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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Life Lessons Learned from Hang Gliding


As you may or may not know, I’ve been taking hang gliding lessons for the past few months. Because my time in Northern California is quickly coming to a close and it will be much more difficult to learn how to hang glide back in Michigan, I took a half day vacation this past Tuesday and headed down to Milpitas; I had two of the very best (and longest) flights that I’ve had to date. I was at the top of the 50 ft training hill all morning and learned a ton about steering and pitch! Being in the air for 20-30 seconds gave me much more time to try new things and to get feedback.

I was with two other students and while they were flying and hauling the glider back up the hill,  I considered some of the many parallels between hang gliding and life in general.

It’s hard to recover from a bad launch: When you launch a hang glider you’ve captured a lot of energy. Ideally a pilot uses this energy to navigate and stay aloft for a while (my instructor doesn’t even take out his glider if he’s not going to stay up for at least an hour). When I have launched my glider when it wasn’t balanced I always end up taking much shorter flights because I have to spend a lot of my energy correcting the glider in the air vs. doing it correctly on the ground. In life and business, I’ve found that doing something successful on your first time out of the gate is really important. When I bought my first house I paid fair market value. I also didn’t have to do much to the property except move in and get some house mates. This positive experience is responsible for my continued interest because it did something far more valuable than making money: it built my confidence such that I believed that I could do it successfully. Now when I purchase a property, it’s almost always below market value and has a 5 or 6 figure rehab budget. This type of project would be terrible property to start one’s real estate investing career one. Thus far I’ve been training on a 330 sqft glider. I’ll work my way down to a 170 sqft one. In life it’s important to aim for a perfect launch and to do that you should set yourself up for success by starting with training wheels.

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