My friend John asked me yesterday what my New Year's resolutions were. I thought about it for a bit and then told him that I have none this year.
Of course like most everyone I want to eat healthier and exercise more (which for me means mostly yoga and cycling). I want to be a better husband, father, business partner. But these are ongoing efforts that I have been working on for years.
I also have some very specific things like finding a new doctor and shopping for some new pants, shirts, and jackets (some of which the Gotham Gal has already started doing for me).
But unlike years in the past, I can't find a thing or two that I really want to work on or change right now. So I am unresolved this new years day and totally fine with that.
I’ve never done well with resolutions so I’ve stopped making them. I find it better to just try to improve and set long(ish) term goals.
i am moving toward your approach
Good morning Fred, and Happy New Year!I stumbled upon a Disqus thread where you are mentioned.http://www.alleywatch.com/2…I send this as a friendly fyi, since you are challenged by the writer. I learned of it as a fluke, since I follow AlleyWatch on Twitter.Figured it may be relevant to some on this forum, since a related thread was seen here a few days ago (over 440 comments, wow!)Be well, best wishes for the New Year . . .Sincerely,Michael
Here’s another reaction to Fred’s post, by a veteran New York software developer: http://malcolmpollack.com/2…
Yes Dave, I saw how you defended Fred. Your plan seemed sensible by inviting the writer to post here. He sounds unwilling to do so. Too bad, since this forum would offer an ideal venue for dialog.He did express admiration for Fred’s financing of the high school for software programming.
I think Malcolm is right, though, that it’s unreasonable to expect aptitudes to be evenly distributed between different groups or genders, and his post is worth reading.
I also put in a plug about joining the dialogue (and switching to Disqus). We need the differing perspectives.
Some do not want dialogue. They just want to opine. For me, greater learning through interaction even if observing the interactions of others.
I see that in running/ monitoring a Facebook page: some just spew their platitudes and are unwilling to even hear an opposing idea! Some, taking it further, just want to be negative and mean.
Do you believe that the FB environment is conducive to dialogue? I don’t have much experience with trying to do this on FB.I had to see this modeled — actually here at AVC — to recognize that this type of interaction is possible online.
It depends. I love that answer, don’t you!I’ve tried to take some cues from the bartender here at AVC for the Garden Design Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/ga…
That’s visually stunning. Was a bit shocked at how many comments but then I don’t spend much time on enthusiast pages . At first glance you may be the AVC of the gardening world. 🙂
Fully agree, Donna; the back and forth can allow both sides to learn.It seems he feared a heated backlash from the community here. Hmmmm, not sure why. This seems like a rather level-headed forum 😉
We have our heated moments — especially around political topics — but nothing compared to what I’ve seen on other blogs. Even with the code of civility that permeates AVC, it is not always for the faint of heart. We have some very smart, very courageous souls around here.
we have to do many things but i have to pick one and i’ve made my choice. the gothamgal is pretty focused on the situation outlined in that post with her blog, her WE Festival, and the investments she makes
Many of us are rooting for you, Fred; may you and Gotham Gal have a joyful and prosperous New Year!
True. Same here.
If there was ever a reason for a social network, one built to support new years resolutions would be it. Maybe that’s what AVC is!
I decided this is what I am going to do as well. It doesn’t make too much sense to only make resolutions on new years. It is like waiting till Monday to start a diet or workout routine.
I cannot seem to convince my psyche that a date significantly changes my existence. However, the new year is a valuable marker and reflection point for me and I do expect some great developments in 2014 –based on resolutions made in the past. Although I call them goals and they are generally long-term.Happy New Year AVC community! You are a wonderful part of every year. Much happiness and success and many meaningful moments to each of you.
5 year plan
A thought for the new year – ‘Often we spend all our time thinking how we can change situations instead of letting them change us.’Happy new year everyone. 🙂
interesting notion. do you have an example of how that happened to you?
I was thinking in the context of resolutions, Fred. I like doing theme years (e.g. Year of the guitar) and have found that while they work out 50% of the time, the rest of the time, other things emerge. And these things may not have been what I wanted but are always what I most needed.After a run of theme years, I’ve decided not to have a theme this year. No goal to change anything this year.. I’m looking forward to it changing me.
don’t change yourself … be nice and be good and do good ….and the world will change for you …for sure.
I don’t know about the “don’t change yourself” bit. 🙂 I do agree with the rest. 🙂
Happy New Year Ro!It can be both, don’t you think?BTW, along these lines I love the quote from the C.S. Lewis character in Shadowlands about why he prays: “It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”
Absolutely can be both. I err on the side of too much push most of the time so learning to do the opposite is helpful.. haha.Love the quote.. happy new year Donnnaaa! Do say hello to all at home! 🙂
I shall! And my best to her loveliness, Mrs. Rajiv.
Haha. Will convey!
Being satisfied with oneself already is important.
Reminds me of a thought from Scott Adams (Dilbert fame) new book; I found his argument of systems trumping goals to be compelling. See bullet 8 in this summary that Shane Parish (great great blog) did of the book. http://www.farnamstreetblog…
As I kept waiting for 2014 last night, I was surprised to get 2013S.
(hint: think apple)
An iterative year, not disruptive?
Good way of putting it.
Well, we don’t really know… yet.
I, on the other hand, found that 2014 was released without so much as a tweet or a media event. (For some odd reason there were only two countdown shows going in Chicago last night, very, very weird. NBC and CBS were showing re-runs of their late night shows.
Like Beyonce’s album. You can start to download it now, but it will take you 365 days to finish though 🙂
Reminded me more of the Nexus 5 release. Just showed up on the website, no media event, no announcement, just BAM! New Phone.
