On Spending While Learning, & on Paying for Education

A quick summary of my opinion on the topic. Education is one of the most important things to spend time on; and definitely worth strategic money investment.

Education should not be overpriced. So I can’t say that to spend hundreds of thousands on a piece of paper is worth it. It may be, or it may not.

Real education is often worth it. In the modern competitive world, highschool education is required. College education is required. There are exceptions, where college dropouts are successful, however such strategy is not generally recommended. College teaches you how to pursue a single objective (graduation) for 4 years. College teaches you social skills.

Statistically, PhD’s don’t pay for themselves: the opportunity cost and overall cost of a phd is *not* recovered throughout the lifetime of the individual, so it is not recommended. Same probably applies to Masters degrees. However, masters in business, statistics, or economics sounds generally worth it.

MBA pays for itself, and is recommended.

I generally recommend spending small amounts of money ($10’s or $100’s) on single (non-degree) classes. Examples are: salsa classes, language classes, udemy.com classes on using excel, accounting, reading financial statements, css tutorials, etc. Spending a small amount is motivation to learn, to get something out of that class. Spending also means that you hope the learning resource is of higher value than a free resource.

Currently Reading: Getting to Yes. The theory of negotiation

This is the book that is suggested via MIT’s Open CourseWare, as the work of¬†Roger Fisher who is the name in negotiation theory.

Fisher, Roger (1991) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

From the syllabus ( https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/urban-studies-and-planning/11-011-the-art-and-science-of-negotiation-spring-2006/syllabus/ ):

This course starts from the observation that the world of planners, managers, lawyers, public officials, analysts, and other professionals is marked by interdependencies, fragmented sources of power, and an uncertain future. In this unruly world, the sources of understanding and stability are often provisional and the ability to learn and to manage change is at a premium. The diversity of our society and work force contributes to conflicts over goals, interests, and frames of reference. These characteristics create an ongoing need for the ability to craft stable agreements that advance interests, build trust, and construct understanding in complex and unstable environments. They create a need for negotiation.

To help you develop the understanding and skills necessary to respond to this challenge, we will explore three insights that currently shape negotiation research, theory, and practice. The insights each describe negotiation as an interactive process. The first insight is that even simple interdependencies create a dynamic environment in which multiple outcomes are possible. The bare fact that a bargain requires the consent of both parties is sufficient to open a complex space for interaction between negotiators. The second insight is that negotiation is rarely a zero-sum process. Negotiators affect not only how value is distributed, but also how much value there is to distribute. The third insight is that negotiation is a social process. Through their interactions, negotiators shape the terms in which they understand problems, their sense of what kind of behavior is fair, appropriate, and desirable, and their ability to trust.

We treat these insights as providing a foundation for the study of negotiation and for negotiation practice, and the bulk of the term is devoted to exploring them. This inquiry is organized around three questions. We will begin the course by exploring situations in which interests are potentially in conflict. We examine how negotiators manage their interactions in strategic bargaining and ask, “Why do we get one deal rather than another?” We move on to situations where negotiations offer (or demand) an exploration of additional degrees of freedom and ask, “How can we affect what’s on the table?” or, alternatively, “How can we create value in a negotiation?” In this section we will consider how negotiators create opportunities for mutual gains that make it possible to resolve negotiations that look intractable and to reach better outcomes where a deal is possible. Finally we turn to the question, “How can we shape the game we play?” Here we take a micro-view of negotiations to analyze how negotiators draw on and shape expectations and roles, build understanding (and misunderstanding), and construct relationships in which trust and cooperation are (at least sometimes) possible in their interactions. We will conclude the term by examining the ways in which introducing history, adding parties, negotiating at multiple levels, and acting in an organizational context influence negotiation practice.

By exploring these questions, we hope to accomplish two goals. First, we hope that you will develop skills that will make you a better negotiator. Second, we hope to help you connect your developing understanding of negotiation to adjacent questions about learning, rationality, ethics, organizational behavior, and other fields. In more substantive terms, this course should help you to diagnose conflict, prepare to negotiate, negotiate purposefully and thoughtfully, and critically evaluate outcomes and experiences.

