Category Archives: Philosophy

Optimizing the Human Experience with Chris Schelzi

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A lot of this conversation has to do with getting ripped. Chris Schelzi knows a bit about fitness.

I met Chris in early 2015. He was working at BlackRock, Inc. at the time. The startup I was working on at the time poached him. I guess he liked the team…

Chris helped that startup raise more than a quarter of a million dollars in a crowdfunding campaign.

Now, he’s working at AppSumo, bringing you great deals on cool tools for your company.

In our conversation, Chris and I dive deep into:

  • Coffee
  • Hedonism
  • Diet and Exercise
  • Ideas for the next great health tech startup
  • How AppSumo is empowering entrepreneurs

Please enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with my good friend Chris Schelzi.

Notes

[02:00] French Press vs Chemex

  • French Press = Full immersion, full body
  • Chemex filters do a lot of heavy lifting

[06:00] Justus’s favorite cup of coffee

[07:20] BOOKS

and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham

[16:00] Coffee as a vice. How to best enjoy vices in general.

[17:30] Why you shouldn’t be afraid to return things to the store

[18:30] Zen Roaster. Roasting your own coffee. Moving meditation. Coffee rituals. Chris built himself a side-table.

  • Designing and building things by hand is zen af.

[23:30] We talk about axes and camping for a bit

[26:30] Our mutual interest in health and physiology

  • Diet – How to get shredded like Chris?
    • Low carb, high fat.
  • Exercise recommendations?

Frozen Fatty Coffee Drink

Chameleon Cold Brew

[39:00] How to teach anti-science people a better way.

“Show them a cleaner glass of water”.

Bulletproof Coffee gets mentioned about a hundred times.

[43:00] Intermittent fasting. Strength training + Tabata Sprints

Diet scheduling. Fasting from protein can improve protein utilization. Lift heavy things and sprint. Keep it simple.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” – Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

[46:00] Isometrics workouts to build strength without putting stress on joints. On grass or in the pool. “Jack your heart rate up”.

[49:00] Chris’s $10,000 offer for a health technology product for monitoring various biological markers

  • The state of health monitoring is abysmal for the average or even extraordinary consumer
  • Idea – Implant that continually measures important biomarkers. Measure in real time.
  • Dutch testing for cortisol and other hormones
  • This idea could change the way we interact with dieting and health in general
  • What would a version one of this tech look like? Measuring the following:
    • Sex Hormones
    • Stress Hormones
    • Cholesterol
    • Fat Soluble Vitamins (A, E, D, K)
    • Glucose and Ketones

[1:02:30] What is Chris working on now?

  • AppSumo – Groupon for Geeks
  • DesignBold – Design made easy
  • SerpStat – All in one SEO tooling
  • The cult of the “Sumo-ling”

[1:05:30] What kind of company works with AppSumo

  • GREAT tools for small businesses
  • Validated by some users
  • Startups that have Product Market Fit and are looking to scale to the next level

[1:10:00] Chris’s role at AppSumo

  • Operations and Marketing
  • Focusing on retention in 2017

[1:13:00] Final requests

Conclusion

This conversation could have easily been three times as long. I’ll certainly have Chris on the show again.

If you enjoyed today’s episode please subscribe to the show and leave a review on iTunes.

Naf Visser – Kindness, The Art of No Thought, and Photography

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

Most of us are not very inspiring.

It’s the truth. Fear, anxiety, anger– these are our afflictions and they prevent us from inspiring others.

And we need to inspire others.

Inspiration sells, persuades, and convinces. Inspiration causes action. As entrepreneurs and founders we want people to act.

My guest today knows how to inspire people. He inspired me to set off on a three month mini-retirement to see the world. He inspired a whole team of engineers to work for two months without pay without even meaning to.

Naphtali “Naf” Visser is one of my closest friends and mentors. I’m honored to have him on the show as a guest. More than that, I’m glad to have the opportunity to introduce you to Naf’s philosophy. It’s a philosophy that has impacted me in a profound way in the last year.

Enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with Naf Visser:

LINKS:

Humans Working

www.peacepodcast.com

Holocaust Kindness Project

Jayson Gaignard’s Mastermind Dinners

Loyal Nine Restaurant

Humus Bar

Mara Gleason

FIND: naf@humansworking.co

[3.00] Why reading Jayson Gaignard’s Mastermind Dinners spurred Naf started inviting people for dinners.

  • Naf talks about why it’s so important to practice kindness

[4.40] How to practice kindness without expecting anything in return

[6.30] Naf discusses meeting Justus at Loyal Nine Restaurant

[8.45] Why Naf believes you can’t “teach” kindness and that kindness begins with personal thought

[11.30] Naf discusses his prime motivator for doing what he does

  • Naf is driven by helping people

[12.40] Why Naf’s bad experiences in the corporate world lead to him starting an internet consulting agency at age 23

  • Main criteria was to have a place where people (employees) would like to come.
  • Business was successful for more or less 4 years
  • At the 4 year mark the company had a black swan event (major client failed to pay a whole lot of owed money and the economy tanked). This happened around September 2001.

[16.50] Naf describes the meeting where he told his employees the business was closing and how this changed everything

  • Spoiler: No one left, everyone refused to leave. Why? Incredible culture and trust. Because Naf valued his employees as family, and treated them as such, they treated him as family too. Your people are your most important asset.
  • How Naf’s staff worked for nothing over the next two months and why this period was the most transformative of his life
  • How Naf ended up giving one client an 80% discount on a job, in return for upfront payment, so he could help a staff member meet their month’s rent

[20.30] How Naf’s persistence and focus on helping his staff lead to his company landing its biggest contract in its darkest moment

  • Ultimately merged with a design company
    • Naf believes kindness and willingness to help was the key

[23.00] Why giving employees unlimited vacation leave and other tangential work benefits can be a bad idea

  • It starts with the principles behind an initiative. If staff do not inherently understand this it will not work.
  • Naf deconstructs his actions during this challenging period
  • Naf realised that “kindness” and “no thought” were the guiding principles
  • Why resilience is so important in the process of life
  • Naf believes suffering comes from not understanding that you can be resilient

[30.45] Discussion on the three principles: Mind, consciousness and thought

  • “Confidence is going into a situation knowing I will be ok no matter what”
  • “With a clear mind, much more magic can happen”
  • Letting the mind calm down and letting a solution flow in can be very powerful

[37.30] Why “letting go” and allowing yourself to “lose control” can be the best way to handle problems

[39.00] Naf describes the connection between food and kindness. He has a podcast called Peace Photos and Pizza

  • Everyone needs to eat. During peace or during war, everyone stops to eat. This allows the time to reflect.
  • Restaurant in Israel called Humus Bar that gives 50 percent discount on hummus to a table where Arabs and Jews sit together
  • Holocaust kindness project
  • Why food can bridge cultural divides
  • Justus discusses his theory about doner kebabs solving the issue of Islamophobia

[45.00] Naf discusses thought.

  • Everything is invented through thought.
  • Recognise that there is no right or wrong, only “thought”
  • Reality is created through thought, moment to moment

[47.50] Think of thought as spiritual energy

  • Naf describes his theory how thoughts aren’t created by you.
  • Why having a clear mind is the best way to handle bad things

[54.30] Why overthinking leads to inauthentic behaviour

[56.30] Naf describes how to get a clear mind. Spoiler: It is in our natural state. It isn’t something that you seek.

  • Why meditation or other extrinsic influences don’t get you to your natural state

[1.02.00] Naf describes his company Humans Working which he founded as a result of his life experiences

[1.05.00] Naf discusses why everyone has their own unique recipe to follow

  • “When you do the thing that you think you are called to do, you learn so much more about yourself”
  • Naf discusses the concept of happiness and why it’s not something you find
    • “There is no place that will make you happy.”
    • If you aren’t happy there is nowhere you can go that will clear your mind or make you happy. It is an internal state of mind as happiness is simply a state of mind.
    • “Happiness is available at your fingertips.” It doesn’t come from accumulation, relationships, money or external influences. Happiness is being.

