Dangerous Ideas: Getting Started Is Overrated [FYI-A GOOD READ]

Perhaps a more poignant example would be to find and interview the 10 people in the country who had the biggest and fastest overall increase to their finances in the last year. Guess who would dominate this list? Lottery winners. Ignoring the survivor bias, one could conclude: the people who get richest fastest all invested heavily in lottery tickets, so that’s what I should do too!

The same, of course, can be applied to an entrepreneur, or anyone, really, who had success in a glamorous pursuit. To the winner, their path seems straightforward. It was just a matter of putting in the time and the results followed. To someone in this position, it can be incredibly frustrating to watch people denying themselves similar success simply because they’re afraid to get started.

But the survivor bias lurks…

For every successful entrepreneur, or writer, or blogger, or actor, there are dozens of others who did get started but then flamed out. Some people lack the right talents. For many more, the pursuit, once past that initial stage of generic, heady enthusiasm, simply lost its attraction and their interest waned.

The Saturation Method

I have observed many people who have had long-term success in an impressive pursuit. I have also observed many people who went after such successes yet failed. I hope by combining both outcomes – success and failure – I can identify a predictor of the former that will remain free of the taint of survivor bias.

In short, I’ve noticed that people who succeed in an impressive pursuit are those who:

* Established, over time, a deep emotional conviction that they want to follow that pursuit.
* Have built an exhaustive understanding of the relevant world, why some succeed and others don’t, and exactly what type of action is required.

This takes time. Often it requires a long period of saturation, in which the person returns again and again to the world, meeting people and reading about it and trying little experiments to get a feel for its reality. This period will be at least a month. It might last years.

Steve Martin’s Diligence

Steve Martin noted that the key to becoming really good at something (so good that they can’t ignore you), is diligence, which he defines as effort over time to the exclusion of other pursuits. This is why people who ultimately succeed in a pursuit go through such a long period of vetting before they begin – if you’re not 100% convinced and ready to tackle something, potentially for years, to the exclusions of the hundreds of interesting new ideas that will pop up along the way, you’ll probably fizzle out well before reaping any reward.


Dangerous Ideas: Getting Started Is OverratedAttend any talk given by an entrepreneur and you’ll hear some variation of the following: The most important thing you can do is to get started! I completely disagree.

This advice has percolated from its origin in business self-help to the wider productivity blogging community. You’ve heard it before: Do you want to become a writer? Start writing! Do you want to become fit? Join a gym today! Do you want to become a big-time blogger? Start posting ASAP! If you don’t start, you’re weak! You’re afraid of success!

Here’s the problem: I completely disagree with this common advice. I think an instinct for getting started cripples your chance at long-term success. And I suggest that, on the contrary, you should develop rigorous thresholds that any pursuit must overcome before it can induce action.

Allow me to explain why…

Survivor Bias

In his convention-busting book, Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Taleb preaches the danger of survivor bias – a common fallacy in which we emulate people who succeeded without considering those who used similar techniques but failed. Taleb uses the example of The Millionaire Next Door, a popular finance guide in which the authors interviewed a large group of millionaires. As Taleb points out, the habits of these millionaires – accumulating wealth through spartan living and aggressive investments – should not be emulated unless one can determine how many more people followed a similar strategy but failed to hit it big.

Perhaps a more poignant example would be to find and interview the 10 people in the country who had the biggest and fastest overall increase to their finances in the last year. Guess who would dominate this list? Lottery winners. Ignoring the survivor bias, one could conclude: the people who get richest fastest all invested heavily in lottery tickets, so that’s what I should do too!

The same, of course, can be applied to an entrepreneur, or anyone, really, who had success in a glamorous pursuit. To the winner, their path seems straightforward. It was just a matter of putting in the time and the results followed. To someone in this position, it can be incredibly frustrating to watch people denying themselves similar success simply because they’re afraid to get started.

But the survivor bias lurks… Leer más “Dangerous Ideas: Getting Started Is Overrated [FYI-A GOOD READ]”

Girl Develop IT Takes Off With Low-Cost, Women-Only Programming Classes

Sarah Chipps, self-styled “Girl Developer,” is a freelance coder based in the New York City area and Mashable recently named her one of 15 Developer/Hacker Women to Follow on Twitter. Chipps thinks the answer to the dearth of women in tech is to create “rockstar women programmers.” She co-founded Girl Develop IT, a series of 16 classes designed to teach women how to build their own projects with HTML/CSS, JavaScript and JQuery, and Ruby On Rails.

