Don’t Automate

Automation is great. Automate. Scale. 10x. Grow. Scale. Automate.

Does anyone hear a buzz? Buzz word anybody?

 

Automation IS great. But there is a time and a place for it.

 

Sometimes people jump in to automate things too quickly.

 

Automation takes time.

Automation presumes a known and defined process.

 

If you automate too soon, then you are likely to waste your time. You are likely to defer and procrastinate until your automation is “just perfect.”   And then when you discover the flows in your beautifully automated but botched machine, you might be that much less likely to respond positively to change.  You don’t want to touch your beautifully automated machine, only you haven’t realized that your machine actually isn’t producing what you wanted.

Automation can end up harming you.

 

So let’s go manual.  At least when you start out.  Work on the process. Play with it. Refine it. Optimize it. All manually.  Yes someone has to do the work.

 

Only then, after the process runs beautifully manually, then you can consider automating.  But maybe you don’t need to… What is the cost of automating?  First you should see if there are any gaps in the process? Any kinks? Would automating solve that?

 

So automating is a beautiful word. It’s very sexy.  But don’t use it blindly.

 

Happiness and Money

Had a conversation with my mum today about happiness and money.

 

Its an age old question.  Does more money = more happiness?

 

There is some pop research that I’ve heard about, that above an income of $70,000, i.e. where a person’s basic needs are met, the more money one has doesn’t lead to more happiness.

 

I can relate to that in some ways.

 

At the moment I’m earning a comfortable income.  By no means anything spectacular, but comfortable.  I also have the benefit of running my own business, so I have a lot of freedom.  I can travel to conferences, which I love doing in order to meet cool new people and learn about my industry (last year I think I travelled overseas about 6 times or so, lost count…), I take a morning off or a day off if I like (but I only rarely do this, because I love what I do and usually can’t wait for the weekend to end so that I can get back in to the office).  I can go to any restaurant I like and eat out as much as I like.

 

So I can safely say that my “basic needs” are met.  If I’m earning the income that I am now or if I’m earning $1,000,000 per month, I don’t think I would be significantly happier.  Maybe 1% happier, perhaps 10%.  I’d have a few less existential moments of fear, as I sometimes experience now in my business, since I would have more financial security.  I might have a slightly nicer house (I don’t care about cars, would probably still drive the cheapest car on the market as long as it is safe).

 

What IS important for me is to have a goal.   So now I want to build amazing games to delight our customers and I have quite lofty income goals.  But the income goals are just that.  They are goals.  They are something to strive for. It’s a game and I want to get the high score (quite meta, since I’m developing games and trying to create goals for them to strive for within the games…).

 

Martin Seligman, a leading psychologist and the father of the Positive Psychology movement, breaks down wellbeing (i.e. “happiness”) into what he calls PERMA:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement (i.e. achieving Flow State)
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

I am very achievement orientated and also meaning orientated, so what I’m doing now both gives me a degree of meaning and also gives me achievement goals which I know are key to my own personal wellbeing.

 

The worst thing that could happen if I was earning $1,000,000 per month and absolutely “financially free” would be to have nothing to do, nothing to strive for, no purpose, nothing that I can sink my teeth into and lose time in (experience flow).

 

For me, as long as I always have something that motivates me and something to strive for and doing what I love to do, I will be pretty much as “happy” whether I’m earning a decent salary or an insane amount of money.

 

Addendum:

That’s all nice and good, but lets look at the research.

 

Have a read of this article (fairly recent, from 2013).    If you skip down to the conclusion, you’ll see that actually, there is a linear-log correlation between income and well being.  They do mention the previous research by Kahneman, but state “the relationship between wellbeing and income is roughly linear-log and does not diminish as incomes rise. If there is a satiation point, we are yet to reach it.”

And this statement makes it a bit clearer: “Deaton (2008) and Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) find that the well-being–income relationship is roughly a linear-log relationship, such that, while each additional dollar of income yields a greater increment to measured happiness for the poor than for the rich, there is no satiation point. ”

I don’t think the research is so much at odds.  The oft-quoted Kahneman article states in the abstract “when plotted against log income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000.” So, what I understand from this, is that you don’t experience more of the “P” from PERMA beyond the $75,000 income threshold (positive emotion, the feeling of “happiness”).  But the P is just one out of the 5 factors that contribute to wellbeing.  And what I believe Kahneman is saying that overall life satisfaction STILL DOES INCREASE with greater income, although the effect of this increase may well diminish as we can see from Stevenson and Wolfers.

