Daily Archives: December 24, 2013

Failures Who Changed the World


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Let’s not live too cautiously

The people who know the most about failure are the ones who have succeeded. It’s easy to get into the mentality that the greats have always been great, and that they have always been seen as superior at what they do. That is often far from the truth, but we don’t always hear about it. The greats to whom we have given such high regard have one very important thing in common, and that is persistence. There will be times in life when you are the only one who can see your vision, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

The name that has become synonymous with “genius,” Albert Einstein, didn’t speak until age four and didn’t read until age seven. So for all of you who have to endure the proud parent boasting about their two-year-old who peruses Aristotle on the weekends, forced to wonder whether you’re as smart as this kid is going to be, this one’s for you. Einstein went on to be expelled from school as a child and rejected from his college of choice, Zurich Polytechnic. But at the end of the day, his classmates couldn’t really compete with the theory of relativity.

Walt Disney, the mind behind the movies and parks that shaped many a childhood, apparently lacked imagination. And he was fired by the editor of his local newspaper because of it. His bad luck progressed to include failed business ventures, bankruptcy, and 302 rejections before finally receiving financing for Disney World. So the next time you get rejected, just remember…only 301 more attempts and you’ll be living your dream.

Theodor Seuss Giesel, better known today as Dr. Seuss, was rejected 27 times before his first book, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street was published. And J.K. Rowling, who is now richer than the Queen of England, went through 12 publishers before one of them took interest in Harry Potter. At the time, she was dirt poor, raising a child as a single parent, severely depressed, and trying to attend school. Here’s what she has to say about her success:

“You might never fail on the scale that I did, but it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case you fail by default.”

Charles Darwin, the scientist who developed the theory of evolution by natural selection, gave up on a medical career and was chastised for being too lazy, for having his head in the clouds. Thomas Edison found 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb light up before he could find one way that worked.

How often do you think we give up after attempt #9,999?

Winston Churchill was defeated in every single election for public office until age 62 when he ran for Prime Minister. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage the first time he attempted comedy and Fred Astaire was told that he can’t act and can’t sing. Oprah Winfrey was deemed “unfit for TV” before she began the highest-rated talk show in American television history.

Out of more than 800 finished pieces, Vincent Van Gogh sold only a single painting during his lifetime, and that was to a friend for a small amount of money. Today his most expensive painting is valued at $142.7 million. And before Elvis Presley became the King he was fired by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry after only one performance, being told, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son.”

Stephen King received 30 rejections for his novel Carrie before finally throwing it in the trash. His wife dug it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and that was the beginning of 49 novels selling 350 million copies (not to mention essentially having his own bookshelf in Barnes & Noble with his abundance of titles).

Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team. It has been said that he missed more than 9,000 shots throughout his career and lost almost 300 games. He missed what could have been a winning shot on 26 occasions, and to this he says, “I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” It’s like how Babe Ruth, who holds the record for strikeouts, says that “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

So next time you get discouraged, consider that it could be your very next attempt that gets you to where you are trying to go, or perhaps it will be the one that propels you to something even better.

Written by

Writer, Photographer, Occasional Microbiologist, and Iced Chai Connoisseur; Tell me things @ andoncsecz@gmail.com — Follow me @alexadondon

Published December 14, 2013

How to Get More People to Share Your Content – Part 2


Types of Sharers You Need to Know – Part 2

The 6 Types of Sharers online

Hello! Welcome to Part 2 of How To Get More People To Share Your Content!

In the previous article we talked about the 5 motivations and 3 factors behind what triggered people to share. Here in the second part of the topic, we look into what are the 6 types of people that share, and what are the platforms they like to use.

Again, these are derived from the study “Psychology of Sharing: Why do People Share Online“. Do have a look and who knows what revelations you will find =)

They are defined by Emotional motivations, Desired presentation of Self (to others), How they view their Role of sharing in life and how they see the value of being first to share.

How to Get More People to Share Your Content (6 Types of Sharers You Need to Know) – Part 2

Six Personas of Online Sharers:

  1. Altruists are sharers who are selflessness. They think of others when they see a certain piece of content and they want to help people with it. Then they will share it to those people or group. An Altruist is reliable in his or her field of information.

I have a good friend and he loves to travel. Let’s call him Desmond. Desmond is also very thrifty. All the times that he travelled he got the lowest possible rates and the best value his money can get for him. When he went for his honeymoon with his wife, he researched so thoroughly, chalked up enough mileage for his Krisflyer and saved a few thousand dollars for themselves for a 2-week trip to Europe. He is so detailed in the itinerary, he found alternative kinds of tour guide that are really value for his money and would bring him and his wife to places where mainstream tourists won’t to look at culture rich places and scenes.

When we travel in a group with Desmond in it, naturally and mutually we will all look to him to provide the best travel rates, where the best places to go are and the best value for accommodation.