Somewhat anticlimactic. Except my kids were keeping an eye on the Google landing page to see what would happen to the departing 3 and the 4 waiting in the wings.
I switched over to the Galaxy 4 last night. Quite coincidental, but this may have to become a tradition– new year, new gadget.
Were you on the iPhone or another Android before? I’m thinking of ditching the iPhone after 5.5 years, unless Apple pulls a rabbit out of their hat with some kind of spectacular iPhone6. Don’t they know that users will get bored after a while. The iPhone has lost its sex appeal with me.I’m looking at the Nexus 5, Oppo N1 or Xiaomi.
I was on android — Galaxy 2 Skyrocket. iPhone has never appealed to me, but I’ve bought several for my husband and kids.A friend was over last night, very happy with her Blackberry Bold. I sometimes miss the days when that felt like enough. So far the G4 seems like a winner and has also solved much of my discontent with mobile Disqus.Wll look forward to you hearing your review on whatever you get.Congrats again on the new role with Next36. Looks fun, and another great use of your vast resources.Bonne année!
I resolve to not resolve.
My wife asked me, and all I want is a bit of certainty. The last four years have been quite a roller coaster for me.
We are only certain ed to live tom’row … and that tom’row has already ended 12-hours before in this part of that world :-)…and much earlier in japan and australia …Have a good roller coaster ride … it is too boring and suicidal otherwise …
thanks. a few of my friends have committed suicide. scary.
Oh, Jeff. I’m so sorry.
“The last four years have been quite a roller coaster for me.”Why?
.Not to wander too far afield but I think much of what is wrong with the world today is the product of uncertainty in particular as to how our government is run.Truth builds trust. Trust builds certainty.There has been a huge shortage of truth. No trust. And a shit pot of uncertainty.And, we are all on pins and needles as a result of it.Brilliant comment, Chicago. Well played. Move to Texas. Tell the bastards at the border that I am sponsoring you and yours.Happy New Year!JLM.
It takes a toll doesn’t it?
Illinois charges in the way out. Unlike the NSA, they don’t know your online presence, but they know where your wallet is.
I was referring to the toll extracted by being on a roller coaster over the past four years. Can relate! But I am very familiar literally with the Illinois toll system. I’m from Rockford BTW and have family there so spend quite a bit of time on the 90 when I have business in Chicago.
Chris Brogan suggests that people just pick three words for the year and post them somewhere that they will see them daily. For example: green, move, serene. Green to eat more plants, move to move more and serene to meditate.But I like the idea of no resolutions – the implied resolution being that you’re going to be open to what comes 🙂
How about: custard, couch, complacent?
Ha! We’re all comin’ to your house.
House party. I’m in.
i’m with youwhile i appreciate the reflection every new year brings, there’s no need to wait until it starts to make changes in your lifesmall changes – habits like going to the gym, or eating healthier – can and should be started any time. just takes disciplinebigger changes – personal growth like being a better _____ – is too large and nebulous to do in a year. takes more thoughtfulness and dedication
.I understand your sentiment and applaud it.One thing I have learned is that every journey begins with a single step. Each such step is exactly the same small exercise in recognition and courage. it only takes a thimble full of courage and then you are swept along in the prop wash.Be a courageous first stepper. Take that first flight lesson or violin lesson or coding class.All the best.JLM.
thanks @JLM:disquslucky for me, i’ve got a quick first step
If it’s worth doing on 1/1/14, it was worth doing six months ago, if not 6 years ago.
I’m with you on this Fred.I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I’ve learned and extracting interests that I want to explore further:On the business side for example–the power of brands to cut through the noise and the impractical (maybe impossible nature) of building them online.On the wine side–my infatuation with the creation of wine without added SO2 and the power of categories like ‘natural’, more than certifications to gather consumers around them.I have plans for both, not a resolution though.
Make it happen!
The big difference between saying ‘I’m going to loose 5 pounds’ and I”m going to explore the connection between x and y is the point.It’s not results based, its focus–and for me those are the same.
the power of brands to cut through the noise and the impracticalThis is the source of endless fascination to me.The ability for, say, Waldorf Astoria to (in 2007) open up hotels all around the world. For what is essentially a hotel that was operating in NYC. And to be taken more seriously that if the exact same people choose a brand new name.What I call “invented out of thin air”. Same thing has happened with licensing of legacy brands (like Polaroid or RCA).In other words retailers will take Polaroid more seriously than “Polarstein” in the marketing of electronics even though the people who operate Polaroid have no connection to that original company at all.On October 11, 2001, Polaroid Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Almost all the company’s assets (including the “Polaroid” name itself, which had become almost synonymous with instant photographs) were sold to a subsidiary of Bank One. They went on to form a new company, which also operates under the name “Polaroid Corporation”. It stopped making Polaroid cameras in 2007 and stopped selling Polaroid film after 2009, to the consternation of many users
Nothing is more fascinating, more powerful and more ineffable than a brand with market pull.
Knowledge and Power, The Information Theory of Capitalism and How it is Revolutionizing Our World by George Gilder is an awesome New Year’s Day read!
Resolve to help someone/thing less fortunate. There are plenty of conscious beings that would appreciate it.
May be you could try to reduce your carbon footprint by travelling less?
