My Biggest Takeaway So Far (2)

Many people have the preconceived notion that anyone in business bask in luxury and swims in money. While it is true that many who go into entrepreneurship or business become wealthy and are able to live in ways many people can’t, it does not hold in many cases.

Small business (fewer than 500 employees) is the backbone of American business and the American economy by extension. Studies have shown that many small business owners earn (after profits have been distributed etc) less than many high end government workers. What many people never realize is how burdened small businesses are and fragile they despite serving a very social role without which many communities will simply collapse or go into decay.

My biggest take away so far, is that going into entrepreneurship or the business route is not for people who can’t do without the luxuries which a stable income will afford. In the early days when no money is coming in and you are trying to still figure out many things, living the most shoe string life style is not an option.

At the end of the day, entrepreneurship and business must not be an end in itself. It must be be a means towards a higher end. Its this higher end which keeps people in check and allows them to strive on when answers are hard to come by and no end dates exist.

My Biggest Takeaway So Far

In my 8 months of being on iTruck, the two biggest things I’ve come to learn fast are the virtues of patience and constant self learning; with constant learning being the greatest.

Naturally, I am a patient person. I went from a kid with a very hot childhood temper which many people exploited into on the most most patient people you might ever come across. This trait has helped me so far. In building a startup, things are bound to change and a lot of uncertainty and risk is inherent with no specific end dates insight.

In going the startup route, waiting for the day with the right conditions or when you will know everything is delusional. No one is ever going to perfectly have all the skills needed. Self-learning along the way is key. More than not, all my monthly personal development plans and daily plans – thought they are geared towards the startup – mostly revolve around learning new things and reading.

With how the educational system is, skills exist which people are never really thought in school. I learnt programming in a way geared towards solving engineering problems and not towards software development or app development. This is a shift I have had to make and am still making. A lot of my software work is done by people who write programs.

Since I am a business person, knowing about financial issues is key. Schools don’t teach students about financial issues, this is an area I have had to sink a lot of time into and still am sinking time into because so much exist to be known which I am trying to shrink into a short time span.

As much a running a startup is about business management, in many ways it is really about constant learning and self improvement. At the end of the day, a startup or business is as good as those who run and control it and when investors or people who take interest approach startups, their bets are being placed on those who run and manage it.

Defining “the Box”

We live in an age in which people regurgitate cliches without much critical thought. All people to some degree or the other are guilty of this.

One of the cliches of our time is: “think outside the box.” This cliche is used in the context of trying to solve problems which don’t have easy answers and defy conventional thought.

While “thinking outside the box” is important and can lead of huge ground breaking results, in many ways, “thinking outside the box” first puts the cart before the horse.

All people have their modes of thinking and prisms through which they view the world and interpret its never ending stream of sometimes conflicting and contradictory events. Person A might have a radically different interpretation from Person B for an event which both observed together. The difference between Person A and Person B are the prisms through which they view the world around them.

What many people fail to realize is that they have a prisms which they use in viewing the world. Ways of interpreting events are usually imbibed over long periods of time. Factors which range  from education to environment in which people are socialized into and event to intelligence level.

Being self aware of the prism through which we view the world is an indispensable tool which is of use not only in isolate cases but is of greater use for self improvement.

The next time, you are facing a challenge and you feel like “thinking outside the box”, pause for a second and first define what they box. That box is the limitation you face and its in recognizing your limitations that you will be able to tackle them and advance.

 

Discovering Your Higher Animating Force

Today, many – even among those with ostensibly highly paying jobs – complain that they hate their jobs and feel they are simply stuck in a routine which has not meaning.

Many reasons obviously exist which can explain why this is so. But I believe that one of the biggest reasons is because many people don’t have a higher purpose which animate themselves and see their job as an end in itself rather than a means towards an end.

I believe everyone has a purpose for why they are on earth and why they were born. Part of the mystery of life is to discover this purpose. Its in discovering this purpose that all our energy will be redirected towards achieving this and we will stop seeing our jobs and task in life as mere routines which are devoid of meaning.

No clear cut technique for discovering our life purpose exist. But its up to each person to find it. Its in finding it that life will have a better meaning. Furthermore, if more people actively worked to discover their life purpose, we will have a radically different country and different world in which humanity will be better off and flourish even more.

