Thursday, April 17, 2014

Random Travel Update 102

Last Locations:
Tucson, AZ: March 27th – April 1st, 2014
Miami, FL: April 11th – April 16th, 2014

Present Location: New York, NY Y

Next Location: Undetermined

So much happens in ten weeks. I went from listening to angsty music, to happy poppy music, to R&B—A process that I think aptly summarizes romance’s circle of life.

I also landed my dream job managing business development for a two-person financial technology (#fintech) company. Our product, ClearFactr helps entrepreneurs and financial professionals create and share easy-to-interpret time-based financial plans.

Why is this awesome? My principal life goal is to end factory farming.* I want to do this by creating a lobby against farm subsidies—for which I have complementary utilitarian- and libertarian-inspired distastes. This will cost money. Not a small amount of money. You can get an idea by looking at how much BigAg spent last year. 

There are only a few ways to get your hands on that type of cash in the course of a single lifetime. Most of them require growing a scalable business venture.

My original plan was highly risk-adverse. I’d practice law for three years, enough to pay off my debt, transition into finance and work there for ten years or until I had saved $2 million. I would invest that money at a conservative rate and live off the interest while I started my first company.

That plan changed quickly when I moved to New York. I realized #1 that I don’t need $2 million in the bank to start my own company. And #2 that law and finance are time-sucking endeavors that pay well but offer little entrepreneurial experience. 

I used a hypothesis-testing technique to figure out that I am good at, and love, business development (#bizdev)—an umbrella term startups use to describe the part of the business responsible for selling the product. This includes market-research, product iteration, community building, networking (lots of it), sales, and partnerships. In my case, it means pretty much everything except building the product and fixing bugs—which is the domain of our exceptionally talented tech founder.

Bizdev offers a ton of relevant entrepreneurial experience. It is also fun and gives me an excuse to connect with awesome, smart, likeminded people doing the types of things I want to be doing. Which means that I am both one step closer to fulfilling my principal life purpose with no sacrifice in terms of present happiness. A perfectly pareto move! Hard to get more awesome than that. 



*The real goal is a utilitarian desire to maximize pleasure and minimize suffering. Ending factory farming is the most efficient way to go about doing this. The calculus looks like: #s harmed * gravity of suffering * probability of success, where probability of success = the degree to which I am empowered to fix the problem. The asterisks function as multiplication signs. If you are a utilitarian, try plugging in your favorite causes to the equation above to see how they compare!

For factory farming, the inputs look like:

#s harmed: 3 billion/year (land animals in the US)
gravity of suffering: several months of non-stop captivity, mutilation, and torture per individual
probability of success: high. minimal barriers because near universal agreement that these practices are wrong, main need is to neutralize effect of bigag’s active deception efforts. not a grey-area issue, no moral case exists in support of factory farming. i am empowered to resolve the issue because it takes place in my community and is subject to a system that allows people like me to change it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Random Travel Update 101

Last Locations:
Zurich, Switzerland: January 20th  – January 30th, 2014

Present Location:
New York, NY: Forever?

Next Location:

I have started writing poetry again. Which leads me to believe that I am heartbroken. I have been drowning myself in angsty music and just letting myself feel. Amazing, colorful, gut-wrenching emotions that fall somewhere between breath-taking and suffocation. I like to think of the other side of love as just as beautiful as the first, but can’t figure out how our biology evolved to make it hurt. so. bad.

There is so much good angsty music out these days. While watching music television in Zurich--where they still play music videos all day like how MTV used to--I identified the turn of a new era of music: indie pop. First it was pop-pop, then hiphop-pop with some pop-punk thrown in. And now indie-pop. Which is a funny era to be in, since growing up, we always thought of indie music as the opposite of pop.

Check out: Haim (Forever), Alt - J (Breezeblocks), and Sbtrkt (Wildfire). It’s the hipsters' doing, I suspect. The delightful, hedonic, and morally aloof hipsters.

I just got back from snapping pictures in Switzerland. I am starting an exciting but unpaid position in business development at a start-up next week and need to be able to book more modeling work in less time by getting an agent. Which requires a portfolio, which requires a lot of work. Some of which was completed last week.

I have grown fond of modeling. When I was younger, it fell too far afield of my nerdy, academic identity. Now, I enjoy the challenge of brutally confronting my insecurities and empowering myself to operate outside of my comfort zone. If I have nothing else in life, I have the power to be project whatever attitude I choose. And that, as it becomes ever more apparent, is pretty much both the beginning and endgame to having it all.

