How to Send Good Emails to Very Busy People

This was originally a piece at The Mission, it is based on an email I sent to my email list. Sign up for my email list to get more like this and early access to exclusive professional development content. 

If I were to make a list of my personal superpowers, it would include things like finding the best diners in a city, seeing opportunities being left by others, and actually getting in the door with anybody.

For me, the ability to send emails that work and get replies from Very Busy People essentially built the beginning of my career and has taken me to a place where I can pursue any path I would want to.

This ability to send emails that work to Very Busy People developed over years of trying to get in the doors with CEOs and Presidents of companies, founders and investors, and just interesting people whom I admired. I thought I was good at writing emails (I am a good writer, after all!) and would read, proofread, and verify my emails before sending them. It was not until I actually had to start sending these emails to Very Busy People (and not just peers, professors, or run of the mill professionals) that I realized that most people are terrible at writing emails.

Even worse, as this skill has paid its returns, I’ve started becoming a Very Busy Person (although on the lower end of the spectrum) and have become the recipient of emails from others.

These are some of the notes I’ve learned about writing emails that work. If you master this skill, you master the skill of getting in the door with anybody.If you master that skill, the world is your oyster.

The No-Reply Psychology

I’m not going to break down an obviously-bad email for you. That’d be punching down and it would be too easy. Obviously-bad emails tend to be big blocks of text, have no clear call to action, have terrible, irrelevant subject lines, and just obviously look like time-sucks. These are emails that only somebody very charitable with their time works with.

Instead, it’s more useful to break down why an email that looks good is not working.

Here’s the psychology of the average person writing an email to a Very Busy Person:

“This person is very busy and receives lots of emails per day. I need to make it clear to them why they should reply to my email and I need to make it clear what I am emailing them about.”

“So, I am going to do the following: clear subject line, clear paragraphs (no giant blocks of text!), clear ask, and I’ll even throw in a piece of collateral as an attachment for them.”

They end up drafting an email like this:

Dear Mr. Slayback,

I am a student at the University of Emailing who came across one of your articles recently and I enjoyed it. I have found myself a student of emailing for some time and realized that what you said about writing emails to Very Busy People was spot-on. I decided to enroll at the University of Emailing after I had reached a plateau in my career as a student. No matter what I tried to do, my emails were not getting replies. My career stagnated. My earnings dipped. What was worst: I could not easily switch jobs because I did not know how to write emails!

I’m writing a term paper on the nature of emails and the history of the E-Mail system. I’ve attached my draft of it here. As you will see, we have to go into why email has been and continues to be the best way to get a hold of people and have to answer objections from people who think that email is irrelevant for the 21st century. I’d love your thoughts on it when you get a minute. Do you have time for a phone call?

Looking forward to hearing from you.


This email looks good from the outside. It has some basic components of an okay email:

— clear subject line

— clear paragraphs

— clear call to action/ask

— piece of collateral

— signature implying a response

This email would not get a response from most Very Busy People.

The Psychology of Very Busy People

Bad email senders think that Very Busy People have a psychology that is different from their own. Okay email senders know that Very Busy People are just like you and I but fail to write emails like that. Great email senders know that Very Busy People are just like you and I and that they have even less time.

Imagine for a moment that you are an Average Busy Person. You rush out the door to go to work in the morning, shuffle between calls and meetings, come home and may get a little bit of downtime in the late afternoon or evening. Now imagine you received the above email during your Average Busy day. You know what the person wants you to do — he wants you to (1) skim his paper, (2) think of feedback, and (3) schedule a time to chat about feedback with him — but the chances that you have that time right now are very low. So you tell yourself you will come back to it when you have time.

Very Busy People are just like that except they never have time to come back to it. They mark the email as unread or move it to an inbox with a “to-do” label, but unless it is an urgent and important item for them, it is more likely to collect cyber-dust than it is to garner a reply.

The worst emails for Very Busy People are those that are written well but have no clear ask“Hop on a call,” “collaborate together,” “would love your feedback,” and “interested in connecting,” are all terms that infect these cancerous messages. They just signal, “Time Suck!” to the Very Busy Personbut look like clear asks to the sender. The sender then is confused or offended when the Very Busy Person does not respondThe ask should be crystal clearand should not be open-ended at all. If it is a first email, it should be a very low-cost ask, too.

The life of a Very Busy Person is constantly managing the intersection of the urgent and the importantYour email is probably neither for them, so you should make the cost of responding essentially zero.


Writing Emails for Very Busy People

That brings us to the question, what would be a better way of emailing a Very Busy Person?

The email written for a Very Busy Person has such a low cost of immediately responding that it looks like more work to come back to the email later and respond. This is cost in terms of time and mental energy.

A better way of writing the above email could look like this:

Mr. Slayback,

I am a student at the University of Emails and I came across your article on writing emails for Very Busy People. I thought it was engaging and wanted to ask you a quick question about emails that would help me with an upcoming term paper.

Would you say that email is:

A) Likely to be replaced by a new form of communication sometime soon.
B) Unlikely to be replaced by a new form of communication sometime soon.
C) B, but 
also that email has not even yet reached its peak value for businesses.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on the above — it would help me with a section on my paper that I can’t quite get past.

I appreciate your time.


This email does essentially the same as the above but is more likely to garner a response from a Very Busy Person. It does not require that the Very Busy Person read a term paper or download an attachment, it does not even require typing out a full sentence in response (“A” would be an appropriate response), and it makes responding less costly than marking to come back to later.

Building in canned responses is a great way to make it easier for a Very Busy Person to respond. Once you have their response, then you can try your luck in asking for more like a phone call.

I am using this technique right now in an email exchange with a Very Busy Person who is one of the most prominent academics in the world. After an initial phone call with him and a friend several weeks ago, I followed up about a product that he wanted to send along to some people in our networks. My email to him was very clear that I:

  1. Appreciate his time.
  2. Need the product he offered from him.
  3. Can answer any questions he has.

He responded merely with an email asking how many products to send along. My reply to that was just a number. He had the product immediately sent along.

Once this product arrives, I will then follow up with a thank you message and request a brief phone call with him.

If I were to request the phone call and the product at the same time, the likelihood of getting both would be considerably lower than breaking them apart to what is essentially a personalized drip campaign.


