Life at the Bleeding Edge of Technology (AI) and Education (MIT + Nuvu) with David Wang

Listen to Episode 7 of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

I met David Wang at a vegetarian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was introduced to me by our mutual friend Naf Visser (episode 008). David and I sat outside in the sun. It was hot and I practically shotgunned my ginger turmeric smoothie.

I was working on a project and wanted his feedback. It was an artificial intelligence testing platform. David is one of the leading experts on autonomous systems, so who better to talk to?

The project never materialized, but I made a new friend.

We hit it off. David is a great listener with a kind demeanor. It’s probably apparent in our conversation here; David is as good with people as he is with technology. And he is very good with technology.

He has multiple degrees from MIT including a PhD in autonomous scheduling and planning. He worked on the F-35 fighter jet and his thesis code was used on the Mars Curiosity Rover. He’s worked everywhere from DARPA to Boeing to Pratt and Whitney. He knows as much about computer science and software development as anyone in the world.

Now he’s a co-founder at a school that’s redefining modern educational paradigms (Learn more about NuVu here). I’m so glad he had time for this conversation.

In today’s talk we go over:

  • AI – Past, present, and future.
  • How to learn complex topics quickly
  • Education and how David is fixing it.

Enjoy episode 7 of Hacker Practice with David Wang:


[2.45] David explains how we have come out of “Artificial Intelligence Winter” and why AI is about to take off

[5.10] AI ethics and morality and the end game

[5.45] David discusses how codifying algorithms lead him to forging a career in AI

[7.15] David discusses why following your hobby is a very important step in figuring out what you are on this planet to do:

  • David enjoyed building computers from scratch
  • Built a processor from logic gates in his spare time after studying

[13.30] David describes what it’s like working on research projects with DARPA – Advanced research project agency of the defence department. ARPA is most famous for creating the internet.

[14.45] Learning interesting topics – PHD automated planning and scheduling – AI subcategory

[16.45] David describes AI planning and scheduling in detail!

  • Ask how would we describe the world to a computer with true or false statements E.g. is the coffee cup on the table? True/false
  • We then have a language which we can use to describe the world as is and how we want it to be (known in the AI world as “the goal”)
  • Describe an action with a set of preconditioned statements that create a set of effects. Planning and scheduling involves sequencing these actions to get from your starting point to the goal.

[21.10] David describes planning system projects he worked on at MIT involving decision making algorithms to block malicious hacking tactics.

[23.20] David discusses the two types of hackers that are most dangerous

[25.00] David describes his experiences of working on AI robotics projects for Boeing

  • Why programming frameworks haven’t innovated until now

[34.20] How video gaming was David’s gateway drug to programming. David also describes how we can take learnings from video game construction to the real world and contextual AI applications.

[38.20] David discusses the concept, “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything”

[40.40] David describes personal hacks he has for learning

  • Start by asking why something is the way it is and understand the reasons behind something. Is there an intuition that is extractable that will allow you to remember why something is the way it is.

[42.45] David talks about working on Augmented Reality applications in smart homes

[44.30] Hacks to remember the names of people you meet

[49.00] David gives an example of how AR in the smart home context, could be used to help a non-technical person, solve a technical problem, without the need for a technician

[50.40] David gives his insights on Virtual Reality (VR) applications

[54.00] Discussion on learning and facing adversity

[56.40] David discusses his experiences working on the F-35 jet fighter

  • David would essentially imagine all the different ways the plane could fail and reverse engineer solutions to prevent failure
  • How David used the spiral development cycle to understand how the F-35 worked

[1.04.00] Complexity comes not necessarily from the technology but from the number of moving parts

  • David talks space exploration applications

[1.08.10] How David deals with the isolation of being at the top of a field

[1.10.20] Why it is so important to understand students underlying motivators to learn

[1.13.20] Why it is important to decide if college is the right medium for students. College shouldn’t be used as the only time to decide what you want to do with your life.

[1.16.45] David discusses why he started NuVu and shares his insights on teaching intuition

  • By realising that the projects that really piqued his interest during studies were all based on extracurricular activities, David went out to challenge the existing education model.

[1.20.30] What it’s like to run a school which has no classes, subjects or grades

  • Students need to come up with an idea they are super passionate about. They are then taught how to turn it into a great idea.
  • Students skills are then develop to turn this idea into a solution. The difference from formal learning here, is that they are invested in learning these skills because they are passionate, as opposed to being forced.
  • Encourage students to understand the fundamental concepts of human centred design thinking when ideating and developing their solution

[1.25.20] Justus gets David to deconstruct an idea using his teaching methodology. Spoiler: There is a lot of asking “why”

[1.31.30] How to not avoid losing sight of your original idea in the face of pivoting

[1.34.00] What someone could expect as a new student at NuVu

[1.37.10] How to start a school like NuVu on the cheap

  • NuVu is a private educational business that is not accredited. How important is accreditation? In the case of NuVu, it isn’t.
  • Ask, what does success look like for students leaving your school?
  • NuVu wants to create the innovators of the future. There is a strong emphasis on soft skills.

[1.43.30] The goal of working in a team is to create a giant brain

[1.46.30] David discusses a seasonal effective disorder (SED) project some of his students are working on

[1.48.20] What a parent who wants to send their child to NuVu need to know

[1.49.30] How David plans on scaling by helping existing schools adopt the NuVu education model

  • Use Maker Spaces more effectively

[1.53.20], David asks us to think about what success means to you and is college critical on that path to success?

What’s next?

If you enjoyed today’s episode, subscribe to Hacker Practice on iTunes (and leave a review please :D)

Diana Yuan, COO of Indico: Founding a High Tech Startup, Raising Money, and Courting Technical Partners

Listen to this episode on iTunes.

