Tag Archives: coronavirus

Seeking Tribe #17: Dark Winter is Over


I am feeling quite optimistic at this moment (it may not be a coincidence that you receive emails from me on days when I’m feeling particularly positive and energetic,,,).

For those of you who are a bit tuned out, and I do not blame you:

One can certainly find reasons to temper our optimism. There’s a lot that we still don’t know and we’ve all just lived through 12 months of bad takes that seldom played out as expected. I am adding this little paragraph because I don’t want this email newsletter to end up on this feed in a year…

But personally, I think we’re about to have an amazing spring and summer. The past few days in Rochester have been moderately sunny and the temperature has been as high as 38F. While finding that to be good and remarkable is kind of sad, we learn to cope in Western NY. We’ll have some warmer days in the next few weeks and people will find it easier to socialize as we monitor the effects of mass vaccination.

My winter is over. I am leaving this Sunday to go visit Orlando for a week with a few of my friends. From there, I’m continuing on to Houston for a week and then Austin for a minimum of two weeks. It’s unclear exactly where I’ll go from there but it seems unlikely that I’ll return to Rochester before May. If you have any recommendations, connections, big ideas, etc that you want to share with me – please hit me up.

I’m looking forward to seeing the sun again and (re)connecting with friends and strangers alike.

Best of My Recent Read:

  • Bitcoin Dissidents: Those Who Need It Most by Anna Baydakova, Coindesk

    Bitcoin, like Amazon and Tesla, has benefitted disproportionately from the US’ (and other country’s) monetary policy response to the pandemic. As new dollars have flooded the market and short-term interest rates declined, people with a large amount of assets and the ability to borrow at near 0% interest have sought out assets with potential long-term growth and robust network effects. While it may not make sense for Tesla to be valued at $586/share, it would make much less sense to have seen a 500% rise in price of a robust, moderate-growth manufacturing company. Tesla, like Bitcoin, at least has a plausible narrative for how it could eventually earn its valuation. This article demonstrates the utility of Bitcoin beyond its role as a speculative asset class, or hedge as “Digital Gold”. It’s easy for Americans to forget that cryptocurrencies are of global significance.
  • How I Read by Slava Akhmechet

    TL;DR: Read ~40 pages/day, assume 30% failure rate. That’s 10k pages and ~20 books annually. Pick a problem, and read clusters of five books to study that problem from a unique perspective. Visualize each cluster as an instrument to inspect the world. Collect instruments into a mental lab, with various stations for related instruments. You can upgrade the instruments one book at a time. Have your bookshelf reflect this mental image. Win the decade, not the day. Start now and never stop.

    I recommend reading the full article. I’m still refining which clusters I want to focus on this year but community and localism will certainly be two of the topics. Lately I’ve been listening to more audiobooks as I’ve soured a bit on podcasts. If you have Audible, there’s a ton of interesting books that are available for free, “Included” FYI.
  • Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism by Scott Horton

    If you have any opinions about American foreign policy, you need to read this book. Horton certainly has his clear biases, as we all do, but almost all of the most damning claims are from official, publicly available government documents. He does a great job of sharing a clear narrative about the madness of American Middle Eastern policy, from the Carter administration through to the book’s release date.

    As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read the newsletter and I’d love to hear from any and all of you. I think my trip will be quite energizing and I’ll have some interesting ideas and perspectives for y’all in the weeks to come. Have a great

This post was initially sent via Substack on March 5th, 2021.


Seeking Tribe #8: We’re All Going To Make It


I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloweekend. It feels strange that we used to have, more or less, one set day to wear a mask…and now we all wear them every day (is this a coronavirus joke or…?)

While the spoozy szn has past, I know the real scary day on your calendar, for many of you, is Election Day. Although, it does seems unlikely that we’ll have a clear winner on Tuesday (I’d guess ~ 20% probability that we have a  definite winner on Tuesday night – ie. some sort of wave scenario, or otherwise surprising trend; particularly after reading reports that some PA counties will not count votes until the following dayThis could change).

Before you go to check 538 again, I’d like to encourage you to not. One of the common critiques is that 538 “got it wrong in 2016”, which reflects a common misunderstanding of probability. No candidate is given a 0% probability of winning, therefore, in reality, a certain outcome cannot be used to refute the validity of their models.

However, this rebuttal can be easily followed-up with another critique. This type of modeling can be better or worse, more or less useful, but it’s ultimately unfalsifiable. Were the odds 99-1? or were they 55-45? We only get to live in N=1 reality, so we’re not able to see in how many simulations of the world Candidate A or Candidate B wins.

I have no idea what the results of the election will be. Personally, I am looking forward to exiting from this (two-and-a-half-year?) electoral cycle. Politics, and more importantly, governance are important. But I am hopeful that soon we’ll all have more energy and attention to focus where we can can make the greatest direct, positive contributions.

