Good always wins.

17/04/2013

Tim DavisThings like bombings make you loose all faith in humanity. Senseless destruction by someone with such minute intelligence that they believe the greatest effect on life is inflicted by hiding in the shadows. Hasn’t humanity shown time and time again that shadows do nothing but strengthen the collective resolve ? Good will always triumph evil because humans are fundamentally good, fundamentally kind and fundamentally caring. If this were not so, we would have destroyed ourselves long ago. Attempting to destroy one another achieves nothing.

September 11 destroyed my faith and the aftermath restored it. Boston does the same and then you read stories like this.

“With the first blast, Mr. Arredondo jumped over the fence and ran toward the people lying on the ground. What happened next, he later recounted to a reporter: He found a young man, a spectator, whose shirt was on fire. He beat out the flames with his hands. The young man, who turned out to be Jeff Bauman, had lost the lower portion of both legs. He took off a shirt and tied it around the stump of one leg. He stayed with Mr. Bauman, comforting him, until emergency workers came to help carry him to an ambulance. He helped only one man, Mr. Bauman.”

This is why “they” – the weak, senseless and unknown perpetrators – will never win. Their cause will never be greater than the cause of good, than the core values that we cherish as a society nor than the fundamental nature of human beings. To be human is to repel such evil with all your being and remember that most of our world fundamentally cares about the rest of those in it. When such a notion no longer holds true, then we will no longer exist as a planet. History, however, has proven to us time and time again that this will never be the case. Since life began as we know it – good has always triumphed and it will again now. Evil has no place in this world and the world always manages to find a way to extinguish its presence one way or another. The sheer number of good people on earth always manage to crush the tiny, insignificant number of evil ones regardless of the deadly effect that small number may have.

Thus, it is true that when disaster strikes, the human spirit naturally and organically manifests itself and kicks in – selfless acts always outshine the evil ones. The holding of a hand, the comforting of an injured person and the utmost action to save a life is what humanity stands for in all of its raw and beautiful form. The mere nanosecond of time when the human brain isn’t wired to think of oneself but rather think of someone else in need. As long as humanity continues along that path – evil cannot win no matter how much heartache it can cause when it appears.

Thats the way it has always been, thats the way it will always be. Good will always triumph.

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Challenge things. Think big.

15/08/2012

Tim DavisDoing something different is hard. Attempting to make other people believe in what you’re doing is even harder. It’s hard to recruit new people to any business. Most people opt to stay safe, to go into large organizations, to earn their salary and do their work. There is nothing wrong with this and in fact in some ways it’s totally awesome to do this. I have done this and while I liked it for a period – I just wasn’t the sort of person who remained settled easily. I wanted to try to change things and in turn change the world – somehow. That might sound corny or might even sound silly to some - “change the world ? he thinks. yeah right.”

And that’s exactly the view I wanted to purge.  Gandhi said

“You must be the change you want to see in the world. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” 

The journey of the first step and all that. It’s been repeated over and over in history but seemingly constantly ignored. But there is truth in that!

Human beings are placed on this planet to challenge the status quo – to question, to be different, to fight, to stand up for inequalities and to work to make something better somehow in some tiny insignificant (or not) way so that their stamp is placed somewhere on the planet when they aren’t here anymore. Startups attempt to do that – many fail, some succeed and that’s part of the world of entrepreneurship. Mostly, at least in my mind, the desire to succeed is often the greatest correlation to success. Continuing when all is failing, when the sky is failing down and no one accept’s that what you are doing is worthwhile is often the hardest thing – it’s easier to give up, it might even bit totally right to give up – but not giving up is really what test’s the limits of your desire to do something that’s important and to change something that’s worthwhile. If you believe it’s worthwhile, then that’s all that matters – you’ll find a way to make it worthwhile. It’s not usually the belief that is wrong – it’s the implementation, the strategy and learning when to change it that is all part of the challenge. Wanting to leave a stamp when you’re no longer here is something totally amazing and while I would argue everyone leaves a stamp in their own way – with their families and friends – it’s probably the magnitude of the stamp to those you aren’t connected too that really makes it different.