Look if it makes someone feel good to do something like that by all means go ahead. But to me that’s artificially created anxiety to try and fit in with what others are pushing as their agenda. That people have been brainwashed to much about.I automatically turn lights off at home because it take no effort and I am used to it. And it saves a trivial amount of money as well. But in no way shape or form will I start to enforce that on my wife or for that matter even the kids. First I kind of like the fact that there is light in the house usually and I’ve dated people who are so extreme that they try to get you to use half a paper towel instead of a full slice. Because it’s their mishagas (craziness). So of course you have to go along with what they find important.Anyway here’s the bottom line. I don’t want to have a negative with someone who is close to me by trying to get them to do something that is external to our well being or the relationship. The people that are close to you are the most important. Something like “carbon footprint” is a society issue and not worth the tradeoff in a good relationship.
funny you should suggest that. i kept my travel to a minimum for most of the past 20 years but i have upped my travel recently. i started paying for business class personally and it has made all of the difference. i now enjoy flying and do it a lot more
You may not have resolutions, but you seem to have a lot of resolve. :)I don’t really create any “resolutions” either, but I do enjoy taking time over these few days (yesterday/today) to pull my head out a bit, climb a tree, look for the horizon, and just make sure I’m headed in the direction I want to be going.And, while everyone is sharing their new resolutions, I just like to remember that–like every day of every year–I’m focused on, “Tenacity. Hustle. Compassion.”
Yes, good call. No one would see Fred as lacking resolve. :)”Tenacity. Hustle. Compassion.” Didn’t see that last word coming at the end of that string. Niceeee.
Universal truth … u become stronger and more rigid over years ….I am 48 and I also did not have taken any resolution … except for being nice to MYSELF.Do what gives happiness to yourself and the rest (rust) will follow….
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”You’re already doing that, it doesn’t get a lot different than that… only better :-)Happy New Year.
“like finding a new doctor and shopping for some new pants”Reason for finding a new doctor? Doctor retiring? Not happy with doctor? Something else?Medicine is more of a CF than it even seems.With respect to this:I want to be a better husband, father, business partner….one of the things that you can do to extend your life is to remove any pressure to be a certain thing or to be better than you can actually be.  This contradicts almost everything you will read. But you have to keep in mind that people writing things (as you found out when you were quoted (or w/ respect to Paul Graham)) play loose and fast with the advice all the time. Ever notice how many people are looking for “the answer” to a problem they have created by what they want out of life that they can’t seem to get? I was just discussing this morning my theory of medical and emotional issues as result of a disconnect between what people’s ambitions are (or how ambitious they are) and what their ability to deal with the stress and anxiety is resulting from those ambitions.The more there is a disconnect between those two things the more people will seek a way to dissipate that disconnect by either internalizing the stress, taking drugs/alcohol or ruining their bodies. Not only does the world need ditch diggers (per Caddyshack) but some people are only meant to be ditchdiggers. And if you are meant to only achieve at a certain level you (not you but “you”) might want to stay there. Putting to much pressure on yourself will result in a systemic failure of your ability to cope.When I met my wife I was trying to get her to open her own practice. She reacted in a way that indicated that she was perfectly happy working for someone else and didn’t want that pressure and responsibility. To me it didn’t seem like pressure but to her it did. Luckily she listened to her body and she is perfectly happy and making a great living w/o the stress of being self employed. Point being she did not over exceed her limitations. Had she done that everything would have been out of wack. I don’t even get where you are coming from with the “husband” and “father” part. From what anyone reading this blog can tell your kids are very lucky as is your wife. You and Joanne are like the cool parents that would mill about at Penn that everyone was envious of. (I’m serious my parents were like old fogies..) As far as “partner” like in the godfather you’ve made plenty of money for your partners, right?
See you don’t want to end up looking like Bill Gates who looks way older than his years. Check out that neck. That’s a 70 year old neck.I speculate that one of the reasons that he left Microsoft is because of some medical issue or problem that we don’t know about.
“New Year’s resolutions”I’m totally against (for me) and have never had any NYR’s. For that matter I don’t set goals either. I don’t feel I need to set goals or any of that “where do you want to be in 5 years” shit. When I went about needing to loose weight about 15 or 16 years ago I just started to exercise with no goals and didn’t even check the scale. I knew as my pants were getting lose that I was making progress. I didn’t do anything weird I didn’t even know what a carbohydrate. I just exercised every day a reasonable amount which caused my appetite to also drop (I’m guessing). (< 1 hour). I didn’t do marathons I didn’t enter races I didn’t do anything weird. Most importantly I didn’t overdo it. I just exercised every day and found something that I could do every day . And it worked. And it’s worked for all that time. My last visit the doctor said “boring”. (Knock on wood doesn’t mean anything won’t happen tomorrow of course..) I just work hard every day and do the best that I can. Those long routines that people do? Gonna have a hard time keeping that up for a long time.