  1. Can your responses for them.
  2. Be ultra-specific in your asks.
  3. Do not be a time-suck.
  4. Play the long game. Focus on getting a response first before asking for everything that you might want from this person.

If you follow this psychology, make your emails easier to respond to than coming back to them later,you will increase your chances of getting responses from Very Busy People markedly.

How to Send Good Emails to Very Busy People

Stop Relying on Motivation & Willpower to Succeed

Don’t rely on your willpower to accomplish your tasks.

No matter how many articles you read about Elon Musk getting everything done before 3 AM or how you can write a book in a week if you just drink enough Bulletproof Coffee. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

It does not matter if you have the best self-efficacy of anybody you know and can take on almost any task, no matter how big. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

You may have the best system set up to get the highest-value items done in your day. You may schedule in time for deep-work. You may be well-versed in your own psychology and know your own shortcomings. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

Personal development literature that focuses on ways to increase your willpower get the psychology of achievement all wrong. Highly effective people rarely operate at a higher level than you or I because of their willpower.

These highly effective people may occasionally wake up earlier and they may be marginally better at checking their things off their to-do lists than the average person, but their willpower is not the thing that makes them highly effective. Having a strong sense of willpower is a secondary effect of being highly effective. As you get bigger and harder tasks done, it becomes easier to take on and complete bigger and harder tasks.

Willpower literature, on the other hand, focuses on ways you can get these bigger and harder things done without having you focus on getting smaller, harder things done first. The effect is a class of personal development consumers who know all about how to increase their willpower but do not apply it in becoming more effective people.

You do not need willpower to succeed. You need systems.

Willpower waxes and wanes. Effective willpower takes time to build, anyway.It’s better to view your willpower as an extra bonus on top of the basic systems that allow you to succeed even when your willpower fails.

Accountability Systems

Losers have goals. Winners have systems.” Scott Adams

Accountability systems leverage your own values against you to make sure that you show up and you perform. Expensive coaching, programs that donate to causes you dislike, and just announcing that you are going to do something to a peer group who will shame you if you fail to perform are all examples.

The important component here is that the accountability system works off ofyour values. Understand what motivates you (and what you want to avoid) to settle on the best system possible.

For example, you may be ashamed of the idea of looking like a flake. You value your pride and your ability to be a person who does what they say they are going to do. You find yourself frustrated by the types of people who say they are going to write a book, launch a business, or lose weight and never actually do that thing. They just talk about doing that thing.

You hold shame and pride in high esteem. To hold yourself accountable to goals, announce them publicly and make it clear that you will execute. Failure to do so relegates you to the class of no-shows and flakes, something you fear.

If you are frugal, put a heavy investment into a coach or a program that forces you to get out more than you put in.

If you care heavily about specific issues, use a program like to donate to a cause you oppose if you fail to hit your goal. You may be devoutly anti-gun and set up your goal that if you do not perform, you donate $500 to the NRA, as an example.

This is why coaching systems work. Coaches are outside individuals who gauge our values, are trained to keep us accountable to them, and can use leverage on us when necessary. Professional coaches come at a cost, putting more skin in the game to motivate ourselves to perform and for the coaches to provide quality work.

Whatever you do, do not rely on your willpower to succeed. Set up systems to win.

This post was originally published at The Mission as part of Find Your Mission.

Stop Relying on Motivation & Willpower to Succeed

Zak Slayback Discussing Self-Efficacy and Success on the Stephen Perkins Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of joining Stephen Perkins on his podcast, the Stephen Perkins Podcast with Outset Magazine. This is one of my favorite recent interviews. Stephen and I discuss schooling, education, economic stagnation, and how to develop a sense of self-efficacy and make yourself succeed.

In this podcast, in particular, I go into detail about where I think a lot of self-help and personal development literature goes wrong, how to get started on living a happier, more successful life, and the importance of self-efficacy and seeing yourself as competent in the world.

This two-step process includes 1) figuring out what you want; and 2) building a path to get there. I go into detail about how you can do both. There are chapters in my new book How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer that go even deeper on both.



Zak Slayback Discussing Self-Efficacy and Success on the Stephen Perkins Podcast

Do Harder Stuff to Become a Better Person

Always choose harder stuff.

When given the option to choose between something challenging and rewarding and something less challenging and less rewarding, always choose the more challenging thing.

We, people, are not very good at recognizing how much we will or will not enjoy something.

We often think that we will enjoy two things — like the above — equally. You can’t play out both scenarios simultaneously, so you’ll never know how wrong or right you were.

Fulfillment does not come from the accomplishment of tasks. Accomplishing something easy is not the same thing as accomplishing something hard.

Fulfillment, happiness, comes from progress towards the accomplishment of goals.

If you are given the option to choose something easy that you know you will achieve or something hard at which you may fail, choose the latter. Definitely choose the latter if it will help you towards the accomplishment of your goals.

Even if you fail, you’ve made it that much easier for you to try something similarly difficult in the future. You’ve experienced an exercise in self-efficacy — in seeing yourself as capable of trying and someday achieving hard things in the world.

You must exercise self-efficacy like you exercise a muscle. Muscles grow and get stronger through lifting them against gravity at increasingly larger loads.You should lift to failure in order to get the most strength gains.

Even if you fail on your maximum lift, you’ve pushed your muscles beyond where they’d gone before. Now, when you revisit that maximum lift next time, it will be physically and psychologically easier.

Even if you fail in the accomplishment of difficult tasks, you’ve pushed yourself beyond the easy tasks. You’ve added to the realm of competence that you can experience.

Write the book instead of dreaming of it.

Give the talk instead of thinking of it.

Go for the promotion instead of dreaming of it.

Ask out the girl instead of watching her.

Lift the weight instead of reading the Instagram post.

Cook the meal instead of ordering out.

Do hard stuff. Even if you fail, you’ll experience a feeling of growth. Growth, not accomplishment, is what makes people feel fulfilled.

Also shared at The Mission.

Do Harder Stuff to Become a Better Person

What I’m Reading: September 2017

This originally appeared at The Mission.

I’m a big believer in trying to go deep in subjects as often as you can. Cal Newport’s fantastic book Deep Work makes the case that the kind of work that you can do that actually makes a difference in your life and provides you with substantive opportunities to advance your career and your personal well-being is the kind that requires you to go deep.

