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Most ICOs will fail. I’m certain of that. Here is a better article about the specifics of why ICOs will fail. Anyone with the proper understanding of history and economics knows that most ICO will fail. Since legally, you cannot issues coins as equity or securities like back in the dot com IPO days, people are issuing ICOs as a token for transacting within their own ecosystem. This turns out to be even better for companies because they can raise money without diluting ownership. The major problem is that all the tokens have no real use right now. People are creating a token for products that either have no traction or do not even exist; perhaps they have a plagiarized white paper that has never been peer reviewed.

No Use Case

While creating an ICO meets current demand for assets that will make people cryptomillionaires, there is no demand from real users who will make those companies real money. The economics is faulty because the demand for the product via the token comes from gamblers, so called investors and people with a serious case of FOMO. If your business did not need a token before, why would it need it now? 

The main problem is the confusion of demand for a token compared to the underlying product. You cannot confuse demand for a token which is completely unrelated to your product. ICO demand is purely for speculation at this point. You cannot create true demand for a token for a product or service that people do not want either. It’s pretty clear that most companies and some con artist are using ICOs or tokens to take advantage of the greed of ICO speculators to raise money for a business that may or may not come into fruition.

Added Friction to Adoption

Now let's assume that you are not a con artist and you are actually building a real product with some degree of value. Some people will claim that by creating tokens, it will build a community for their product. If you have a product that could not gain traction through the multitude of proven methods, then creating another layer of friction will not help! Making users to buy a token will only make it more confusing and difficult. Obviously there are exceptions such as gambling and gaming where tokenization will only help the ecosystem because tokenization helps people spend more. But for most products, it does not. You can give away tokens for people to try your services but why don’t you just give people free fiat credit? Isn't that easier?

Also if people need to get more tokens, they will have another layer of friction since obtaining obscure tokens are still confusing. Using fiat currency was not a problems in the first place. This is another level of friction for current users. If you are developing a platform or marketplace with buyers and sellers, sellers will have to take your tokens than convert to fiat which adds friction and conversion risk for sellers. This becomes another pain point and more friction to your product.

Token Volatility and Price

In the event, that all your hard work has created a nice active ecosystem and perhaps you do have a product or service that requires tokens, users would be turned off by tokens with the market volatility. Since the current or main use case is for speculation for the large majority of tokens, the price for tokens move dramatically daily which the value of people holding the token for actual use to be victims of loss in value. Your real users are victims of trader and speculator price manipulation. Or if people start liquidating the token after lock up periods or after a nice pump and dump, real users will suffer losses unrelated to their actions.

Now let's look at another situation, your platform works out and it is becoming increasing popular, then the use of the token will be in high demand so you’ve solved the use case problem. However a new problem will appear, people will horde the coins for capital appreciation. This will cause problems for the actual use case token holders who have to pay more for services and products. As a result of the high prices on your network for products or services, it will lower demand causing lower participation; crushing the momentum! 

The Truth Behind Most ICOs

But let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s call ICOs what it is. In kind words, most of it is fraud. It is a way to raise money for products and services that do not need tokens. 

I can forgive you for doing it because compared to doing hundreds of pitches and bootstrapping, doing an ICO is a gift from the gods of capitalism. Your business does not need to pitch to angels or VCs. You don't need to live off ramen and sit in a non ergonomic chair that you found off the street. Heck, you don’t even need a real product. Money is being thrown at you.

There is absolutely no rational reason not do an ICO in this current market. It is the rage. There are people screaming for new coins so they can get in early and sell for massive profit. The system is incentivizing everyone to do it. Law firms can make tons of money for their fees. ICO technology companies can reap huge fees. Advisors can get valuable coins for free. Insiders can make easy money with free or heavily discounted pre ICO prices. Early investors can turn early access to a discounted ICO into 10X return in a month or less. Early traders may make 2-5x with initial bumps on exchanges. Even the most ethical is tempted with the fast cash and lambos. If ethical people are doing it, then definitely the morally challenged will be ramming down the ICO doors.

Founders ICO Dilema

There is no incentive to build anything once the carrot is gone. You can raise this money and say you’re going to build a product while in reality, you are paying yourself a generous salary and fold when you run out of money. But rush to the finish line when you're already there. Or if you’re a crypto con artist, you can take the money and leave the word “penis” on your site to celebrate your con of greedy uneducated rent seeking crypto “investors.” 

Founders can become instant millionaires when they sell their newly formed coins for fiat. The incentive to even build a product or a viable business is gone once you get paid. But let’s say you’re moral and understand what ethics are, you can do your time because there isn't much motivation to ship a product. Or maybe you're busy planning how to enjoy that crypto fortune. If you have a long lock up period, you can ship a half ass product and still meet your milestones because guess who wrote that white paper and those "tough" milestones? You did! But that's only if anyone actually read that plagiarized generalized piece of crap called a white paper.

In the end, if you issue coins for something that never required a token, the value will go to zero. No use equals no value. When the only demand is not from use case demand but from speculators, it will fall. Speculators will find the next potential earth shaking ICO. Then the house of cards for that ICO will fall and the price will go to zero; leaving those poor bag holders penniless and filled with shame along with bouts of anger. 

There are hundreds of house of cards out there. In the end, will it destroy Ethereum and cryptocurrencies? Will it bring down the revolution by destroying the most important thing to the system, trust? If we destroy the trust in decentralized blockchain, it may take down everything good about it. 

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Being born somewhere can determine not only success or failure but it also determines life or death. In the face of struggle, pain, and danger, anyone will move to somewhere better. The only problem are these lines that we call borders.

As human beings, we should be entitled to go anywhere on earth that we please. We should be free to find a better life even if it is half way across the world. Being born within certain lines should not limit the possibilities of our lives. But alas, it does.

Earth did not give anyone or any group of people rights to a certain area of land defined by borders. The idea of borders was an idea of human beings who did not like other human beings. If everyone liked each other, we would not have to draw stupid lines.

Almost half the world survives daily on less than my Starbucks habit. One in four people on earth cannot leave their bedroom light on wastefully because they do no have electricity. Eighty percent or four in five human beings survive on less the cost of my Chipotle burrito with a splash gaucamole. Why on earth would someone choose to live in a place with such little resources, corrupt governments, and a glaring lack of expensive coffee?

You guessed it; they do not choose. Just were just the people who lost the cosmic lotto. They cannot leave their Godforsaken pathetic crime ridden poorly run excuse of a country because we have lines that are enforced by people who were fortunate enough to be born in the right place or know the right person.

No one truly owns the earth. No one owns the land below their own feet. It is only through rule of law that defines ownership of something that should be owned by every human being collectively. The rules about borders and land are made by people who are in power. Their right to own something or the right to live somewhere exist because somehow they got their first and made the rules that stop others from taking it from them.

Universally all human beings should have the right to pursue happiness; it is just not an just American virtue (somedays I do question if it is an American virtue anymore). It is a human virtue.

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The most precious thing you have in life is your life. It may seem very obvious but most people don’t live their lives like it is theirs. I am not talking about your health. I am talking about the fact that you exist and you have this magical ability to control where life takes you.

Unfortunately some people live as if they don't have any control of their own life. They are living life for someone else. They are living for society. They are living for their parents. They are living for the sake of status. They are living for capitalism. They are living for some ideal created by Madison Avenue. They are just chasing a ghost. They are living someone's life even though that life is theirs and belongs to no one else. It is the only thing in life that you really have. Stop taking your own life for granted. Stop living life like it belongs to someone else. It is yours. Your most precious possession.

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Since Thanksgiving, the cryptocurrency madness has infiltrated nearly all minds of everyone around me. I thought it was crazy before but now it is complete insanity. It used to be just about Bitcoin (BTC), then everyone started talking about Litecoin (LTC) and Ether(ETH). Now it's about every alternative coin out there in the world. Everyone is talking about 5x and 10x returns. People literally laugh at 30% returns. It is madness. But it should be expected. We, human beings are insane.

I have always been following what has been going on not because of the potential returns and riches but because of what blockchain can do for the world and society. To be honest, I still like money and making money is nice. As a socially conditioned capitalist, I can appreciate a good opportunity when it hits you in the face. Blockchain technology theoretically can make the world a better place. It can remove banks and their useless fees, saving people billions of dollars. It can democratize investment and fundraising so that normal people can raise money without outdated laws and restrictive rules. It can lower lending cost and increase financial freedom for the unbanked and poor. It can create more transparency in a centralized system controlled by insiders and cronies. It can save companies millions of hours for record keeping and tracking thus saving money and eliminating errors. It can change finance, entertainment, healthcare, supply management and countless industries. It can change the world for the better while enriching everyone.

In it's current form, purely as a collection of crypto currencies, blockchain is far from it's potential. This mania is disappointing because people are interested for all the wrong reasons. The interest is driven by the possibility of becoming a crypto billionaire. Yes a lot of people have made many millions and millions of dollars. Some have become billionaires. But currently, this use of blockchain technology namely for currency and speculation is not making the world better. It is not adding any value what so ever. It is actually causing more problems and benefit to society at this moment. It may be exactly what needs to happen to move into the next phase but this phase is not good. I cannot deny that it is not fun at the moment because sometimes it literally feels like a video game watching the crypto coin tickers.

In trading, no new wealth is created, it only changes hands. The money that people are making are coming from other people. Trading cryptocurrency is a zero sum game. Actually it is a negative sum game if you consider that exchanges and intermediaries charge fees for any transfers and trades. No one is really saving any real money or becoming more efficient. We are not saving any fees by using the cyptocurrencies either. In fact, barely anyone is using it for any real purchases. All everyone is doing is just trading currency while some early supporters and a lot of insiders have been cashing out. The new people are throwing money into the crypto pool pushing the total value of currencies to over $800 billion in market cap at the time of writing this. It is causing people to spend their time on rent seeking behavior (mostly watching tickers and talking about which alt coin will explode next) instead of utilizing it adding real value right now. Yes there are a lot of people also building platforms that may change the world but most of us are just wasting our time on something that will become an historical financial asterisk and probably a really good documentary on Netflix.

Right now, almost all crypto currencies and platforms are not providing any real product or value except for perhaps Ripple (via their bank platform but it is not even decentralized), Ethereum (via cryptokitties and other DApps), Monero (dark currency for "private activities" aka drugs) and Bitcoin (as a store of value before you want to invest into another crypto currency). There is potential for some other ones as well. But as of right now, there isn't much value added in the world. In fact, Dogecoin which started as a joke has become an two billion dollar coin despite not being updated in more than two years. Most of these coins or projects become an after thought while a majority of them are scams and at best, terrible ideas. So in the end, like the Internet 1.0, there will be billions of dollars lost and a lot of Pet.com memes about how someone lost their homes or retirements betting on the future. It will be bloody. It might be worst than the Dot Com bubble. It might be the craziest bubble in history. Who knows but at least this would make Minsky proud.

