Supporting the Resistance

I've spent the last few months growing increasingly concerned about Trump's agenda. In the first 100 days, the policy goals he has set for his team would severely harm the environment, threaten millions of jobs, and remove health coverage for 20 million Americans.

To avoid those risks, it's critical that we find a way to block, resist, or mitigate Trump's policy goals. With both the House and the Senate behind him, Trump won't face many of the traditional roadblocks that Presidents often contend with when trying to push policy through, so we must find ways to oppose his goals effectively as private citizens.

Today, I'm announcing a new project called Stop100 to do exactly this. 

Over the next few months, I'll be working with several donor advisors to identify non-profits that can most effectively oppose Trump's policy goals. We will monitor what Trump's team is working on and look for organizations that can effectively oppose his team's efforts.

When we find effective non-profits, we'll be sending donations to them. We'll also publish why that organization is important and any additional actions you can take to support them. By sharing our research and trying to measure our efficacy, we hope to be one of the better places to learn about effectively opposing Trump's presidency.

My donations alone won't be enough to make a difference, but I'm hoping that you will look at what we're doing and consider donating alongside us. You can pledge to make a weekly or monthly donation and we'll do the work to make sure your money is going to the most effective places.

If you're opposed to Trump's plan, please consider joining us:

Innovation Isn't Dead

Innovation is alive and well.

Most people seem convinced that Silicon Valley has lost its way. They will tell you that we collectively have stopped focusing on disruptive innovation. That we have fallen into the trap of funding incremental innovation or solving meaningless problems. A minority of these folks actually believe that we’ve skipped over innovation at all and now just do anything we think might have a chance to sell to a greater fool. 

Many examples can be (and frequently are) cited here, each reader can probably easily list three from the past week. Even notable people immersed in the industry often feel intuitively like we’ve stopped innovating. Take Founder's Fund now infamous statement:

“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”
— Founder's Fund Manifesto

Yet their intuition turns out to be wrong, there are more ambitious ideas being pursued today, not less. If you were to re-write the Founder's Fund Manifesto today, it would probably look more like this: 

We wanted flying cars, instead we got:
private space travel, printable organs, instant global communication, cheap online education, self-driving cars, synthetic biology, Nano-satellites, digital currency, half the number of people who live under extreme poverty, and... Flying cars.

There are two primary reasons why we incorrectly feel like we’re losing ground.

The first stems from the way innovation works — you have to fund a large number of experiments in the hope that a few will emerge as wildly important. You can't tell which ones matter. In the early days of their lives, almost every important company looks either trivial or impossible.

“Trivial” things like desktop computers for normal people (Apple) or yet another search engine (Google), have gone on to become some of the most important companies in the world. These innovations often started with a sociological insight — the discovery of a new form of interaction that lots of people wanted, but didn’t know they wanted it until they saw it. 

If I asked what [people] wanted, they would have said faster horses.
— Henry Ford
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
— Thomas Watson (in 1943, alleged)

Usually, the initial insight allows the founder to show progress and convince some early believers that it isn't trivial. After that, this initial insight is then backed up by an incredible amount of hard work (both technical work and work on refining the sociological insight to amplify the signal of what people want) to actually build and deliver that new form of interaction to millions of people. 

Impossible problems are different — usually everyone agrees that solving the problem would be great, but everyone assumes that you’re delusional to try and do it. Innovations in this space tend to start with a deep technical insight into something that makes the impossible look merely difficult. SpaceX is an excellent example of this type of innovation. Before SpaceX, everyone knew that lowering space access costs by 70% would be incredibly valuable, but no one knew how to do it.

All new ideas sound either trivial or impossible. This makes it easy to dismiss all new ideas as not innovative, especially compared to established ideas which are now clearly meaningful. With gestation time, innovations mature and it becomes easier to identify which are truly important.

There’s also a second reason that we tend to undervalue the amount of innovation going on today — increased activity.

