Discover more from Playing the Long Game
Expedition Signals: Episode 2.
On Life, Business, Product, Trading, and Making Better Choices.
Greetings from Alicante.
Welcome to the second episode of Expedition Signals.
A few years ago, I learned a precious lesson from Benjamin Hardy. Our energy and cognitive capacity are limited, so periods of high intensity at work demand periods of deep recovery. That’s an essential part of creative work. Without rest, you cannot perform your best.
That’s a lesson I’ve been trying to stick to for a long time. I must recognize it’s tough for me to do. Somehow, I’ve always had some kind of addiction to work. I enjoy what I do, so, “If I could only push a bit farther…”.
But I know that’s a terrible mistake.
So, counterintuitive to what my mind usually tells me, I decided to take a vacation. I took a couple of weeks off. After several months of hard work, that’s something I very much needed. I needed to disconnect, reflect, and take a fresh look at things from 10000-feet high.
But, since the last report, not everything has been rest and relax.
I also started to refactor my note-taking system. As I said in the last episode, it’s a vital part of my creative work. Inspired by the Zettelkasten system, lately, it’s gotten a bit chaotic. So, to improve matters and take my second brain to the next level, I started reading “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens, a really promising book on the topic. I’m really eager to finish it and tell you more about it.
Beyond that, I published a new article on software engineering and a few other posts —but more on that below.
And last but not least, I dove a bit further into crypto trading. That’s a terrain I started learning about at the beginning of the year, and I believe it can be a fantastic tool for tech creators like me.
You can learn precious lessons from it that you can directly apply to your life, businesses, and products. And you can get an excellent source of income without compromising your time too much.
It’s a risky thing if you’re not cautious enough but, if tackled carefully, I’m sure it can be an incredible tool toward financial independence.
I abandoned it in the last three months as I focused all my attention on deep creative work —like starting this newsletter, publishing new articles, and engaging on Twitter, among other things. But after that nice creative spike, it was time to resume it.
As a side outcome, I built a small tool on Google Spreadsheets for tracking my trades, seeing how I’m doing, and increasingly improving my odds of success. If you want to use it, you can find it here.
What I’m doing next.
Now, looking at the near future, next I’ll be moving the needle further with crypto trading. I’ll lower the time I dedicate to it, however, so I can focus on other things. My goal is to shape a sustainable, repeatable, and predictable system for generating consistent income on a regular basis while leaving room for other stuff.
Apart from that, I’ll also be publishing a new article on software engineering, promoting the last one, sharing and engaging on Twitter, and optimizing my content creation and publishing process, including my note-taking system.
And last, I want to start a new small software project. I’ve been some time away from coding, and my geek self is eagerly demanding to go back to it. I want to use it as an excuse to try some new tech. I still don’t know what I’ll build, so I’ll keep you posted as I approach a more precise roadmap.
Things I’m Thinking About.
Escaping the Microservices Wormhole.
Should I build a monolith? Or should I go with microservices instead?
Answering these questions when you’re starting a new software product is not an easy challenge. Or is it?
In this article, I dig into what I believe is a familiar struggling moment for many software creators.
Here is an excerpt:
Avoid microservices when you’re starting a business.
You’ll have more food on the table to handle, and that can trigger a vicious cycle. With more to handle, you’ll need to grow your team to address the increasing complexity. And when your team grows bigger, the organization will become harder, so again there will be even more to handle.
Like fast food, it is a great way to make your company fat.
Want to know more about why a distributed app can quietly break your business when you’re starting up? If so, you can read the whole article here.
Core Principles for Trading.
In any problem domain, there are essential, invariant properties common to every successful solution that succeeds in solving the problem. And trading is no different. There are core rules that every successful trader adheres to. Indeed, following them is not a guarantee of success. But not doing it is certainly a ticket for failure.
Throughout the past year diving into the trading space, there is a problem I’ve been recurrently experiencing: derailing from those original rules I told myself I’d never break.
I know I shouldn’t do it, but yet I do it. It’s pretty frustrating.
I believe this is a pretty common problem for other people as well, so, in this post, I try to consolidate and share the core set of principles that, up to now, I deem as essential for success.
It’s still a work in progress. I’ll update it as my comprehension of the topic evolves.
Shortcuts do not work.
If you’re learning a new discipline and trying to grow on top of it, there is something that barely ever works: taking shortcuts.
You can try to skip steps and apply your ingenious “growth hacks.” Yet, experience tells me that it doesn’t take long for reality to slap you in your face.
If I had to attribute my most catastrophic mistakes to just one factor, I believe that would be the pursuit of hyper-growth. This isn’t the first time I talk about that. I’ve been speaking for a long time about it in the context of creating businesses and products, yet it’s easy to fall for its appeal.
In fact, beyond businesses and products, I’d say most of the critical mistakes I committed in my life in general, or things like trading in particular, are greatly influenced by it.
As in everything else, hyper-growth won’t get you to your destination sooner. Often, counter-intuitively to what you might think, more is less, and faster is slower.
So instead, study the system and walk the terrain first to get started. Then improve to come up with a system that fits you. And only when you have an approach that works for you, scale to optimize for more money, more time, or both, depending on your particular needs and goals.
Get started. Understand how it works, get familiar with what it takes, and identify your blind spots.