Right now, what is happening is a transfer of wealth not real wealth creation. Of course in the future, it can add plenty of value and jobs that is not related to crypto trading but for now, most of the activity is related to the cash of crypto fortunes. Once it is all said and done, there will be a lot of new reports of people losing everything because they bet their fortunes on some altcoin or lost it on an exchanged that got hacked. There will also be a lot of newly minted millionaires and plenty of capitalist who took advantage of this incredible opportunity. Perhaps after we clean all the blood in the streets, blockchain technology will crown a few crypto currency survivors and some real value will be added to society.

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It is going to be holiday season. The first question that we ask each other is what we want for Christmas. Christmas was once only about celebrating the birth of Jesus and now has morphed into the epitome of consumerism via the art of mandatory gift giving. This custom oddly started as a way to quell the poor drunks in New York from demanding food and drinks from the wealthy long ago according to The Battle for Christmas.

But I digress, during these times, we are especially focused on our wants and what we do not have. We are eyeing that new iPhone X. We are dreaming about that Tesla 3 that we have been patiently waiting for. We are trying to find an Nintendo Switch to fill those stockings. If we are not thinking about all these new things, we are thinking about what else we are missing in life. Restaurants, vacations, clothes, toys, and the endless amount of stuff that would be nice to have. In the end, our minds are lost in this sea of wants.

What we end up forgetting is what we have in front of us. Our time and energy is used to think of our wants and work toward it. We miss all those events that cannot attend because you have to work to pay for presents. We lose ourselves in the chase of want. Like how was cannot think of two things at once, we cannot want and be grateful. Wanting is the antithesis of being grateful. If want want, then we are not satisfied with what we have now. When our minds are so focused on our wants, we forget what we already have in our lives right in front of us. We forget all the love, things and people around us because our minds are occupied by something else. Sometimes when we forget or neglect people, we lose them and we just end up alone with a bunch of stuff. Instead of wanting, we can use our energy to be grateful and give something even more amazing than material gifts, our time and energy to those we love.

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I failed again with another 30 day challenge. I only ended up writing twenty two post; eight short of my goal of thirty. My initial idea was just write everyday. Mostly something short and simple but in the end, I really wanted to write some longer more in depth pieces. Some of them were pretty good but others left a bit to be desired. I wrote about artificial intelligence, Amazon, happiness, expectations and so many other topics. I spent an hour on some of them and spent almost five hours on others. Some just came out of my head but others took hours of reading, research and thought. A rough estimate would be about fifty to sixty hours was devoted to writing about 18,000 words and 247 paragraphs that totaled over 71 pages of writing. It is nice to say that writing is much easier now. The process is a bit easier to understand. I am growing as a writer and a person. Here's a few things that I learned from this challenge.

Your thoughts become more clear. Your writing helps your refine your thoughts. You realize the holes in your though process. You know what you don't know. I reread what I write and realize that my mind is not very clear at times. Of course I think it is but that is seemingly just overconfidence disguised as ignorance. It forced me to demand comprehensiveness from myself and better care in seeing the cracks in my vision. In the end, you learn to catch these little holes and see the details that never existed before.

Your writing helps develop your philosophy. When you put things in writing, you can formulate all the things in your head better. You write down you ideas and thoughts then put them neatly into categories or topics. Each article becomes building blocks to a more finished philosophy. You gain insight into topics that were a bit cloudy. You find out what you stand for because writing forces you to rationalize and justify your stances.

It helps you quantify your mind. Writing is a measure of your mind. How much do you know about politics? Or sports? Or life? You can see it in the words that you write. It is measurable and quantifiable. Is it concise? Is it detailed? How much did I write? How much do I know? I can compare my thoughts and ideas with someone's writing. It becomes a measuring stick where none existed before. We can measure out blood pressure. We can measure our weight. But it is difficult to measure out philosophies and knowledge outside of taking exams. Writing is a wonderful measure of where your mind stands.

It is a mental exercise where you can build your brain. It forces you to apply abstract ideas and formulate frameworks. Certain things that you learn you can apply like learning to ride a bike. You build the physical muscles of your body. But ideas are not tangible results except when you write it down. Your writing is the visual tangible results of your mind. The stronger the article, the stronger your mind is. The longer the article, the more stamina your mind has. Writing becomes the exercise and the articles become your body.

You learn about your voice. Eventually as you become more fluid with your writing, your personality is reflected in your voice. It's becomes more natural. It's like learning how to throw a ball. At first it is very mechanical. Then it becomes more smooth. Then you can add a little bit of customization and put a little bit of you into the throw. My voice is still not there but hopefully one day it'll become as natural as speaking.

You liberate all the junk in your head. I realized that your mind is like storage garage full of all the crap that you kept for later. All those thoughts, ideas, dreams and randomness that you threw in there like things you buy and forget in your closet. Sometimes you forget that you have certain shoes or shirts but they are there in the back cluttering up your closet. Everytime that I wrote something down, it was something that I didn't need to keep in my brain anymore. It was freed up space for something else. I did not need to worry about losing it because when you write it down, it becomes forever and best of all, it became useful. I made it applicable to me and perhaps someone else who reads it. After every article, the space in my head became more organized and clear. There was still lots of things in there but at least it was neatly and pleasantly organized.

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I used to feel like the weight of the world was always on my shoulders. Coming from a not very wealthy family, I thought I would have to work hard and somehow be the savior so I focused on materialism. Growing up, being around smart and successful people, I thought that I would have to fit in and belong so I lied. Being impatient and naive, I took shortcuts to get what I wanted so I cheated. When things started coming together, I became a afraid of failing so I stopped living and regretted it. When someone did me wrong, the anger made me want revenge so I could never forgive and forget. In reality, none of these things were barriers in my life. They were not bricks that I had to carry on my back. All of this was in my head. I forgot to live lightly. The forces of my mind weighted so heavy on it that it weighed down my body.

Be Light with Less Stuff

When we do not know exactly what we want in life, we default to wanting everything. If we want everything, the solution to that problem is simply to make more money. Need a new car, make more money. Need a bigger house, make more money. Want a vacation, make more money. But keep in mind, in the end, it's all about stuff. For what reason? we don't know. We just wanted more stuff and money because someone told me that it would make life better. But no one told us that once you got some stuff that you would get bored and needed more stuff.

I used to be so obsessed with the idea of more. I had so much pressure to keep getting more and more stuff. After reading The Magical Art of Tidying by Marie Kondo, I started getting rid of stuff. That was when I realized I had so much stuff. I wondered why I had so many shoes that I didn't wear. So many books that I didn't read. So many people that I called friends that I didn't talk to. I wanted a house, then a vacation home. I wanted a new car, then another car. So many obligations. I realized getting rid of stuff was liberating. In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Duran gives to himself the ulimate revealation about materialism, "The things you own, end up owning you." The more that I threw away, the less that I had to worry about it. When I cancelled the music subscription that I rarely used, I did not have to pay for it anymore. When I threw out the shoes that I wore once a year, it no longer took up space in my closet. When I threw out a shelf of books, I no longer had to remove dust from them anymore. When I decided that friend was more of an acquaintance, I never needed to do small talk anymore. In the end, my life just became not lighter with less stuff physically but mentally it felt like there was less to think about. I was living without not just physical baggage but mental baggage as well.

Be Light with Less Validation

For the most of my life, I always knew that I never belonged in any group very well. It took a while to realize that it was fine to not belong to every group. In life, we all end up walking our own unique paths and no one can walk for us. It is natural to have the drive of belonging to become paramount in our lives. It helps us become safer in big groups. It helps us have a easier life. It helps us feel more self worth. Wanting to belong is not a problem because we should want to belong in our loving families or surrounded by like minded good people. The problem comes when we want to be liked by everyone. But we are limited as human beings. We have only so many hours and so much capacity. We cannot be everything to everyone. If we are trying to do that, we end up having to pretend and exaggerate. Sometimes those little white lies become big monstrous ones. We sometimes begin to believe our lies. Keeping track of all those lies and trying to please everyone becomes this heavy mental and physical burden that will eventually burn us out. One day, we figure out that we are not even true to ourselves. Living a lie. Once I realized that it was temporally and physically impossible to please everyone, I just decided that I should only care about belonging and being liked by the people who loved me for me. It liberated me from the burden of what other people thought. I did not have to try to please and thus exaggerate reality for validation. Less lies means less things to keep track of but also living in the ocean of truth makes you feel like you are floating; weightless in life.

Be Light with Less Guilt

Sometimes there is so much pressure to just get somewhere. When are you going to get rich? When are you going to retire? When are you going to get married? When are you going to do everything on your bucket list? Why are we all in such a rush? We are already here. We are already living. Alive. Capable. With plenty of opportunity.

In the rush of life, we forget our values and take shortcuts. We cut in line. We cheat. We step over people. We ignore people; sometimes when they need us the most. We kiss the ass of people who can help us and forget the ones who need help. When you do those things, you wrong people and you carry a bit of guilt. We are in such a rush that we forget to right those wrongs but when we are so desperate for something, we do not even have time to say you are sorry. In the end, ask why are you in such a rush? The destination is not as important as the people along the way. Slow down. Say sorry when you're wrong. Pay back people that you are indebted to. Fix the problems that you caused as best as you can. I realized after failing and failing that shortcuts only took me further away from life. I took people for granted and overlooked important values. Once you realize, you can start mending fences and live a life with less guilt. You did no wrong and nothing is holding you down.

Live Light with Less Fear & Regret

Once you get something, the fear of loss becomes great. You finally have some respect. You finally have some money. You finally have some love. There were a lot of times in my life where I thought I did well and I somewhat made it. Perhaps not made it but I was in a good spot. Sometimes it was just a lie to myself that I had something but I really had nothing. Thinking that way makes people complacent and in someways scared of losing things. We stop taking risk and left us with the regret of the possibilities. I would say to myself that back in the day, I would have done this or that. But now I just sat around waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen. When you do that, you are living in fear of failure and that fear of failure will end up in regret. For you entire life, you will look back and think of what ifs instead of living in the possibilities. Jeff Bezos lives by the regret minimization framework where you project yourself out to your old age and ask yourself if you will regret a decision. If yes, then just do it. If you say no your whole life, you will be living with the burden of regret. Then regret will follow you with every aspect of your life. Why didn't I find the love of my life. Why didn't I do what I was passionate about? Why didn't I travel the world? Live with less regret and there will be less holding you down.

Live Light with Less Grudges & More Forgiveness

So often, the world seems so selfish. Dog eats dog. Eye for an eye. We climb over each other's backs during times of desperation. Often we take rejection personally and in essence, it is merely someones opinion. We hold grudges and seek revenge. We think the world is against us and it is ultimately unfair. We hold the heat in our hearts and it burns dark. People always say the greatest revenge is massive success but who cares about revenge. Just do let it go. Forgive and go on with your life. When I was younger, every time someone wronged me, I used to want to get someone back. They captured my mind and my heart. They forced me to become distracted and unfocused but most likely the other person might not have known that they wronged me or probably did not care because they were fighting their own demons. In the end, when you hold a grudge, it weighs on your mind and your heart. It eventually takes precious time away from your life and weighs on your body. If you simply say, I forgive you then all that hate goes away and you can just live freely again. Hate is heavy. Love is light.

