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Fabian Geyrhalter: Insights On Building An Authentic Brand

“Dressing up for Halloween is a great analogy for how many educated consumers see branding: a fake persona is crafted to evoke emotions from a specific audience in order to achieve a predetermined goal,” says the brand strategist Fabian Geyrhalter in his bestselling branding book, Bigger Than This – How to turn any venture into an admired brand.

Clearly, Fabian understands the problems many businesses face when branding themselves. But he also understands how they can be truly authentic. Here is one of many stories of authentic brand building that’s featured in Bigger Than This:

“Matthew Griffin, the founder of Combat Flip Flops, understands this well. While on duty in Afghanistan, Griffin, then a U.S. Army Ranger, stumbled upon an Afghan combat boot factory that also created flip flops for soldiers for when they were taking off their boots to pray. Feeling empathy for the people he met (“such honorable hosts; an amazing experience,” he told Inc. magazine), he immediately knew he wanted to bring those flip flop designs home with the goal of creating jobs and funding education in wartorn countries such as Afghanistan. Griffin took the saying “Borders frequented by merchants seldom need soldiers” and inspired his tribe to help that cause. The website now features lines such as “bad for combat, perfect for peacemaking” to describe the flip flops offered.”  

Would anyone view Combat Flip Flops as dressing itself up? Of course not. It’s authentic.

As Fabian explained, “I am writing about a subject that has barely been explored: companies that launch seemingly boring commodity products into this world without edgy technology but manage to transform themselves into staple household brands for urbanites and beyond.”

So who is Fabian Geyrhalter? Fabian Geyrhalter is a renowned brand strategist and the founder and Principal of FINIEN, a Los Angeles-based consultancy specialized in creating strategic, verbal and visual brand clarity.

His client list ranges from high-growth startups such as Jukin Media, Survios, and Vimmia to established brands like Warner Brothers, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Goodwill, W Hotels and Honeywell. His branding work has won numerous accolades, including 30 “American Graphic Design Awards.”

Along with Bigger Than This, Fabian has also written the #1 Amazon Bestseller, How To Launch A Brand. He’s also been published in The Washington Post, Mashable, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post.

And that was just a summary. You can read his full bio here.

I sat down with Fabian for my podcast, T-Shirts & Ties where I chat with Creatives & Strategists. We discussed the spark for his book, the personality of the brand, and more. You can listen to the full podcast here. Here are some highlights…

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Sustainable Fashion Vs Zara, H&M, and Forever 21

Noemi Florea grew up in Potomac, Maryland. She had a negative high school experience. Now she’s studying in New York at the best art and design school in America.

“I had a really negative experience growing up with high school. The county that I was going to public school in, Montgomery County in Maryland, had this very competitive atmosphere. Everybody was always competing for the best grades and the best SAT scores.

When I was fifteen, I realised that this competition for the best statistic, using the statistic to define yourself, I just thought it’s so unfulfilling. I really just rejected that and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was kind of an anarchist for a little bit. I negated everything. I thought society was this big circle jerk. We all just applaud each other and we never achieve anything. Nobody thinks for themselves. It sounds very radical.

As some years went by I became more mature. I was never able to return to that idea that you have to study finance, you have to get a good job, because that’s your purpose. You have to study so you can get a good job and you can make money. I never was able to return to that.

Art was this kind of inbetween of being this institutionalised person who I despised, versus being a total anarchist and going nowhere.”

Now, Noemi is 18 and living in New York.

She’s studying a dual degree. One degree to earn a bachelor of fine arts from Parsons School of Design with a major in integrative design. The other half of her dual degree Noemi is majoring in environmental studies Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Why is this combination important?

“As designers, everything we create, we have to consider the impact on the environment that our creations will have because that’s so crucial today.”

Noemi and I sat down to talk for my podcast T-Shirts & Ties where we chat with Creatives and Strategists. We discussed her thoughts on design, her upcoming exhibitions, and the problems with fast fashion and what we can do about it. Enjoy.

What is fast fashion? Why is it dangerous? Why is it unethical?

“Fast Fashion is those brands that are globalized; Forever 21, Zara, H&M. Their method of production is so dangerous and unethical.

So one, the materials they make their clothes out of are not biodegradable and quite toxic, even for your skin. It’s bad for you when you’re wearing them. And then when you’re done you throw them away and they just sit in landfills. They’re not biodegradable so they just take up space. And the fashion industry today is because of fast fashion. It takes up the second largest amount of space in landfill.

The other half of it is that these clothes are made by workers in developing countries for nearly slave labour. They’re paid maybe $2 a day. And they’re working in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Thailand and Cambodia. They’re working in these sweatshops for next to no money and then they’re just sent to America and Europe where they’re sold for cheap. That’s why people buy them. That’s why they’re so popular. It’s cheap.

But just because something is cheap it doesn’t mean that it’s ethical, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, so you think why are people shopping from fast fashion if they know that it’s unethical and it’s unhealthy? And it’s because there’s this consumer mentality that there are fifty-two seasons in a year and every single party that you go to you have to buy a new dress. Every two weeks you have to buy a new set of shirts because people are in this habit now of buying clothes and then quickly throwing them away once they decide that they’re bored with them.

That’s really not how shopping, especially for clothing, should be because in the 1950s when the baby boomers were the main shopping demographic, the idea was they you only had two seasons in the whole year. You had the cold and the warm. And you really didn’t need to buy more clothes. I think that’s the step that we need to take; going back to this mentality where it’s I don’t need to buy clothing every week.”  

Why do you think people want to buy clothing every week?

