in Travel/Experience

Everything I learned from SXSW Interactive 2014

Just got back from South by Southwest Interactive 2014 in Austin, Texas. What follows are readable versions of my notes from the official lectures, from the Gotta be Good entrepreneur talk, and learnings from assorted people I met on the street.

Official Lectures:

Lifestyle Automation for Entrepreneurs – Dave Asprey (Bulletproof Exec), Maneesh Sethi (hackthesystem), Stephanie Burns, Veronica Belmont

  • Use personal executive assistants like those described in the 4 hour workweek to avoid decision fatigue.
  • Most important things to automate: personal calendar, food, travel, reminders (changing oil, etc), email, things in the long term and followups with recent contacts (send them your book summaries/notes in order to add value)
  • Make your life easier – sign up for a gym on the way to work so you can’t miss it
  • book: Mastery by Robert Green
  • Hack food: boil frozen vegetables, blend in blender along with protein blend. Fatty things quench hunger.
  • Use Fancyhands to hire personal assistants, StilettoEscape to purchase preplanned itineraries, and Jetsetter to get insider deals.
  • Use ScheduleOnce to synch all your calendars and Wunderlist for to-dos
  • More good things to automate: personal finance, things you suck at, things you procrastinate doing
  • Ask yourself “What is the priority of my business?”
  • Don’t be afraid to miss things in order to get work done
  • Use OhLife to lifelog your gratitude journal daily
  • Book – The Art of Speed Reading People by Paul and Barbara Tieger
  • “Some people are made for filling out spreadsheets – if that’s not you, don’t do it.”
  • Personal tip from Ali Binazir: SXSW is for new ideas, making connections, finding inspiration, and serendipitous encounters.
Show your Work! – Austin Kleon
  • People think SXSW has jumped the shark, and it has a little bit due to the vampires (people who want to suck time money or energy from you) and the human spam (buy my product! pay attention to me!) outside
  • When genius collaborates, it becomes scenius, which is more powerful
  • Sharing things you love is the first step to sharing you own eventual work
  • As soon as you learn something, turn around and teach it.
  • Students are the best teachers – they aren’t jaded and are still fresh to the concepts.
  • Work so hard that you are too busy to schmooze at cocktail parties. Instead create and share
  • Bill Cunningham – old guy in NY who takes candid photos
  • Ask yourself: “What are you building that lasts?”
Evil by Design – Chris Nodder
  • When it deception okay? When it makes the world a better place.
  • Like the Bus Stop that didn’t go anywhere used at an Alzheimer’s hospital to calm down patients
  • Or Monster Spray, spray which rids children’s bedrooms of monsters
  • You should turn things into games whenever you can.
  • Waze puts pac man dots and cupcakes on routes you haven’t mapped out yet – you have fun and its database gets bigger – win win.
  • Glassdoor lets you review employers annonymously
  • Pseudonymous communities like reddit keep people honest but not mean.
Super Fandom in the Digital Age – Tyler Oakley, Grace Helbig, Ze Frank
  • When creating, ask yourself how your identity, your emotions, and the media can prove an argument
  • How can they play a part in your converation
  • Funny celeb twitters: @cher, @tyra, @hughlaurie
  • Ze Frank did experiment early on where he took over a fan’s facebook and pretended to be them for a week – nobody noticed.
  • To improve, make just one number go up (subscribers, views, ratings) otherwise you get lost
  • for every video uploaded, they privated hundreds of rough drafts
  • Speakers respect Chris Hardwick and SoulPancake
Startup Opportunity Evaluation – Neal Cabage and Sonya Zhang
  • The Smarter Startup Book
  • Start with the ideation process, then evaluate ideas
  • Services have low overhead relative to products
  • For trade, the archetype is the middleman
  • Diversify your channels of delivery or fail (look at FB app centric offerings)
  • Timing: recent innovation? established demand? make sure no signs of commodization.
  • Mark Suster: The cost of solution development has decreased incredibly
  • Look at clear market inefficiencies, low barriers to entry, a differentiable product
  • Efficient markets lead to monopolies
  • To be differntiable, be low cost, focus on a specific customer, or be innovative
  • Working capital float is necessary but risky
  • Definition of a Hustler: knowledge of customer/desire, understands market dynamics enough to effectively position an offering. Is a subject matter expert. Needs hacker to build it
  • Focus on building, but be mindful of others (Invisible Gorilla test)
  • Book: The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman
  • Full presentation available at thesmarterstartup.com/sxsw14/