Just Let it Go

There's so many things that we can easily let go. Our grudges, regrets, guilt, need for validation and materialism are all mental responses to all the negative external traps in the world. Most of the time, bad things just happen to us or we bring it upon ourselves but we can respond negatively with hate or neglect which results in a grudge, some guilt and regret. Or we can just respond in a way that is open, honest, and loving. If we do this, we do not carry any of these things on our shoulders as we leave. We leave and go about our lives living lightly.

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I read an article about a theory of why people have divorces and the conclusion was unmet expectations. Relationships break down when we observe that someone has broken our expectations of them. It made me think of not just every relationship in my life but of everything in life. We generally have expectations in our life. In general, we are conditioned to expect perfection these days. We read and hear of success stories. We see professionally photographed and heavily photoshopped images of happy perfect beautiful people in front of a beautiful sunset on an exotic vacation. We do no hear about the failures or all the shots that it took to get that perfect photo. It is like we do not believe that chaos and misfortune exist anymore sometimes. If it isn't perfect and Instagram worthy, we are disappointed. On the other hand, Buddhist believe that life is just an existence of pain, suffering, and misery; far from the perfect world that we expect today of rainbows, unicorns, and rolled ice cream. But life is somewhere in between.

How do we develop our expectations?

If you think about it, how did your expectation of anything form? When we start life, we do not really expect some woman to shoove a breast in our face to feed us. We just cry and hopefully we get fed. No disappointment. Just glad we did not starve and die. After a while, we expect that it without even needing to cry. When this does not happen, we do not just cry, we scream and cry like a climate change induced hurricane prepared to wreck havoc on anyone who opposes us. At some point in life, we just expect things because we get used to things being a certain way because society made things so easy. We expect certain things to be done for us. We expect people to treat us a certain way. We expect certain grades, jobs, salaries, presents, and the list goes on and on. I guess this can be called a sense of entitlement. That somehow we deserve things. Our entitlements become our expectations.

Are your expectations justified?

Some of us have low expectations while some of us have high expectations. Some of the time, we have high expectations for ourselves. We are hard on ourselves and when we fail, we become depressed. A lot of the time, we have extremely high expectations of the people close to us. When they fail us, we are hurt and our relationships fall apart. We have high expectations of society. When society fails us, we want to just climb into a little bubble and run away. No one is perfect and that is what makes being human so human. Inherently we are just flesh and blood. We cannot expect anyone to be a machine; even machines fail. We have to weigh our expectations based on the limitations of our imperfections not our perfections.

Should we just lower our expectations?

Logically, so if we just lower our expectations or have no expectations, then we can never be disappointed. If we have no expectations of your friends and family, then if someone ditches you, then we will never be too upset or if someone surprises, you then you will never be too euphoric. No more broken hearts and blissful excitement. Basically let's just all be indifferent about everything. Be an unemotional rock. Have joyless but also unremarkable life. Again we are just flesh and blood. We are alive; emotional unpredictable beautiful messes. By being indifferent means being dead to everyone and everything. So if you have no expectations, you might as well be a zombie; living but not living.

Should we just have expect to get disappointed?

There are a pros and cons of expectations but in the end, we will have them. We are a big ball of random thoughts going a billion miles an hour. We can make expectations work for us instead of against us. Here's a couple ideas about expectations.

  • Be realistic with your expectations. Set expectations of people and things that are based on well thought out knowledge, facts and evidence. Try to avoid basing your expectations solely on what others or what society suggest because media sets up commercialized expectations of life. Big house, new cars, hot spouse, and without ever working is great but who really lives that life? Life is not like an episode of Friends. People come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Everyone who runs a marathon will always starts with their first mile. Set expectations that push yourself just beyond your comfort zone. Set expectations for others that are within their abilities and possibilities. Unrealistic expectations will always set ourselves up for failure.
  • Be open about your expectations. We live in a a world of unsaid expectations. In business, all those expectations are written down in a contract. In our lives, unfortunately we do not need to write every aspect our relationships in a contract. We just assume things about our relationships. Perhaps because that is what we expect from ourselves and we expect reciprocity. Rarely do our expectations of ourselves align with expectations of that others have of themselves. Being more open about what we expect and help us have better relationships with people and society. We all know what we want from each other. If our wants and needs do not match, we should not be in a relationship. Tell people when you appreciate people. Share with people who you are and why you are so weird sometimes. Sometimes you need to be a little more obvious and straight forward especially around certain scatterbrained people (Unfortunately I am one of those people). Openness helps communication and helps you build a better relationship with the world around you.
  • Be flexible about your expectations. The world has a way of screwing up. Life is a constant tragedy with climatic problems and solutions. Expect our expectations to be broken, crushed and smashed to a trillion pieces. That black swan of life is always lurking. Accept this and make new expectations. If things go well then let's celebrate. If things do not go perfectly, then let's do better next time. The great thing is our expectations are more like clay than concrete. Thank goodness that our minds and expectations are moldable. Take Bruce Lee's advice to "be like water."
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Last month, my 30 day challenge was to get abs. Most of my life, I have always been pretty active and I would say fairly fit but I never had defined abs let alone the infamous six pack. I thought it would be a fun physical challenge since most of my challenges are not physical in nature. I did a lot of sit up in my life but never really focused on it for the aesthetic aspects. For the past few years, I did not do much core work outs and did not lift as much as before. Most of my workouts consisted of running, swimming, basketball and yoga. Weights and abs were more of an after thought. When I did do ab workouts, I would commonly get cramps.

I wanted to take more focused approach to it so I utilized the Pareto Principle. What things that I can do will get me abs fastest? So I went back into the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss and did the recommended ab exercises 2-3 times a week. Those exercises were the myotatic crunch and the cat vomit exercise. I only did one repetition of 10 each. Both are extremely painful if done properly. The cat vomit exercise was the worst and made me sweat up a storm. Those two exercises took about five to seven minutes in total. The only other thing that I did was cut my calories which meant reducing my meals sizes and eating more salad. I cheated a lot here but generally cut my body fat and weight during the month. Below is the before and after.

What I Learned

During the month, I came to a few conclusions. But one major thing that I realized was the importance of core in everything in life. For physical activity, it helped me become stronger, faster, and more coordinated. I hope to keep the abs but I want it to be a result of my life not a just goal for aesthetic value. So if my daily routine and activities were not conducive to it, then I can live without it. But if doing what I do like swimming, basketball and yoga as well as my diet is going to maintain it, then it will be great to have. But I do feel it will be a part of my routine because it has helped my health overall.

  • Less back pain. Having a strong core helped me drastically in terms of my back pain. I have had back issues especially with the upper back which has been helped with yoga but strengthening my core actually help alleviate more pain to the point where I rarely experience the same upper back pain from before. 
  • Sport performance. Having a strong core also helped me with my movements as well. I found that that I was able to move faster but was also much stronger even though I was a little lighter. I was less prone to be off balance and sustained basketball collisions better (note I am still not a big fan of people fouling me going to the basket). 
  • Better posture. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that my posture was better and I was standing much taller. Some shirts that I wore became notiably shorter, not because my shirts shrank or I got taller but I was standing taller because my abs caused me to have better posture. 
  • Instagram images are fake. Having taking pictures of my abs, I started noticing other peope's abs much more. I noticed that there is a drastic impact between flexing and not flexing in pictures. Also lighting made a big impact on the results in the photos as well. I came to the conclusion that most photos of fitness people are altered or exagerated in some degree to show those results. In real life, most fitness people do no look like their photos; it is a combination of flexing, lighting, and photoshop. It creates an illusory standard for people. 
  • Diet matters a lot. Most of my progress was seen when I started cutting my food intake in the last couple weeks of the month. It could have been a combination of progress from my exercises and diet but diet made the muscle definition much better. 
  • A little more confidence. I definitely felt a little more confident about my body because it does make a different in how your body looks. It just nice looking in the mirror and being able to see the definition in your core.
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This story starts off with good intentions like most stories. The world economy was booming because of the productivity created by the internet and global trade. The world was printing tons of money and people were chasing higher returns because of the low interest environment all over the world. A great place for those funds was US real estate. During the wild wild west of real estate financing of the early 2000s, banks found an innovative way to make more money by providing more loans for people who did not quite qualify. By combining loans to low credit with loans of prime (high credit) customers, they created bundle of loans with three letter names called mortgage backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO). By doing this, these bonds were still rated as AAA or top quality. Ironically the same companies rating the bonds were paid by the banks to do these ratings. No good rating; no new business. No conflict there right?

This new source of funding for real estate became the fuel for the fire of the real estate expansion. Before it was difficult to give everyone loans so there were fewer buyers. With the relaxation of requirements for mortgages, banks were able to give loans to people who not only had low or bad credit but also people who only had unverified or stated income. This became a honey pot for people who wanted homes who never imagined it was possible. The American dream fueled by global growth and lax regulation. But it was also a recipe for a kitchen explosion. The kitchen got hotter and hotter as more and more buyers pushed prices higher and higher. Appraisers were using ridiculously high sale comparables to value properties. Appraisers who always magically made the valuation work for loans kept getting hired. People were making tons of money by selling a property that they just bought months before so people didn't care if they could not make the payment. As the banks made more loans, they sold more bonds thus giving them more money to make more loans while extracting enormous fees.

The truth is the going was good. No one wanted this party to end even though there was smoke in the kitchen. The house party was as the youngsters say "lit" and everyone was making money. Real estate agents, loan agents, bankers, and everyone involved the real estate transactions were making more money than ever. Builders and contractors were enamored by the profits and demand. The government was reaping more and more tax revenues; spending on local growth to satisfy constituents. Sellers were euphoric; their homes were giving them equity and they could take out money from their house like an ATM for new cars and material junk. Buyers were happy to get cheap money and the ability to buy their home with very little down and low teaser rates. Investors were happy to get a solid return on these so called safe bonds in a low interest environment.

Then suddenly people did not have enough money to pay for their bar tabs. Banks were lending money to people to party but no one ever expected to pay for anything. As low teaser rates jumped, People who put no money down in overpriced homes suddenly decided to not make payments. Perhaps it was because they could not pay in the first place because they lied about their income or were just irresponsible as indicated by their low credit scores. Or for some, they realized it made no sense to make payments on something that was worth less than the loan on the property. As property prices started to drop, more people decided to do the same and stop paying; walking away from their American dream. This started the downward spiral that affected not just Wall Street but also Main Street.

Wall street found themselves holding a lot of worthless loans. Banks were losing millions daily in 2006 based on the value of their once extremely safe AAA bonds. The value of these bonds were backed by the value of real estate which was dropping like a rock from the sky. The fire in the kitchen was raging and people were rushing out of the house party. No buyers to be found. Banks intelligently stopped making loans and stop the fire from spreading. But it was too late, the fire was spreading from the kitchen to the rest of the house. Real estate construction halted and the engine of growth for the economy stopped. Real estate agents found themselves with no listings. Buyers were no longer buying because no one was giving loans and jobs were disappearing. Sellers were stuck in more debt than ever after spending all their home equity. Bankers, agents, contractors, and everyone related to real estate found themselves jobless and broke. No one was spending money now as people started fearing the possibility of a recession. This only helped the fire spiral out of control as government cut spending and companies laid people off as the economy cooled. Banks were now saddled with debt as well and could not make loans for anything. With credit frozen, even the innocent hard working people who lived next door who went to school, worked hard and volunteered in the PTA were going to get burned. The fuel for the real estate industry was the same fuel for the rest of the economy. The whole house was burning down now.