“Because of marketing and advertising. These fast fashion brands induce the idea that if you’re wearing something from three weeks ago it’s out of style now and nobody is wearing it anymore. So you need to go and buy new clothes. When really what people should do, they should try to develop their own style. It shouldn’t be what marketers decide is your style. You should really be able to decide this is what I like, this is the kind of style that I feel represents myself, and I don’t need marketers to tell me what to wear. When you achieve that you don’t need to buy new clothes every single week. You can buy your own clothes and wear that for the next five years.”

What can people do?

“There’s a documentary called The True Cost which is really famous for how it documents that fast fashion industry. I recommend watching the movie because it will definitely convince V safe brand.”

Listen to the full T-Shirts & Ties podcast here.

Minimalism, Massimo Vignelli, & Black Sweater Antidepressants

Noemi Florea grew up in Potomac, Maryland. She had a negative high school experience. Now she’s studying in New York at the best art and design school in America.

“I had a really negative experience growing up with high school. The county that I was going to public school in, Montgomery County in Maryland, had this very competitive atmosphere. Everybody was always competing for the best grades and the best SAT scores.

When I was fifteen, I realised that this competition for the best statistic, using the statistic to define yourself, I just thought it’s so unfulfilling. I really just rejected that and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was kind of an anarchist for a little bit. I negated everything. I thought society was this big circle jerk. We all just applaud each other and we never achieve anything. Nobody thinks for themselves. It sounds very radical.

As some years went by I became more mature. I was never able to return to that idea that you have to study finance, you have to get a good job, because that’s your purpose. You have to study so you can get a good job and you can make money. I never was able to return to that.

Art was this kind of inbetween of being this institutionalised person who I despised, versus being a total anarchist and going nowhere.”

Now, Noemi is 18 and living in New York.

She’s studying a dual degree. One degree to earn a bachelor of fine arts from Parsons School of Design with a major in integrative design. The other half of her dual degree Noemi is majoring in environmental studies Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Why is this combination important?

“As designers, everything we create, we have to consider the impact on the environment that our creations will have because that’s so crucial today.”

Noemi and I sat down to talk for my podcast T-Shirts & Ties where we chat with Creatives and Strategists. We discussed her thoughts on design, her upcoming exhibitions, and the problems with fast fashion and what we can do about it. Enjoy.

Minimalism.

“I think minimalism is key. I don’t think that there should be very much excess. Also, being organic in your creation or your style. So architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese artists, they always gravitated towards nature and the environment for their inspiration for their creations. I feel that the philosophy of minimalism and letting the environment dictate the creation is very important for design so it’s cohesive with its surrounding.”

Massimo Vignelli.

“I’m really interested Massimo Vignelli. He’s not super well-known, but he’s a communication designer. He designed the NY subway communication map. That’s probably his most famous creation, but he also did a number of other commissions. He did architecture; several churches in NY, and he designed the brochure layout for the National Parks in America. I’m really interested in his style, it’s very minimal and it’s very geometric. He uses bold colours and clean lines and I think that style from the 70s, which was his peak era, is so compelling.”

Black Sweaters Antidepressants.

“I’m putting together my first exhibit event in a month in New York in the East Village. I’m doing it with a group of artists at Parsons. So each of us are proposing our own work for this exhibit. The exhibit is called My Pill. So you go back on some kind of traumatic experience that you had and you reflect on how that contributed to who you are today.

So I decided to go back on my high school experience and how I really felt like an outsider in this environment that was so academically pressuring. So I’m taking some poems that I wrote when I was fifteen and I illustrated them this year and put them together into a book called Black Sweaters Antidepressants.

I’m going to make 50 copies of the book which I will be selling at the exhibit and I’m going to buy an authentic school desk from eBay. I’m painting that black; symbolic of high school and how I hated it. And I’m going to spill these copies over the school desk and I’m going to choose one spread from the poetry book and I’m going to blow it up to hang on the wall as a visual.”

Just Friends.

“I did do another book project for the final project of one of my classes at Parsons. It was called Just Friends. I took [the texts from] one of my high school friends, when we both moved to different colleges we were texting everyday to talk to each other about our day, college and how things are changing. Over time we grew apart. We were texting less and less. I decided to take this book where I just repeated verbatim all of our texts. I emphasized the distance that grew between the texts as time went on. I showed how two people can grow apart. You don’t even have to explain that; it’s just evident in the distance between the texts.”

Listen to the full T-Shirts & Ties podcast here.

Why Can’t We Just Sit Down Over A Beer, And On The Back Of A Napkin Write Some Names Down?

What’s In A Name? We Explore Company & Product Naming Insights With Mike Carr Of NameStormers

“Why can’t we just sit down over a beer, and on the back of a napkin write some names down?” Mike Carr knows this is the attitude most people have about naming a company or product. But as we’ll see, his 33 years of experience running a naming firm in Austin, Texas has shown him the hidden complexity within the seemingly simple task of naming companies and products.

Mike’s company is called NameStormers. They’ve worked with corporations including Revlon, Discovery Channel, IBM, BBC News, Canon, Nestle, Honda, Citibank, Raytheon , 7-Eleven, TGI Fridays, and many more. Mike has a large team contributing to their naming process, yet he remains hands on for every project.

I sat down with Mike at his home in Austin for my podcast, T-Shirts & Ties, where I chat with Creatives and Strategists. Below are some highlights from the podcast, including:

> The golden rule of naming.

> The unbelievable price tag of a coined name.

> When purposely misspelled names can work.

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Apollo Vs Dionysus? The Secret Power Artists & Engineers Are Ignoring

How To Empower Yourself With Emotion & Rationality

 

You’ve heard of the Greek god Apollo. You know he’s the son of Zeus. But you’re probably not as familiar with Zeus’s forgotten son – Dionysus. Apollo’s brother.

