Alchemy #3 - 11/18 - Reaching Your Full Potential With Robert Green & Valuetainment

This is Alan Kurdi, a 3 year old Syrian boy.

His body washed up on the beach after the inflatable boat his family, along with 12 other people, were on capsized leaving Turkey bound for Europe.

His lifeless body made headlines as a symbol of the Syrian refugee crisis - almost 6 million people displaced outside of the country because of civil war.

I bring this up because of a rap song about the incident by one of my favourites - Lupe Fiasco.' (Spotify plugin only uploads the album, fast forward to track 9: Alan Forever)

Let me flex, get up, brush sand off myself
I was just holding my breath

Blue shorts, red shirt, how I'm dressed
I look fresh, and I feel
” - Lupe Fiasco from Alan Forever

What this has to do with reaching your full potential is the theme of the lyrics. Lupe writes songs like Alan Forever and Jonylah Forever to highlight tragedies where the main character instead survives the tragedy, being saved by a future version of themselves.

If you’re into rap music I’d highly recommend the album these songs are from, Drogas Wave. It’s not your typical music engineered for the radio, he’s telling stories about events in history that impacted his life.

One last example, the song Haile Selassie is about the Ethiopian Emperor who was regarded as the messiah of the Afrian race. He spent his time in power (1930-74) modernizing the country, bringing Ethiopia into the league of Nations and the United Nations.

The impressive part is how Lupe incorporates quotes from the King into a catchy song about a meaningful story.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted
The indifference of those who should have known better

The silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most
This, has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
- Selassie

The thread of reaching your full potential started while reading Robert Greene’s book - Laws of Human Nature.

The book is almost 600 pages with 18 specific laws. I wanted to point out 2 laws and the stories that go with them; irrationality and shortsightedness.

Greene has a similar theory to Warren Buffet when it comes to success; limit your downside.

Not just losing money, acknowledge flawed character traits in yourself and the people you let in.


“You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you… They make you see what you want to see, depending on your mood, and this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that haunt your life.” - Robert Greene

Because of Hollywood most people are familiar with the conflict between Athens and Sparta in the Roman Empire. Athens, a wealthy democracy and Sparta, a military state.

At one point Sparta tries to bully Athens into taking a peace deal on their terms.

Based on the advice of Perciles, the Athenians decide to retreat inside the walls of their city and refuse to fight on land.

Pericles was the leader responsible for the economic expansion of Athens and commissioning many of the famous temples, theaters and concert halls including the Parthenon. He was an un-heroic leader choosing to win wars instead of fight unnecessary battles.

The problem with this plan was the Athenians had to watch Spartans destroy their land outside the city limits, waiting for them to run out of money supplying their army. In year two of the war, with all of the citizens packed inside the walls of the city, a plague broke out.

The citizen’s blamed Pericles for an unsuccessful strategy AND for the plague. The citizens wanted revenge and a war party took control deciding to engage the Spartans in battle.

Years of fighting ensued fueled by ego and rage.

Victory was never enough, the Athenians wanted complete devastation. This mentality cost them almost their entire Navy when trying to invade Sicily and ultimately forced them to agree to the harsh peace terms imposed by Sparta.

“The man who had curbed their most dangerous emotions - aggression, greed, hubris, selfishness-had been gone from the scene for too long, his wisdom long forgotten. “ - Robert Greene


“It is in the animal part of your nature to be most impressed by what you can see and hear in the present — the latest news reports and trends, the opinions and actions of the people around you, whatever seems the most dramatic.” - Robert Greene

1719 marked the year the term “millionaire” was coined. In Paris a man named John Law started an enterprise called “The Mississippi Company” in an effort to exploit the riches in the Louisiana territories controlled by the French.

In what is now common practice he started selling shares in his company and as the price went up many Frenchmen of all classes were becoming extremely wealthy.

This made one Englishmen, John Blunt, particularly jealous.

He thought this scheme would be easily repeatable and came up with the idea to pitch King George on how to deal with the country’s massive debts and his lack of popularity at the same time.

