had a ready supply of Chinese Couchhosts and friends to help translate. They don’t care since everyone uses VPNs to get around the ‘Great Firewall’ – even the big companies have their own private VPNs in order to access important services like Gmail, so I don’t see what the government is achieving beyond annoyance.

Attractions

Attractions wise, the Forbidden City at the center of Beijing is one of the must-dos, but it’s only interesting when you first enter underneath a giant poster of Mao flanked by stone lions and view the ornate roofs. After that it’s a stream of the same empty medieval rooms over and over. Adjacent Tiananmen Square has more to look at: amidst the smartly uniformed security guards goose stepping in rank throughout the place, the surrounding gargantuan Soviet style buildings, and the little trash scooters that zip around picking up waste, there’s plenty to look at.

Other famous sights offer a similarly pedestrian experience: from the austere leftovers of the Olympic Stadium to the narrow hutong streets, and even the Great Wall itself (I recommend Mutianyu section over Badaling) – they’re things you look at, take a few pictures, and that’s that. Although my Couchhost said there’s unrestored sections of the Great Wall where you can hike for days on top of remnants, clambering over the ruined parts and sleeping in the abandoned watchtowers. That sounds way more interesting than the Instagram shoot my Great Wall experience was – the length is what’s impressive, not the height or width, and you can’t see that in a few hours.

I had more fun doing less obvious things, like walking around the Chinese Silicon Valley at Zhongguancun (a ten by ten block of modest skyscrapers filled with a mix of incubators and big companies), the narrow alley market near Wangfujian (filled with still-wriggling scorpions on sticks, knockoff goods, and all manner of exotic smells), sampling Shanghai dumplings at Din Tai Feng, cooking meat strips at the table at a hot pot restaurant, and wandering the 798 Gallery (a collection of art galleries in a reclaimed industrial area, possibly the highlight of the trip).

 

People

My couch host this time around was Yiwei, an easygoing guy who lived with his girlfriend Circle (I know, she even said her last name translated to Square) along with two mangy, hissy cats and one big friendly dog. Circle ran an ecommerce cosmetics business through TaoBao (a division of Alibaba), although it sounded like she just acted as the middleman between suppliers and distributors. They were incredibly friendly, helpful, and generous with their time, even lending me winter coats when I discovered my scant two layers wasn’t going to cut it in the North China winter. Thanks guys!

I also met up with Joanne, a friend of my coworkers’ who runs a local hardware incubator and treated me to a long and fruitful conversation about Sino-American tech. She notes that Americans are good at going from 0 to 1, while Chinese are good at going from 1 to infinity, which makes for good business partnerships. Apparently there are dozens of other Chinese startups like my own Mailtime who move to San Francisco flush with Chinese VC cash and have trouble finding Americans to work for them.

The experienced tech workers would rather take risks on American startups than foreign ones, the entrepreneurs are already set on their own businesses, and nobody wants to hire somebody inexperienced. (Good thing I moonlit at several startups in college or I’d still be squarely in that camp). She told me of several Americans who have carved out comfortable niches for themselves acting as the middleman between such Chinese startups and the Silicon Valley labor market. Could be a good career move for me, haha.

Overall Beijing is a worthy stop on any Oriental trip, even if Shanghai or Hong Kong are more modern cities, and certainly a lot cleaner. Maybe avoid it in the winter, though.

Weekly Review #66: Android Differences and LINE domination

I have very little to share this week, since I’ve been doing my exploring on foot in Hong Kong rather than hunched over a computer. That said, I’ve been using a Nexus 5 Android phone this week since it’s the only one that fits my Asian SIM card, which leads to plenty of insights from the iPhone-bred me. Here’s some things I’ve noticed:

Pros:

  • Screen has some give to it, which makes swipes feel smoother
  • Back button is always accessible no matter what app you are in, allowing easy backtracking
  • Battery Settings page forecasts the time your battery will run out, allows you to turn on Battery Saver mode as this approaches
  • Everything is tied into your Gmail account, so it will tell you the ETA to previous map searches automatically

Cons:

  • The only analog button is on the side, rather than the iPhone’s center home button, which makes it hard to whip it out of your pocket and turn it on in one motion
  • Notifications can only be dismissed one on one, rather than all at once through unlock
  • Photo grid view is not accessible from within the camera – must go to separate photo app
  • Everything tied to Google can be restricting at times