About 0.0005% of companies are meaningfully disruptive [1]. Increased rates of entrepreneurship mean that more companies are created (both meaningful and not meaningful companies). When so few companies are meaningful, increased activity exposes us to a dramatic number of new companies that aren’t meaningful and very few new ones who are. The total number of meaningful companies goes up, but the noise from all of the less meaningful companies drowns out their signal [2].

We now hear a lot more about new startups than we used to, many of which are often clearly bad ideas. Even the ones that aren't clearly bad ideas sound either impossible or trivial. Given that, the easiest conclusion to arrive at is that we've lost our way. That's the opinion we hear most often from friends, relatives, co-workers, journalists, etc. — which reinforces the conclusion in our mind.

There are many more examples. If you stop and look for them, there are lots and lots of people who are inventing the future [3]. And for each one that you hear about, there are easily ten more working hard in obscurity in their labs. Inventing the future is hard work. The inventors tend to spend lots of time working, and not much time doing PR.

It has never been a better time to be a techno-optimist. Today is better than yesterday, and with continued responsible cultural maturation, our future looks incredibly bright [4]. But if we want that future, we have to collectively invent it.

Our increased rate of technological advancement creates a lot of new insights at each fringe that could bear fruit if followed. This goes for both sociological and technical insights. Discovering and testing each of those insights takes hard work.

If an initial test seems to confirm the insight, it takes even more hard work to develop that insight into a meaningful contribution to our shared future. More potentially meaningful companies waiting to be discovered means that we need far more support from venture capitalists, engineers, businesspeople, politicians, educational institutions, philanthropists and you. 

Understanding the world through this realistically optimistic lens can motivate us towards increased action, but it can also encourage people towards apathy. Please do not let this essay make you a spectator on your path to improvement. Our future is bright, but it is not guaranteed - we have the raw materials for success, but we must do the hard work to make it so.

So, I'll leave you with a question that I hope we can all revisit frequently for inspiration:


what can you do to help invent a better future?

Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.
— Jonas Salk
I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.
— John F. Kennedy


[1]  250 companies out of 550,000 (source)

[2]  Similarly, increased number of investors has led to a dramatic increase in both good and bad investors. There’s no doubt that many venture firms deliver lackluster returns by trying to time the market and investing in un-meaningful companies that they hope Google will buy. But, there are also a large number of investors out there who work to profit “from [helping create] a wildly more advanced future.” My angel investments come out of a very small fund, but we certainly look at the world this way. VCs like Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, and Khosla Ventures have all been very vocal about doing something similar. New funds like OS Fund and Obvious have started with this explicit purpose. There are many others; by looking at the companies they’ve chosen to fund, you can see DFJ, Accel, Sequoia, Floodgate, Lightspeed, Battery, Trinity, Greylock, Benchmark and many other top-tier VCs aren’t taking bets on “iterative” companies and then shooting for “safe” M&A exits.

[3] Lots of possibly meaningful companies are being built right now. Here are a few:

  • Planet Labs and Nanosatisfi are both building large networks of satellites that are more than two orders of magnitude cheaper than existing satellites, and they are doing it with small teams and small amounts of money from offices in downtown San Francisco.
  • Planetary Resources is building the ability to tow asteroids into near-earth orbit and mine them for natural resources.
  • Organovo prints functional human tissue using a 3D bioprinter.
  • Cambrian Genomics and Genome Complier are building tools to help you manipulate DNA and print out new organisms. 
  • J. Craig Venter Institute is trying to invent biological sources of energy that can lower the cost of creating energy and reverse climate change

[4] It deserves to be said that while I'm obviously a strong techno-optimist, I'm not blind to some of the key ways that other techno-optimists have failed on in the past. Our ideal future involves positive cultural change as well as technical innovation. Frankly, if cultural change doesn't accompany technical innovation, it's likely that the quality of our future will be worse than our present. I'm worried about this, especially noting the current climate in the US at the time that I'm posting this. That said, we've done a surprisingly good job of this historically and globally have done a good job of this over the past several decades. I am optimistic that we'll continue to improve here.