.At the end of the day, our lives are an exercise in talent discovery and development; and, resource allocation. Broad over simplification but the view from my seats anyway.We are luckiest when we find work that is consistent with our talents and inclinations.We all have God given talents. Who knew that George W Bush was a pretty fair painter?It is our duty — duty is a very heavy word indeed — to be a good steward of our individual gifts. Not everyone feels a sense of duty. It stumbled over me at an early age and trussed me up. I am happier for having been so ambushed.I am often asked why I bothered to be engaged in certain seemingly social causes (Austin Midnight Basketball, Peoples Community Clinic, Austin Musical Theatre, VMI Foundation, etc) and my answer was always: “Because I am good at raising money for them and I feel compelled to give back in whatever way I can.”This was not a sentiment that I “knew” but rather one that I negotiated with myself. I felt my way along and at the end of the journey, I thought I was right. Not certain, mind you. I do not possess enough hubris or arrogance to be certain. I am certain about almost nothing really other than things I have actually done.Interestingly enough in retrospect of having been a CEO for over 33 years I am certain of one thing: The outcomes would not have differed if I had taken every Friday off and gone fishing or painted poor people’s houses. I wish I had done more of both.Resolutions are a kissing cousin of planning. We all should have a plan. Oh, not a glorious 50-page plan which is typed up and formatted and printed in a loose leaf binder (BTW, I do usually have such a plan and have it updated a few times per year but it is the product of a bit of training I never spit the bit on at an early point in my career.) but some kind of plan which touches on those things in our lives we really want to develop.I was interested in the subject enough that I wrote a WhitePaper on the subject — Life Planning and Goal Setting for the CEO. The truth of the matter is that it was the outgrowth of a dozen conversations with CEOs who were all feeling the pain of work-life balance with their thumb on the work part of the scale.If you want a copy, email me and I will send you one.Resolutions are “goal setting lite” but I will take the under on the subject and suggest that goal setting is a very worthwhile exercise and when done well will result in a higher level of achievement — for you.Plan your life and live your plan.Happy New Year to everyone. This is going to be your year. YOUR [email protected]
I hope you are right, JLM. I need this to be my year! 🙂 Thank you for all the inspiration that you so generously share! Once again, Happy New Year!
We are luckiest when we find work that is consistent with our talents and inclinations.Would add to that what I said elsewhere with regards to one’s ability to keep up ambition  and keep anxiety and stress in check. (You know you don’t run the car in 1st gear even if it will get you to the speed you want to go, right?) By the way you might find interesting the Charlie Rose interview  (Bloomberg) with the Seal Team member Marcus Luttrell that the Mark Wahlberg movie Lone Survivor  was based on.After hearing the Navy Seal talk about his experience and his (and his team’s) willingness to die I got the distinct impression that, similar to what Al Queda does, people who choose this type of work get a form of brainwashing when going through training that makes them literallly fearless in the fight for the cause. Specifically dying a soldiers death (as opposed to a heart attack or natural causes). As if it was almost an ok outcome. http://www.charlierose.com/%5B3%5D http://www.youtube.com/watc…
.I’ve met him a couple of times. He’s from Texas.When you talk to someone like that who has looked death in the eye and been kissed on the cheek, it is a very moving experience.When you are around a team which has lost members, you are like an intruder at a secret sacrament. It is spooky. Even if you yourself have seen the elephant.Ultimately soldiers fight for their buddies, their team.We ask too much of such men when we suggest that they should die for their country but that is what you take an oath to do.This is why the military should be treated with the same respect in the contract we make with them. It is why we should not be balancing our budget on the backs of such men’s pensions. Many do not live to receive that pension.JLM.
I’ve met him a couple of times. Wow. Who was the SNL character that used to say “I guess you could do better than that?”This is why the military should be treated with the same respect in the contract we make with them.Exactly. For that matter I’m on board with that thinking for most public servants such as police, fire, EMT that is people who put their life at risk.Most likely the reason we don’t do it is supply and demand. Enough people want those careers that they don’t get treated the way they should given the risks that they take.
That logo should have a date worked into it.Could be either the date you started learning (the beginning of “wisdom”) or the date you started offering the advice.Pros and cons to each approach.I tend to lean toward the earlier date.
My greatest regrets revolve around my failure to fully appreciate my gifts and my subsequent / consequent failure to develop them,An excellent prism.
My NY resolution is to stop reading and commenting on AVC.com — oops, yet another NY resolution that didn’t work, haha.In seriousness, my resolution is to carry on with my system that bets against Probability as the be-all-end-all tool and metric by which we measure and qualify data and which is the current de facto basis of Machine Intelligence.Female founders are constantly painted as “safe”, building “lifestyle businesses” and not technical enough to be invested in.Betting against Probability as the panacea of how we can contextualize and comprehend data and improve Human-Machine Intelligence is, well………..”Jumping the curve” level risk-taking (a la Dark Knight Rises grabbing for the ledge and Indiana Jones’s leap from the Lion’s Mouth).H2014 to AVC community. As long as there’s diversity and differences of opinion I’ll continue to engage and learn a lot from and with everyone.
Change happens when you least expect it. Hence why resolutions don’t work, you need to be psychologically ready
I love it. I am Unresolved as well: http://www.entrepremusings…. I’ve certainly not achieved the financial and personal success you have for many reasons, but I consider myself lucky to be where I am. I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity to experience what I have experienced as an accidental entrepreneur. Maybe my kids will absorb what they have seen of me as a survivor of many interesting life experiences and expand on that to achieve success based on their definitions and terms whether it be financial, spirtual, or whatever. I think being content with where you are no matter if you live in a penthouse in NYC or under a bridge in a 3rd world country is really the ultimate success. I’d much rather live in a decent apartment, but you do the best with the “hand you are dealt” as they say. Happy New Year!
I am looking to deepen some current practices this year. One is dance, a joyous activity of celebration.I am choosing swing because it’s fun and lots of music works with it. I will teach my daughter to dance swing because it’s super fun. It’s also a kinetic understanding of coding. I recently realized I was able to bypass calculus because I am a diver and understand moving thru space. How cool is that – STEM thru sports.
Fred Wilson,Famous tech Blogger, VC, Multi-millionaire, Ski Chalet, Hamptons Beach House, etc. etc. etc.And essentially – Fred is just looking for some new pants.#Priceless
i hate shopping
I’d strongly recommend my unassuming, well-balanced, and terrific Dr. Michael Raffinan, 111 Broadway 212.537.5039
i have an awesome doctor for you…
please send me an emaili am doctor shopping this week
Well done, Fred! Happiness is like health – if you don’t notice it (i.e. there is nothing major to improve), you have it.
