Book review – Moonshot

It’s been a while since my last book review, I have been reading some but not that much. This book, Moonshot and the subject really spoke to me. And also confirmed some of the things I was already seeing in broader society.

It’s about the necessity of a strong government in solving the issues we as a society face. And working towards those goals in a goal oriented way. And how the absence of the government has created some of the problems we face today.

It’s about those projects that are of vital importance to society but are way out of reach by any standard in todays possibilities , technological or otherwise. And which needs to be done in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s say a moon landing.

It’s about what it takes to het there and how a government unlike most cooperations isn’t bound by shareholders demanding annual dividends, budgets (in some ways) and innovation.

Innovation as an obstacle ? Yes, most if not all innovation comes out of government programs, stuff like radar, lenses , the internet, all out of government funded research facilities. It’s not your average company that does all the hard innovative work, they come up with the consumer products, and be that much later.

The current belief in the market as a one stop shop for the worlds lager problems is flawed , capitalism as the solution bringer an illusion. Without a strong government who sets out the goals not much is done in the way of true innovation.

Markets don’t magically move in the right direction they need strong guidance and more importantly the government should be running the research and the projects. This book really gets into the importance of this, not just trying to nudge the market towards a goal by subsidizing stuff and watching the show.

The government has to have a strong long term view of the goals to solve the problems in larger society , like climate change , inequality , political stability and so on. This book explains the importance of an active government and society in fixing it’s problem. And in the long run also fixing capitalism.

Cooperation , beautiful, simple and necessary

Nowadays, and for some time now , your succes is portrait as being of ones own doing. Whether it be work , study, personal life, everything is achieved by the individual. You work hard therefore it’s your succes, and we don’t need anyone else to be successful. This misconception is widespread.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, we can achieve nothing without our fellow man. Everything stands or falls with cooperation in society as a whole. Nothing is achieved as an individual. Yet a lot of people seem to think so. But nothing is just the fruit of ones own labour. It ‘s always a collaborate effort.

You didn’t just study hard for example, somebody teached there , someone cleaned there, someone thought long and hard about the curriculum. Somehow nowadays al these efforts seem to get lost in the narrative. Let’s call them the invisibles of the individual succes. Which then by default is not an individual succes. But a collaborate effort.

This type of thinking comes in all shapes and sizes. Got sick and didn’t fully recover ? You should have worked harder, studying went sideways, you should have worked harder. Missed out on buying a house, worked harder and saved more. And so on. But most of these failures are because of the lack of common goals as a society.

A lot of people think this way because they made it and worked hard , you see I did it, so can you. But in the meantime all the infrastructure that makes the individual thrive has budgets cut and or left to the marketplace. From healthcare , education to the job market , everything had to be flexible and cost effective. With growing uncertainty and loss of function.

Simple example , too long in a flexible job contract and you miss out on the opportunity to buy a house. But yet you did everything ‘right’, worked hard and saved harder. Yet there are no more hours in a day and the paychecks keep getting smaller , thanks too inflation. Lot’s more examples out there , but what pains me most is the beauty that’s in working together is dismissed so easily. We get things done together, working on common goals for the common good. And you learn a lot from each other. Faster and more than as an individual. Everyone benefits.

So talk about your goals, ideas and other things you enjoy and find people to work with, who knows what might be the result, in the meantime we all learn. En start appreciating other peoples work as part of your succes.

Brain damage , 5 years on.

It’s hard too believe it’s been 5 years , although 2020 has been a very strange year where time stood still and flew by all at the same time. 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of my brain injury , resulting in permanent brain damage. It is the fifth anniversary of the new me.

For people new to this blog and who missed my earlier writings on the subject , a small summary. 5 years ago I had an inflammatory reaction in my brain and after a recovery period this resulted in permanent damage.

What does that entail. Problems with my speech, as in putting strange words in sentences and incoherent speech. Short and long term memory problems. My brain doesn’t make the distinction between useful and unuseful information anymore so everything comes all at ones. Reading is sometimes an issue and movement as well.

After a period of recovery and trying to regain as much of the old me as possible I am now at the point of acceptance , knowing that improvements will probably not be there anymore.

Despite it being pretty obvious from the start that a full recovery wasn’t in the cards for me. I have always been trying to find a way to do just that. Consciously or subconsciously.