Ten years later in 2017, our economy is back at new highs. What happened since then? Well we had to call the fire department to save the house. The Federal Reserve (Fed) came in and saved all the banks because if they didn't, the whole financial system may have broken the economy further including innocent people in main street who paid their taxes and worked hard. So the government decided it would need to save the economy by saving the banks who were also the people who started this fire. The Fed needed the banks to provide credit to companies to continue paying their employees and buying supplies. Banks were made solvent to do this. Banks were the only ones who could rebuild this house. But the government decided to take over most of the major banks by buying equity. Bank of America, Citibank, and AIG was once largely government owned companies.

For the government, there was only one solution. They needed to lower short term rates to spur the economy and lower long term rates to spur real estate prices. The banks bought more and more mortgage bonds and giving banks more money to lend to spur the economy again. These mortgage bonds would cause the government to lose billions if real estate prices did not recover. So here's where the incredible shift in wealth happened. People flushed with cash bought up real estate at fire sale prices. Blackstone, a private equity fund became the largest property owner in the US at one point. The banks took the losses while wealthy people gained control of real estate all over the country. Banks were backed by the government so the billions in loses were taken at the expense of the American public. Here is the thing, money does not disappear, it just goes from one person to another. The people who sold the properties at a high got their money from the investors or banks. Wealth stayed with all these people who sold high. When the economy was down in the dumps with artificially deflated housing prices instead of artificially inflated prices, those same people flushed with cash started buying. At the time in 2009-2011, there was little competition because loans were tough to come by so whoever had amazing credit and a ton of cash bought real estate dirt cheap.

When the economy finally recovered, people started buying homes again. Many wealthy people refinanced their properties and returned most of their investment to themselves. For example, if a house that was originally $500,000 was sold for $250,000, then the bank lost $250,000 but was bailed out by the government and shareholders took the losses. The new owner could rent the house out and wait for the price to go back up. If the house price went up to $350,000, the owner can refinance it with a loan to value ratio of 80% of $350,000 or a loan for $280,000. So the owner is paid back the $250,000 investment and $30,000 extra for their troubles. Of course this is not including the rent paid to them during this time. But amazingly, the owner still owns the property with $70,000 of equity or wealth. You can eat the cake and have it too! Now that most property prices are back to it's highs, this owner now has equity of $220,000 with monthly cash flow from the $500,000 house. Banks lost money. Buyers lost their homes, money and credit. The government printed more money. The money just went to wealthy people who had the cash to buy up homes when no one was left to buy. The trillions in bank losses went into the pockets of very wealthy people with the help of the government. This can also be said of the stock market. When people had to sell their shares during the crisis, people with extra cash bought and benefited from the efforts of the government to save the economy.

During recessions, money does not disappears, it just moves from one person to another. Usually it goes from a person with a short time frame who needs cash to someone who has a long time frame who has extra cash. Note this is not a critique of capitalism, banks, or the government. This is a systematic problem that we should all use as a reference for the future. We are all at fault for this crisis. Of course some of us more than others. We are the economy, each one of us. This will happen again and it will benefit those who are ready for it.

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We have grown up thinking that happiness is not the default state of being. We end up thinking that we are sad until we get something or do something. If we get this or do that, then one magical day, we get to be happy. We end up believing that happiness is conditional. You have to go to Disneyland to visit the happiest place on earth. We have to graduate from college to earn lots of money to be happy. We need to search high and low to find love so we can live happily ever after. We have to have two kids, preferably a boy and a girl so we can experience unconditional love and thus happiness. Our whole life, we have been taught that happiness comes from a pursuit of some milestone where everything falls perfectly in place, then we will be so amazingly happy. Society and media has conditioned us all to think this way. But conditional happiness is one of those little white lies to keep us from going crazy. If happiness was there all along, what else should I do with my life? Purpose and happiness is not the same thing but we all have been tricked into thinking happiness is the purpose. We just need to jump over those hurdles and finally, we may find it; that warm and fuzzy feeling called happiness.

Why conditional happiness is not happiness

The first problem with seeking conditional happiness is the possibility that we never get pass that condition. What if we set a condition incredibly unrealistic or is beyond our control? If your happiness is conditional upon someone else's love or approval, then what if that person will never love you? Or if they do, then what happens when they change their mind then no longer love you? If your happiness is conditional upon becoming a movie or sports star, what if we do not beat the odds or we never had the physical talents in the first place. I wanted to be in the NBA but if my happiness was conditional upon that, I would never be happy because I did not end up as a tall human being (also I'm not that talented). Having conditions that are beyond your control or unrealistic is basically creating the conditions for sadness instead of happiness. We create our own hurdles and barriers to our happiness. Or maybe someone created those hurdles for us? Either way, we are sabotaging our chances of finding happiness.

Now let say that you are amazingly talented or extremely lucky and you get everything that you have wanted. The second problem with conditional happiness happens once we get something. We should be happy right? More or less yes...at the time. Then what happens? Our happiness declines. Why? Everything has a marginal utility, the additional benefit from anything, people or things after each subsequent experience of it. Unfortunately, almost everything has diminishing marginal utility which means we get less and less happiness once we experience something again. That big shiny house that you got, you will be less happy about it everyday after the first until one day, you just think it is just another average house. That amazing person sleeping next to you, there will probably be some point where you will reach maximum happiest with that person then less happy every day afterwards. Sad but in many occasions, very true. We do not get lasting happiness from achieving things. We just get excited momentarily.

In response, many times, we have to find something else to make us happy. A new condition. A new happiness. Then we get it but in the end, we are all sad again. The cycle keeps going. We either need to get something bigger or better. Like a drug, the first high was good but we need a better high next time. What is better than a new car? Two new cars! But when higher doses no longer work, we jump to something else. We realize cars are so boring so we should get a plane! So we shifted our drug of choice from marijuana to cocaine. Bigger house. More expense car. Hotter spouse. More money. Better title. When does it end? It never does. Conditional happiness is a carrot that always changing. Instead of being in a state of happiness, we just keep running faster and faster with more and more pressure. Until one day, when we are tired of the chase, we realize that with all these things, we are still unhappy and empty.

Unconditional happiness

If conditional happiness will never make me happy, then what should I do? Simple. Just stop chasing the carrot. Stop making happiness conditional. Enjoy the journey of life unconditionally. Stop thinking happiness will happen when something happens and everything falls perfectly into place. Just let yourself be happy. You do not need someone or something to let you be happy. Do not ask for permission; just be happy. No magic or lotto needed. Let yourself be happy by just living happily. No limitations. Don't say that you don't deserve to be happy. Don't say that you need to make yourself pretty or better or smarter then you can be happy. No conditions. Enjoy the little novelties of daily life and see the happiness that is already there.

I know some of you will say but what if I need certain things to be happy? Sure go ahead and get those things but do not make those things the reason for happiness. Socrates viewed happiness as something that did not depend on external things but it depended on how we use those things. Yes it is definitely nice to have resources. There are plenty of people with everything that take their lives every year. Things are not happiness. What we do with it, is happiness. Being in love is happiness not the fancy wedding. Working on something that we love is happiness not the paycheck. Celebrating with friends is happiness not the expensive club. It would be naive to say that money is not conducive to happiness. It helps but it is not a necessary condition. You can love, laugh and smile without being rich, famous, or beautiful. You just need believe that happiness is unconditional. Happiness should be your default state not sadness. You are happy until something happens not the other way around. Forget the lie that happiness is conditional and happiness will magically appear.

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Remember when you were young and so excited about going out to a loud ear deafening party or club? Then one day, you realized that you find pure joy staying home in piece and quiet? What happened? The two paths of happiness tells the story of how we shifted our paths toward happiness.

If you really just want to simplify it, there are only two paths to happiness. One is to add joy or pleasure and the other would be to remove pain or discomfort. Simply put, you can either add positives or remove negatives to increase happiness. You can add joy by buying a new car to replace your old one. If you have the flu, you can become happier by removing that negative by taking medication and getting rid of that discomfort. On the other hand, you add unhappiness when you remove positives or add negatives to your life. Let's focus on positive actions.

Most of us are conditioned to think about adding pleasure and joy to life. It is a drive that we think about early in life because we tend to live a rather painless life when we are young. We have not had the heart ache of a shattered heart. We do not have the physical pains of tired muscles and milage ridden bones. We do not have the anxiety and stress of adulthood like mortgages, consumer debt, inadequacy of retirement, and the dependency of other human beings on us. When pain and comfort is not on our daily minds, the easiest way to increase happiness is to just add joys. Self indulgence is the way. We chase the joys of sex, youthful fun, and the novelty of everything new. We strive to have more money as a means to adding joy. We strive to impress others to get add more joy. Vacations, experiences, love, and material possessions are quick paths to the state of happiness.

Somethings strange happens as we get older. We get hit in the face by baggage and old age. Both causes pain. For Greek philosopher, Epicurus, pain is any sensation that is negative and takes away from our peaceful state wether it is physical or mental. Physical pain pretty easy to understand. When you get old, your body hurts. It breaks down day by day. Little by little. Our backs hurt. We get less flexible and we break things like bones. We get diseases and other little annoying things like losing hair or needing glasses. Also this physical age causes us a degree of mental discomfort as we have to accept the fragility of life for once in our life. But mental pain can sometimes be even more debilitating. We begin to do things that we do not want like purposeless work or mind numbing traffic or the financial obligations of adulthood. Knowledge becomes anxiety and stress. Another cause of pain, fear starts to appear as we experience more and more life. The longer we live, the more fear we have. Fear becomes a mental road block to adding joy. We learn that there are trade offs to the decisions that we make. The joys of falling in love also come with the possibility of a broken heart. But the scars lingers in the fears of being hurt again so we live less carefree with the possibility of our hearts being broken into thousands of pieces again. Sometimes we do not chase that joy anymore in fear of the pain. So we start living a life of not blissful ignorance but painful consciousness. Petrified to chase some joys, we live in fear just trying to avoid pain. Now that we live in pain, our goals shift from adding joy to just removing or avoiding pain. Date night away from the amazing two feet tall masters that you call your children - euphoric. Three day weekends away from your idiotic boss - amazing. Two hour massages to soothe burnt out muscles and a chaotic brain; pure bliss. Drinking away the night so we do not have to worry about the future - a great escape. Just sleeping in without being disturbed in pure quiet - heaven.

In the end, there is only really two paths toward happiness. When we are young, we blissfully chase the power of adding joy while as we age, we strive to just remove the pain. Either way, both paths end up making us happier. That is why we do not go clubbing when we get older, we are just more happier than way.

