Monday, June 10, 2019

Always Stay a Student


Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The legend of Genghis Khan has echoed through history: A barbarian conqueror, fueled by bloodlust, terrorizing the civilized world. We have him and his Mongol horde traveling across Asia and Europe, insatiable, stopping at nothing to plunder, rape, and kill not just the people who stood in their way, but the cultures they had built. Then, not unlike his nomadic band of warriors, this terrible cloud simply disappeared from history, because the Mongols built nothing that could last.

Like all reactionary, emotional assessments, this could not be more wrong. For not only was Genghis Khan one of the greatest military minds who ever lived, he was a perpetual student, whose stunning victories were often the result of his ability to absorb the best technologies, practices, and innovations of each new culture his empire touched.

In fact, if there is one theme in his reign and in the several centuries of dynastic rule that followed, it’s this: appropriation.

Under Genghis Khan’s direction, the Mongols were as ruthless about stealing and absorbing the best of each culture they encountered as they were about conquest itself. Though there were essentially no technological inventions, no beautiful buildings or even great Mongol art, with each battle and enemy, their culture learned and absorbed something new. Genghis Khan was not born a genius. Instead, as one biographer put it, his was “a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined and focused will.”

He was the greatest conqueror the world ever knew because he was more open to learning than any other conqueror has ever been.

Khan’s first powerful victories came from the reorganization of his military units, splitting his soldiers into groups of ten. This he stole from neighboring Turkic tribes, and unknowingly converted the Mongols to the decimal system. Soon enough, their expanding empire brought them into contact with another “technology” they’d never experienced before: walled cities. In the Tangut raids, Khan first learned the ins and outs of war against fortified cities and the strategies critical to laying siege, and quickly became an expert. Later, with help from Chinese engineers, he taught his soldiers how to build siege machines that could knock down city walls. In his campaigns against the Jurched, Khan learned the importance of winning hearts and minds. By working with the scholars and royal family of the lands he conquered, Khan was able to hold on to and manage these territories in ways that most empires could not. Afterward, in every country or city he held, Khan would call for the smartest astrologers, scribes, doctors, thinkers, and advisers—anyone who could aid his troops and their efforts. His troops traveled with interrogators and translators for precisely this purpose.

It was a habit that would survive his death. While the Mongols themselves seemed dedicated almost solely to the art of war, they put to good use every craftsman, merchant, scholar, entertainer, cook, and skilled worker they came in contact with. The Mongol Empire was remarkable for its religious freedoms, and most of all, for its love of ideas and convergence of cultures. It brought lemons to China for the first time, and Chinese noodles to the West. It spread Persian carpets, German mining technology, French metalworking, and Islam. The cannon, which revolutionized warfare, was said to be the resulting fusion of Chinese gunpowder, Muslim flamethrowers, and European metalwork. It was Mongol openness to learning and new ideas that brought them together.

As we first succeed, we will find ourselves in new situations, facing new problems. The freshly promoted soldier must learn the art of politics. The salesman, how to manage. The founder, how to delegate. The writer, how to edit others. The comedian, how to act. The chef turned restaurateur, how to run the other side of the house.

This is not a harmless conceit. The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed that “as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” In other words, each victory and advancement that made Khan smarter also bumped him against new situations he’d never encountered before. It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more. It’s remembering Socrates’ wisdom lay in the fact that he knew that he knew next to nothing.

With accomplishment comes a growing pressure to pretend that we know more than we do. To pretend we already know everything. Scientia infla (knowledge puffs up). That’s the worry and the risk—thinking that we’re set and secure, when in reality understanding and mastery is a fluid, continual process.

The nine-time Grammy– and Pulitzer Prize–winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis once advised a promising young musician on the mind-set required in the lifelong study of music: “Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance that puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves. You don’t stand in your own way. . . . Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble? I believe there’s one simple test: because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’”

No matter what you’ve done up to this point, you better still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.

It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning. It is a position that one has to assume for life. Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies. At every step and every juncture in life, there is the opportunity to learn—and even if the lesson is purely remedial, we must not let ego block us from hearing it again.