 

This table from the research paper is quite interesting in itself:

happiness and income table

So as with many cases of research, it depends how you measure, what you measure, how you analyze.  But there seems to be some validity to the case that the more money you have the happier you’ll be BUT at lower incomes each $1 buys you more happiness than at higher levels of income.   So like some drugs, money causes tolerance in its human subject, requiring more and more money in order to generate the same effect…

 

I think we can safely conclude that the advice you receive from your poor relatives that “Money doesn’t buy happiness” is overall bullshit.  While beyond a certain threshold you don’t experience more positive emotions, money DOES buy more overall life satisfaction and wellbeing. Although beyond a certain point each extra dollar becomes less effective at improving life satisfaction, the research hasn’t found a point where money stops improving wellbeing all together.

 

More Reading:

http://www.psychology.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/Sibley5.pdf

http://www.statisticsviews.com/details/feature/7963551/Are-you-sure-that-more-money-would-make-you-happy.html

https://books.google.co.il/books?id=m99aqwLFrGoC&lpg=PA247&ots=y_RlratzU4&dq=wellbeing%20income%20satiation%20%20meta%20analysis&lr&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

 

 

Investing in the Future

I’ve noticed a common theme recently, which runs through both great companies and great investors.  They have an extremely long term outlook.

Recently I was in San Francisco for GDC (Game Developer Conference) and probably one of my major takeaways was a common thread from several lectures I attended.  Design games for the long term; and it seems that the companies who are more successful have a longer term outlook.

For example, Supercell (makers of the top grossing Clash of Clans), create games that can be played for a decade or more.

Chillingo, a big publisher, advised developer to create games that can be played for 5 years.

And the founder of Runaway (company behind games such as Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary), said that when they create events in their game, they have  a 2 to 3 year roadmap.

So, create games for the long term.   Can we say that the longer term your outlook, the more successful you are? Dunno, maybe.

 

Now if we skip over to the field of investing, I think we can see a similar trend.

I haven’t had my ear to the ground so much recently, but I know that Warren Buffet looks for companies that would be going strong 100 years from now – he has an EXTREMELY long term outlook.

So… I was thinking. I agree with the general consensus that its worth investing in Index Funds that track the market performance (that’s also what Buffet recommends when asked what investing advice he’d give his family).  That said, it is worth having maybe say 5% or so invested in individual stocks.

And what is something that has a long term life span?

So we come to the future…

Ray Kurzweil, the renowned futurist, has a decent argument that somewhere between 2040 and 2050 we will reach the Singularity, the point where Artifical Intelligence machines will be able to program themselves, which will send us into a new, exciting and maybe scary era that no one can foresee really what will happen after that point, since technology would have reached a tipping point that accelerates so quickly beyond human comprehension… He also argues that technology and computer chips are becoming exponentially smaller, to the point where (well before the Singularity, say in 2030 or so), nanobots as small as blood cells will swim through our blood stream and monitor our vitals, fight infections and all in all extend our lifespan as a species.

So, that’s a bit of an aside (I’ve been mulling over this quite a bit recently, the concepts he presents are fascinating).

But, the main factors that will drive this revolution:

  • Artifical intelligence (software)
  • Computer Chips
  • Nanotechnology

With a quick Google Search and some filtering by me, here is a list of perhaps interesting companies to think about with a long term outlook (20-30 years)

 

Semiconductor Companies

  • Intel (Div Yield ~3%, P/E 13.6)
  • Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg. Co. Ltd. (Div Yield 2.7%, P/E 13.6) –
    • From their Wikipedia entry – “Most of the leading fabless semiconductor companies such as Apple Inc., Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Advanced Micro Devices, MediaTek, Marvell,STMicroelectronics and Broadcom are customers of TSMC, as well as emerging players such as Spreadtrum, AppliedMicro, Allwinner Technology andHiSilicon,[8] and many smaller companies.”

Here are a couple of good Wikipedia entries about Semiconductor Manufacturers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiconductor_sales_leaders_by_year

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundry_model

 

It could be interesting to delve further into the semiconductor chip component and to see if there are other interesting investment opportunies / monopolies further down the supply chain (good place to start might be Intel’s Suppliers list… http://electroiq.com/blog/2012/04/intel-top-suppliers-2011/  and https://newsroom.intel.com/news-releases/intel-honors-21-companies-with-preferred-quality-supplier-and-achievement-awards/).  Also this wikipedia entry on “silicon producers” can be interesting.