Now, like all of 2020, is a wonderful time for each of us to practice having a healthy, functional belief about our ability to influence the world. There are tangible actions you can still take to influence the [on-going] election at the margin, please have at it and leave it all on the field. Just know that no matter how many times we refresh the latest polls page, we will not have any greater predictive power about what electoral results the future will bring us.

The most doomer scenarios are all unlikely, ie. Civil War, large-scale violence, etc. I would bet against a significant breakdown in our society’s functioning (although I think it’s plausible that we’ll see localized issues and violence similar, and perhaps a bit greater, to what has already occurred in 2020). While the only thing that most of our elected officials can agree on is “This is the most important election of our lifetime,” I think more voters (and non-voters) would agree with the statement “The United States is worth more than the results of a single election.”

People are going to continue to work, go shopping at the grocery store, educate their children, and love their neighbors. Most people have spent much less time thinking about any of this than most of you who are still reading this. Please do not let fear or despair come to dominate your life. Elections have consequences and life goes on. Both are true!

We’re all going to make it.

The Best of my Recent Reads:

  • The Centralized Internet Is Inevitable by Samo Burja

    I still believe that the internet has and will continue to “change facts on the ground” and facilitate the creation of products that enable [certain] 3rd-parties to be disintermediated, ie. Bitcoin or 3D Printing

    Samo likely wouldn’t dispute any of that but still provides a powerful counter-narrative that’s worth considering

  • There are millions of highly skilled developers in the world. Only a small fraction work at large technology companies, and only a small fraction of those work on new product development. Many of the most important software projects in history were created by startups or by communities of independent developers.” from Why Decentralization Matters by Chris Dixon

    Samo referenced Chris’ piece so I figured I’d feature it to present the kind of theory that he’s challenging

  • I don’t know if I will see the completion of this project, or even if it will work in the long term. But that doesn’t bother me. I’m focused on placing the next brick.“, from Bitcoin at 12 by Nic Carter

    Bitcoin hit a valuation of $14,000/BTC as it turned 12 years old. This piece from Nic resonated with my own thesis on Bitcoin, in that, I do not think it’s inevitable, or perhaps even likely to succeed in its vision.

    That doesn’t mean it won’t change our world, or continue to capture the minds and talents of many of the most competent technologists. Or the dollars of institutional and retail investors… [Not investment advice].

I should have much more original content in the upcoming newsletters! My plan was to press publish on quite a few pieces that I’ve been working on. However, I ended up having quite a few time-sensitive work opportunities pop-up throughout the past week. Please wish me luck on these interviews :))

As always, please feel free to reply and leave any feedback, questions, or share something random with me to spark a conversation. I wish you all nothing but the best this week!

This post was initially sent on November 1st, 2020 as part of an early prototype of my newsletter Seeking Tribesubscribe here!


Seeking Tribe #7: Back in the Coffee Shop


In Rochester, we’ve been extremely fortunate that our rate of coronavirus transmission has been low knock on wood. One of my favorite coffee shops opened back up last week. It was wild to realize that I hadn’t been there for almost a year.

Where did 2020 go? Sometimes it feels like it will never end and other times I can’t believe it’s already the end of October.

This past week I spent more time writing than I have in the entire rest of this month!

Do you want to know my trick? The trick that will help you get over your writer’s block and help you get back on your grind?

I left all of my technology at home. No phone. No laptop. I brought a bunch of books that I could read but I started my session by opening up a journal. I took a sip of coffee, ate a bite of a tasty cherry danish and put my pen to paper. Once I got started, I quickly got in a groove and ended up writing for over three hours. It felt great to get these ideas out of my mind. The positive feedback was much better than from any social media notification.

It’s simple and it works. The biggest challenge is overcoming any fears or anxieties you have about disconnecting and taking the leap to isolate from your devices. It’s not love that keeps you checking your phone again and again and again. At its root, there is a fear or a neediness. This understanding won’t break your addiction — I’m probably more of a phone junkie than you are — but it’s part of the solution.

Your life might not permit you to unplug for so long during the day. You might need to wake up early or stay up late to get this kind of freedom from those who need you.

I hope some of you will claim a little time to yourself and unplug, even for thirty minutes, and write by hand. If you do, let me know how it goes!

The Best of my Recent Reads:

  • Censorship power, like the tech giants who now wield it, is an instrument of status quo preservation. The promise of the internet from the start was that it would be a tool of liberation, of egalitarianism, by permitting those without money and power to compete on fair terms in the information war with the most powerful governments and corporations.” from Facebook and Twitter Cross a Line Far More Dangerous Than What They Censor by Glenn Greenwald

    This piece does a great job of explaining, in detail, the threat created by the policies of overt censorship at Twitter and Facebook.

