Be 3% Better

A few milliseconds is what sets a winner apart from a loser in a race.

race

All that training comes down to a fraction of a second

When you look at a linear graph, are you looking at a straight line, or are you looking at an exponential curve really close up?

linear-vs-exponential

Is the red line really linear and not exponential?

Humans have 97% of the same DNA as apes.  Yet this 3% difference has allowed humans to create science and send rockets to the moon.

ape

We’re not that different from the apes

Humans are bad at numbers.  We need math and the scientific method to help us make sense of the world because so much of it is counter intuitive.

In startups we’re often told that to beat the competition, or to “disrupt” an industry you need to be “10x better” or an “order of magnitude better”.

This is a myth.

You can’t really measure ideas or businesses in these terms.

To win, you just need to be a little better or a bit different from your competitors.

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Always Go For Gold!

Few people know that Sir Isaac Newton, along with being one of the best scientific minds the world has ever seen, was also an alchemist.  On the one hand he created the theory of gravity and on the other hand he was trying to turn lead into gold.

alchemy

It may seem absurd to us now, but years ago it wasn’t clear whether alchemy was real or not.

So the question is; If Isaac Newton didn’t have the sort of mind that would explore the idea of alchemy, would he have created the theory of gravity?

Probably not.

So, if given the choice you should always choose to investigate ideas and concepts which have not yet been explored.  

You might not find gold, but you could discover something just as valuable.

“All Views Are My Own” (Yeah, Right!)

A heuristic;  Anyone that has written “All views are my own”, on their Twitter account or blog (or anywhere for that matter) has nothing original to say.

If they’ve put this as a headline on their account then by definition it means that they are worried what other people think – usually because that person is a spineless employee or a bureaucrat.

Therefore their writing will not be honest or accurate.  After all, good ideas and insights are often not pleasant and sometimes downright controversial.

employee douch bags

Typical douche bags with nothing original to say

When they say that all their views are their own, what they mean to say is: “All my views have been shaped by the mainstream, because I’m too afraid to think or say anything original”.

Good old Oscar Wilde got it right:

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

Meta Problems

Entrepreneurs solve problems the thinking goes.

What’s not often talked about though is that solving a big problem often entails having to fix a bunch of smaller “meta problems”.

If you ask people what Uber does, most would say it’s an app to order a taxi.  Sure it is, but Uber also solves a bunch of meta problems which is the real reason we use it.

When you use Uber, the app tells you how long you will have to wait for your taxi.  You no longer have to call up a taxi operator only to be told; “It’ll be there in 5 minutes.”.

When you use Uber you know that the driver isn’t ripping you off by taking a longer route.

When you use Uber you no longer have to worry about carrying the right amount of cash.

This is why it’s so hard to build something truly elegant and great.

To create something which is “simple” and “just works”…

…you have to solve a load of complexities and then hide them from your customers.  

Hater’s Gonna’ Hate

There’s something repulsive about professional critics.  Whether it’s a music critic or a food critic I hate them.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

There’s something obscene about a creator busting their ass off to make something special, only to be judged and critiqued by a no good for nothing know it all.

The most hilarious thing is that critics often give a critique which misses the point completely.

idiots

Idiots

The three buffoons above are food critics from UK’s Masterchef.  The professional chefs in the competition have to cook for these three so that they can whinge, complain and berate the chefs on national TV.

What’s hilarious is that the same dishes also gets tasted by Marcus Wareing (a two Michelin starred chef) who – every episode – disagrees with what the critics say.

But how can this be?  How can people who critique for a living disagree with a world-renowned chef?

Here’s why:

Critics have to have an appreciation for all approaches.  But in doing so they can’t really appreciate anything!

If a chef has a raw vegan restaurant for example, a professional critic will likely come along and talk about how much they hate the food, the clientele who frequent the establishment and the lack of a wine selection.

But…

… for the people who want to go to a great vegan restaurant this place is probably exactly what they’ve been looking for.

So let’s make a promise to one another for 2019.  Let’s promise to be brave enough to not to listen to the haters, let’s be brave enough to hold a viewpoint, to have an opinion and create something really special.

The View From The Top

Gaia.jpg

In Greek mythology Gaia was the Goddess of the Earth and the mother of all creation.

