If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you.

When you’re on to something great, it won’t feel like a revolution. It’ll feel like uncommon sense.

Success come from persistently improving and inventing not from persistently doing what’s not working.

We all have lots of ideas, creations, and projects. When you present one to the world, and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing as-is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing.

No plan survives first contact with the customer.

By not having money to waste, you never waste money.

People often ask me if I have any suggestions for what kind of business they should get into. I tell them the only thing I know how to recommend: Start by sharing whatever you’ve got.

“Huh? I don’t have any of that legalese stuff. I’ve never hired a lawyer.”

“That’s crazy! What if some kid buys a cd from you and then kills himself? What if you get sued over that?”

“Then no stupid footnote legalese would protect me anyway, so I’ll worry about it if it happens.”


I just generated a wholly original interview question.[1] You know how it’s so hard for non-narcissists to talk about themselves? You know how in interviews one is supposed to subtly brag and hit specific beats in specific ways that show both competence and self-awareness and how this delicate dance probably reveals more about one’s ability to successfully play games than deliver useful labor? I have a solution.

You can’t fake friends. In one’s mind, sure, but never in reality since reality offers the most objective of tests: how much time do you spend engaged with said “friends”? And if you aren’t actually spending time, you won’t actually know these “friends,” and thus you’ll be unable to really talk about what makes them tick. Yea, but people present a fraudulent depiction of themselves all the time, so surely they can pretend to have friends they don’t have. Not so much, I think. People are well-versed at lying about themselves – I’m a great team player; my weakness is that I work just a little too hard – but they don’t have nearly the same reps lying on behalf of other people. So when pushed to describe a fake friend in more than superficial terms, words won’t come so easily. This reality marks the first foundation of this new interview question.


Look at some of your friends’ friends and you can’t help but wonder why the friendship exists. Then look closer. Past the bad decisions, shared histories one feels guilty about severing, and sheer loneliness, you’ll see that some people simply need different things from friendship – we are all unique. But we are also similar. Like, days pass and pass and pass and boy it sure would be nice if I had a friend to help transform this bound-to-be-forgettable Saturday into something memorable. No amount of uniqueness makes this type of friend undesirable. Of course, you are just such a friend: you’ve made my life better than anyone else I’ve met in xxxxxxxxx.

I first really considered this during one of those xxxxxxxxx holiday extravaganzas. What most struck me was your generosity. Here you were providing food, a house, a boat, jet skis, gasoline, etc. and asking for nothing in return. Importantly, there appeared no arrogance or give-me-social-credibility-for-all-that-I’ve-given attitude that is common in such situations. Even as we were all fortunate to have you as a friend, you gave off the impression that you were simply happy that people would trek out for a hang. When both parties feel “lucky” sharing time, you have a cornerstone trait of a great relationship.


Mentorship Matters

For so long they cheered you with the purity of a pre-teen at a Taylor Swift concert. They celebrated even your tiniest accomplishments. They wanted you to be successful. They sometimes even believed you were capable of things you yourself doubted. And then, at some point, it all stopped. The purity was replaced by jealousy, and the words of encouragement were shifted to lesser folks. We love seeing people do well … just as long as they don’t surpass our own status. And once they do, He really needs a measly compliment with a title like THAT?! Probably had to know somebody to get the job anyway. LOL to those who think he got there with “merit.” And don’t get me started on wealth inequality. Tell me what he actually does to earn 20x more than that earnest janitor. I’m not seeing it!

But of course the same human needs for acceptance and appreciation don’t disappear once one owns an ungodly # of VTI shares. So here I am cheering and celebrating you. Here I am thanking you for the past two months of working together, which were my favorite at Bright. You said something this summer about me “thinking too much of you,” and I’m convinced you were/are obviously incorrect. Aside from my parents, I truly don’t think there’s a single elder I’ve learned more from than you. Here’s a little list of learnings that may well read like a fanboy writing T Swift:


Four Levels of Thinking

You are a stud … and I’m unsure if you really believe it. Let’s find out by venturing through four levels of thinking that I just made up.

The lowest level is Regurgitation. Here, the best one can do is identify brilliant people to copy, and copy them with a bit of rhetorical flourish. Do this well and, at minimum, you’ll be seen as “competent.”

