Asia: A Look Back

It has been almost a month now since I returned from 4 months of backpacking Southeast Asia. My time abroad passed quickly, but nowhere near as fast as the last 30 days seemed to go. A wise man once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” But even when you do take the time to stop and look around for a while you can still miss it!

Large companies have trouble innovating because they are so good at doing whatever it is that lead to their growth. The irony is that if the company doesn’t innovate it will eventually go out of business. A good example they use over at Imaginatik is that of a a race car: if your pit crew cares about winning then they’re busy optimizing your entire car for the demands of the day: aerodynamics, gasoline engines, etc. But the “innovation team” believes that the car of the future will be an electric powered, flying, driver-less car. They come to the pit crew and tell them that they want to start changing things based on how they believe the future will turn out. You can see the problem; it’s a Catch-22. Implement the changes based on some possible future innovations and you’ll likely destroy current profitability. Wait too long and someone else will come out with the future while you’re still optimizing the past.

Common innovation literature seems to have come up with the answer, partly due to the way that Lockheed Martin handled things: split them up. That is keep your performance engine cranking because it’s doing many things well: profitability being one of the major ones. But because it’s a large cog that’s slow to change and hard to influence you’re better off putting the smaller, more agile innovation engine in a separate place and disconnecting them. This allows them to learn and fail quickly. Failing quickly is a good thing so long as you’ve structured your experiments properly because this means that you learn quickly. Here’s the problem: if you have a massive gear slowly turning and an extremely fast gear spinning like there’s no tomorrow they’re impossible to link together: you need a clutch.

My daily life had gotten to the point where I was just slowly turning cranking through life; one of the things that I’ve made it my mission to achieve is better insight: and since insights come from intuition and intuition comes from lots of experiences in lots of environments, I decided I needed to spin faster and experience more. Now that I’ve had those experiences I need to make sure that they translate back to my “normal life”. After all, a fat spinning gear off by itself is of no use; it’s only when you’re able to harness that force to propel you forward in life that you recognize it’s true power.

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5 Questions to Answer During My Southeast Asia Sabbatical

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.”

– Amelia Earhart

One of the things that we believe at work is the importance of designing one’s experiments properly: if experiments are designed properly then it’s impossible for them to fail. You always learn something and that is, after all, the point of an experiment. So what are some of the hypothesis that I’m looking to test by going through this sabbatical experiment?

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Two YouTube Videos and Passive Income

I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to find alternative forms of passive income. YouTube is an option, but it’s complicated to figure out how much you can make (I’ve heard different websites talk about between $2-5/100 views) because the amount is always changing depending on how many views, subscribers, and likes each video has. It does seem like one of those snowball things though: as you develop a following you’ll start to have people that will (hopefully) like one of your videos enough to watch the others. And of course, because you only have to make the video once the income is passive.

Here are two videos that I did on my last two vacations. Only the first one is currently monetized. Even though I do license the music, YouTube has flagged my video both times. I then have to dispute the copyright infringement claim (guilty until proven innocent) and wait at least 30 days before I can actually have the monetization applied.

I’m certainly not as good of a videographer as I am a photographer (yet), but practice never hurt anybody…except for that hang glider…


Could We Get Rid of Our Elected Officials?

While I still have some pretty strong political beliefs, I try not to shove my thoughts down other people’s throats like I used to. I’ve been tossing around an idea for a few months now, though, that I think presents a pretty interesting thought exercise.

We have 435 Representatives in the House and 100 Senators in the Senate. These elected officials are ostensibly in Washington to support the interests of their constituents. But this is impossible: they’re more like an individual pixel on a black and white television whis shows a larger picture of our nation. That pixel can only be black or white. Yes or no. Yay or nay.

Back in “the day”, this made sense but what about now? Justin Amash posts every vote that he makes and explains why which is a fantastic step in the march towards transparency.

So here’s the idea: What if we every person had the ability to vote on every issue?

Preposterous! Insane! Asinine! Impossible!

I can hear it now: “There’s no way every person could know enough about every issue to make an informed decision.” And I would counter, “As it stands, members of Congress are often thrown large reams of paper with small print minutes before having to vote and they may only have a chance to take a cursory glance at the proposed bill.”

I would suggest that by concentrating power, we run a higher risk of corruption of power. If House of Cards has taught us anything it’s that Lord Baron’s observation was true: “power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Many people vote based on their most important issue: pro-choice vs. pro-life, gay rights vs. traditional marriage, etc. The lesser of two evils is quite often chosen because let’s face it: there’s never a candidate who has positions on all issues that align perfectly with our own. But if every person can vote on every issue then settling never has to be a necessity again. Of course I don’t believe that every person would vote on every issue. But I do think that interesting central voting authorities would develop to lobby for individual’s to assign their proxy rights to vote on particular things.

Let’s say that you support the NOH8 campaign that has been going around. What if instead of raising money to spread the word, they collected proxies to vote on issues surrounding gay marriage? Focus on the Family would likely collect proxies of traditional Christians to vote not only on issues surrounding gay marriage but also a host of other issues that they care about. I would suggest that a central tenet be that proxies could be reassigned at any time prior to the vote. This breaks voting from its regimented past and transforms it into a very fluid way of expressing our nations desires.

One positive thing I see coming out of this is that we sidestep the issues of concentrated benefits and distributed costs. Farming subsidies still exist because they benefit farmers in large amounts and only cost the average American a few pennies. Any lawmaker that made it his mission to eliminate this pork barrel spending would gain some vehement enemies and those of us that saved a few pennies probably would even think twice about what he did. But since everyone is now voting and elected officials are no longer in office, there are no reelection campaigns to worry about and we instead see a purer form of law.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. I’m sure there are many holes in my idea and many things that I haven’t thought about yet. Enjoy the thought experiment!

Bitcoins and a Human IPO: Interesting Alternative “Investments”

Back on June 20th, 2013 I ordered a 5 GH/s Bitcoin Miner from Butterfly Labs affectionally nick-named the Jalapeño. I also bought a USB cable for it and with shipping, I paid $312.99 for it. I just received it last week making the time between order and delivery eight days shy of six months! Had I gotten it when I paid for it, I probably could’ve made a few thousand dollars…especially if I had held the Bitcoins earned until the recent 10x surge that they went through. Ironically, had I merely bought Bitcoins with my $312.99 and held those, I probably would’ve made more money.


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