2-dishes??? May God shower some happiness to you … more the dishes more the happiness …. Get surrounded with dishes and friends/family/foes and it does not matter what we do guys/gals …. May 2014 bring that to you my dear wish man from Lancestor …
.The shit we own that we can live without — except for books, mind you — is about 99% of all the shit we own.Simplification is liberation.Genius on your part. Well earned genius. Well played.JLM.
Today I’m throwing out at least 13 years of paper recordsI find that it’s not a good idea to throw records out and that it’s actually easier  to scan everything (requires a high speed scanner which I have) because it removes decision making. The scanner can work at a high speed  which is faster than having to look and decide what you need and what you don’t need. Then you can find it (OCR it) in case you need some backup for something. To be sure there is also the prep work (removing staples) and also organizing the scans and running the software. But much of that can be done by anyone. Deciding what can be deleted can only be done by you.
I like the idea of practices. Especially of simplification. Purging always gives one a high, especially if you are of the reverse polarity of spender/acquirers, who get their fix the opposite way. But I see it as a high, a buzz.My question to you beyond simplification, which I am all for, is do you then move into a deepening practice? As in, I cleared the crap, and now I have all this time and space – “now what?”, or “I can finally breathe….”. Just curious.
Well said, Sandy, thanks very much!Interesting how you pointed out Jeff Bezos. I recall owning AMZN stock in 1999. He was vilified by many for his badly-flawed business model for Amazon. Many said bankruptcy was likely, based on his early spending.Looking at Amazon’s dominant position today, it seems fair to say his “courage” you noted has served him well . . .
Yes, teaching tech will create workers, but not necessarily leaders. We need both, of course. But entrepreneurs will come from the latter.
I dig your argument but it’s worth pointing out that both Bezos and Hoffman are highly technical (EE & CS, and symbolic systems respectively).
Now, now, now, Sandy, after all the time you spenton cooking and cleaning for Thanksgiving and theholidays, you come out and say> In fields like entrepreneurship or investing -where looking inward at yourself, leading,non-conformity are crucial to success – the strategyof creating more role models should fail, and it hasfailed so far.More of that and Betty Crocker will ask you to turnin your ruffled apron!> I have never been taught this concept in my life.Good that you saw that. Mostly people get opinionsabout such things just from what they observed intheir families, but you went beyond that, looked atthe information, and formulated an explanation thatmakes sense. Thus, by the power and authorityvested in me as an ex MBA prof, you are herebyawarded one insightful entrepreneurial Gold Star withall the rights, privileges and honors thereuntoappertaining. Congratulations!For your> non-conformity are crucial to successWell, nearly necessary for success but not nearlysufficient; we should be clear here.> If we want women to thrive in the future, teachingtechnical work is fine, but teaching this concept isfar more crucial.The truth is stronger still: Coding as a careersucks.As you suggest with “fine”, learning some coding isokay and useful for the rest that needs to belearned. And, for many startups, the founder(s)have to do the coding because there’s no money topay anything like market rates for the coding.But you are correct: Coding alone is not sufficientto make a Jeff Bezos. Early on at Amazon Jeff knewenough to have fun typing in some SQL queries toillustrate how easy it easy to search his database ofitems for sale. Actually, SQL has some nice work init.More important, somehow Jeff has seen how to leadsome excellent exploitation of technology. Jeff’s abright guy. He may not know all the details of whatmakes his server farms work, but somehow he was ableto direct the creation of some of the best serverfarms in the world.So, to borrow from a Sherlock Holmes movie, “thattakes us a step farther”. Now let’s take anotherstep:It’s possible to see such things, non-conformist, inthe future, by means much more solid than guessingor merely being non-conformist.Here is one of the secrets; right, just as yoususpected, in the ninth grade, just before teachingus boys this, the football coach gathered around allof us boys and told us never to let the girls know!So, here I am giving you one of the deep, darksecrets we only teach to boys, nearly as good as howrecirculating ball steering and variable valvetiming work! For how a supercharged Corvette keepsthe cylinders cool is a deep secret! For how to get5000 HP from 500 CU IN, well, that’s double cryptotriple top male secret!E.g., at James Simons’s (someone who does know somethings about technology and investing) magazine site’Quanta’https://www.simonsfoundatio…see”A New Tool to Help Mathematicians Pack”with a story about how many little balls can packinto a big ball, some really cute mathematics abouterror correcting coding, and some drop dead gorgeous(girls aren’t the only examples!) picture up closeand personal of Saturn sent with the electricalpower of a light bulb.Balls? Yes, as in Shannon’s information theory, thesignal want to transmit is like a point; due tonoise during transmission, what gets received is apoint somewhere in a ball around the pointtransmitted. So that two signals can bedistinguished when they are received, thecorresponding balls must not overlap. Then thenumber of different signals that can be transmittedfor the power of the light bulb is essentially howmany little balls can be packed into a big balldetermined by the power.JPL did the packing in 24 dimensions, and that’stricky business where a better solution is valuable.The article describes some new ways to do thepacking to get more little balls in a big ball inhigh dimensions and, thus, how to send data moreefficiently. Cute. Powerful. For the purposes ofJPL and more, valuable.When JPL sent the rocket, they were doing somethingnon-conformist, in the future, in a spectacular way,and there was little doubt that they would besuccessful. Very NICE work!To be sure, they didn’t have to send dozens ofspacecraft and keep fixing problems. Instead, theyknew quite accurately what the heck they were doingjust from careful work on paper before any of theexpensive hardware work started. It really ispossible to take on challenging projects, plan themjust on paper before spending any big bucks, startthe project with the big bucks, achieve the goal,all with very high reliability. Also on time sinceSaturn and the other planets weren’t going to standstill waiting for some ‘lean’ methodology to get thebugs out of the code.It is possible to be non-conformist, see the future,in a spectacular way, with high reliability.Non-conformity is nearly necessary but notsufficient. JPL illustrated how also to besufficient. Nice.Gee, for spilling the secrets in this way, the othermen may string me up by my toes, take a knife, andchange my name from Siegmund to his twin sisterSieglinde!
