Internet has a lot of amazing gems. My list of articles to read and videos to watch has grown significantly. This is my repository of links that should be re-visited. Consider this as a public bookmark.
Address at the Sorbonne in Paris, France: “Citizenship in a Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt | This speech is often referred to as “The Man in the Arena” speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities—all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority, but of weakness...It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat...In short, the good citizen in a republic must realize that they ought to possess two sets of qualities, and that neither avails without the other. He must have those qualities which make for efficiency; and he also must have those qualities which direct the efficiency into channels for the public good. He is useless if he is inefficient. There is nothing to be done with that type of citizen of whom all that can be said is that he is harmless. Virtue which is dependent upon a sluggish circulation is not impressive. There is little place in active life for the timid good man. The man who is saved by weakness from robust wickedness is likewise rendered immune from robuster virtues. The good citizen in a republic must first of all be able to hold his own. He is no good citizen unless he has the ability which will make him work hard and which at need will make him fight hard. The good citizen is not a good citizen unless he is an efficient citizen. But if a man's efficiency is not guided and regulated by a moral sense, then the more efficient he is the worse he is, the more dangerous to the body politic. Courage, intellect, all the masterful qualities, serve but to make a man more evil if they are merely used for that man's own advancement, with brutal indifference to the rights of others. It speaks ill for the community if the community worships those qualities and treats their possessors as heroes regardless of whether the qualities are used rightly or wrongly. It makes no difference as to the precise way in which this sinister efficiency is shown. It makes no difference whether such a man's force and ability betray themselves in a career of money-maker or politician, soldier or orator, journalist or popular leader. If the man works for evil, then the more successful he is the more he should be despised and condemned by all upright and far-seeing men. To judge a man merely by success is an abhorrent wrong; and if the people at large habitually so judge men, if they grow to condone wickedness because the wicked man triumphs, they show their inability to understand that in the last analysis free institutions rest upon the character of citizenship, and that by such admiration of evil they prove themselves unfit for liberty...We can just as little afford to follow the doctrinaires of an extreme individualism as the doctrinaires of an extreme socialism...The gravest wrong upon his country is inflicted by that man, whatever his station, who seeks to make his countrymen divide primarily in the line that separates class from class, occupation from occupation, men of more wealth from men of less wealth, instead of remembering that the only safe standard is that which judges each man on his worth as a man, whether he be rich or whether he be poor, without regard to his profession or to his station in life. Such is the only true democratic test, the only test that can with propriety be applied in a republic. There have been many republics in the past, both in what we call antiquity and in what we call the Middle Ages. They fell, and the prime factor in their fall was the fact that the parties tended to divide along the line that separates wealth from poverty. It made no difference which side was successful; it made no difference whether the republic fell under the rule of an oligarchy or the rule of a mob. In either case, when once loyalty to a class had been substituted for loyalty to the republic, the end of the republic was at hand. There is no greater need to-day than the need to keep ever in mind the fact that the cleavage between right and wrong, between good citizenship and bad citizenship, runs at right angles to, and not parallel with, the lines of cleavage between class and class, between occupation and occupation. Ruin looks us in the face if we judge a man by his position instead of judging him by his conduct in that position. In a republic, to be successful we must learn to combine intensity of conviction with a broad tolerance of difference of conviction. Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.”
Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid | This is a great piece on what is happening in America. “We [Americans] are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth.” “We are cut off from one another and from the past. It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families. There is a direction to history and it is toward cooperation at larger scales. We see this trend in biological evolution. We see it in cultural evolution too.”
