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To be sexy or not… Business strategy

Back to bid-niz. As I was having dinner with some start-up folk a few weeks back, I got to thinking about where talent flocks. Typically talent doesn’t always flock to just where the money is. Talent will flock to what’s sexy and has money. This means that markets, where there is currently money to be made, are very likely to be under-served.
There is disproportionate value in unsexy markets.
Think about all the badly run mid market businesses out there in unsexy markets that haven’t changed much in the past 15 years. No talent wants to work in the plastic injection molding bath tub industry. But that means there’s some guy with a facility in China pumping out these walk-in tubs for old people out at $65 bucks a pop and selling them at $800 and making 25mm per year with no competition. Not bad.
Think about all the talent flocking to tech startups trying to vie for all the VC money and all those consumers. They don’t call tech a competitive scene for nothing.
So maybe you should think about a less sexy market, where, for some reason you have an in, a leg up, an odd connection or a random talent to start your next venture.
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Should I be perfect?

Why should I not be perfect? Why should that not be the goal to which we strive?

People battle in this arena all the time. You’ll usually hear two sides; one saying that we should accept our faults to some degree and accept that we cannot be perfect. Meanwhile the other strives for perfection usually believing the opposition lacks character and drive.

There’s a key distinction to be made on the topic of perfection. It is the difference between perfection and the most perfect one can be in that particular moment.

You might argue that confidence comes from being the best. But part of being the best is recognizing where you have room for improvement. An old Japanese saying goes: “It’s perfect. Let’s make it better.”

When someone wants to be perfect, it’s very easy to focus on the shortcomings or negatives of the situation (which the one argument camp is quick to point out). But then the other camp will argue ‘how can you be better when you have nothing you work towards’?
There is common ground here. And it lays in recognizing that yes, there should always be a goal of perfection or your ideal being. But at the same time recognizing that arriving at that optimal state is a process and you have to be happy with where you are on that process.

My life is not perfect. But it is certainly as perfect as it could be right now. And I am so happy for that.

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The orchid vs. dandelion child

I happened, this week, upon one of the most beautiful allegories to the development of a child’s mind that I have ever heard.

It is the idea that there are two types of children resulting in 3 types of final outcomes.

The types of children are named: “The Orchid Child” and “The Dandelion Child”.

Like the flower it references, the Dandelion Child can be born in either a nurturing home or a neglectful home. Either way, they will persevere just as dandelions do through many climates and adverse conditions. This is outcome 1.

The Orchid Child provides the other 2 outcomes. If born into a neglectful family, Orchid Children are far more likely to fall into abusive, self destructive behaviors. Just as an orchid will when not planted in the fairest of pastures. When born into a loving and nurturing family however, Orchid Children blossom into beautiful human beings, flourishing well beyond the average.

The article even goes onto explain that these effects are linked to a single gene: CHRM2. The gene has to do with hormone receptors that govern reward.

Again, the sciences provide us with direction for policy. It is not just children in neglectful homes to whom we should provide more resources. It is those children that present early on that they are effected by these unfortunate circumstances.

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Sexy and you ain’t got no clue why – go science

Scientific America MIND has a special sex edition right now. And the deep dive it does on pheromones is just splendid.

Basically for much of history, anatomists had completely missed a full set of nerves that lead, along with other nerves from the brain (~~!nasty warning!~~ apparently they missed them because when you pull the brain out of the skull, these delicate nerves are usually severed with the tough membranes surrounding the brain, like I said, nasty warning, sorry). Anyways, these nerves run very close to the olfactory nerves but they aren’t for smell. They’re highly suspected to be for pheromones (that’s based on a number of studies, particularly of whales, whose olfactory nerves were lost as they evolved to lose their sense of smell and have their ‘nose’ or blowhole on top of their head).

Cool fact 1 among many. You think your eyes are cool? They have 3 different types of cones that process red, blue and green. That combo produces all the images you see right now. Sweet huh? Your nose 347 different receptors. Think how intensely sophistimicated that is! Also, smell is the most advanced sense of the animal world. Even bacterium determine food from toxin by way of smell. And let’s not even get into a dog’s sense of smell. Oh, snap.

Now for the sexy cool shit. If you have any doubt pheromones are involved in sex, consider the following example (this is one of hundreds scientists have observed). When a mouse gets knocked up, if she smells the urine of the male that did the dirty work, nothing happens. The embryo will implant itself and the lady mouse will have babies. Now, if, before the embryo implants itself,  the lady mouse smells the urine of a different male (one with which the female mouse did not copulate), the embryo will NOT implant. Oh, snap.