Too often, convinced of our own intelligence, we stay in a comfort zone that ensures that we never feel stupid (and are never challenged to learn or reconsider what we know). It obscures from view various weaknesses in our understanding, until eventually it’s too late to change course. This is where the silent toll is taken.

Each of us faces a threat as we pursue our craft. Like sirens on the rocks, ego sings a soothing, validating song— which can lead to a wreck. The second we let the ego tell us we have graduated, learning grinds to a halt. That’s why Frank Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.” As in, it never ends.

The solution is as straightforward as it is initially uncomfortable: Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged—what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately? Change your mind. Change your surroundings.

An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning (and even, occasionally, being shown up) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.

Most military cultures—and people in general—seek to impose values and control over what they encounter. What made the Mongols different was their ability to weigh each situation objectively, and if need be, swap out previous practices for new ones. All great businesses start this way, but then something happens. Take the theory of disruption, which posits that at some point in time, every industry will be disrupted by some trend or innovation that, despite all the resources in the world, the incumbent interests will be incapable of responding to. Why is this? Why can’t businesses change and adapt?

A large part of it is because they lost the ability to learn. They stopped being students. The second this happens to you, your knowledge becomes fragile.

The great manager and business thinker Peter Drucker says that it’s not enough simply to want to learn. As people progress, they must also understand how they learn and then set up processes to facilitate this continual education. Otherwise, we are dooming ourselves to a sort of self-imposed ignorance.

--Excerpted From Ego Is the Enemy

Thursday, May 30, 2019

John Wick 3

I came away from the movie with a few lessons you probably wouldn’t have guessed…
If you listen to the news you might think I’d come away from such a gory violent film with the desire to slaughter a small Japanese village.
And there's something to that because according to one study — violent movies make aggressive people more aggressive.
But for me I came away with a desire to…
1. Be More Professional
Bloodied and beaten, John Wick collapsed under the hot desert sun.
As he was about to close his eyes for a final time, he was rescued by a man on camelback. He was then taken to a canopy where there was a hot bath and a new black suit awaiting him.
In other words — even in our darkest, hottest moments its important to dress well.
All the main characters in the film look so glossy and are so deliberate in their movements. Their style and behavior reminds me of the quote,
“How you do the little things is how you do everything.”
2. Join an Organized Crime Ring
Okay, maybe not, but there’s something to be said to belonging to a larger group of people who share similar interests, talents, values, goals, and rules.
You never know when you might need someone to stitch up your bullet wounds.
3. Live by Rules
Part of what makes the movie so interesting is the paradox of how a lawless underground society is so strongly governed by laws.
I am a firm believer in setting personal rules, but they can be difficult to adhere to when there aren’t any clear consequences for breaking them.
John Wick 3 is all about consequences.
“Consequences.” — John Wick
It’d be a lot easier to not skip “gym day” if you knew that in doing so an army of trained assassins would come to kill you.
“He knew the rules. He broke them.” — Winston
As the movie argues — rules are helpful because they are the only thing that separate us from animals.
“Rules… without them we live with the animals.” — Winston
4. Become Great at Something
Whoever comes, whoever it is… I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.” — John Wick
I don’t have any interest in becoming great at Kung-Fu but watching someone be great at something inspires me to want to be better at the areas I care about.
Mob Boss: It’s not what you did, Son, that angers me. It’s who you did it to.
Son: Who?! That fucking nobody!?
Mob Boss: “That “fucking nobody” is John Wick. He was an associate of ourselves. We call him Baba Yaga.
Son: The boogeyman?
Mob Boss: John wasn’t exactly the boogey man. He was the man you sent to kill the boogeyman.
Son: Oh
5. In-Case-of-Emergency
When we’re young we don’t have as much of a safety net for when things go wrong, but as we get older we start building up our cache of guns (metaphorically speaking, of course ;).
It’s smart to build up a cache of tools: duct tape, locks, pepper spray, financial diversification, backup credit cards, etc.
Better to have multiple-lines of defense for when the inevitable storm comes.
Do these things and you just might be called, Baba Yaga.