The Multidisciplinary Approach to Thinking | Another great take on how to use multidisciplinary approach to make sense of the world. “So why is it important to be a multidisciplinary thinker? The answer comes from the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who said, “To understand is to know what to do.” Could there be anything that sounds simpler than that? And yet it’s a genius line—”to understand is to know what to do.” How many mistakes do you make when you understand something? You don’t make any mistakes. Where do mistakes come from? They come from blind spots, a lack of understanding. Why do you need to be multidisciplinary in your thinking? Because as the Japanese proverb says, “The frog in the well knows nothing of the mighty ocean.” You may know everything there is to know about your specialty, your silo, your “well,” but how are you going to make any good decisions in life—the complex systems of life, the dynamic system of life—if all you know is one well?”
Finance As Culture | This is a beautiful write-up on how finance is influencing our society. “But financialization is no longer purely institutional; it has seeped into our culture. A combination of low interest rates, a historic tech bull run, and the resulting torrent of fomo has tethered us to our monitors to watch candlestick charts. The financialization of culture has manifested in two primary ways: lottery culture and equity culture.”
How to Think for Yourself | Paul Graham on how to think. “To be a successful scientist, for example, it's not enough just to be correct. Your ideas have to be both correct and novel. You can't publish papers saying things other people already know. You need to say things no one else has realized yet.” “Because the components of independent-mindedness are so interchangeable, you can have them to varying degrees and still get the same result. So there is not just a single model of independent-mindedness.” “There are intellectual fashions in every field, but their influence varies.” “The conventional-minded are often fooled by the strength of their opinions into believing that they're independent-minded. But strong convictions are not a sign of independent-mindedness. Rather the opposite.”
Beyond Smart | Paul Graham argues there is more than just intelligence. “If you asked people what was special about Einstein, most would say that he was really smart. What was special about him was that he had important new ideas. Being very smart was a necessary precondition for having those ideas, but the two are not identical.” “Another quality you need in order to discover new ideas is independent-mindedness. I wouldn't want to claim that this is distinct from intelligence — I'd be reluctant to call someone smart who wasn't independent-minded — but though largely inborn, this quality seems to be something that can be cultivated to some extent.” “One of the most surprising ingredients in having new ideas is writing ability. There's a class of new ideas that are best discovered by writing essays and books. And that "by" is deliberate: you don't think of the ideas first, and then merely write them down. There is a kind of thinking that one does by writing, and if you're clumsy at writing, or don't enjoy doing it, that will get in your way if you try to do this kind of thinking.”
Bill Gates' New Rules | An insightful take from Gates on the function of digital age and how business in the 21st century would operate. “To function in the digital age, we have developed a new digital infrastructure. It's like the human nervous system. Companies need to have that same kind of nervous system--the ability to run smoothly and efficiently, to respond quickly to emergencies and opportunities, to quickly get valuable information to the people in the company who need it, the ability to quickly make decisions and interact with customers.”
The Arc of the Practical Creator | I love reading Lawrence Yeo's essays. They are heavy on wisdom and easy to cruise through. “A big part of the creative journey is understanding that there is no finish line. Even if you reach the heights of success, you know that there is still more room to grow. That’s because your potential is not actualized through people telling you that it is. It can only be actualized through an internal commitment to improvement, which is perpetual because we humans have the ability to recognize our inherent flaws. The key is to divorce the allure of external validation from the commitment to internal growth. That no amount of money or praise is a signal that you’ve reached the promised land. That so much of what makes the creative journey fulfilling is humility, and that embracing uncertainty is what allows you to forge onward. This leads to a final paradox that a successful Practical Creator must navigate. On one hand, you must continuously view your endeavor through the mind of a beginner. But on the other, you want to leverage the hard-earned wisdom you’ve picked up through years of experience. In this final stage of the arc, grow your curiosities, but preserve your attention.”
The Mother of All Demos, presented by Douglas Engelbart (1968) | The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Engelbart's December 9, 1968, demonstration of experimental computer technologies that are now commonplace. The live demonstration featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor. This whole video gives you goosebumps because how unimaginable it was in the moment but monumental for future generations. Incredibly revolutionary. Incredibly revolutionary in retrospect.