“We think it is important to create a place where ladies would be comfortable learning concepts, and tools, and mainly ‘how to code,'” Chipps says. “I think the first step in closing this gender gap is to get women shipping software.”


girl-develop-it.jpgThe tech industry’s rather extreme gender disparity comes up every once in a while. Most recently, an even-handed Wall Street Journal story prompted TechCrunch‘s Michael Arrington to write that women are actually given preferential treatment and have only themselves to blame, which triggered a storm of commentary from all sides.

Much of that commentary was inane, but one point emerged repeatedly: the problem starts early, with math and science in grade school and computer science in college. “The problem lies at the base of the tree,” one TechCrunch commenter wrote simply.

computer-scientist-barbie.jpg

Sarah Chipps, self-styled “Girl Developer,” is a freelance coder based in the New York City area and Mashable recently named her one of 15 Developer/Hacker Women to Follow on Twitter. Chipps thinks the answer to the dearth of women in tech is to create “rockstar women programmers.” She co-founded Girl Develop IT, a series of 16 classes designed to teach women how to build their own projects with HTML/CSS, JavaScript and JQuery, and Ruby On Rails.

“We think it is important to create a place where ladies would be comfortable learning concepts, and tools, and mainly ‘how to code,'” Chipps says. “I think the first step in closing this gender gap is to get women shipping software.” Leer más “Girl Develop IT Takes Off With Low-Cost, Women-Only Programming Classes”

Making Millions on Crowdsourced Homework


How skipping high school helped Student of Fortune founder Sean McCleese find success in the tutoring business

By David Port

The irony isn’t lost on Sean McCleese, a high-school dropout at 14 who now, at the ripe old age of 26, finds himself heading a thriving online tutoring business that specializes in helping students along the very academic path he spurned as a teenager.

“True, I didn’t take the traditional, practically government-mandated academic path,” says McCleese, president and co-founder of the Glendale, Calif.-based online tutorial company Student of Fortune. “But I think the path I took, while it was untrodden and rife with large pitfalls that sometimes weren’t evident ahead of time, navigating through it has helped me as a person and as a business owner.” Leer más “Making Millions on Crowdsourced Homework”

Scitable: Science Made Social [Interview]

Education is increasingly becoming digital, using social networks, videos and collaborative online tools to enhance the learning experience. One of the largest online social education communities is Scitable. A hybrid between a virtual classroom, a social network and a scientific journal repository, Scitable boasts several hundreds of thousand users around the world. We recently got to speak with Vikram Savkar, SVP and Publishing Director at Nature Publishing, about what Scitable is, what it offers to students, and the future of social education.

Can you give us a brief background of Scitable? Where did the idea for a collaborative science community come from?

Scitable is a spin-off of Nature Publishing Group, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific research journals. Scitable is a collaborative online learning space for science, aimed at formal learners at the undergraduate, graduate, and high school levels and informal learners of all ages and from all walks of life.

To a large extent, the idea for a collaborative science education community came right out of the way science itself works. Science isn’t an isolated discipline — it’s inherently social. All scientists pick up data and conclusions from peers and extend them with new insight of their own; and most scientists directly collaborate with peers when developing their theories or designing experiments. We realized that a powerful solution for training scientists has to foster some degree of this collaboration. Otherwise it’s only educating students about the facts, not the process, of science.


Posted by Lauren Dugan

scitable Education is increasingly becoming digital, using social networks, videos and collaborative online tools to enhance the learning experience. One of the largest online social education communities is Scitable. A hybrid between a virtual classroom, a social network and a scientific journal repository, Scitable boasts several hundreds of thousand users around the world. We recently got to speak with Vikram Savkar, SVP and Publishing Director at Nature Publishing, about what Scitable is, what it offers to students, and the future of social education.

Can you give us a brief background of Scitable? Where did the idea for a collaborative science community come from?

Scitable is a spin-off of Nature Publishing Group, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific research journals. Scitable is a collaborative online learning space for science, aimed at formal learners at the undergraduate, graduate, and high school levels and informal learners of all ages and from all walks of life.