Diana Yuan is helping to lead the AI revolution. She is the COO of Boston’s scrappiest Machine Learning startup. Her, and her team of Olin Engineering dropouts, are democratizing machine learning tools for hackers all round the world.

Startup founders have an earned reputation for nonsensical over-confidence. Often, they’re impossible to spend time with due to a complete lack of self-awareness and social graces.

Diana is not one of those people.

As far as early-stage executives go, Diana has more self-awareness than most entrepreneurs twice her age. She’s bright and cheerful and a joy to be around. Having her on the show was a no-brainer for me.

This conversation was a lot of fun for me to produce. Thanks Diana :D.

This is the most important episode of Hacker Practice for aspiring non-technical startup founders. Diana Yuan’s role in the Indico origin story is instructive for any MBA-type/non-technical person looking for a technical partner. I have a feeling they’ll be telling her story in Babson business courses before long (if they aren’t already).

Enjoy this discussion on startups, fundraising, politics and technology with Indico’s Diana Yuan.

[4.30] Diana talks about the beginnings of Indico and beginning a machine learning startup

  • Indico aims to revolutionize software through powerful, developer-friendly machine learning

[5.50] How Indico closed contracts before becoming Incorporated

[8.30] How Diana got involved in Indico by accident!

  • Diana met Slater and Alec, Co-Founder of Indico by chance at the Affordable design and entrepreneurship class run by Olin College

[13.30] Being a non-technical co founder, Diana shares tips for joining forces and finding a technical partner

  • Don’t force it
  • Focus on the relationship you have with this person and ensure an aligned set of values and vision before getting caught up on technical capability
  • Why your job as a non technical co founder is to translate

[19.30] Why Indico pivoted from a B2C to B2B (enterprise) model?

[25.00] Diana explains her experience of applying for and getting into TechStars

  • Receiving funding from Rough Draft and having traction were helpful but networking was just as important
  • Diana recommends networking and actively discussing your application with those reviewing it (e.g. Diana hit up the founders of TechStars, including Semyon Dukach, who was also a member of the infamous MIT Blackjack team).

[28.50] Diana shares her biggest challenges of being accepted into TechStars

[31.30] On being the sole college graduate amongst her co-founders

[35.00] Why the world is your classroom

[37.30] Why Diana identifies as an introvert and why it’s important to know yourself in order to avoid burnout

[40.15] Diana discusses the challenges of raising capital and the emotional stakes at play

  • Don’t work with investors purely because they have money but because they will be a good fit for your team and offer a productive skillset

[46.40] Discusses the hiring process in a startup environment.

  • Save employee time by putting technical filters up front in the hiring process to screen potential candidates
  • It’s difficult to avoid hiring to keep up with growth but often startups have realisations and need to scale back. The important thing is to be conscious of it.

[53.50] The challenges of sponsoring candidates on a Visa

[56.50] Discussion on politics, America’s competitive advantage in entertainment and technology being eroded and technological libertarianism.

  • Take away thought – “what happened 250 years ago is what is allowing today’s events to unfold”

[1.01.40] Diana discusses why transfer learning is Indico’s secret sauce

  • Machine learning startups need to apply their expertise to specific market segments
  • Transfer learning is a methodology for taking an approach for a specific problem, adopting it as a standard for a certain type of problem group and being able to apply it to new problems, that fit within that type of problem group.

[1.05.30] On maintaining an IP competitive advantage and staying up to date with cutting edge industry trends

[1.08.15] Diana discusses the kind of money required for cloud based infrastructure in a machine learning startup

  • Diana discusses two innovative products offered by Indico, Crowd Label and Custom Collections, which help their end users label data and build custom models at speed and scale.

[1.14.00] How to protect IP and a business’s “secret sauce” in a highly competitive environment?

[1.16.45] The importance of choosing an investor and not feeling obliged to sign a term sheet just because one is put in front of you.

[1.17.30] What Indico does to prepare for a “black swan” event

  • Risk scales in proportion to number of customers and stakeholders involved

[1.21.10] Why customers should come to Indico for machine learning expertise

  • High quality unstructured text and video analysis. Free for first 10,000 API calls.

[1.22.50] ]How startups have capitalized on Indico’s unique product set at Hackathons to be able to build out MVPs in < 48hrs including a fake news detector

[1.25.00] You can find Diana on the Indico website because she runs the chat!

Now what?

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or leave me feedback as a comment here.

Andrew Dodson: How to build a Nuclear Power Plant in your Backyard (Make America Nuclear Again)(e005)

Listen to Hacker Practice on iTunes

Andrew Dodson is one of the smartest hackers I know. Our conversations typically happen over coffee and Go (the ancient board game). We talk about physics and simulation theory. In fact, he once loaned me Simulations by Jean Baudrillard and I never returned it (sorry Andrew!).

In episode 5 of Hacker Practice, I get started down a line of conversation I’ve been meaning to have for a long time.

I am deeply interested in sustainable technology. At the moment of writing I live on a small organic farm. My hands are literally dirty from playing in the greenhouse. No lie.

That’s why I spent most of this episode talking with Andrew about small-scale nuclear power. How can we do this on a farm or even neighborhood scale? Government regulation be damned!

Disclaimer: Andrew was calling in from a lab at MIT. There is a short interruption early in the episode that gives us a glimpse into a stealth nuclear startup at America’s best engineering school.

Learn the basics of nuclear power and more in today’s episode of Hacker Practice:

[2:45] Extreme Laser Tag – The greatest startup idea ever.

