Hacker News: Important Non-Obvious Business Lessons

Here’s 30 years of experience for you:

1. Few business problems can’t be solved by more sales.

2. Cut expenses when the storm is approaching, not when you’re soaking wet.

3. You can’t eat assets or inventory. Don’t get emotional about what you own, only about your cash balances.

4. Banks are your friend only when you don’t need them. Corollary: One bank for borrowing, one for cash balance accounts.

5. 70 completed calls per week. Not emails, calls. You can do it, start now.

6. Don’t be an asshole: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_No_Asshole_Rule

7. Hire and retain “T-shaped” people. In difficult times those employees execute across multiple domains.

8. Client, vendor or employee drama is quicksand. You assist with a stick or a rope, you don’t jump in with them.

9. Don’t romanticize work & try to avoid romance getting in the way of work.

10. You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child. Prioritize good parenting over work. Good parenting = SOS: Self awareness, objectivity, selflessness.

11. Get a prenup. No, really, do get one.

12. Pay yourself according to a financial model that prioritizes healthy business cash balances, and not your personal desires.

-armc, “Ask HN: Important nonobvious startup/business lessons you’ve learned?Hacker News. May 12, 2022.

I think my favorites from this list are 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11. Except I might reformulate them a bit.

  • Be willing to sell almost anything you own.
  • Banks are never your friend.
  • Don’t be or tolerate assholes.
  • As want to work with As. Bs hire Cs.
  • Avoid drama and learn how to help deescalate.
  • You’re only as happy as the least happiest person in your inner circle.
  • Your romantic relationships will be the source of most of your happiness and/or misery. Choose wisely.

Zuihitsu: 2022-04

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

1. I tell you: one must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.—Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
2. Build, test, and improve.
3. Apes vs. Gorillas, aka users vs. providers.
4. Find your own way of doing things, make your own rules.
5. If you’re thinking, but not writing, you only think that you are thinking.
6. Things are going to be alright, whatever happens.
7. r, the interest rate, is the rental rate for capital, and w is the rental rate (wage rate) for labor.
8. Parking lots are major revenue generators for airports. Storage is big business everywhere.
9. You can swim all day in the sea of knowledge and not get wet.–Norton Juster
10. Look at the world without euphemism.
11. Most arguments fail due to lack of imagination.
12. The Internet amplifies variance.
13. The puppet does not pull the strings of the puppet master.
14. You can print money but not oil to heat or wheat to eat.
15. All ESG roads eventually lead to international confrontation, nationalisation or protectionism.
16. You could not have wished to be born at a better time than this, when everything is lost.—Simone Weil
17. Don’t privilege privilege.
18. Love triangles are never equilateral.
19. It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.—Mark Twain
20. Many and small beats large and heavy.
21. Finding always beats flanking.
22. Swarming always beats surging.
23. I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.—Rabindranath Tagore
24. What makes you dance in the streets?
25. Some things are not meant to be.
26. You can’t unshit your pants.
27. Who brings more value, the producer or the reducer?
28. You can have all the ingredients and still not know the recipe.
29. Don’t be afraid of changing your mind.
30. Equality that penalizes productivity isn’t equality.
31. Don’t shitpost with your wallet.
32. Solve the mystery no one was wondering about.
33. You cannot get water from a book. But, a book might help you find it.
34. A boat should be in the water. But, the water shouldn’t be in the boat. Same with people and the world.
35. Time in a growth market > timing the market
36. Twitter is Uber for ideas.
37. If you are going to manage it, you first have to acknowledge it.
38. Progress, not perfection.
39. Doubt kills.
40. Change your world.
41. When you pray for rain, you have got to deal with the mud too.
42. Takes talent to make money, but brains to keep it.
43. Same mud, same blood.
44. Nothing is more expensive than free. Nothing harder than looking for the easy way.
45. Curating is an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you.
46. Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.—Gustave Flaubert
47. Our past is never where we left it.
48. Nobody’s as deaf as those that don’t want to listen.
49. You cannot change where you come from, but you can change where you are going.
50. Imagination leads to emancipation.
51. Humans are more important than hardware.
52. Actions over credentials.
53. Every decline is surfable.
54. When nothing is happening, change what you are doing.
55. Vision, a positive attitude, and hard work can make a new reality.
56. Less furious, more curious.
57. Don’t be afraid to offend.
58. Social media are the fidget spinners of the soul.
59. Some tools can only be used to destroy.
60. Most of the disorder and dysfunction in the world is caused by lack of impulse control.—Dr. Andrew Huberman
61. Resistance or difficulty is necessary in order to understand the nature and depth of our own desires.
62. Few devices have done more to obscure the efforts of human labor than the smartphone.
63. Get it down there where the dogs can eat it.
64. Things that cannot go on forever, stop.