To a large extent, the idea for a collaborative science education community came right out of the way science itself works. Science isn’t an isolated discipline — it’s inherently social. All scientists pick up data and conclusions from peers and extend them with new insight of their own; and most scientists directly collaborate with peers when developing their theories or designing experiments. We realized that a powerful solution for training scientists has to foster some degree of this collaboration. Otherwise it’s only educating students about the facts, not the process, of science. Leer más “Scitable: Science Made Social [Interview]”

What’s The Point Of Being An Internet Bully?

I remember the day clearly – I was in middle school gym class and the “popular girls” decided they were tired of playing touch football and wanted to sit out on the field. Now it was a hot day, so I decided to sit out as well. Turns out, only they could sit down and no one else. If anyone knows anything about me, they know I don’t like taking crap from anyone else, and well, let’s just say the popular girls thought it was time to beat me up in the locker room.

Luckily for me, I’m gifted with the an awesome suaveness that allowed me to calmly talk them out of turning me to blonde girl soup. Back then, this experience was frightening. Today, it’s funny. It’s funny that people would want to start a fight over sitting down in gym class.


The Blog

I remember the day clearly – I was in middle school gym class and the “popular girls” decided they were tired of playing touch football and wanted to sit out on the field. Now it was a hot day, so I decided to sit out as well. Turns out, only they could sit down and no one else. If anyone knows anything about me, they know I don’t like taking crap from anyone else, and well, let’s just say the popular girls thought it was time to beat me up in the locker room.

Luckily for me, I’m gifted with the an awesome suaveness that allowed me to calmly talk them out of turning me to blonde girl soup. Back then, this experience was frightening. Today, it’s funny. It’s funny that people would want to start a fight over sitting down in gym class. Leer más “What’s The Point Of Being An Internet Bully?”

Consumers Have Changed, Have Marketers?

Maybe they’re flattering themselves, but lots of Americans believe they’ve become more adept as consumers during the past couple of years. However, an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll finds they are less inclined to believe that brands have adjusted their marketing to keep pace with this greater savvy.

The first of a pair of questions asked the respondents whether they think they’ve become savvier as consumers since the economy’s downturn began. The chart here excerpts the findings. In a breakdown by age group, the 35-44-year-olds and the 55-plusers were especially likely to say they’ve become much savvier as consumers, with 40 percent of each cohort voicing that opinion. The survey’s 18-34-year-olds, who may have thought they were pretty savvy to begin with, were the least likely to say they have become much savvier (27 percent).

One surprise in the data: While men are notorious for thinking well of their know-how, the poll’s male respondents were less likely than their female counterparts to say they’ve become much more savvy as consumers (31 percent vs. 38 percent).


– Mark Dolliver, Adweek
Maybe they’re flattering themselves, but lots of Americans believe they’ve become more adept as consumers during the past couple of years. However, an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll finds they are less inclined to believe that brands have adjusted their marketing to keep pace with this greater savvy.

The first of a pair of questions asked the respondents whether they think they’ve become savvier as consumers since the economy’s downturn began. The chart here excerpts the findings. In a breakdown by age group, the 35-44-year-olds and the 55-plusers were especially likely to say they’ve become much savvier as consumers, with 40 percent of each cohort voicing that opinion. The survey’s 18-34-year-olds, who may have thought they were pretty savvy to begin with, were the least likely to say they have become much savvier (27 percent).

One surprise in the data: While men are notorious for thinking well of their know-how, the poll’s male respondents were less likely than their female counterparts to say they’ve become much more savvy as consumers (31 percent vs. 38 percent). Leer más “Consumers Have Changed, Have Marketers?”

The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer)

For 400 years, higher education in the US has been on a roll. From Harvard asking Galileo to be a guest professor in the 1600s to millions tuning in to watch a team of unpaid athletes play another team of unpaid athletes in some college sporting event, the amount of time and money and prestige in the college world has been climbing.

I’m afraid that’s about to crash and burn. Here’s how I’m looking at it.


For 400 years, higher education in the US has been on a roll. From Harvard asking Galileo to be a guest professor in the 1600s to millions tuning in to watch a team of unpaid athletes play another team of unpaid athletes in some college sporting event, the amount of time and money and prestige in the college world has been climbing.

I’m afraid that’s about to crash and burn. Here’s how I’m looking at it. Leer más “The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer)”