That being said, I’m disturbed by the number of otherwise-promising professionals and young people with whom I speak who struggle to pick up a book. Statistics vary on how many people actually read every year — a popular meme claims that more than 70% of Americans do not read a book after high school — but the most recent and reliable numbers from Pew make it look like 76% of Americans have read a book (of any format) in the last year. That’s more promising than only 30% but still not great.

When I speak with people who admit they do not read as much as they would like, one of the major reasons holding them up is settling on a good book. With as many options out there as there are, it is easy to get lost in the noise.

That’s why I like to occasionally share what I recently read and am currently reading. My hope is that one of these recommendations leads you to pick up a book and go deep on some subject.

Recently read:

Mastery by Robert Greene

Source: Amazon

Mastery is a look at how some people take that inborn childhood curiosity and turn it into something that defines not just their lives but also the fields to which they contribute. Greene breaks down a number of examples of people who found a master under whom to apprentice, found subject matters in which they could engross themselves, and who created at a pace and with a mindset that allowed them to constantly grow and contribute.

Why some people succeed and others fail at living productive lives and why they succeed and fail at retaining a love of learning are two subjects which define much of my personal research. Mastery is a must-read in this category — especially if you also enjoy biographies.

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Much like Mastery, Greene’s 48 Laws of Power is set up through examples and mini-biographies of people who successfully captured power and influence for themselves.

Some view Greene’s work with a cynical eye, believing that to be so interested in power, war, and seduction (the subjects of Greene’s other two books) one must be interested in manipulating people. This gets Greene’s work entirely backwards. People will seize power in your life and you will either be subject to their whims or capable of defending yourself against them. Better to be in the second category.

Some of Greene’s laws:

  1. Never Outshine the Master

10. Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky

25. Re-Create Yourself

37. Create Compelling Spectacles

48. Assume Formlessness

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

CS Lewis is the master of taking dense subjects and turning them into entertaining and digestible fiction. From The Screwtape Letters to The Great Divorce to The Chronicles of Narnia and his Space Trilogy, there is no better author in the 20th century to communicate complexity through fiction.

Mere Christianity is not one of those pieces. A short book on Lewis’ core perceptions of Christianity and what Christianity means, it is neither dense nor fiction. A baptized Anglican, Lewis tries to move beyond doctrinal and political issues dividing different strands of Christianity and ask what Christianity is, at its core.

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust is the classic story of selling your soul to the Devil for something here on earth. Goethe’s short adaptation is a play combining elements from Roman and Greek mythology and Christian theology, making for a fun read.

I recently sent this out to my email list at and realized I had never read it myself. I hunkered down for a weekend and found it a great casual read.

Currently reading

These are the books I am currently reading through September. Given that I am just now reading them, I can’t give much overview of the books, but I can say why I picked them up and the little with which the book starts.

Philosophical Explanations by Robert Nozick

Robert Nozick’s writing makes dense analytic philosophy fun to read. Best known for his political treatise, Anarchy, State & Utopia, Nozick compiled a series of essays on ethics and personal identity in Philosophical Explanations. The book opens up with Nozick proposing his own closest continuer theory for personal identity problems.

(Personal identity is a concept in philosophy of the mind to help deal with questions that stem from our being individual persons. This falls further into questions of personhood, identity, and who and what questions. These are especially useful conceptions to have in your philosophical toolkit for dealing with problems in bioethics, like problems of multiple personality disorders, abortion, and cloning.)

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

Source: Amazon

Josh Waitzkin is like Bobby Fischer. A child chess prodigy who grew to take on the world championship at a young age. After that, he became a martial arts master. The Art of Learning breaks down what he learned through years of succeeding at chess and martial arts (and why others didn’t succeed). Much like The Inner Game of TennisThe Art of Learning proposes that you not take yourself so critically when learning and allowing yourself to take a broader picture. Overanalyzing the learning process and seeing yourself as a stagnant creature will lead to slower gains and frustration with the skill before you get the chance to experience mastery.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie is best known for How to Win Friends and Influence People, a fun, casual read on professional social skills. When a friend recommended I pick up How to Stop Worrying and Start Living when I was looking for a short, easy-to-read book to enjoy with my morning coffee, I knew Carnegie would not disappoint.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living gives examples of people for whom worry was a major part of their lives and how they overcame it. Each chapter ends with recommendations like Make a Decision and Understand the Negative Health Consequences of Worrying.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (Audiobook)

I had never actually picked up Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, perhaps because I thought it to be one of those books that would say things I already know. “Yeah, effective people aren’t bad people, we get it,” was kind of the thought in the back of my mind. I decided to drop an Audible credit on it after hearing one of Covey’s successors speak at an event and am glad I did so.

Covey proposes a character ethic rather than a personality ethic for self-improvement. While most books and authors focus on this one weird trick that will help you, Covey focuses on developing the character that lends itself towards high efficacy. I do not tend to enjoy audiobooks — but Covey’s presentation makes this an enjoyable listen.

Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis (Audiobook)

Till We Have Faces is one of CS Lewis’ very few fictional novels that is not an adaptation of biblical themes. Instead, this longer book is his adaptation of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I picked this up after a conversation on the similarities (or lack thereof) between Lewis’ theories of Christianity and Rene Girard’s in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World and reading that this is one of the books in which Lewis proposes a theory of mimetics and sacrifice that aligns with Girard’s own.

What I’m Reading: September 2017

Wanted: A Man, by Orison Swett Marden

This is the opening chapter to Orison Swett Marden’s book Pushing to the Front, which is this week’s featured book on Free Book Friday. To receive free books every Friday, sign up on an email capture here on

“All the world cries, Where is the man who will save us? We want a man! Don’t look so far for this man. You have him at hand. This man,—it is you, it is I, it is each one of us! . . . How to constitute one’s self a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it.”—Alexandre Dumas.

Diogenes sought with a lantern at noontide in ancient Athens for a perfectly honest man, and sought in vain. In the market place he once cried aloud, “Hear me, O men”; and, when a crowd collected around him, he said scornfully: “I called for men, not pygmies.”

Over the door of every profession, every occupation, ever-calling, the world has a standing advertisement: “Wanted—A Man.”

Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say “No,” though all the world say “Yes.”

Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.

Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation…

Wanted, a man of courage who is not a coward in any part of his nature.