And where planning and resting are very important pieces of the puzzle and they work for most of the time there are periods that nothing works. Whatever you do you will be fully confronted with the brain damage. And the only thing left to do is take rest and ride it out. The good news is better days will come. There will be a moment when the system and rhythm will do their work again. I used to try and stretch the limits as soon as such a run was over I now just enjoy the benefits of having a good run.

That said it’s will always be hard not functioning on a ‘normal’ level , whatever that is, and admit that your wheels simply spin slower that the rest of the world. It has given me great inside in what I can and cannot do. How far I can push things and know when to stop. It’s not an exact science , believe me I have tried making it one, so planning and resting a certain way does not always give a steady result. It comes and goes in waves. The limit is not a clear line in the sand and sometimes I find myself on the other side of it. And it can be frustrating at times. You can go overboard and do to little and just do laps in your head.

I am very happy with all the things I still do, work that suits me and hobby’s I can practice. I fully realize how fortunate I am , as one doesn’t get a second run after such a run in with your health , it’s not everyone’s fortune.

It’s a strange place we all find ourselves in at the moment, and knowingly or unknowingly we all run into our limits. And like many others , I was not in the habbit of talking a lot about my state of mind. But talking really helps, someone who listens is helping. So if you find yourself in a bind, mentally or otherwise, find someone to talk to , ask for help. Or write , get it out, and maybe share it later. It really helps.

Book review – Capital & Ideology

It’s done , read all 1114 pages. Which sounds harder than it is. Piketty, in writing Capital & Ideology has made a very readable , clear and very well laid out book. It doesn’t get complicated or hard to grasp. It very clearly lays out the history of capital and the inequality that comes with it, with the political landscape as the binding factor.

It shows that all inequality boils down to political choices. The book doesn’t give any one way solutions but rather a frame for further discussions and thinking. On how to make the world a more balanced place.

It takes the wind out of the individualist views and market based thinking as a means to end all problems. I am not giving a short summary on the book bur encourage everyone to read it. Take your time , it’s not complicated but you will need time to process and think about the subjects.

This book should be standard in any economics , history or sociology class. Lately a few very important books have been released on the problems surrounding the economy inequality and the environmental issues of our time. This book puts a lot of that in a historical context.

An absolute must read, food for thought and thinking.

Book review – That will never work

The early days of Netflix, told in this autobiography about and written bu Marc Randolph. It captures the ideas, difficulties, and the vision of a team of talented people focussing on making an idea work. One that was never done before. But ultimately resulted in the succes that is Netflix.

For me it was an affirmation on how far you can get when working together. Off course talent is a necessity , lot’s of endurance and commitment. But it all comes back on teamwork. And a bit of luck at the right time. In a day and age where individual succes is mostly contributed on that individual and the aura created on the exceptional talent and grit one had too achieve their goals and succes this book reaffirmed my belief that no one can do it alone. However talented or how much work one puts in. At some point you need help and lots of it.

Chase your dreams, but get help. Besides this personal take out of the book it is just fun too read, for everyone into autobiography’s and personal stories and not just people into economics or on the hunt for the next ‘how-to-on-startups’.

You will get some insight on the how to part, it is not a guide far from it. It teaches creativity works and be an open person.

An absolute joy to read and it’s really good in you are reading something more complex , for the change of pace or just in between the other daily tasks. Have fun !

Book review – Creative Quest

Another book review. Since the whole Corona crisis thing I have been focussing more on reading. Which has been paying out big time. My reading skills are getting better which after my brain damage wasn’t a guarantee that It would become better again.

I still get tired easily when reading but reading now goes faster and I remember somewhat more. It’s also something I can easily cut into small segments.

So yeah, been reading more. And reading some cool stuff as well. This review is on a book written by Questlove which deals with creativity and how you can set your mind in a way your creativity flows. And how to deal with distractions , and make it more of a framework. 

Every chapter deals with a topic which creative people are faced with, building your art, managing tasks surrounding making art, getting your art out there and sell it. Networking , staying in touch with people. And so on. 

I have music as a hobby and I know this won’t turn into a career anytime some. But everything in the book is applicable to the creative side of other professions whether it be as a software developer, product manager , journalist. Most professions have a creative side to them. And need a mindset and framework to fit that creative process.  It’s making sure all the conditions are set for being at your best creative wise. 

So I highly recommend this book for basically everyone that feels the need to be creative as a hobby or in parts of their job. 