In other news, Japanese messenger app LINE (competitor to Wechat and Whatsapp) made over $30 million dollars from selling emoticons alone last year(!) Thats just from selling little animated gizmos on their free platform. Insane! Plus Taylor Swift has fewer followers on her LINE profile than on Twitter, yet with an order of magnitude more Likes on the same content. The future is on mobile, and whoever controls how they communicate has all the power…

Impressions of Hong Kong

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After 6 days in Hong Kong for my first time, there’s a lot to share. Here’s the sights, people, and impressions that stick out:

Hong Kong is Vertical

The first thing you can’t help but notice about the city is the preponderance of high-rises. Most of the city is so covered in tall buildings that you have to crane your neck in order to see the blue of the sky. It’s not often that every gap between buildings is entirely filled with other buildings of the same size. The effect is arresting and still hasn’t gone away – the ‘suburbs’ are only slightly less congested, as they are filled with dozens of identical public housing high rises. Apparently more people in HK live or work over the 14th floor than anywhere on earth, and I can believe it.

But why is this? How come there’s not a single Western city with a comparable skyline? Living space is at a similar premium in places like New York and London, but those cities only breach the 20th floor for iconic office buildings, not regular buildings. It must be our restrictive zoning laws aimed at preserving the traditional city skyline, as well as a propensity to sprawl out rather than up. We Westerners prefer the white picket fence to the space efficient apartment, which is apparently less of a problem for the crowded Asian countries. It’s a shame –  in HK at least, there is always nature space nearby, and the skyline is undoubtedly the finest in the world, given how often it is destroyed in films like Pacific Rim and Transformers 4.

Hong Kong is Clean

All those people and buildings make for tons of bustle, with every step outside filled with colors, signs, buses, and things going on. Yet another thing I noticed immediately was how clean the city is. Most streets are completely litter-free, with only a few where the odd pieces of trash number above the single digits. And every piece of greenery is spotless – from congested planters to park grasses to on-ramp sidelines, all are immaculate. Coming from the infamously dirty San Francisco, this stuck out to me the most (although I hear Singapore is even more so).

How the heck do this many people keep such a busy place so clean? Sure, there’s a $250 fee for littering, but police are invisible here – I’ve seen maybe ten in 6 days of wandering. That’s not the prime deterrent – it seems to be more of a society-wide custom not to litter. Bright orange trash cans are plentiful and obvious, but again, cities the world over have pulled similar measures in attempts to get their citizenry to trash responsibly. No, the credit here lies to the citizens – somehow they have all independently decided to do the right thing. I wonder how that was done – maybe it’s just the knowledge that if they all did it the city would quickly become disgusting.

One last theory – homelessness is almost nonexistent here, and free public toilets are plentiful. From my admittedly anecdotal SF experience, the dirtiest places are often the areas with the most homeless. That’s no reflection on them as individuals – anybody who lives on public streets would be hard pressed to make their trash private. Plus, since we have no public toilets, smells accumulate, which could ( broken window theory style) further exacerbate the general filth. Not so in Hong Kong. Streets stay clean, and waste stays where it belong.

Attractions

The area around Central MTR station is the banking downtown of the city, although this just means the towering buildings are mostly offices rather than houses. Man Wah Lane is here, where you can pay people in street stalls to make custom stamps for you. Lan Kwai Fong is the rowdy nightlife spot, although it’s almost entirely foreigners. Go up the Mid Levels Escalator (longest outdoor escalator in the world) to get to the less-known Police Married Quarters which is a former barracks converted into a super-chic art gallery. To the east, the area around Causeway Bay MTR  is the Times Square of HK, though I think they outdo NY with the massive advertisements carpeting far more than a few square blocks. This hilarious map is a good run down of the rest of HK island.

Across the bay, Tsim Sha Sui is filled with Indian tailor guys trying to get you into their store, while the promenade along the water boasts a stunning view of HK island and an Avenue of the Stars a la Hollywood, although you won’t recognize any of them other than Bruce Lee. The nearby Kowloon Park is worth walking through, and the Hong Kong Museum of History was also a great stop, running down HK’s colonial history and its evolution to the modern metropolis.

