[FoRK] Personal update, book ref, fun quote,
and (of course) political tangent
jbone at place.org
Wed Oct 13 09:58:18 PDT 2004
Haven't been very vocal about this to date, but quick personal update
and various stream-of-consciousness tangents. I left Deepfile at the
end of August, for several reasons, none of which reflect badly on the
company or its prospects. Net-net, it was time for me to be doing
something entirely different. If you'll indulge me while I get
semi-touchy-feely for a minute...
After over a decade of serial entrepreneurship, I realized that ---
despite the possibility of entrepreneurial success, of which I've had
more than I probably should over the duration --- I was fighting a
losing numbers game, at least in today's environment. Net-net it
barely matters what the strength of the idea is, what the strength of
the team is, how excellent the technology or overall strategic
execution. Entrepreneurial success or failure is often --- maybe
always --- a function of external factors that are entirely beyond your
control. These include things like: investor psychology, corporate or
particularly board politics, random coincidence, buying cycles
(particularly the dreaded "IT brick wall,") economic cycles, religious
fanatics stealing airliners and driving them into skyscrapers, etc.
Indeed, it is much better --- in the serial entrepreneur game --- to be
lucky than smart. I've been luckier than I deserve, but I'd really
like to find a game where being smarter and faster than the other
players translates into a mostly-reliable win. In some sense I both
need that for personal validation and --- if it's possible --- to
maximize my own success relative to my own personal goals.
I've found that job, that deal, that game. I am switching gears
entirely --- I'm out of this software product / service game, possibly
and hopefully for good. For the first time in over a decade I'm going
to work for someone else, and I'm more excited about it than I've been
about the last two companies I've founded.
I'm going to work for a wildly successful and very stealthy private
hedge fund in their nascent currency and forex business as,
essentially, a financial engineer. But the net-net is this, it's not
about what I'm going to do: if you no longer love what you're doing,
change what you're doing. Even if it's a rather "violent" and
disruptive change, do it. E.g. Meg Hourihan (Blogger) is now prepping
sous as a chef in a restaurant, and she sounds healthier than she has
in years. Just do it. This is my attempt to follow that example
example. It's my attempt to follow my muse: for years and years I've
been a midnight, wannabe physicist / economist / mathematician. I read
Axelrod and Von Neumann and Godel and Deutsche and Dirac and Misner and
Thorne and Wheeler and Arrow and so on for fun late at night; I spend
more time in Mathematica playing with symbols than I do working around
the house or talking to my family; yes, that's twisted and yes, I'm a
masochist. In professional terms it's been a whip: a perpetual
disconnect between the deepest and most profound (and compelling)
reaches of my fascinations with the passion I have for / bring to bear
on my vocation at any given point. Being a serial entrepreneur /
startup exec is a lucrative --- and yes in many ways wonderful, I'm
crying crocodile tears --- but poor proxy for that rather esoteric set
of "urges." This new gig --- aside from hopefully being as or more
lucrative than the serial entrepreneur gig (with less risk and a
shorter feedback cycle) --- finally promises to marry my deepest and
most persistent obsessions with my daily activities.
Do what you want. It's a free world. That's the story: don't be
trapped by preconceptions. You're free.
It truly is a wonderful life. You've just got to find your place.
Perhaps I've finally found mine.
Shifting gears, I'm (re)reading _The Predictors_ as pre-load homework
for the new gig. It's entirely inspirational, if you haven't read it
you should --- even if you have little interest in financial markets,
esoteric math, etc. It's (generally) about how to win (or lose) by
being smart. It's about celebrating knowledge. It's about riding the
tornado --- and being relaxed and barefoot and joyful as you do it.
BTW, link to book:
One fun quote from the book I wanted to drop on y'all. The context is
the "action" at CBOT, the Chicago Board of Trade:
But there is really only one big game being played in the CBOT finance
room. The bets are all on U.S.
government debt, packaged in different ways, but dependent on the
world's tolerance for allowing America
to live beyond its means.
This, my friends, is the most succinct and cogent argument that can be
raised --- indeed, even with the most dyed-
in-the-wool "conservative" who has any degree of financial acumen ---
against Bush, Inc. Bush has ruined --- is continuing to ruin ---
America's credibility, credit rating while simultaneously destroying
the world's appetite for that great cultural product called "America."
From export markets (America's major export for the last half-century
has been its cultural and intellectual product, which both in itself
grows the future potential market and also generates huge ongoing
revenues --- and which doesn't work if the world despises America) to
willingness to trade, Bush, Inc. has done more damage to us in the last
four years than ALL the progress we made since Reagan's second term at
least. The world DOES NOT WORK for Americans if the world hates
America. Bush has sold us down the street for absolutely no coherent
reason at at a very high cost. A high cost that you and your children
This is particularly pernicious when you also contemplate the massive
debt we're incurring. "Fiscal responsibility" as a conservative value?
Hell yes --- but NOT a current GOP value, prima facie! Couple this
with history: any given day under a Republican administration is ---
normalized for time-in-office, considering the last 40 years --- 6x
more likely to be recessionary than any given day under a Dem. Combine
those, and you can see --- no matter what your affinity for ideology,
the facts speak for themselves and the facts tell us: Dems are better
for our economy and our future. (And that despite the fact that I'm
pretty avowedly anti-Dem in ideology and in practice, never having
voted for a Dem for major office before, unless against an odious
And that concludes the political portion of this update.
Anyway: do what you want to do, when you want to do it --- career wise
and otherwise. Never work a day in your life. Live to work, don't
work to live. If you're working to live, find some other way. And
decide whether or not voting AGAINST somebody is a viable strategy.
Make your own decisions, but MAKE THEM. (Unless you don't want to. ;-)
Eat, drink, and be merry. Sleep late. Dance. Cook good food. Love.
Live forever, but mostly --- live.
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