How to Help Yourself

Simply, help others in getting ahead and think primarily in terms of what others want and not what you want from others.

It might sound counter intuitive but upon more thought it makes sense. With every act of help you give others, its like making a deposit in a savings account of some fixed interest. When you need help (on the day of maturity) you simply cash and you will have a lot of help and social capital to bank on.

This might sound selfish at first and self serving but on a wider scale, this is probably the only true form of altruism which exist and truly aligns with human nature. Imagine a society in which everyone thinks in terms of helping other and not even primarily in terms of themselves. People don’t need to think in terms of themselves because they know that others are already thinking in terms of them and a looking for ways of aligning their interest and wants

Make it a habit to always help people out and think in terms of other. It begins with things as small as conversations. Rather talking about yourself and having at being all about you, make others talk about themselves. I mean, who does not like talking about themselves? With time, it all adds up and down the road you will never be in shortage of help when you need such.

Would the Future be better?

Every once in a while, we hear comments from pundits who say future generations will inherit a worse of country and even a worse off world. They point to actions from the political arena to back up this claim.

While actions from the political arena in the form of short sighted policies for short term electoral and political gain give credence to this prediction, nothing exist to back up this claim.

Through the history of humanity, the world has always been a better place with time though the rates at which the world changed and the areas which experienced such have varied.

Even though in the long run the world gets better and standards of living increase, bumps exist along the way. War  take place, national boundaries are withdraw through peaceful and violent means, inflation’s take place which destroy national currencies and wipe out personal wealth, and great periods of economic stagnation and depression occur.

But only one things guarantees that the world will be a better place. Once a sizable number of the population is ambitious and always think of how to better their lot in life, this trend is surely bound to continue. Its this ambitious lot who have the ability to strive so society can overcome the effects of destructive and shortsighted political policies in no time.

Most importantly, once this segment of the population has the maximum amount of economic freedom feasible at the time, the improvement of the world is bound to improve.

If we look at the trends of the world in terms of technology today, without a doubt humanity is bound of improve in the coming decades. What will make this possible, is this amount of upcoming technology in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence being fused with the most economic freedom possible.

So take a chill pill. Ignore the political clowns and drama and their short sighted policies. We are bound to live in a far better world!

Trump, Amazon, and Consumer Sovereignty

In describing the phenomenon of “consumer sovereignty” in Human Action, Ludwig Von Mises said that:

The real bosses [under capitalism] are the consumers. They, by their buying and by their abstention from buying, decide who should own the capital and run the plants. They determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality. Their attitudes result either in profit or in loss for the enterpriser. They make poor men rich and rich men poor. They are no easy bosses. They are full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. They do not care a whit for past merit. As soon as something is offered to them that they like better or is cheaper, they desert their old purveyors.

Last week, in the tweet below, President Trump said the following:

Image result for donald trump amazon tweet

For someone who professes to be a great businessman, this tweet is quite surprising to say the least. But it goes to show that businesses people don’t need to be schooled in any sophisticated economic theory to be highly successful and wealthy.

True that as a result of Amazon, many businesses have either folded up or are having a hard time staying a float due to competition from Amazon. On the surface it might look like Amazon is the one which brought about such results. But on further investigation and looking beyond what is seen and easy to discern, it was consumers who really brought it about.

Amazon, through painstaking work, had to figure out what consumers wanted and had to develop new and novel ways to serve consumers better which never existed before. Amazon went to the market place, tested its hypothesis and had it validated. Consumers liked what Amazon offered and simply abandoned businesses which they might have once had loyalty to.

Lets look at the matter in another way. Think of all the business (easily close to at least 1  billion of them) of all sizes in the last century which began with the intent of driving everyone in their industry out of business but failed. Why did they fail? They failed because they failed to meet consumer needs in ways which were better than the then prevailing state of affairs.

Personally, I use Amazon and I’m an Amazon Prime member. Why do I give up my hard earned money to Amazon and not any other business? Amazon serves me well, is convenient and does not disappoint. Maybe one day if a company comes about which does a better job than Amazon, I might stop using Amazon.