 

Apollo is the god of music, truth, prophecy, and light. He is associated with order, control and rationality. Dionysus is the god of wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy. He is associated with chaos, emotions, and spontaneity. As gods we know them as Apollo and Dionysus. As abstract ideas we know them as Apollonian and Dionysian. They’re simplified as reason vs emotion.

 

To explore the relationship between the Apollonian and Dionysian let’s venture back in time to the summer of 1969. The moon landing, coincidently but appropriately named Apollo 11, is a celebration of the rational, the apollonian. Woodstock is celebrated as hippies revolt against the establishment, a drug fuelled party, the dionysian. As Ayn Rand wrote, “The issue in this case is the alleged dichotomy of reason versus emotion.”

 

The Apollo moon landing is indeed an incredible feat of humanity. The best rational minds worked together to conquer nature. But to view this event as only apollonian is a mistake. Why? You know what fuelled the space race. A cold war. An existential threat. The dionysian.

 

Woodstock has a parallel side. It was a festival of drug-fueled, sex-crazed hippies. They claimed individuality while wearing the same ugly garments as the other 299,999 attendees. They claimed they reached higher state of reality, but in really they were just high. Yet Woodstock is embedded in America’s folklore. It’s revered. Even respected. Why? Remember how Apollo is the god of music? Music may evoke emotion, but it is built on rational effort and understanding. And Woodstock was the greatest gathering of musicians. Janis Joplin. Jefferson Airplane. Jimi Hendrix.

 

Many people identify as rational or emotional and forget the other. They focus on what they’re good at and ignore the other. Computer programmers dress in jeans, a hoodie, and Cheeto stained T-shirt. Artists in Gucci jackets gleefully brag that they don’t know how to send an invoice. We think we’re one or the other.

 

Elon Musk is the Founder and CEO of SpaceX whose mission is to populate Mars. Why isn’t NASA populating Mars? Well, since the cold war ended, funding nosedived like a failed rocket launch. Once the emotional fuel of the nuclear threat cooled, so did the Space Race.

 

Musk is an engineer’s engineer. He is hyper-rational. Apollo’s apollonian. Yet he didn’t start SpaceX out for the thrill of solving technical challenges or making billions (you start rocket companies to lose billions not make them). Sure, his rationalist side wanted to populate Mars to ensure humanity’s survival. But he also thought venturing to Mars would make life more exciting – a dionysian motivation.

 

Now consider Jimmi Hendrix. At Woodstock he did a now infamous improvised version of the Star Spangled Banner. It was beautiful. Pure emotion. Dionysian. But the dionysian view ignores the decade he spend practicing 9 hours a day – the apollonian.

 

Whether at a society level or individually, it is not only our emotional or rational self we must use to succeed, but both. Our emotional desires fuel our rational goals. And inversely, our intellect gives direction to our passion.

 

It is not the Apollo versus his brother Dionysus. It is the brothers working together.

31 Pieces Of Life Advice I Stole From People More Successful Than Me

 

Below are some great pieces of life advice that have helped me live better. The more I steal, the better I live.

 

Some of the people below are from the same suburb as me, some have been dead for thousands of years and some of them are top influencers here on Medium.

 

To everyone on the list, thanks for helping me live better.

 

1. Eric Weinstein – Be A High-Agency Individual

I found this piece of advice through Ryan Holiday’s book Conspiracy:

“It is always revealing to see how a person responds to those situations where he’s told: “There’s nothing you can do about it. This is the way of the world.” Peter Thiel’s friend, the mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein, has a category of individual he defines as a “high-agency person.” How do you respond when told something is impossible? Is that the end of the conversation or the start of one? What’s the reaction to being told you can’t—that no one can? One type accepts it, wallows in it even. The other questions it, fights it, rejects it.”

Now when I hear myself saying I can’t do something, I assume that’s not true, then figure out how I can do it.  

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue

 

2. Thomas Oppong – Give 60 Minutes More Effort

Feeling exhausted at the end of a long day isn’t an excuse to avoid my goals; writing, growing a business, learning Spanish. At the end of my day, I started giving one final 60 minute effort. It’s an extra hour I would otherwise not get. I get more done. As Thomas Oppong said, “Invest in yourself, it’s the best investment you can ever make.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Do These Things After 6 P.M. And Your Life Will Never Be The Same

 

3. Cal Newport – Deep Work

I used to party a lot. I stopped so I could read more, write more, and grow my business. I’m on track to read 150 books this year. Although at times I miss the nights out, my life is way better now. One person I credit to this change is Cal Newport and his writings on Deep Work. Here’s what he wrote;

“If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured web surfing.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

 

4. Nat Eliason – Delete Facebook

Productivity writers like Cal Newport long ago convinced me to stop using Facebook. But Nat Eliason makes it clear I needed to go a step further and delete it. He makes it clear by looking at it from Facebook’s perspective; “it’s fine to play fast and loose with customer data in the name of growth, to optimize your product around addictiveness, and to sell information on your users.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Yes, You Should Delete Facebook

 

5. Josh Waitzkin – Embrace Discomfort

Growth is painful. Josh Waitzkin wrote, “Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.” Instead of fighting the discomfort, I practice leaning into it and growing from it.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

 

6. Dr. Stephanie Estima – Give Girls More Love

Men have 50% more serotonin receptors than women. So men can feel twice as good as women with the same amount of serotonin – which comes from our relationships. If I’m getting enough love from my relationship, my girlfriend may still need more attention.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Why Women Need Twice As Much Sex As Men

 

7. John Mashni – Don’t Celebrate Success

Don’t celebrate success. When you celebrate early you relax and lose your momentum. Wait until you’ve completed your goals before celebrating success.
But John Mashni also shared a deeper truth in the following story. When a Spartan won the equivalent of the Olympics, he was given an expensive trophy covered in jewels. The next day he sold it and went right back to training. It’s the process, the love of hard work that sustains us; not the shiny cars, watches or trophies.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: If You Don’t Eliminate This Habit, You Will Never Grow

 

8. Oprah Winfrey – Empathy Trumps Hyperbole

Here’s my theory. Both Oprah and Trump are master persuaders. That has allowed them to become wildly successful. However, I see their persuasion differ in one key way. Oprah uses her skills to empower others, Trump uses it to make himself appear more powerful. While they are both effective, Oprah’s way is the better way to live.

