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Productive Rabbit Hole: Learning Edition November 28, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, global, questions, social.
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Polina Marinova’s The Profile had a short, interesting quote from Anne Wojcicki (genetics company CEO to 23andMe) mentioning her ex, A-Rod (former baseball star propped up as poster boy leading MLB out of steroid era to somewhat disgraced steroid user, perennial dater).
It read: But when things came to an end, her mom had a few choice words about the baseball star, including the fact that he “had no academic background” & “we couldn’t have an intellectual conversation about anything.” Billionaires — they’re just like us.
“He could park himself in front of a TV and watch baseball for 10 hours a day. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go on the yacht with Anne because the TV might not be working. I wish J-Lo all the luck in the world.”

Academic background is a convenient convolution to the idea that [A-Rod] wasn’t well-versed in the same forms of entertainment (or topics outside of baseball). That discounts his knowledge of his passion (baseball, clearly, as he’s now a strikingly good commentator/analyst). Different people can find a common ground – that doesn’t say that they must find common ground. If they’re no longer together, we can assume the latter – but it doesn’t have to be a lack of academia. That enrages me – completion of university/college does not grant an implication of being generally more intelligent / smarter than anyone else. Quite frankly, if someone has graduated recently could bring into question their knowledge of basic finance and how tuition continues a huge upward movement, doing multiples over inflation paces over the last 2-3 decades.

When I speak or see people with this attitude, I try to encourage a changing of mindset – people vary in their passions. Myself, I can enjoy many topics of conversation but there are others that I would have almost no valuable input, so I can see that and stay quiet or ask questions (if I find interest). The internet provides an endless availability to information. If you can get past the black holes of meme barrages, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat scrolling, there are plenty of rabbit holes you can meander through to educate yourself in any number of topics. Better yet – you can find productivity in communities that support these topics everywhere via the net!

Seek and you shall find. Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend extra time learning, listening to podcasts as well as perusing LinkedInKaggle & FuturismUdemy / Coursera/Udacity/Datacamp as MOOC (courses learning) sites, Reddit & even Twitter if you search lists / interests. These are certainly not exclusive but provide collections of massive amounts of information – just have to search!

Seeking / Finding the information is one thing, but then I believe more people should do better to fact-check, compare/contrast alternative viewpoints or really seek truths. Who runs websites / what is the motivation / generally asking better questions to reflect on what you’re learning – often a lacking response (I would say skill, but I genuinely believe that more people choose not to do it, not that people are incapable of being reflective).

This all brings me to a last point that hopefully brings this information together – that it is not only an obligation to learn and question further but also to SHARE the information! This can be discussions on the internet, voicing an opinion with friends and co-workers, or simply running a play-by-play to reason through your own thought process in what you’ve amassed. Closed, one-way information feeds pale in comparison to open loops with new ideas, feedback, questions and general understanding. There is a reason we are seeing an increase in lean organizations and groups of people make larger contributions in ways we could not have imagined 30 years ago. Keep it up everyone!

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Life is Global October 23, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, finance, global, Politics, questions, social.
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In just returning from Chile and having my 29th birthday, I did a ton of reflection over the last 2 weeks. Long flights, new places, peaceful heights & coming of age will force you to do this, if you don’t pause on your own to do it anyhow.

A word:
metacognition – dictionary.com has this as “higher-order thinking that enables understanding, analysis, and control of one’s cognitive processes, especially when engaged in learning.” I prefer a simpler “thinking about one’s own mental processes” .

Why do we do what we do? Some just act instinctively. Others act and then question why they acted. Yet there are some who will think, then act. There is a process by which everyone goes about their actions and thoughts – very few reflect on this process. Even fewer that look to change it for the better. Learning to think, approaching problems, coming up with solutions. Producing insights that can push forward or analyze why processes should be different.