How to Be an Angel Investor

For several interesting macro-economic reasons [1], more and more people are becoming angel investors.

This is a good thing – it allows more investors to participate in a high-growth (but high-risk) area of our economy. That said, investing in private companies is very different from investing in public companies.

People who are just getting started in angel investing should get comfortable with the inherent risks and learn the strategies required to be successful angel investors. Without doing this, you run the very real risk of losing every dollar you invest in this market.

Two years ago, my first company was acquired by Oracle and four members of our early team, including myself, became part time angel investors. Before I started investing, I tried to learn as much as possible about angel investing. In all of the things I read and people I talked to, two posts stood out as particularly helpful: Paul Graham’s post How to Be an Angel Investor and Naval and Nivi’s How to be an angel investor, Part 2. These posts were helpful because they did away with the inside baseball and tried to present a comprehensive overview for a novice investor.

This year, several of my friends became accredited and asked for my advice on angel investing. Inspired by the opportunity to help them, I looked back on my first year of investing and tried to tie all of those lessons up in a comprehensive overview–think of it as Angel Investing 101. Drawing on the previous two posts, I called the presentation How to Be an Angel Investor, Part 3.

Success as an angel investor boils down to whether you can pick the right companies. The information in this presentation won’t make you a successful angel investor on it’s own, but it can help you avoid the common pitfalls and develop a better understanding of how this market works and whether you’re ready for it.

Because these investments are illiquid, you won’t know for many years whether you are doing a good job of picking the right companies. My best advice is to focus first on learning as much as you can so you can avoid common pitfalls. Once you’ve done that, budget money you can afford to lose and start slowly. You’re generally going to be better served by spreading your initial investment budget over several years, rather than trying to invest it all in a short period of time.

If you find this useful, I intend to create more free resources for angel investors (including video interviews with successful investors sharing their best advice). If you’re interested in more information like this, check out

[1] Broadly, we’re creating a much more affluent upper middle class. Tyler Cowen’s book Average Is Over is a good read about this if you’re interested.

Specifically, there are a few big changes that have created more angel investors.

  • Startups provide equity compensation by default, so the influx of new startups means that more people employed under this model.
  • Companies are staying private longer, which incentivizes investors to move to private markets in search of good returns.
  • It seems likely that startups will share more equity with employees than they have historically (this is a prediction, but we’re starting to see early examples of this)

Read Stocism

On Stoicism

Graduation season is coming up, and with it, some great advice will be handed down via the time-honored tradition of commencement addresses. If I tapped to share my best advice, I'd want to pick something pithy enough to stick, but important enough to share — my personal version of Wear Sunscreen.

Here's the best advice I could give on becoming more resilient, happier, and more successful: Read Stoicism.

A quick note before we get started — I don’t have quite the talent for brevity that Mary Schmich had when she penned “wear sunscreen.” So this essay may be on the long side. I apologize in advance. If you'd prefer to have it emailed to you so you can read it later, click here.

In the last four years, I’ve learned a lot about mortality. I’ve faced harder challenges than I ever expected to personally experience—at least not at my age.

Despite those challenges, I am happier than I ever have been. I spend most days in good spirits—oddly enough, even thankful for the challenges that I’ve overcome.

I've created this happy outlook primarily through reading the Stoics, reflecting on what they've said, and trying to apply those lessons to my life.

Becoming a Stoic…

"If you’re going through hell, keep going." -Winston Churchill

Stoic ideas give me encouragement to keep fighting through hard challenges, even when I’d rather give up.

My first introduction to Stoicism came from reading Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. It immediately helped me solve a problem that I was facing.

I was shocked -- I had always learned about philosophy as kind of an esoteric, academic thing. Certainly not something that was actually helpful. I was hooked, I bought more books.

Today, I practice Stoicism as a type of life hack. It makes me happier with my current life and it pushes me to higher levels of accomplishment. Two sometimes competing concepts, both of which are important to me.