 

More reading on semiconductor industry:

http://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/semiconductors/pdfs/mosc_1_revised.ashx

Top Silicon Wafer Manufacturing Companies in the World

 

Artificial Intelligence Companies

  • Google
  • IBM

 

More Reading:

http://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/big-data/9-tech-giants-investing-in-artificial-intelligence-3629737/#4

http://www.businessinsider.com/artificial-intelligence-how-to-invest-2015-2

 

 

 

Lucid Dreaming

I listened recently to one of the most inspirational podcasts around recently – Tim Ferriss’s second interview with Josh Waitzkin, the child chess prodigy who has made it his life’s study to deconstruct learning and the mind.  If you haven’t listened to it, do yourself a favour and check it out:  http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/03/23/josh-waitzkin-the-prodigy-returns/

It’s a really heady episode with lots of ideas and concepts which are hinted at, which I’ll go into more detail about in other posts.  One thing that I hadn’t heard much about, if anything, is the topic of “lucid dreaming.”

So apparently, the concept of lucid dreaming is that you are aware that you are dreaming while you are in the dream.  This happens spontanously about once a month, so you may be familiar with something like this happening yourself.   I spoke about this with my business partner and he vividly recalled experiencing such things.

Now, the benefit of being aware that you are dreaming while in the dream state is that with that realisation it gives you power to say “hey – well if this is a dream, then I can decide what I dream about” – and so effectively to take control of the dream state.

This is something that has been a part of Buddhist and eastern teachings for over 1000 years, but interest in the West only started in around the 60’s and 70’s and it still seems to be a little-known and seldom discussed subject.

When I hear of something that a top performer like Josh Waitzkin is into, it definitely sparks my interest, so I’m keen to get started on the journey to “lucid dreaming.”  I am deeply curious about this as I often don’t remember my dreams, so I’d love to delve deeper into this world to explore it.  More practically, the idea of using sleep in an efficient manner, as a way to gain insight, reach understanding, improve skills is very enticing!

This is a pretty good video which introduces the concept:

I found some other interesting resources which you might be interested in, if you’d also like to learn about this a bit more:

Dreaming Yourself Awake – recommended by Josh Waitzkin.

I bought this one first, haven’t started reading yet.

And I also found an online course on Lucid Dreaming:

http://lucidacademy.com/

This is one, there are quite a few others if you search on Google.

 

First Steps in Lucid Dreaming

After a search on Google for how to perform lucid dreaming, it seems that the consensus in order to get started is as follows:

  1. Make the intention before you go to sleep to be aware that you are dreaming in your dreams.
  2. To facilitate the above, you can give yourself some sort of queue.  For example, make the intent to notice your hands in the dream.  When you do this, you will realize that you are dreaming…
  3. Keep a dream diary.  Put a journal and pen next to your bed.  First thing when you wake up, record the details of the dream.  I guess this helps to put the focus on your dreams.

So far, I’ve been at it for 1 night 🙂

No lucid dreams so far.

What I can say, is that I definitely made the intent before I fell asleep to be aware during my dreams.  I found myself lying awake early in the morning.  I didn’t look at the clock, but if I’d have to guess I’d say it was around 6 am or 05:45 am.  As I lay there, I realized that I had just finished dreaming and so I took to diligently recording my dream in my dream diary besides my bed.

Once I finished recording the dream, I lay in bed, hoping to fall into a dream state again. I was hopeful that this time I would be lucid in my dream, because I would be in that state between sleep and consciousness… But again, no lucid dream, but I had another short dream, which I again recorded…

How I Plan to Go Forward

So here are the steps that I’ll continue to take.  I guess it will be good to accompany my 30 day writing challenge with this lucid dreaming challenge 🙂

  • Keep a dream diary and record dreams as soon as I am aware of them. (Already started)
  • Make the intent before I drift off to sleep to have lucid dreams.
  • Read the two books above – I’ll try and make a summary of them available on this blog also.
  • Take a(n) (online) course on lucid dreaming – might be more “practical” than a book and maximize my chance to have the experience that I’m looking for.

 

30 Day Blog Writing Challenge

Blogging is something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Its something that often on my “TO DO” list, but I never get around to it.