So every time Desmond shared a good deal on cheap air-tickets, we all trust him because he is reliable and helpful. And we know he is thoughtful and trust his judgment that the deal he recommended IS the real deal.

Altruists are connected people, they prefer to share through e-mails. The fact that they prefer e-mails tells that they bother to type an e-mail add and send instead of sharing through Facebook shows that they care. Do you know any Altruists?

2. Careerists

“I share [things related to] business interests and exchange ideas on how to improve our company’s offerings to our customers.”

Careerists are well, people that are keen on building their networks around their work. They are educated, intelligent and serious people who connect and find interests in content set in a more business and professional setting.

That is why there is Linkedin, the social media for business people. Other than Linkedin, Careerists like to use e-mails too. The business contents on Linkedin are what interest their corporate mindset.

Think about any corporate/business sites that are similar to what Careerists will share. For example, news site and sites like http://www.forbes.com.

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3. Hipsters

Less likely than other sharers to use email to share content, these sharers are creative, young and popular. They consume and share cutting edge content and care about setting trends that define their identity.

Hipsters speak creativity, young, popular, trendy and tech-savvy. They are usually younger crowds that share to define who they are. They had been tech-savvy and are very familiar with Twitter and Facebook. Hipsters use them to share the latest trending topics and are cutting edge.

“Sharing is actually part of who I am.”

4. Boomerangs

They are like the rebel in the group. They like to share controversial, provocative and I would say out-of-the-box contents. But it is not because they are weird or crazy, but because they want to be perceived that way.

Boomerangs want to see mixed reactions and feel validated on the content they share. They can be people that are fighting for a cause or against a certain issue, for example. I have this friend on Facebook, he puts a fake Russian name instead of his real one. And every time he posts, it is something controversial about the government or the leadership of North Korea or how fallen our schools have become. Sometimes he gets good responses from people who support him and sometimes he gets negative responses.

Boomerangs are empowered by social media to spread their cause and use Facebook and Twitter the most, although they are connected through e-mails, blogs, forums and wherever people will engage them.

5. Connectors

Connectors are relaxed creatives. They’re people who share contents to make plans and keep in touch with others. They are thoughtful and usually use Facebook and e-mails to stay connected.

Do you have any friends that come to your mind when we talk about Connectors? They can be people that are of similar interests and usually share information to talk about common topics. For example you are very into flower arranging. You have few friends that are into that as well. But whenever you post an article about flowers or flower arranging on Facebook, you know this certain friend will respond to it.

6. Selectives

“I only share things with someone specific if I think they will enjoy it. If they aren’t relevant to the material, there is no point in sharing it with them.”

The most thoughtful persona out of the 6. They are very focused, logical and informative. Selectives are careful with the materials they share, making sure it is relevant to whoever they share with. Although chances of them sharing through Facebook and Twitter are there (but slim), e-mail is their preferred tool.

Selectives remind me of an aunty of mine that likes to share through newspaper cuttings with people she cares and thinks they enjoy the content she shares. If the content is good, it doesn’t matter if it is online or not.

If you have to take one thing from this article, it would be that “Sharing is all about relationships”. And there are 6 key factors that influence the way people share:

word sentence: “Red, juicy apple from Japan.”

In a nutshell, sharing is all about relationships. Think about what kind of content to work around these 6 personas and chances of them going viral will be higher than if you never try.

Cya in the next article and as always, share this if you enjoyed it. It means a lot to me, thank you =)

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Why wearable tech could be the next big thing


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The best stories we read this week: December 20th

Invisible Child

In what may very well be one of the best stories of 2013, New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott shadows a family of eight living in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. Elliott paints a complete, heartbreaking, picture of inequality.

Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America

HEALTH: Young, rich, educated Americans are dying earlier than their peers in other countries. And the sick aren’t the only problem, argues Leah Sottile in The Atlantic: a sicker population translates to a bleaker future overall.

Why Wearable Tech Will be as Big as the Smartphone

TECHNOLOGY: The future of the smartphone is wearable—in your field of vision, literally a glance away. In Wired, Bill Wasik discusses why wearable tech will revolutionize the way we experience the world around us.

An explosion in slow motion: How 2013 blew apart our notions of privacy

PRIVACY: This year transformed how we live online. GigaOm’s David Meyer recaps what happened in the world of technology, sheds light on the end of innocence, and discusses the true power and potential of surveillance.

How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research

PUBLISHING: Academic publisher Elsevier has asked several universities and academic sites to take down their scholars’ research. The industry has largely turned a blind eye when it comes to academics sharing their work online—but Elsevier is changing the game. The Washington Post argues this decision could change the future of academic publishing.

One month on Medium

INSIDE MATTER: It’s been one month since we moved MATTER from behind a paywall and on to Medium. Co-founder Bobbie Johnson shares some numbers that help show what the move has done for MATTER so far.

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Deep, intelligent journalism about the future.