  • Graphene
  • Photodiodes
  • TENS Units
  • Extreme laser tag at low-orbit

[6:45] A welcome interruption from Dodson’s colleague, Matthias the super genius.

  • Postdoc gerbils
  • A brief peek inside a stealth nuclear startup…

[8:20] Andrew discusses boundaries necessary for working in startups

  • “People show who they are in their face”
  • “Startups can be… top heavy”
  • “These faces raise money… to get real people you need to be real people”

[10:30] Molten salt reactors

  • Ionic Compounds
  • Alternative to traditional light water reactors
  • Uranium fuel rods get hot, very hot.
  • How neutrons bouncing around cause nuclear chain reactions in enriched uranium fuel rods

[17:20] Components of a reactor

[18:20] Why higher temperatures are desirable

  • Why higher temperatures can be dangerous
  • “Spray a bunch of people with steam… coming out of a pressurized water reactor…that you can’t see… it’ll cut you in half.”
  • It’s all just a way to spin a pinwheel

[20:00] How to get started with nuclear engineering at home

[26:20] How could we put one of these nuclear reactors in your back yard

  • In the early days, small cores were all the rage
  • Highly enriched uranium is useful here (10-20 cm across)
  • High quality uranium fuel is a “political risk”
  • Where to find 99% enriched uranium
  • Building a vehicle-sized nuclear bomb

[29:20] What about Fukushima? Chernobyl Three Mile Island

  • They are blown out of proportion according to Dodson
  • Fossil fuels kill millions every year. Relatively, nuclear is extremely safe
  • Our generation (Y) needs to pursue this, NOW.

[31:25] Powering a farm with nuclear

  • Security concerns

[34:00] An ideal world where security is not a problem

  • Bury a cargo container with a reactor and turbine on the surface
  • Power my neighborhood for 40 years
  • Small reactors power aircraft carriers
  • Nuclear engineering secrets (hint: they’re military)

[36:30] Sources of fuel-quality Uranium

  • Downblending
  • Different grades of Uranium (civilian, weapons, etc)
  • How much Uranium costs per kilogram and where to get it

[38:30] Got the fuel, now what?

  • Shielding considerations
  • Burying the tank

[39:00] We built the reactor, what are my security precautions?

  • During operation
  • In case of a breach/leak
  • Radioactive worms
  • Basically: keep as much of it underground as you can
  • Worst-case scenario
  • Why you should eat plenty of spinach and fish

[51:15] Where to find Andrew (andrewmdodson@gmail.com)

  • Reach out to Andrew with the project you’re working on, it’s current status, and what your role is on the project.

Now What?

Go and design a miniature nuclear power plant! Then tell me about it!

If you enjoyed this episode of Hacker Practice, subscribe to the show  on iTunes.

Nari Savanorke-Joyce: Zen and the Art of Data Science

Camping on the coast of Maine 2016

I met Nari Savanorke-Joyce while living with 20 other people in a double-wide row home in Boston’s most elite neighborhood. She had just graduated from Wellesley College (Hillary Clinton’s Alma Mater) and was getting started in entry-level corporate America.

Within a year she had become one of her company’s most valuable data scientists.

Nari and I used to go sailing on the Charles River. We’d talk about economics, education, and the future of technology. Those conversations were fascinating to be a part of, so I thought: “Why not bring the genius of Nari on the show?”

As a professional, Nari takes cutting edge predictive models from the dusty shelves of academia and puts them to work on important business cases. She’s a technical expert in data science but more than that, she’s a chameleon who deftly maneuvers the social and political conditions of whatever situation she’s in.

Our conversation in episode 4 of Hacker Practice takes place on Skype, with Nari calling in from a poppin’ lounge in Stockholm. If you’re unfamiliar with data science or are looking for career advice for ambitious millennials, you will certainly enjoy this conversation with Nari Savanorke-Joyce:

[1.10] Why Nari booked a trip to Stockholm, Sweden on a whim

[5.50] How Nari learned about entrepreneurship through her parents

  • The importance of failure in the journey and grit required to bounce back

[6.30] Why Nari uses meditation to stay focused

[9.30] Adapting to the corporate world despite having entrepreneurship
in your blood

  • How to adapt to different environments
  • Parental influence in this domain

[13.50] Why putting yourself in a position where you aren’t in control is important for self-development

[16.10] Discussion on data science

Good data scientists excel in three directions:

  1. Domain expertise
  2. Computer science / programming skills
  3. Statistical modelling skills

DATA SCIENCE = Taking massive quantities of data and turning it into actionable insights

[18.30] Discussion on the methodology of data science (How to Data Science 101)

  1. Find a problem to solve
  2. Find the data
  3. Clean the data
  4.  Apply a model

[22.10] How an insurance company uses data science to stop insurance fraud?

  • Use models to predict low frequency high severity impact events

[30.30] Incentive structures in a data science role

[33.50] Using logistic regression to ask binary questions i.e. is person x likely to commit fraud?

  • Using survivor modelling to understand claim lifespan

[37.30] Why data cleansing is the most time consuming component of data science?

  • Using AI to detect pattern anomalies

[42.20] Discussion on behavioural economics (psychology and economics) and how to derive value in data science

[45.00] Behavioral economics is not classical economics

  • Can behavioral economics be used to improve lives and business?

