Podcast Blurbs [Death, Dropbox moat, Common knowledge, Saying “no”]

Waking Up: Sam Harris, Ep. #104 (The Lessons of Death)

Sam Harris

“How we think about death changes depending on whether we’re thinking about dying ourselves or about losing the people we love.  But whichever side of the coin we take here, death is really an ever-present reality for us…it’s always announcing itself in the background, on the news, in the stories we hear about the lives of others, in our concerns about our own health, in the attention we pay when crossing the street.  If you observe yourself closely, you’ll see that you spend a fair amount of energy each day trying not to die.  As has long been noted by philosophers and contemplatives and poets, death makes a mockery of almost everything we spend our lives doing.

Just take a moment to reflect on how you’ve spent your day so far.  The kinds of things that captured your attention, the things that you’ve been geniuinely worried about.  Think of the last argument you had with your spouse, think of the last hour you spent on social media.  Over the last few days, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find a new font for my podcast.  This has literally absorbed hours of my time […]

Now, I’m not saying that everything we do has to be profound in every moment.  Sometimes you just have to find a font.  But contemplating the brevity of life brings some perspective to how we use our attention.  It’s not so much what we pay attention to, it’s the quality of attention, it’s how we feel while doing it.  If you need to spend the next hour looking for a font, you might as well enjoy it, because the truth is none of us know how much time we have in this life.  And taking that fact to heart brings a kind of moral and emotional clarity and energy to the present.  And it can bring a resolve to not suffer over stupid things.

Take something like road rage…you’re behind the wheel of your car and somebody does something erratic or they’re probably just driving more slowly than you want.  And you find yourself getting angry.  I would submit to you that that kind of thing is impossible if you’re being mindful of the shortness of life.  If you’re aware that you’re going to die and that the other person is going to die, and that you’re both going to lose everyone you love and you don’t know when, you’ve got this moment of life, this beautiful moment, this moment when your consciousness is ripe or it’s not dimmed by morphine in the hospital on your last day among the living.  And the sun is out or it’s raining.  Both are beautiful.  And your spouse is alive and your children are alive and you’re driving.  And you’re not in some failed state where civilians are being rounded up and murdered by the thousands.  You’re just running an errand.  And that person in front of you – who you will never meet, whose hopes and sorrows you know nothing about but which if you could know them, you would recognize are impressively similar to your own – is just driving slow.

This is your life, the only one you’ve got.  And you will never get this moment back again and you don’t know how many more moments you have.  No matter how many times you do something, there will come a day when you do it for the last time.  You’ve had a thousand chances to tell the people closest to you that you love them in a way that they feel it and in a way that you feel it…you’ve got this next interaction with another human being to make the world a marginally better place, you’ve got this one opportunity to fall in love with existence, so why not relax and enjoy your life?  Really relax, even in the midst of struggle, even doing hard work, even under uncertainty.

You are in a game right now and you can’t see the clock, so you don’t know how much time you have left, and yet you’re free to make the game as interesting as possible.  You can even change the rules, you can discover new games that no one has thought of yet.  You can make games that used to be impossible suddenly possible and get others to play them with you.”

The James Altucher Show, Ep. #286 (Dennis Woodside: How Do You Know When Something is The Next Big Thing – Advice from Dropbox’s COO)

Dennis Woodside (COO of Dropbox)

“The moat, in part, is all the connections that people have made and continue to make in Dropbox.  The way Dropbox got going was I used it, I loved it, I shared a link with you, you signed up.  It was a very viral product and the killer app within Dropbox today is something that we call the ‘shared folder’, so it’s a folder that both of us can be on, we can both contribute documents or files into that folder and collaborate on that folder…it’s a little bit like Google Plus wasn’t able to supplant Facebook once Facebook already got the graph going and the set of connections going.  So we already have well over half a billion people using Dropbox.  It would be very hard to get that entire community to move because they’d have to replicate all of those shared connections…

But what’s equally important is we keep innovating on the product.  So, there are tons of situations, low bandwidth situations, sharing from an iPhone to someone on Android where our competitors do not handle those loads well.  The best engineers at Dropbox are on this problem and that’s definitely not true at our competitors.  Google ships lots of stuff and the core thing that Google does is search and ads and those places tend to attract rock star engineers.  For us, it’s core sync technology and our core Dropbox application, that’s what attracts rockstar engineers.”

Adventures in Finance, Ep. #44 (Mind Games: Harnessing Market Psychology)

Peter Atwater (Financial Insyghts)

“[Common knowledge] is one of these critical aspects of game theory…[common knowledge] is not the same thing as public information.  Common knowledge is information that we all think that everyone else thinks.  It’s not public information, it can be private information.  What drives common knowledge?  The classic example of this is a desert island with a tribe where the missionary comes there and stands up in front of everyone and makes a statement.  And it’s not whether or not we believe the missionary is necessarily telling the truth or not, but what the islanders recognize is that everyone else in the tribe also heard that statement.  If we believe that everyone else heard this, we have to act as if it is true…

A missionary statement is something that has wide enough media play that all of us think that all the rest of us heard it…a missionary is someone who can speak loudly enough, clearly enough, not that we believe it, but we think everyone else heard it.  That’s what drives things.  Harvey Weinstein is a perfect example of how common knowledge is created and how it changes behavior in such profound and rapid ways.  The knowledge that Harvey Weinstein was a serial rapist of women, this was public knowledge.  We had TV shows, 30 Rock and Family Guy, where they’re making jokes about what Harvey Weinstein does to women.  And yet, there was no change in the behavior of people.  This didn’t come to a head until we have a missionary enter the scene.  Who’s the missionary in this case?  It was Rose McGowen.

Even though jokes were being made…nobody believed that everyone knew about Harvey Weinstein.  It wasn’t until Rose McGowen takes to Twitter when everyone knows that everyone knows that Harvey Weinstein is this sexual abuser, that’s when behavior changes.  And here’s who’s behavior changes – his lawyers, his Board of Directors, his publicist, even his wife.  All of a sudden, they are shocked to hear that Harvey Weinstein is this rapist.  Nothing changed in their private knowledge of Harvey Weinstein, they knew what kind of a man he was and what he had been doing.  Nothing changed in terms of the public knowledge of Harvey Weinstein.  What changed was the common knowledge around Harvey Weinstein…and this was when the victim’s behavior changed as well.  It gives the ability, and these are all rational decisions that are being made, that you can come forth and tell your story now that the common knowledge exists.

Once that common knowledge is created, the change in behavior, whether its in terms of the show business world around Harvey Weinstein, the investment world around markets, behavior changes so quickly…and I think that’s the key when thinking about potential changes in markets.”

The James Altucher Show, Ep. 281 (Tim Ferriss: Using a New Lens To Make Life Easier)

Tim Ferriss

“When you’re considering, say, a new hire or a speaking engagement or an opportunity or an invitation out to a meal, rank it from 1 to 10, but you can’t use a 7.  The last part is the most important…there’s a logic to the seeming absurdity because 7 is like the non-offensive Switzerland of answers.  It’s a very safe B-student answer, whereas if you remove the 7, you have to give it either a 6, which is barely passing, so that’s a no, that’s barely beyond acceptable, or it’s an 8, which is ‘I am quite stoked about this’.  And that has made my decisions about so many things so much easier.

Most wasted time and wasted years is not from chasing terrible ideas.  It’s from saying ‘yes’ to all the 7s.  Saying ‘yes’ to all the invitations and commitments out of guilt or fear of missing out or obligation, that’s what you drown in.  It’s so hard to break through and do anything great or meaningful if you’re being driven by these lukewarm commitments to kind of cool things.”