Wanted, a man who is well balanced, who is not cursed with some little defect of weakness which cripples his usefulness and neutralizes his powers.

Wanted, a man who is symmetrical, and not one-sided in his development, who has not sent all the energies of his being into one narrow specialty and allowed all the other branches of his life to wither and die. Wanted, a man who is broad, who does not take half views of things; a man who mixes common sense with his theories, who does not let a college education spoil him for practical, every-day life; a man who prefers substance to show, and one who regards his good name as a priceless treasure.

Wanted, a man “who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to heed a strong will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself.”

The world wants a man who is educated all over; whose nerves are brought to their acutest sensibility; whose brain is cultured, keen, incisive, broad; whose hands are deft; whose eyes are alert, sensitive, microscopic; whose heart is tender, magnanimous, true.

The whole world is looking for such a man. Although there are millions out of employment, yet it is almost impossible to find just the right man in almost any department of life, and yet everywhere we see the advertisement: “Wanted—A Man.”

When Garfield as a boy was asked what he meant to be, he answered: “First of all, I must make myself a man; if I do not succeed in that, I can succeed in nothing.”

It is a sad sight to see thousands of students graduated every year from our grand institutions whose object is to make stalwart, independent, self-supporting men, turned out into the world saplings instead of stalwart oaks, “memory-glands” instead of brainy men, helpless instead of self-supporting, sickly instead of robust, weak instead of strong, leaning instead of erect. “So many promising youths, and never a finished man!”

The character sympathizes with and unconsciously takes on the nature of the body. A peevish, snarling, ailing man can not develop the vigor and strength of character which is possible to a healthy, robust, cheerful man. There is an inherent love in the human mind for wholeness, a demand that man shall come up to the highest standard; and there is an inherent protest or contempt for preventable deficiency. Nature, too, demands that man be ever at the top of his condition…

The first requisite of all education and discipline should be man-timber. Tough timber must come from well grown, sturdy trees. Such wood can be turned into a mast, can be fashioned into a piano or an exquisite carving. But it must become timber first. Time and patience develop the sapling into the tree. So through discipline, education, experience, the sapling child is developed into hardy mental, moral, physical mantimber.

If the youth should start out with the fixed determination that every statement he makes shall be the exact truth; that every promise he makes shall be redeemed to the letter; that every appointment shall be kept with the strictest faithfulness and with full regard for other men’s time; if he should hold his reputation as a priceless treasure, feel that the eyes of the world are upon him that he must not deviate a hair’s breadth from the truth and right; if he should take such a stand at the outset, he would . . .come to have almost unlimited credit and the confidence of everybody who knows him.

What are palaces and equipages; what though a man could cover a continent with his title-deeds, or an ocean with his commerce; compared with conscious rectitude, with a face that never turns pale at the accuser’s voice, with a bosom that never throbs with fear of exposure, with a heart that might be turned inside out and disclose no stain of dishonor? To have done no man a wrong; to have put your signature to no paper to which the purest angel in heaven might not have been an attesting witness; to walk and live, unseduced, within arm’s length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude;—this is to be a man.

Wanted: A Man, by Orison Swett Marden

How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer

This is the tentative introduction to my new book out this winter. Sign up on one of my Sumo boxes to get early access as a beta reader and/or help me choose a cover. This was originally published at The Mission.

Dear reader,

You’ve been lied to.

Ever since you were a little kid, you were told that in order to be successful, you have to train, prepare, study, and pick up certain skills. Only once you have these skills can you take life by the horns and get ahead. Once you are qualified, only then can you get that job you dream of, land that raise, make that money, or move to that neighborhood in which you want to live. So you study hard, you specialize, you stay up late and take internships in the industry in which you work.

But you struggle still to get ahead. It feels like everybody else is moving up in their game as you move up. As you try to get ahead, so does everybody else who is nearly as skilled. So you study harder. You work to become more qualified. You put in long hours in entry-level jobs and work your way up the corporate ladder. The stakes keep getting higher as you move higher and it still seems like you can never get ahead.

Continue reading “How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer”

How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer

Stephen Covey’s Favorite Quotation

This week, I had the pleasure of hearing Chris McChesney give a fantastic keynote on his book, The Four Disciplines of Execution (which is discussed in Doers 017 with Joshua Fischer),  at the State Policy Network Annual Meeting. McChesney is one of the intellectual successors to Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Covey’s book is a staple item I recommend to anybody interested in introspection and bettering themselves. While his habits may appear to be old-fashioned, they are the bedrock of getting ahead. If your foundation is faulty, you can’t build a house.

At the end of his talk, Chris flashed a quick slide from George Bernard Shaw that was Covey’s favorite quotation.


“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege – my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw

This made me think:

What would it mean for you to be thoroughly used up when you die? What is the end (or set of ends) towards which you want to craft your life? If you got to read a biography of yourself after you died, how would you like the second half to look?

Stephen Covey’s Favorite Quotation

Show Up Every Day and Do The Work

This piece was originally posted at The Mission.

There’s an old Woody Allen quotation that 80% of success is just showing up.”

This quotation is used to motivate people to get started on what they want to achieve and has even helped me when thinking about the significance of competition (turns out, most of your potential competitors won’t even show up, least of all actually do the work to compete with you).

But it’s easy to lose the details of what this really looks like when captured with just a pithy quotation.

80% of success is showing up. Every. Day.

Moving from Fuzzy Aspiration to Goal

Most people have fuzzy aspirations. If you ask them what they want to have in life, they might tell you “more money,” or “a happy family,” or “a nice job and a good car.” They may get a little more granular, like saying how many kids they want or how much money they want to earn, but these aspirations rarely move into being “goals.” Goals, unlike fuzzy aspirations, actually have a path of things that must happen in order for the goal to happen.

The process of going from fuzzy aspirations to goals is something worth paying attention to in itselfActually showing up on the set to get something done requires that you ask yourself, what is it that I want to get done?

Want to “earn more money”? Go panhandle. You’ll make something that day.

Want to “lose some weight”? Go for a run and go to the bathroom.

But want to set up a system to regularly make 2x what you make now in a month?

Want to shed 20 pounds by the summer and gain strength and vitality?

Those might require you to sit down and do some systematized work.