Book review – Good economics for hard times

This is one of those books I am not going to indulge in giving away some parts or examples of the books greatness. So no subjects , conclusions of problems discussed in the book. Not doing it. Which makes this a bit hard. Here I go.

What I am saying is anyone with just a slight interest in the reasons for the current state of the world should absolutely read this book. Especially if you have some affinity with economics. But the good news is, it’s not about economics. It’s about assumptions , which we all know are…. , anyway these assumptions have been drafted into policy. And these policies have inflicted permanent damage and made the problems they were designed too solve much worse.

The book touches on most of the main problems of our time , and all is explained in a clear and very understandable way. Without cutting corners in it’s due diligence.

It’s pretty remarkable how long some of these assumptions on social structures, money, taxes , income , human values have come back over a long period of time. While most of these assumptions were proven to be wrong or have changed over time. Nevertheless most measures to counter the problems have been intensified because there is nog change in our assumptions. Which made the problems even worse , and a downward spiral. Nobody thought about checking if what we were doing was in fact pointless.

Maybe I am being a bit cryptic in my review of this book. But hopefully you get some direction on what the book is about.

And forget what I said about it being interesting for people which want to know about why we are in a world we are in. This book should be mandatory for everyone. It should be mandatory in all schools , universities what have you.

It teaches a very valuable lesson , a problem can never be solved with just one field of expertise, not even when it’s the dominant field. It’s very much a necessity to counter our current problems with multidisciplinair teams , creativity and looking at the problem from different perspectives.

We can only solve our problems together, no-one can do it alone.

Book review – More money than god

I read quite a bit again, which helps my brain a lot. And I have always found it relaxing. I mostly read biography’s , history and finance books. And the odd novel. And some tech books , which I won’t bore you with. I recently finished reading more money than god , by Sebastian Mallaby , a book combining history and finance in one go. Two of my favorite subjects. Plus it tells the stories of all the people involved , 3 boxes ticked.

It’s not a dry book with just names dates and numbers, it’s written with stories anecdotes and the numbers just fit in naturally. 

It’s about the history and evolving world of hedgefunds. For those who don’t know hedgefunds are private investment funds which in the classical term make bets on markets, and make use of diverse array of instruments in order to gain a edge in the market of choice. In the classical sense a hedge funds was always hedged against the risk they take. Neutral in a way, as far as their models go anyway. But that changed over time , and most just looked for edges in markets.

This book starts out with the first hedgefunds and goes until recent times just after the credit crunch in 2007/2008. What’s interesting it not just covered the most famous hedge funds and their bets like Soros versus the pound. But also lesser known stuff like the takeover of an Indonesian bank by a hedge fund.

Without giving away alle the stories the book tells the tales and sets out to give some insight in why hedgefunds are good for markets instead of the more common view that all hedgefunds are evil. It makes a good point. It’s also very dense and took me a while before finishing it. It’s a good for anyone interested in finance or the world of finance in general, the more numbers inclined among us will also be catered too and even the casual reader with more of a history interest will be having fun while reading it. 

It’s one of the best books on the history of hedgefunds in general and has a lot of interesting tales to tell. Make sure to put it on your reading list. 

Mindset – How to get things done.

Mindset, how to get things done. Whatever that may be! Well I have done a lot of experiments with what works for me and what I should improve when I want to get stuff done. It consist of a few key ingredients. First and foremost is planning. Have a goal , break it down into steps and plan the time, resources and order and start stepping.

Well that’s easy. No it’s very hard. When I first started using weekly planning sheets it was out of sheer necessity because I would otherwise forget everything. It was in place for me to get by on a day to day bases.

Then after a lot of trial and error I got my day to day in order and got myself thinking what do I want challenge myself with. And make a plan. Then I started falling into some traps. First and foremost I planned way too much , too much tasks and too much goals.

Which brings me to ‘rule’ rather recommendation number 2. Plan too little. There will always be something that takes up more time or an unplanned event will destroy your carefully set to do list.

Have no more than 1 great goal at any time in 3 categories. Max, why ? Well otherwise it will get muddy and stuff starts drifting. You can only focus on so much. For example , set a work or learning related goal, one physical fitness and one personal life goal. Learn how to program , run a 10K race and plan a trip. Or whatever you want. There will be lots of other stuff needs doing besides those goals.