There is, by the way, a formula to these things. I have been using it since I turned my life around in the 7th grade and pivoted from a friendless, suicide-obsessed child to a socially thriving, and over time, now, finally, happy, depressionless human being.

The formula is simple enough:
1. Identify the problem
     ex. unpopularity/ subpar modeling ability
2. Ask why it is a problem
     ex. insecurity/overthinking
3. Ask why...
     ex. people won’t like me/ I am not good enough
4. Ask why...
     ex. bc I don’t like myself/ I don’t have enough experience
5. (Repeat asking why as necessary)
6. Ask what it would take to remedy the problem
     ex. becoming a human being that I like by doing things somebody I would like would do/ practice, practice, practice
7. Ask what other people have done
     ex. read about cures to childhood depression/ see how other models practice
8. Test the suggested approaches by trying them and measuring the results
     ex. practice smiling and making eye contact/ practice posing in front of a camera or mirror
9. Do more of the things that work, stop doing the things that don’t
10. The problem will correct. Repeat for subsequent problems

Note that the process takes for granted that the problem is addressable. What I don’t do is assume, “I must just be an unpopular person.” Or, “I must just not be cut out for modeling.”

For big, life changing things, the process can take place over months or years. It is best to start now, get through as many iterations of asking why as you can, look up what others have done, and start testing changes.

It gets easier each time you do it so that the gains become exponential and happiness becomes easier and easier to obtain. Until you realize that, maybe there is even a state beyond what you originally thought of as a content, happy existence. A state of perpetual bliss. I don't know if there is, but I am certainly starting to believe it is possible. And I don’t mean in a figurative sense. I mean actually achieving a scientifically verifiable near-constant state of euphoria. As if on ecstasy or the deepest state of love forever, but without hangovers or the risk of unbearable heartbeat.

I stepped out of my apartment last night for the first time in 10 days and was overcome by joy when I re-realized that I live in New York City. I celebrated by putting my headphones on and street dancing my way to yoga. Because you can do that here without people thinking you are crazy. At least, without them thinking you are crazy in a bad way.



Monday, January 6, 2014

Random Travel Update 100

Last Locations:
San Francisco, CA: November 14 – November 24, 2013
Phoenix, AZ: November 24, 2013
Tucson, AZ: November 24 – November 28, 2013

Present Location:
New York, NY

Next Location:
Zurich, Switzerland: January 20th  – January 30th, 2014

I hope that all of your new years are off to an incredible beginning filled with minor triumphs and major enthusiasm. Mine could not be going better.

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas, also known as The Epiphany. I thought today was a fitting day to write. This also happens to be my 100th update, since I began writing publicly in 2007. [Insert party favor sound here]

This will be an uncharacteristically long email to compensate in part for my reduction in updates over the last year and so that not too many things are left without context. I will split it into two parts. In Part I, for those who care to know what I have been up to, I review the year. In Part II, for those who like philosophy, or want motivational things to ponder, I break down two important recent epiphanies for the new year and ask you to share your own 2014 resolutions with me.

Part I

I am deeming 2013 the year of the epiphany. Though, I could also title it the year of the fearless so as to avoid confusion with epiphanic years of the past and future. The last 12 months have been marked by an incredible clarity of thought and a resurgence of identity after a three year battle with death, heartbreak, illness, and law school.

It's like that part in the action movie where there is blood flying and stuff exploding and you stop caring for a second about why the protagonist is there in the first place and focus solely on how she is going to make it through this scene.

And then she does, and you sit back relieved for a second and think, "what a badass." You are also reminded that protagonists do generally tend to be invincible. There was never really any reason to fear that she was going to fail.

That is the feeling that has most characterized 2013--fearlessness.

Once you lose the fear of failure, you become liberated to do exactly what you want to do. So, I moved to New York. Without a job. I actually turned down a job in Jersey City. Why? Because it wasn't what I wanted to do.

I auditioned to model for a hair show, on a whim. And because I wanted to have red hair. My client turned out to be one of the biggest color companies in the world--they booked me for their entire US tour and paid me to travel around the country. So I moved to Chelsea.

I rejected the idea of applying to legal jobs online. I only want to work for someone I like and respect. So, I asked the career center for a list of their top 20 lawyers in New York doing corporate work. I contacted all of them and met with most of them for coffee. I asked them about their day-to-day and about what they love and don't love about their life. After a few months of interviews, I decided that life is too short to spend any of it as a lawyer.*

I did the same thing for finance. I even went so far as to take temporary employment at Goldman Sachs so that I would have first hand access to people in investment banking, sales, trading, equity research, and private wealth management. Finance is, for me, a much better fit than law. And Goldman Sachs is a stellar work environment. But I realized that it just isn't what I want to spend 70+ hours of my week doing.