Moving from Goal to Habit

Simply showing up isn’t enough. The Woody Allen quotation leaves out thatyou have to show up every single day. Showing up once in the pursuit of your goals will put you ahead of most people who operate by fuzzy aspirations but will put you behind everybody who actually achieved something.

Once you get clear on your goal and what you have to do to hit that goal, show up every day. Start developing a habit.

If you want to get stronger, build a system for going to the gym. You can’t just go to the gym once. You need to actually set systems in place to guarantee that you will start showing up every day.

Maybe you don’t have to physically show up every day, but you have to psychologically show up. You have to start building the blocks to the house that will be the better you.

When you’ve moved from goal to habit, you’ve exceeded 80% of your potential competition.

Different people operate by different dispositions. If you are a highlyconscientious person, your habits should set you up to feel productive and like you are accomplishing a lot. If you are a highly open person, your habits should make you feel creative and like you are expressing your true self. Set your habits to your personality and play to those strengths which make you the most effective you.

Moving from Habit to Efficacy

The goal of habits is twofold.

First, habits allow you to chip away at larger goals and develop the mental and physical conditioning required to take your functioning to a higher level.

Second, and more subtly, habits which successfully play to your productive strength increase your sense of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the ability to see yourself as capable of accomplishing things in the world. Like a muscle, it is developed through taking on increasingly heavy loads under control.

If you were to try to immediately squat 3x your bodyweight without ever doing a squat before, you would give up from frustration and quit and never return to the gym.

If you were to try to immediately go for your end-goal without doing smaller, related tasks and developing the habits related to the bigger goal first, you would give up from frustration and quit.

Develop your self-efficacy by successfully and regularly executing upon habits and achieving smaller — but increasingly larger — goals.

Show up every day and showing up becomes easier.

Show Up Every Day and Do The Work

Personality Dispositions and Social Change: Openness and Conscientiousness

I am sitting on my flight to San Antonio to join the State Policy Network for their Annual Meeting where I will be speaking on the role of movements and “remnants” in social change. I’ve written about the topic of the remnant here, here, and here. A good example of a modern American remnant that is incredibly effective at social change without a large, complex, organized movement around it is homeschooling. Homeschooling increases year-over-year in the US and laws across the country continue to liberalize. The only major organization making a concerted effort in this reform is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which really only follows homeschoolers where they need it. I want to focus a number of long-form pieces on what can be learned from homeschoolers for implementing significant social change in the future. This post, though, is about personality dispositions and social change.

Continue reading “Personality Dispositions and Social Change: Openness and Conscientiousness”

Personality Dispositions and Social Change: Openness and Conscientiousness

The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do Right Now: Author Yourself

This piece was originally published at The Mission

I consider myself a pretty ambitious person. There are things I want to accomplish, people I want to influence, and places I want to see. But it is easy to get overwhelmed between all of the options on the table and overwhelmed with trying to get from A-to-Z in my big goals.

TL;DR — I tried out “self-authoring” this summer on a whim and found it to be the highest payoff thing I did. I am more focused, more alert, and more productive towards the achievement of my goals than before. The program is available here.

I used to dismiss goal setting tools and workshops. When asked why, I would hide it behind a veneer of looking down on something that was “too self-helpy” or something that too many people talked about doing. I imagined that goal setting and explicit plan making were really only things that losers did because they did not have the willpower to keep track of their goals on their own on a day-to-day basis.

Then I actually tried it. At first, I tried it in a workshop that I attended in March and was surprised by how much more detail I got on a few things that I had struggled with before:

  1. What my next, immediate action items are. I knew what I wanted to get at and I knew some of the things I had to do to get there, but sometimes I would find myself struggling to find what the next highest-leverage action items were.
  2. What I was really trying to aim for. In the trenches of day-to-day life, it’s easy to lose sight of what you actually set your goals for. Maybe you want to earn $50,000 next quarter…but why? What is that going to bring you? Knowing your reasons makes your striving for these things easier when things get difficult.
  3. The resources I had available to make this happen. Often, people think about their goals or ambitions passively. They go about their day-to-day hoping that things will align for them to get closer to their goals. Actually sitting down, thinking about these goals, and writing about them forces you to get clear about the resources you have available right now.

Had I actually taken the time beforehand to seriously sit down and write out what I wanted for myself and what I wanted to achieve, I would have spent considerably less time on projects and opportunities that did not get me closer to my goals. I would have spent more time on productive activities and would have thereby been happier. If I had been happier, I would have been more productive.

Much like meditating, goal-setting is something that seems like it shouldn’t make the impact it does. “I can calm myself down through the day, why take the time to actually meditate?” Goal-setting is like meditating on your goals, pulling forth parts of your mind that do not usually focus on these goals, and bringing resources to the fore that you didn’t even realize you had.

I took the time a few weeks ago to try out the Self-Authoring Suite developed by the clinical psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson, and his colleagues. I realized some of the benefits of explicit goal setting and self-inventory in the spring and thought it might be worthwhile to drop $30 to try out what is essentially a guided journaling program.

Peterson and co. developed the suite with their students at the University of Toronto and tested it on them, with surprisingly positive results. Students who participated in the course were less likely to drop out due to lack of focus, improved their grades, and were overall happier. This corroborates with an old apocryphal Yale/Harvard study about the success of graduates over years with written goals.

I figured $30 is about the price of one or two good books, so might as well as try it out.

What Do You REALLY Want?

Most people have aspirations. They want to accomplish something. They may want a family of a certain kind, a job of a certain type, or just to live their lives in a certain way.

Rarely do we actually sit down and ask ourselves “why” do we want these things. These desires and aspirations may be inherited from past epochs of our lives where we developed them for entirely different reasons than we would develop them now, or they may be inherited from other people, forcing us to live out lives of which other people would be proud, but not ourselves.

A particularly useful part of the suite in the Future Authoring program asks you to design achievements and goals for yourself as if you were somebody you cared about. Take an inventory of something you can improve on right now (to gain momentum) and then take a step back, set out the goals, and say why you want to achieve those goals.

When setting the goals, be specific and set deadlines. This allows you to track your progress and your failure and focus on where you need to improve in order to really succeed.

Then, sit through and think about what will go into the achievement of these goals.

How Will Your Life Change?

How will achieving this goal change your life? How will it change your relationships with people you know? Will it actually make your life harder or worse off?

