Akimbo – Game Theory and the Infinite Game

Perhaps the most accessible look into James Carse’s excellent but challenging read.

Seth Godin makes a case for looking at the world or an industry or a business through the lens of a game, and then considering what that games rules are. There are many cases where major shifts have occurred when someone has applied this line of thinking:

“One of the ways to think about the future is to look at a game in the world today based on scarcity, and imagine what happens if one of the rules is changed. What happens if a computer costs $1,000 instead of $100,000? What if the world is pretty much the same except everyone has a supercomputer in her pocket that knows where she’s standing and where her friends are?”

So, when you want to try and make a change, do this:

“Relax one rule, and play a new game.”

This makes a lot of sense, and I think many people will find this line or thinking fairly commonplace. Yet where it gets more complex is when you consider the fact that everyone else is also playing a game, and they might all be relaxing different rules than you are.

So how do you play the game better than everyone else? You try and consider what the infinite game is, while everyone else is focused on a finite goal. I have always been a big fan of playing ‘the long game’, considering a ten or twenty or even a hundred year plan while everyone else is thinking of the short-term.

Seth Godin backs this up, and says that not only is this the best way of thinking, it’s also the most ethical. This is because when you’re thinking about a finite system, you’re often thinking about only yourself:

“The shorter your short run, the less you’re thinking about the world we have to live in. It’s the long run as we get closer and closer to infinity where the smartest game players are playing.”

I want to play the long game, in every area of my life.

Akimbo – No Such Thing (As Writer’s Block)

Seth Godin’s podcast continues to wage war on resistance.

Here’s the crux of this episode’s argument: Writer’s block is a myth. Well, sort of. There’s no doubt that if you’re not writing it’s because your struck. But, if you’re stuck, you’re stuck for a reason. Find the reason. If you can’t find the reason? Find a reason to write anyways. Here’s one:

“As long as we’ve got to type, we might as well type something worth reading. The idea that we are able to create more and more bad work on the way to good work is one way to get past the stuck-ness.”

If you don’t write because you’re afraid it’s bad, write anyways and make sure you write enough that there’s some good in all the bad stuff. The goal isn’t to perfect every word, it’s to stop feeling trapped. The problem is that we fall victim to our own fears, and waste our time with distractions. As Godin says:

“We want the reassurance of knowing how Stephen King does his writing.”

“What kind of pencil does my favorite author use?”, we ask. That is a cop out. It’s easier to find the answer to this question than it is to confront our fears.

A side-effect of never confronting those fears: Our work is often middling, because we were too scared to make what we were compelled to create in the first place. Yet this is just another path to failure:

“As we can see from those who make mediocre restaurants for the people on the middle and don’t make a profit, going for the middle rarely works. The successes all start at the edges, for the weird people who didn’t show up in a focus group. Catering to the obscure extremes that we end up with something that becomes a surprise best-seller. If you can become important to a few people, the cash flow will begin to support your move to serve more people.”

Confront your fears. Cater to the extreme you’re passionate about. Do the work you were created to do. That’s all there is to it.

The Ezra Klein Show – Tristan Harris

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How technology is bringing out the worst in us.

“I think that social media’s deterioration in 2016 (and becoming addictive in the process) is amplifying the addiction that’s already in there, and people think they’re losing agency and realizing how much time they’re spending on their phones.”

Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, has been making the rounds talking about the need for ‘humane technology’ and ‘time well spent’ on our social media platforms. He sees the current state-of-things-online as an example of people waking up to some serious realities, and I couldn’t agree more.

“If you’re a teenager, the first thing that you see in the morning is your friends having fun without you. Just imagine 100-million human animals waking up and first thing they see is this. That would do something. It’s very powerful and persuasive.”

Certainly, features like Snapchat’s ‘streaks’ are systems meant to not only keep you as a user, but addict you in a very serious way. While I don’t think this is particularly shocking (did anyone not think this?), it’s worth considering when you think about what kind of impact this is having on society at large.

He uses an interesting analogy (magicians) to detail what kind of systems are being created to prey on human behavior:

“In magic, you can change people’s choices by rapidly pushing them to make an immediate choice because the impulsive choices are the ones you can predict most accurately.”

So much of what makes a technology addictive is indistinguishable from a magician’s push.

“I brought Thích Nhất Hạnh to Google, and he came because he was worried. This thing in our pocket, it’s never been easier to run away from ourselves. The moment you have anxiety, you can run away instantly.”

There are some instances where it’s easier to break a bad habit by recognizing why you picked it up isn’t he first place. Perhaps it would be good of us all to recognize these moments as what they are — moments of fear. Perhaps we’d be less inclined to enter into escapism if we knew exactly what we were doing.

“Win-lose games (where I win when you lose) combined with exponential tech becomes lose-lose. This is true for nuclear weapons, and it’s true with social media. This is why you need some kind of arbiter to protect it.”

Tristan Harris argues that regulation should be that arbiter. I’m not sure—but I believe that the lose-lose game we’re playing is definitely in need of an end.