Letters from a Stoic is brilliant, but it was so full of anachronisms that it was hard to read. Sometimes I devoted so much time to deciphering what Seneca is saying, that I wasn’t able to appreciate the advice he was giving. 

Nevertheless, I highlighted almost every page of that book. Today, when a close friend faces either a large challenge or opportunity, I often buy them a copy of Letters from a Stoic.

Until now. Today, a new book has replaced Letters from a Stoic as my go-to recommended introduction to Stoicism. The Obstacle is the Way, written by Ryan Holiday. The book is a far more approachable place to start.

Reading this book reminded me of first learning about Stoicism—and it inspired me to write this post and share my best advice with you. I’ve suggested that many close friends look into Stoicism. If you’re feeling unsatisfied or unmotivated, I’d suggest that you look into it too. 

Of course, Stoicism is not a panacea. There are many paths to similar ideas. Ryan Holiday, the author of the book I recommend below, even points out that the title of his book: “The Obstacle is the Way”, is remarkably similar to a Zen proverb: “The Obstacle is the Path.”

Stoicism uniquely differs from other philosophies in it’s use of plain language and ideas. It’s easy to understand what the Stoics are trying to say (once you get past the anachronisms).

The writings of Stoic philosophers offer pragmatic advice, uncomplicated by intricate language or presentation, that is both useful and immediately applicable.

Stoicism has one of the easiest on-ramps I’ve seen in any type of personal development. You don’t have to be more flexible to get started, you don’t have to fundamentally change how your brain processes ideas, and you don’t have to parse dense and confusing texts.¹

It’s even easier with The Obstacle is the Way. The book uses modern language and examples that make the concepts much easier to understand. It’s a far easier read, but still contains the core insights of Stoicism. It takes what was already a shorter on-ramp, and makes it even more approachable. That said — learning the principles is easy, the challenge is in applying the knowledge, not in consuming it.2 

Who can get value from Stoicism?

Anyone can apply Stoicism to their life. The challenges that the Stoic authors tried to solve include common challenges that we all face today.

Here are some examples of challenges that friends of mine have faced where a Stoic outlook helped them tackle the issue:

  1. How to build a stable career in uncertain times

  2. How to build and retain strong friendships

  3. How to react when others judge you or hurt you

  4. How to deal with the death of a loved one

  5. How to live a happier life

In an interview I did with Ryan (see below), he noted that Stoicism commonly sees a resurgence during uncertain times. As we undergo one of the biggest cultural and economic shifts since the industrial revolution, it’s not hard to see how everyone can get increased value from the Stoics.

For particularly ambitious people, Stoicism is even more useful. It helps you prioritize properly, develop a penchant for action, and motivate yourself through dark times. It helps you develop as a leader. In his book, Ryan shows just how many of history’s greatest leaders embodied stoic principles:

  1. John D. Rockefeller

  2. George Washington

  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  4. Thomas Edison

  5. Ulysses S. Grant

  6. Margaret Thatcher

  7. Teddy Roosevelt

  8. Steve Jobs

  9. Dwight Eisenhower

  10. the list goes on…

The Obstacle is the Way is the best introduction to Stoicism that I’ve found. Despite getting a free digital copy to review, I already purchased two additional copies knowing that I’ll want to give them to friends. 

I suspect Ryan’s book will improve many lives3, just as the first time I read Seneca improved mine. If you're a new grad, and your commencement speaker was lackluster, so you're reading this looking for my best advice, here it is: read that book.

If you are already happy and effective, feel free to ignore or engage only academically with Stoicism, you clearly have a system that works for you. If you feel like you need some help improving, I’d suggest reading the Stoics. You could start with Ryan’s bookSeneca, or even just the right reddit thread.

I’ve included a list of resources4 at the bottom of this essay which can be a great place to start. If you don’t trust my word on why this study might be worth your time, I think Henry Fielding sums it up quite eloquently (emphasis mine):

If a man, for instance, should be overloaded with prosperity or adversity (both of which cases are liable to happen to us), who is there so very wise, or so very foolish, that, if he were a master of Seneca and Plutarch, could not find great matter of comfort and utility from their doctrines?