Published December 20, 2013

Bitcoin Is About Convention


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BTC and USD are not as different as you think

Money is valuable because other people use it. In other words, you could also say currency is a convention — currency is valuable because large numbers of people tacitly agree to exchange it, for a variety of goods they hold.

What is less obvious is that the value of other goods in our lives is also a matter of convention. Our diplomas and job titles are only valuable because they meaningfully inform our peers and managers about our skills. Our hobbies and interests are also conventional. Few of us would learn to play a guitar or shoot a free throw, if it didn’t let us interact with the people we spend time with in a way that we like.

Even though there is intrinsic value in being able to throw a ball with coordination, or produce melodious sounds using a musical instrument, we don’t choose our activities based on those attributes. Instead, we follow the guidance of friends and influencers, who tell us about activities and characterize them as either appropriate or inappropriate (tennis, basketball, or lacrosse? planking, owling, or vadering?).

Even capitalism, like other value systems, is a convention. It’s a tacit and often unconscious agreement among most people in the world, that our lives should be dedicated towards creating goods and services which we can exchange with others on the free market. If the vast majority of the world’s population operated under a value system incompatible with economic exchange, you and I would find an economic worldview a lot less appealing.

As humans, we are fundamentally memetic beings. We are only relevant to the world insofar as we can influence those around us, so we make the choices that allow us to best relate to others. Yet we often underestimate the power of convention. We don’t realize how much it determines our tastes and activities, because for most of us it’s more efficient to think of conventions as absolutes.

As a convention, Bitcoin has a lot going for it. It’s orders of magnitude more widely used than anything else which could do its job of facilitating anonymous transactions. It has received widespread publicity, none of which has been damningly negative. Another cryptocurrency would be very unlikely to emerge unscathed as BTC has today. A few other reasons: by now, the currency has a relatively diverse base of both users and speculators, it’s a solid piece of engineering, and at least today, it’s still very similar to cash, so government regulators like the FinCEN do not threaten its legitimacy.

Many people have been writing about Bitcoin from an economic perspective, looking at characteristics like deflation and volatility. The economic thinkers have generally disregarded these social forces. They usually recognize that Bitcoin is not just about economics, but their perspective disregards the very social forces that enabled Bitcoin’s rise. For the foreseeable future, they are far stronger than any theoretical economic concerns.


If Bitcoin is viable as a convention, remember that conventions don’t have to be global to work. Because of limited supply, the price of BTC will never go lower than the amount of money some subset of the world wants to put into it. If the rest of the world considered Bitcoin to be worthless, barring volatility, its users could still rely on it as an exchange medium.

There are still a few reasons the currency could go away.Governments could still pursue regulation or coordinated legal action against the ecosystem. The community could come up with a currency that doesn’t have the deflationary properties of BTC. But doing so in a concerted manner is extremely difficult. Most Bitcoin opponents I’ve heard from have disregarded the fundamental forces making this cryptocurrency successful — and so, my guess is that it will be around for awhile.

Written by

Hacker at AngelList, on leave from Princeton. Make art and practice it.

Updated December 18, 2013
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“I’m No Longer Married to My Phone…”


You’re laying in bed, tap-tap-swiping through Instagram, and somehow your hand slips and your phone is hurled down at your face. First world problems? It’s kind of funny how well we know this situation.

If anyone overuses their phone while in bed, it’s me. I wear it out. Abuse it. And honestly, it’s kind of sucked the life out of me.

I was talking to my friend Allie the other day when she asked me what the first thing I do when I wake up is. I said, without hesitation, that I check my phone. It’s become an instinct. And immediately after answering her question — I noticed something. I don’t wanna be that guy anymore.

This rad dude named Bob Goff wrote about how he quits something every Thursday. Since reading that, I’ve been intrigued by the idea — our lives have a lot of fluff…things we don’t need or could be better off without. Personally, I could be better off without using my phone in bed. There are nights when I’m on my phone for two or three hours before I actually go to sleep. And there are mornings that I wake up, spend as much time as possible on my phone, and end up rushing to school or work.

The truth is, the time I spend on my phone is eating away at time that could hold much more value. I don’t value my sleep as much as I should, and I too often fail to realize that what I give my time to at the beginning of the day matters.

The truth is, my phone doesn’t matter that much.

Time to start using that nifty ‘do not disturb’ switch? I think so. Tonight, I quit sleeping with my phone. In the words of Propaganda, “I guess you could say I’ve been through a divorce now. Me and my phone are no longer married. I think I’m ready to be here, now.”

And it’s not even about parting from my phone, truth be told. It goes along the lines of “wherever you are, be all there”. If I’m going to bed, I’m going to bed to sleep. Not to scroll through Instagram.

I read an article a few weeks ago about this idea. The idea that people are much more efficient and even satisfied when they give their whole selves to the task at hand. In quitting sleeping with my phone, I follow that line of thinking. Again, in the words of Propaganda,

Multitasking is a myth. You ain’t doin’ anyone anything — just everything mediocre. Time begged me to stop stretching her so thin and stuffing her so full, stop being so concerned with the old her and the future her. But love her — now.