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How would you feel if the water company decided how much water pressure you should have? Or the electric company controlled the amount of power going into your house? That is basically what getting rid of net neutrality will allow companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other internet service providers (ISP) to do. Legislation is being proposed to end net neutrality thus allowing ISPs not just to control the speed but in the end, let them control what information and data that we can get. It is more than just slowing down Netflix and making them pay for their content to go through the speed lane instead of the slow lane. Yes that is bad already but in the end, it ultimately allows ISPs to censor information. Yes they will control our right to information and data that we pay them to deliver. Yes we pay them to slow down the information that we want.

What happened?

Well this first started like all weird things that happened in our country recently, we elected Trump to the presidency. His deregulation agenda put Ajit Pai, an ISP advocate in charge of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Deregulation is not necessary bad but it is when it can cripple our individual rights and access to information. Pai who formerly worked for Verizon, a beneficiary of the regulation, spearheaded a proposal to end net neutrality for the commission to vote on in December. Since the commission if majority Republicans, it is a near certainty that this will pass. Net neutrality will be dead soon.

Why did this happen?

Money. A lot of money. ISPs can make million of dollars without net neutrality. By treating ISPs like utilities, government can regulate how ISPs charge and deliver their product which data. We do this with normal utilities like water, gas, and electricity because if utilities were to do business without constraint when consumers do not have any other option, we have high prices and poor service. Remember Enron and the deregulation of 2000 in California? Most of us do not have many options in terms of ISPs. They already charge us high prices to use their cables for data delivery. When ISP are free from net neutrality, they can have fast lanes and slow lanes for information delivery. No we do not have a choice of which data is delivered fast or slow. It is up to the ISP.

This allows the ISP to now charge companies that use a lot of bandwidth to pay for faster delivery. This means millions of extra dollars for ISPs and millions of lobbying dollars for greedy soul selling politicians who support this type of crony capitalism. In the end, we may not pay more for ISP service but we will pay more for all other services. Netflix will have to pay Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner and Comcast but we will pay with higher prices. Facebook, Youtube and other services will pay more and deliver more ads to compensate. Thus companies will pay higher advertising cost which will make products more expensive. All this extra money that we pay goes into the pockets of owners of ISPs. Small content companies will not be able to be seen since they are on the slow lane. Do you have important content and want to deliver that message? Sorry buddy, you cannot afford it. Kiss your nearest ISP's ass for entry to the fast lane.

What does this have to do with freedom and equality

Removing net neutral is more than just about slow lanes and fast lanes. It is about our freedom. Imagine if ISP designed many many types of lanes. Everyone is on the slow lane at first. People with the most money can pay to go to the fast lane like a toll road. So companies who have money like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Netflix will deliver their content fine. It will hurt their bottom line a little bit but they will do business as usual. But everyone have the opportunity to pay right? What if an ISP is owned by someone with a preference for certain content. Perhaps Russian cartoons are well liked by the people in charge of the ISP. So they can put them in the fast lane at a lower charge or no charge at all. Perhaps they can put them into the fast lane before companies who pay or even the ones who pay the most. Everyone loves Russian cartoons right? No biggie. In the similar way, the ISP can put certain content in the slow lane. Worst yet the ISP do not have to give them an opportunity to be in the fast lane even when it can pay. Well you say it's just slow but what if it's painfully slow. Dial up "watching paint dry" slow. The information may never get there especially if it's a message that people in charge of the ISP does not want delivered. It can end up as censorship. Guess whose message would be censor. Would it be the message of people who supported getting rid of net neutrality. Nope. Probably the people who support net neutrality. Good luck with that net neutrality lovers.

Getting rid of net neutrality is like getting rid of our right to information. If you value your right to free information, keep freedom alive. Keep net neutrality.

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Just under forty years ago, we looked at the Chinese economy as a third world country. Their GDP in 1980 was just $300 billion compared with the US with $2.8 trillion. The US economy was almost ten times bigger! However today China's GDP is about $11 trillion versus $18 trillion. Chinese GDP per capital has grown from $156 to over $14,000; helping hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens rise out of poverty. The gap is definitely much smaller than before but China will be on the verge to overtake the US as the world's most important country quickly because it is investing in the future while the US is stuck in the past. We can take a look at a few data points to see how China will overtake the US. In order to grow GDP, countries must invest in things that will improve labor productivity or making our production per labor increase. Direct government investment in human capital, physical capital or technology to make workers more productive. Note, tax cuts do not lead directly to these investments if it is saved and hoarded instead of spent wisely.

Human Capital Investment

Human capital is becoming paramount as we move into a much more technologically dependent and information driven economy. Human capital is created by increasing the education levels and experience of workers. China is sending more students into US schools than any other country and is graduating more engineers than any country. China had 4.7 million STEM graduates compared to just over half a million STEM graduates in the US. Nine times more science technology engineering or math graduates than the US! On the other hand, the US making higher education more difficult to attain with cost rising faster than inflation and legislation making it more difficult to obtain a Phd education. These trends will allow China is surpass the US not only in human capital but human capital is a precursor to innovation and technology.

Physical Capital Investment

Physical capital allows workers to have the tools to become more efficient by building infrastructure and adding equipment or machinery. Last year, China spent more on infrastructure than the US and Europe combined. While the US has aging roads, bridges and trains, China has more roads, trains, airports, and transit systems than the US. Not only does China have more, China have faster trains, more advanced airports, and a smarter power grid. As the US has spend trillions on wars, other countries has spent trillions directly on their infrastructure. As the US infrastructure is faltering compared to the rest of the world, the US is closing itself off from the rest of the world. China is investing a trillion dollars in more than 60 countries to make itself the economic engine for the world. Also China is increasing physical capital by investing in robotics. Although China is still behind the US in robots per capita, China is now the largest installer of robots at 90,000 this year with the number projected to grow to 160,000 robotic installations by 2020. In terms of renewable energy, China has become one of the largest installers of solar power beating Europe while the US is continues to support outdated industries like coal. With a large national debt, the US will find it difficult to catch up to China with infrastructure investment but also will require a shift in national priorities.

Technology

Research and development funding is crucial to developing technology that will make workers more productive. Not only is China catching up to the US in R&D spending but it is focusing on areas that will provide greater return like AI and robotics. China is striving to win the robot wars to offset the aging population but also it will help them maintain their status as the manufacturer of the world. Yet it is China's national commitment to technology through their Made in China 2025 program will provide Chinese companies a competitive advantage as the US and the rest of the world ignores helping their own countries and companies with innovation. One area of focus other than smart manufacturing is their emphasis on artificial intelligence which has become another important battle ground to improve productivity in all facets of life. The US is losing the R&D battle and largely leaving this to the private industry and putting up barriers to R&D such as decreasing internet access and supporting outdated technology. China is now leading the world in hardware innovation and software innovation may not be far behind. In the end, technology will drive China to surpass the US if these trends continue.

The US will need to refocus their priorities in order to avoid being surpassed by China. Having a large national debt, spiraling healthcare liabilities and anti-growth mindset, US face obstacles to shifting from focusing on the past to the future.

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Ego can be defined as a person's sense of self importance, worth or identity. Ego is the view of ourselves from our own viewpoint. One difficult thing to determine is what influences our view of ourselves. What determines our self worth and importance? Is our identity something that we created for ourselves or did someone else create for us?

If our determination of worth or identity is determined by outside forces such as our peers, society, media or loved ones, how does that affect us? If external opinions govern our self worth, then our ego will drive our actions to please these external opinions by seeking validation from those influences. This drive to please our ego is called egotism.

Keep in mind, how we think people think of us may not be entirely accurate. For example, you may feel your identity or worth is defined by your athletics because your friends and family always talk about your sports achievements when talking about you. The truth may be that they think of your as more than a athletic person but your ego is locked into that image. So you may find yourself, working out and pushing yourself physically not because you enjoy it but because you are trying to fulfill that identity that you feel everyone thinks defines you. You may act a certain way or dress a certain way. But it defines your daily routine slowly then entirely. By breaking this image, your ego is conflicted and you feel that you are letting people down. In truth, they may not care at all but your ego cares. The ego feels this pain so we will avoid it so we end up keeping up this image.

If we associate pleasing our ego with removal of pain or happiness, then egotism will become our primary purpose in life. It becomes a self feeding cycle. Please our egos by pleasing other's opinion of us to get a little bit of happiness. We end up defining our happiness and purpose by maintaining a identity that others want us to have.

When we are young, our primary identify is defined by our parents. They provide us our initial sense of self. Our self worth may be defined by being a good student or a well behaved person to please our parents. Or perhaps it is to become a sports star or musician. Regardless it is not the identity that may make us happy. Your ego lives based on the happiness of others. Egotism drives us to please our parents and seek approval which maintains our sense of identify and self worth. This approval keeps our ego happy and us happy. At some point, everything that we do from the clothes that we wear, the college that we attend, the people that we date, and many facets of life become defined by egotism. Your ego becomes the prison that controls your life and what you do.

In the end, when we let our ego drives our actions and lives, it takes us further away from who we are or can become. Think about all the things that you do. Do you do it for yourself or do you do it to fit neatly into an identity that society created for you? Look at what you wear. Do you wear it to fit an identity of success or an identity to please other people? Do you eat and drink certain places to match that identity? Do you even enjoy it? Or is it your ego that is driving you? Questions why you do things because you may find that you are living a life to please your ego. The people who loves you will loves you even if you're not a perfect person fitting a perfect image. If they do not love you, then they love the fake you; the you that is driven by your ego. Then you can let those people go because they do not love the real you. Your true friends will love the true you. The egoless you.

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Amazon has grown dramatically and a large part of it can be attributed to launching Amazon marketplace in 2000 which allows third party retailers to sell their products through Amazon. Over 50% of sales on Amazon are now sold through third parties. Amazon's focus is lowering prices to get consumers to buy more. In turn, consumers become more frequent shoppers on Amazon for all their purchases. With more volume, they make more money and more capital. With more capital, they can scale more by building their distribution and delivery network.

In order to continue growing, Amazon will need to cut out the middle man. Middle men buy directly from manufacturers or from distributors and wholesalers. Then they sell their wares to the final consumer. The layers of middle men are being slowly peeled away. For example, if a shirt retails for $10, a retailer will buy it for about $5. The distributor may buy it for $2.50. The manufacturer may sell it to the distributor for about a dollar. The retailer will end up making about $2 after paying $5 to the wholesaler and $3 to Amazon for their Fulfilled by Amazon services. Now let's cut out the distributor because the internet and companies like Alibaba are helping to connect manufacturers directly with retailers thus by passing wholesalers. Let's say the manufacturer will sell it now for $2 because volume is much less with smaller retailers versus wholesalers but small retailers are more than happy to pay $2 since the price is lower than how much the wholesaler would have charged. Now manufacturers are making twice the revenue. This helps with rising cost, especially with labor cost growing in China and the rest of the world. The retailer can sell it for less than $10, perhaps just $8 because the cost of the goods are much lower. They will continue to make huge margins even if letting Amazon take care of the marketing and shipping through FBA which is about 30%. Retailers will still make $3.50 after paying $2.50 to Amazon and $2 to the manufacturer. So both the manufacturer and retailer is happier with the manufacturer doubling their income from $1 to $2 and the retailer growing their profit from $3.50 versus $2.