So, I’ve decided to finally do something…

Firstly, lets examine why the hell I want to blog / write in the first place:

  • Hone my thoughts and personal philosophies for MYSELF
  • Outlet for creative expression
  • Improve my self expression
  • Self improvement
  • Improve my writing skills
  • Grow intellectually
  • Attract and meet like minded people who can help me explore the ideas that I’m thinking about and who I can learn FROM.

The 3rd point, “attract and meet like minded people” is probably one of the more important points for me. When I was actively publishing the iPad version of Make App Magazine, the biggest benefit of the whole experience was that I got to meet the amazing people that I interviewed and also interact with the readers of the blog.  This is something that I have sorely missed.  Austin Kleon actually made this point quite clear in his book “Show Your Work” (short, cute, worth a read).

 

I also have to be clear about what this is NOT about:

  • Trying to SEO my blog and get to the top of google.
  • Make money from the blog.
  • It’s NOT a personal journal – I wouldn’t feel totally free revealing my most intimate thoughts. I have a journal for that.

 

And, if I’ve wanted to do it for long, but haven’t, why is that?

  • The benefits are not clear.
  • Is it worth my time?
  • It is not an ingrained habit.
  • No “time” / scheduled time.
  • Its a “chore”
  • Perfectionism – I need it to be just right in order to start, I need to put out “perfect” content.
  • Technological issues – What platform should I use, what blog theme, what site?

 

So, I’ve decided that the best way to actually get off my butt and start writing is to view this as an EXPERIMENT.  Instead of trying to commit to lifelong blogging, I think its better to time-box my efforts into a certain time period (30 days), in which I can:

  • Make this a habit
  • Evaluate the benefits for myself
  • See if it is worth continuing

What are the rules of this 30 day blog writing challenge?

  • Write for 10 minutes per day:  As with my practice of meditating for 10 minutes per day, its hard to claim that you don’t have 10 minutes for something.  Sets the bar low.
  • Publish one piece of content per day, even if its not perfect:  Make it okay to publish work that isn’t amazing, just to get into the flow of publishing.

Another thing that will help the implementation of this challenge is to plan out for the 30 days topics to write about.  If you have something else you’d rather write about, that’s fine, but at least this gives some sort of template and guideline and helps get over the “I don’t know what to write about” hurdle.

So, on the fly, here are the topics for the next 29 days:

  1. Lucid Dreaming.
  2. Meditation.
  3. Looking back at the past year of business, what would I have done differently knowing what I know now?
  4. If I were starting from scratch today and had only $1,000 to invest in a business, what would I do?
  5. My recommendations to a complete newbie starting an app business today.
  6. My recommendations to more experienced guys in the app business today.
  7. Saving for retirement / Pensions.
  8. Thoughts on investment.
  9. Brazilian Jui Jitsu and parallels to business.
  10. Fear of rejection.
  11. Living an extra-ordinary life.
  12. Freedom.
  13. Top books to read.
  14. A book summary.
  15. Key KPIs in an app business.
  16. Journalling.
  17. Gratitude.
  18. Scrum.
  19. What I’ve learned about / from conferences.
  20. Routines and Habits. (e.g. no screens after 2130…)
  21. Mental conditioning.
  22. Hiring.
  23. Eating in the dark.
  24. “Networking”
  25. Our team setup.
  26. Free app business ideas.
  27. Summary of “How to Get Rich” by Felix Dennis.
  28. Stress.
  29. Overcoming Challenge.

If you’re also going to do the 30 day blog writing challenge with me, then feel free to make up your own list of topics that are suitable for you, or base them off mine. It doesn’t matter, as long as you write!

Some other things to keep in mind related to this challenge.

  • Its OK if you don’t write for 30 days consecutively.  Ideally you do, but if you don’t then that’s perfectly fine. As long as you DO get to 30 published posts.  Life is life and things come up, new habits are often difficult to ingrain, so if you skip a day or to, no sweat.
  • The writing can be shit. Just publish.  Get used to hitting the publish button.
  • We set 10 minutes to write. If you get in the flow and you write more, that’s great!

And a few more things to maximize success in the experiment:

  • Just press publish!
  • Don’t read over the post after you’ve written it / published.
  • Don’t promote the post. This is JUST about writing.
  • Don’t try to “SEO” the posts or drop in keywords.
  • Don’t fill in SEO related meta data.
  • Don’t look at (or preferably even install) analytics – Seth Godin doesn’t have any analytics on his daily blog.

After these 30 days I can decide whether to continue this, or not!

So if you’re joining me on this journey – GOOD LUCK! 🙂