Enough said?

Written by

Photographer/Student at LSU • Chocolate Milk, Chicken Fingers, and Instagram

Published October 22, 2013

 

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How Not to Waste Your Life at School


Thoughts on unconventional approaches to better learning

A few years ago, I started to experiment with my learning. I started taking grades and schoolwork less seriously. I began paying more attention to the things that actually mattered to me. I adjusted my education experience around my interests, instead of forcefully changing my interests to meet the needs of the system. My goal was to reevaluate how schooling would shape my education.

I decided to write this to share a few of those experiments and their associated lessons.


1. Skipping classes can be beneficial, not detrimental.

Not all classes require you to be there to learn. If you can, skip. Come back to the material when you need to. Use your time wisely. If you’re an undergraduate business student, why aren’t you attending MBA classes? If your goal is to become a lawyer, go speak with J.D. candidates at your school’s law building to learn about their experiences. Or start a company, make products, learn new skills, network and build relationships, etc.

This may seem drastic to some, but if you’re passionate about something, don’t wait. University is a four-year period during which you’re surrounded by immense amounts of intellectual capital, relatively little responsibilities, and a manageable workload. Take advantage of this.

Saving time for non-academic pursuits — not your GPA — is the most important prerequisite to differentiating yourself from the pack. How do you save time to differentiate? By cutting the fat, not the essence.

Find courses that are the fat, and skip (or cut) them.

2. Don’t let poor grades or failure discourage you.
To paraphrase Seth Godin, the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t, isn’t that successful people succeeded. The difference is that people who succeeded failed more often.

Keep in mind that getting high grades is like playing a sport. Just because you understand the rules of the game, doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it. Similarly, just because you conceptually understand something, doesn’t mean you’ll get good grades. Getting good grades is less about understanding and more about practice — the practice of getting inside your prof’s head, playing the right cards, forecasting what’ll be on exams, and manipulating rules to your advantage.

The point: grades are an extremely inaccurate measurement of your intellectuality. Take them with a grain of salt. They’re a means to an end. The end is breaking into the workforce and forgetting about this thing called “GPA”.

3. Don’t care too much about what others do.
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen many of my friends abandon their passions by succumbing to the pursuit of what’s popular or prestigious, as defined by the pack. You’ll see a student with passion for art forcing herself into banking, or a student who’d rather be pursuing sports, trying to become an accountant. You’ll see students who have absolutely no interest in science, trying to become doctors.

Putting your passion on hold for something reasonable is fine. But giving it up in return for something that’s more “realistic” or “respected,” isn’t right.

4. Stop meeting, start working.
Remember, “a meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”

As Ev Williams said in his post: focus. Don’t get distracted. Meet people only when you absolutely have to.

5. Don’t get involved in activities just to pad your résumé.
If you do, you’ll not only hate it and leave a negative impression, but you will also do a disservice to your team members. It’s better to pursue one or two activities that you enjoy, and be the absolute best at them, instead of getting involved in 10 different activities and spreading yourself too thin.

6. Find people who understand your passions.
If you’re passionate about sports, find other people who share that same passion. If you’re into art or filmmaking, find other artists or filmmakers who you can connect with. If you’re an entrepreneur who likes to create, find other entrepreneurial minds that you can bounce ideas off of.

Connect with people who genuinely understand how it feels to be in your shoes. And talk to these people often.

7. Challenge your professors. Expertise doesn’t mean perfection.
Good professors usually like this. The strongest asset of any university or college is the intellectual capital of its instructors and professors. When you get a chance, talk to them about non-academic things. Pick their brains. Get their insights and advice on something that you might be working on outside of school.

Understand what makes them tick, and you’ll connect well.


Never let the structural rigidity of any program limit your learning.

Further Reading

Musings About School

 — How I learned to love school the hard way.

Written by

Education & tech aficionado. Occasionally write for @globeandmail. Former Senator @QueensU. British Columbia Achievement Award. Twitter: @AfrajGill.

Published November 24, 2013

Musings About School


How I learned to love school the hard way.

 

It’s reading period at Tufts—the short few days in between the last day of class and the first day of finals. The period of the year where you cram in all the information you should have been learning throughout the semester.

For me, this is the only time of year where I act even remotely like a typical student: spending hours and hours in the library, using phrases like “study break,” cracking open text books, reading over notes, blocking social media from my computer, and so on.

It is during this period of intense focus on school that I realize something profoundly important: as much as I like to say that I hate school, want to drop out to “join the real world,” start working on things I’m innately passionate about, stop following instructions and start carving my own path, school has given me a lot of things to be thankful for.


Amidst all of this studying and academic essay-writing, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect back on this past semester. On paper, it is going to be the worst semester of my academic career. However, in terms of its impact on my life, this semester has been the most profound.