[1.08.30] Naf discusses the three principals “prove, please, protect” – Mara Gleason

  • “Kindness and love are a natural state when you aren’t wrapped up in fear”
  • There is no amount of “anything” that can get you to feel a certain way

[1.21.20] Naf gives examples of how personal experiences come from “thinking” not from someone else’s actions

[1.25.10] What makes good photography

  • Everyone has their own experience when they see something and this doesn’t come from the image
  • Light, moment, composition
  • Evoke an emotion and convey an opinion

[1.31.00] Naf describes how to take a great picture

  • Focus on authenticity and emotional connection – Ask if it is a constructed moment? Could this photo be recreated through CGI?
  • It has nothing to do with the camera
  • Learn how to “see” before you photograph – “Take lots of pictures and learn to see”
  • Entry, exit and resting points

What now?

Go take some photos! Psyche. If you enjoyed the interview with Naf, subscribe to Hacker Practice on iTunes and leave us a review. Thanks!

Reflecting on 2016: The Ideas that Influenced Me

The most important learning comes in the evolution of our ideas. Good thinkers maintain darwinian belief selection processes. Strong ideas survive debate, scrutiny, and the test of time.

The most important ideas I’ve developed this year include a complex systems theory that provides for inverse utility over time via increased structural overhead. Basically, as a complex system passes peak utility, latent consequences of running the system cause a utility inversion function to emerge.

I’ve also been toying with this idea of a Grand Biological Abstraction. This event happening at present in the relationship between humans and technology.

An abstraction is a symbol that represents a unit of complexity. Every word is an abstraction of deliberate ideas and various connotations. “Car” is an abstraction that represents the sum function of a complex piece of physical machinery with many moving and electric parts.

“Human Being” is an abstraction of a single instance of a biological species. That instance serves as the host ecosystem for a variety of microbial life that could it could not live without nor could the microbes survive without it.

In other words, the sword of biology cuts these species apart, viewing them through different lenses. Reality’s sword is more subtle. The scalpel of nature is more nuanced than the sword of academic and intellectual theorizing.

Furthermore, it is not simply the relationship between humans and our microbiome that traditional biology hacks to pieces. It is the relationship between humans and pets, humans and livestock, humans and their homes, birds and their nests.

In fact, the bird cannot exist without the nest. Nor can the nest exist without the bird. The bird loses feathers and she loses her nest but you would never think that the feathers were not part of the bird.

In other words the category “Bird” abstracts away the concept of “nest”. But the nest is still there, even when you cannot see it. Even if it’s been destroyed. There is a nest soon to be born.

Of course, on human scale, the nest is a metaphor for our own technology. Our clothes and our computers are a part of us. The neural mesh is here Mr. Musk, and it has been for a long time.

The same way wheat manipulated humans into its global propagation. So has artificial intelligence prompted us into her development. Whether it’s the invisible hand of god or the invisible hand of the market. These unique by-products of our existence are no byproducts at all.

They are the fruits of our Grand Biological Abstraction.

Any multicellular organism is an abstraction of it’s parts. Soon human beings meshed with each other via technology will converge into a transcendent new form of life. Others call it the singularity, but in fact I suspect it will be a multiplicity.

Markets diverge, ecologies diverge. The universe is diverging. There is no reason to believe in a “singularity”.

There will, however, be a grand biological abstraction. Our understandings of the individual and the collective will warp immensely as our ability to reproduce and iterate informatically develops. The progression of artificial intelligence and biological technologies will unify many times in countless parallel instances eventually diverging into different protocols of super-life.