 

9. Albert Camus – The Question Is The Answer

When I find myself questioning the meaning of life; it tells me I’m living without meaning. When I’m searching for happiness; it tells me I’m unhappy. Albert Camus showed me I don’t need to keep asking questions or thinking about it, I need to live differently. Here’s his quote that helped me come to this realisation: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

 

10. Benjamin P. Hardy – The Start Determines The End

‘Inspiration, Discipline, Risk, Humility’ poster by Joey Roth

http://joeyroth.com/posters/

 

I love this line he wrote, “If you lose an hour in your morning, you’ll spend your whole day looking for it.” Starting well sets me up for my whole day. I know the opposite is true. A bad morning always leads to a rushed day where I feel I haven’t accomplished half of what I needed to.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5-7 AM

 

11. Tim Ferriss –  Question Yourself

Question what you are doing. Could it be done faster? What is the lead domino? Does it need to be done at all? Thanks to Tim Ferriss I’ve found myself working in four countries, keeping fit and having fun doing it.

 

12. John Gorman – How To Live

John Gorman gave a two-step guide on how to overcome fear. But I take it as advice for how to live:

  1. Do scary (but potentially rewarding) shit.
  2. Repeat.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: You’re Not Lazy

 

13. My Parents – Invest First, Spend Second

My parents have always been smart financially. They taught me the value of investing when I was young by operating as my banker and offering my an outrageously high interest-rate on the money I invested instead of spending. What I would give for those interest rates today! Now I always invest before I spend.

 

14. Nicolas Cole – Never Lie

Never lie is the simple advice that makes life so much easier when you practice it. I find the hardest part of this is never lying to myself. But that’s where a journal helps so much. When I force myself to reflect on my day, it’s easy to spot my bullshit.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: 19 Tiny Habits That Lead to Huge Results

 

15. George Horace Lorimer – Dress Well

I wear a black t-shirt and jeans most days. I waste no time. But the following two quotes by George Horace Lorimer made me rethink that. Now, I will wear a nice shirt and jacket on occasion:

  1. “…it isn’t enough to be all right in this world; you’ve got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right.”
  2. “A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son

 

16. Tim Denning – Suffer Better

Suffering is not optional. What we do with it is. That’s why I love Tim Denning’s advice; “When you see suffering as a necessity and you learn to use it to your advantage, that same suffering becomes fuel for your goals and dreams.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: 19 Harsh Truths You Don’t Want To Hear But Must (You’ll Be 10 Times Better For It)

 

17. Joe Rogan – Remember We’re Talking Monkeys

When I can’t stop thinking about a problem, I think of what Joe Rogan said; “If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.” Life is crazy, the little things don’t matter. And they’re all little things.

 

18. William N. Thorndike – Allocation Is Everything

William N. Thorndike wrote a book that showed the most successful CEOs focused on capital allocation above all else. That is the most important task. I’ve taken this lesson and applied it to my daily living. As part of my journaling I reflect on where I spent my time, what it produced, and how I can allocate my time better.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

 

19. Zdravko Cvijetic – Skip The Unimportant Tasks

He taught me to spend my time doing the things that will have the most impact – to “Focus on high leverage activities.” I think of this advice when I’m answering an unimportant email. It won’t produce any results. Writing another article will.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: 10 Daily Habits That Will Improve Your Life

 

20. Malcolm X – What Don’t You Know?

Malcolm X tells this great story. He’s invited to go hunting for rabbits, or maybe he invited himself. Anyway, the fellow hunters teach him a trick. When a rabbit escapes down a path, the rabbit will later have to return past the same spot to get back to its home. The hunters would wait for it to return and shoot it. Malcolm X realised he could predict that since the rabbit was returning to that point, it would also have to pass a point further on. Instead of waiting with the hunters, he would go down the track where the rabbit would run past first. He would get four rabbits himself while the entire hunting group would only have one. They all thought he was a brilliant shot. But Malcolm X knew the deeper lesson. If someone else is getting something you’re not getting, they know something you don’t know.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

 

21. Mark Manson – “This Is Enough.”

While you’ll have to excuse his Latin, here’s how Mark Manson phrased it; “We now reserve our ever-dwindling fucks for the most truly fuck-worthy parts of our lives: our families, our best friends, our golf swing. And, to our astonishment, this is enough.”

I’ve found adopting Manson’s advice shows that most things don’t matter. But some matter more than anything. Focus on what and who matters. Ignoring the rest reduces stress and improves relationships.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

 

22. Serge Faguet – Finding Flow

This guy is fascinating. By working in flow he’s pushing boundaries everywhere from business to biohacking. Working in flow makes me more productive, creative and having more fun. I learn faster. Serge has a number of specific tips I follow to help get into flow: practice every day, meditate, eliminate distractions, have high-quality downtime.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: How to biohack your intelligence — with everything from sex to modafinil to MDMA

 

23. Seneca – Religion Has A Use

Growing up I never gave religion a second thought. At the age of seven, God was in the same mental category as Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Seneca made me rethink religion with this quote; “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

Now whether Seneca meant the rulers use it as a tool for power, I don’t know. But I now can see that religions are mental frameworks to help people deal with life. The myths and rules help them live.