Being clear about these questions is vitally important. When people fail to take proper action on opportunities in front of them, a main cause is that they are conflicted about whether or not they really want it. My go-to example to illustrate this is somebody who has one part of themselves tugging at them to get married and commit to an individual whom they love but another part of them terrified of the commitment and wanting to stay a bachelor/bachelorette. They are conflicted about what they want so they fail to take proper action.

Getting clear about what you actually want is a powerful way to capture the effectiveness that you need to succeed in your life.

What Are the Obstacles?

The Future Authoring program also asks you to be clear about the obstacles you will face in the achievement of your goals. If you are actually forced to think about what can go wrong in the achievement of your goals, you can anticipate these problems and minimize them before they crop up.

Maybe you want to achieve a promotion by the beginning of the year. But this is a unique promotion that can only go to one of five employees in your group. Jon across the hall is also up for the promotion. Might he sabotage you? Will you have to play office politics? Will the achievement of this promotion actually undermine your ability to manage your team?

Anticipation is the key to leadership. The Future Authoring program does a solid job at making you make explicit the things which you must anticipate in order to achieve your goals.

How Can You Get There?

Then, take the time to ask yourself what will go into the achievement of this goal. What will you have to get better at? What habits will you have to develop? How often should you take an inventory of your progress?

This is similar to the Ambition Mapping tool I advocate for hereYou take what you want to achieve (and when you want to achieve it) and work backward from there to realize what are the smaller goals that you must achieve first in order to hit this bigger goal.

Each of these smaller goals is then broken down into two distinct categories:

  1. Habits you can develop. In order to achieve ambitious goals, you must develop helpful habits. If you want to write a book, you need to schedule in time for writing. If you want to lose weight, you need to schedule in time for exercise. What are the habits you can develop that will help in the achievement of this goal?
  2. Things you can do right now. There is something you can do right now to get you closer to the achievement of your goal. That could be sending an email, calling a gym, or sitting down to get to work. What are those things?

This plan of attack (as well as your due date) is not set in stone. The power is in the exercise of thinking about the specific things you can do towards the attainment of the goal. Once you explicate these ideas — many of which are sitting implicit in your mind right now — you have a list of things you can do to get yourself moving.

The Self-Inventory

The suite also includes Present and Past Authoring programs. These programs can be completed separately from the Future Authoring program but are based on the Big Five psychological index and help you figure out what your best traits are and your worst traits are and how you can improve upon yourself by leveraging these.

In the Present Authoring — Virtues, you make an inventory of your best traits by choosing from several lists of traits that fall on the OCEAN/Big Five spectrum. You choose traits that relate to:

Openness — Your openness to trying new and different things.

Conscientiousness — Your disposition towards order.

Extraversion — Your disposition towards other people.

Agreeableness — Your disposition towards disagreeing with people or going along with them.

Neuroticism — Your disposition towards emotional stability.

For example, my best traits tend to lean towards moderate openness, high conscientiousness, high extraversion, low agreeableness, and low neuroticism. You then re-rank these traits as your best traits until you get to a handful. Then, you take an index of these traits and think about how they’ve helped you in the past and how you can use them to help you grow in the future.

This combined with the future authoring program provides a powerful jumping-off point for your personal development. You get an idea of what your strengths are and how you can play to them. You get an idea of what you want to achieve and how you can achieve that. Combine these and you know what points to leverage for the highest payoff in the achievement of your goals.

Present Authoring — Faults follows a similar trajectory and helps you identify the areas in which you need to improve. Past Authoring asks you to divide your life into epochs and sort those out in the narrative of what you are trying to achieve.

Taking the time to “self-author” is like a meta exercise. You can take a class or read a book about learning a specific skill, but if that skill is not leveraged towards the biggest payoff point for what you want to achieve (or you have no idea what you want to achieve!) then the skill is not being used in the best way.

Go work out what you want. Get a plan for achieving it. Sort yourself out.

You can learn more about the program here.

You can purchase the individual programs or the suite here. As of 8/25/17, the 2-f0r-1 suite special is still going on, where you can get 2 suites for the price of 1 ($29.99).

The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do Right Now: Author Yourself

What’s The Difference Between Mentors, Advisors, and Coaches?

This piece was originally published at The Mission. 

It feels like every day I meet a new person who claims they are a coach, a startup mentor, or asking to be an advisor (full disclosure, I am an advisor to several education startups ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but that’s because I spent the last 3 years building up an education company), which brings up the question:

What’s the difference between these people?


Image credit:

I used to have an aversion to anybody who would call themselves a mentor or a coach (advisor always carried a more formal tone to me for some reason). This aversion manifested itself in a form of “those who can’t do, teach,” or asking what it is this mentor or coach has achieved that qualifies them to call themselves a mentor or a coach. It was not until I actually got clear on why people hire coaches, why they find real-life mentors, and why they have advisors around that each made sense to me.

Once each of these makes sense, you have the opportunity to search out specific people to play each specific role. It’s possible that a mentor can also be a coach or an advisor can also be a mentor but, generally speaking, each of these focuses on their own specific domains in their own specific ways.

The best way to think of the differences between each of these categories is to ask yourself, “what role does this person play? To what end? For how long?” In which domains do you expect this person to have expertise? How long do you expect to work with them? On what endeavors?


“Mentorship happens organically, and you can’t just force it. Many [people] don’t even know HOW to mentor, and often mentor others by accident. It’s not a mentor’s responsibility to mentor, it’s the responsibility of the mentee to seek mentorship and appropriate it.”
― Josh Hatcher

Mentors are probably the most-encompassing of the three categories and the most amorphous. These are people who can be role models for you in more than one domain. These people may be living a life you want to live or have gone through trials and tribulations you yourself will have to go through.

We can compartmentalize life into a number of categories like career, contribution, relationships, finances, intellectual, health, and spiritual wellness. Each of these categories then break down further and further until you get to questions like, “should I pitch this specific person?” or “should I ask this person out on a date?” The mentor works at the highest level of life in these compartmentalized metacategories. You find somebody who appears to have succeeded (at least more than others!) in their career, contribution, relationships, etc. and seek to learn from them.

The best way to think of the mentor is as a role model. Choose mentors who you would be proud to be. Some mentors can encompass multiple categories and others only apply to one category. Having multiple mentors is fine. As you improve in your development, you’ll need to abandon some mentors for bigger, better mentors.