Farther north, Mong Kok is probably the most packed part of the city, filled as it is with shopping opportunities. Wander around to find the street stalls that sell Chinese knockoff versions of anything, whether it’s a selfie stick, LEGO set, electronic, or clothing. (If you need more electronics, Sham Shui Po is two stops north and identical except exclusively electronics.) Keep poking around Mong Kok to find the specialized streets – there’s one for flowers, another for pets, and others for sensual massages – all within a few blocks of each other. Also poke into Langham Place, the massive 12 story mall that is the go-to spot for HK’s young and fashionable. Nearly every building has a large mall on ground floor, but this one is special – I literally got lost in it since all the escalators or purposely spread out to make it hard to escape.

For the touristy stuff, the Nan Liang Garden and adjacent Chi Lin Nunnery are easily accessible gorgeous examples of Eastern architecture and flora, though they’re only worth a half hour. The Victoria Peak tram offers the premiere view of the city, although the lines is often hours long during good weather. The Ngong Ping cable car is a worthwhile ride out to the famous Big Buddha and the accompanying monastery, with its Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

I’m no foodie, but pretty much everything here is delicious. Get something with fish balls, sample all of the different dim sum variants, and find a place that serves the Cha Cha dessert – a sort of ice cream/bean combination. You can’t go wrong.

Macau

No HK visit is complete without a day in Macau, a one-hour ferry ride away. The former Portuguese colony is transforming into a Vegas of the East, although it’s all right next to an authentic colonial city. This means you can walk through towering casinos and five minutes later wander through sleepy Spanish style streets – I almost thought I was back in Barcelona in parts of the main island. The reclaimed Cotai strip down south is even more Vegasy, fake and overblown as it is. Be sure to get all the way down to Coloane Village, a charming and sleepy beachside town near gorgeous beaches.

People

I Couchsurfed two friendly souls while in HK. The first was Lean, a friendly fellow from the Phillipines who worked for Reuters. He graciously made breakfast for me each morning and shared his tiny 400 foot hotel room with me- he didn’t have extra bedding so I made a sheet out of a towel and just wore all my wool underwear, which worked out nicely.

The second was Cali, a tough-as-nails single mother of two who lived in one of the public housing high-rises on the outskirts of a metro line. Walking to her place from the metro was a trip – you end up taking four escalators, two skybridges, and elevator before getting to her building, as well as walking through two separate malls. Her kids were at the grandparents for the week, which is good because otherwise there wouldn’t be space for me in her tiny flat, shared as it was with a dozen fish and three cats. I enjoyed the chance to see how HK locals live, and to hear Cali’s story (the majority of residents live in public housing).

Weekly Review #65: Healthy emoticons, the future of cloud software, and Burned-Out PR

If you read one piece this week, make it this Wired piece about how software is reorganizing the world. The author points out that more and more interaction is dictated by which part of the Internet cloud you decide to engage which, rather than who you live near in meatspace. He says that these ‘cloud formations’ are becoming more and more physical – and even when they cannot translate, the interface to them can be (just look at Uber with cars). The future of technology is not location-based, it is about making location completely unimportant. That is, until the libertarians get their floating city up and running (which, un-coincidentally, another example of a cloud formation made real). Man, I love the future.

The Mode blog has a good piece about finding that magic engagement spot when your users start to stick around. It’s not what it seems…

How Vungle broke into Silicon Valley is a great tale about hustling – Jack Smith paid for Facebook ads targets at friends of the investor he wanted to talk to, and thus got his introduction straight after arriving from London. Speaking of hustling, Sam Parr’s guide to cold outreach walks you through exactly how to talk to anybody, no matter how famous. Super comprehensive.

This 32 year old Slate writer getting confused with Snapchat is hilarious – it’s true that their UI isn’t too intuitive, but it’s easy for my millennial mind to figure it out. Not so much for the older folks…

SpartanTraveler’s Morning Script is a good rundown of healthy morning practices to set the day off right.

Buffer finds that science says emoticons are good for your writing no matter the context. Your mind reads emoticons as human faces, and gets just as excited about them. Yikes.

Justin Jackson reminds us not to Follow Your Heroes - they succeeded in different circumstances than you did.

