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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

 

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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.

 

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!

Keep asking “what’s next?” May 9, 2016

Posted by bluedevil32 in experience, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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Been a while since I posted anything, but that’s not for lack of material. My mind has raced, and I’ve had a number of drafts that I saved and left to the side. They didn’t seem quite right.

A list of problems that cyclically affect everyone that could use (better) solutions – of which I am working on one.

  • Traffic: especially in the Bay Area, where there appears to be more and more cars on the road each day.
    • Hard fix: A friend of mine & I joke that Musk should simply work on infrastructure in the form of a “Tesla Road” that was built on top/above existing roadways. It would appear we are headed for autonomous cars as a larger percentage within the next 3-5 years. Infrastructure could create an environment that would entice a majority of people to switch to automated cars, eliminating the minor parts that cause the initial build-up of traffic.
    • Simple fix: release the brake #RTB. It appears that too many people love using a pedal – if it’s not the gas, it has to be the brake. So wrong! Japanese researchers recreating shockwave traffic jam – simply by a brief brake or slowdown. It appears that few people have been taught (or put into action) that speeding up briefly and braking behind a slower car simply doesn’t save any time, and causes time in traffic for everyone else with an application of their brakes. Selfish. People do this when switching lanes (brake and go) or exiting off ramps. Release the break and your brake pads, people behind you, and your foot will thank you.
  • Personal finance: Credit card debt, better investing, mortgages or even small business loans.
    • I have done work with a fintech company that attempts to create an effortless process to personal lending. Granted, effortless is subjective. Growth in the industry as a whole seems to stagnant, despite a plethora of companies that have jumped in, due to a combination of minimal profit margins (investors are prioritized) along with a lack in the creative sense to alter the public’s general understanding of WHY these companies are helpful.
    • The biggest example today of a failing company in the space is how hard Lending Club has been hit since its IPO, punctuated by the resignation/firing recently of their CEO and founder. Link to CEO resignation May 9
    • From what I gather, the industry as a whole needs to focus on the education for why someone/anyone SHOULD look into how debt restructuring can be a positive thing, but it takes time and pointed goals. As it stands, unless someone does their due diligence or had a friend talk about one of these companies, many just hope for the best and don’t want to spend the time to educate themselves.
    • With a potentially impending social security / pension shortage with the increases in health and aging, this education will be paramount in coming years. Additionally, when the US doesn’t seem to care about furthering the budget into the red, why should any of its citizens care? That scares me a bit more – the possibility of an event cratering the credit system due to rates/QE and a carelessness thought of ‘too big to fail’. Technology bubble in early 2000s was (mostly) limited to stock market and companies that were popping up. Housing crisis in 2008-2009 affected many more people, but ‘only’ threatened the system. A credit shock would threaten the global set-up.
  • Education: the way that high schools and universities push forward does not appear to be as efficient a major system that educates the masses should be
    • I was lucky and had a scholarship for tuition before I took a gap year my Junior year at UC Berkeley, so my family and I were spared that expense. Up until the start of 2016, I was paying the [small but not insignificant] loans off that I took out for housing / books / living expenses from my first 2 years at Cal, totaling a minuscule (comparatively) $12k. My senior year, I paid for my final 2 semesters and a summer of tuition and saw that they were between $4500 and $5000 each, right before the big hikes of the UC System. When there are more and more applicants each year applying to the awesome and improving UC’s, the regents still decided to increase tuition for undergrad nonresidents. For the whole story from last year’s Regents Last year’s undergrad resident tuition was a base of $11,220, plus whatever the total is now for student fees / taxes. That’s an increase of over 7% in the 4 years that I’ve been out, well surpassing that of inflation over the time frame. Eesh.
    • I’m torn and haven’t seen / heard, but I believe that universities should be set up more like a vocational-type, where students enter needing work credits for graduation, either working for a company aligned with their major or through a mentor of some sort. Yes, many students do this anyway, but I feel like where universities should give advantages to others would be in the way that this could be set up. If students have active work experience from the onset of their freshman year over a semester or summer, more people would know if they wanted to continue down that path or switch.
    • In a world that appears like we’re driving toward an automated approach for many things (if we can figure out how to do so), then many jobs will be expired at some point, maybe in this lifetime. Having the necessary work experience and knowledge of multiple fields may be beneficial in the long run.

Now, I was going to include another bullet about misinformation, but I can save that for another post. I plan on making this push in momentum to continue posting about how I may improve or reach out to figure out how to inform myself of progress in these areas. And I encourage everyone again, #ReleaseTheBrake

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