What made me realise this more than anything was adopting stoicism. While the philosophy is not a religion, there are enough similarities that the benefits stoicism has brought me has allowed me to appreciate religion.

 

24. Nicolas Cole – Laughing

Yes, this is is his second appearance in this list. But this time it’s for a different piece of advice.

When I’m chasing a goal it feels so serious. I’m not thinking about having fun. Nicolas Cole reminds us we can do both: “The best ideas come through ease.” & “The best flow happens in moments of joy.”

 

Here’s where I read this advice: 7 Crucial Lessons People Often Learn Too Late in Life

 

25. Ron Paul – Don’t Forget The Golden Rule

My first instinct now isn’t to help someone, it’s to make sure I don’t hurt anyone. Harm can be done to ten people when you help one. It’s made me realise if you want to do good in this world, you must make sure you’re not doing any harm. When Ron Paul imagined applying the Golden rule to nations, I realised it is as applicable to my own life. Here’s what he said:

“Maybe we ought to consider a Golden Rule in foreign policy: Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want happening to us.”

 

26. Darius Foroux – Exercise Daily

I lift weights. But I only need to do that 4 days a week. I used to rest the other three days. I had a strong body. But exercising everyday makes it far healthier. Why? When I’m not lifting weights, I’m stretching, walking or doing yoga. Now my body is much healthier.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: 25 Things About Life I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago

 

27. Zat Rana – Don’t Do One Thing

Zat Rana taught me how learning multiple things at a high-level makes you learn faster. So instead of having casual hobbies, I take them seriously. I learn from them, and they enforce my other skills. Bodybuilding helps me write, and writing helps me lift. Weird but true.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Expert Generalist: Why the Future Belongs to Polymaths

 

28. Nassim Taleb – Follow Your Excitement

Reading Nassim Taleb is one of the most fun things I do. Even when he’s talking about traditionally dry subjects; finance and statistics, his writing is exciting. His life is exciting. Here’s what Taleb wrote:

 

“My knowledge of technical matters, such as risk and probability, did not initially come from books. It did not come from lofty philosophizing and scientific hunger. It did not even come from curiosity. It came from the thrills and hormonal flush one gets while taking risks in the markets. I never thought mathematics was something interesting to me until, when I was at Wharton, a friend told me about the financial options I described earlier (and their generalization, complex derivatives). I immediately decided to make a career in them.”

 

Doesn’t that sound awesome? A career that gives you thrills? Following his excitement wasn’t a distraction, it became a learning superpower. For me, writing is like this. You write successful articles, ones that are ignored, and pieces you’re nervous to publish. That’s a thrill, and a good way to live.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

 

29. Aaron Curtis – You Don’t Need To Cheat

Aaron Curtis is a natural bodybuilder (doesn’t use steroids or performance enhancing drugs), yet looks better than most steroid users. He’s a powerful reminder you don’t need to cheat to reach your goals. Sure, you need to work harder and be more disciplined: but that makes your success even sweeter. He’s also hilarious.

(And please note; while I’m using the word cheating to describe steroid users – Aaron Curtis is always humble and shows admiration towards the professionalism of many enhanced bodybuilders).

Here’s what he said on the subject: “I just like eating lots of foods and trying to lift more weights than I lifted the week before, I don’t need steroids to do those things.”

 

30. Ryan Holiday – Stoicism, Reading, & A Commonplace Book

I have stolen so much advice from Ryan Holiday. More than anything his introduction to stoicism has had the biggest effect on my life. His books are awesome.

In contrast to the deep advice of stoic philosophy, here’re three practical pieces of advice I’ve stolen:

  1. Reading 150+ books per year (I’ve read 100 in 242 so far)
  2. Keeping a commonplace book (Although I use Evernote)
  3. Listening to one song on repeat when writing

Also, I literally stole the idea and headline for this article from Holiday. Here’s what he wrote: 28 Pieces of Productivity Advice I Stole From People Smarter Than Me.

 

31. Blake Powell – Focus On The Process

“Instead of wanting to be successful, you need to learn to enjoy the process itself. Revel in the act of creation, accept good things will come if you do good work, and just breathe,” advises Blake Powell.

Powell’s advice is similar to the story of the king and the original mood ring. The king asks wise men to create a ring that makes him feel happy when he is sad. The wisest of creates a gold ring with the following inscription, “This too shall pass.”

That phrase brings us back to reality when our ego inflates after some success, and lifts our mood when we’ve failed. But Blake Powell’s advice to focus on the process does the same thing. We focus on what we can control, so we keep producing good work.

Btw, here’re 9 more things I’ve learnt from Blake Powell.

 

Here’s where I read this advice: The Simple Truth Behind Being Successful at All You Accomplish

 

 

 

 

 

Image Sources:

https://sachagoldberger.com/

https://fineartamerica.com/art/paintings/chess+pawn?page=3

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/viral-and-trending/101217/scientists-discover-isaac-newtons-childhood-graffiti-in-his-home.html

https://jonathanwordsofwisdom.com/2018/01/16/the-social-media-addiction/

https://www.chobirdokan.com/2116/romantic-couples-wallpapers-eight/

http://www.tsmplug.com/top-10/classic-celebrations-fails-in-sports/

https://nypost.com/2018/02/19/now-trump-is-going-after-oprah/

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/04/09/facing-history

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/04/09/facing-history

https://www.instagram.com/timferriss/?hl=en

https://www.thewelcomeblog.com/stories-of-new-york/the-epic-story-of-the-wall-street-bull/3/21/2016