An interview with the author

After reading the book, I sat down to review my notes (over 150 highlights, notes, quotes, and links). From that review, I wrote down a few questions that I thought would make a useful compendium to this essay—something that would summarize Stoicism and the book from Ryan’s point of view.

Ryan was gracious enough to answer them in depth and with examples. 

Tyler: Let’s start with a simple definition, what is Stoicism?

Ryan: Stoicism is a philosophy that became popular with the elite of the Greco-Roman empire. Unlike other more theoretical schools of philosophy, Stoicism is a set of practical philosophical principles that are meant to be practiced in your life. The Ancient Stoics like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius wrote personal exhortations to themselves, never intending their writing for publication, so they lack the puffing and rationalization that comes from presenting yourself to an audience. It’s really a system designed to direct our actions and thoughts in an inherently unpredictable world. 

Tyler: How did you discover stoicism? What made you want to apply it to your daily life?

Ryan: I was lucky enough to be introduced to Stoicism by Dr. Drew of Loveline fame when I was nineteen. I walked up to him after conference for college journalists and asked him what he was reading. He recommended the great Stoic Epictetus. I went back to my hotel and ordered that and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and Meditations arrived first. 

I was going through a tough break up at the time and wasn’t sleeping well. I was so blown away that writing like this existed, ignoring the fact that it was written almost two thousand years ago. From reading Meditations I was able to see that so much of life is out of our control and that so much of our action, or lack thereof, are predicated on our perceptions of these uncontrollable events. So it totally shifted my mindset.

Tyler: When was the first time that you realized adhering to Stoic principles gave you an advantage in your daily life?

Ryan: Shortly after I was introduced to Stoicism, I took a hard left turn and dropped out of college at 19. I moved to LA and basically had to teach myself the ropes in some pretty high stress jobs. Throughout all this I kept revisiting Meditations to help me weather the storm and keep myself grounded.

Tyler: In the book, you give examples of famous historical figures who were Stoics. Who are some of those successful people who applied Stoicism? How did Stoicism give them an advantage?

Ryan: One famous Stoic I talk about is James Stockdale, who was in the same prison camp as John McCain was in Vietnam. When he was shot out of his plane over Vietnam, he said to himself, “I am leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus,” which is a pretty crazy reaction. I mean, he knew he was going to be captured behind enemy lines and he used Stoicism to give him solace during what had to be a terrifying experience.

For seven years he was able to provide leadership and support and direction to his fellow prisoners, even attempting to commit suicide at one point to send a message to the guards. And going into it all he reminded himself that Stoicism would help him through it.

Tyler: You talk a lot about discipline, and having a penchant for action. How important is it to optimize for action over contemplation? What role should contemplation play in your day-to-day life?

Ryan: In the book I talk about taking deliberate action. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with deliberating over choices you have and examining all your options. Reckless action is often just as bad as not taking action at all. But I think when you start contemplating you can bring on a lot of what Stoicism tries to prevent: anxiety, thinking about things you can’t control, paralysis by analysis, etc. So its important to recognize the difference here, because with contemplation I think we can get lost in our own heads.

Tyler: Every philosophy has faults - what’s the biggest problem with Stoicism?

Ryan: I think one of the problems with Stoicism is the way people interpret it. They read Seneca or Epictetus and see some of their habits as being a little to extreme and say, “Well, that’s crazy, I’m never going to do that.” 

Or they mistake being stoic, as being unemotional and negative. In my view Stoicism isn’t going to lead you astray. But if you take some of the actions or views the Stoics had too literally, I could see how people could be turned off or led astray.

Tyler: In the book, you present ancient ideas through modern examples. Why did you decide to write it this way?

Ryan: Well I recognized from the beginning that there aren’t many people looking for a book on practical philosophy. And there’s no way to improve upon the original writing of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca, so I wasn’t going to try a fool’s errand. 