The Sh*t You Don’t Learn in School Podcast

Formal schooling does a terrible job of preparing you to thrive as an adult. The Sh*t You Don’t Learn in School podcast exists to make up for this societal failure. 

In this show, Calvin Rosser and Steph Smith share stories, insights, and resources designed to help you improve the quality of your personal and professional life. 

If works out, you’ll be 1% better at navigating life. Check out all of the episodes here.

-Calvin Rosser, “The Sh*t You Don’t Learn in School Podcast.” calvinrosser.com.

Zuihitsu: 2022-03

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

1. Distrust turns quickly to dislike.
2. The difference between saying something to or about someone is the latter is always gossip.
3. Children don’t worry about the future.
4. Showmen need to know how the audience leans.
5. Strategies for dealing with pain: 1) sleep, 2) forgetting, 3) madness, and 4) death.
6. Wounds that can’t be healed must be forgotten.
7. Find water first. Everything else can wait.
8. May all your stories be glad ones, and your roads be smooth and short.
9. Bones mend. Regret is forever.
10. Entropy eases familiar ruts.
11. Every good story touches the truth.
12. You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story true.
13. Small deeds for small men.
14. Just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it is true.
15. Fear tends to come from ignorance.
16. A man who travels with his wife can usually be trusted.
17. I’ll see you where the roads meet.
18. Stories give us a clarity and simplicity our lives lack.
19. To fear something, you have to dwell on it.
20. Stealth is a lie and a trap.
21. Borrow or lend, lose a friend.
22. Practice makes the master.
23.  Excellence is excellence’s only companion.
24. A laurel needs rain to grow.
25. A moment in the mind is worth nine in the fire.
26. Beer dulls a memory, brandy sets it burning, but wine is best for a sore heart’s yearning.
27. It’s easier to appear harmless.
28. Sweep up the glass of your broken plans and simply start again.
29. Learn to ignore what’s current.
30. Make something people want.
31. Wisdom precludes boldness.
32. You become what you pretend to be. You tell yourself a story, and you build your identity from it.
33. You don’t know the first note of the music that moves me.
34. Less trust, more rules.
35. Few are as gullible as the well-educated.
36. Never trust a weapon you haven’t personally test fired.
37. Roots are more vital than grafts.
38. The best time to think about it was decades ago, the second best time is now.
39. It’s rare, if not impossible, to produce clean answers to messy questions.
40. The consequence of secrecy in a community is lack of preparedness for facts on the ground.
41. Bad leadership cannot be overcome by spending.
42. De quoi s’agit-il?, or “What is it all about?”
43. Explicit knowledge is translated, and all translations are imperfect.
44. When you find good fortune, convert some to seed grain.
45. Know a lady by her manner and a man by his cloth.
46. Our experience shapes our senses. We see, hear and feel what we have before.
47. Everything has a price.
48. A secret is truth concealed.
49. Nothing is harder than convincing someone of an unfamiliar truth.
50. How badly are you willing to be burned to get it?
51. The unanswerable questions have the most to teach us.
52. Give a fact, the story ends. Give a question, the story begins.
53. Fools worry over what they can’t control.
54. Everyone eats a different part of the pig. Join them.
55. A story is like a nut. One fool will swallow it whole and choke. Another fool will throw it away thinking it has little value. But, the wise will find a way to crack the shell and eat the meat inside.
56. Strength creates enemies.
57. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass.
58. Leave mystery for poets, priests and fools.
59. True gifts are given without an expectation of getting something in return. Something given to bind another isn’t a gift.
60. If you need to run, run to where the hiding places are.
61. Among totalitarians, you either conform or have secrets.
62. Intelligence is everywhere, often unrecognized.
63. Freedom is deciding which chances you are willing to take.
64. Better than the person next to you or a better community?
65. Excellence is being open to people with different points of view.
66. Compassion without sentimentality.
67. The dysfunctions and idiosyncrasies of childhood become the self-evident norms of adulthood.
68. Replace the thing before it needs replacement.
69. If enough things get fucked up, you stop needing an origin story for them.
70. Humans are sex and murder machines.
71. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t get the tools stowed.
72. Life is risk.
73. Glossing over data and going straight to interpretation is hiding from whatever direction the data is pointing.
74. Anti-zuihitsu: “One person’s cliché is another person’s truth.”
75. Better to embrace that which cannot be avoided.
76. There’s often no right choice, just a plate of progressively off hors d’oeuvres.
77. The people talking don’t know, and the people that know are not talking.
78. Imagine you wake up one day and no one knows who you are.
79. One should not underestimate the probability of failure even when lots of money is spent.
80. When people don’t know anything, there’ll be a meeting to talk about it.
81. It takes an age to test if beauty will last.
82. Until death, all is life.
83. It’s a big toolbox, and everyone has to find their own way.
84. Nothing humans can touch goes unmodified.
85. Ribbing is fine when someone is happy, but comfort people when they are sad.
86. Beware money roach motels, where it is easy to get money in, hard to get it out.
87. It is so much simpler to bury Reality than it is to dispose of dreams.—Matrix: Resurrections
88. Science is a hard scramble out of ignorance.
89. Don’t huff your own farts.