103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known | Kevin Kelly is still kicking it on the internet. He turned 70 and dropped several gems he has learned over his lifespan. He is such a genuine and fun creative soul.
Why Life Can’t Be Simpler | Complexity is everywhere and if something is too simple then complexity is stored somewhere where no one can see. Hiding complexity does not make the system efficient. “If we accept that complexity is a constant, we need to always be mindful of who is bearing the burden of that complexity.”
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman—Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts 2012 | What a great speech. It will lift your creative confidence and give you forward momentum. One of my top 10 commencement speeches. “The Moment you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your art and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that is the moment that you may be starting to get it right.”
Milton Friedman Speaks: Money and Inflation | How can an economist be so cool? Milton Friedman is a brilliant economist who explains how inflation, taxes and policies work. A great lecture on understanding our current dynamics of our monetary and fiscal state. He explains inflation is the tax we pay for our unmet debts. He further explains it is a self-imposed disease. A must listen!
Theo van Gogh | A fascinating masterpiece by Van Gogh. I loved this letter so much! It is fascinating preview of how Van Gogh thought about the world around him. The letter illustrates the mindset of Van Gogh. He leads with argumentative questions and work backwards to justify his chosen intellectual journey. He describes the importance of independent thinking, giving exploration a space and challenging status quo in a letter to his brother. A must read!
David Foster Wallace discusses Consumerism (2003) | Hearing this was profound. "We don't want things to be quite anymore." This left me speechless. "Reading requires sitting alone by yourself in a quiet room and I have friends, intelligent friends, who don't like to read, because they get—it's not just bored—there's an almost dread that comes up, I think, here about having to be alone and having to be quiet." David is brilliant in formulating his thoughts and observing the cracked surfaces in our contemporary culture. The battle of individual sport vs community sport will always remain alive because we are in constant pursuit of happiness which is a fallacy. David embraces humility in his talk and frankly nothing has changed in the last 20 years since his interview. Our desires and our actions are misaligned and the fork is getting wider with every generation.
The Midlife Unraveling by Brené Brown | What a wonderful perspective on midlife crisis! Either we resist universal laws or face them. Our relationship with universe is critical in understanding who we are. Our entire mid life is lived based upon our upbringings but we forget to identify ourselves and and our needs. This was really an eye opening piece. Like she says, “Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling.”
The Case for Optimism by Kevin Kelly | This was such a great piece on why optimism matters. In order to move civilization forward, civilization requires trust, trust requires optimism and civilization requires optimism. Our ancestors sacrificed so we could have a better future. This spirit of moving forward needs to be passed down to future generations. We should be optimistic not because our problems are smaller than we thought, but because our capacity to solve them is larger than we thought. Optimism yields happier and more resilient people. Bad things happen fast, while good things take longer. Being optimistic puts you in alignment with the long arc of history, and a part of something much bigger than yourself. The reasons for optimism are far greater than pessimism. Then we should remind ourselves that feeling optimistic is a moral obligation.
The Age of the Essay by Paul Graham | PG points out that the most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Due to historical events, the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature. If there's one piece of advice I would give about writing essays, it would be: don't do as you're told. Don't believe what you're supposed to. Don't write the essay readers expect; one learns nothing from what one expects. And don't write the way they taught you to in school.
What You'll Wish You'd Known by Paul Graham | I wish I would've read this years ago. I love this essay a lot and I agree with what Paul Graham has to share in this article. Staying upwind, working on hard problems and going beyond school to discover fun topics has astronomical career benefits. Math or economics? Math will give you more options over economics. PG uses flying a glider downside vs upwind analogy because glider doesn't have an engine, you can't fly into the wind without losing a lot of altitude. If you let yourself get far downwind of good places to land, your options narrow uncomfortably. As a rule you want to stay upwind. So I propose that as a replacement for "don't give up on your dreams." Math is upwind of economics. But how are you supposed to know that as a high school student? Look for smart people and hard problems; however stay away from fake problems and people. Smart people can pretend to be smart by publishing research papers which can be nonsense. Hard problems means worry. It's exhilarating to overcome worries. When an olympic athlete wins a gold medal, it leads to relief. It's not that bad after all. Diff bw high school students and adults might look like adults have to earn a living. Wrong. It's that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.
Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz | This essays pushes you to think for yourself. Leadership means thinking and leading others. If you are following the herd of opinions and thoughts, you are not leading, but led. Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. How can you know that unless you’ve taken counsel with yourself in solitude? I started by noting that solitude and leadership would seem to be contradictory things. But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.
A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom by Charlie Munger | Charlie Munger is one of the greatest thinkers of our time. There is so much to learn from him and this speech is one of the best on multi-disciplinary thinking. What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head. What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models—because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does. You become the equivalent of a chiropractor who, of course, is the great boob in medicine. And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That’s why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don’t have enough models in their heads. So you’ve got to have models across a fair array of disciplines.
The Psychology of Human Misjudgment by Charlie Munger | The hallmark of an excellent professional is impeccable judgment, perhaps more so for managers. To make good judgments, one must be cognizant of human tendencies to err in a predictable and systematic way. Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathawa and a long-time partner of Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man after Bill Gates, arrived at 25 psychological tendencies of human misjudgment, which he has presented in lectures at Caltech and Harvard, and is published in a book entitled Poor Charlie's Almanack in a chapter called The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.
The Tail End by Tim Urban | If you want to compress your timescale you should check this visually stimulating piece out by Tim Urban. In the end this article made me realize our concept of timing is off and is not what we think it is. It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. Living in the same place as the people you love matters. Priorities matter. Quality time matters.
Google Platforms Rant by Steve Yegge | An engineer's perspective on working at Google vs Amazon. A lot of insights to take away from this rant especially on security vs accessibility. Amazon is what it is today because it got its act together early on due to Bezo's mandate. Like anything else big and important in life, Accessibility has an evil twin who, jilted by the unbalanced affection displayed by their parents in their youth, has grown into an equally powerful Arch-Nemesis (yes, there's more than one nemesis to accessibility) named Security. And boy howdy are the two ever at odds. But I'll argue that Accessibility is actually more important than Security because dialing Accessibility to zero means you have no product at all, whereas dialing Security to zero can still get you a reasonably successful product such as the Playstation Network. The Golden Rule of Platforms, "Eat Your Own Dogfood", can be rephrased as "Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything." You can't just bolt it on later. Certainly not easily at any rate — ask anyone who worked on platformizing MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformizing Amazon. If you delay it, it'll be ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front. You can't cheat. You can't have secret back doors for internal apps to get special priority access, not for ANY reason. You need to solve the hard problems up front.
The Architecture of Tomorrow by Sotonye and Ben Horowitz | This was a great interview given by Ben Horowitz. But I was equally impressed by the questions asked by Sotonye. There were so many takeaways—bits vs atoms, regulations, innovation post-covid, etc. But I couldn't stop thinking about living-in-scarcity vs living-in-abundance. With scarcity mindset, people become haters, and they forget they have so much to contribute, but they forget they can. Martin Luther King Jr. was a contributor and had an abundance mindset. He contributed in big ways. Inspire of so much going against him. People with scarcity mindset are always unhappy. They have so much to share but they think they have very little. If you have to choose between the two, always pick the abundant mindset because that is a much better route.
Runnin' Down a Dream: How to Succeed and Thrive in a Career You Love by Bill Gurley | Bill Gurley had many great lessons to share with the world in his talk. He shares the stories of luminaries (Bobby Knight, Bob Dylan, Daniel Meyer, Katrina Lake and Sam Hinkie) and the patterns shared amongst them. These were the three stories I had read them all independently and I noticed that there was a similar strain that was running through each and every one of these stories and so now I've organized five profiles that I want to talk to you about. Life is a use it or lose it proposition.