But from my training with Robert Greene and my research throughout the years I was able to recognize stories of great people from history who overcame tremendous adversity and were practicing these Stoic principles whether they knew it or not. Some of the chapters in the book aren’t based on any specific Stoic principle at all, but the stories and the people within them certainly embody the spirit of Stoicism. 

[Note from Tyler: I can’t praise the decision to use tangible examples from familiar people enough. This decision, more than any other, is what made this the most readable book on Stoicism I’ve encountered.]

Tyler: What is the most important idea in the book?

Ryan: I think the most important idea of the book is the Stoic maxim that the book is based on: 

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

The first section of the book is about the discipline of perception, which is essential to overcoming adversity. Instead of giving into panic, fear, and anxiety when we are faced with an obstacle, we can flip it on its head and instead look for an advantage or positive to pull from it. 

Marcus Aurelius has another great quote about this, “Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.” It’s so important not to given into our basest emotions and instincts when we are hit in the mouth in life. People I write about in the book, like Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart, were able to see things objectively, which is what allowed them to act and succeed in the face of tremendous adversity.

Tyler: What made you want to write a book this broad?

Ryan: I believe that you write the book that you have to write. And this is a book I’ve really wanted to write for a long time. Like I said before I first discover this Stoic exercise of turning obstacles upside down when I was 19 years old. Since then it’s been seared into my brain regardless of what I’ve done and I’ve always tried to think about my problems and opportunities in life through that frame.

In the years I’ve been using it, I started to notice patterns in reading and my experiences of other people doing this exact thing whether they explicitly acknowledged it or not. And I knew I had to write a book exclusively dedicated to this.

So honestly it was a topic that kind of came out of left field for me, and the book idea was beyond my skill level. But the only way to change that is to attempt something that feels impossible or out of reach, and I hope I’ve succeed with this book.

Tyler: You repeat something often in the book—that the lessons that stoicism teaches us are “simple, but not easy.” Why are they so hard? Have you found any tricks that help people with adherence to these principles?

Ryan: They’re hard because they go against a lot of our instinctual, biological reactions to stress. So part of it is kind of reprogramming your initial reactions when things go wrong. One trick that I’ve always used that has helped me a lot is printing out good advice and putting it where your work. For whatever reason, we humans need these daily reminders and it’s as simple as hanging a frame on your wall or putting a Post-It on your bathroom mirror. I’ve found that reminding myself and revisiting the principles has helped me immmensely in internalizing them.

Tyler: There seems to be a lot of increased interest in Stoicism, what is driving this rekindled popularity? 

Ryan: There seems to be a resurgence in Stoicism during uncertain or turbulent times. Often people look to it to get them through periods where there are large societal shifts that they can’t control. So I think that is part of it, with the recession, joblessness, and student loan debt that people are dealing with today. I don’t necessarily think that I’m driving the renewed interest in it, but I definitely think me being introduced to it during the recession was great timing for me.

Tyler: Are we too weak today? You quote great thinkers throughout the ages (Emerson, Churchill, etc.) who suggest that most people give up too easily. Do we suffer from that as well? Has technology made it worse or better?

Ryan: I think in some ways we have become entitled and expect certain things to go our way. Don’t get me wrong, technology has improved our lives in unimaginable ways and will continue to, but there is a dark side to it that I think we are a little reticent to talk about. 

A lot of kids of my generation expected to get a decent job coming out of college, but then the recession hit, and all of the narratives we had been told growing up weren’t the case anymore. Instead of getting angry or giving up, I think it’s important to remember that earlier generations faced much worse problems than us and had fewer safety nets at their disposal. And so we should instead double down and at least take a chance to prove ourselves instead of expecting things to return back to the way they were.

[Note from Tyler: Charlie Hoehn’s The Recession Proof Graduate is a fantastic book for new and recent grads facing this situation. If I had a younger brother or sister graduating high-school this year, I would buy them The Obstacle is the Way, The Recession Proof Graduate, a box of condoms, and write a note that said “prepare for the things you want in life, and you’ll be much more likely to get them.”]