[45.30] Specific advice for ambitious young people

  • Get out of debt
  • Find community with older people

[47.00] Importance in investing in continuous education

  • Focus on learning as a motivator

[51.50] Diversification vs focus lesson from Nari’s parents – “You have to go all in if you really want to pursue something”  

[55.00] On insurance start-ups attracting corporate talent

  • Begin with the “why” and be more than profit seeking

[58.10] Personal finance and budgeting

  • Awareness via categorisation of spending
  • Automatically save a percentage of your income

[1.03.20] Future of data science

  • Using data to continuously dive deeper and personalise – huge potential in the health sector

[1.05.00] Nari provides podcast interview tactics that she’d like to see adopted by Hacker Practice podcast

[1.06.00] Nari’s Top tier interviewees:

[1.10.10] Nari’s book recommendations

[1.15.10] Travel hacks to save money

  • Grocery stores are a great way to save money instead of eating out but also to learn about local food and culture
  • Walk everywhere, especially if the city or place you are visiting is compact

[1.16.20] Final piece of advice to listeners

  • Try 10 minutes of meditation per day

Conclusion

If you enjoyed the show please subscribe to Hacker Practice on iTunes. Hit me with suggestions of who you’d like to see on the show (@justuseapen). Leave me a review on iTunes. If you do any of these for me I will of course love you long time.

Thank you for listening!

How to Get Shredded, Break World Records, and Write Killer Copy with Stan Dutton (003)

Stan Dutton has multiple world records in power lifting.

Stan Dutton overseeing a small group class

Stan Dutton is the co-owner of UpLifted Inc. in Boston. He was one of the top 20 165-pound powerlifters in the United States in 2014. He completed 300 hours of hands-on training at the American Academy of Personal Training and earned his Training for Warriors Level 2 certification. He is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo.

I met Stan Dutton while recording the CEO of my startup doing squats at his gym. For form. But that’s not important.

Stan and I immediately hit it off. Two young college dropouts trying to make it as entrepreneurs in the city of higher education (Boston). It was practically destiny that we became friends.

Stan and his partner Nathan were running a Training for Warriors franchise location when I met them. Stan impressed me with world records in powerlifting and constant enthusiasm for life and business. He’s also a genuinely nice guy.

Now, Stan is undergoing a transformation. I feel very fortunate to interview him in the midst of transition.

In our talk, Stan tells me about his philosophy of fitness. He teaches some breathing exercises that helped him break world records in powerlifting. We talk about creatine and copywriting. He shares about the latest developments in his career.

I tell a story about poop.

It’s an exciting time to be a top-flight personal trainer. The zeitgeist around diet and exercise is constantly changing and Stan is right at the edge of what normal people can engage with.

Find out how Stan gets crazy results with ordinary people in episode 003 of Hacker Practice:

Notes

[2.10] Stan discusses being the personal trainer for the CEO of Pavlok and how he met Justus.

[5.20] Stan describes his philosophy on fitness:

  • An empathetic approach without having to a stereotypical “burn them down” trainer and rather “build them up”
  • Built on a foundation of integrity
  • Stan puts the “fun” in functional fitness.
  • Train for consistency and focus on having fun in the process.

[10.30] Stan gives tips on how he would go about training up Justus to become an elite level athlete in only 6 months.

  • Train to your genetic physical strengths
  • Intensive training needs to be supported with longevity training

[15.00] Justus shares a story about how he broke 2 hours in a half marathon after taking a poop!

[21.30] Stan shares details on the records he broke including lifting 3 times his bodyweight as well as the importance of breathing exercises

  • Stan explains how he uses specific breathing exercises to enhance his lifting capability
  • Proper breathing is fundamental to a great posture which is critical to effective and efficient powerlifting.
  • Breathing needs to occur through your diaphragm. You want to feel like you are breathing through your stomach. Your collarbone should remain relatively stable if performed properly.

[31.00] Discussion on Stan’s preferred protein supplements and common misconceptions around creatine

  • Creatine, monohydrate for strength and mass building
  • Creatine essentially gives your muscles extra energy to be able to max out repetitions. The cells will draw in extra water to enable this process which can cause dehydration. So it’s especially important to be vigilant of hydration when using creatine supplements.
  • Stan shares how taking too much creatine as an adolescent resulted in severe nausea, loss of appetite and the beginnings of dialysis.
  • Taking hormones can result in Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)

[40.00] Pros/cons of fasting

[42.30] Stan says why he thinks college is a waste of time and explains how getting hands on experience, has set him up for success in the personal training industry

  • Not going to college taught Stan how to deal with uncertainty in business relationships

[48.00] “At one point a degree used to be a differentiator…now not having a degree is a differentiator”

[49.15] Why suffering is the best thing that can happen to someone because it forces them to grow and change

[51.00] Stan describes his tips on writing epic emails and copy

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action
  • Learn how to be empathetic and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Remember, people buy from people.
  • Stan suggests Paul Mort as a fantastic resource for writing quality copy

[58.50] Stan describes specific tactics for selling high value coaching services

  • The power of specific personal examples and sharing vulnerability with clients

[1.04.00] Why having a personal coach will help you become a better version of yourself

[1.08.00] Stan describes the “black swan” event that turned his life upside down

[1.15:30] Stan describes his latest venture – busyguyfitness.com an online platform for busy professionals to complete workouts in time constrained environments

[1.18.40] How Ryan Holiday’s, Ego is the Enemy helped Stan reframe his decision to work as intern and take a “pay cut”

How you can get in touch with Stan:

Instagram: @standutton165

Website: busyguyfitness.com  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StanDuttonTraining

Conclusion

If you enjoyed today’s episode please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!

Jesse Anderson: Mr. Big Data on Data Engineering, Creativity, and Nontraditional education (002)

Mr. Big Data, Jesse Anderson (http://jesse-anderson.com)

If you’ve ever heard the words “Big Data” and wondered what exactly that means, this is the episode for you.

Jesse Anderson is the person Fortune 100’s go to when they realize they are ill-equipped to handle the challenges of big data. He is a totally self-taught genius who is currently defining a new field of computer science call Data Engineering. In fact, he literally wrote the book on it.