This example does not only apply to Amazon but applies to a wide range of businesses which people are quick to bash and accuse of driving established players out of business. In reality, its  consumers which drive them out of business by abstaining from them when they discover new and better products which are offered at superior prices.

As Americans we are used to American business always offering new products at competitive prices and see it as the norm and natural state of affairs. But very few of us, ever give what makes this possible any thought. Part of what makes this possible from year to year and from decade to decade is this process through which more efficient bushiness which better serve consumers take over.

Never Underestimating or Undervaluing Yourself

I came across a video clip on social media which tells the story of a man who for over 30 years,  planted a tree everyday in the same area which was once a thriving oasis of vegetation and wildlife but had been transformed into a desert through deforestation.

Each day for many decades, the man simply planted a tree. With time, the vegetation of the once lush area began making a comeback till it once again became a forest in which wildlife also returned.

A lot can be learnt from this story and can be applied to many areas of life.

One lesson to be learnt is consistency. The man made sure he did something everyday and had a pattern and did not expect results to come over night. If anything, the man probably did not have an end results in mind but took on the challenge with an attitude of being open to seeing how things turned out.

In trying to achieve anything, persistence is key. People must be ready for long and drawn out efforts. But in reality too many people lack patience to reach their goals and give up too easily when they encounter the first obstacle.

Many times when aiming for goals or things we want to achieve, we often fall into the trap of looking for the one size fits all solution which needs to be implemented once or just a few times and will give big results. But in reality, results take time and are a consequence of marginal efforts which accumulate over time.

Most importantly, biggest take away is what individuals are capable of achieving. Through social interactions, popular culture, and even the educational system, seeds are sown into people which make them believe they are incapable of transformative acts and they thus devalue themselves. In the process people shortchange themselves and easily dismiss ideas which they might have as careless or wishful thinking.

I don’t know what challenges you face or what goals and life aspirations you might have. But I want to tell you that you are more than capable of reaching it. It definitely will not be easy or will take place over night.  But through consistency, determination, and a unshakable faith in your value and what you are capable of, its within reach and achievable. All you need is some guts and courage!

 

A Few Words on Elon Musk and Regulating Artificial Intelligence

Yesterday, in the tweet below, Elon Musk advanced the argument that through history, technologies and industries which pose substantial dangers have been regulated. In the same vein he suggested that the same must be done to the burgeoning artificial intelligence sector of the tech industry.

Inline image

While on the surface and at face value, this argument sounds sensible and seems to be backed by history, upon greater analysis a number of issues come up.

What is rarely spoken about is the fact that regulations in many instances are actually a boon for incumbent players (and lobbied for by them in some cases) in different industries and harm consumers and smaller and more efficient producers. Regulations have cost which are factored into cost of production which then get pushed onto consumers in the form of lack of improvement in quality or reduction in prices. Its usually bigger players who can afford these cost and not smaller upstarts. In effect, regulations can act as a barrier to entry.

Apart from acting as a barrier to entry, regulations could also have the effect of impeding innovation and knowledge discovery. With less players to compete with, the incentive to innovate and always be on top of the game if a company is to maintain its position reduces. Furthermore, upstarts which might bring new innovations into the market are not given the chance to validate their ideas. Even though big companies might have a lot of capital and seem to have power, as they get bigger they tend to resemble bureaucracies and changes are more difficult to implement. But for smaller upstarts, they are more agile and better able to adapt to changing circumstances. This is why companies  like Amazon and Facebook are doing all that is possible to keep the startup culture and feel alive despite their size.

As a practical example, take the pharmaceutical industry.  The industry is highly regulated with a few powerful players; thus the term “big pharma”.  Cost of developing drugs are very expensive (developing a drug can run into billions of dollars) thanks to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. These cost get push onto consumers. Which is why talk about health care policy in the United States which does not honestly address FDA regulations and cost of developing pharmaceuticals would do little to bring down health care cost.

I for one do not believe AI is a danger to humanity and I also don’t believe that it would bring about a new epoch in history in which scarcity would be abolished and a permanent mass unemployed class would become a problem. But AI presents a lot of exciting new possibilities, and the best way to bring about these possibilities is to have the field open for all. Its by having the field open for all that humanity would benefit the most and any potential dangers which AI might pose would be nipped in the bud.