On Confidence and Growth

“True self-confidence is “the courage to be open—to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.” Real self-confidence is not reflected in a title, an expensive suit, a fancy car, or a series of acquisitions. It is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.”

“What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”

– Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck


How are We Standing with the Poor?

“The more someone identifies with a profession or an “accomplishment” such as an award, the less human he will be (in the classical sense). In virtue ethics, the only “excellence” worth attaining is that of “being human”, with all what it entails (honor, courage, service, satisfaction of public & private duties, willingness to face death, etc.); “achievements” are reductions and alienations for lower forms of life.

IN ANCIENT ROME this was a privilege reserved for the patrician class. They were able to engage in professional activities without directly identifying with them: to write books, lead armies, farm land, or transact without being a writer, general, farmer, or merchant, but “a man (*vir* rather than *homo*) who” writes, commands, farms or transacts, as a side activity.

TODAY, as humanity got much, much richer, one would have thought that everyone would have access to the privilege. Instead, I only find it in minimum wage earners who just “make a living” and feel forced to separate their identity from their profession. The higher up in the social ladder, the more people derive their identity from their profession and “achievements”. – Nassim Taleb

When I was with Acumen Fund, we would ask ourselves: How are we standing with the poor? And quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if I even really knew what that meant. For the longest time, I thought it meant putting myself into another person’s perspective, trying to see the world through their eyes and “speak up” for those who didn’t have a voice. And then I came across this posting by Nassim Taleb, who separates out identity and accomplishment and really got me reevaluating my definition. It also made me realize how hard it was, as the higher up the social ladder you are, the harder it is to distinguish between identity and accomplishment, the harder it is to relate.

Standing with the poor is about looking beyond profession. Beyond awards and accomplishments. Beyond first impressions. Standing with the poor is a reminder to oneself to separate the way you look at yourself and others around you; between their accomplishments and identity. Standing with the poor is about understanding self-worth, regardless of what situation/career/social status you are in.

And at the end of the day, it all comes back to valuing human dignity.

On What is Possible and Impossible

“When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they are doing, know the rules and they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not, and you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts are made by poeple who have not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impossible, its easier to do. And because no nobody has done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.”

– Neil Gaiman, 2012 Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

Aspirational Storytelling


Grand Central Station, New York. Photo by: Cuba Gallery

“When you first start writing stories in the first person, if the stories are made so real that people believe them, the people reading them nearly always think the stories really happened to you. That is natural because while you were making them up you had to make them happen to the person who was telling them. If you do this successfully enough, you make the person who is reading them believe that the things happened to him too. If you can do this you are beginning to get what you are trying for, which is to make something that will become a part of the reader’s experience and a part of his memory. There must be things that he did not notice when he read the story or the novel which, without his knowing it, enter into his memory and experience so that they are a part of his life. This is not easy to do.”

– Ernest Hemmingway, unpublished manuscript from the Kennedy Library collection, Hemmingway on Writing (Ed Larry Phillips)

What it Means to Dream

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again.

– Shakespeare, The Tempest. Act III Scene II

“Even Well-Meaning Gatekeepers Slow Innovation” – Jeff Bezos

“The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity – to pursue their dreams”… “These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum – they create win-win situations and create significant value for developers, entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers.”

Jeff Bezos Annual letter to Amazon shareholders

Primary vs. Secondary

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address