We will examine a variety of contexts and problems that create a need for negotiation, and raise questions about what it means to negotiate well. We will explore a systematic approach to negotiation that we think constitutes good advice about what to do when your interests or beliefs are in tension with others’ and you cannot act unilaterally. We will also raise other issues that will situate this model in a broader field of intellectual inquiry.

You will have the opportunity to experiment with this approach and to try out alternative approaches in negotiation exercises and case analyses. These exercises form the core of the course. We will use them to examine concepts and analytic approaches. You will also find that the value of these negotiations sometimes exceeds our ability to provide an account. This means that the opportunity is always open to extend our understanding of negotiation. It challenges us individually, and as a group, to provide as clear an account as we can of our experience, to listen carefully, and to reflect critically on our experience. This suggests that you can think about the course as a research seminar, in which the common experience of negotiating with each other provides the substantive basis for our analysis. At the same time, you should expect to finish the course as a more effective negotiator.

At a general level, we will move from negotiations that involve fewer factors to ones that are more complex. By the end of the course, however, we hope that you will appreciate the layered complexity that was involved in what at first appeared to be simple negotiations.

No Todo lists

They just get in the way. It’s nice to have them, for a few months if you are struggling to get anything done, but after that let’s just abandon them. If it takes 5 minutes to write down what to do, and 15 minutes to do it – don’t even write it down, just do it. The habit should be to do, not to manage/schedule.

Tools: Water

It took me a whole going into adulthood business to realize just how important water is, and I suspect that as I get older, water will become even more important for me.

It’s not just that it’s critical to survival. It’s quite critical to health in the following ways:

* A guard against hangovers. If you drink enough water while going out, your hangover will be minimal. The suggestion is to chug a 8-12oz water glass with every drink, and that’s what I do. Say at a bar, I order a beer, and also water, chug the water, then sip the beer. Do it between 9pm-3am, not have a terrible hangover in the morning. Without water tho, your hangover will be so much worse.

* Better sleep and shorter sleep requirement! I just kind of discovered it recently, and still subject to validation. If you go to sleep well-hydrated, you need to sleep less to recover your energy. It’s a time saver! Continue reading “Tools: Water”

Fitness: Jiu Jitsu

This is actually a requirement for me now, every day or at least 4 days a week. I love it and I can’t stop. Although, a friend of mine said he’s actually burned out from jiu jitsu: that he has been doing it for, like, 5 years, and he doesn’t really want to do it anymore. For me, I physically cannot stop, it causes inefficiency in everything else I do. So, it’s curious. But the bottom line on physical fitness is, you have to do it, consistently, forever. This way, you can also start being good or great at everything else you do.

8 hours a day

This way you can be good at it, and once you’re good, you can work on being great (which is again 8 hours a day). If you can do it for more than 8 hours – awesome, but that’s not a requirement.

8 hours a day. The path to greatness, quite simply, is doing something for 8 hours a day. This way you can be good at it, and once you’re good, you can work on being great (which is again 8 hours a day). If you can do it for more than 8 hours – awesome, but that’s not a requirement.

Do you have to have a natural disposition, a talent for it, in order to be great? No. Certainly you don’t need it to be good. Talent helps, but there are many people with unrealized talents walking past you on the streets every day. It’s the perseverance and time commitment that counts – not actual talent.

Note that this implies that you can’t give up. If you fail to succeed… try again. Failing to succeed at something for a month does not give you the right to give up. Use balief (see “belief”, the definition of the tool) to determine the goal that you’re pursuing, and then pursue it consistently until you’ve gotten it.

In the course of this you may discover that you don’t want to be good at it anymore. Up close the goal didn’t look the same as from the distance. Again, use belief to continue working on it (getting from good to great). It is helpful to determine at the very beginning, and promise yourself – what is it that once you achieve it you won’t back out of? Make that decision at the beginning, and when you want to back out, remember that decision being made in the beginning. Because if you back out of your own success you will be lost.

Structure of Information (SoIII) Part I

Let’s talk about how I structure files and data

Disclaimer: I’m a technologist so some tools I use may be a bit uncomfortable.