Tyler: Some people say that Stoicism has too much emphasis on controlling your emotions — that it makes us more disciplined, but less human. What would you say to them?

Ryan: This is a common criticism of Stoicism, but I think it misses the point. Stoicism isn’t about being a negative or unfeeling person. If that’s what you get out of Stoicism I think you were probably predisposed to finding that before you studied it. It’s more of a meditative technique that transforms negative emotions into a sense of calm and perspective, instead of being paralyzed and engulfed by them.

Tyler: You say that academics have a robbed us of philosophy’s true purpose, which is helping us live better lives. Why hasn’t Stoicism hasn’t fallen into that trap?

Ryan: I don’t think Stoicism is immune from falling into that trap. I think any philosophy professor can turn the study of it into a theoretical exercise, but that isn’t want helps people in real life.

Academics have the advantage of teaching and speaking about philosophy in journals and the classroom, so they can get theoretical and the incentives of academia call for that. But for normal people living normal lives, a theoretical discussion of metaphysics or what a chair represents isn’t going to do a whole lot of good for the guy struggling to find a job. 

I think Stoicism is the most approachable and practical philosophy I’ve come across and that’s why its been so useful to me and others like Tim Ferriss who have become big proponents of it.

—- Footnotes —-


I don’t want you to think I’m discouraging yoga or meditation, in fact I practice both and have found value in both.

When you’re actually getting deep into any self-improvement method, they all require real work. If you work to apply stoic principles, you’re rewiring your brain just as much as you would to practice meditation.

The thing that I like about Stoicism is that you can get started easily, once you get going it’s just as much work as anything else that makes you better.

2: A word of warning…

My experience with reading stoic philosophers has often been similar to reading a collection of common sense.

The ideas contained inside are not complex or exceptionally novel, in fact, many of the same concepts have made it into other philosophies or religions. The Serenity prayer, for example, has always seemed to me like the perfect summation of Stoic beliefs:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

The challenge in Stoic philosophy isn’t in trying to understand the ideas behind the books; it’s in actually applying Stoic principles consistently to your daily life.

You won’t get there over night, I think of Stoicism as a practice—something that you improve in over time.


If you aren’t convinced that this can be helpful, and don’t want to take my word for it, or the words of historical leaders for it, here are some comments from the blog posts Ryan wrote and the Amazon reviews for his book:

I can say with personal experience that living this kind of life makes you a much, MUCH happier… healthier… wealthier and just better person all around.

I have used some of this through some really trying experiences. High anxiety situations. It worked most of the time, but needs practice like anything else.

I’ve seen it have some great impact on some of my friends. It’s empowering, realizing that you may not always have control over your surroundings or your circumstances, but you can always control yourself and how you act.

I’ve tried and been meaning to read into the stoicism books for some time, and even started a few times - but found it difficult to dig in as they weren’t very straightforward reads (not the easiest to pick up and get into for a 30 minute read).So Ryan’s book is really outstanding…

I learn important or difficult lessons best through stories and analogies. This book has great stories from history that taught me the tough lessons a lot of us need to learn about overcoming obstacles. Like Ryan says, it’s simple but it’s not easy. And that is probably the toughest lesson of them all. Also, Ulysses S. Grant was a certified badass.

The most succinct way I can put it: This book will make you better.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life to have many, many people who wanted to help me. They all gave great advice and a lot of that advice were in catchy little aphorisms that bothered the crap out of my stubborn self. What Ryan Holiday’s excellent work here is, is all of those spot-on aphorisms organized, researched, exemplified, and turned into actionable, practical tools.

This is not a book in a sense - this is a Swiss Army Knife for your attitude.

Devoured this book like a dragon on steroids. A self-help guide for those who hate self-help.

What can I say? It’s a super-practical book about stoicism and its many values.