In visiting with neighbors on my flights, shoulder-to-shoulder in immigration lines, Chilean natives, South American transplants from neighboring countries and visitors from across the world, there was a different consensus among the lot of them. Everyone had someplace else to be. Each person as different as the next. It was peaceful to not catch a news segment, comedy remark, or overhear a conversation about the active politics of the day. It’s overwhelming in the states, needlessly – and more importantly, rampant with misinformation which makes the deluge of politics ripe with uninformed, unintelligent thoughts. 7 days away – I believe I caught a single newspaper that had Trump on the cover and CNN one morning at the hotel mentioning a brief, 2 minute segment. Granted, I wasn’t looking for the conversations or seeking newspapers/tv’s, but still – there was some peace. Friends who have traveled abundantly over the past year to Europe/Canada/others have anecdotally mentioned that as one of the first things that arise in taxis/Ubers/people that become aware of a US citizen in their presence. No such bad luck in Mexico (my layover) or in Chile once I was there. There were more entertaining or productive discussions to be had. I’m sure this is a part of where one can direct a conversation, as well. People should be more cognizant of this, though I’m afraid politics have now dropped into the pantheon of ‘effortless’ conversation along with “how’s the weather?”, “did you see X” and a general “how’s work”?

Hopefully, as people grow and become more successful and comfortable in their lives, they would want to contribute something back – knowledge, money, mentorships and more. Often, there’s a line drawn between impact and how large of one can be made. This is less important, however, than making an impact regardless. We can make an impact in your core community – neighborhood, town or city, business community. Expand that out to affect multiple cities or a region – think Elon with LA’s tunnels, subway/metro/public transportation, bag ordinances or green movements – smart cities will eventually become a larger look as we go forward, as well. Outside of bigger projects like mentioned above, we can start a group or meet-up that gains members from the community in question – contribution of ideas that can go beyond infrastructural concepts.

Thinking larger (but not in the sense that it has to be bigger impact-wise), connection across counties, states, or the nation is important but more difficult to scale. Industries or sectors can be defined and aided by any one group or person that makes an impact beyond the immediate cases and permeates the outreaches from there. Then we have global scales – whether it’s advancing some technology or standard and bringing it to areas that may be impacted greatly with progression. There are tons of examples of all of these scales. People have different passions and shouldn’t be restricted or forced into doing something that doesn’t spark a fire in them to improve their lives (and hopefully, helping some others that they have a connection to in the process).

We live in a world where information is at our fingertips, a swipe and drag away on our phones. Barriers to entry continue to fall across all spectra. Get excited, people! Help yourself to help others.

Some things that I am jumping into and ones that I would love to hear ideas/talk to others about:
– mentorship with high school / college-level students with finding a passion or question ideas for how to progress forward
– a fun application to make it easier to connect local restaurants/bars with customers about their happy hours using OCR / Image-to-text from menu photos to populate database
– starting an investment fund that focuses on avoiding the nearly unavoidable ‘home bias’ as well as matching risk tolerance with proper returns – focusing on international availability and risk profile of uncorrelated assets
– new thought: possible website/application that will take multiple starting points (friends that live apart from each other) meeting at some location / flight destination in between for reasonable prices — multi-optimized Skyscanner/Hopper
– Payments/Vendors/AP/AR organizing software that will reduce burden and difficulty for companies with nontechnical backgrounds / capacity for process to be so intuitive that it won’t require more personnel or capital invested

 

If You’re Not Learning, Are You Getting Better September 24, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, Politics, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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While attempting to grind through a recent valuation project, I spoke with a friend about how we had changed over the years. Change is obviously something that most people experience, but how we reflect is often incredibly different. Some don’t. And to that, I’d say that I feel badly for them. Others do, but maybe not to an extent of “what did I do today – oh, that. Yes” — an acknowledgement more than a reflection. For those that reflect, ponder, and wonder why, or how to fix any occurrence that didn’t agree with them – those people are the ones who truly learn and can push themselves to better.