Imagine someone born on top of a mountain (let’s call these types “Bureaucrats”), unable to get down (possibly because they need to keep paying for the mortgage they can’t really afford or the car they shouldn’t have leased).

Their view from the top will be warped.  They can only look into the distance and contemplate abstract thoughts.

The ironic thing is that even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t be able to closely examine the very thing they’re stood (or sat) on top of.

The only way to closely examine reality is to hike the mountain itself.  You may fall and get bruised, but your bruises and pain will guide your learning.

You cannot attain real knowledge without contact to the ground

The Greeks called it pathemata mathemata.  Or, “things suffered, things learned”.  Something mothers of young children know all too well.

What It’s Like To Start A Business

I received a letter from a fellow healthcare worker the other day.

She wrote to me regarding a patient of mine, demanding that I “do something”.  Her letter was, to be quite honest, rude and uncalled for.  She knew very well that I had already seen the patient, assessed the patient correctly and that the patient had the ability to make decisions regarding her own medical care.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence.  I spend a significant part of my working day telling patients and other healthcare professionals that nothing needs to be done.  And that often doing nothing is more beneficial than doing something for the sake of doing it.

But why are patients and people in general like this?  Why, for example, does a patient with lower back pain for a grand total of two days turn up at my clinic demanding an urgent MRI scan, which would bring no benefit to the patient whatsoever?  Why do they get angry and upset when I explain that physiotherapy and lifestyle changes are the way forward?

I think there’s a simple answer:

The patient is worried that they are going to die*.

And who can blame them for having this outlook?  Most people from a young age have been conditioned to think that death is lurking right around the corner.

The thinking even in primary school was something along the lines of: “If you don’t do well in school, then you’ll end up without a job, then you’ll end up homeless and then you’ll die a sad and lonely death.”.

Of course for the people who made it through school and are not dead – which happens to be the majority of mankind – the above line of reasoning is clearly false.

Yet the same thinking often persists and manifests itself in absurd ways later on in other parts of  their life.

riskysport

This is not what it’s like to start a business

I think a lot of people avoid going into business for themselves due to this reason.  Even though it would be better for themselves, their family and those they serve to go it alone, they don’t.  Or worse, they say “someday”…

The fear of death manifests, in the form of being someone elses devoted employee for the whole of their healthy adult life.  “I’m not a risk taker”, they tell themselves.

Look, I get it.  It’s fine if you are truly happy as an employee.  What I can’t tolerate is when people make up BS excuses for not doing something with no logical reason.

So how to think about things?  How do you decide what is truly risky and what isn’t?

The Two Types of Risk

I believe that there are two types of risk.

  • Compound Risk

This is the type of risk which builds up over time and then ultimately does result in poor life outcomes such as bankruptcy and death.  Ironically people take these risks all the time without any consideration for their ultimate effect.

For example the decision to not exercise today, or the decision to just have that pizza instead of sticking to the diet.  These types of risk compound over time and then one day give you a heart attack or stroke.

  • Simple Risk

These are risks that can be calculated and taken with no hidden / compound effects.  If for example you decide to buy a car with cash you can easily calculate if you can afford it and what type of risk a reduction in your bank balance will lead to.

The problem is that these two types of risk often become conflated. 

People think that starting a business is a “compound risk” instead of a “simple risk”.  When in fact starting a business has a limited downside and a possible large upside.  It’s a calculated, simple risk.  

Or people think that “eating one more slice of pizza “is a “simple risk” and not a “compound risk”.  They think that one more slice of pizza or drinking one more alcoholic drink is no big deal.  They fail to realise how the risk compounds with time and that that “one more” may lead to an unpredictable heart attack somewhere in the future.

This conflation of the types of risk is what’s happening in the patients who have back pain demanding that “something has to be done”.  They don’t realise that when a doctor has competently assessed you and has ruled out “red flags”, which could indicate a serious underlying issue, that the risk will not compound.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve had the back pain for a day or a year.  If the clinical scenario has not changed then the risk is still a “simple risk” and will not “compound”.

Yes, physiotherapy and lifestyle change is still the way forward.

*Usually men and women alike tend to think that they have metastatic cancer if they have lower back pain.  They fail to realise that they have developed the pain because their body is trying to signal to them that they have poor muscle development (usually due to being overweight and inactive).