Currently, I’m making a switch back from employee’s life, back to an entrepreneurial one. For the first couple of days, I felt bummed out. I felt like I’ve let myself down, and more importantly my parents. I had a well paying job, it wasn’t exactly demanding, and yet, I managed to wormed my way out of it.
Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t doing it only for the money. One of the reasons why I did it because they had a sizable audience that I could share my ideas with. It was good fun.
Ultimately, leaving the company also forced me to reconsider my personal values: where I was headed and what to focus on next.
The Art of Being Useful and Mattering in Life
Think of the billions of people that exist alongside us. How many of us do actually make a difference through our work?
For the most part, I think doctors, nurses, innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, rebels and thinkers are the ones that move society. Elon Musk is a great example. He’s constantly asking himself how can he make himself more useful to society and build a future that fully ultilizes his knowledge and skillsets. That’s admirable. His everyday priority is to be useful, to create a better future for humanity. It is to matter. He sees his lifespan as a vessel to be of use humanity.
This brings me to the next point.
How many of us take a degree just to get a safe paying job, or acquire skillsets just so that we can feed ourselves, make a couple of bucks and not trying to fuck things up too much? Our concerns are primarily individualistic and aren’t contributing to the greater collective good.
The majority of writers on the internet are not writers, they are marketers. They aren’t writing with a unique voice with an actual depth.
If you do not take risks for your opinion, you are nothing. Honor implies that there are some actions you’ll never do regardless of material rewards.
– Nassim Taleb
The majority of their content is a rehash from academic books or other sources.
If you’re going to copy and not have a voice in your work, then you might as well not do it. This is your legacy, your art. If you aren’t going to write with a voice in it, then you’re not attempting to leave a mark in history. You’re just taking content, rehashing it, paraphrasing it and putting in on your site for marketing reasons.
Nassim Taleb and The Soul in The Game
I always felt like I was the odd one out when it came to many of my decisions in my life. Until, I read Nassim’s Taleb book: Skin in The Game.
I remembered running my mouth to my Mum in my Summer Program at Berkeley whilst taking modules that I wasn’t competent in: namely music.
I was ranting about how difficult it was because I had zero backgrounds in theoretical music and everyone else had Grade 8-9-10 in *insert musical instrument* and they were merely gaming the system to get a high score.
In my opinion, they were wasting their time attending those lessons. They were already competent in those skill sets. It wasn’t true learning.
Secondly, instead of finishing an accounting and finance degree which 1) I wasn’t really good at 2) didn’t make sense in the real world: namely academic finance modules 3) I wasn’t really interested in, I left and pursued a psychology degree, something I felt I was more competent and interested in.
From a ‘game of life’ standpoint, I’m a loser. I understood the risks involved. No MNCs or big corporations will ever employ me, a Diploma holder. I won’t be able to attain a good pay grade. Then again, from a collective standpoint, I’m actually contributing to the collective good because I’m not attempting to game the system, in fact, I’m being punished by the system for attempting to contribute to it in the long run.
In Taleb’s words, I have soul in the game.
Funnily, I’m actually convinced that I’m closer to a true academic as compared to my peers that aced their exams in school. I find myself crituqing the system from a first principles standpoint and questioning the school system from multiple angles from 1) the way it’s taught 2) the value of the curriculum 3) the metrics of success and more.
Courage is a Virtue You Cannot Signal
I ranted off on Facebook last week that I felt misunderstood because of my unconventional way of thinking and behaving. For one, I never liked using social media as means to to signal anything: from acts of charity to social acceptance. It always almost leave me feeling empty inside whenever I attempted to. Read: I’m only human, I do feel a need to keep up with the Jones at times.
Taleb labels this as the merchandising of virtue.
If you’re performing acts of charity because you want to splash it on social media, use it as leverage in any form or any other reasons, then you’re not actually performing a true act of charity.
He also argued that this is how charity organizations become unnecessary bloated and often miss the mark. They end up using donated funds to pay employees, find their way through bureaucracy as opposed to solving the fundamental problem.
You take this model and you can replicate it across the finance industry: bankers, financial consultants and hedge fund managers. The cost and bureacracy of packaging, delivering products and salesmanship often lead to less than ideal market returns for their clients. Hence, defeating the purpose of their roles in the first place.
Skin in The Game
One week ago, I invited a Facebook marketer to run an advertising campaign for the site. The first campaign he ran went awry. He openly admitted there were some mistakes and wanted to return me the advertising budget.
The fact that he 1) openly admitted the mistake 2) wanted to return me the advertising budget displayed that he was willing to put skin in the game. That left me impressed as opposed to disappointed.
In my short stint in my previous company, when I negotiated a more flexible working arrangement, I was willing to bet my entire salary if I failed to deliver. I wasn’t fucking around. I was dead serious about it. I was willing to put skin in the game. They didn’t buy it though.
In my own company selling dating advice as a dating coach. I stuck to this project for years because it was my first catalyst to growth.
I started getting good at life because a girl dumped my sorry ass years ago. This started out as a passion project. However, I’m aware that this project can go from passion to becoming commercialized easily. I’m an above average good marketer and salesman. I’m eloquent and can be pretty persuasive.
I can also use these skillsets to my abuse.
This is why I need to construct some form of skin in the game in all areas of life. I’ll then be forced to be constantly improving. I cannot allow myself to become the overweight life coach.
On a micro level, this means constantly going out and facing rejections despite having a track record of success. In this industry, I’ll argue that it’s difficult. Rejection from the opposite sex is one most miserable occurrence from an evolutionary standpoint. However, there’s no other way. I need to have skin in the game.
Okay, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to re-read Taleb.