The South Sea Company, which had been created almost 10 years prior as a means of managing the war debts in exchange for exclusive trade rights with Spain, would also start issuing shares.

What ensued was a fever pitch similar to that of Bitcoin’s meteoric rise.

A 100 Euro share that was initially issued to the wealthy and influential soon became 200, then 300, then 500. Ultimately peaking over 1000 euros per share.

Along the way John Blunt continued to make the investment more attractive without any improvement to the underlying asset. Offering leverage at 5:1 and even a payment plan on the leverage.

Even Isaac Newton got caught up in the excitement and invested.

At the same time the wealth started pulling their returns out and investing in land causing a decrease in the Mississippi Company stock and a strain for cash in the French economy.

There was a trickle down effect and the South Sea Company shares started to decrease as well.

Within two months the Bank of England faced the same cash crisis and almost ran out of currency. Similar to 2008 many people lost their life savings and Blunt was nearly assassinated in the streets.

"I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not he madness of people.” - Sir Isaac Newton

The book tells similar stories for each law then states an interpretation and lesson. As you can tell, a seemingly small character flaw in yourself or a trusted partner/advisor
can lead you far away from your full potential. A great way to better understand yourself and where you sit on the spectrum of these traits like narcissism, manipulation and empathy is to take the dark triad personality test.

While being aware of these laws of human nature will give you great awareness of what not to do, I think it’s important to change perspective on what you should do and constructive ways of thinking about potential.

Photo Of The Month

My brother was in town this week. He came up with the idea of doing the Itzler/Goggins challenge 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours straight. Was definitely not the easiest three days of my life but at least it didn’t rain the whole time (rare for December in Vancouver).

Quote I’m Thinking About

"It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you—inside or out." Marcus Aurelius


Alchemy #2 - 10/18 - Outsourcing Self Discovery with Jonah Hill & Yuval Harari

Jonah Hill’s first movie as a director came out, mid90s.

It’s a coming of age story loosely based on his own life portrayed through the lens of a 13 year old kid, Stevie (Sunny Suljic).

Similar to Hill, and most people in their teens, he’s seeking acceptance in any friend group he can find.

That emotion is written in the masthead of the magazine his company A24 Films puts out.

The reason I bring up the movie is to contrast the conversation around self-discovery 20 years later.

In the 90s, him being in the suburbs of LA played a big part in the story.

Now, with the evolution of technology and the internet location is less relevant. You can find “your people” online no matter how niche the interest.

Many baby boomers think social media is net negative for kids and would prefer it not exist… that we could go back to the “good-ol times”.

Gary Vaynerchuk, someone who has been championing social media for more than a decade and probably gets faced with this question more than anyone, gives his rebuttal here.

Spoiler: not only does he disagree he thinks social media is just highlighting bad parenting strategies.

While I also believe that social media is net-positive I think that’s avoiding the question of how self-discovery happens now.

After reading Yuval Harari’s 21 Lessons for the the 21rst Century you can’t help but consider what the process will look like in the future.

We already live in a world where the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, and the content we consume are all based on an algorithm tailored to our individual interests.

If a baby starts interacting with an Ipad and falls under the influence of these suggestions before it can even speak how will that affect their sense of self later in life?

Assuming we agree this self-discovery process is going to change so drastically then is it also worth considering how believable we are as parents? Those same off-handed comments that were once interpreted as truism might now be devastatingly incorrect advice.

In Yuval’s book he carries this narrative a lot further down the rabbit hole considering scenarios where an entire class of people could become suppressed by their inability to protect their data (this is the information necessary for brands to make suggestions for us).

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of data protection this will likely be one of the biggest human rights issues of the upcoming century. To understand the severity of the issue and the potential consequences please read my summary on the book posted here.

Or if you prefer to hear it from Yuval himself here’s an interview he did with Tom Bilyeu from Impact Theory.