Jesse’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, NPR, Wired, TechCrunch; just about everywhere.

His insights into the future of information technology and data were fascinating to explore. We also discuss his approach to learning and parenting and teaching creativity.

Listen to our discussion here:

Here are the notes from my talk with Jesse Anderson:

Continue reading

Michael Alexis: International Investor and Philanthropist on Growth Hacking, Mastering Craigslist, and Surviving Chinese Parasites (e001)

Michael Alexis (left) and myself (right) in Georgetown in the Cayman Islands

My first ever podcast features investor and philanthropist Michael Alexis. I’m so glad to start with Michael because we are good friends and he is a master at making people feel at ease.

Michael got started in adult life as a lawyer, but quickly moved into startups and investing (but not investing in startups). Now he is a growth consultant for some of the highest performing startups and an international investor with stakes in places like China.

Michael and I worked together at an award-winning startup and have since built a relationship around challenging one another to do better everyday in life and business.

Our discussion revolves around investing, growth hacking, marketing, security, startups, business, ethics, life hacks, and risk mitigation while gallivanting in foreign countries (travel is a favorite past time for both of us).

You can hear our conversation here:

  • Michael helped Pavlok win the Shopify contest. (1:55)
    • Have a great team + a great product idea
    • Best Practices = Average Results. Test assumptions by challenging existing models
    • Michael discusses specific conversion results.
    • “Build the email list and prioritize getting people on it over prioritizing the sale right away.” – M.A.
    • Trade email address for price information on low-price consumer products.
    • Simple, single column websites can convert 3X better than “flashy” bootstrap-style websites.
  • Michael talks about his investment thesis [15:30]
    • Why he is an Investor / Philanthropist hybrid (hint: Building wealth is not the end-goal)
    • Why he invests in projects that pay dividends and NOT STARTUPS
    • Why he is willing to lose everything.
    • Michael’s ideal emergency fund lasts for years
    • Why Michael invests in competitive markets (because the model is proven)
    • Better Marketing + Better Service = Winning Strategy
    • Why startup employees should be open to equity compensation even though they likely won’t exit
  • Michael talks about the podcast he convinced me to start (31:30)
    • Risks are low
    • Networking opportunities are high
    • Are podcasts the new blogs?
  • What would you do to market Hacker Practice (36:20)
    • Write up guest posts based on the content. Try to get 8-10 posts out of each interview. [For this episode: Growth Hacking, Drastic Changes, Simplicity as a Philosophy]
    • Interview high profile people and retarget ads at their followers (on top of native promotion)
    • Think about SEO: use transcripts and notes etc to capture long tail [POTATO MARKETING]
    • Multiple Win Scenarios
    • Why you should start a podcast
  • Experiments I should try on the podcast [46:30]
    • Connect with someone for intentional practice. (PEN TESTING, NVC, DIFCON)
    • Make a sale on the podcast.
  • What Michael would ask Mr. Big Data, Jesse Anderson [50:00]
    • How did Jesse teach himself complex skills?
    • How did he acquire his big, impressive, clients?
  • What single critical system should I develop to make the Podcast awesome?
    • Have a great process for ensuring that you have an ongoing flow of guests.
  • What does Michael think of 2-factor authentication [54:50]?
    • Most people should use it. Especially for email + banking
    • Using 2 factor auth is difficult across many accounts
  • Other security measures everybody should do[56:45]
    • Make passwords difficult (long 8+ characters)
    • Diversify your passwords
    • Use a password manager (like LastPass, Michael and I both use this)
    • Encrypt your computer and external hard drives.
  • What’s the worst Black Swan event that’s happened to Michael? [59:45]
    • He picked up a vicious parasite in China
    • How to mitigate the risk of terrible sickness in China:
      • Don’t eat from sketchy street vendors (China is especially bad)
      • Look for hygiene markers
  • How does Michael manage Celiac disease that could kill him? [1:50:50]
    • Cook at home. Some restaurants that claim to be gluten-free aren’t concerned with cross contamination because they don’t take the risks of Celiac seriously.
    • Eat the same things every day.
    • Over-communicate the seriousness of your food allergy.
      • As a side note: Seems like there is no such thing as over-communication. Great teams talk more than you think they should.
  • How Michael makes money sleeping on great mattresses [1:08:15]
    • Good mattress = good sleep = high performance
    • Buy a Tempurpedic mattress on craigslist, negotiate the price down
    • Use the mattress
    • Sell the mattress on craigslist when you’re done at a higher price using superior sales writing and copywriting skills.
    • Negotiating heuristic for Craigslist: offer 20% off posted price, accept 10% off.
  • How Michael stole Groupon’s business model for fun and profit [1:14:30]
    • Steal models that are “hot”, resell them on Craigslist.
    • How he improved his programming skills and made money at the same time.
    • Repeat
  • Michael made a podcast because of the Mixergy podcast (see link below for Interviewing your heroes)
  • Michael talks what he learned working with Ramit Sethi [1:22:30]
    • Ethical Persuasion: If your target customer had all the information available, would the buy your product?
    • Reminds me of Simon Sinofsky’s great question: “Am I inspiring you to act, or manipulating you to act?”
    • Create a product that is totally aligned with your audience’s interests
  • Copywriting Resources and Tactics [1:28:10]
    • You should read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (LINK BELOW)
    • Name dropping works. Soundbites work.
    • Read and re-read everything you plan to publish. Reconsider every single word.
    • Headlines should convey benefit and target market: “Learn Practical Copywriting Tactics from the Masters”
    • Subheader should say HOW you’ll deliver: “This 8-week video course includes ____”
    • WHY > WHO > HOW
  • Michael advises me on my blog strategy [1:38:55]
    • What’s the goal?
    • Systems for blog promotion
      • Syndicate the material everywhere: Medium, LinkedIn
      • Post to aggregators: Reddit, HackerNews, GrowthHacker
      • Post to social: FB, Twitter
  • How does Michael cultivate respect and relationships? [1:43:20]
    • Be authentic and honest with yourself.
    • Be truthful even when it’s to your detriment. In the end, it won’t be.
    • How I improve client relationships by applying honesty to my detriment
    • How I talk to girls by being honest
  • Michael says: interview people who do big things that most people have never heard of.