This has been the semester where I have learned the most, grown the most, partied the most, slept the least, gone to class the least, struggled the most with my anxiety disorder, joined a fraternity, overcame a bunch of fears, became a more confident person, started a company with a few classmates, made new friends, lost touch with old friends, and, most importantly, became more self-aware and happy with who I am.


I think a lot of the time, when I’m questioning why I’m in school, what I’m getting out of my education, and contemplating dropping out, I simply have the wrong mindset.

School isn’t about being a great student, it’s about learning how to be a great person.

I’m not a great student, I never have been and never will be. It simply isn’t who I am. My dissatisfaction with school stems from my inability to be a good student in an institution where I (falsly) assumed the ultimate goal was to be a great student and follow all of the rules.

Contrast my inability to be a great student in an institution that rewards academic success with my ability to shine as an insightful person, thinker and entrepreneur in an industry that appreciates and rewards my innate talents; there is no doubt as to why I have felt like school isn’t the right place for me.

But I was wrong. Hating school because I don’t like the system is taking the easy way out. The right thing to do is to find reasons to love school: to focus on having the best four years of my life.

Ultimately, those who get the most out of school are those who make school work for them.

If I can figure out methods to measure my success in terms of personal growth instead of grades, than suddenly, I can look at my time spent in school in an entirely new way. Lately, I have been able to do this, and I am now confident that, even in my darkest hour when I wish I were out in The Valley working on my company full time, being in college is enormously valuable to my life and to my future.

Right now, in this moment, I am a student at Tufts Univeristy, finishing up my third semester of college. That’s not the only aspect of my identity, but it is as much a part of me as anything else. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t give it my all.

I’m lucky to be where I am today. I have spent years building a personal brand, amassing a network of mentors and valuable connections, telling my story, and ultimately finding my place to stand out in the crowded, ultra-competitive entrepreneurial landscape. I still have a lot of room to improve.

It’s not easy to be an average student in school when you can be an exceptional person “in the real world,” but it is incredibly important.

I have a lot of friends who are in a similar position to me. Some of them are in school, some of them have dropped out (or have not gone to school at all). Some of them have been successful, and some of them haven’t. For people like us, we are often given opportunities to do things that many people can only dream of. We are given the chance to stand out, to be unique and to forge our own paths. School sounds like a miserable waste of time in comparison.

What I’ve realized, though, both through my own situation and also through observing my friends is that, in life, it is very tempting to skip steps. Life is short, after all. We are reminded of this so frequently that it has become engrained in us. Thus, it becomes hard to justify to ourselves why we should spend time doing something that seems so useless.

Tufts University

Tufts University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people view school as a means to an end; as the prerequistite to a career. This is the problem, especially for people who have already been able to achieve the “ends” that school is supposedly designed to enable.

It is important, every once in awhile, to be average… to be just another student trying to get by. It is humbling and also informative to learn that, in many ways, even exceptional people are average in many contexts. Putting yourself in these contexts give you insight into your weaknesses and gives you opportunities to grow.

School isn’t a four year program designed to prepare us for the workforce; instead, it’s the start of a lifelong journey of continuous growth.

For some people, school gives them the skills they need in order to get a job; a job they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. These are the people who work hard, follow the rules of the game, get good grades, receive academic awards, and impress their professors. There’s nothing wrong with being one of these people. My goal here is to challenge the assumption that not being one of these people means you should drop out of school.

For people like myself, school is a place to grow and learn in an environment where it is safe, surround by people doing the same thing. Going to every class, writing papers on time, and reading everything that is assigned is of very little relatively importance. What’s important is that school creates situations to make mistakes, to fail, to learn the hard way, to step outside of your comfort zone, and to do things you hate—or thought you hated.

What’s also important is that school create an environment for self-reflection. Once you graduate, life starts moving so fast, you will have little time to reflect on who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming.

I am thankful for every opportunity I have gotten throughout my entire academic career to become the person I hope to be when I graduate.

Sure, there are moments when I hate school. If there were words stronger than hate, I’d probably use them. In the end, however, when nothing else matters aside from the stories that have shaped me into who I am, I will not regret for one moment the four years I spent in school. The four years I spent realizing how little I know that will ultimately—hopefully!—launch me into the world as a curious, ambitious, appreciative, hard working, respectful member of society.

School is, if nothing else, a time to mature without having to every actually grow up; because, after all, who wants to grow up? Not me.


A more meaningful transcript

While my transcript may depict me as a failure, the following anecdotes and memories from this semster should serve as my real transcript—a collection of the things I have learned and the ways I have grown. These are the things I will tell my grandkids, the stories that I will tell that will define my identity. After all, that’s what a transcript is supposed to achieve.

Joining a fraternity

This semster I joined ATO of Massachusetts. It’s technically a “frarority” as we have both male and female members. I could not be happier to be a part of an amazing group of people. A few years back, I never would have expected myself to join a fraternity, but now it is one of my favorite things about school.

This goes to show how little certainty we have over our futures.