Amazon can cut another layer of middle men by getting rid of the retailer. Amazon can be the ultimate platform for direct to consumer. If Amazon can help manufacturers earn more without doing anymore work than just providing products to Amazon's market, then not only do they achieve lower prices but also providing business to their logistics network to lower margin cost. Let's say Amazon approaches the manufacturer directly and tells them that they can sell their products directly to consumers all over the world without doing anymore work via Amazon services. Financially the manufacturer is happy as long as they bring in more than $2 per item at this point. Even if Amazon take 50% in shipping and marketing cost (which would be high), they can list the same shirt for only $6 and give the manufacturer $3 per shirt instead of $2 while cutting out the small retailer. This $1 more for the manufacturer than selling directly to the retailer. The manufacturer now controls their price and have increased revenue through Amazon without anymore work. Amazon handles the sales, distribution, storage, and fulfillment. Amazon wins with more purchases because of lower prices. They can make higher commissions. They have more products in their network that lowers cost. The best part is consumers win because they were originally paying $10 but now pay $6 for the same item.

How will Amazon do this?

Amazon is creating the infrastructure to become a complete logistics network. In addition to building out their warehouse network, they are building out a delivery network that challenges FedEx and UPS. While still far from overtaking them, they will lower cost as their network grows. Not only are they trying to become unbeatable in term of scale but also unbeatable in terms of the network. In their effort to provide the best customer service, they need to provide the most efficient and cheapest shipping options in the world. In order to do that, they need to have the biggest and most efficient delivery network that delivers from factory to consumer. But in order to encourage manufacturers to use them, they need to provide added services such as marketing, distribution, storage and fulfillment. Their simple marketing message is that they are have the lowest cost and largest selection with the fastest cheapest shipping with the best customer service. No real marketing required with that promise. If sellers provide the lowest prices with best service, their listing rises to the top. If they don't, someone else will make millions. It's a self regulating system. Distribution wise they are building a delivery network that owns planes, last miles couriers through Amazon Flex, drones through Amazon Air, US Postal Service, and overseas freight. Amazon sells over $200 billion dollars of merchandise through their marketplaces. Building a larger network of warehouses and hiring thousands of workers will enable Amazon to service thousands of manufacturers who do not have a presence in the US or importing countries. The more retailers means more competition and thus lower prices for consumers which encourages volume. Volume will continue lowering Amazon's cost which can encourage lower fees to sellers who can continue to lower prices. It is a self feeding cycle that makes the monster that is Amazon grow larger and larger.

The only losers are the layers of middle men, namely the retailers and the distributors or wholesalers. The middle men will die in e-commerce. The Amazon small retailers will disappear. The Amazon "Death Star" will crush another victim. In the end, the owners of capital will win. All hail the the manufacturers and Amazon.

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It is a bit morbid but I alway thought that I would die young, more specifically in my early thirties. I am not sure why I thought that way. I never had a death wish. It was just a feeling. In all likelihood, I thought it would have been a tragic car accident or perhaps simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I survived two major car accidents. Totaled two cars. I was beat up a few times. Someone tried to rob me with a knife. Someone also shot at me once. Good thing most people are terrible shots. Other than those incidents, my only major bodily injuries were a shoe thrown at my head by my cousin and an elbow to my face during a pickup basketball game. Both scars from both messy bloody incidents have since faded but were by no means deadly. But overall, I am glad that I'm still alive.

Ironically, thinking that I will die soon ended up being one of the best things in my life. Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford commencement speech said "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life." I could not agree more. It gave me a sense of urgency in my early life that allowed me to have so many amazing experiences because I always took the path of least resistance. Working hard and being a good employee was never very difficult. Doing the 9-5 thing was easy. The "dying young" mindset made me take risks that I would have otherwise avoided because I though life may never give me the opportunity again. Quitting my job and traveling in my twenties was scary and filled with uncertainty. Despite all the fear, I was able to see a lot of world and meet so many interesting people. It forced me to live in the present because the future did not exist. The future never exist if you think you're going to die; then all that matters is now. You do not have time for the past either. Only now matters. But the best thing of all, it gave me a sense to gratitude because any bad day is better than death. It is a practice that has been ingrained in my daily routine. I wake up to be amazed that I get to live another day.

Today I no longer feel that I will die young now that I am much closer to forty than thirty. Even if I die now, most people would not call me young. I think about the future much more now. I think about retirement and getting wrinkles. I do a lot of preparation for hopefully aging gracefully. I think about hobbies that I can take up once my knees give out and my reflexes are slower than snails. I never had a five or ten year plan because what was the point before. Now I think at least half a decade ahead. That mindset definitely helps with the life planning thing. My views have changed and my plans are no longer about flying by the seat of my pants. I guess one day, I will write about why you should think you will grow old.

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Entitlement is "believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment" while privilege is defined as "a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most" people. Feeling entitled is not entirely a terrible thing when we have worked and earned the privilege to have a good salary or a promised reward. However when we feel we are entitled to something for just being who we are, we are causing harm upon society and ourselves. We take and demand privileges not because of meritocracy but because of our self proclaimed superiority. The sense of privilege which everyone speaks of is feeling like your deserve something purely because of our role in society or because of who we are. Earning something and thinking you are entitled to something is obviously different. In a perfect world, there should be no extra rights or privileges in life that are given to you because you are wealthy or poor, young or old, connected or unpopular or any other defining characteristic beyond our skills and aptitudes.

Privilege should not be confused with being wealthy especially when we have worked hard for and deserve something. That privilege has been earned. If you feel you should be treated better because you are simply richer than others. That obviously is called entitlement. If you feel you should get treated better because you have contributed more to the world through your money? That gets a little cloudy because do you deserve special treatment for your contributions? In the end, no, it is still entitlement. You are getting special treatment not because you have earned it directly but purely because you feel entitled to it based on your financial position. Let's look at a different scenario. If you feel poor people should get free food and extra help. If yes, then you are saying that poor people deserve something that they have not earned and they should get treated better than rich people. You granted someone a privilege. Many people will argue that rich people do not need it but we still need to ask why don't we feed everyone equally? We cannot just deny the same privilege on the rich because they have more. We have to grant that privilege on everyone equally. Of course, most people in financial difficulties are grateful for help and do not feel they entitled thus they do not feel entitled. Like rich people, poor people are not entitled to things they do not earn. For the group of poor people who are ungrateful and feel that they deserve the help because society somehow owes them, then they like displaying a sense of entitlement. Their sense of entitlement is justified because they feel their poverty is the reason the special treatment not because of their merit. When anyone, regardless of who they are or place in society, thinks that they deserve extra treatment without earning it, they are displaying entitlement.

No matter who you are, there is a degree of entitlement in your life. Generally most of us feel that we are more talented, smarter, better looking, and overall better than we really are. Psychologist call this, illusory superiority where we tend to overestimate our abilities while we underestimate or ignore our failures and ineptitudes. Illusionary superiority coupled with the fundamental attribution error where we attribute our failures to external causes and other people's failures to internal failures, cause most of us in some way to feel that we could possibly be more deserving than others. Of course we work harder than most and our failures are largely not our fault because we obviously try harder than others. Other people do not deserve as much as us because simply, we earned what I get and perhaps get a little extra for our illusionary effort. Oddly, most people feel the same as us. In the end, everyone feels they deserve more than others thus deserve privileges. Entitlement does not escape the humble. The truth is, none of us deserve better treatment. In the end, we're all nothing more than one of seven billion people with some people a little more fortunate than others. Some of us were fortunate in the genetic lottery or at the right place at the right time. We are not more entitled because of it. This perception of privilege ultimately impacts not just how we feel about others but also impact what we do as well.

Entitlement is a mental prison that prevents us from doing the hard work that we should. When we are convinced we deserve certain privileges, we do not do the work to get what we should be doing. We think people need to treat us with the utmost respect and honor for no other reason than the fact that we exist. This can cause our downfall. Do you feel like people should pass you in a class because you have a higher IQ than everyone else. Then, you will not do the work to learn the skills. Do you feel that you should get paid more because you are obviously more qualified. Then you will not work to get the experience. Do you feel that you do not need to do the menial task but you should manage? Then you will not work to learn how the business really works. We end up feeling certain work is beyond us. We skip steps. When we skip steps, we can never go from A to B and let's forget about C. We never do the basic work to build the solid foundation to rise. We never put in the due to earn the respect of our peers. When we think this work is for "other people" and it is below us, we should be the boss or manager instead. Why? Who cares why? Doesn't everyone know we are better and more deserving? Well, no. In reality, we are the only ones who think that. It is not enough. Feeling that you're entitled binds you into never starting. There are thousands of people are no longer in the work force because they feel that they deserve more than the market is paying. It is either the market is underpaying for those jobs or the skills of those people do not earn the pay that they feel they deserve. It is most likely the former than the latter. But never the less, thousands of people do not work because they feel they deserve more. Entitlement will cage these people into inaction.

Mentally, our sense of entitlement will let us down because we fail to do the work required to earn what we feel we deserve. When we have a sense of entitlement, we will never contemplate doing the little things or the tough things that helps us toward becoming better. Entitlement is a prison that stops us from escaping the ignorance of our mediocracy. Entitlement is a prison.

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Automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology will change what we know as work forever. Millions of jobs will be lost. Millions of jobs will also be created. Some types of jobs will not exist anymore while many other new types of jobs will be invented. But everything will change in the next 5-10 years. The greatest challenges that our economy will face will be how do we retrain everyone into these new jobs.

Impact of Automation

Automation is the most common disruption that people expect to happen. It is already happening in manufacturing. Highly automated factories that require 90% less labor than before. Car manufacturers once required thousands of people welding, assembling, painting and other task are now largely gone. More detailed task still remain but with much more sensitive, smarter and accurate robotics, those task will also go away. The economics behind automation is simple. There are no worker injuries, no sick days, no need for health benefits, no need for shifts changes, no employees taxes to pay and no need for human resources or any support services. For all manufacturers to be competitive, they will need to become vastly automated. The trend is toward extremely automated factories. But this will move into distribution, retail, construction, and many other industries as well. Those companies who automate will increase profits and will be able to lower prices against competition. Game theory will predict that all companies will move toward automation in as many departments as possible.

Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will be the first major disruption to the majority of white color jobs. Many software updates using artificial intelligence will do many tedious processes such as categorizing items, detecting errors, writing short form articles, and translating text. This removes the need for workers to do redundant and boring computer task. AI is already writing sports summaries and news articles. AI will take over many marketing tasks and customer services task. Chat bots and smarter kiosk will be able to solve more customer service problems as well as service customers from initial contact to product delivery. We are just in the beginning stages of AI revolution.

Combining artificial intelligence with hardware will further the job losses. This will create smarter machines giving them brains and eyes. Instead of just separating products, they can inspect and analyze while performing their normal task. They will be able to learn and become more efficient. Robotic arms will be able to do multiple task instead of just one. Cameras will now be eyes where they can identify objects and people. They can automatically let in approved cars into parking lots and tell us if all the spots are full. They will allow us to do better quality control and create customized products. AI will make our hardware and robots smarter thus able to do task that were reserved for low skilled workers.