So I sent my thank you notes and moved on. In the meantime, I met one of the most important people I had come to New York to meet--my business partner. She is a treadmill desk enthusiast and wanted to make that concept available to anyone with a gym membership. We sketched up a design for WorkIt, a desk that would attach easily to most treadmills and fold up into about the size of a thick iPad. In November, I flew out to Tucson to test the MVP (minimum viable product) that my dad had constructed for us out of wood. It was pretty awesome. However, it was at this point that we realized we would need to hire a product specialist with plastics experience to ensure structural integrity and efficient design. Wanting to keep things simple, we tabled (ba-dum-chh!) that idea and revisited our approach.

Actually, we just settled on a new approach yesterday. Not an idea, but a procedural strategy for generating ideas that make sense. Read The 4 Hour Work Week if you haven't already.

My resolution for 2014 is to do. That is it. Just to do. I am convinced that, if I am strategic about it (and I am), that there is more than enough time in a lifetime to do everything I care to accomplish.

*It is worth noting, because I notice a feeling of regret creeping up on people when I explain that I am not practicing law. As if thinking, "wow, all those years, all that debt, just to throw it all away." That, I never planned to practice law for more than the amount of time it would have taken me to pay off the debt (three years.) After that, I had a sophisticated risk-adverse plan for transitioning into finance, working there for 10 years or until I had saved $2 million. I would invest that money at a conservative interest rate and live of that interest while I focused on starting my own company.

So the decision not to practice law has saved me three years, and the decision not to practice finance has saved me ten. All decisions are efficiency-maximizing and permit no concept of "waste." The law degree has already served me well in New York and will continue to serve me throughout my life. I will more than recoup my financial investment on it, and the time spent--it is obvious to me that those were some of the most incredible years of my life.

Everything is going, as it tends to go, just a bit better than according to plan.

Part II

Epiphany 1: The major theme carrying the year has revolved around the power of projection. Reality isn't something to be taken for granted as an observable fact. What we come to understand as reality, or identity, or self, or expectation, etc, is actually an interplay or exchange of projections between one's self and one's external world. You can radically alter your universe by only projecting positivity and by only surrounding yourself with others who do the same. You can also, as my experience shows, manifest many incredible things into existence by strategically believing in and investing in their existence. In 2013 I stepped up the positivity and cut a few persistent sources of negativity.* In 2014 I want to manifest more, more efficiently.

*NOTE: If you think you may have been cut as a source of negativity, and want to reverse that state of affairs, correct the negativity and write me a note briefly (or not so briefly) explaining your process and why it is no longer in your nature to be negative. Be prepared to demonstrate your newfound positive state in all future interactions. It is okay if it takes months or years.

Epiphany 2: Is the deconstruction of difficult. I no longer believe things can be categorized as easy or difficult. This follows from the deconstruction of action and inaction paired with a realization that autonomous pain is indistinguishable from pleasure.

We know that action and inaction are indistinguishable. Any action can be reframed as inaction, and vice versa. For example, "I am going to go on a diet." Can be reframed as, "I am not going to eat as much." "I am not going to clean the kitchen" is the same as saying, "I am going to troll Facebook instead." There is no such thing as inaction. As long as you are living, you are doing.

So this liberates you from the question of whether you should, in any given instance, act, and presents you more accurately with a choice between doing the right thing, the wrong thing, and some neutral thing. A good life is one in which you make the right choice as frequently as possible. If you can learn to make the right choice in every moment, I believe that life has the potential to be near-infinitely euphoric. To achieve this, you have to create your own functional rubric to discover what types of activities and right, which are wrong, and which are neutral. I test my own rubric by asking myself, "if this were a scene unfolding in a great story, how would I want it to unfold?" The right choice for me is usually the one that is going to keep me on the seat of my pants--because I tend to like stories that shy away from the expected. And the one that maximizes pleasure and minimizes suffering--because I am a utilitarian.

You have to deconstruct pain and pleasure for yourself through experimentation. An easy example is going to the gym--we tend to think of it initially as unpleasant, but physical exertion is actually a core pleasure provider tied to endorphin-generation.

My goal in 2014 is to reduce moments spent being passively active and to increase moments spent immersed in my passions and ambitions.

Please share your new years resolutions with me! They need not be philosophical in nature.



P.S. An archive of all 100 Random Updates can be found at: If you want to stop receiving emails at any time, please let me know! If you really like receiving emails, also, make sure to say something as I occasionally make cuts on my own.