Akimbo – The Grand Opening

Seth Godin has just started a new podcast, and the first episode is all about what it means to start and finish (link goes to the show notes).

Do you ever feel like the world isn’t ready for your idea? Remember this:

“Karl Benz, when he launched the car, did it in Germany where it was against the law to drive a car and there were no passable roads and there were no gas stations. He should have waited. Gutenberg, pioneer of movable type, launched the book when there were no bookstores and when no one knew how to read and when reading glasses were required but hadn’t been invented yet. He should have waited.”

A part of the problem in today’s world is that even if you are ready to start, it’s challenging to get your message out there. A part of that, in Seth’s opinion, is because we’ve focused so intensely on the ‘grand opening’ that we put too much emphasis on starting. We can look to the old fashioned carnival to see where this came from. A modern day advertisement is a continuation of the carnival barker. What’s the problem? Well:

“The goal isn’t to edify, to educate, to create an environment that you’re going to come back to again and again. The goal is to take your money and leave town.”

This type of marketing has taken over, and it isn’t helpful. Also not helpful, in Seth’s opinion, is launching something like a crowdfunding campaign early on:

“Kickstarter should be called Kickfinisher. A Kickstarter is the end of a multi-month or multi-year effort to earn trust and attention.”

Instead of focusing on a campaign or an opening, focus in on building fans. Then get better at making art, and make more fans as you do it.

That’s great advice.

Reminds me of: Kevin Kelly’s ‘1,000 True Fans

Hurry Slowly – Fanny Auger

Conversation isn’t about talking.’ Great insights from the author of ‘Treve de Bavardages’.

“Today the true luxuries are silence and time.”

The author argues that we see ‘luxury’ as money, as privilege, as riches—but that isn’t really true anymore. Certainly, we are living in a time of extreme wealth…so what is luxury, today. It’s how much time we have. It’s how much silence we are granted. Those are the rarities.

“Silence is a gift you offer to the other person. It allows the other party time to formulate his or her opinion.”

I think I can learn from this. I often find myself jumping to insert my ideas or thoughts into a conversation, but silence shouldn’t be fought. It should be embraced. What would happen if we all granted a little more silence to fill our time with others?

”People are craving to be listened to. Consider it a gift to the other person when you keep your phone in your bag.”

I would love to see our culture shift towards understanding this on a large scale. When you put your phone a way and ignore an incoming text or call, you aren’t doing a disservice to the person on the other end, you are doing an extreme kindness to the person that you’re in the room with, right now.

Reminds me of: ‘Island’ by Aldous Huxley.

The Tim Ferriss Podcast – Tim O’Reilly

An interview with the founder of O’Reilly Media and author of ‘WTF?

“I’m like the Cookie Monster. When given the option between a cookie and anything else, I’ll take the cookie.”

A great question to ask yourself when trying to figure out what ignites your passion. “What’s my cookie?” This seems to be key, especially for a polymath.

“When we change the rules, what happens to the people who played by the old ones? A lot of what’s broken is this layering of ideas that change, but change incompletely.”

When an idea changes incompletely, how can you fight for justice, or force more complete change?

“Sometimes it’s hard to write documentation on something that isn’t working correctly, but that’s when documentation is most needed.”

It’s easy to feel like something can’t be done when a flaw is out of your control. It’s harder to step up and fix the flaw.

“Debugging a computer shows you the difference between what you intended to do and what it actually did.”

Interesting to hear someone speak about the world through the lens of programming (and quite well!) I imagine this will become more and more common in the coming years.

Reminds me of: The recent clearing of marijuana convictions in San Francisco.

Hurry Slowly – Tyler Cowan


The Quiet Dangers of Complacency’ from the author of ‘The Complacent Class

“Apps like Yelp stop you from walking through a neighborhood and exploring. It makes intuition almost underrated.”

I’d like to try and rely more on my intuition when I travel. As a huge user of apps like Yelp (and more and more, Instagram) when traveling, I’m sure that there’s so much I miss because I’m making a beeline to the thing that got 400 5-star ratings. That’s complacency.

“The purpose of moving is self-transformation“ – James Jasper

As time goes on, people are becoming less likely to move to a new state for opportunity. That seems backwards.

“Complacency is in many ways extremely pleasant and people like it.”

The thing that keeps you scrolling on Twitter or Instagram instead of doing something is the same force which has much larger ramifications on your life. The reason that it wins? You like it.

“We say we’re busy, but things like social media are what’s making us harried. That’s not true busy-ness.”

I am often guilty of this. How many days have I felt frenzied, only to write my todo list down and realize that I could get to it all in a few hours? The ‘harried’ feeling comes from the noise, not the need.

“Change will lead to insight more often than insight will lead to change.” – Milton Erickson

Love this quote. I need to read some Erickson.

“Music is much less culturally central than it used to be. Same as movies. Social media is obviously more central, and encourages complacency. So does television, they stick with a series even if it isn’t great. It also keeps you in the house.”

I think this is worth chewing on. How do you make art in a culture of complacency, that’s not only popular but incites change?

Reminds me of: ‘The Inevitable’ By Kevin Kelly