Aim to understand the system first. Study materials like books, webinars, courses, and the like to learn the concepts and theory. Start with the classics, look for the fundamentals, and grow from there.
Mix the theory with practice. Walk the terrain at the same time. Practice and get familiar with what it takes to do the work.
Here is extremely important you make minimal bets. Assume you’ll fail by default. You’re learning and still don’t know what you don’t know, so keep your risk at a minimum.
Improve. Shape a system that fits you.
We are not all equal. Everyone has distinct circumstances and pursues different ends. Assuming a system can work for everyone in all situations is a naive perspective. You need an approach that matches your particular context and goals. Once you’ve learned the foundations, this is what you should aim to achieve.
Optimize your system to earn more money and/or free up more of your time to do more of what you intrinsically value or other things that help you get there.
Remember, the right steps, in the right sequence, are essential to succeed.
Don’t Let Your Results Fool You.
We tend to judge our decisions based on the results we get. But is that the right thing to do?
When we start learning to code, it’s usual to follow guided exercises, tutorials, and the like. The boundaries are clear, and we have instant feedback on whether we solved the initial problem or not: either the program works according to spec, or it doesn’t. The factors out of our control are relatively small, and outcomes tightly correlate with our decisions.
So judging our choices based on the results is…we could say…fair enough.
However, things get wicker as we move into the real world and start growing real businesses and products.
We might make the right choices along the way and still don’t find a problem worth solving. We might discover a worthy problem and still not find a suitable solution for it. And even if we do, we can build a whole system that works…and still fails.
Complexity becomes massive, and there are infinitely more elements out of our control than under it.
On the one hand, there is a longer delay to see the results.
It’s one thing to build and launch a product, but it can take a long time to see long-term results like customer adoption or consistent, sustainable revenue. So did we make the wrong choices?
Or simply haven’t we seen the effects of those choices yet?
On the other hand, the driving factors for those results may not be apparent.
They hide far behind a complex causal chain of mechanisms, most of which may not be under our control. Did we fail because we chose the wrong problem? Was it because we shaped the wrong solution? Was it because the messaging we conveyed did not resonate with people? Was it because of the pricing we set out?
Or was it due to other external factors, like a new, unexpected competitor jumping into the scene, a disruptive external event (like COVID), or maybe someone in your team getting off track?
It’s hard to know.
Maybe it was even none of the above. Or, more likely, it was a combination of several factors that led to that result.
Yet, one thing is clear: creating and growing businesses and products is more about failing than about succeeding. Luck and randomness play a critical role.
You can make the right choices and still get bad outcomes. And you can make the wrong choices and still get good results. And, still, it’s frequent to emit a judgment exclusively based on the results.
So how should we judge if we are doing right or wrong then?
Well, we’ll have to save that for another time. But for now, don’t let the results of your past decisions fool you. Judging your choices just by their outcome will lead you to the wrong conclusions.
When that happens, success gets still more random and elusive.
Gems I Found.
Thinking in Bets.
We are often fooled by randomness. Luck plays too big of a role. So how can we make better decisions?
Based on Annie Duke’s book, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, in this article, Ana Lorena Fabrega brings out some lessons to help us do just that.
She puts it in the context of childhood education, but it’s equally applicable to every person crafting a business, a product…or simply living a life.
Want to take a look? You can check it out here.
Small Tools for Shaping.
Design work is messy work.
There is no clear route. It’s more like a maze with many dead ends. And as a result, it’s easy to get stuck, lost in the weeds, and without a clear way out. But why? Why can’t we move forward? And what can we do about it?
After many years in the trenches shaping and building software myself, I’ve faced this struggle so many times. Although I’ve come to internalize different ways to overcome those roadblocks when they arise, there are many struggling moments where I don’t know where to go and get myself down into wormholes.
In this article, Ryan Singer does a great job establishing a common language and making some of those challenges explicit as a set of patterns.
It’s not a process with a clear sequence but rather a set of tools to use, just in time, upon what the situation demands. Each tool tackles a common struggling circumstance that every creator repeatedly faces in any given project.
If you want to get unstuck, start by recognizing those situations and what to do about them.
Want to learn more? You can have a look at the article here.
Vaccine Mandates Are a Systemic Risk.
Vaccine or no vaccine? We’re being forced into believing, almost as a religious act, there is no dilemma at all about it.
Vaccines are the ultimate answer to our problems, and everyone, almost without exception, should unquestionably get them.
Those who doubt it are against the collective. Hence, the vaccine should be compulsory. Vaccine mandates are more than justified. For our safety. All in the name of science.
But is that “the truth”?
This is something I’ve been trying to get my head around for a long time.
Here, in this post, Joe Norman very well articulates many of my concerns and thoughts around it —and, as always, massively enriches them.
Want to have a look? You can do it here.
And if you want to dig further into the topic, here is another conversation he held with Harry Crane in “The Academy,” a Youtube channel they started not so long ago where you can learn about interesting, current affairs from a complexity-based optic.
These days it is relieving to hear an honest chat between people genuinely looking to get closer to the truth, out of the official dogmas and the weakly grounded conspiracy theories that flood us every day.
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” —Charles Bukowski
Thanks for reading Playing the Long Game. Did you enjoy it? I hope you did.
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And that's all for now.
Have a creative time.