Learning is not hearing, memorizing, and repeating until information is no longer needed. Seek to learn. Provide yourself with a framework that you can apply the knowledge in, and build questions to hypothesize further in that space. We learn if we’re more interested, obviously, but you can build that interest. Challenge yourself. Honestly, I harp on myself for this, but it is discouraging to see people repeatedly not want to apply or seek knowledge in what they may/may not be interested in.

This all seems appropriate in this instant gratification/click-bait/24/7 news cycle period. Confirmation and recency bias run rampant. Few people question their sources or the information sources provide. When more people are in higher education, critical thinking SHOULD be a focus of almost all institutions, but it apparently falls by the wayside, especially when something agrees with your train of thought. It’s difficult to seek other sources, and even harder to avoid some form of a bias in answers. Everyone forms an opinion. Only through conversation and open discourse can you start to inform yourself of questions and answers in the framework of a solid argument. Then build up!

Presented with new facts that are contrary to what was gathered initially? Review them in the new light but your former framework – seek true results and apply. If the application of new knowledge reveals a new paradigm, then shift your hypothesis. People shouldn’t be wary of changing – invite it if your thought process is rigorous! Without a rigorous argument, though, it won’t matter whether you agree with others or don’t, because you won’t be vital to a conversation for more than 2 minutes unless it’s group-think.

It pains me to see straw man fallacy as a defense mechanism all too often these days. That isn’t worth a breath of counterargument by someone presenting logical context and thoughts. Critical thinking.

People have passions different than others. We are our own individuals at the end of the day. But we accept this. There’s not a single person who can be all-knowing about everything. Even if that were true, priorities wouldn’t align for those individuals with others. Some people focus on health – some people on education, others in finance, businesses. There isn’t a right or a wrong. Problems are rooted in a cause. Ask the questions about the cause. Maybe if that’s agreed upon, then solutions can be gathered, debated and decided upon merit. Throwing solutions at an unknown problem – this is no good. Context can be more important than the solution – otherwise you’re blindly tackling. Using medicine as an example – if you have pain in your arm and go to the general doctor, or let’s say an extreme: arm specialist – then you may get a response of “nothing appears wrong”. However, if you go in saying you’ve eaten unhealthily or had a family tree of cardiac disease, the doctor would hopefully put together that you need to see a cardiologist. I don’t want to go on forever (and I’m aware that this was a very LOOSE example – bear with me).

Context. More information. Questions. More details. Then a decision, an opinion, a solution. Then re-assess. Always be learning.

 

Not Everyone Wants to Be a Star July 1, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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This is a concept I’ve wrestled with for a while. The title in particular was a phrase I heard while listening to a segment on the Business XM channel. A gentleman called in and described how he changed from a Fortune 500 management position with org / processes focus to his own bakery and small business. It took him a long while before finally understanding he had to change his management model up for what he was in charge of, and he asked how his employees could be convinced to have further goals. In a moment of thought, the answer turned out to be that the employees had goals – it just wasn’t recognized by his [the owner’s] train of thought in what success was – they [employees] were content and had goals of improving and continuing to do their jobs as well as possible (whether it was a server or line chef, etc…).

Awareness is what this boils down to. Being aware is how we can empathize with one another, regardless of differences in opinions of success, goals or simple styles of work. Some want to rise to the top of their chain in their work – others may want to start a line of business totally unrelated, still others just want to be able to know they can go to work – finish – and come home to do things that they want to do thereafter. In talking with people, you can probably find out which of these types they are in a short conversation. Then, most people will judge, using themselves as the reference. Though it’s almost unavoidable, if more people were aware of this anchor, we can switch our empathy on and wonder – or better, ask – where someone may be looking to achieve.

How one speaks of their work can tell us a lot about them. What drives them to wake up and jump out of bed (or do they not want to)? Going back to the title of the post, I have friends who want to do nothing more than work their 35-40 hours and call it a week. I’m understanding more each week that it’s not their work that drives them – it’s everything else. I can breathe easier because I don’t feel pressured to ask them or push them about that aspect of their lives. And the relationships are better because of that. I believe that is a fascinating dynamic and am usually curious to learn more, but in general, we can do better to understand better spots to inquire further.