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2014/05/children_lie_parents_should_teach_them_not_to_but_also_know_that_lying_is.html

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Picture_of_George_Horace_Lorimer.jpg

http://joshelek.blogspot.com/2010/01/monkey-in-people-suit-david-hume.html

http://time.com/money/4657874/5-things-warren-buffett/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-stop-wasting-colleagues-time-1417562658

http://writers4kids.blogspot.com/2015/05/july-27-birthday-of-bugs-bunny-in-new.html

https://hackernoon.com/biohack-your-intelligence-now-or-become-obsolete-97cdd15e395f

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/Decoder/2012/0709/Will-Ron-Paul-pull-off-one-last-delegate-surprise

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*ieFE-OttOL_h7F_R4GgOAg.jpeg

https://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/2015/03/making-blood-splattered-words-dance-off.html

 

On Aesthetics

What are aesthetics? Can you articulate exactly what aesthetics are? If you can’t describe aesthetics, I bet you feel them when you read Hemingway, drive a Tesla or admire supermodel Miranda Kerr.

 

A supermodel? Beauty and elegance are the first foundation of aesthetics. Yet beauty is superficial. Can we ignore it? Sure, at your peril. As George Horace Lorimer wrote, “A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin.” He insists that two thirds of success is making people think you’re alright. Google’s homepage, www.google.com, is the most valuable web page in the world. It could earn the GDP of a small country if they placed ads on it. That’s what other search engines did in the early 2000’s – they plastered ads all over their homepage. But where are they now? Google kept their homepage ad free, clean, simple. Beautiful and elegant. Aesthetic. And today they’re the most popular search engine in the world. Google, as Lormer would say, made people think they were alright.

 

What makes something elegant? Simplicity leads to elegance. Simplicity is the second foundation of aesthetics. Simplicity isn’t finding important ideas. When you say three things, you say none. Simplicity is finding the core idea. When you say one thing, you’ve won. For example, the core idea of Christianity is as useful as the entire bible: don’t do to others, what you don’t want them to do to you. Simplicity is the secret of designers; a profession dedicated to aesthetics. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

 

So what are aesthetics? Aesthetics are elegance, beauty, and simplicity.

 

Why Warren Buffett Is Fundamentally Wrong About Bitcoin

I follow Warren Buffett’s investment advice. I admire him. I avidly watch his interviews. It was in an interview that I heard him talk about Bitcoin. Warren Buffett is right about nearly everything, but he’s fundamentally wrong about Bitcoin.

 

Here’s four things he said and why he’s wrong:

 

1. “When you buy non-productive assets, all you’re counting on is whether the next person is going to pay you more because they’re even more excited about another next person coming along, but the asset itself is creating nothing.”

 

Buffet is right. Bitcoin is a non-productive asset. But it’s not supposed to be a productive asset. Bitcoin is a new form of money. Ultimately, as money, Bitcoin will be judged by how it holds its value, but for the moment speculation also plays an important role (as we will see later).

So Buffet infers we should be holding productive assets. He’s right. Our portfolio should be mostly productive assets such as stocks. But does that mean he doesn’t hold any money at all? As Business Insider reported in August, Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway holds $111 billion in cash.

Are Buffett’s words or actions wrong?

 

 

2. “It’s buying something because you expect the pool of people who want to buy it, because they want to sell it to somebody else, will grow.”

 

This statement reflects Buffett’s greatness as an investor. How? Buffett never bought a company because he thought others would buy it later. Instead, he analyses a company’s intrinsic value and holds the stock. As his returns have shown, Buffett’s strategy works.

But his inference is wrong. He infers that people are fools because they’re buying Bitcoins only because they believe they can sell it to other (foolish) people later. There’s a lot more going on than a greater fools theory.

Buffett succeeds because he focuses on intrinsic value. This is exactly what Bitcoin investors are doing, but with a cryptocurrency instead of companies. They buy Bitcoin because they see it as a better store of value than fiat currencies, and even gold. They believe because it is an intrinsically better form of money, the world will adopt it as their new form of money.

That means the trillions of dollars worth of fiat currencies today could, at least in part, be replaced by Bitcoin. Bitcoin is absolutely scarce, unlike gold which can be mined and fiat currency which can be printed. The number of Bitcoins is fixed. That means as demand increases, each Bitcoin will be worth more. That’s the speculation Bitcoin investors are making.

Is that a crazy theory?

Jamie Dimon is CEO of JP Morgan Chase and a favourite CEO of Warren Buffett. He’s also been one of Bitcoin’s biggest critics. In 2017 he called Bitcoin a fraud.

Yet, as CNBC reported, “J.P. Morgan Chase announced in October the launch of a blockchain-based system that will “significantly reduce” the number of parties needed to verify global payments, reducing transaction times “from weeks to hours.” Royal Bank of Canada and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group are the bank’s partners in the project, called the Interbank Information Network.”

That “blockchain-based system” that Jamie Dimon launched – that’s Bitcoin’s underlying technology.

His system is trying to replicate Bitcoin by using Bitcoin’s technology. Except unlike Bitcoin, his company will have complete control.

J.P. Morgan’s move shows institutional faith in the underlying technology of Bitcoin. This indicates the Bitcoins speculators were correct in recognising the Bitcoin blockchain as a better form of money.

So, while Jamie Dimon says Bitcoin is a bad investment, his company is creating a competing tool that uses the same technology.

Shall we trust the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase’s words or actions?

 

 

3. “You can have anything you want to imagine if you just look at something and say ‘That’s magic’. You can do it with sharks teeth or sea shells or anything. You know, they did it with tulips in the 17th century in Amsterdam.”