Time Perception: Live Longer by Jumping out of a moving car – Matt Danzico

  • New, unusual, exceptional events slow down your time perception because with more sensing, there is  more data, and you need more time to shuffle through them
  • Started The Time Hack blog – do something new every day, see how long he thought it took
  • Two theories as to why people are nostalgic: Reminiscence bump theory- you remember youth better because you had more first timer experiences, or Proportionality theory-  one year is less of your life when your are 50 versus 20

Life Lessons from a Professional Dominatrix – Kali Williams

  • Slides here
  • Always tell people what you want – then they can add or reduce it
  • Saying “Whatever you want” is not helpful
  • She was treated worse as a waitress than as a dominatrix
  • Don’t fake confidence, take what you have and magnify it
  • Confidence is better than power
  • Communication is always important
  • Every introduction should include a statistic and a quote
  • Always leave them wanting more
A Conversation with Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • A sense of curiosity is way better than supplying answers – let your kids break eggs and play with pans in order to let them discover. Some lessons need to be firsthand. An egg costs 20 cents, thats a cheap lesson.
  • Did you have kids in order to keep your house clean? No.
  • Macys is the second largest consumer of helium in the world
  • Tell your kids “I heard about the tooth fairy”, not “there is a tooth fairy”
  • Don’t get too attached to pure numbers. Theres no physics in them
  • Felix Baumgartner couldn’t see the curvature of the earth, that was a fish eye
  • Space exploration is important to jumpstart innovation to solve real problems
  • Private sector cannot lead space industry because there’s not enough return on investment
  • Clone the good teachers first. they are the best salesmen for education
  • Geek culture is rising within mainstream culture – since he has a bazillion followers as an astrophysicist
  • Spain told Columbus “Here is a satchel of flags – go put them places”
  • Science is no longer lame
  • Humans are the only animal that sleeps on its back – couple that with diurnal and they’re staring at the stars
Speech by Brandon from Humans of New York
  • What makes headlines are the things nobody has said before
  • Nowadays all hurdles between artist and audience are removed
  • Easy for people to find things they didn’t know they were looking for
  • Ideas are cheap – worthless by themselves. All in execution
  • He published 2,000 photos on his site before first piece of press about it
  • Be your own first true fan by putting your head down and working until somebody else finds it
  • Find an idea that is different in order to stand out in crowded newsfeed
Book: Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis
  • Make little stories to remember new words. French ‘gare’ = ‘train station’. Picture Garfield running through a train station to catch a train to lasagna eating competitions
  • Use Memrise.com to help memorize things
  • There are seven days in a week by ‘someday’ is not one of them
  • Cheat in order to have conversations fast – use google translate, don’t worry about grammar, etc.
  • Use Internations.org to find language speakers anywhere

A Conversation with Adam Savage of Mythbusters

  • Hands on learning is the only real way to do it
  • Arts and Science are the twin engines of human advancement
  • it’s not STEM, its STEAM
  • Push things to their limit to know what they truly are. Find their bandwidth.
  • He is addicted to the narrative art
  • Serial dilettante – not an expert in any one skill
  • Nobody really knows what they are doing – don’t worry.
  • the best conversation is between two people, rather than one person and a crowd
  • don’t tell your kids what to do – just encourage whatever they are interested in.
  • After Jamie brought Adam into Mythbusters and the pilot went well, he leaned back and siad in an evil villain voice “I may end up being more important to you than your eventual wife”
  • Atheists should get together every Sunday and talk about how awesome things are – that’s basically what religious people do.
  • That said, “You cant believe that the world is 6000 years old and then get into an airplane. you just can’t”
  • If you are part of your family’s process (digitally, rules wise, etc) you don’t have to phsically be there all the time
  • Neil Tyson “The great things about facts is that they’re true whether or not you believe in them”
  • Understand things, don’t just read headlines about them
  • Vergence Labs makes Epiphany Eyewear – stylish smart glasses
  • Daqri product use second screens to augment reality, used in storytelling
  • Loopd wants to let you control things using gestures
  • Augmented reality for industrial applications means style doesn’t matter
  • Think of wearables like superpowers – hand gesture and launch a drone
  • Combination of Jawbone and IFTTT is powerful – could turn on lights when it sense you wake up, change mood of a room when you walk in through temperature, lighting, music
  • Wearables 1.0: Wristbands. Wearables 2.0: Glasses. Wearables 3.0: Augmented reality
  • Make movements natural and intuitive
  • Right now only extroverts use wearables, because they are obvious – make it subcutaneous so all can use
  • Privacy problems – Beacon already tracks you when you enter Apple stores
  • Now you can be tracked 24/7 with wearables
  • Better to have purpose driven wearables. EX: big ugly Garmin watch you only wear for running
  • Extrovert wearables are purpose driven. You don’t wear em all the time
  • Sarah Slocum was attacked in SF for wearing Glass. Backlash.
  • Right now many are underwhelmed by wearables. Like buying a treadmill at NYE.
  • In the future every single object will be augmented.
  • Biolim can sense your unique heartbeat like a thumbprint – use it to unlock car automatically, etc.
  • Military sector especially needs invisible wearables. Look to science fiction for ideas – most Star Trek technology is already a reality

