A lot of pharmaceuticals were invented using some process that on first hearing sounded pretty stupid. Trouble is, a lot of stupid things start out pretty stupid, too.
Saw a law school friend’s post on why trans soldiers should be serving, and some idiot friend of his was complaining about it.
I was tempted:
Okay, as likely one of the few straight male [disclosure of potential bias] former Army officers [appeal to authority and experience] commenting on this, let me mansplain to the folks who don’t understand: everyone who thinks that less freedom and fewer rights is the right path gives the impression of having not read and understood the Declaration and the Constitution. Would gay soldiers have seemed out of place in the early 90s of DADT? Yes. Did that make it right? No. Will we eventually get over these worries of trans solders? Yes. But not soon enough. Continue your petty squabbling, especially those of you who want to reduce the rights of others who are, irony of ironies, willing to fight and die to protect your rights. [Evidently, I’m having a bad day. Prejudice does that to me.] /rant
But then I deleted it. What’s the point?:
(1) Is that guy ever going to change his mind?
(2) Do I need my former classmates to know how I feel and pat me on the back?
The second is a “no,” and I’m afraid the first is too.
One of my best friends recently attended an academic conference and shared a thought from a colleague, to the effect that “Has anyone ever been convinced by someone else’s regression?” The idea is that maybe we’re all just stuck with our beliefs and even those who claim to be empirical or data-driven really just rationalize our way to maintaining our beliefs – no cognitive dissonance allowed. I realized this morning that that comment may have just broken my life.
The only reason I went back on FB was to sign in to dating apps. That part has gone well. The rest? “Same as it ever was.”
What, then, do we do to change the world? Is leading by example – the Army way, one by one the way that works?
Does this mean I have to change what I do and how I do it and everything else?
The first rule of leadership is lead by example. I heard it in so many forms during my 5 year in the Army, I can’t possibly footnote it.
Recently, Kellyanne Conway said she was suprised at the disrespect for the president and the office.
And yet here’s this example of how then-candidate Trump showing respect for a certain reporter.
I learned, when the Army gave me a little gold bar to wear on my uniform, that you may be entitled to the trappings of respect- a salute, “Sir,” and all that – but you have to earn respect no matter what your rank.
Yep, this is an old post. The world has moved on.
Supreme Court nominee
President Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
I’d like to read some of his opinions before I decide. Does he write his own opinions?
Frankly, I’m comforted by the fact that he’s not a crazy Trump pick. Low standards these days!
In his “Four Roads” post, Seth Godin outlines four possible models of thinking about your career/job progression and experiences. Unstated, but this leitmotif of experience, value, and art is tied in tightly with his linchpin model.
- stuck in a loop – doing the same thing, better & faster, but not getting anywhere
- always getting on a new road – rarely getting better
- wrong road – getting better at the wrong things
- right road
This sounds like a description of my career path(s). Need a big reset button, or at least a path to one that takes better care of my family in the meantime.
One friend commented that he saw his last years as a sort of treadmill. My [lightly edited] response:
That’s funny because I think of 9 years of experience as generally better than 1 year 9 times, which is my situation. I know that half or more of the reason I’m in the mess I’m in is that I haven’t focused on anything for a substantial length of time, not really.
5 year Army
3 years law school
4 years lawyer
8 years quasi-banker/consultant
2 years lawyer
Other than this past two years or so, I feel like everything sort of fit together if I could just put it all in the right perspective, like that scene in Sneakers where they are jumbling some scrabble tiles around because the they think the company name is an anagram for something important. I’m at the middle step where they have something pretty non-sensical and silly. “Setec Astronomy” turns into COOTYS RAT SEMEN and then into “too many secrets.”
I guess I just compared my last 21 years to rat semen. Hmmm. Take that as a sign you’re not doing so bad!
Perhaps it’s not quite so bad as that, but there’s more to this discussion (as always). My personal challenges [as of this writing in late 2010] have been affected in large part by my choices from 2001-09. It’s added stress, more than I knew or understood or would have wanted, to someone important to me. And the outcome has not been good.