Impact of Blockchain

Blockchain is more than just the technology behind Bitcoin but it is another revolutionary technology that will create more transparency and data automation in many industries. It can become an objective cheaper third party in many types transactions from securities to gambling to banking. It can help retailers like Walmart track products from supply chain to store. It can making auditing obsolete with distributed ledgers. It will make fraud less frequent. It will change finance and lower cost of banking. At the same time, all the jobs related to auditing, fraud, transactions, tracking and documentation will be in less demand as blockchain software will automate the processes.

Overall Impact to Work

While these three technologies will force many jobs to become obsolete, they will also create millions of other jobs. The problem is many people will need to relocate and learn new skills in order to survive in the new economy. In fact, employers have already a difficult time to find workers now. It will only get more challenging as workers will need to learn new skills to fill the current and future needs. To less the pain of this transition, we need to do something now. I will be working on a little project called Career Tree to raise awareness of the need for people to get prepared and retrained for this great change to the economy and work.

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We have labels for everything. We have all these witty labels about smart people, athletic people, pretty people, dumb people and so on. You live in the city, wear skinny jeans and sips lattes all day, then a hipster you are. You waste money on avocado toast, have tattoos and have a boatload of student debt, then welcome to being a millennial. You happen to be Asian, female, love expensive things and clubbing, then you are labeled the infamous ABG. The list goes on and on. We have also turned identifiers such as race, gender, age and other physical characteristics into labels as well. If you're black, tall and male, well society sees you as some possible athletic freak whose only path to success is sports. If you're white, male and old, then many people will assume that you may be a conservative, god fearing capitalist. If you're Asian and female, society still sees you as a passive uber feminine potential wife. All these assumptions are blatantly discriminatory and should have no place in society but they exist. By pretending they don't exist, keeps us in the ignorant. Yes labels are natural heuristic tools that help us think less and figure out people quickly. We all love shortcuts and labels are short cuts for people. Some of them are accepted. Some of them are funny and humorous. Some of them are flat out insulting and discriminatory. In the end, by believing in labels and accepting them blindly, we imprison our views and our opportunities. 

Labels limits our sense of empathy and perspective. We not just making assumptions about who the person is but also how the person acts. We assume values and views. If we subscribe that a NFL football players best talent is athletics than we will overlook NFL players that can become neurosurgeons. Or that Ashton Kutcher a.k.a. Michael Kelso is a top tech venture capitalist. Or how we used to believe that women could not possibly run a marathon until one did. Labels are mental shortcuts that save us time. They speed up our thought process and provide us a template for treating people and interacting with the environment. The only problem is that it is limiting to our relationships. We miss out in the possibilities of the impact of people because we may write certain people off. Wealthy intelligent people dress like slobs. Well dressed clean cut nice people are sometimes con artist and crooks. Street attire wearing tough looking people may be saints and philanthropist. Letting labels cloud our views will also limit how we view the world and interact with it. 

Labels limit us from living beyond our metal barriers. When we subscribe to label, we live within the boundaries of that label. Things that are not congruent to that label we avoid to maintain the label. We do not wear certain clothes. We do not go certain places. We do not associate with certain people. For example, in parts of Asia trying to fulfill the role of a beautiful Asian woman would entail acting a certain way but characteristically having very pale skin. People go to extremes of avoiding the sun and even wearing mask to the beach. The problem with living within that label means you avoid anything outdoorsy or in nature because of the sun. You will avoid many outdoor sports; no soccer or running. You will avoid the beach; no surfing or beach volleyball. You will avoid doing certain activities; no hiking or outdoor restaurants. But all these activities limits you from becoming or trying other things just so that you can maintain a certain label. The imprisonment of that label lowers your quality of life and your options. 

Labels are prisons. Until we unshackle ourselves from labels, we will never be free. 

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First of all, I am way behind. This is my eighth post of the month which puts me now at six post behind. Good news, I have written more this month than the previous ten months put together which is good but not quite a big achievement considering how little that I have written. But I am learning a lot during this process. Not just about writing but also about my place as a writer and teacher. I find that I have to constantly question the clarity and concreteness of my ideas and thoughts. First, I realized that most of the things that I want to write about have been done thus in order for me to add value, I need to first do my due diligence and research. There is no point in duplicating something already out there. I either have to write it from a different perspective or add something more to the discussion; not merely repeat something that has already been said. That brings about a whole new challenge because there are so many smart people adding so much value creating blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos and other media. Creating value takes time and effort. Second, I realized that my thoughts thus my writings are disorganized and not fluid. While I feel my ideas and views bring something new, organizing and articulating them in a easily understandable way adds tremendous value yet that is not easy. After finally creating something of value (finding a diamond), you have to polish it (the diamond is rather rough). There is no point in creating another confusing article; we have enough of them. Creating something that sounds smooth and effortless is also very time consuming and challenging. Third, writing about a topic forces you to know what you do not know and it seems that I do not know much. I can scratch the surface but creating value without completely understanding the fundamentals of a topic first is basically shooting yourself in the foot before the journey begins. I find holes in my understanding of certain topics which could be filled by spending a few hours reading a couple books, watching tutorials or listening to podcasts. Again this takes time and effort. Fourth, this reiterates to me that quality is always better than quantity. One amazing post is a million times better than a hundred average post. In the end, it is not about the number of words that you write but about the number of people that you impact. The key metrics should always be how many lives that you have bettered not how much you have done or money that you have made. 

 

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 At the moment, it is fairly obvious that special interest play a very powerful role in politics. Winners and losers are determined by laws and regulations. There is a conflict of interest problem in the government. Providing transparency in terms of the relationships between donors, lobbyist, politicians and laws will provide clarity in terms intentions and motive.

Currently the SEC has conflict of interest disclosure laws where analyst, journalist, managers, and executives must disclosure their conflicts of interest in print as well as television. For example, if an analyst is bashing a company on television, they must disclose if they own or are being paid by the company or a competitor. If the analyst owns stock in a competitor, he would have a vested interested in bringing down the competing company. These disclosures provide some transparency in the very cloudy world of securities. We can do the same with politics. However all politicians have a vested interest to keeping these conflicts as convoluted as possibly regardless of their political party affiliations. We have passed laws to force conflict of interest disclosures but unfortunately those conflict of interests laws were later reversed.

So it is up to us. It is up to the people to keep them in check. We can develop a commonly used system to share disclosures and force politicians to disclose conflicts of interest. We should encourage the disclosure of the following:

  1. Donation conflicts (conflicts with donors who have vested interested in certain legislation)
  2. PAC conflicts (supportive PACS who have vested interested in certain issues that the politician may vote)
  3. Personal conflicts (ownership or vested interested parties in legislation)
  4. Family conflicts (ownership or vested interested parties in legislation)

We can create something as simple as checkmark system associated to the politician's name with associated conflicts. For example.

John Smith, Legislation: Subsidies for Water Utility Reimbursement

  • Donation Conflict - Yes
  • PAC Conflict - Yes
  • Personal Conflict - No
  • Family Conflict - No

Another solution would be to create a Conflict of Interest score or a COI score next to every politician's name on television or in print everytime that they speaking about any specific legislation. The higher the COI score for the topic, the higher the conflict of interest. Just some ideas for better governance. Transparency is the enemy of corruption. 

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At 7:15AM your bed sways and the windows open to let in the light of the day. You are gently awakened by your room. Siri knows that you prefer a gentle nudge to wake up as opposed to the loud intrusive awakening that your spouses favors who left over an hour ago. Siri knows that you have a morning meeting at 9AM and it will take you forty-five minutes to get ready with a thirty minute commute. Getting into the shower, the water temperature is perfect because the shower knows your preferences and it will adjust based on the weather. Upcoming getting out of the shower, Siri gives you a selection of meals available at work and you tell her you're trying to lose weight. Jokingly, Siri says she's noticed you've gained a few pounds so she will order from Amazon some oatmeal with a bowl of fruit along with tea. As you go to your closet, Siri gives you a set of suggestions based on your schedule for the day. You asked about why she's suggesting that you take an extra jacket and she tells you that you have are a maybe to a happy hour invite on Facebook and it will get cold but Facebook has already inputted that into your calendar because you never say not to David for happy hour. As you walk out toward the kitchen, the television automatically turns onto your favorite morning show. On the screen suddenly, a important email pops up saying that the meeting will be delayed until 9:20AM giving you an extra 20 minutes to relax. Siri asks if you want to delay the car pick up but that will not be necessary.  

The self driving car from Waymo arrives at 8AM along with your breakfast because meal service is a common part of car hailing now. Siri tells you that Waymo is outside. You walk out but Siri tells you that you forgot your Airpods because all the cameras in the house are her eyes. After leaving, Siri locks up and turns off all the lights. Waymo is parked in your drive way with it's doors wide open. Waymo tells you good morning and you will arrive at at 8:30AM. Since your profile is already on Google, Waymo turns on the screen to your favorite morning show. As you enjoy your breakfast, you get a call from your spouse on the screen asking how your sleep was? Sometimes you wonder if it's really your spouse or just an artificial animated graphic because they are so realistic now, you can't tell somedays. So you ask a trick question but your spouse answers correctly so most likely it's not a lazy attempt for your spouse to make up for somehow forgetting your anniversary even though Siri, Google, Facebook, and Amazon reminders were obviously provided. Sometimes there is no solution for human error. You stopped sharing your Amazon wishlist with his AI assistants long ago to make your spouse put in more work. 

Waymo drops you off in front of your office so there is no need to find parking or walk up the stairs. You walk into the elevator and Cortana says good morning then automatically takes you to your floor. Finally you get to your desk and Cortana says hello again. Facial recognition opens your computer screen to reveal your email. Google comes up and prioritizes your email to read because Google has already read it for you. Google tells you that you should response to the vice president of operations first because the issue is a bottle neck and knows that that vice president is a bit more demanding of good response times versus everyone else who based on emotional and behavioral analysis is much more forgiving. Google pre writes your response and read it to you. You press accept along with acceptances for a few other emails because Google already knows how you will respond based on your two decade relationship with Google. It's uncanny how Google knows you now. Cortana reminds you that you have a meeting in five minutes. 

The meeting is in a new location so Siri in your Airpods tells you how to locate it because your Outlook, Google and Apple calendars are synced. The doors automatically opens for you because you're a participant in the meeting. Everyone is there except Matthew who recently had his identity hacked so he is running late. His AI systems need to be reloaded. Having your identity hacked means having to do everything manually as your profile, preferences and access are frozen. For Matthew, it's going back to the old says where you have to remember everything and manually order things like a barbarian. Things just don't go very efficiently when your digital AI assistants goes down. Like most meetings, the company AI systems has already analyzed for optimal results and discussions are merely a formality because the AI is 99.9% correct but there is always some person who is anti-AI who argues that the solution is wrong but more often than not, the AI is right. Sometimes you feel that you have meetings so that people can feel useful still. 