Just a little bit crazy…

ATO has made me more confident and more aware of my weaknesses. It has given me the opportunity to become close to people I likely never would have otherwise. In a world filled with uncertainty and in a life filled with chaos and change, being a part of a group is a stabling factor. It’s an aspect of your identity that you can rely on; that you don’t have to fight to defend.

ATO, like college overall, is a place where it’s okay to let loose, be a little crazy, and have fun. Life doesn’t have to be so serious.

Getting drunk with a bunch of smart people is an amazing way to realize just how insignificant so much of life truly is. School can be stressful, as can life. It’s nice having a support group to be there for you. In college, you are surrounded by friends almost 24/7. The same cannot be said about the workforce.

You are a sum of the people who you surround yourself with.

Starting a company


The Marko Men

Having realized that school is all about the people, not the grades or what happens inside the classroom, I was lucky enough to find three amazing co-founders to start a company called Marko Labs building products that we believe will make people’s lives more fun.

In college, time is limited and abundant at the same time.

As cliché as it is, college really is the best time to start a company. I’m lucky to have found two of the smartest engineers at Tufts as well as an incredibly artistcally talented best friend to join and share my vision of creating simple yet powerful products that give life more meaning.

We’re building an iPhone application that helps people leave their mark.

Every physical place has its own story—created, remembered, and told by those who have been there before, and those who will stumble across the place in the near or distant future. Marko let’s you take part in an evolving history of a place by dropping photos that can only be viewed while in the location they were left.

Learning from my (academic) mistakes

I signed up for five classes this semester but quickly ended up dropping Western Political Thought, right before our first paper was due. I guess in my mind, it was easier to drop the class than to do the work, leaving me with only four classes.

My favorite two classes are Data Structures and Human Machine System Design however, even those classes I have skipped several times, turned in late work, and often neglected to put in my full effort.

I also take Behavioral Statistics which is an incredibly important foundational course, but that I have not once paid full attention to in lecture. Finally, I take Ethics but have practically skipped more classes than I have been to and have not gone to a single one of my apparently mandatory recitations.

I used to tell myself that I just didn’t care, but I was lying to myself. Truthfully, I am disappointed and have let myself down. There are few things worse than disappointing yourself—of realizing you could have done better.

If you are going to do something, either do it well, or don’t do it at all. I am thankful that I was able to learn this earlier rather than later. In the big picture, my academic successes and failures will not matter. What matters is that I learn from my mistakes.

The only real failure is failure to learn from your mistakes.


The Big Takeaway

I came into this semester not wanting to be in school. Ultimately, that is what hurt me the most. Negativity spirals and can get out of control quickly. School is a wonderful place and I needed to remind myself of the reasons that it is so wonderful. It took longer than I would have hoped, but reflecting now, I am thankful to have finally realized that there is no place I’d rather be than in college.

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, you’ve got to want it.

 

Further Reading

How Not to Waste Your Life at School

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Thoughts on unconventional approaches to better learning

Identity Chrisis

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A post from a Tufts freshman about his first semster at school. Very thought provoking.

 

 

Written by

Learning by doing since 1994. Co-Founder of Marko.@netspencer on Twitter.

 

 

Asset Bubbles


Jeremy Stein, Federal reserve board of governors

Jeremy Stein, Federal reserve board of governors

The Wealth & Ownership Transfer Continues

Another real estate bubble is inevitable; and while a number of Fed speakers have this year suggested concern about a growing bubble in the High Yield market, who really cares. Sure, a HY collapse may mean that some pulp and paper company up in Canada will struggle to pay its debts, which may in turn reverberate to a reduction in liquidity in the emerging market, but that will self-correct eventually right?

While I appreciate it’s a touch more complicated than I outline above, what’s got me curious is what this focus on asset bubbles means for the future of central banking and asset ownership. The branch of laissez-faire economics known as the Austrian School has for years suggested that central banks are in fact the purveyors of economic cycles. Is the discussion about a pullback of Quantitative Easing (QE) an admission of guilt in this regard, and if so, what exactly are the implications?

Consider the following brief thought experiment:

The Federal Reserve is concerned about asset bubbles, though to what extent is unclear. Recent Fed statements imply that economists at the Federal Reserve are able to identify fair value for asset classes, or at the very least a range within which they are comfortable all else being equal. Let’s set aside the potential for error in identification of fair value and for the purposes of this thought experiment assume they’re capable of a identifying an ‘accurate’ range.

We now consider what creates asset bubbles. For the sake of simplicity, we identify lending criteria to be the primary driver of investment and subsequent asset bubbles. Lending criteria are broadly speaking a function of return, recovery, and alternative lending options, which are themselves a function of the monetary base. While CPI data would seem to contradict the notion that more money leads to higher prices, the S&P500 and the real estate market would disagree. The price of property in London was up 10% last month alone — though these figures don’t count towards the calculation of CPI.