Believing and implementing are two vastly different concepts – the belief that you want to invent a teleporting machine is completely antithetical to the implementation of it. But the most important aspect is that there is a belief that it’s possible – because without that, you’ve nothing. 150 years ago – flight was deemed impossible. And today we can’t imagine a world without it. Then of course when flight was first invented – it was never dreamed we could fly from Australia to London in under 1 hour - and yet in the next 20 years that will become a reality. Stephen Hawkins has already theoretically proven that time-travel is possible – by moving forward in time at great speeds and then returning back to where you started. As he describes it

“Imagine that the train left the station on January 1, 2050. It circles Earth over and over again for 100 years before finally coming to a halt on New Year’s Day, 2150. The passengers will have only lived one week because time is slowed down that much inside the train. When they got out they’d find a very different world from the one they’d left. In one week they’d have travelled 100 years into the future. Of course, building a train that could reach such a speed is quite impossible. But we have built something very like the train at the world’s largest particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sounds crazy right ? In 200 years it won’t be crazy at all. Just like 100 years ago it was crazy to think we could fly – now we not only do it, but we’re on the verge of doing it hypersonically. 50 years ago it was deemed impossible to travel the earth anywhere within 1 hour and just when Mars seemed like some distant planet – we now have high resolution imagery of it. Big breakthroughs need big thinking, and big thinking needs belief and implementation. There’s no magic in any of this. No secret recipe and no ability to simply ask someone else to stand in your shoes and take over – it’s hard, it’s challenging and it’s a slog that many simply don’t need in their lives. The ability to question oneself and determine whether they want it or not is one of the most pivotal aspects of starting, building, continuing and remaining at a company. You challenge yourself, you challenge your values and ultimately you challenge your world and those around you. It’s not easy and it was never designed to be. The greatest thinkers of our time where shunned, persecuted and denied basic rights because of their advanced beliefs which are now mostly realities. Who are you to question teleportation ? It’s not if, but when.

Indeed, Stephen Cohen of Palantir – a company which by it’s own mission statement is enabling people

with the right technology and enough data, [to] solve hard problems and change the world for the better. For organizations addressing many of today’s most critical challenges, the necessary information is already out there, waiting to be understood.

 And that’s awesome. But what’s more awesome is his comments on attracting the right people -

 We tend to massively underestimate the compounding returns of intelligence. As humans, we need to solve big problems. If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get complacent and stall. So, run your prospective engineering hires through that narrative. Then show them the alternative: working at your startup.

Challenging people in their environment helps to challenge the world. The adage complacency breeds contempt rings true everywhere. You’re comfortable, you don’t want to change, you’re happy in your world and perhaps that’s totally ok. But nothing changes if you don’t want too. Working on big complex problems is hard and in my view hard is good because without hard we only have easy and then what is their to challenge ? If everything was easy – we would have solved teleportation already right ? We haven’t because it’s hard, not because it’s impossible. It’s hard in the current realm of understanding, not in the entire realm of it and that’s the way it should be approached.

Indeed, the associational context of word understanding in your brain aligns you to comprehension of the word. In my mind, any problem on the planet is no different than such a simple association – we just haven’t discovered a way to do it yet. The most complex problems are simple once they’ve been solved and in many generations from now they will appear in educational literature and be taught at schools. Problems by their nature are meant to be solved – what lies in the middle – the how, the what and the why are all that’s standing between connecting the two together. The sum of the parts connects the whole and sometimes it can be the other way around.

Teleportation ? “Easy” – they will be the words uttered 300 years from now from a 16 year old physics student at school. Think big means we solve big important problems – it simply a matter of application, belief and implementation. Nothings hard, it’s only our interpretation of hard just like any of the associations you automatically make are easy. Making hard, easy, is what makes being a human being relevant.

 

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When to be a hacker. When not.

3/07/2012

Tim Davis I recently answered a question on Quora that was asked in respect to whether you can be an entrepreneur and a hacker at the same time. I’ll reproduce my answer below but I strongly recommend that you go and visit Quora to leave your thoughts.

Can a person be both a great entrepreneur and a great hacker?

In my view, absolutely you can be – however, as with all things in life – it depends on where you want to spend most of your time. I may not be the most qualified person to provide advice on this matter – as I have yet to sell any business or be considered any sort of expert – so this is just my view.

Entrepreneurship is not all about code, just like it is not all about management. You have to learn to manage people – because fundamentally it’s ultimately people that make your startup and nothing else. You have to have to have trust in them, to delegate tasks to them and mostly importantly believe that they will do it properly. If they don’t – you have to be able to resolve the situation (calmly) and in that sense – fix the issues that arise. You’re either a fixer or you’re a hacker and often its very difficult to be both at the same time. Your team will look to you to fix problems with your business (basically everything – strategy, marketing, bus dev, legal, disputes, employee issues, recruiting etc) and you will look to them to fix the issues you have made them responsible for (code/bus dev etc)

Fundamentally however, you can’t spend all your time coding and none of it building your business and managing the above aspects – they can be all consuming and often frustrating if you are very technical person. So you need to make a decision what you want to be – not everyone wants to be the hustler and not everyone wants to be the technical guy. In this sense, not every business in the world takes the view of “oh I’ll just raise of a bunch of venture capital” and idealistically never worry about the business. You have to build the business as much as you build the code – I started out knowing almost nothing about code and a bunch about business. I learnt quickly that I needed some technical skills and so I taught myself how to code. That gave me a pretty good understanding of the ins-and-out of the differences between what was needed and I’m no where near a great coder. I just filled a void in our team and went about doing the best I could. So in my view, you have to be careful to heed this sage advice:

“If you chase 2 rabbits, they’ll both get away.”