Here is another reply:
Well, you’re not on road #1. The problem with roads #2-4 is that you only know after the fact which one you were on.
My lengthy response:
I’m not on 1 or 4. [___] thinks I’m on 2, either fickle or vaguely dissatisfied. I feel like I’m on 3 because the problems I’m solving don’t seem to match up well with what I’d like to be doing.
I’m reminded of the profile on Freeman Dyson, at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study: [___] and I both read it and said “This sounds like Rick’s dream job.”
But I’m not sure that’s really accurate in the details. In any case, it’s not in my immediate future to go get a Ph.D. and become an expert in something. Plus, I think that the thing I’m an expert in is already developed and I’m just not quite there yet at describing it to other people. I think it has something to do with learning quickly, grasping complexities rapidly, readily thinking in terms of systems and big picture connections/ecosystems, and making decisions about all of that analysis pretty rapidly.
I guess that makes me sound like a VC or perhaps a politician or cabinet member of some kind. I also think of myself with labels like “board member” or “judge” (but arbitrator/mediator are good stepping stones to that road that I am starting on in any case).
And now it’s 2016, and I’m going through and liberating draft posts from the queue.
What do I think about when I look back at this one? First, that things have turned out better than I feared. It took me a little bit longer to figure out what path I’ve been on. Now I’m working to strengthen the trunk of this tree while pruning some branches and grafting others.
I am a startup lawyer. I work on their legal issues, on side projects to improve startup legal documents, on investing and advising, on board governance, consulting and interim management outside the purely legal realm, and on startups with a mission to improve outcomes for startups.
The things I tell people I like about what I do:
- I like hearing peoples’ individual stories about their path from the past to the future they’re trying to create
- I like helping specific individuals through my efforts – I see founders with better work and lives as a result
- Startups need more than purely legal advice, meaning my leadership, management, finance, and technical skills get exercised
So this is my path. I expect I’ll get to the point where I live out my years focusing on board-level interactions. It seems like the role that will Mass my skills for greatest impact.
Evidently some dude’s protesting the national anthem.
Don’t know who he is, don’t care, and doesn’t matter whether he’s protesting poverty, race-based policing, gay marriage, immigration, or the lack of vegetarian options at McDonald’s. Protesting the national anthem, the pledge, and burning the flag are the exact kind of speech the first amendment was designed to protect – we force ourselves to be open to seemingly outrageous speech so that we can get past the “outrage” and figure out why the speaker feels the need to push so hard to be heard. Sometime’s it’s because the rest of us just aren’t terribly concerned about the speech – whether it’s the illuminati or HRC’s lizard-person insides – but sometimes it’s because we, terribly, just aren’t concerned.
Go 1st Amendment! Let my people speak.
A happy moment
My happy place looks like Waimea Bay, on the north shore of Oahu, running around the bay in the middle of the evening, with a full moon over the water and just the sound of the waves crashing in the otherwise silent evening.
For me, it was in the middle of one of my legs of the Perimeter Relay, a 7-person relay race around the island, about 133 miles. It was my first year at my unit in Hawaii, the 4/27th Infantry Battalion in the 25th ID(L). It’s a feeling, a sound, a sight I will never forget.
Sometimes, the solution is right in front of you.
I’m a science fiction fan; I can still recall the set of four or five vertical rotating racks of paperbacks at the Paddy Hill Library. I read most of those books, I’m sure – dozens and dozens.
Among all the science fiction themes, time travel is probably my favorite. I always enjoyed, and still really do, finding out how an author was going to resolve all the questions that people have about how time travel might work.
Most of my life, I’d heard about the Hitler question. The question is whether, if you were a time traveler and were in the right time and place, you would kill HItler. One answer is yes, he’s bad; the tension is between that and the “no, I wouldn’t, because it could unleash something much worse.”
Admittedly, I was stuck on this one for a long time (to be fair, I was a kid when this was already in play, so I hopefully just assumed that it was a tough problem). Then I realized that the whole premise of the question is flawed.