The Tim Ferriss Experiment TV show: Experiments in Human Learning – Tim Ferriss

  • Figure out how to maximize mediocre genetics or budget to get the best results
  • Vacipresson is an anti diuretic hormone that aids with memory retention
  • The more data you have about your baseline, the better you can fix it. What gets measured get managed.
  • Look for what is common among best performers, your personal strengths, and what is infrequently taught
  • Questions are more important than answers. Answer without question is useless, but not vice versa
  • Book: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
  • Learn by looking at the end game, then figure out how to get there
  • Do the opposite of best practices for a short amount of time and see what happens
  • Separate skills (learnable) from attributes (preexisting truths)
  • EX: Learn rock climbing from females because they use their skeleton not their muscles
  • Learn the macro principles from one micro example ex: drumming from one song, languages fro translated Lord’s Prayer.
  • Make the qualitative quantitative whenever you can.
  • People looking for mates. What does “Find the right person” mean? Measure it using Okcupid’s My Best Face or Hot or Not, or even the Flesch Kincaid test to determine level of schooling
  • Ridiculous hypothetical questions get you more results
  • It’s easy to get great teachers- go find last years silver medalist
  • Distill all learnings down to one page. Ask yourself “how can i make this fun?”. If you’re not having fun it doesnt count
  • Upwave.com/tfx has 3 free episodes of the show
  • Look at your own preferences and abilities to determine what to work on
  • Use NoRedInk to improve grammar, writing in schools
  • Book: the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Memento Mori. You have an expiration date. Don’t fade away.
  • Problem with experiential journalism is that when you use yourself as subject, it becomes self oriented. Look at Plimpton.
  • Learn how to write. It directly improves thinking, as it teaches you how to capture thoughts.
  • Use ridiculous deadlines – they don’t permit you to worry. Encourage very short experiments, with no stakes.
  • Ask yourself “What is the problem, what are my options to deal with problem”
  • Book: Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
  • He drinks Cruz de Mata yerba mate tea to aid with productivity
  • Or use Ciltip drug, but beware, it overclocks your system.
  • Rehearse all possibilities from inflection points.
  • Happiness has a where – figure out where that is.
  • You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – find the people you want that to be and go spend time with asap
  • Brain rules teaches you how to smarten up your kids a la Baby Einstein
  • Don’t say “This is great!” Say “Good job, you worked hard at that”

Gotta Be Good:

Sebastian Marshall

  • 1)Find deliberate references 2) Curate project partners (not business partners) 3)Eat Salt 4)Heal Thyself
  • Look at effective organizations that model your values. Model them. ex: Seal teams, Bridgewater hedge fund
  • Project partners: set short, finite time limits in order to operate under pressure
  • Call up people you know can perform and say “I admire you, lets do this together”
  • Think about your best friends and people you spend time with. Do you really think accidentally bumping into them as you go through life is the best way to find them?
  • Look for hard things to fix. Ask: Why aren’t things the way I want them to be?
  • You’re not as amazing as you think you are. Improve your own weaknesses.
  • To become better friends, do hard things, friendships are born in the trenches. Clean a park together.
  • Where do your standards come from? Break them if they don’t match your test
  • Read famous biographies to find good work habits
  • Seek out a deliberate Reference group. They should not be local. Chances are the best group is not going to be near you.
  • “not dead can’t quit”
  • Physical discomfort shouldn’t make you fail – work through it
  • Bridgewater records all conversations and is completely transparent. Thus everyone is accountable and the lowliest intern can question the ex-Secretary of the Treasury. Then he has to explain why is is giving this order, and everyone including him understands it better.