Links

 Conclusion

If you liked this episode, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!

January 2017 Book Club Recommendations

I believe that we must transcend. We must elevate earthly life beyond this little rock. We must release the rungs of our old paradigms and climb the ladder of progress. We must transcend, we must transcend, we must transcend.

Transcendance starts with learning.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an obsessive reader and learner of things. I want to share my reading habit with you to inspire you to learn and transcend your old ways of thinking.

I also want you to talk about these books with me, so please comment below to discuss if you’ve read or make suggestions for future reading.

These are the books I read in January 2017. I’ve included my top-of-mind notes and comments on whether or not I can recommend the work. The must-reads are marked with an asterisk.

(Must-reads are defined, by me, as books that I will likely re-read.)

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a very small amount of money if you purchase from this post. If you don’t want me to get paid for the suggestion, Google it yourself.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine*

Given the state of affairs in this country, you are under-informed if you haven’t read this book. It was first published early in 1776 as a pamphlet and explains in simple terms why monarchy wasn’t working.

Here’s the basic rundown of the points I found most interesting:

  • The purpose of government: so society can grow.
  • Why checks-and-balances are a fundamentally flawed design pattern.
  • Why monarchies and hereditary succession don’t work.

This pamphlet helped spark the first American Revolution. Now that we are coming up to the second, it might be a good time to review it.

You can read the entire pamphlet here for free, courtesy of Google.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb*

I’ve read this book five times in the last three years. It gives me more to chew on every time.

The, very contrarian, idea of Antifragile is that there is a certain category of things that benefit from disorder. These are often ideas, complex systems, and biological systems.

Antifragile is the philosophical manifesto of our time. It explains the underlying mathematics of everything from economics to health in simple terms. It is a long, dense book, that rewards you multiple times over on every page.

Important ideas to consider:

  • Why doctors hurt you more than they help.
  • How public financial markets are currently designed to transfer risk from corporate managers to innocent investors.
  • Why economists are almost always wrong.
  • Why higher education is not necessarily driving wealth creation in this, or any, country.
  • How to live an ethical life.
  • Why a grandmother’s wisdom is more valuable than most books written in the last ten years.
  • Fractal geometry makes for healthier spaces than Euclidean geometry
  • and so much more…

This is a must read for anybody and everybody. You should buy this book today and read it cover to cover.

The Spy: A novel by Paolo Coelho

My little brother got me a signed copy of this book. He knew that I’m a huge fan of the Alchemist so he thought I’d find it interesting.

He was right, but interesting is the extent of it.

The Spy is about Mata Hari, the famous 19th century dancer who took Paris by storm and was executed for espionage. The book’s tagline is: “Her only crime was to be an independent woman”, but the book is mostly lacking any subtle or compelling exploration of this theme.

While I find her story fascinating, I didn’t love the book. It’s boring. Mata Hari is interesting for all the wrong reasons. She uses people and lies to get ahead. Then when she gets wrongfully accused of espionage, it’s hard to feel bad for her. Frankly, I had a hard time finishing the book, and the book is pretty short.

The top critical review (3 stars) on Amazon hits the nail on the head:

I couldn’t see the point of this novel. There are some very good biographies of Mata Hari’s life and my time would have been better spent reading one of those. The novel is written as letters, and somehow I just didn’t care much by the end. In fact, her story is a fascinating and moving one…”  

You’d be better off reading classic Coelho: The Alchemist. It’s one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read and I’ve read a lot of novels.

The House and the Cloud by David Stelzl

The House and the Cloud is a sales handbook for technologists interested in selling managed IT services. Here are some key lessons I took away:

  • How to pique interest initially using what Stelzl called an “Advisory Positioning Statement”
  • How to open sales meetings using a structured Value Proposition
  • How to run sales meetings that convert warm leads into recurring revenue

I certainly learned a lot about Stelzl’s tremendously effective sales process and can recommend this book to anyone working in a tech consulting role.

There are however, a number of gripes I have to mention in case David reads this and gets the chance to address them:

  1. The cover and presentation of the book is very amateurish. This is common with authors who self-publish and is the reason you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
  2. The style of the book can be described as consultant-marketing-jargon. You have to be prety patient to get to the useful nuggets
  3. There are probably dozens of typos which pisses me off because anybody making six or seven figures should just hire a college student to proofread the book.
  4. The structure of the book also needs work. I was often confused by the organization of material.
  5. It could be at least 20% shorter.

Beyond these nitpicks, the book is excellent. I love the idea of using statistical soundbites to disarm technical questions in sales meetings. Anybody who’s closed deals before knows the importance of frame control (see Pitch Anything) and will immediately understand the significance of soundbites.

Recommend for anybody selling IT products or services.

Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great instead of Big by Bo Burlingham

Tim Ferriss recommends this book so often that I figured I’d give it a try.