4: Resources for further study



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The Law of Accelerating Media

From print advertising and the Mad Men era, to the new world of digital and social media marketing, advertising has been getting more complicated for marketers every decade for well over 100 years.

In the last decade, it’s gotten even worse.

The industry has crossed a tipping point – complexity and change are now evident in every marketing department. The growth of the Internet and rise of social media has been a disruptive force that is tearing apart and remaking marketing strategies all around the world.

The cause of this complexity is a simple but powerful trend rarely discussed in the boardroom: The Law of Accelerating Returns.

Defined as “the exponential growth patterns of information technologies,” the Law of Accelerating Returns can be summed up simply: media that compete for our attention grow the same way compound interest grows – every year gets faster. From print media to the Internet, we’ve seen this accelerating growth rate for centuries.

Studying this, two patterns become clear:

  • Exponential Growth: New mass-media technologies get consistently better at reaching cultural relevance quickly.

Information technologies follow an exponential growth pattern – and media platforms are no different. The time between the popularization, or mass-media acceptance, of print and audio recordings was 377 years; between radio and television it was 71 years; between television and the Internet, it was 42 years, and between the Internet and the next two platforms, social media and mobile phones, it was only 10 years.

If you are in the business of getting people’s attention, this trend means that every new decade will give you more new ways of reaching people than the last decade did. If it seems like the number of channels you can reach your customers on is growing faster than ever, that’s because the relative growth rate is always increasing.

  • Fractured Attention: Human attention doesn’t migrate to new platforms – it fractures across them.

When new technologies become popular, they don’t kill the preceding technology; each technology ends up attracting a share of the population’s attention. The new technology may siphon off a good amount of the previous technology’s reach, but it never fully replaces it.

You can see this time and again: Books and newspapers are still alive well past the popularization of radio, the radio still entertains Americans during their commutes and work-days despite the dominance of television, and the average American watches 2.73 hours of TV per day more than twenty years after the invention of the ‘Net.

The rate of change was hardly noticeable until just over 20 years ago, but now it’s moving at an uncomfortably quick pace, and thanks to the law of accelerating returns, it’s speeding up instead of slowing down. The splintering of human attention hits home for marketers. They have to constantly reach more prospective consumers across more channels; and more often than not, they have to do so with the same or fewer resources.

Solving the Problem

Marketers are investing in developing strategies to cope with this new reality. The popularity of Agile Marketing and its focus on iterative measurement and improvement is a fantastic example of a strategy that has evolved to help.

Under Agile methodology, marketers are deploying their budgets and resources more intelligently, and looking actively for the best performance against their campaigns: taking advantage of the ever-expanding number of social media sites, targeting users on mobile phones, and even exploring very early technologies like augmented reality.

Strategies like Agile have given CMOs a powerful way to thrive in the new reality, but have also required adopting unfamiliar job responsibilities. In many cases, they are building out an entire technology stack to manage their efforts. Historically an under-spender, marketing is beginning to rival the IT budgets of other departments. Some of the most forward-thinking technologists are starting to bring technologists into their departments, often reporting to both market and IT.

The Marketing Technology Stack

These new marketing technologists are tasked primarily with architecting, building and supporting the marketing technology stack – which is a combination of applications and software that can work in concert to empower the marketing team to run more efficient campaigns and extract actionable insights for use in future marketing efforts.

Marketing technology as a category is growing very fast, and individual companies have done very well by building components of the enterprise marketing technology stack:

  • Marketing Automation allows teams to be much more efficient by creating repeatable marketing programs
  • Web Analytics helps provide actionable insight that can be used to redirect inefficient marketing efforts
  • Authoring tools allow marketers to make interesting ads, and other brand experiences, that work in multiple channels very quickly
  • There are dozens of other examples. Scott Brinker at ion interactive has kept a running list of more than 40 categories of Marketing Technology.

There’s never been a harder time to be a CMO, but there’s never been a more rewarding time either – the marketing profession is in the process of re-defining itself and now has the opportunity to lead the rest of the business into a new era.