When you don't have money, you think money is going to solve your problems —and to some extent it does. 
But at a certain point it brings its own problems with it. 
Having money is like a having a child. 
You have to care for it, you have to tend to it, and you have to watch it every minute! 
You do this not only to make sure it grows, but to make sure it doesn’t shrink. 
Money is alive and volatile! 
That means I am constantly thinking about my money. 
If you’ve never experienced it, it might be hard for you to understand. 
Amazing feeling! But that’s what’s crazy. I mean, I enjoy all this stuff well enough. 
But as far as my possessions go, honestly — and I’ve really thought about this — I get more pleasure from my FAMILY than anything else. 
That’s the truth, the absolute fucking truth. 
Materially, I don’t need much to be happy. 
I already have everything I want. 
What I am working for, if I am entirely honest, is just the thrill of making more money. 
It’s like playing a game, a game in which the prize is power, the power that is represented by that money. 
Power for what? It doesn't matter! 
The prize is the power itself. It is the feeling of power. 
There is a sensation I get when I make money… If you haven’t experienced it, I can only compare it to sex, or gambling, or a drug. 
It’s exactly like that — maybe even better. 
So my investments and my business ventures are like various casino games, except in my games the odds usually favor me…. And what I live for on a daily basis — this is the darned truth — is just the thrill of playing those games. 
I first started to realize how fucked I was when I found myself thinking about other people’s professions in terms of the bottom line. 
I mean, I have a pal from childhood who is a doctor, and I found myself thinking what an irrational job choice this was for him. He cares about money too, and I just thought, what a waste, how inefficient a use of his time and talent… there are so many better ways to make money. 
Crazy, huh? 
I don’t know what the hell it’s like to be a doctor, but I would guess there’s a whole level of meaning there that people get off on. 
I am not sure I like who I am. 
But I have no choice, no more than a lifelong drug or sex addict does. 
I see businessmen bullshit themselves about why they are really doing it — you know, that they are trying to improve society, or it’s all for their family, or whatever other bull crap. 
That could just be PR, but it also can be self-deception. 
Don’t fool yourself, I think! 
I know you! 
You’re just feeding the monkey! … So, that’s my story. 
I am not entirely proud of my life, but I accept it. 
I try to be as comfortable as I can, to have as much fun as I can, but I’m not in denial about anything. 
I know I’m basically just a junkie living for the next hit of MONEY.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Wednesday Wisdoms

  • The best way to get even is to forget.
  • Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.
  • God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.
  • Some folks wear their halos much too tight.
  • Some marriages are made in heaven...
    but they ALL have to be maintained on earth.
  • Unless you can create the WHOLE universe in 5 days...
    then perhaps giving "advice" to God, isn't such a good idea!
  • Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.
  • Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous... 
    You will get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.
  • Words are windows to the heart.
  • A skeptic is a person who...
    when he sees the handwriting on the wall claims it's a forgery.
  • It isn't difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill; just add a little dirt.
  • A successful marriage isn't finding the right person ...
    It's BEING the right person.
  • The mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.
  • Too many people offer God prayers, with claw marks all over them.
  • The tongue must be heavy indeed, because so few people can hold it.
  • To forgive is to set the prisoner free... 
    and then discover the prisoner was you.
  • You have to wonder about humans... 
    they think God is dead and Elvis is alive!
  • It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again... 
    Just be sure to flush when you are done.
  • You'll notice that a turtle only makes progress when it sticks out it's neck.
  • If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence... 
    you can bet the water bill is higher for sure