This book is basically a collection of case studies that examine a few companies that “choose to be great instead of big”. It examines how some companies sacrifice growth in the name of other values and goals. Here are some key elements I took from the book:

  • Authenticity is important (if you want people to like and trust you)
  • Private ownership is important (if you don’t want investors pressuring you to grow)
  • Gross Margin is important (if you don’t want to go out of business)

The lessons might seem obvious, and that’s because they are. This will sound like the height of arrogance, but I had a hard time pulling NEW IDEAS from the book. Mostly because anybody who’s read business literature has already heard the ideas.

The companies Burlingham profiles are interesting. The anecdotes are funny and inspiring. The biggest value proposition of the book is the inspirational quality of the companies involved. However, the biggest lesson to take away is one that people shouldn’t have to learn:

Don’t compromise your core values in the name of growth.

Burlingham talks about small companies that focus on quality over size. He talks about how these companies have “soul” or “mojo”.

Maybe I read it at the wrong time, and perhaps I’ll read it again, but I wasn’t moved by this book like I was by the next book on this list…

Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull*

Creativity Inc. is a great business memoir by the president of Disney Animation and Pixar Animation, Ed Catmull.

Here are the things I took from this book that I will never forget:

  • Have a group of people that you can solicit candid feedback from.
  • Repeatedly iterate on your work based on that feedback to take ugly rough drafts to polished finished products.
  • Steve Jobs wasn’t always a dick.
  • What a successful merger looks like (Disney + Pixar = Success).
  • The importance of humility, egalitarianism, and communication to the creative process.
  • Be aware of second-order problems that exist after the dissolution of first-order problems.
  • Leadership can lead to problem-blindness, so be vigilant.
  • Protect the new.

This book was so good I have a hard time summarizing it. It was so good I reread it immediately after finishing it.  This has only happened to me a handful of times (The Alchemist, Zero to One)

It’s ironic that this book was so much more impactful than the last book, because Pixar has exactly the kind of mojo that Burlingham describes in Small Giants. Maybe I have a bias for lessons from people who do the things I admire over lessons from people who study the things I admire…

Zero to One*

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I’ll catch some flack for recommending this book in the current political climate. I don’t care. It’s a fucking classic.

Blake Masters and Peter Thiel put this book together based on Masters’ notes on Stanford CS183 course. It is a must read for anyone who expects to build a growth-oriented technology startup.

Here’s what you will learn from this book:

  • Why technology is more important than globalization.
  • Why monopolies are not necessarily a bad thing
  • What a secret is.
  • Start with a tiny market.
  • AI will not replace people. It will augment us.
  • Do something that’s never been done.
  • Beat the competition by providing a product that is 10x as good as the next alternative.
  • Why the United States will keep beating China (hint: we are det
  • Great startups are like cults.
  • Good heuristics for venture capital
  • and more.

If you know me, you know that my mission in life is to build a real game-changing, Zero to One technology company. This book might as well be the manual.

I love it so much, I’ll skip the affiliate link and send you right to the source material (arguably better than the book).

Click here to read Blake Master’s notes on startups from CS183 at Stanford.

In case my recommendation isn’t enough, maybe the site’s tagline will motivate you:

Your mind is software. Program it. Your body is a shell. Change it. Death is a disease. Cure it. Extinction is approaching. Fight it.

Data Engineering Teams

This free ebook from my friend, Mr. Big Data a.k.a Jesse Anderson, is a great primer on Big Data and how to build teams around it. It’s a short read and I highly recommend it for anybody curious about this trend.

Here’s what I took from it:

  • Big Data teams should be multidisciplinary
  • How to identify a big data problem
  • What a typical pipeline might look like from a tech standpoint.

Here’s the thing: don’t wait to read it. It’s really short, but it will give you an idea of what to look out for as your company grows. If you get to the point where you need to start building big data pipelines and you still haven’t read it, you’re basically burning money.

Every day you have the wrong people working on the pipeline is a day you’re throwing money into a hole.

If you are a startup founder, learn to understand the problem before you have to deal with it.

Click here to get your free copy of Data Engineering Teams today.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek*

This book has had me journalling like a madman for the last four days. Ever since I finished it I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how to clearly and concisely spell out my life’s purpose.

The gist of it is simple:

  • People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
  • How you do what you do is just proof that you really believe in your why.
  • Start every internal and external communication by reiterating why your company exists

Sinek goes into a lot more detail about his Golden Circle model and Golden Cone model. He references Apple a lot, which is great because I really admire the work they do and strive to match their dedication to quality. He also examines Martin Luther King’s leadership during the civil rights movement, the Wright Brothers, and Wal-Mart’s inspirational founder, Sam Walton.

As I write this, Start with Why is the #62 best selling book on Amazon.

Get it today.

For a quick primer on the concept, see Sinek’s ridiculously popular Ted Talk.

“What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why do you exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning?”

Bonus: He goes into how you can use his ideas while dating.

Conclusion

Do you want to know what I read every month? Leave a comment and let me know what I should read in February 😀

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.

15 Negotiation Habits to Build Better Deals and Relationships

The last five years have seen my dollar per hour revenue skyrocket from about $10 / hr to now hovering just around $300 / hour on average, and as high as $500 / hour on some projects.

Charging this amount allows me to focus half of my working hours on personal development. It also allows me to live nomadically, taking on passion projects as I see fit. I spent the last four months working this way: travelling around Europe and the Caribbean, studying art and architecture, working on 2-3 projects part-time for clients I really like.

I don’t believe success comes as a result of one single skill. However, there are “first order” skills that will consistently be useful in personal and professional settings.

Negotiation is a first order skill, useful in all walks of life.

I’ve spent last week working on a thorough review of 2016. In doing so, I’ve reviewed goals, notes, and materials I have from as far back as 2014.