Scarface Index

The Scarface Index is the idea that if some activity has a higher return than highly profitable, illicit businesses, then it is probably an unsustainable business. This has obvious implications for cryptocurrencies and for other emerging technologies.

Promises & Doing What You Say

“Say yes and never do it.”

-Austin Kleon quoting Mel Brooks, “Say Yes and Never Do It.” austinkleon.com. March 8, 2022

“…there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they’re going to do — and everyone else.”

-Anthony Bourdain, “Kitchen Confidential.” New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.

I was reading Austin Kleon’s quote of Mel Brooks, and it reminded me of the Bourdain quote, which I think about a lot. These quotes appear contradictory, but in fact, they aren’t.

Let assume you are a person who does what you say you are going to do. Competence and being someone that accomplishes things is going to attract people who will try to get you to work on their behalf.

Additionally, the people that don’t do what they say will want to help, influence and be involved in what you are doing. It makes them feel like they are a part of accomplishing something. And, if it doesn’t get done, they will be happy to discover you are just like them.

Mel Brooks is saying that if you want to be in charge of your own life, you need to know which promises to keep. Keep the promises you make to yourself and the people you care about. But, life runs a bit smoother if you can say yes to the people that want to side track you into their agenda or who have no real interest in what you are doing and not worry about actually doing it.

Zuihitsu: 2022-02

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

1. Learn to forgive quickly.
2. When can you walk on thin ice? Two weeks after you have seen the first ice fisherman out there.
3. The enemy is often closer than one thinks.
4. The people who have the least suffer the most.
5. What does this narrative do to my being?
6. The menu is not the meal.
7. How do you develop your ideas? That is, how do you decide which to pursue?
7. If losing me is the worst thing to happen, your life is still a good life.—Emily Kendal Frey
8. Novelty nourishes.
9. Much of life and productivity is about matching.
10. Leading is demanded by circumstance. Greatness is in answering the call.
11. Culture over rules.
12. If you want to win, find places where winning is easy. If you want to be the best, do the opposite and be prepared to lose.
13. Different situations call for different responses.
14. An overabundance of skepticism can lead you to disbelieve things that are true.
15. Act fast.
16. Simplicity rules.
17. Politics rules over everything.
18. Most people have trouble understanding anything outside their regular experience.
19. Reality reigns.
20. Americans are not dissuaded by death.
21. Figure out how to live with or even love a change you didn’t choose.
22. It’s not the action, it’s the reaction.
23. Cruises are the sampler of travel.
24. Utter cynicism is usually the safest bet.
25. Work is hardly ever checked.
26. Do you own it? Or do you make something happen?
27. Not everything is a lesson. Sometimes you just fail.
28. A constant alert turns quickly into non-alert status quo.
29. Seek simplicity and distrust it.
30. The fruit peel can be as important as the juice.
31. Our heels get higher the closer we inch to death.
32. Ledgers are currencies, platforms are countries.
33. Most skills are fungible, and differentiation is found in values, content and aesthetics.
34. Crypto is the monetary equivalent of the right to bear arms.
35. Only the dead have seen the end of war.
36. They say when something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, destroy you, or strengthen you.
37. Travel light.
38. The future cannot be fought. Time is on its side.
39. A thin line separates truth from a compelling lie.
40. The flip side of mutual interest is mutual pain.
41. No one has a monopoly on truth.
42. You can never learn all of anything.
43. Truths are seldom are straight-forward.
44. Names are important because they reveal a lot about a person.
45. Speak truth, but it never hurts to be polite.
46. Don’t do anything in private you don’t want discussed in public.
47. There’s nothing more classical than cannons.
48. Supply chains are payment chains in reverse.
49. Everything is not for everyone.
50. Understanding and accountability requires memory.
51. Blues without the music is catastrophe.
52. Be in America, but not of America.
53. Don’t leave power on the table.
54. When you view life as a gold rush, you end up worshiping the Golden Calf. A Golden Calf cannot love you back.
55. Create new arenas of struggle.
56. Hunchbacks get ridden.