When you walk back to your office, you chat with a single coworker, Tina about some dates that Tinder AI bot, Todd has set up for them. Seemingly it's odd how accurate Todd is with finding someone compatible. But it's difficult to know if those dates are perfect because is it because of the AI matching or because of the AI assistance that is provided to help people these days. It's strange how computers can please us because they truly do know us but unfortunately people use that same information to please or sometimes trick us as well. Then after a few laughs, you both decide to head out to lunch to continue this conversation. Siri has suggested in your ear that a Korean restaurant that is Tina's favorite and that they are having a lunch special. Of course Tina says she loves your suggestion and tells Alexa on her smart watch to order an Uber there. You say please cancel it because Siri already ordered a Waymo and it was on it's way. Well you just didn't tell her that Google already knew that she would love the restaurant based on profile information that she gave you access to a long time ago. Sometimes people forget that everything we want or desire is already known by the AI systems. 

 

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A self fulfilling prophecy is when your belief or prediction that causes itself to become true. Your ideas, thoughts and assumptions can either help you or stop your dreams from becoming reality.

A simple thought can change your behavior dramatically. It can either shift you on the path to possible success or completely off the path of possibility. A limiting mindset of believing that you will not or cannot do something will set yourself into inaction toward a path toward failure even when there is a large possibility of success. Possible becomes impossible purely in your mind. Failure happens because there is is not even an attempt. For example, if you do not believe that you will win the lottery, you will never buy a ticket. Although the odds are against you, by believing that you never will, you do not even give yourself a chance. That can happen in a multitude of aspects in life from dating to school to careers to dreams. Self fulfilling prophecies based off scarcity and limitations are the ultimate killer of dreams. A limiting belief can kill every single dream. Every single one; before the dream ever had a chance. Everything becomes impossible.

A popular pitfall is underestimating the probabilities of success. We underestimate ours skills. We overestimate our competition’s skills. We underestimate the opportunities. We underestimate our potential. Every big business started small. Every expert started out knowing nothing. All these assumptions are many times unsupported and unrealistic because our limiting thoughts stop us from even investigating the validity of these assumptions. We live our lives based off unresearched information or social rules or influences social media. From a logical view, the most challenging goals are actually the easiest and least competitive because most people live with limiting thoughts that create a defeatist self fulfilling prophecy. We call theses limiting thoughts, excuses. Excuses prevent failures. But failures are precursors to success not excuses.

How do you solve this? It’s simple. Be like The Little Engine That Could and say “I think I can, I think I can” and you will. Or at least you give yourself a chance. Create a dream fulfilling prophecy by believing the possibilities. Believe in possibilities instead of impossibilities and you will set yourself on a path toward success.

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Waymo just announced that they will no longer have drivers in their self driving car trials in Chandler, Arizona. For the past few months, Waymo, a subsidiary of Google has been chauffeuring around residents the greater Phoenix suburb. But now the driver will sit in the back of the van allowing the car to do it’s own thing. This is the first step to an evolution that will forever change many facets of our lives. It will help us not just save time but also help us mentally and physically. It will help us build better relationships. It will help us have better mental health. It will help us save and make more money. It will be one of the most disruptive innovations during our lifetimes. Let's take a look how it will improve our lives. 

Autonomous vehicles will save us money

Autonomous cars will free us from car ownership which is one of the most wasteful expenses most people have especially when we consider that our cars sit around parked for 95% of the time. We spend an average of $8,469 a year or $706 a month on owning a car. Imagine if we can paid a monthly car hailing fee instead like a buss pass. We no longer have to pay fuel, interest on car loans, maintenance, insurance, and car washes. Even after paying for ride hailing services, we should still have money to save for other things. 

Autonomous vehicles will give us more time

Self driving cars will allow us to spend that one to two hours of commuting doing something more productive and even enjoyable. It frees us to go through email before work. It allows us to catch up on reading and news. It will allow us to catch up on our favorite shows and clips. It will allow us to talk to people who are traveling with us. Also since time we can complete task and responsibilities in the car, it will give us more time outside the car as our task loads will be reduced. Regardless of what we do with the time, it gives us more time. 

Autonomous vehicles will lower our stress levels

Driving is stressful. Whether it is traffic or it is someone cutting us off on the road, the act of driving causes stress. Also the task is mentally draining which causes us to become even more frustrated when we do not have the mental energy to complete our other responsibilities in life. Traffic has been known to increase blood pressure and body weight.  

Autonomous vehicles will keep us more healthy

Over 35,000 deaths are causes by car accidents in 2016. Self driving car have proved to be less fatal than driving by a human being. Although many of us will never die from car accidents, many of us will be hurt because of one. By reducing accidents, we will live longer and healthier lives. 

Autonomous vehicles will help us have better relationships

By lower our stress levels and giving us more time, we can not only spend more time with people but also more quality time. Often we are mentally checked out after work and a long commute. By building better relationships, we will lower our stress further as studies has shown better relationships improves our health and life span

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I have been on a couple month long social media vacations this year and it has been a good lesson in learning how to use social media properly. In January, I went on the social media hiatus because I found that I spent way too much time just browsing through Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. It served as a very convenient distraction from work or a great way to procrastinate. It also served as a way to just waste time but disguised as a way to catch up with people's lives. I would find myself spending dozens of minutes in a trance. Worst yet, it just seemed that like many people, I was addicted to my phone and social media. In fact, it's the goal of social media to keep us glued to our phones

My conclusion from my first hiatus was that I lived perfectly fine without social media. There wasn't a huge void in my life although I did miss certain social news about family or friends. Largely, life moved on and I was forced to catch up with people in other ways like phone, text or in person. Relationships are better in real life. Digital relationships aren't real. Digital relationships should be branches of a real one not the other way around. Ultimately I could survive without social media and the world sadly will go on without me even if I wasn't on social media. 

In August, I did my second hiatus but this time, I looked it as a little more closely from a more academic approach. I wanted to know why I was driven to post and why I came back to see who liked my post. Why did I incessantly check my phone all the time like a mouse checking if there was food in the bowl. I wanted to define my motives and rationale for what I did on social media. I grew up during the first decade of my adult life without a smart phone and the second decade of my adult life with a smart phone. It seems clear that social media and the smart phone has had dramatic impacts on us mentally and socially. It is having an alarming impact on children who have never lived without a smart phone because the smart phones have become their nannies, friends and companions. I wanted to know what the smart phone and social media was doing to me!

So what did I learn this second time? I learned about my motivations to post which is to solve voids in their lives. Everyone has their reasons. It could be loneliness. It could be the desire to be heard. It could be our need for validation. But those things do not solve the root problem. They turn out to be some sort of an escape from something else. Whatever it is, it's beyond finding validation from posting instead of for the purpose of truly sharing. I was able to look at what drove me. Part of it was validation. Part of it was just being lonely. Part of it was just wanting to be heard. Part of it was more genuine wanted to share with other people. 

Another important realization was that there was distortion of reality created by social media. People tend to publish things that are glamorous and "like" worthy. It's a self feeding cycle where people eventually realize what gets the most likes and focus on only those things. No one wants to like sad events or depressing news. No one likes unflattering photos or mundane things in life. We end up painting life as something perfect and amazing when life is usually long periods of the usual and the mundane punctuated by something novel. But if you see the world only through social media, it seems like everything in life is novel and exciting or at least it should be when we compare lives with YouTube stars and Instagram celebrities. Social media distorts reality and that alters our perspective mentally. We live with unrealistic views and impossible expectations which leads to general disappointment and unfulfillment. 

In the end, I still wanted to use social media because there are so many benefits. I get to see my niece and nephew grow up when I'm not able to see them. I get to find out interesting things that my friends are doing that I may miss and can ask about later. I get to peak into the lives of artist and entrepreneurs that I do not know and get inspired. There are so many benefits. But at the same time, there are costs to using social media as well. 

Here are ways to use social media help you: 

  1. Use it for accountability (have people keep you accountable to your goals) 
  2. Use it to spread happiness (spreading happiness actually will make you happier)
  3. Use it to genuinely catch up with friends (reach out to people - don't just "like" or view it.) 
  4. Use it to learn (social media can teach you things so look it as an educational tool by following thought leaders and experts)
  5. Use it for inspiration (find people that inspire you like people going through a journey similar to you or who have done what you want to do) 

Here are ways that social media can harm you: 

  1. Using it to cure boredom (avoid using it to fill the void and waste time because you can do many things other than surfing social media like living life) 
  2. Using it to boost your ego (avoid using social media for validation or likes because you don't need everyone's approval nor can you get everyone's approval)
  3. Using it to boast (avoid the needs to share to brag about places you go and things you do for the sake of your confidence)
  4. Using it to stalk and follow (avoid using it to maintain a relationship that is no longer there; it will only prolong your ability to move on) 

 

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Does it matter if you didn’t make it to your varsity basketball team if you go on to become the greatest basketball player in the world?

Does it matter if you loses billions of dollars if you became the world’s richest person?

Does it matter if you were rejected from all 30 companies that you applied to after college if you eventually build one of the biggest companies in the world?

Does it matter if you couldn’t speak till four ;and read till seven if you become one of the most brilliant scientist in history?

Micheal Jordan, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma nor Albert Einstein would have been who they are if they thought their previous failures and circumstances mattered. Although you may not become rich or famous but ask yourself even in common pursuits, does it matter? Does it matter that you fell a hundred times before you learned how to ride a bike? Does it matter if you were rejected ten times before you made it to medical school? Does it matter that you were dumped by five people before you married your soulmate? Does it matter that you had five businesses fail before your business became a massive success?

In the end, it all doesn't matter. What matters is that you move beyond the failures, the attempts, the hurdles and challenges. What matters is that you do not quit and stick to the process. When you succeed, the past doesn't matter. The process and then results is what matters. No one remembers your struggles, they only remember your victories and who you are right now.

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Last month's ab challenge was somewhat successful. I didn't quite get six packs but I got four and a little bit more. The transformation looks pretty good considering it was only 31 days. I am not sure if I'll be able to keep it but I think there will be some semblance of it.

Anyways this month, the challenge will be to write 30 blog posts in 30 days. This will be the first but later in the month, I hope to write posts that are well researched and insightful about various topics that I have been interested for the past couple years. I hope this will help me get in a the habit of writing more but also to improve my written communication skills through a deliberate practice. So I will write you tomorrow.

Quotes

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” 

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I have been following Matt Cutts for a while when I was doing a lot of SEO work since he was the SEO czar at Google. Since then, he's gone on to help the government at the US Digital Service team. One thing that I loved following were the 30 day challenges where he would challenged himself to do something new or learn something or simply to remove a bad habit. I have done a couple challenges like my unofficially 30 day social media detox. There is research that says it takes 21 day to develop a habit while some studies say 30 or 66 days. But in general, 30 days is at least enough time to figure out if you can stick to something or if you like something. You can watch his video below. Oddly enough, he was motivated by Morgan Spurlock of all people through his show "30 Days" where you lived 30 days in the lives of interesting demographic groups. 

This past month, I decided to make it more official with my first one. Get six pack abs in 30 days. Well there are 31 days in October but seriously I probably need the extra day. I've always wanted a six pack and I've always been in decent shape but never pushed myself far enough to get it. So far, it's been a fun challenge and I'm seeing progress.