In this review, I found my 2014 notes from Professor Deepak Malhotra’s video on negotiating a job offer.

14 of the following points come from that video. I’ve expanded on them based on my real-world practice.

Here are my notes on negotiation, summarized into a handy list of 15 points.

1. They need to like you.

AND YOU NEED TO LIKE THEM.

This is a no-brainer. The most important failed negotiation of my career was the result of several parties deciding that they simply did not like the opposition.

They had righteous cause for their assessment, but that does not matter. There needs to be an implicit desire to work together on both sides of the table or else the negotiation will be lose-lose.

2. They need to believe you deserve it.

Simple. I practice this by selling only to referral business. I do not do outbound sales because convincing an non-believer is much more difficult than doing great work with people who are already 100% on board.

3. You need to be able to do the work.

Duh. I never promise someone: “I can deliver you an MVP”. Because it’s impossible to know if I can build a minimally viable product in a given domain without giving it the old college try. I can promise a prototype. Prototypes are contained. Prototypes have a binary spec sheet. Either the prototype is or is not completed. The prototype either fulfills the spec or it doesn’t. The spec is either feasible or it isn’t.

Promising someone a market response is false prophecy.

4. You should be flexible regarding currency.

What do I want out of a job? Well, it’s mostly the same as three years ago:

  1. The work should be morally compatible with my worldview.
  2. Cash.
  3. Equity / Profit-share
  4. Respect.
  5. Learning.
  6. Mobility.

These are all forms of currency that I consider when looking at a job. When I’m considering a job, these are all on the table as compensation. I’ll take $100 / hour job if it means I get equity in an awesome product I can work on from anywhere with a great team I can respect and learn from.

On the flip side, there is no money in the world that would convince me to work on something that has demonstrable harm to human life or the environment with people I don’t like.

5. They have to believe they can get you.

If I quote too high a number, the other side might walk away thinking there is no way they could afford me. This is why it’s important to discuss the above issue of currency openly so they know that there are levers they can pull to help me engage in the project happily.

6. Do not negotiate for the sake of negotiating.

If they offer you precisely what you want, don’t negotiate just to get a bit more. Sure, you’ll see financial upside. But you’ll get it by taking advantage of the other party. I’ve killed client deals by getting greedy. I should’ve stuck it out and seen about long-term upside with a more positive relationship outcome.

7. You have to understand them.

Think in terms of the other person’s interests. I have to work at this every day in a variety of contexts. It’s an exhausting, laborious mental effort. And it’s worth it every single time.

8. Negotiate multiple issues simultaneously. (Don’t waste anyone’s time).

This should be obvious. A lot of novice negotiators take some terms of a deal for granted. It’s best to get everything you can nailed down the first time. Otherwise you’ll find difficult and distracting negotiations right around the corner.

9. Ask why the answer is “No”.

This helps you understand the other person (see #7) and counter objections. It’s something I need to remind myself of all the time. You’ll also learn a lot about your market by frequently asking “Why?”

10. Stay at the table.

Sometimes negotiations get exhausting. Don’t walk away from deals because of fatigue, anger, or boredom. Take breaks but always set a time to reconvene. Emphasize the importance of resolution to the other party so they take the matter seriously.

11. Prepare for the most difficult questions.

You already know the honest responses to easy questions. It’s the difficult questions that you should prepare for. Prep for negotiations by considering their interests and extrapolating which questions might arise that will make you squeamish. Lean into that discomfort and prepare honest responses that leave you authentic and confident.

12. Everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the face.

I write scripts for just about every single important meeting or conversation I walk into. I do this as an exercise in rehearsal. I don’t expect the conversation to go the way I scripted. The real difficult questions will come up that you did not predict. The other person’s interests will be different than you thought.

Do not rely on your powers of foresight to have a positive outcome. Rely on optionality to capture upside because you can never be certain that you have a useful informational asymmetry.

13. The person who needs it the least, usually wins.

Tim Ferriss talks about this a lot. I used to enter a lot of negotiations where I needed a “Yes” more than the other party. It was a constant uphill battle. It wasn’t until my abilities lined up with my expectations that I started going to negotiations that were simply “nice-to-have”.

In other words, if your basic needs are covered, then winning the deal is “nice-to-have”. Any deal should be gravy on the steak of life.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring passion to the table. I don’t even show up if I’m not super excited about the deal. Why would I?

Like Derek Sivers says: “If it isn’t a hell-yes, it’s a hell-no!”

14. Ask yourself why they’re asking the question they’re asking.

Again: this will help you understand the other person and their interests.

One time, I sat at the table with three executives and the CEO of a startup. The negotiation had a bad ending and after the fact I said to the three (former) executives: “I would have done the same thing in his position.”

In that case, I recognized the CEO’s interests after the fact. If I had more carefully considered them before the negotiation, I wouldn’t have wasted my time sitting at the table to begin with.

15. Avoid making ultimatums (and ignore them if they come from the other party)

I’ve fortunately never dealt with such a situation in a business environment. If you follow rule #1, then this shouldn’t become a problem.

Ultimatums do, however, rear their ugly head in all sorts of personal situations. In this case, ignoring the ultimatum will serve you well. Just move forward, because people who try to coerce you via ultimatum are generally not worth being in a relationship with.

A new year of negotiation

Already this year I’ve been lucky enough to sit at the table with TWO potential clients I would be excited to work with. I’m glad to say I’ve followed most of these rules and can expect positive outcomes and relationships from these folks no matter the result of current negotiations.

I wish you the best possible 2017 as you go about your career and personal lives. If you can think of additional negotiations tips and tactics I’d love to hear about them.