I love when we go on a de-accumulation spree at our house. Feels better than shopping!
Interesting.Stuff I own that I care about–only artwork fits into that category. the rest, irrelevant honestly.
:)Happy New Year, Charlie. You have a lot to look forward to!
“Rule No.1 is never lose money. Rule No.2 is never forget rule number one.”– Warren BuffettImpossible to implement literally, but the next version of Portfolio Armor will let investors maximize their potential returns while limiting their downside risk to single-digit drawdowns in the worst case scenario. It will take a lot of the fear and regret out of investing.
Thank you, Sandy; your musings are insightful!
You would be wrong.Bezos – and people of his personality type – use their bottom up, multithread unstructured approach to pursue success around a unifying theme (much like Fred does @ USV).YC has no such theme and Bezos would fail, cataclysmically, trying to run a YC operation.
Everyone losses money in the bits of our businesses and our lives.Never loose money as a top line goal is more sensical, yet honestly, an aspiration for early to mid stage endeavors.
I would guess if you asked Bezos and Hoffman if they would hire themselves for a technical job, they would give a flat no.Today, yes; 20 years ago not so much.
It doesn’t apply to running a business or investing in startups, but when it comes to investing in publicly traded stocks, ETFs, etc., an investor ought to be able to say,”The worst possible decline I can stomach is 7% [or 5%, or whatever]. Show me how to get the highest potential return while limiting my downside risk to no more than that.”The next iteration of Portfolio Armor will show them. Update: here’s a guest post of mine on Tim Knight’s blog with more detail on this new feature: http://slopeofhope.com/2014…
Got it.Thanks and happy new year my friend.
Paul’s comments simply reflect his investment thesis: Give young teams enough cash to live for a few months while they make something people want.Code is a wonderful tool. But it’s just a tool.
The word is purge.
I feel mainly the same way, Arnold, but have a broader definition of art to include design. The rub with me is I make things, with stuff, which call it art or design (but hopefully on your list of to save), it is a thing. So I can’t go too thing-less or I dry up on the making end. And that is a very BAD thing.But in general I agree with you – how much could you get attached to the furnishings and mod cons of our lives??
Same to you, Arnold.
As opposed to splurge?Actually we like de-accumulate.
Nicely said.I get attached to my words as vessels for my thoughts as well I guess. The thought of arnoldwaldstein.com vanishing is probably the most painful thing I can imagine in this realm.Although we just moved and I’m rearranging art around to get hung tomorrow and these images are really important and reflective of who I am.
Ha!i have never seen the purge – splurge connection before. Yikes! Too true.De-accumulate I like too.
“Non-conformist”. “Technical”. “Common sense”.Hmm …!I’ll try to clarify the meanings of these words inthe context of what seems to be the core interest ofthe AVC community. That context is essentially whatis called ‘information technology’ (IT). The reasonfor the interest in IT, of course, is the promise ofmaking money, e.g., big bucks, quickly. Examplesinclude Microsoft, Intel, Seagate, Cisco, Yahoo,Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, PInterest.What is the ‘technology’ in IT? Well, in short,it’s a bunch of electronics that grew up, heavily,from Silicon Valley heavily from US Federal fundingof ‘aerospace’ for the space race and nationalsecurity.Why? Because in the history, once we had computersgood enough to envision what could be done in datamanipulation crucial for aerospace, we needed thecomputers to be small, fast, rugged, cheap, and ableto run on tiny amounts of electrical power. Weneeded such computers for airplanes, rockets,missiles, satellites, etc. That is, we had toshrink a warehouse full of old electronics down tothe size of a wrist watch. Silicon Valley did that.Amazing. The central ‘technical’ idea or theme wasMoore’s law although a river of other technical workwas also important.This technical work was heavily in electronicengineering, applied math, physics, and computerscience, i.e., at least three of the four STEMfields.A key point is, without this technical work donewell, the airplanes, rockets, missiles, etc. wouldnot have worked. So, we would not have thesatellite images at Google, the images from theHubble telescope, the images from WMAP of theradiation about 300,000 years after the big bang,the weapons that had us do so well in Gulf War I,GPS, the optical fibers on the backbone of theInternet, four trillion bytes of disk space in apackage about the size of a ham sandwich, etc. Atone time, one billion bytes of disk space was a boxthe size of a commercial refrigerator; now get 4000times that much space in a ham sandwich.E.g., my post above mentioned error correctingcoding: That’s crucial for how we store andtransmit the relevant data; it gets used in computermain memory, hard disk drives, likely also the newersolid state ‘disk drives’, DVDs, CDs, and datatransmission over the Internet, and may get usedinside some high end processors.And what is ‘error correcting coding’ (ECC)? Takesome bits, append some more bits determined in atricky way (as in the article I referenced),transmit or store all the bits, have noise fromnature flip some of the bits ‘at random’, and, then,due to the bits appended (in a tricky way), get backthe original bits. JPL did that when sending thedata from Saturn back to Earth.E.g., if buy main memory for your computer, you willhave the option of buying ECC memory where each 64bits you want get stored as 72 bits, that is, with 8extra bits for the ECC function.Error correcting coding is a narrow, specializedfield of electronic engineering. Much of its rootswere in Bell Labs with C. Shannon (the father ofinformation theory) and R. Hamming. Also importanthas been A. Viterbi, co-founder of Qualcomm.I suspect that mobile phones and Wi-Fi devicescommonly make use of Qualcomm products. Justchecking: At Google search “Qualcomm mobile” hasabout Qualcomm its first result”QCT offers solutions for CDMA, UMTS, GSM and LTEtechnologies, providing support for both 3G and 4Gnetworks and devices.”Millions of gossiping teenage girls like you Andy(Viterbi!)