Insiders & Outsiders

“There are two kinds of political actors in this world: insiders and outsiders.

Outsiders are free to speak their truth, Summers explains. But the price of such freedom is irrelevance in the halls of power. Insiders, by contrast, have a seat at the table where history is made. But to keep those seats, they must take care not to criticize other insiders. So, Summers asks his dining companion, which are you?

-Eric Levitz, “Was Larry Summers Right All Along?New York: Intelligencer. January 24, 2022.

Outsider. Irrelevant, and prefer it that way.

Zuihitsu: 2022-01

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

1. You need to play it poorly before you get anywhere good.
2. Higher variance in key.
3. Caring more is the first step to being better.
4. Literalist only after interpretation.
5. Self-interest defeats itself.
6. Adventure is just bad planning.—Roald Amundsen
7. In oral cultures, memory can mean remembering the time before you were born through story.
8. Literacy is in opposition to oral culture.
9. Be willing to be dazzled.
10. No progress without regress.
11. Framing sets the premises, which determines conclusions. Try multiple frames when the conclusion is important.
12. Just because the status quo is bad doesn’t mean your desired changes will be implemented.
13. Keep up the kindness with the people you are closest with.
14. Influence is an unruly weed. It grows and dies unpredictably.
15. Much of history is unwritten.
16. Leadership that lasts relies more than on strength or looks.
17. Follow your crazy.
18. With drawing, there’s only one rule: look.
19. The world is full of beauty. It’s up to us to capture and share it.
20. The unimagined is not missed.
21. Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.
22. Being nobody is more interesting than being somebody.
23. Don’t like your mind into noun or adjective prison.
24. Consistency compounds.
25. Necessity is the only law.
26. Survival requires change.
27. The broken will break again.
28. Relationships are the course sandpaper of being.
29. Forget that you’ve forgotten.
30. Switching one set of norms for another is merely reforming around the edges.
31. Strip away the illusion of reality and confront us with the reality of illusion.
32. Evoke the stream of warm impermanence, our grand plans are haunted by inevitable change and decay.
33. Rigged games aren’t worth playing.
34. Nothing is as simple as you want it to be.
35. Purposes can be perverted.
36. Being useful isn’t the same as being equal.
37. The prisoner who is his own guard can be set free, for the whole world is his prison.
38. Some worlds are built on a fault line of pain, held up by nightmares.
39. Don’t live your life in a cocktail glass.
40. Ignoring politeness is a privilege of old age.
41. Farewells are easier when they are cruel.
42. We all pay a price for power.
43. Sharpen yourself.
44. Practice analytically, perform intuitively.
45. Less venting, more inventing.
46. Defamiliarize language and open portals to surprise.
47. You cannot kill a fox that swift.
48. Keep your commitments in line with your capabilities.
49. First seek to understand then to be understood.
50. An election is the defining and defending of tribes.
51. Act as if.
52. Love and hate aren’t mutually exclusive.
53. The dead desire nothing.
54. The intellect is a good servant, but the heart must be our master.
55. Names have power.
56. If you love, you don’t get to choose how it’s returned.
57. In the end, all real power is to be judged not on a global and absolute basis but on a local and relative one.
58. The journey to mastery is not made overnight.
59. People believe what they want to believe.
60. A society built on oppression must foster division.
61. Change implies both loss and gain.
62. Any lie or make-belief is more powerful & enduring when there’s an element of truth to it.
63. Stuck? Look for a decision, and make it.
64. Promises only bind those who listen to them.—Jacques Chirac