This is already evident. Different cars running on different fuels sources with onboard computers that have different operating systems. Each of which has different vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Humans tend to simplify complexity behind abstractions. We think all planes are fundamentally the same. The perform similar functions for us. Their parts seem to appear similar. The underlying physical laws are similar. But in fact, over many instances all of these variables fluctuate with different degrees of volatility. We can rely on physical laws of the universe to be mostly predictable at given scale with very little variance in the single scale. However, no two flights are alike. No two wings are alike. No two airplanes, even manufactured to the same specification are really the same thing.

The act of creation is so singular, and also, so iterative, that we have to be satisfied with a paradox of multiplicity emerging from singularity. Futurism should not end at the Singularity.

Futurism should not end at the singularity.

Other ideas that were important to me this year came from books. I was especially moved by Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The only other authors that earned multiple reads from me this year were Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dan Ariely, Will Durant, Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell and perhaps Anders Ericsson.

My day-to-day intellectual curiosity has been largely influenced by Taleb’s discussion on optionality, heuristics, hubris, and uncertainty. My moral and ethical philosophy is heavily weighted toward individual creativity and interpersonal compassionate love. I’m constantly struck by the convergence of ascetic thinking across religions and worldviews. Ascetics from all over the world converge at a sort of supra-humanist solitary enlightenment.

Invoke your own teleological ideal of a Tibetan Monk. Does your stereotypical Tibetan Buddhist Monk differ greatly from your stereotypical Catholic Monk in temperament?

Both sit quietly in contemplation or prayer as a means to achieve salvation or enlightenment. Humility is a central tenet to both. Compassionate love is an elevated quality in both cultures.

You will find the same convergent quality in ascetics from Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish traditions.

Travelling extensively around the world has taught me the universal value of life. I have seen the interconnectedness of things. How the reality in a place informs the outside perspective of it. How the outside conception and the inside reality have some overlap but also much divergence. For example, yes, croissants are delicious in France, but so are the kebaps. By the way, kebaps in France don’t come on a stick, they come in a wrap. And maybe French people are rude to tourists in Paris, but in Nice they are very nice. The red wine is good like you’d expect but the Rosè is transcendent.

Information =/= Truth

Truth is the subset of all information that actually reflects reality. There is discovered information and undiscovered information. Some undiscovered information may not be discoverable.

A lot of discovered information is untrue. All truth is a kind of information. Not all information is truth. Information derived from reality tends to be true. Things can be true in different ways. Fiction can be partially true if the message reflects reality.

We try to verify truthiness using logic. We slice assertions apart and test their component parts. We produce categories within categories to produce immense complexity with deception hidden in every crevice. Perhaps nothing can be 100% true because interpretation can always layer a bit of falseness on any truth and a bit of truth on any lie.

All of these ideas are wholly impractical until they are tested in the real world. Even writing about them solicits various critiques that will hopefully strengthen the core idea. Or break it.

If I can break these ideas that occupy my mind, I can essentially mark them as untrue. Then I can dispose of them. I can talk about them at the dinner table but I really need the best minds in the world to stress-test these concepts.

Or maybe they aren’t really that important.

The problem with examining popular viewpoints and looking for contrarian truth is that a lot of popular beliefs are worthless. As in they don’t have any positive value. It may be that the contrarian truth is also worthless.

Even if I am right about the Grand Biological Abstraction, I gain nothing from it. There is no stock market to bet on the abstraction away from our biology. I will gain no years, accolades, or financial success for espousing such an idea. I will simply be right in a small prediction about the future.

I might make money by betting on political events and business outcomes. I get no physical reward from exposing personal philosophical theorizing. The skin I put into the game is reputational. Not physical or financial.

And truthfully, it’s asymmetrical risk proposition. I can make up an idea. If I’m right, I win happiness and perhaps admiration from others. Maybe some formal business opportunities arise as a result.

If I’m wrong. Nobody cares. Nothing is lost.

These are some of the ideas that I obsessed over in 2016. Since 2017 is the Year of Vulnerability I am sharing them publicly to hopefully have them voraciously ridiculed for some substantive reason that I can later rectify or use as justification for dropping the idea.