!The subject ECC is heavily mathematical, essentiallyjust mathematical. Curiously, much of themathematics is from finite field theory, an area ofmath that might seem next to useless but it wasn’t!Finite field theory? For a start go back to the’new math’ and consider all the integers modulo aprime number!As in the article I referenced, some of the math hasbeen linear programming; the point of the articlewas to mention some new math for more progress; intotal, the field can use a lot of math, including,as in the article, some geometry that encounterssome classic problems in math.Linear programming? Take a big chunk of cheese anda sword (as in John Belushi’s “Samurai Tailor”) andwhack away at the cheese so that what’s left issolid with flat sides, straight edges, and sharppoints. Exercise: If the sides are flat, thennecessarily the rest will be straight edges andsharp points>? Why? In math we’d say that thecheese was the intersection of finitely many closedhalf-spaces.Hang the cheese by a string. Lower the cheese untilit just touches the floor. Linear programming tellsyou the part(s) of the cheese that touch the floorfirst and, thus, is a topic in both geometry andalgebra.By lowering the cheese until it just touches thefloor, we also find how far down we can go stillwithin the cheese and toward the floor, and thatpoint in the cheese can at times tell us how to dosome work in business for least cost or greatestprofit.Such a cheese is in three dimensions. For, say,scheduling the fleet at FedEx, might want to thinkin 10,000 dimensions. Similarly for ECC as in thearticle.The main algorithm for linear programming was by G.Dantzig at RAND (as I recall, working on a USAFcontract for logistics). Applying linearprogramming to problems in logistics, scheduling,etc. quickly encounters the now classic unsolvedproblem P versus NP which is the Holy Grail problemof computer science. Get a solution, and Clay Mathin Boston will write you a check for $1 million.Some people with thick checkbooks take this workseriously.Once at Johns Hopkins I took a graduate course inerror correcting coding theory; the course mentionedthat if have a lot of electrical power fortransmitting the data, then don’t much need errorcorrecting coding, but with low power it can becrucial — JPL understood this point. The text usedat Hopkins was:W. Wesley Peterson and E. J. Weldon, Jr.,’Error-Correcting Codes, Second Edition’.As applied math it’s not very advanced; still it’snot easy reading!Much of the math in the course I’d had in twoearlier courses in ‘abstract algebra’. During thecourse I usedOscar Zariski and Pierre Samuel, ‘CommutativeAlgebra, Volume I’.for background reading! That book is about as’pure’ as math gets!So, that’s an overview of ‘technology’ by example!Let’s take on ‘non-conformist’ in this context!To start, let’s look again at the list aboveMicrosoft, Intel, Seagate, Cisco, Yahoo, Google,Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, PInterest.Okay, in this list of companies, where’s the’pattern’? VCs like to look for ‘patterns’ and/or’themes’; if they can find a clear pattern in thatlist of companies, other than just ‘technology’ asin Moore’s law, then I’ll buy them a pint.My view is that each of these companies is a leadingexample of being ‘non-conformist’. Further my viewis that there really are ‘patterns’ that the USFederal funding saw when they sent Silicon Valley somuch money for aerospace, but the patterns aredeeper than just the product lines, business plans,and annual reports of the companies. Instead, thepatterns are much as in the example of ECC, that is,draw heavily from at least three of the STEM fields.And I’d say that what Shannon, Hamming, and Viterbidid in ECC was all non-conformist. In the sense ofresearch, their work met the usual criteria — new,correct, and significant. The work was new alright– dragging abstract algebra into the electronicengineering of transmitting data was “radical,provocative”, original, unexpected, and’non-conformist’. That ECC runs into linearprogramming is also just astounding and’non-conformist’.Here is a ‘radical’ idea: To hear what’non-conformist’ sounds like, listen to two operas,Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ for something that is close toearlier decades in music and then his ‘Tristan undIsolde’ which is in comparison ‘non-conformist’!I’ve been suggesting that to make a big splash in ITit is nearly necessary, but not nearly sufficient,to be ‘non-conformist’, maybe radical, provocative,original, etc. Also it is crucial to be correct andsignificant! Sufficient conditions for success, asis common in much of applied math, are moredifficult; so the story of what JPL did as anillustration of sufficiency is an interestingexample.Once I looked at how to detect anomalies in complexsystems, especially server farms and networks, andafter I gave an explanation a colleague said my workwas “radical, provocative”. Ah, such praise!Well, Amazon, which started out with just books andrecords, is now radical, provocative,non-conformist, original, correct, and significant.E.g., for a fast dinner, I cooked some garlic,onion, and pepper in some olive oil, added someground beef, cooked it, drained the total, and frozethe results. Then for a fast dinner, I put some hotsauce, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, a can ofCampbell’s Chunky beef soup, a can of Campbell’sBeef Consomme, and some of the beef in a pot, warmit, cook some rice, and pour the soup mixture overthe rice. I get right at 2 quarts.Gads: Wal-Mart had low stock on the Campbell’sproducts, and A&P had high prices and, still, notmuch stock. Amazon to the rescue! A few clicks and3-4 days, and I had two cases of the soup and twocases of the consomme! It takes only a few minutesto make a two quart