“The keys to life are running and reading”

will-smith-running“The keys to life are running and reading. Why running? When your running there’s a little person that talks to you and that little person says, oh I’m tired, my lungs are about to pop off, I’m so hurt, I’m so tired, there’s no way i could possibly continue, and you want to quit, right? That person, if you learn how to defeat that person, when you’re running, you will learn how to not quit when times get hard in your life. […] The reason that reading is so important, there have mean millions and billions and billions and gazillions of people that have lived before all of us, there’s no new problem you can have, with your parents, with school, with a bully, with anything. There’s no problem you can have that someone hasn’t already solved and wrote about it in a book.” – Will Smith

If you’d like to kill two birds with one stone, read the book Spark, about the power of – and science behind – running.

Are we in a time of growing anomie?

Anomie is the condition of a society in which there are no clear rules, norms, or standards of value. In an anomic society, people can do as they please; but without any clear standards or respected social institutions to enforce those standards, it is harder for people to find things they want to do. Anomie breeds feelings of rootlessness and anxiety and leads to an increase in amoral and antisocial behavior. Modern sociological research strongly supports Durkheim: One of the best predictors of the health of an American neighborhood is the degree to which adults respond to the misdeeds of other people’s children. When community standards are enforced, there is constraint and cooperation. When everyone minds his own business and looks the other way, there is freedom and anomie.

We sure as hell don’t discipline other peoples’ children. Instead we vent and whine and shame bad parents on Twitter. Perhaps the social medias are today’s standards and institutions, stepping forward as governments and religions slide back. Both of these trends worry me, and I’m trying to understand why.

The quote is from Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis [Kindle]. I’m re-reading this book for the third time, and I’m learning more than the first two times combined. In the past I was happy by default, and now happiness takes effort. So I understand and appreciate his findings and suggestions in a new light. Similar to how you empathize with and are grateful for your parents as you start to adult.

What’s your religion IQ?

I’m reading Stephen Prothero’s book Religious Literacy [Kindle]. He includes a basic quiz on religious knowledge which I’m sharing below. I got about 10 right out of these 14…didn’t know the events of the Good Samaritan happened on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Couldn’t name Buddhism’s 4 noble truths.

  1. Name the four Gospels. List as many as you can.
  2. Name a sacred text of Hinduism.
  3. What is the name of the holy book of Islam?
  4. Where according to the Bible was Jesus born?
  5. President George W. Bush spoke in his first inaugural address of the Jericho road. What Bible story was he invoking?
  6. What are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament?
  7. What is the Golden Rule?
  8. “God helps those who help themselves”: Is this in the Bible? If so, where?
  9. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”: Does this appear in the Bible? If so, where?
  10. Name the Ten Commandments. List as many as you can.
  11. Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
  12. What are the seven sacraments of Catholicism? List as many as you can.
  13. The First Amendment says two things about religion, each in its own “clause.” What are the two religion clauses of the First Amendment?
  14. What is Ramadan? In what religion is it celebrated?

There is actually a 15th question but it involves drawing lines and matching terms, so I’m not including it here.

The answers:

  1. Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke
  2. Possible answers: the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Yoga Sutras, Laws of Manu, Kama Sutra (there are probably more…)
  3. Qu’ran
  4. Bethlehem
  5. The Good Samaritan
  6. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  7. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12)
  8. No
  9. Yes, part of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3)
  10. There are Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish versions, so here are the twelve that appear across the three:
    1. I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.
    2. You shall have no other gods before me.
    3. You shall not make yourself a graven image.
    4. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
    5. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
    6. Honor your father and mother.
    7. You shall not kill/murder.
    8. You shall not commit adultery.
    9. You shall not steal.
    10. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    11. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
    12. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
  11. Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
    1. Life is suffering (dukkha)
    2. Suffering has an origin (samudaya, producing karma)
    3. Suffering can be overcome (niroda, leading to nirvana)
    4. The path to overcoming suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path (magga)
  12. What are the seven sacraments of Catholicism? List as many as you can.
    1. Baptism
    2. Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion
    3. Reconciliation/Confession/Penance
    4. Confirmation
    5. Marriage
    6. Holy Orders
    7. Anointing of the Sick/Last Rites
  13. Establishment clause and Free Exercise clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”)
  14. Muslim holiday with a month of fasting; one of Islam’s five pillars


Daily Habits Checklist (November 7 – 27): Travel is the opposite of habit


Writing of the Habit Driven Life continues. I have no idea what I’ll do with the finished draft. Just want to prove (to myself) that I can write 200 more-or-less related pages. It’s almost entirely a mental battle.