How to find one: Most valuable mentors aren’t just sitting around in a mentor pool waiting for somebody to announce that they want to be mentored by them. Some of my best mentors would balk at being called such. James Altucher writes in Reinvent Yourself to find a mentor and provides excellent fodder for how you can go about that process. Altucher writes of “virtual mentors” who are people whose works you read and whose lives you study and you learn from them. Multiple people claim Jim Rohn as a mentor, although very few of these people ever spent more than a few days with him. Napoleon Hill considered Andrew Carnegie a mentor, even though he only interviewed him once.

As the quotation that opens this section suggests, understand that the burden is on you to go find a mentor. I cover how to find a mentor in detail in How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer.

Time horizon: Medium-to-long term. You can have somebody mentor you for a few months or for decades. As you grow, expect to need to level-up mentors, though.

Expertise type: “Wisdom.” Mentors can have their own domains — business, intellectual, personal, romantic — but their expertise is less a sort of “do this, this, and this to get X, Y, and Z outcomes” and more of a modeling type of expertise. They’ve lived out things you must or want to live out and you want to learn from them how you can get to where they are. Conversations with mentors are the substance of their value. Unlike advisors and coaches, you do not need to come with specific questions or problems to them in order to extract value from their wisdom.

Formality: Can be informal. The best mentors tend to be those people not actively seeking out people to mentor (unless this is part of their charitable giving agenda) because high-value mentors have a high opportunity cost and rarely have the time to announce that they are formally mentoring somebody.

Role Model? Yes.


“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.”
― Robert Frost

Like mentors, advisors have experience in achieving what you want to achieve. Unlike mentors, their role is more formal and their expertise more granular.

Advisors play the role of offering advice. Whereas a mentor may offer value simply through their explication of experiences or through their wisdom, advisors offer value through giving specific feedback about specific questions. You may get lunch with a mentor and gain years’ worth of wisdom but an advisor is better engaged through a pointed phone call, an email with a set of questions, or semi-regular update meetings.

How to find one: Figure out what the problem is you want to address. Be very clear about this. Are you trying to build a sales pipeline for a SaaS company? Service industrial manufacturers? Land more dates with people younger than yourself (no reason the advisor needs to be business-related)? Get specific. Even if that specificity is just, “build a company servicing X, Y, and Z types of consumers,” that’s better than “build a business.”

Now, figure out who has already done this. Use tools like LinkedIn and Angel List to find businesspeople who have done this. Use Medium to find bloggers who have done this. Put out a call to your personal and/or professional networks, letting them know you are searching for somebody who has addressed this problem successfully.

Once you’ve found these people, be specific about what you want them to help with. Let them know what you are trying to do and how they can help.

Time horizon: Short-to-medium term. The role of an advisor is to help you solve specific problems. The longest-term you would likely have an advisor around would be while building and exiting a company. Advisors may stick around longer but change their role as advisors. For example, you bring on an advisor who has built a video production business with an impressive sales pipeline. You take his advice and build a similar pipeline. Now, the advisor is useful for helping you find potential buyers for the company. He has shifted from being a sales advisor to a general business advisor.

Expertise type: “Advice.” You bring on an advisor because they know more about a specific area that you yourself are trying to learn more about. A startup advisor may have built a company similar to the one you are building, or has experience selling to similar stakeholders, or has technical expertise you need to gain to help expedite your growth. The expertise of an advisor should be pulled on to help you avoid common pitfalls and get around problems they have come across in their own experience.

Formality: More likely to be a formal role than with mentors, but can be played out through less formal means. High-value advisors will be formalized with some kind of skin-in-the-game like equity in a company/project or an incentive structure. This keeps both parties accountable to each other.

Role Model? Yes, particularly for specific areas.

Specific to startups, VentureHacks has a good article on advisors hereAdvisors don’t have to be specific to the entrepreneurial realm, though.


“To excel at the highest level — or any level, really — you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.”
― Steph Curry

Unlike mentors and advisors, the primary benefit of coaches does not stem from an ability to be a role model. Coaches train specifically in coaching and may not have domain expertise and experience outside of their coaching expertise. One of the best distinctions I ever heard about coaches is that they may not have been the best at what they coach for. This is certainly true in athletics.


Chuck Noll was a mediocre football player but the best coach in Steelers franchise history. Image credit: The Sportster.

The goal of the coach is to facilitate learning, focus, and results. Coaches are trained in the strategies for achieving the results specific to their domain of coaching. Although they may not have experience generating the results you are looking for in themselves, they should have experience generating these results in other people or organizations.

Coaches divide into their own specific domains. Athletic coaches are the most obvious in modern culture, but coaches may be trained in management coaching, relationship coaching, career coaching, public speaking coaching, systems coaching, or any number of areas.

Good coaches will help you clarify your goals, focus on what you need to do, and find the best strategies for achieving those goals. At the very least, coaches provide some kind of skin-in-the-game and accountability system for you so that you can continue improving and moving forward.

How to find one: Figure out what kind of coaching you need, first. You may need multiple coaches or just one coach.

Once you know what kind of coaching you need, find a reputable organization that trains these coaches or ask for referrals from your high-performing friends.

Do your homework. Due to the low barrier to entry, coaching can quickly become a MLM-like scheme and you may find people calling themselves coaches who have never successfully coached somebody a day in their lives. Referrals work well but make sure they are from clients of the coach and not from other coaches.

Time horizon: Varies. You may only hire a coach to get a specific result (e.g., hire a relationship coach to land a fulfilling relationship) or you may hire a coach for a series of results (e.g., career coaches to grow your business or a life coach to grow your perspective). Usually, you’ll hire coaches for several weeks to a year and can renew your contract with them if you see fit.

Expertise type: “Coaching.” Coaches are trained in strategies for improving focus, asking the right questions, and generating proper results. They’re also valuable for shared accountability and are not there to be your friend or your mentor. Unlike teachers, the role of the coach is not to feed you information but to reframe situations and provide the proper resources for you to make the improvements you need to make.

Formality: Coaches are formalized. You often sign a contract with a coach or their parent organization. You should not look to get a coach for free. Part of the value of hiring a coach is burning your own money and putting your own resources on the line. If you put in $5,000 to hire a coach, you are motivated to extract at least $5,001 of value from your time with them.