Lastly, I cannot recommend enough the Burned Out Blogger’s Guide to PR by Jason Kincaid. The former Techcrunch writer walks through exactly how to deal with reporters from a tech perspective, and literally hands you the keys to how they think. If you ever have to touch PR, read this and Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me I’m Lying and you are set.

Ten Principles I Live By

I recently finished the free book Principles by Ray Dalio. It’s an interesting piece of nonfiction where Ray lays out the principles he lives his life by, along with his rational for holding principles at all. Sounds boring, right?

If this was some normal person laying out what they believe that’d be the case, but this is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. That’s the largest hedge fund in the world, with a near spotless investment record and a famous company culture that values transparency and honesty in an industry infamous for the opposite. So this is a very smart guy laying out what he believes and why.

As such, it is a more interesting read than you would think. Dalio lists some two hundred principles when I think you could cover the same ground in one hundred, so that part drags on, but the beginning section about why it’s important to have and record principles is golden. In short, writing down your principles allows you to evaluate them more objectively, by looking at them on their own outside of your head and determining if you really believe in them or just say so. Values lead to goals, which lead to problems, which lead to diagnoses, then designs, and then tasks, so doing anything without fundamental principles means you’re on a hamster wheel. Plus, it’s easier to make tough decisions with your principles at the ready, because then you can just check them for guidance on which path to take.

I’ve been blogging for a while about my thoughts, but I never thought to lay out the structure behind my beliefs. Reading Principles inspires me to do just that, so that I can challenge and strengthen them through testing and third party observation. So here I go: ten Principles I’ve noticed again and again, phrased as inequalities.

Less > More

“Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”
- Antoine de Saint-Expury

The more you cut away without sacrificing function, the better. Whether we are talking about industrial design, politics, sensory overload or just packing for a trip, the best possible version of something is one that uses the least stuff to get the job done. You could rephrase this as an emphasis on efficacy, minimalism, or essentialism – it’s all the same concept.

I try to ask myself what value things add, whether they’re media sources, people, or errant paragraphs. There’s room for them all in theory, but with the above principle in mind, it’s better to cut than to paste. Always thinking about the best way to do more with less reinforces which parts of life are truly important versus which are just noise.

Open > Closed

“Being truthful, and letting others be completely truthful, allows me and others to fully explore our thoughts and exposes us to the feedback that is essential for our learning.” -Ray Dalio

Ray often references the astonishing transparency of Bridgewater, where feedback and truth are so important that the lowest intern can question the CEO’s decision, and every meeting is recorded so that no employee is left out of the loop. He justifies this by saying that transparency shares the truth with more people, which lets them align their perspective better to reality. Such radical corporate transparency reminds me of similarly impressive efforts in the tech space like those of Buffer, whose transparency is almost as famous as the product itself . Or look at success in the personal space with James Altucher, who spills his heart out so regularly in public writing that his family will avoid him so not to be talked about.

If it works for these people, it can work for me. I think things function better when they are shared and talked over with others. My blog does this for me – it makes my thoughts collaborative works in progress, rather than private musings in danger of ossifying into dogma. Keeping things secret divorces them from feedback and reality, which is exactly the recipe for disaster, according to Ray  (and common sense). The only time is makes sense to do so is with state or business secrets that could imperil the entity in question, although saying that does open up a slippery slope of ‘for your own safety’ problems. Better to err on the side of truth.

The more one shares, the more their perspective and that of others becomes aligned with reality. Secrets and lies rarely end well. Look at the story of Enron or Lying by Sam Harris for proof positive of that (although I can’t say my own life is without white lies – need to work on that).

Absolute > Relative

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil Degrasse Tyson

Opinions are nothing next to facts. Reason always wins over emotion. Reality doesn’t care what you think. It’s either true or it isn’t, and wishful thinking won’t change anything. So empirical observations, thoughtful experiments, and logical reasoning are superior to any other method seeking to reign instead.

You could take this to be an indicator of atheism or rationalism, or just use it to look at your own feelings and comfort. Your feelings in the moment are almost always relative – look at it from somebody else’s point of view and the best course of action becomes clear. Likewise, instead of thinking about how something will feel, thinking about how it will make you feel after you’ve done it. Time heals wounds, but it also changes things like emotions – yet the facts remain.

Zoom out far enough and the petty complaints or thought I have every day become meaningless. What could I do that matters to someone else, or to me ten years from now? Better to optimize for the absolute long term, rather than the relative now.