Tynan

  • In his 20s, he did whatever he wanted and didn’t really follow through on goals.
  • When he turned 30 he had a crisis and realized he wanted to do more.
  • Now he ‘got serious’ – only has one project, it has highest priority and a long time horizon. (SETT)
  • Now decisions are easy – say “Is this the best decision for my project?”
  • One project eliminates the pain point – normally with multiple options you can jump ship to another option when your main obligation gets hard.
  • Many people have a goal that boils down to simply being comfortable. Is that what you want out of life?

Zach Obront

  • Goals are good, but goals based on output are not because you do them and that’s it. Instead focus on process driven goals, whose achievement leaves you better off for the future
  • Oftentimes you think you should do something and then don’t. Decision action gap. Thinking about doing something should be the same as doing it. (compare with Nicholas Taleb – “thinking you will believe something in the future is the same as believing it now”
  • A blank page is harder to deal with than a first draft. Ceramic pot example – students graded on number of pots versus quality of pot ended up having a better pot.
  • Mental processes become physical. You say you can’t and that becomes the truth. 
  • You can train your willpower muscle. It’s all in one tank, not like your body, with many different muscles.
  • Obama doesn’t decide what to eat or wear every day – then he can decide better on the big stuff
  • Good way to complete stuff – chop it up into tiny easy tasks. Make completing them fun and pleasurable. eat a gummi bear every time you finish a task.
  • Make failure as painful as possible. Stickk.com you put money down that gets donated to Ku Klux Klan if you don’t do your goals.
  • Best to jump in and then iterate.

Question and Answer Session:

  • Ask why instead of what.
  • to connect with others, ask questions they haven’t been asked before. Or curate personal interests and ask everyone about them. Mention it in your email signature
  • Book: The Dip by Seth Godin
  • Work in head down mode, not head up
  • When travelling, find one genesis contact in a city or industry to know everyone worthy. (‘Connectors’ from The Tipping Point
  • Sales has two different ends: high and low end. Low end sales skills are toxic to high level skills.
  • Josef Wasinki wakes up at 5, goes to bed at 7 pm. That way the free time he has outside of work is moved to the beginning of your day when you have creative energy rather than at the end when you’re tired.
  • To decide what to do, choose what is the most interesting or most ambitious project.
  • OR: operate in resource mode= amass resources for future us by being in a space with people you love
  • Do things regardless of how you feel about them
  • Pessimism arises from fear. Erase fear by flirting with it. Lie down in a crowded grocery store, go running downtown in only briefs.
  • Zach was homeless in Chile on purpose. The other people in the shelter were embarassed by their homelessness but he was not because it was not a part of his self identified identity.
  • do random interesting jobs part time to be interesting. Josef was a butcher.
  • 3 most important things: exercise, writing, and mediation.
  • Be mindful of what you are doing
  • Book: Million Dollar Consulting by Allan Weiss
  • Offer your services for a few hours to people you admire
  • Make your identity flexible and dynamic. Think of the most extroverted person you know and pretend to be them for a week. What would they do in your situation?
  • Maximize input and output. Maximize flow.
  • Book: The Good Life by William Irvine

Tips from strangers:

  • Book: Anti Fragile by Nicholas Taleb
  • Market validation: ask people if they would use your product – if yes, get down payment on first three months in order to develop it
  • Romance novels account for 55% of the paperback market in the US
  • Rabbits are the fourth most popular pet in the US and are almost as smart as dogs
  • ImageThink visualizes meetings
  • Measure your successes not in dollars but in impact
  • Customized business cards: Moo.com
  • Effective altruism – action oriented spin off from LessWrong
  • Blog: Scott Young
  • Blog: Charisma on Command
  • Blog: Life Long Learner
  • Website: Dynamite Circle (entrepreneurship network)
  • Website: ASmallWorld (invite only traveler network)
  • Quote: “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” – Machiavelli
  • App: 8:34. Makes you take a picture every day at 8:34
  • Ask yourself “Am I doing this out of fear?” Cut those actions out of your life.
  • In New York there is a strip club that only uses amateurs volunteered from NYU
  • Blog: thederek.com
  • Website: SmartPassiveIncome.com
  • Volunteer at SXSW in order to get the badge for free
  • Vice industries (tobacco, alcohol, etc) make most of their money off of addicts
  • Tip: with dinner reservations, always round up. When you’re 5, you’re gonna be seated at a table for six anyway.
  • For every picture that appears  in National Geographic, 10,000 are taken
  • The world is full of platforms. Ask questions about your current project at Q+A panels but relate them to the talk. Then others in the audience will find you afterwards.
  • The first follower is the most important person, not the leader. The leader is crazy, but the first follower validates him.