    You can despise the New York Post and the article in reference but do you believe that these corporations should be super-editors-in-chief of every newspaper? And will you then still argue that you support democracy and journalism? (Thanks to Quinn Banford for the recommendation)

A Few Cool Things:

  • One of my best friends, Luke Metzler, is a pop-star and just released the music video for his hit new song “Babydoll“. I would appreciate it a lot if you would listen, like, and subscribe to show my friend some love.
  • In a few earlier newsletters, I included images of quotes from books that I’ve been reading. I was able to create those easily by using this wonderful service Readwise.io. If you use a Kindle and want to review and work with your highlights, this product is an absolute game changer. Use this link and we’ll both get a free month!

    Great for reviewing quotes, exporting notes to Notion or Roam Research, and even highlighting physical books and turning them into digital notes.

New from Me:

  • The Virtue of Pessimism 

    “Pessimism is always hugging you, protecting you from unnecessary risks.”- Muhammad Miqdad

This post was initially sent on October 25th, 2020 as part of an early prototype of my newsletter Seeking Tribesubscribe here!


The Virtue of Pessimism


This blog is an excerpt from my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders (the e-book is cheaper here).

Pessimists assume that things will get worse, or not go according to plan, but they care about the outcome. They have an important function to play in challenging an overly optimistic consensus.

As a society, we need people to raise the alarm and ensure we’re not lulled into a false sense of security. To solve complex problems, we need to hear different perspectives to best understand a given situation and how people feel about it. 

My friend Muhammad Miqdad is the global operations manager at a company called PakVitae. Their mission is to expand access to drinking water throughout the developing world by implementing low-cost systems through collaborations with community stakeholders and NGOs. While Muhammad is driven by PakVitae’s goal to provide access to more than 10 million people through their systems, he still identifies as a pessimist:

“When you grow up in a developing country, like Pakistan, or a country that has faced terrorism for a long time, you start to expect less and develop contingency plans in the back of your mind all the time.

For example, growing up it was common that the power would go out randomly. When I would play video games, I would save my progress again and again because I knew that I might lose power and all my progress at any time.

Pessimism is always hugging you, protecting you from unnecessary risks.”

He brought this mentality with him to his work with PakVitae. For the past year, he has been managing a series of projects to implement the company’s water-filtration systems throughout Africa. While his plan was to manage each of these projects directly by visiting each of the sites in-person, he feared that various issues would prevent him from following that plan.

“Right now, I had planned to be in Africa to help support our projects there,” Muhammad explained. “When I started planning these projects, I recruited interns from all throughout Africa to help implement them. I hoped that I would be able to support the implementations in person, but I knew unforeseen difficulties could prevent me from getting there—maybe the payment will not be able to go through because of issues in the banking system, maybe the rupee will become devalued because of economic uncertainty. So I decided to train my interns under the assumption that I would be unable to carry out the plan and that they would need to be competent enough to execute it without my presence. Right now we’re on Plan D, but everything is still moving forward successfully.”

Muhammad’s story demonstrates the merits of pessimism. The contingencies running through his head were critical to his mission. He found it stressful to overcome these obstacles, but his thorough planning and emphasis on training his interns prevented this challenge from turning into a catastrophe. Muhammad is a pessimist, but his perspective comes from his awareness that his actions will have a direct impact on the lives of others. While he cannot control the world, he can take responsibility for his actions.

Cynical nihilism is different from pessimism in this regard. It is a state of fatalism that finds its roots in despair. If you feel powerless to make an impact on the world, internalize that belief, and act (or don’t act) with that in mind, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the next section, I dig a bit deeper into the cynical nihilism that has been pervasive in our culture and help my readers to reframe their situation…

To say this has been a difficult year for many would be an understatement. There are reasons to be pessimistic about the future and it may be a helpful perspective to have. This advice from Muhammad helped me to take action when I first heard news reports about the Coronavirus back in late January. It drove me to go to the store and buy soap and a couple bags of rice back when I was the weirdo at work talking about some virus in China. Last time I went to Costco, I picked up some extra cans of beans and hand soap, just incase we experience a second wave similar to those in France right now. Worst case, I make a black bean salad and don’t need to buy any soap for a few more months!

I’m as optimistic as they come. My whole book is a call to my fellow Definite Optimists to reach out and connect with me (if you haven’t, please recommend it to your friend who you think would most enjoy a conversation with me)! But I will never forget Muhammad’s reframe on pessimism:

Pessimism is always hugging you, protecting you from unnecessary risks.

Muhammad Miqdad

Take risks that have the potential to give you a huge upside with an acceptable loss if it doesn’t work out. Don’t take any risks that could truly leave you unable to meet your basic needs. And if you ever find yourself in the latter situation, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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