Now for one of the cooler things as per the human side. The new nerve scientists have discovered runs very close along the olfactory nerves. The olfactory nerves go to a part of the brain that can be consciously recognized. However, the pheromone detecting nerve bypasses this part of the brain and goes to a part of the brain that we don’t consciously recognize. Put another way, the inputs from this nerve effect our brain on a completely unconscious level. This means that you have no idea that these pheromones are effecting you and your decisions in incredibly complex ways.

Reason with you mind, love with your nose. Love might truly be blind.

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Biggie and Dopamine

A recent post by a friend of mine plus a few other things inspired this post. Theirs explained Biggie’s (yes, the rapper’s) idea that when he was poor, he drank, smoked and wrote songs and now that he was rich, he drank, smoked and wrote songs. Most of the things he actually spent his time doing in life were very similar from when he was poor to when he was rich. My friend says you have to enjoy the process.

Put another way I say to myself once in a while; happiness is in the doing, not the done.

But I’d like to take this in a different direction, more towards the scientific realm. Some new neuroscience is proving that, for humans, happiness may truly be in the doing. This is based on how our dopamine levels react to certain stimuli.

A recent study took participants through work sessions that eventually led to a goal. And through these sessions, they measure the participant’s level of dopamine in the brain. Now, take a moment, what do you think will happen to the level of dopamine as the person begins the task, moves along towards the completion of the task and then actually completes the task?

Most people would expect that it would make evolutionary sense for the dopamine levels to peak as the goal of the task is completed. But, surprisingly, this is not what happens!! The peak dopamine levels occur BEFORE the participant finishes the goal.

This has major implications for life in general. It means that we are chemically hardwired to feel true satisfaction not from the completion of  a task, but from properly doing the task such that we eventually complete it.
So that means that to find happiness, we must find tasks that a) we enjoy doing and b) that we are good at such that we can complete them.

Once again, the sages of old, namely Biggie, and science have come together to provide us with wonderful tidbits of life-improving knowledge.

My buddies blog is pretty hilarious FYI, check it out! thewellsstreetjournal.tumblr.com/

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Burn It

Maybe you’ve heard the story before and maybe you haven’t. The greeks arrive at their destination, ready for battle. They’re outnumbered and very likely to lose. Then their commander burns their boats. He burns the only means they of retreating.

I’ve always found it interesting when I do this: I walk into some challenge and immediately my mind will rest on a very legitimate reason why, if I fail, it’s really OK. I say to myself, “If this entrepreneurial endeavor fails, it’s OK, starting a business is risky.”

This may very well be true. The probabilities behind success are factual. In any situation, there is always a probability of success and one of failure. BUT, what I will argue here is that though this may be true, humans do not work this way.

Humans, by acknowledging a probability of failure,  will increase that probability of failure.

Your mind seeks to always believe that failures are not your fault. This bias is well documented among behavioral economics. And think intrinsically for a moment, when something goes wrong in life, what is your immediate humanistic reaction? To seek an excuse, to seek an outside cause which you could not control.

To overcome this, when you enter something, you can imagine all the excuses for failure. Really try to think of all of them.  Accept that you have the power to overcome  these obstacles and that if you don’t, it is no one’s fault but your own. This idea that you are responsible for everything that happens, funnily enough, is only loosely true for most people. But whats interesting, is that the more you believe it, the more true it is.

What you are trying to do is give your mind no psychological ‘out’. You are trying to give it no reason to think failure is even possible. And this action, will actually increase the statistical probabilities of success.

This is an example of using the illogical pieces in the human mind to logically increase our chances of success.

Believing that you WILL succeed every time won’t make you succeed every time. But it will increase the chances of it.

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Cabbie wisdom

A cabbie once said to a friend of mine something along these lines: “I’ve been married a few times, and when you’re trying to figure out whether you love someone or not, what you have to do is find all the most terrible things about that person. And then ask yourself if you can live with those things for the rest of your life.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the black swan problem introduced to me by Taleb who references much of Poincare’s work. The idea is that we can never really know if something is true no matter how much positive evidence we have. I can see a million white swans… but seeing this massive amount of white swans doesn’t necessarily make me sure that there are no black swans out there. However, just a single instance of negative evidence (in this case, a black swan) will nullify my hypothesis that there are only whites swans in existence.

And the similarities with love are striking. A lover can find someone, and run through all the million things he or she loves about that person… all well and good. But all that positive evidence of love will be nullified by just a single instance of negative evidence, like if the beloved is an ax-murder.

And so the cabbie seems right, even in an epistemological sense.

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