Taking a decisive approach, I realized that there’s no information difference between someone from 2016 going back in time and someone deciding in 1939 to kill Hitler. In both cases, no one knows what the future will bring. Any (& every) argument that supposedly suggests “don’t change the past” applies with equal force to the present, i.e., 1939, decision. Or, for that matter, to a 2016 decision to kill butchers in Daesh in Syria/Iraq. Sure, defending the weak and helpless victims of torture, slavery, and genocide might lead to some worse future, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon every moral urge we have to protect each other.
The principle of decisiveness tells us that if a piece of information doesn’t affect the choice we might make, it turns out to be irrelevant and unnecessary. The “the future might generically/in an unforeseen way be worse” argument applies to every choice we make in the present and thus we disregard it and instead focus on the actual better/worse specifics of the choice. Only corporate America refuses to make decisions based on unknown unknowns (uncertainty, a la Frank Knight), and that’s because of a funky punishment/reward system that is skewed to the left (we punish people for bad outcomes without regard to whether they were the result of well-placed bets).
I can’t believe that in all the years I’ve read about this debate in scifi, no one’s ever raised this issue. THAT is why I do what I do: I untangle problems to create and structure opportunities for decisions.
The illustration below, from Jessica Hagy’s wonderful site Indexed, drove me to actually write this down.
For those of you who didn’t know:
My older son has what I describe as mild to moderate autism. He’s happy; he smiles; he talks; he reads; he does math – add, subtract, multiply, and learning to divide. He’s very affectionate: I know he loves his brother and me, and he knows that we love him.
He attends a private nonprofit school for kids with autism. Learning things is both easy for him – deep down I believe his skills are there – and hard: learning is sometimes really slow. It takes a lot of work for him to focus: far more than those random adult who describe themselves as “a little ADD.” His memory plays tricks on him: he was able to teach himself the sign language alphabet from a placard at the playground and the capitals of all 50 states, but at the same time he can’t reliably remember what he ate that day for lunch or dinner. In some very fundamental sense, he knows what matters to him and pretty much ignores the rest.
I work regularly at trying to give him more and more responsibility for his own life. After all, as I’ve written before, self-determination is the touchstone of freedom.
I’m not sure what his future will be, in much the same way that I don’t know whether my other son will go to Caltech or Stanford or Allegheny or MCC. But I know that my son’s life will get better; every day his future improves, and that might be all that really matters. After all, isn’t that what matters for all of our children? I’d rather they be happy freelance poets than miserable, insufferable, self-medicating, suicidal neurosurgeons (or lawyers).
Feel free to ask me questions. This isn’t any big secret in our lives.
How much should you save?
That’s a very good question, to which the easy answer is simply “as much as you can and then a little bit more.”
As I’ve written over on the page for this new tool, the savings rate calculator is designed to help you break a big savings and investing goal, years away, into small chunks. Why small chunks? Because that’s how you live your life. You can look at marginal purchases when you’re thinking about how to allocate your money and decide what makes more sense: another four movie channels or $23.75 a month to add to your savings.
As you’ll see if you read right-minded people, these spending choices pay a double dividend: first, each time you save money it adds to your nest egg and speeds up your time to being financially independent; second, each time you restructure your life to avoid some expense that you realize is not necessary for you to be happy, you permanently remove that expense from your future spending, so you don’t need to save more money to underwrite that future expense.
So if you ditch a third car, you can pocket that money today. More money saved = retire sooner. Then, post-retirement, you won’t need to spend that. Lower expenses = retire sooner.
Note: this isn’t about having the lowest possible expenses of anyone. This isn’t a competition. It’s about your life. If you like something, do it. Enjoy it – really enjoy it. But add a bit of mindfulness and see whether there are things you should be eliminating from your life because they don’t bring you as much joy as they cost.
I hope the tool helps you plan. Please let me know what you’ve found worth keeping in your life, and what you’ve let go. Again, it’s not a competition against anyone but yourself. These shared stories are here to help us realize what we might not have thought about – either as something important or something not.