More people could use this to determine if friends, colleagues, coworkers or even bosses are stuck in their positions. When life is short but is spent so much time working, that becomes a key driver to how we enjoy ourselves.  And I believe everyone deserves to enjoy what they’re doing, or where they’re attempting to go.

Does anyone think differently here? Do conversations with friends over work annoy others? Is it more about one’s own anxiety that ends up reflecting on people you speak to? I’m curious. Let me know!

 

Education Adjustments May 19, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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A quick preview: <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>American higher education: Pay us tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars to recommend some books to you.</p>&mdash; Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndrewDBailey/status/865251606568345600″>May 18, 2017</a></blockquote>
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

And this is what everyone and their moms (and dads) get bogged down with during at minimum freshman year of high school, while some do that even earlier. That is the mindset of a higher percentage of Americans in this day and age. Awareness is an excellent thing – parents should be more aware of how the process works, certainly. I think I could have been better prepared for the magnitude of it all, but it’s also possible I benefited from a mom who was proud with whatever came up for me. The pressure from school, parents, counselors, private ‘education counselors’, and now all friends as well at an earlier age scares me. It’s misguided and has created an atmosphere that approaches more of a lose-lose / lose-win than a win-win. A specific college shouldn’t be the ‘ultimate goal’ of students. Dreams/aspirations past that point, where college MAY act as a useful stepping stone, is more ideal, in my opinion.

Over the last 10 years, college costs have increased dramatically, needlessly. Yet that is what gets pushed in the middle and secondary environments – better grades, more AP’s, all the excellence for test scores and extracurricular activities if you can help it. Screw off with your joys and passions, unless they align with those above. All to throw your applications (and more importantly, their fees) into a lottery to provide you another stressful decision set (or worse, put you into a bout of depression over not being accepted into those loftily-held institutions). I’m nearly stressing myself thinking about it.

And I see it on an almost daily basis. ~3-4 times a week and more over the last 5.5 years with a rising, successful tutoring company. The expansion of centers to more states, the materials that have been pushed out are incredibly useful for achieving all of the above – but it does just that – pushes students to the brink for academic standards. When, in my experience, a majority of the ones that have been lucky enough to easily get into the top institutions were athletically gifted or born as kin of high places. Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Berkeley, NYU, Yale,  UPenn, Princeton, etc… to name a few.

Work hard, do well and don’t have the athletics or parents to gift away – lottery-bound! Enjoy. And many do get into great schools, but it’s not certain. Even in the tri-valley / East Bay Area, where schools push academics so hard. Unfortunately, high school doesn’t allow the freedom to struggle or fail without hard consequences. Students avoid that at all costs – talk amongst themselves in group chats, memes, jokes and fun poked at those that did worse. Joy found in a group sorrow if a test is particularly hard – either perked up by a curve or succumb to the deterioration of the grades.

Then there is the homework – piled on with all of the classes, typically at home. Some students are fortunate – certain subjects require less effort to understand, but most have to work at it. That leaves minimal hours in the day, either clawing away at sleep or worse, depriving some of hobbies outside of class, which depresses me. Ask a student what they want to do if they could choose and they don’t have an answer. Just maybe what they’ll study in college. In a world where it’s easier to do almost anything in any particular field / industry, few students look past studies to what they want after. It’s a constant grind, of which I’m not envious.

I believe that students should have an opportunity to work or start a company or intern for some company or field that they wish – hopefully one that teaches them whether to pursue that industry in the future. Much of what I found in college was learning what I WASN’T passionate about, not so much of what I was passionate about. People change, but skills can be gained – focus on the companies/industries you wish to live around. Never before is that more true.