batch, and I get two dinnersfrom it. Hint: For the second dinner, warm thestuff in a glass casserole dish in the microwave(thank you Dean Terman and Silicon Valley!).The shipping cost from Amazon was less than the costof gasoline to drive to my closest Wal-Mart. Watchout Wal-Mart, and A&P. Also the Amazon solutionsaved me time and bother of searching the poorlystocked, confused shelves of Wal-Mart!So, Amazon has moved successfully from books andrecords to routine grocery shopping!Non-conformist! Original. Amazing. Jeff’s abright guy!Smart phones are awash in technology in the sense Itried to describe above. But for the best product,it is also necessary to apply your “common sense”.And, at times, deep in some of the technology Itouched on, once the problem and technicalprerequisites are understood, the technical work canalso be just common sense.But usually we don’t think of the technical keys toa smart phone to be just common sense.Is what Jeff is doing in the grocery business justcommon sense? Since during the dot com bubbleseveral companies tried to use the Internet fororder entry for groceries and FedEx, etc. fordelivery and went bust doing that, I’d guess thatJeff was much more careful in his planning than justcommon sense and that his planning was good enoughto be at least good business model analysis andmaybe even something technical.Technical? Suppose we have five factories formaking widgets. 20 warehouses that need to stockwidgets, and shipping costs from each factory toeach of the warehouses. Now, how many widgets doeseach factory ship each warehouse for least cost?Amazon may attack versions of this problem.This problem was first attacked seriously by L.Kantorovich, and he won a Nobel prize in economicsfor the work. We now regard that problem as linearprogramming for least cost network flows, and thereare fast algorithms from Dantzig, Cunningham (one ofmy professors!), D. Bertsekas, and others. TheBertsekas algorithm has guaranteed running time thatis just a polynomial in the size of the problem.Turns out, this problem occurs when trying to assignanti-ballistic missiles to incoming warheads –there the guaranteed running time is nice to have!The Kantorovich work was a start on ‘logistics’ asDantzig was trying to do at RAND and, right, thefield quickly encounters the question of P versusNP. One of the hopes of quantum computing, insimple terms, is to beat down the question of Pversus NP with just brute force available fromquantum mechanics.I have to suspect that at times Jeff can attack someof his logistic problems, much more complicated thanthe first Kantorovich problem, and save someworthwhile bucks on shipping and inventory costs.If so, then that would be another place Jeff used’technology’.In STEM, there is also the ‘T’ — technology. Inpractice now, a big part of that technology is’coding’ as in ‘girls who code’. No doubt theAmazon Web site takes just a river of coding of Webpages, database transactions, etc. In my project,I’ve found that prerequisites to the coding onWindows is about 5000 Web pages of documentation,nearly all from Microsoft’s MSDN site, and about acubic foot of books. If my project is successful,then I will need more on Windows Server, SQL Server,more Microsoft ‘enterprise’ software, server farmmanagement, and network management. So, there’s alot of ‘technology’ there.This technology, e.g., Web page design and coding,does not have to encounter, say, ECC or the otherthree of the STEM fields and mostly can avoidanything in junior and senior college courses incomputer science. Still, done on a large scale, inproduction, with reliability, security, good UI/UX,etc. is a lot of work.Bringing up Jeff’s server farm can’t be regarded aseasy or routine.Apparently for most of the recent IT startups, the’idea’ is just something intuitive, and the rest isroutine coding. If what is sold is just a smartphone app, then ‘scaling’ is likely not an issue.But if there is Web site involved that needs toserve, say, a million users a day, then I’m sure therelevant people at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo,Facebook, and Twitter can explain some of thetechnical challenges in scaling.For my project, e.g., solve the problem Fred hasdescribed here at AVC of how to find Internetcontent he wants, has at its crucial core someapplied math I derived. Without the math, Iwouldn’t know any promising way to get Fred what hewants. Maybe 1 billion people will have needssimilar to what Fred has described. So, for myproject, the crucial, core ‘technology’ is someapplied math. Yes, at the core of the math, once itis understood, one might say “Ah, it’s just commonsense!”. Or one might say “radical, provocative,non-conformist”. I just want it to work!
The real discipline is to not refill the space with more stuff, whether that’s literal or figurative. It is like giving yourself a new canvas to work with. Am I going to create something new or just continue in the same vein? (nothing necessarily wrong with the latter) To me, simplification (which I have not mastered) is a way to stay unencumbered, creating space to continually give myself that choice as a way of living. Or what Charlie said (just this moment saw his response).
The financial model of Amazon is to make a little money on every that goes out the door. The more things you can sell, the more you make.VC has the exact opposite model. You lose money 1/3 of the time, break even 1/3 of the time and make money 1/3 of the time (according to Fred).There real key is that 1out of every 15 or 20 times, you need to make 10 to 20 to 100 times your money. Otherwise, no one gives you money to invest and you are done.Successful startups don’t need commodity resources – they need the exact opposite. The best startups don’t have an egalitarian approach to people (think GOOG hiring policies) – they need the best.Your model does not supply then with what they need.
Here is a list of non-accelerator companies: MS, Oracle, Dell, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter.Make a list of accelerator ones that are pillars of a massive change in society and let’s compare.