It’s also divided into 3 categories for a reason, one is demanding on the brain, one on the body. You can keep those two nicely balanced , your brain needs time to digest newly learned stuff and exercise helps a lot (as does sleep) , the third must be less of a braindrain and more in the way of relaxing.

You have only about 4 hours worth of intens brain work a day anyway. If you trained yourself right.

So keep to do lists small, and allow yourself much needed rest in between. Recovery is key. Only make new to to lists when old ones are fully done. Don’t put notes and reminders for future tasks on existing to do lists , it will distract.

Makes a nice bridge to the last tip for today, when doing work that needs a of your brain power , make sure you get rid of any distractions. Put away your phone, disconnect the internet, don’t open your mailbox. Make sure you fully focus on the task at hand. Make sure everyone knows you cannot be disturbed. Make sure you have a way of letting people know they cannot disturb you during those hours , only for emergencies. And let them know what an emergency looks like.

Make sure you don’t stretch yourself too much in those intensive brainpower consuming sessions. Set an alarm after an hour or two and take a real break. Jus eat something or enjoy a good coffee. Do not let your distractions in, no phone no email no internet. Just time for recovery. Limit the total amount of time to a max of 4 hours or so per day. Start with a half an hour and build from there. It’s hard focusing with such intensity.

I have made all the mistakes having way to many goals , too much on the to do list and every distraction possible at hand. It leads to frustration and anger because nothing gets done within the time frame you planned for it. Not even close. It’s not easy getting razorsharp focus. It needs a lot of training. The mindset isn’t just there the moment you decide it is. It needs training , consistency and rhythm to cement itself.

And for now , rule or recommendation 3, don’t be too hard on yourself. There will be days when everything goes easy , and there will be days, weeks even when nothing works. Just trust yourself and stick to it. You will get there and it will get easier to get your focus back. Make sure you evaluate your goals over time, is it still the right goal and does it need adjusting. Are the steps still the right ones. Have no fear of throwing goals in the bin if it’s not achievable for you. Just start a new one. I have trashed more than I finished. But made sure I learned from my mistakes. That’s why it’s important to evaluate.

And have fun, it’s not always fun, nor should it be. Some goals will be a necessity in order too get forward. But make sure you have fun along the way. And set fun goals, stuff that you know is fun from the beginning. And never give up on yourself and the process.

Zero

Back to zero, this lockdown for me is a forced rethink of what I need to do, or love to do. I have had a forced reset after my brain injury and after a few years I have a pretty solid base. And I got into a rhythm again. I sometimes forget to focus on the goals I have set after my return to the ‘real world’.

After adjusting to the lockdown and getting my head around it, I have spent some time going tru my notes and thoughts just after my revalidation. It was very much focussed around learning and getting some old ideas done. Mostly focussed around creativity and music. It’s has been hard getting started on those things for some reason. This part of my goals has been overshadowed by the day to day stuff I need to do. So I am now need to set some time for it.

This new crisis has also made me think we as a society need a reset, a bold start from scratch, back to zero.

It has also shown the fragility of our system and the need to rethink a large part of it. For me a lot needs to get back to zero. Start to rethink the whole idea of how we need to organize society and how we do things.

The focus on economic growth and keeping big business happy is long overdue. The metrics we use for calculating our output is one of the past. The cost of every crisis lands on the weakest shoulders. Most people haven’t really recovered from the financial crisis of 2008 and are now here. It might seem as if there was a recovery but most people just got back to a level of were they were in 2008.

The main problem is the inability for most people to get there financial situation more stable, workers rights have steadily been downgraded, the gig economy is not one that benefits most workers. And thus most people. Combining this with the every growing privatizing of healthcare , utilities and so on it’s a risk cocktail that has again landed on the same group of people.

The risk for society as a whole has gone up as well, the governments around the world have stepped in at an enormous cost for the future , all in a all in bet for quick recovery. Which might not happen.

So while this is all pretty gloomy it also gives us as a opportunity to force a few long overdue changes. The most important is the mindset about how we measure the wealth in our society. It needs to be a new mix of economic growth , health and happiness of the people and nature. A focus more on the quality of life and things rather than just things and masses of them.

It’s just a thought but these levels of leverage on financial , environmental and human risk our current system is very much unsustainable. Hopefully this new crisis will give way to forward thinking and real problem solving. I for one hope for the best.