Bill Gates tweeted some advice recently – a few of which I’ll share my thoughts:

  1. “AI, Energy, and Biosciences are promising fields where you can make a huge impact. It’s what I would do if starting out today.”
    Analytics drives all 3 of these. Energy is the one that may have the most impact, but efficiency is a challenger here – for instance, battery’s have made great strides, but solar has made linear strides that haven’t made any economic sense in the present. Biosciences will explode with the technology developed in recent years and the information we’ll be able to see with hardware/software connections.
  2. “Looking back on when I left college… intelligence takes many forms. It is not one-dimensional. And not as important as I used to think.”
    I completely agree. Different levels and styles of intelligence – whether it’s focuses or broad knowledge. Experts in one field doesn’t make an expert in another. Be careful with ‘experts’ and what it takes to get that title. Do your due diligence and research but open-minded in conversations with others. Everybody – no matter their intelligence – can contribute to expanding/sharpening your mind.
  3. Then he had some world-impact tweets that described some of the “inequities” of the world. “You know more than I did when I was your age. You can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.”
  4. “Meanwhile, surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.” Never truer words have been spoken. People mention having mentors, but we should really have mentors, people that we mentor and peers that challenge us. The combination to make each other better make the individuals better.
  5. He goes on about this being the most peaceful time in history. Progress can be made if you think the world is getting better, and you want to spread it.

If I had my way, I would love to start something for students that partnered some businesses that could use some admin-style / research analyst work but that were willing to take on a shadow for 4-8 weeks or something over summer. Give the students some money for working and helping out, but also provide them the opportunity to what positions above an intern role may entail in the industry. Is it exciting for them? Is it something that teaches them that that particular role isn’t a fit? I think those lessons, that early, would be invaluable.
If successful, a similar college program could be enacted for frosh / sophomores that were available during the year. Far too many do not get the work experience until after Junior or senior years. We can make that better!

Notes from Hirschhorn & Cuban March 27, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in experience, finance, Politics, questions, social.
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Listening to the Jason Hirschhorn interview with Mark Cuban  from the end of February (just pre-$SNAP IPO) —

Many great resources in all the current tech-hubs: SF & Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Austin, and expanding those. Cuban makes a good point that people and ideas are easily created now in almost every area. There are places in the country that have MORE resources — events, companies, VC’s, funds, but building can be done everywhere (Cuban mentioned when he visits IU, he can stay in contact with them).

With less and less companies going public (mentioned ~9000 publicly listed in 2008, but < 4000 now), people are either scared of going public, or are getting their payouts directly from bigger companies (Cisco, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc…).

Digital ad revenue for FB and Google – 85%+ market share. NFLX and AMZN are 2 biggest shares – hasn’t sold yet. Content providers – Disney, Netflix, and Amazon…. not many others. CONTENT is very difficult (Cuban mentioned Enron doc and winning awards, along with Good Night and Good Luck — hasn’t done any successful since). Content is the most difficult to maintain – very difficult to get past that giant hurdle, and these companies have the money to get above it.

Eventually got into a political discussion – using news / reactions / tweets to respond. HOW do we respond? Communicate and be patient – tough to change minds or reason – noted 52% of eligible voters didn’t vote. Trolls and dealing with internet comments – control public/private responses on twitter? Twitter must be hard-coded otherwise. Cuban mentioned an app that he’s going with – soon, machine-learning or machines will deal with the curation of information and conversation in digital platforms.

Talking about video – 7 year old son wanting to play flag football / baseball and how different it is now. Esports / watching vs watching tv (sports). His son didn’t want to watch sports / baseball / football, but wanted to play. There’s no indoctrination or religion for it anymore as we grew up on (and Cuban’s era earlier). Gaming as a big advantage in expanding NBA reach – NBA 2k and professional aspect of them since players have a deeper involvement / knowledge of the league with gaming.

The overall theme for today (not just this interview) – how can we get more young people interested in building out great ideas? The future of technology is rapidly accelerating but ideas will still be needed from the smartest people. Education seems to nerf expansive ideas – boxes people in that may be more capable, restricting opportunities. In my opinion, this is a huge flaw in the system overall.

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