What does Buffett think the U.S. dollar is? You know, the thing he has 111 billion of. Money is valuable because other people value it. The U.S. dollar has no intrinsic value. You can’t eat it. It won’t make your car run. It’s valuable only as a medium of exchange and store of value. You know, just like Bitcoin.

And sure, the tulip bubble burst, but shells were useful money for thousands of years. Of course, some forms of money are better than other forms. But as J.P. Morgan Chase indicates, money based on blockchain technology may be better than the U.S. dollar.

 

 

4. “If you had bought gold in 1942 and you said we might lose the war and we might have to run off to some other country, let’s put our assets in gold, you would have less than a penny for every dollar you got from owning stocks. Now if someone calls that a store of value I think they’re delusionary.”

 

Again, Buffet is right. Over long time periods gold has been a terrible investment in comparison to stocks. However, the expected return of Bitcoin is not comparable to the return of gold from 1942. There’s a huge difference.

The difference is that in 1942, gold had been traded, mined, and used for thousands of years. The demand was slowly linearly increasing because people already owned it as jewelry, for industrial use, and as money.

But imagine if gold was first discovered in 1942? Demand would have grown exponentially and chances are that gold would have outperformed stocks.

Bitcoin was invented in 2009, not thousands of years ago. If people, organisations, and institutions continue to adopt Bitcoin as a store of value, or major banks use it as a daily settlement tool, Bitcoin’s value will grow faster than the market index.

 

Most speculators, critics, and traders don’t understand Bitcoin very well. Admittedly, I’m one of those people. But it’s clear, so is Warren Buffett.

 

Why I Was Wrong About The Palestine-Israel Conflict

Like so many people, I’m outraged by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s shameful.

 

And like so many others, I know my views are correct. The other side is wrong, not me. My feelings are shared by hundreds of millions of people. The weird thing is, they’re shared by both the pro-Israel and pro-Palestine supporters.

 

Yet, most of these people are like me. They aren’t Israeli. And they aren’t Palestinian. They have no family involved in the conflict. Yet, we share a moral outrage.

 

Are we angry because we’re reasonable and rational moral individuals? Or is something deeper going on?

 

Underneath our outrage

Maybe we’re not as moral as we think. In the Moral Animal, Robert Wright explores the science of evolutionary psychology. Here are four revealing quotes:

 

  1. Our emotions evolved because they helped our genes survive

“Sympathy, empathy, compassion, conscience, guilt, remorse, even the very sense of justice, the sense that doers of good deserve reward and doers of bad deserve punishment—all these can now be viewed as vestiges of organic history on a particular planet.”

 

  1. Morals are an excuse for political action

“…a moral code is a political compromise. It is molded by competing interest groups, each bringing all its clout to bear. This is the only discernible sense in which moral values are sent down from on high—they are shaped disproportionately by the various parts of society where power resides.”

 

  1. What seems morally right to us, is actually only right for our genes survival

“What is in our genes’ interests is what seems “right”—morally right, objectively right, whatever sort of rightness is in order.”  

 

  1. In essence; people use morals to gain and retain power

“…moral discourse, political discourse, even, sometimes, academic discourse—are by Darwinian lights, raw power struggles.”  

 

Our moral sense stems from what is best for our genes survival and replication. So, our moral outrage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be based on what’s objectively right, but on what supports our tribe.

 

Can this really be true? Are our morals nothing more than subconscious tools of our genes?

 

What’s this got to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Why would our genes care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? We’re not a risk from the bombs and bullets. And we have nothing to gain.

 

So what’s going on?

 

In part, our brains of today were developed when all social interactions within our tribe determined our level of food, sex, and protection. If our tribe liked us, we (and our genes) survived. Today, our empathetic brain is being hijacked by images of wounded children and crying mothers. These images won’t determine the food or sex we get, but our ancient brains don’t know that.

 

But there’s more going on, and it’s linked to virtue signaling. Robert Wright helps explain the term “introjection”:

 

“Absorbing the values and traits of others, including powerful others—may be a way of cozying up to a high-status person who “distributes status and rewards to those who support his beliefs.”

 

But we don’t only use our morals for inducing good-will from high-status people. We use them to build friendships. And what’s that got to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

 

Wright explains, “One of the strongest bonds two friends can have—the great starter and sustainer of friendships—is a common enemy.”  

 

While we have no direct interest in the conflict, we use it to score points with our friends and political compatriots. It’s a way for us to bond. But while the bombs and bullets land on our TV screens, they explode on their homes. We bond, they’re bombed.

 

What should we do?

The answer to what we should do became obvious to me when I was visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City. You’re probably aware that state-sponsored art, like this museum, becomes a tool for state propaganda. That’s why the CIA supported Jackson Pollock’s modern art during the cold war – so on all fronts the U.S. appeared superior to the Soviets (clearly another CIA action with disastrous unintended consequences – the rise of modern ‘art’).

 

While the first half of Mexico City’s modern art museum was filled with dangling ropes and other nihilistic modern art, the second half was filled with exhibits focusing on the evil three-lettered American spy agencies; the NSA, CIA, and FBI. Ruthless as America’s secret agencies may be, this moral outrage towards America is blinding visitors from a far more subversive problem in Mexico.

 

There’s a museum in Mexico City that is banned to the public, including Mexican citizens. The Narco Museum. It’s filled with everything from gold-plated automatic weapons to mountains of methamphetamine.

 

The Mexican government’s moral outrage is directed towards America, rather than the drug war in their own country. Over 20,000 people are murdered every year. Kids are dissolved in acid. Politicians are either corrupted or murdered. The police work for the cartels. That’s their real problem. Yet, they focus their outrage on the FBI, CIA, and NSA.