Not good enough, right? So climb the ladder hidden behind the mist and you’ll arrive on Error Detection. There was certainly some identification of troubled thinking on L1 in determining who to emulate, but here you realize there are mistakes in damn near everyone’s thinking. Mistakes that you, standing on these gorgeous marble floors (much better than the dirt on Regurgitation), can proudly correct with answers that appear in your mind. This thinker said X, but it’s actually X+.25, or I think this person straight missed that footnote on page 15 which renders much of this strategy dumb. On and on. Always something to find. Sit back, let others throw stuff out there, and then pick it apart. In the same way that editors are necessary for successful writers, a company without occupants on L2 will fail. Still, right or wrong, those occupants are not viewed as studs; authors get million-dollar advances, not editors.

Since a million dollars sounds cool, how about climbing that brick wall over there? Don’t worry, many of the bricks jut out just enough to count as footholds. Yes, I know your fingers are bleeding, but I promise it’s worth it. See, you have a nice rhythm now. And for just a second look up and observe the destination in the form of that human-sized hole in the ceiling. Motivating to spot your destiny, I know. I’m here for you. Your destiny, for now, is What Matters. Small children never make it to this floor. Think of those precocious, pugilistic 8-year-olds who are so good at finding the tiniest mistakes adults make only to be laughed off with Yes, I guess you are technically correct, but that’s about it. You fail to see what’s going on here. On What Matters, one has a comprehensive understanding of the mission, the players, and the incentives. No longer is time exhausted gaining status points by pointing out trivial mistakes when the overall intent is generally clear. The error can still be corrected, just with a smoothness that largely skips over right vs. wrong. You probably meant X instead of Y. Cool. No biggie. Let’s talk about X. This skipping is vital since time is ticking and L3 residents focus on cost/benefit calculations. Risks are everywhere, and there is always a cost to mollifying them. Thus, “we gotta do whatever we can” should almost never be uttered. Many times the costs outweigh the risks. Many times the costs grow as unintended consequences appear. And because of these realities, What Matters residents accept that you must tolerate certain risks, errors, and technicality violations in properly directing limited resources to areas yielding the largest returns.


Culture Creation

One can endlessly recite “Do as I say, not as I do,” but it won’t change the underlying reality that once there’s an alarming chasm between words and actions, one’s ability to persuade becomes negligible. And so it is that corporate slogans and values frequently turn laughable after being revealed as little more than a random amalgamation of benign, positive words inconsistent with actions on the ground. It’s less a bluff than wishful thinking. Good corporate culture is a worthy goal; achieving that type of environment is definitely challenging; designing corporate values feels like doing something to this difficult end; and maybe if the words are repeatedly emphasized, the desired culture will magically appear.

Of course that won’t work. Of course the foundation of any culture is actual behavior. Of course how leaders act sets the tone for everyone else. So of course being a member of your team was constantly enjoyable. It begins with your geniality. When you are, say, in the office, everything is just a bit better. I would be genuinely disappointed if meetings with you were cancelled, as I always had a feeling of Nice! I get to talk with xxxxxxxxx (in stark contrast with the many who are condemned to having to talk with a boss).


Every man rebels against the idea that this is it. Fights windmills, saves damsels all in search of greater purpose…You have no greater purpose, because it is enough. -Kevin Garvey Sr

This is the single quote I return to most. In a modern existence teeming with temptation, it’s the task of a lifetime avoiding perpetual dissatisfaction with the present when compared to alt-presents just barely out of reach: If only I had a coffee… If only I had a better job … If only I had planned a nice vacation … If only I had a better lover … If only I had new golf clubs… Beyond the immediate downsides of this “grass is always greener” thinking – namely, that your attention is sucked away from the here and now making full appreciation of the here and now impossible – giving in sends you on a path with no limiting principle; satisfying one desire provides (maybe) brief relief before being replaced by a new one. The promised fulfillment’s emptiness is undeniably revealed, and yet you are no less likely to be duped again in the future.