But let’s step back. Earlier we agreed that central banks appear to be able to, at the very least, identify a range within which they’re comfortable with asset prices. We also know that lending criteria drives the amount of credit available, and in turn drives asset bubbles. As central banks are already responsible for the amount of money in the system, is it a matter of time before they begin to set lending criteria ranges within which banks are permitted to lend, not unlike other planned economies? One might argue they’re already influencing lending through the categorization of risk-weighted assets and the effect that has on capital requirements at financial institutions.

But the current track has other consequences, primarily as it pertains to the transfer of ownership from individuals to institutions. There is a set of institutions, primarily well-capitalized banks and money managers, that are flush with cash and are very credit-worthy (the consequence of a ‘broken’ monetary transmission mechanism). Many of these asset managers have in the past two years added a significant amount of residential real estate to their commercial real estate holdings. Names like Blackrock, who ironically complain about asset bubbles, are now landlords. Further, banks that are still sitting on repossessed unsalable homes dubbed ‘REO’ (which btw used to be a four-letter word in investor presentations), are now apparently able to securitize these assets and sell them off to other institutional money managers instead of seeing individual consumers step up to repurchase their foreclosed homes.

If we have moved from a financial market that securitizes mortgage payments to one which securitizes rents, the elasticity of an increase in mortgage rates is diminished, making monetary policy less effective. If I had a voice in this, I’d be cautious about including asset bubbles as a meaningful input into monetary policy. After all, if Blackrock thinks equities are overvalued, there’s nothing stopping them from selling them.

Written by

Finance & Economics Commentator | Avid Runner and Aspiring Music Snob

 

Reinventing Money


Humans invented money out of necessity. We started with hunting, gathering, and trade. Gifts were exchanged between tribes as a symbol of respect to make social fabrics stronger and satisfy our innate sense of reciprocity. As our populations flourished due to agriculture and cities began to form, money was a logical device to take away the friction of barter and trade and keep an account of labor.

As society progressed, money mutated into a form of power that favored the greedy and objectified the weak. The world began to divide between those protected with wealth and those without. Accounting became a measure of how much you could take from the others, instead of a measure of how much you’ve helped. Instead of communities sharing their natural wealth, they were sold to the highest bidder, stolen by foreign invaders, or funneled to cruel dictators corrupted by money. By creating artificial scarcity of money, those in power could sway vast numbers of the population to toil away at labor their whole life and even suppress their better instincts in the pursuit of a distant comfort.

Modern Money

The fundamental problems of the modern money system is that artificially-valued currency is being used to manipulate and incentivize the lower classes of society to work counter to their immediate self interest and in favor of major corporate stockholders. Workers are rewarded with a chance at home ownership and a good quality of life, but only if they are willing to go into major debt, spend a majority of their mental and health capital at work, and be taxed heavily throughout their life in order to fund government institutions.

Money, despite its unnatural disposition, is here to stay. It’s a monster which intoxicates those who have and risk it, and haunts those who chase and hoard it. Wealth is no longer anchored in labor, invention and resources, but rather clever manipulation of the financial system. Yet, money is still the “grease in the gears” of the global society – a symbol of power all agree on and strive towards.

Reinventing Money

The question is – how can we take back control of this monster that we have created? How can we as humans realize the injustice, jealousy and corruption that money can cause, and bring back a sense of community, caring and passion? How can we taper back the consumerism that consumes us, and live within our means?

Here are some ways money can be reinvented:

  • Create digitized local time banks (1:1 hour trade of services) to bring back local community interaction and a sharing of skills that don’t necessarily require an exchange of money. This would allow a new social class to not become slaves to debt, but rather spend their time as they wish, helping neighbors, and building social capital.
  • Eliminate the high levels of debt in the economy, the amount of debt should be proportional to the amount of GDP. No more consumer, corporate, or government debt, only calculated risks for new inventions should be rewarded.
  • Encourage consumer saving plans through incentives.
  • Encourage corporations to increase wages and share the profits. It will help uplift the economy from the waistband and distribute wealth, and increase taxes for good government spending to improve the quality of life for the whole world.
  • Replace banks that suck wealth out of society with a nationalized digital credit system that automatically optimizes the position of capital in order to foster innovation and incentivizes global humane entrepreneurship.
  • Get rid of cash and credit cards that are a tax on the system, in favor of mobile payments and nationalized trackable credits that are inflation proof and authenticated by biometrics.
  • Encourage eMarketplaces for trade and sale of local services and goods to save on transportation costs and help customers and merchants find each other.
  • Standardize wages based on the level of education achieved as well as measured contribution to society. The gluttony of the wealthy and the marginalization of the non-wealthy would be eradicated over a few generations.
  • Discourage concentrations of wealth and power which have been proven to create corrupt, violent, self-preserving entities. Computer-aided logical decision making and intelligent yield management favoring humanistic goals will optimize society over the long-run.