Role Model? No, unless you want to become a coach.

There’s some confusion between a coach and a therapist. Tony Robbins offers a good diagram here.

These distinctions helped me move past my bias against the categories and get clear on which I needed in my life. The mentors in my life fulfill a specific role, the advisors fulfill their own role, and a coach helps in the areas needed most for growth.

What’s The Difference Between Mentors, Advisors, and Coaches?

Introducing Free Book Fridays

Do you have any idea just how many fantastic books are available out there? How many are undiscovered or have long fallen into the public domain?

One of the little projects I want to undertake is saving fantastic books from obscurity by putting them in front of more and more people. To do this, I’ve started with my email list (sign up above). Every Friday, I send my email list a new free book as a PDF and Kindle document. 

Last week was How They Succeeded. This week is Thinking as a Science. A lot of these are going to be older, obscure books but some will be newer, lesser-known books.

Sign up above to join.

Introducing Free Book Fridays

The Google Memo Debacle Shows Us How Schools Harm Civil Society

I haven’t said much publicly about James Damore’s Google Memo because 1. other people more eloquent than myself have made all the points I would want to make; 2. those who know me well should be able to infer my opinion on the matter. After a small group discussion last night on the effects of schooling on society at large, though, I thought it could be important to throw in a point about how much of this damage can be traced back to K-12 education.

Numerous commentators on Twitter have pointed out how this debacle relates to the culture wars happening on college campuses. It’s easy to get caught up in the controversy and drama of college students shouting down speakers with whom they disagree. The videos of said drama are simultaneously entertaining and simply horrifying:

Like I said, horrifying and entertaining. It’s tempting to wave these incidents off as non-representative of college students today and as something that people grow out of. The reality is that these people eventually graduate college (I originally typed “grow up” here and felt dishonest in leaving that) and go get jobs in the real world. They get jobs at real companies that do real things and impact real people outside of the college bubble.

They get jobs at places like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, which are much more than simply tech companies. These companies are the primary way that people get information. These employees have sway over how these companies filter and present this information. They can decide whom to ban and keep off their platforms and which information to mark as “fake news.”

Again, these are all points others have made more eloquently elsewhere.

The thing I have found particularly disturbing is how otherwise reasonable people are taking it as fact that this Memo was “bigoted,” or “sexist” without reading the memo for themselves. Numerous outlets have reported on the memo without directly quoting it (CNN) or by selectively quoting it and removing references and citations (Gizmodo), which should make their reporting suspect. Here’s the full text of the Memo for those curious. Decide for yourself if it is bigoted, sexist, or anti-diversity. I personally don’t read that into it and find it a stretch to do so, but before you do so, actually go ahead and do the reading.

It’s easy to get caught up and angry at people for not going and reading the primary source document themselves. How can people be so quick to jump to conclusions? How can they just take it as fact that this is a truly evil document without actually at least skimming it?

I was reminded last night in a discussion that this kind of behavior should not be surprising at all given that most people (especially those opining on the memo) have been rewarded for anywhere from 12-17 years of their life for regurgitating authority’s interpretation of source material. Those who are high-achieving, quality students are rewarded even more for kowtowing to the expected group of interpretations for source documents.

In the attempt at getting people to learn an equal amount about “mathematics,” “literature,” “history,” “science,” and “social studies,” in our K-12 educational system, schools water down primary source documents into columns in a text book or a handout summarizing Shakespeare or Milton or Darwin or the Bible or any number of significant documents. Students aren’t expected to read original source documents and are only expected to read excerpts (themselves selected by a panel of self-appointed experts) or summaries. The student who does decide to actually delve into one of these documents is considered weirdly exceptional and likely has to do so at the cost of doing something else in school.

In a perverse attempt at forcing diversity of learning at the K-12 level, students never really get acquainted with the process of investigating documents for themselves and then making up their minds against an array of popular interpretations. Time is limited in the classroom because the factory-model of compulsory schooling requires that students follow a learning schedule and plan decided upon by educrats. Students are never given the opportunity to go deep in any subject matter. Choosing to do so must be done in their own time, which is increasingly owned by the school.

This is dangerous.

Raising a generation of children and young adults who are never expected to acquaint themselves with source material begets a generation of professionals and even parents who find it acceptable to never acquaint themselves with source material. Anybody who does decide to do so is immediately suspect of having an axe to grind and a point to prove.

This makes civil discourse even harder than it already is. One of the core assumptions of a civil discussion is that both parties want the best thing possible, but if one party is already suspect of trying to prove something in particular by doing the appropriate thing and investigating the truth for themselves, this makes it that truth has an uphill battle.

An appropriate education would reward independent investigation and explication of truth. At the very least, it would not make it incredibly difficult and costly to pursue truth. It would make investigation of the truth an expectation of any reasonable person and would flip this topsy-turvy model of Cliffsnotes-for-the-truth on its head. Yes, this comes at the cost of not spending time on other topics, but perhaps our entire current approach gets things wrong. 


The Google Memo Debacle Shows Us How Schools Harm Civil Society

“Buy a Brita Filter”

That was my response to somebody on Twitter reacting negatively to a post somebody had shared where I made a point about the economic and personal impact of 70 mining jobs. brita

Admittedly, the response was more an attempt at ironic humor but there’s a deeper point here that often gets left out in discussions on environmental trade-offs. I’ve written before about how I am an advocate of increased fossil fuel consumption (especially clean-burning natural gas) and that, given all of the trade-offs, fossil fuel use is better for human beings and probably better for any reasonable conception of “the environment” than relying on the wind or the sun (turns out, storing sun and wind is hard and hydrocarbons are good for storing energy. Go figure.).*

Continue reading ““Buy a Brita Filter””

“Buy a Brita Filter”

Doers 022 – Ali AlShamsi on the Formula for Success and How to Grow Wealthy

Ali AlShamsi is a financial trader, entrepreneur, and investor in the United Arab Emirates. Having worked with over 100 companies, Ali actively promotes the growth of new business with his experience and network. Ali and I discuss how to become successful (and objections to his formula), raising money from investors, adjusting your standards for success (both up and down) and his vision for the future of economics.

You can read his writing at and find him on Quora at

Doers 022 – Ali AlShamsi on the Formula for Success and How to Grow Wealthy