If you’re more interested in the act of self discovery rather than a hypothetical sense of how it’s changed here’s a great podcast episode from Shane Parrish with Atul Gawande called “The Path to Perpetual Progress”.

Photo Of The Month.

Another good friend of mine was turning 30 this month and wanted to see an NFL game. Somehow we landed on Nashville. I’m not a big football fan and it was pouring rain during the game but the city was a blast. (I’m the guy with his eyes closed)

I’ve had this song on repeat since the trip.

Quote I’m Thinking About.

“People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.”  ― Yuval Noah Harari


Alchemy #1 - 09/18 - What does it mean to be a leader? With Elon Musk & Jocko Willink

So, this happened.

For the few people that didn’t hear, Elon Musk took one puff of a joint on JRE and the internet went insane.

He was already in hot water over this tweet a few weeks before.

The Joe Rogan episode already has over 15 million views, almost double Joe’s next most popular interview.

Before you pass your judgement on the meme I’d encourage you to watch the whole episode. Whether you’re a fan or not he thinks different than most and will likely inspire you to do the same.

If nothing else, the episode is a great conversation topic given the sheer amount of people that tune in to JRE regularly. Here is just some of what they cover:

  • The future of AI and the simulation or “matrix” argument.

  • Some of the other ideas Elon hasn’t had time for.

  • The environment, specifically our atmosphere and oceans.

Ironically, at the same time all this was happening I was on a Jocko Willink kick. Between the theme of his content and other research I had done on people like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill it made me reconsider what it really means to be a leader.

Could all the fanboys (me included) really be wrong about Elon?

It’s no secret he’s had his fair share of meltdowns.

That said, even by Jocko’s book he’s got a lot of things right:

  1. Clear sense of mission - accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.

  2. Discipline - with his schedule anyway, he has an insane work week.

  3. Always striving for better - all his companies are driven by the mission of improving our lives.

The problem is, like Jocko says, “it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”

John Gretton Willink (“Jocko”), was a Navy Seal Commander and fought in the Iraq war. He’s also an entrepreneur and podcaster. His book that I’m referring to, Extreme Ownership, is what helped him rise to internet celebrity status.

A few things that he and Leif would probably point to if their leadership company, Echelon Front, was consulting for Tesla.

  • There are only two kinds of leaders, effective and ineffective.

  • If you aren’t winning you’re making incorrect decisions.

  • Leadership starts with truth, accountability, and trust.

  • A great leader has nothing to prove and everything to prove - ego disrupts everything.

These missing qualities echo the first two principles that Brett & Kate, from the Art of Manliness, identify as crucial for success.

1. A bedrock of principles.

2. A moral compass.

3. A vision

4. The ability to create a consensus to achieve their vision.

“Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.” – Winston Churchill

You can read more about these missing principles in a previous post about how Churchill, Lincoln and Pericles all were examples of this ideal leader.

Other Content Worth Checking Out.

Shane Parrish Interviews the Founder of Shopify, Tobi Lutke.

Tobi has some unique ideas including, “The Trust Battery” and how he encourages his kids to play video games.

He uses the metaphor of trust as something that requires effort, the more effort the more your battery is charged.

The video games are more of an example of a cultural belief than a literal activity. Why has society taught us that video games are bad for kids?

Rich Roll’s Interview with Guru Singh

If you follow these letters it’s likely that Rich Roll will come up often. In my opinion he’s one of the top interviewer’s in the world. I love how he facilitates conversation and this episode is no different.

Mental health as a business opportunity seems to be coming up over and over again in major publications, primarily from the entrepreneurs perspective. In this conversation you get a glimpse into the enlightened, mindful perspective.

Here are some of the topics from the interview:

  • Considering how deep you’re currently experiencing things.

  • The literal definition of depression.

  • What does it mean to be courageous

  • The idea of removing shame like you can the flu

Photo Of The Month.

A good friend of mine is getting married in January so naturally we had to celebrate. This is in Golden, B.C. about 7 hours east of Vancouver.

Quote I’m Thinking About.

Sell your cleverness for bewilderment. - Rumi


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