The trick with all the names the anon user above listed is they all realized when it was time to code and when it was time to focus on building the business, being the fixer and not coding. They are all brilliant and talented people but none of them had any business experience when they started (except maybe Jobs who wasn’t overtly “technical” in the hacker sense). The point is – they eventually realized that building a business isn’t all about code, or the latest NoSQL DB or some abstract library that optimizes your front-end code by 0.2s – because fundamentally, no business will exist, if it cannot sell it’s message/dream/idea to a wider market. Users might like the fact that your front-end loads 0.2s faster but its not going to make another 10000 people sign up for it – even if it takes 10 secs for a page to load, if people want it – they’ll wait. So arguably, selling the dream is harder than coding – you might produce some amazingly awesome technical feat but if you can’t sell it and make people want it – then you’re limited in scope.

So you have to make your passion define you and you must convey that in any message (at least in my mind) to make people believe. Steve Jobs was the ultimate master – producing “insanely” great products is what defined him, what made him a master and why so many people love Apple. Was he a hacker ? Fundamentally, from a “purist” technical sense, no – but he could deliver in ways no one else could. Would Apple have been the same if Steve Jobs stayed up coding all night ? No way, he didn’t want to be that person – he realized it and got the best people he could to do that. To quote Jim Collins from Good to Great (http://www.jimcollins.com/articl…)

Disciplined people: “Who” before “what” 

When it comes to getting started, good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world. If people get on your bus because of where they think it’s going, you’ll be in trouble when you get 10 miles down the road and discover that you need to change direction because the world has changed. But if people board the bus principally because of all the other great people on the bus, you’ll be much faster and smarter in responding to changing conditions. Second, if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being part of a team that is expected to produce great results. And third, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won’t achieve greatness. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.

So the “hacker/great entrepreneur” question primarily lends itself to the quote above. Chase two things, and you’ll never achieve either. Chase one thing and you’ll be awesome at it. Learn when to chase one thing, learn when to stop chasing that one thing and when to start chasing the other. Everything in between is up to you as a person to figure out – your team, how you delegate, how you sell the message to the world, how you make people believe that what you are doing matters and why they should devote their time to it. That’s your journey as an entrepreneur to figure out.

Steve Jobs said:

“The things that seperates us from the high primate is that we are tool builders, we make things. We make things that change our lives and we make things that change the world. This is a long, and long lasting tradition. We shape our tools and tools shape us.”

Make things that change the world and you’ll figure out whether you are a hacker or business builder. You can be both – the more important part to figure out is when it’s best to be one, or best to be the other.

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How much do you want it ?

1/06/2012

Tim DavisThe question is how much do you want it ? Forget the boxing for a moment in this video below but rather listen to the story. Although there is a balance in life and it’s probably not accurately potrayed in the story in this video – there is some serious truth to it. It’s about hard work – there’s no way around it because I believe whole heartedly that the overnight success is a myth. The media portrays some startups as an overnight success – but there’s very little truth in that. Angry Birds – the enormously popular video game by Rovio – was the company’s 52nd attempt at success.  They spent 8 years hacking away before they hit their sweetspot – and it’s one of many. There’s no way around it – it’s just all about how much you want it and how passionate you are.

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An Amazing Speech. One Worth Watching.

13/11/2011

Tim Davis Once every now and then – you discover a video on YouTube that really inspires you. This one, a speech in Charlie Chaplins 1940 Movie – The Great Dictator – is more prevelant in this day and age than ever. It’s amazing that almost 70 years on – it’s still touches on issues that humanity hasn’t solved. Despite all our advances, we still can relate to a speech more than 70 years old – from a man renown as a comedian – not one known for inspiration.

It speaks of hope, of greed, of the changes in the world that were so prevalent in 1940 and some would indeed argue that has been present in our current generation. Some of the most amazing speeches were written so long ago – and yet humanity seems to forget our history so quickly. This is one worth watching and one worth sharing and saving for your children to see.

Here is the full text:

I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business – I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls – has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die liberty will never perish…

Soldiers – don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate – only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers – don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written ” the kingdom of God is within man ” – not one man, nor a group of men – but in all men – in you, the people.

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers – in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

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