Writing at Ueshima Coffee

Didn’t reach my personal goal of 80% in any week. Traveled a lot. But travel is almost the exact opposite of habit. Maybe that’s the point?

Oh, and if I want to do something hard, I must do it in the morning. Meditation and running are two prominent examples. If I don’t meditate or run before noon, the chance of them being done drops by 50% or more. The afternoon and evening can be productive, but I don’t have the same discipline / grit / willpower. Which makes waking up early even more important. Am I just getting tired as the day unfolds? Or is something else going on?

Thanks for reading! Here’s an explanation of how and why I track my daily habits. And here’s a starter template if you’d like to create your own. You can download it in Excel, PDF, etc.

What habits do you monitor? Which habits would you like to develop? Email me anytime.

Notes from Needham’s Bitcoin update call: bitcoin as digital gold and internet cash

For those interested in bitcoin, I read the full transcript of this November call and wanted to share some highlights. You can read or download the PDF transcript here.

Instead of writing notes, I’m just quoting participants verbatim. My takeaways: in the developed world bitcoin is digital gold and in the developing world it’s internet cash. Capital flight is not a big driver of price. There is no real cryptocurrency competitor given bitcoin’s size and network effects and ecosystem. Block size limit has slowed growth but there are promising solutions on the way.

Spencer Bogart (Needham & Company)

  • we find that Bitcoin’s average daily trading volume resembles that of the average security in the S&P midcap 400.
  • there was something on the order of $500 billion of capital flights in China in 2015. And if we think about $500 billion, if any significant percentage whatsoever was using Bitcoin, the price would necessarily be significantly higher. (me: this is also confirmed by Wences)

Wences Casares (Xapo)

  • in the developed world, we see a small number of customers with a large number of coins that do not move very much and they’re not being used for payments. […] It’s, I think, what you refer to as Bitcoin as digital gold.
  • Developing world: And their number one use case there that we see are people who have a smartphone and don’t have a credit card, and they have cash that they’re ready to spend, that they want to spend digitally. And because they don’t have a credit card, they are turning the cash into digital money, Bitcoin
  • But since January, when we began to have more and more fuller blocks and the transaction fees began to go up, we have kept growing by a much more linear fashion, not exponential, until – the way we were growing them until January
  • And in all of those large markets, when we interview our customers, and we see why they are using us, and there’s – the vast majority of them do not have an interest or understanding of Bitcoin per se. This is something they found to be able to turn the cash that they have […] They want to spend on something digitally. […]
  • Bitcoin has that dimension, has network effect around how many people are using it. And depending on how you count, Bitcoin has between 10 to 15 million users, and it’s adding around 30,000 new users a week. Those 30,000 new users that Bitcoin adds every week are more than all of the other cryptocurrencies have ever added combined.

Adam Back (Blockstream)

  • I mentioned fungibility, so I think it depends on the uses obviously. […] It’s one of the attractive things about Bitcoin is that it’s very permissionless, cash-like, payment hubs, strong finality.
  • In the layer two and Lightning side protocols, it’s no longer a broadcast mechanism but the payments are sent, routed much like fetching a web page from the web service in that other people that are not in the path of the transaction would not see the payments. So that improves privacy obviously as a side effect, but greatly improves scalability.
  • So there was some evidence that people who, you know, were slightly aligned with one chain would switch chains because it’s more profitable, and many more switched to mine Ethereum just as a way to sell it and buy Bitcoin. So I think that dynamic could exist in Bitcoin.
  • I think that’s one of the hard and fastest rules in Bitcoin, the 21 million issuance cap on Bitcoin.
  • And my personal view is that permissionless and censor-resistance is quite interesting, since you know, we already do have PayPal, and if users are just trying to make PayPal like small-value transactions, they may not be worried about censor-resistance, and we are then directly competing against PayPal.

Jerry Brito (Coin Center)

  • law enforcement generally feels that they have a handle on illicit uses, and that they have tools to investigate and prosecute illicit uses
  • If people have to ask me, what is Bitcoin? And they will say, “Well look, the IRS says that Bitcoin is property. It’s not money.” And the SEC has said that – well they haven’t but they probably will say that cryptocurrency could be a security. And the CFTC has said it’s a commodity like gold. And these things seem to be in contradiction with each other and isn’t that a problem for Bitcoin? And the answer is no.