I'm posting stuff like this on Facebook these days, but I think this came out really well so I'm putting it here too. Follow me on Facebook (or follow on Twitter) if you want to read more stuff like this.
"How do you decide what conferences are worth going to?"
Lawrence He just asked. Great question.
1) What's your objectives?
--> If you're running a company already, do you want sales? Leads? New hiring? Financing? Connect with the press/influencers? You should clarify what you want first and foremost. (Sounds obvious but most people don't do it.)
--> If you're NOT running a company, it gets trickier. I recommend ARBITRARILY setting a mission. I didn't need anything from SumoCon -- it was vacation/fun for me -- but I wanted to see if there was anyone really admirable/amazing, and get to know that person, + say hello to my Austin friends.
--> If you're just getting to know a field, want to increase "luck surface area", etc, you should still pick some arbitrary targets because you'll then be more likely to hit them.
2) DO THE MATH!!!!
--> If you're running a company, you already know (or should!) the value of a lead, what you're willing to pay to recruit new team members, the value of a sale, etc.
--> Things like press/influencer connections are harder to value, but you should at least take a stab at it.
--> Then DO STATISTICS. Cost of a conference is ticket+travel+opportunity cost away from other work. Add all that up and you have the full cost. Estimate your percentage chance of success. Then make sure the #'s work.
--> Example: One new enterprise sale is worth $20,000 profit to your business. A conference costs $1000 for the ticket, $1000 for travel, and let's say $2000 in opportunity cost. So total costs are $4k. If you have a greater than 20% chance of making a $20k profit sale, it's profitable to go. (Do check your other opportunity cost and other projects, though!)
--> You can do this subjectively, too. Cash permitting, I'll invest up to $10,000 to meet, get to know, etc, people of the caliber of Greg Nance, Ivan Mazour, Stepan Parunashvili, etc. My full cost for this conference was around $2000 to $3000 including ticket, housing, flights, opportunity cost. If there's a 30%+ chance of meeting a single amazing person, it's worth it by internal valuing (again, checking against opportunity cost and what else is going on too).
3) One or two people you already love there + it'll be fun/vacation puts it over the top.
--> Some conferences are "work" and some are "fun/vacation" -- the latter is obviously better. I already had a few friends in Austin that I knew I could at least say hello to, frankly it was worth coming just to say hello, say thanks, and spend a few hours with Zach Obront. So it was a no-brainer to do this one.
--> You should apply very strict math and guarantee the floor if the conference will drain you / "feel like hard work"... but if it's fun/recharging you can be very liberal and just 80/20 the math quickly and then just go. Noah Kagan always puts on a hell of a show in anything he does, so I figured this would be fun/vacation no matter what, so it was a no-brainer.
Strong analysis + defining target objectives + math = getting what you want.
The objectives/math thing can also lead to some surprising results: I've occasionally flown across the world, sometimes at significant expense, for a reasonable chance at large gains, and I have had them pay off before. If the next 5 conferences I go to produce zero results (unlikely), I'll still be net-ahead lifetime.
Most very successful startup founders I know wind up following the analysis/objectives/math into some counterintuitive opportunities that lead them going up in the world quickly.
Great question Lawrence He, thanks for asking. Hope that helps some.
These days, I don't blog much. I write and a release a major essay via email only every Thursday at The Strategic Review.
There's a whole lot of little things I learn that are useful to share, but I don't really have anywhere to put them now that I don't blog as much (book reviews and excerpts, quick thoughts, recommendations).
I'm putting them on Facebook now, and enabled following --
So, if you're on Facebook and want those type of observations, head over there and click follow. Cheers.
I'm probably more excited about this than I ought to be, but since I use paper heavily for notes, I'm smiling ear to ear.
August 6th, 2016: The day I finally figured out how to manage paper, permanently.
1. Every piece of paper, write the date at the top. Ruthlessly throw out paper more than a day old.
Last week's piece in TSR was about intersubjectivity and Mustafa Kemal's building of modern Turkey. It was popular; I got more reader replies than I've gotten in a couple months.
A terrific long-time TSR reader wrote in and asked,
Curious to hear when you began understanding intersubjectivity, which objective stuff you took care of first, and which intersubjective paradigms you stripped away.
When I first thought about intersubjectivity (although I didn't have a word for it), I tried to manipulate my reality through perspective a lot, and for the past two years learned to mellow myself out and take care of objective things, and be pragmatic. So curious to hear what those things were for you."
Perhaps I'm tipping my hand a little too much since we're still taking applications for GiveGetWin Summer Camp... nevertheless, I think the following could be really useful for young recent graduates applying for jobs, or really, anyone applying for anything.
Before you describe yourself as "passionate," strongly consider describing yourself as "dedicated" instead.
You see, if you told someone that you were dedicated to Chess and played 20 hours per week, studied classic games and puzzles for 5 hours per week, and was competing in tournaments at least once a month... then you wouldn't need to say you're passionate.
If you wanted to ensure people really understood how much you enjoyed Chess, you could say "I love Chess" in addition to all of the above... but really, it wouldn't be necessary. We'd get it!
Now here's the thing: if you feel like you can't honestly describe yourself as dedicated to a profession, hobby, or cause... that supposedly you care a lot about... then maybe that's something that you should introspect on?
What's the worst word in the English language?
I don't mean the least pleasant word (genocide?), or the silliest sounding (squiggle?), or the longest and most complicated to pronounce (German has English beat in those, anyways).
No, I mean, what word is the least suitable for doing its own job in the language?
I figure, it's gotta be a verb we use commonly that we don't have any substitutes for. If you've got a crummy noun, it's easy to mash a couple other nouns together and maybe throw in an adjective to find a fixer. So if you think "net worth" is a dumb concept, you can easily amend it to "liquid net worth" or "cash" or "wealth" or whatever you want, however you want to define it. It's easy to create replacements for flawed nouns.
It's gotta be a verb.
I smoked tobacco from age 15 to age 24.
I was never a heavy smoker, but I felt stupendously cool in my teens cutting class and hanging out at a cafe playing Chess, having coffee or chai tea, and rolling loose-leaf tobacco into hand-rolled cigarettes, or, cash permitting, Marlborough Reds.
Despite it being incredibly stupid with hindsight, I remember it being a pretty good time.
One of the other kids I played Chess with went on to become an International Master in Chess (right below Grandmaster) and went on to study at Harvard. He smoked, too, though I'm pretty sure he quit after only a couple years of teenage rebelliousness.
WHAT ARE OPERATIONS?
My definition of Operations, which I think is sound, is "the coordination of tactics over time."
It starts, actually, with philosophy -- implicit or explicit.
Philosophy: What's important and worth working towards, on the highest levels? What's worth living for?
So you decide, let's say, that "beauty" is important to you. You want to live in a beautiful world, philosophically speaking.
Progression: Yours free on Amazon
Hello blog reader!
Obviously, most of my writing these days happens at thestrategicreview.net -- but on the off chance you're not subscribed there, I wanted to let you know that Progression is out today, and is free for 72 hours.
On the night of 4th May 2016, I was departing on the night train from Athens to Thessaloniki at 11:55PM.
The night train was divided into “cabins” that most likely were originally designed to be sleeper cars, but had been converted to more “bus-like” seating designed to fit six people facing each other.
The seats were in close together, three facing forwards in the train’s direction, three people directly across from them facing backwards. It was a narrow space; an adult man’s knees would be almost touching the knees of the man in front of him in the space.
I was seated facing “backwards” – away from the train’s direction – by the window. Directly across from me was an Athenian student-scientist – doing the Greek equivalent of a Masters degree in chemistry and materials science at Thessaloniki’s main university.