  • Monday, April 29, 2019

    Deep thoughts part 2

    1. Be like an iceberg. Don’t reveal all of yourself. Save your hidden beauty and splendor only to a few who are willing to dive deeper with you.
    2. Everyone wants to eat but not everyone is willing to hunt.
    3. Everything is good but not everything is worth it.
    4. It doesn’t matter whether you are a black person or a white person. We are all people of color.
    5. Do not seek to be successful. Seek to be valuable.
    6. Don’t judge ME by my Past. I don’t live there anymore.
    7. People may not always tell you openly how they feel about you, but they will always show you in deeds.
    8. Life is all about which lens we use to see things.
    9. Every single day you make a choice about life. Think before you act.
    10. At first they’ll ask you WHY you’re doing it. But later they’ll ask you HOW you did it.
    11. Life is a reflection of the six different tastes of food. Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, Astringent. The seventh one has not yet been discovered.
    12. It is okay for a child to play with the mother’s breasts, but quite dangerous to play with the father’s testicles.
    13. Some people want things to happen. Some people make things happen. And some people wonder, “Why the hell do things happen?”
    14. Before healing others, heal yourself.
    15. Always try to do things in chronological order; it's easier for your feeble brain to comprehend and less confusing.
    16. He who dies with the most toys is, nonetheless, still dead.
    17. A guilty conscience needs no accuser.
    18. If you have something to tell me, tell me. I didn’t ask for explanations.
    19. Ignorance has a cure called Education. Craziness has its medication. But there is no cure for stupidity.
    20. Addiction doesn't kill the addict. It kills the conscience.
    21. The first thing in the human personality that dissolves in alcohol is dignity.
    22. Many people have gone further than they thought possible because someone else thought they could.
    23. The future is always beginning now.
    24. Those who live in the past limit their future.
    25. We fall in love not because we’ve found the perfect person, but because we have learned to see an imperfect person perfectly.
    26. You have to fight for whom you truly love, and love whom you’re fighting for.
    27. You have no control over whom your heart chooses to love, so just relax and enjoy the ride.
    28. A coward dies a thousand deaths before the brave dies once.
    29. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.

    If you think you can't, think again

    1. Never follow a large crowd blindly. Large crowds usually follow a blind person.
    2. If you want to succeed fast find out what 99% are doing and do the opposite.
    3. Challenges are just opportunities disguised as problems.
    4. Don’t marry someone for beauty alone. Marry someone you can trust, relate with in a certain way and, share the same interests and aspirations;, for beauty will one day wear out.
    5. Don’t start a business because others are doing it or because you’ve just come across a lump sum. Start a business only because people are asking for it.
    6. Before you follow a rarely traveled path, first ask why people stopped travelling the path.
    7. Life is like a long sheet of cloth full of patches and stitches.
    8. A poor beggar who dies joyfully is richer than a great king who dies in anger.
    9. Learn from the ant. It can build an anthill 1,000,000 times its size using nothing but its legs, water drops and mud.
    10. Before you criticize think. Before you judge watch out. Everything has a way of coming back at you 7 times.
    11. A greedy, foolish ruler can sell his country for a morsel of meat.
    12. Greed is like eating tomorrow’s food in advance.
    13. Money will always chase those who solve problems, but run away from those who chase it.
    14. The secret of success is happiness. The shocking fact is that you can control it.
    15. Strive to do only the things that matter. The cost of doing what doesn’t matter is high.
    16. It’s cheaper to struggle your entire life finding your purpose than spending your entire life guessing.
    17. Happier is the person who tries and fails than the person never took a single step.
    18. Spend more time studying something then take a step of faith instead of wasting your faith on something that’s not worth it.
    19. Formal education will get you a job, but self-education will make you rich.
    20. Never be deterred by other peoples opinions of your abilities. Believe that your Maker never made a mistake.
    21. Never doubt your capabilities. You enough people and circumstances against you.
    22. Do not fear to try and fail. Fear becoming successful in trivial matters.
    23. Mistakes are a part of life, as long as you learn the lesson.
    24. Make less of a fool of yourself by learning to listen faster than you can speak.
    25. Pictures speak louder than words, but videos speak louder than a billion pictures.
    26. Every failure is a blessing in disguise.
    27. Quit worrying over spilled milk and go find another cow. There are plenty of cows to milk.
    28. In life everybody is struggling to get somewhere. Quit procrastinating and begin to move.
    29. You are a product of your own thoughts.
    30. Success is limited to a number of people who are willing to take a big risk.