In the long run…

  • As income ranges standardize across the world, taxes to fund public services would be flat to equalize the tax burden and the tax code would be dramatically simplified, fair and transparent.
  • The stock market would be replaced with a stock system that is directly correlated with the value of companies, not their perceived value.
  • Global trade would be streamlined in order to create a level playing field. No more free trade zones and protectionist tariffs, the best products of each region of the world would be accessible and affordable for all, and each producer would have equal access to the global marketplace via eTrading platforms.
  • Everyone would have free access to internet, healthcare, and basic social services in order to create a foundation for prosperity.
  • A flat percentage of all wealth would go to local and foreign aid.
  • Most jobs would be creative - scientific, health, research, software, engineering, and social services, jobs that actually contribute to society. Military, finance, energy, and government administration jobs would diminish.
  • Most manual labor would be handled by automation/robots.
  • No social classes - what you put in is what you get out.
  • Corporations would slowly vanish, people would self organize into groups with equal distribution of shares among all members.

For people to reach their full creative potential, we need a monetary system that rewards originality and innovation by investing in projects that have direct benefit to humanistic goals vs. consumerism and wealth accumulation. Our future depends on reinventing how money works in society and restoring our lost sense of community.

Written by

Entrepreneur pixel pusher. Light chaser. Persian-Americanadian. Dreamer.

Updated September 19, 2013

View story at Medium.com

 

Why saying “I don’t see race/gender/etc.” is offensive


You’re not being blind to people’s diversity; you’re turning a blind eye to their experiences.

 

You’ve seen the argument. Perhaps you’ve even made this argument yourself: “I don’t see race! I treat all people based on their skills and efforts.” Or its variant: “I prefer to see past [race/gender/etc.]; we’re all just people.” But this utopian idea is naïve, even harmful.

The problem with saying “I don’t see X” is two-fold: first, your belief that not “seeing” people for the diversity they represent makes you a good person. It doesn’t (and going about the world thinking you’re better than those who do actually makes things worse), but more on that in a bit. The second part — and the crux of this matter — is that not seeing people for their diversity of backgrounds means you’re actively and consciously ignoring the (historical and current) context of their lives.

It’s akin to telling someone who was wrongly imprisoned for thirty years, “hey, you’re out of jail now, so stop talking about it!” As if ex-convicts are not discriminated against or stigmatized in society, including those who were wrongly imprisoned.

Not every woman in today’s world grows up being subjected to bouts of sexism, or feeling repressed. Not every person of color feels they suffer racism on a daily basis. Not every person with a disability, or from a different class, or what-have-you, feels or even experiences the systemic discriminations against those like them, which exist whether they notice it or not. But every person who belongs to an identifiable group of any kind carries with them the context — and, in many ways, the associated burdens — of the discriminations against their group, both current and past.

People of color know that not too long ago they were treated very differently in society, and they know that some of that still happens today. Individuals among them may not notice the myriad effects on their lives, because it’s all they know and it’s how they grew up and so this is just normal life for them. But they, too, carry the historical context with them.

The same is true for women, who are the majority demographic of the planet and yet still routinely discriminated against, even actively oppressed in many nations (including our “progressive” Western countries). That doesn’t mean every single woman feels oppressed, but many women — and men — are well aware of it happening.

Image representing Marissa Mayer as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

It’s true for all marginalized demographics: for each, individuals exist who may not (consciously) feel these discriminations, but that doesn’t mean that on a systemic level they no longer exist, or that others belonging to those same groups don’t feel the discriminations either. Just because we have a Marissa Mayer or two running big companies doesn’t mean sexism is over, and the same is true for all the other -isms that collectively form our current society and its many systemic, intersectional discriminations of most groups of people.

When someone claims to not see people’s attributes, to look past characteristic X and Y, they’re saying they think these contexts of discrimination no longer matter, or no longer exist. The implication is that these people are not suffering from racism, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, or any of these things anymore.

Whether that implication is intended or not, the claim that people can be cleanly separated from the context of their background is offensive, because it ignores and nullifies the significance of their lived experiences, which very well may include discriminations they endured (and are enduring today).

The argument of “not seeing X,” and presuming you are thus a good person, is actually a cop-out, a delusion against one’s own conscience: it is an attempt to excuse oneself of the responsibility to examine any complicity in these systemic discriminations. But society trains us all to be complicit in these discriminatory systems, hence why they are called systemic discriminations. There is no “they” in society who wield power and cast its ills upon the disenfranchised; “they” is us. We make society what it is, through our collective actions.

When too many people make the assertion that racism and sexism and all those issues no longer exist, through the argument of “not seeing X,” then it may cause some people to actually believe that, but it does nothing to solve the discriminations plaguing real people who suffer them. Worse, it hinders progress, as it asserts that no progress need be made anymore.

It’s time to put that argument to rest.

 

 

Written by

Designer, developer, entreprenerd. Creator of @Modernizr, co-founder of @Presentate. Improv comedian and social justice activist.