 

Their outrage is similar to millions of people who express their outrage at the Israeli-Palestinian war. They focus on the actions of people they can’t influence, while simultaneously neglecting their own problems within their control.

 

We should not interfere with the injustices in the Middle East. We should address the injustices in our own life. There are kids in their twenties worrying that the Palestinian refugees don’t own a real home, yet they don’t own one either. They should redirect their efforts towards the economic challenges in their own countries. Or even better, study engineering and earn a home themselves.

 

It’s not heroic to be outraged at something far away (no matter how many retweets or likes you receive). There is no cost for you, you sacrifice and risk nothing.

 

It’s easier to condemn a dictator in a distant land than stand up to our own tyrannical boss. It’s far less painful to condemn a soldier for shooting a child, than to condemn ourselves for that third bowl of ice-cream. We appear as angels compared to the devils of war.

What if I’m wrong?

Maybe I’m wrong. But that doesn’t change what we should do. We should still focus on our own life. If you actually want to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond a retweet,  you first need real power of your own.

 

Consider the story of Sam Zemurray, the banana man. He was a poor Jewish immigrant in America. He didn’t spend his time focused on his moral outrage, he focused on building a banana business. His focus was so intense he became more successful than the monolith that was United Fruit. And having focused on himself and his company his entire life, when the time came, he was in a position to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

In 1948, the UN would vote to decide whether to recognise Israel as a country. The Arab states didn’t want to recognize the Jewish state. The western countries did. As a result,the South American countries held the balance of power.

 

It was at this moment that Sam Zemurray influenced history. Using his contacts and money, he phoned presidents across South America. Through persuasion and bribery, he convinced many to either swing their vote in favour of Israel or to abstain. His phone calls gave his Jewish people an internationally recognised state.

 

Perhaps the modern millennial feels they have as much control over their own lives as they have control over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. House prices are high. Jobs are low. Millenials have no hope. This is bullshit. And self-defeating. Sam Zemurray had no education and got his start selling the bananas others would throw away. If he can turn trash into one of the most powerful companies in the world, surely a millennial can overcome a tough job market and a pricey housing market.

 

You may stay out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because you recognise your moral outrage may be misplaced. Or you may stay out of the conflict because, like Zemurray, you want to focus on building the power that can truly influence the conflict. Either way, your actions will be the same; you’ll focus on your own life.

 

We can apply this tribal moral outrage to many modern phenomena. Trump, Hillary, radical feminism, toxic masculinity, gangsters, banksters, and other trend-worthy topics. But imagine if people diverted their energies to correct their own problems, before focusing on the apparent wrongness of others. Wouldn’t that be more moral?

How To Earn Fuck You Money (Yet Why You Don’t Need It)

The Power Mrs Nader & Peter Thiel Share

We think financial independence protects us from the big-bad-world. But it’s the same illusion a 3-year-old has thinking their security-blanket protects them from the big-bad-wolf. Even when your financial independence protects you from an evil corporation’s long line of litigation-loving lawyers, they find other ways to attack you. They will slander you in the press.

 

“Bring it on,” you say? They were warming up. They’ll go after your family. As Nassim Taleb explained; “General Motors, in the campaign against Ralph Nader (who uncovered flaws in their products), desperate to stop him, resorted to harassing Rose Nader, his mother, calling her at three in the morning–in the days when it was hard to trace a telephone call. Clearly it was meant to make Ralph Nader feel he was guilty of harming his own mother.”

 

We’ve been talking about financial independence. But there’s another kind of financial status you dream of: fuck you money. If financial independence is the bodybuilder who feels tough, fuck you money is the martial artist who is tough. Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor who was a founder of PayPal and the first major investor in Facebook. I don’t know if Thiel practices martial arts, but his money has a black belt in judo, jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. His fuck you money is earning fuck you money in interest.

 

As Ryan Holiday described in his book Conspiracy, Thiel’s wealth helped him destroy a media empire. Thiel took offence when a scandalous blog, part of the appropriately named Gawker empire, outed him as gay. True as it was, Thiel felt they invaded his privacy. But he didn’t act like the financially independent and start a war of words. His real fuck you money would speak louder than any Twitter fingers ever could. Thiel waited, with his lawyers in the wings, until Gawker slipped. Gawker published a private sex tape of wrestler and American icon Hulk Hogan. Thiel secretly funded Hogan’s lawsuit. The lawsuit won, Thiel bankrupted the Gawker empire. Gawker slipped. Thiel made sure they fell.

 

We think it’s only the elite Peter Thiel’s of the world that can stand up to corporate bullies. Mrs Nader shows us we’re wrong. Her story continues, “It turned out that Rose Nader was herself an activist and felt flattered by the calls (at least she was not left out of the battle).” Rose Nader didn’t have fuck you money. She had a fuck you attitude. Fuck you money promises comfort when adversity arises, while a fuck you attitude promises the ability to handle the discomfort of adversity, even relish it. Everything you think fuck you money promises you in the future, a fuck you attitude gives you right now.

 

The empire destroying fuck you that Thiel delivered, rested upon a foundation of decades of living with a fuck you attitude. When Thiel began working at a prestigious law firm, he said fuck you to the typical career path of an ivy-league graduate. He quit. His attitude continued. This time he quit managing a successful hedge-fund to to say fuck you to the very financial system he was part of. He founded PayPal. If he never said the early fuck you’s and took the risks of leaving his law firm and hedge-fund positions, while we can assume he would have made many millions and achieved financial independence, he wouldn’t have earned the billions that helped him destroy Gawker. Those who get real fuck you money, take the risks with a fuck you attitude long before getting the money. The attitude comes first, the money follows. With a fuck you attitude, you’ll find you don’t need the fuck you money. But you’ll be more likely to get it.