But of course sometimes the grass is indeed greener. Sometimes, “when I think I’m being self-sufficient, I’m really just learning to live without the things that I need.”[1] Need. Such a weak word, at least to me. I need nothing! Can survive, nay thrive, in any situation! This is a true part of my identity, but is it actually TRUE?[2] There’s no scarier question. Each of us crafts an identity as a refuge in a complicated, capricious world. It’s comforting to know who you are. Unfortunately, comfort is the area least likely probed for holes, which means your agreeable identity may be working against your long-term self-interest.


How to Live in the Moment

I don’t remember most days, not even wedding days; I do remember your wedding day, and I imagine I will continue to remember it for the foreseeable future.

Since this is a wedding note, and since we live in a time of grand narratives where everything neatly ties together with whatever you happen to care deeply about, I’ll try to show how your wedding confirmed the narrative I already knew to be true about xxxxxxxxx. See, I have a special fondness for xxxxxxxxx. There’s something about being around him that’s energizing. Truly. I believe he’s excited to see me, to spend time with me, and to further learn the ridiculousness of my character. This may seem like a basic definition of friendship, but it’s not. Other “friends” will genuinely look forward to an encounter only to be silently longing for the plane back home shortly after commencement. I know this because I do it. It never feels like xxxxxxxxx does. Another way to say all of this is to say that xxxxxxxxx helps me live in the moment. And while I can’t, due to lack of experience, honestly say xxxxxxxxx has the same effect on me, I also have enough experience with her to know that I can’t dismiss the possibility. Or at the very least, I think xxxxxxxxx can augment and support xxxxxxxxx’s unique strengths, and he (better) augment and support her strengths (like drawing/painting; keep drawing/painting).

For now, though, our focus shall be on our overarching narrative that forms the backbone of this letter. So just as it’s no surprise that Trump obviously did the awful thing that perfectly fits the narrative you hold about him, it’s no surprise that your wedding was a beautiful exercise in presence.


This teenage airhead in adult form wants to talk about her stepson’s generation’s devaluation of marriage with the earnestness of I’ve-just-got-to-say-something. Is there any consideration that perhaps she, a divorcee remarried to another divorcee, might not be the ideal candidate to hold court on such matters? Of course not. Remember, this is Regina George grown up. Did she at least have any theories, theories that surely cast herself as the bearer of wisdom the younger generation should hungrily consume? Actually, no. I spent the first six minutes of the conversation absorbing her punchline-free prattling, responding with, “Yea, but why don’t they value marriage?” and getting, “They just don’t” in return.

Growing tired of the dance and confident (always) that I could make this conversation more enjoyable for both parties, I began postulating answers to my question. Theses like the decline of religion and the rise of women were similarly met with shrugs. Opportunity cost, however, was received with the excitement of a child realizing his father’s guiding hand was no longer on the back of the bike. It was then I realized that her confusion about her stepson’s generation was not faux at all: she really didn’t know why they were the way they were, she really did want to know, and my premise that marriage has never been more costly allowed her a breakthrough that for so long had been out of her grasp.

It’s 1937. You grow up in a small Nebraskan town. You will die in a small Nebraskan town. The choices you’ll make in the intervening years will be necessarily limited by lack of options, irrespective of prosperity. You can be alone and bored as a bachelor or get married and be less alone and less bored. Even if you weren’t toiling on Maslov’s lower rungs (as our fictional Nebraskan is), you live in a society with fewer ways to express freedom – weekend jaunts to visit friends on the East Coast aren’t on the table because (a) you don’t have friends on the East Coast, and (b) there isn’t an airport infrastructure to accommodate this type of travel. Obviously, you get married.


Your father is a great American success story. Your mother perhaps even more so. Though you, the member of the next generation that you are, a generation that’s so exhaustingly hyper-aware, might quip back that their success is the product of some form of oppression and privilege and that, in fact, they would be more successful living more fulfilling lives if they were not in America but in some Scandinavian country. I’ll freely concede all of these points since you’re, what, a few weeks old, and I will not debase myself by arguing with a baby.

But in my concession, I can’t help but point out that even in your “correctness” you still have a choice to focus on the quip in the first place; just because an observation is accurate doesn’t make it worthy of attention. Yes, it’s important to be living in reality, to not be deluded. Yes, positive change can start with proper identification of a suboptimal order. And sure, you get to feel smarter than everyone else by always pointing out what they overlook. Here you are a few weeks into existence getting to look down at me. Must be nice.