Meaning > Entertainment

“In the morning we crave meaning, in the evening we crave feeling.” – Gertrude Stein

There’s nothing wrong with being entertained, but it lacks meaning. Meaningful wins out over fun for anyone older than a teenager.

That’s why I try to avoid television and sugary pop distractions in favor of books and games with friends. Time spent with good friends or good art is not as entertaining in the short run as video games, but in the long term they pay off with intellectual interest, whereas entertaining distractions are one time deposits.

How you define meaning is up to you, but however you do it, it’s better to shoot for than contentment.

System > Goal

“Conclusions are not as important as the reasoning behind them.” – (Think this was Peter Thiel’s quote but can’t find where I heard it…)

Process over product. Acceleration over speed. Measure learning, not test scores. The method by which you gain something is infinitely more valuable than the end result. The process can be applied to new challenges, while the product is static. Better to internalize a habit rather than aim for a certain number of pushups. (James Clear has more on goals vs systems here) Hence the value in becoming a life long learner, and embracing the growth mindset.

Creation > Curation > Criticism

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Theo says it better than I ever could – The person who creates something has more to offer than any critic, no matter their relative fame. The critic may know what it takes to make something good, but if they haven’t made something themselves, they remain a glorified spectator. Talk is cheap. It’s much harder to create than to curate or criticize. Ideally, one leads to the other, so that the critic becomes a fellow creator offering their take rather than some heathen with an opinion.

Ray brushes against this with his take on earning opinions. He says everyone is entitled to theories, but not everyone has the right to an opinion. Opinions are forged from experience with the matter at hand. If you’re not part of it, who the hell cares what you think?

Opportunity Cost > Actual Cost

“I regret the things I didn’t do far more than the missteps I made along the way” – David Stanley

Too often we don’t ask ourselves about what happens if we don’t do something, rather than what happens if we do. Oftentimes the opportunity cost of what could have been is greater than the sunk cost of the action in question.

I think that we don’t ask ourselves about what happens if we don’t do something enough, instead focusing on what happens if we do it. I try to cultivate a bias towards action, since you never know what will happen when you go out on a limb. Once again, Ray touches on this by pointing out that the best options are those with fewer Cons than Pros, not those without any Cons.

Iterative > Constant

‘”Let’s just call plans what they are: guesses” – Jason Fried

Who is right in the long run – the progressive or the fundamentalist? ‘Because that’s the way we’ve always done it’ is never a good reason to do something. No, the best results come from iterative experimentation, through refining hypothesizes and building on past learnings. Heck, that’s the only reason why we’re not all still hunters and gatherers.

Thus I welcome the advent of buzzwords like ‘lifelogging’, ‘data-driven solutions’, and ‘A/B testing’. Or you could use the old moniker – evolution. All are born from cautious steps forward taken with past steps firmly in mind. That’s how progress is made – bit by bit.

Character > Comfort

“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” -Bruce Lee

Being comfy is overrated. All the best parts of life happen outside of your comfort zone. I may have whined at Dad back when he made me do things against my will ‘for your own good’, but looking back, I wish I had spent my childhood more constructively. Now I try to challenge myself whenever things get too comfortable.

Caveats:

All that said, the Eleventh Principle could very well be that the correct answer to any dichotomy is usually somewhere in the middle, which means that none of these are ironclad. Radicals of both sides usually come with their own biases and misconceptions – rarely the the best answer lie at the extremes. Here I’m saying that one side is generally better than the other, but not exclusively or specifically so.

Likewise, these sound like work and no play. But I regard play as vitally important – heck , all the biggest breakthroughs came from smart people playing around and stumbling on epiphanies. And I spend large chunks of my life optimizing for play with others.

That’s  reflected in these principles – since play comes naturally to me, I don’t need a principle for it – rather I need principles that bring me back to getting things done. Ray notes that one person’s principles may not work for another. Therein lies the problem with dogmas like religion or politics – rarely do your personal principles line up exactly with those of someone else, especially those prepared for mass consumption. Yet another reason to write up your own list!

So these principles are just what work best for me, at this point, not prescriptions for others. If you think I’m exceptionally wrong or right with these – call me on it! After all, openness is one of my values.