Continuous Backup

The idea is that losing any hardware should not cause data loss. I use Dropbox and it works great. My main folder on my laptop where I keep everything that isn’t otherwise archived, is synced to Dropbox, so if I lose my laptop (as has happened, for example, reinstalling the compiz library destroyed my OS) – I actually lose no data at all.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t really deal with large files. A media professional, for exampe, may create gigabytes or terabytes of data over a weekend, or a workweek. They have to have specific tools to address the data persistency problem. Having two copies of critical data, and continuously buying storage (terabytes of solid-state drives, 1Tb/week purchase, or monthly purchase of 1Tb of hardware space at the cost of $100/mo, etc). So, I guess one of the main things they do is continue buying storage hardware, although again I’m not an expert on this aspect because most of my data is text and I don’t deal with terabytes of generated data per week/month.

My code projects are quite simply in git, and on either bitbucket or github. It’s super difficult to lose git projects.

I also have several s3 (amazon storage) accounts for “large” (gigabytes) data that I don’t want to lose. It takes a while to upload things to s3, and it may be difficult while you are abroad, but again, you don’t lose data when you lose hardware.

You have to specifically worry about access keys. Don’t put everything in one bucket and then either lose the credentials or have them stolen. Ideally, distribute the data across multiple buckers and use IAM to manage permissions, and disable the root account – although admittedly this is more complicated than just keeping data in one place. It depends on how many people are interested in you, how likely you are to come under attack, and how valuable your data is.

Archive folder

From “cool uri’s don’t change” – it’s nice to not rename files, and always know where your stuff is. It’s nice to standardize on file naming conventions. Linux has already done it a long time ago, and individuals should be consistent with their files as well. I structure the archives as follows:

/archive/2018/Clients//{sow, done, trash, invoices }
/archive/2018/Canon//{src, raw, fin, src2, fin2, thumbs}
/archive//{Meeting_Minutes, Wacom, UIUX_Mockups, Print_Material, Legal_Screenshots, Clients, Content, Canon, WasyaCo, ... }
/archive//hunter # even though there is quick-access "/hunter/", there are archives per-year of 
/hunter/{finances, taxes, forms, job-seeking, done, trash }
/--workbench/ # current active client's files
/lib/{images, fonts, forms, games, music, mac_os_x, wordpress, ... }
/doc/{economics, mba, spanish, ... }
the same
/{done, trash, Meeting_Minutes, ...}
/archive//{Meeting_Minutes, ...}
/archive//Print_Material/{Project-1, Project-2, done, trash, ... }

I historically keep very personal stuff in folder “hunter/” – for example, a copy of my drivers license, excel spreadsheets with people’s contact into, some financial data, etc. Note how the name is not very semantic and doesn’t mean anything in particular.

I keep folders “done/” and “trash/” in pretty much every folder. I’m used to having them and they’re not an eye sore. Trash can be destroyed at any time, and “done/” can also be destroyed, but I keep it for archiving and if I need it in the future. Since folder names have rolling date in their names (e.g. “archive/2016/meeting_minutes/201602_meeting_minutes/done/”), it’s not just one big folder “done/”, it’s multiple such folders and you can keep track of your datas somewhat easily.

I don’t like spaces in filenames. I use underscore (_) for spaces pretty much everywhere.

If something is important, capitalize the folder name. If it’s not important, don’t capitalize it. A capitalized folder name often means I spent significant time on it, it’s a standalone project, I’m collaborating with other people on it, or something else significant.

Don’t be afraid to reuse the folder name on several occasions. For example, I have multiple places where I keep forms such as NDA’s, and multiple folders “meeting_minutes/” and “hunter/”.

Requirement: get rid of every pursuit that is not a team effort.

There is a certain push-and-pull, there are advantages and disadvantages to being alone, as well as to being in a group. I have historically operated alone but now I think that it’s the team effort that has to be applied to solve any significant task.

First of all: why do I think that working alone is efficient? Alan Weiss says, do not form a group unless it increases your productivity ten-fold. The cost of communication and management means that if two people produce 200% (where 100% = one person’s output) of work – then you’re operating at a loss, and each individual should just operate independently. If on the other hand the output of a two-person team is 500%, then it makes sense. I find that solo operations are actually very, very difficult. You lose focus and discipline right away, and you have to discover best practices yourself – these are some difficulties.

If you’re working in a duo, accomplishments by one person can be transfered to the other very quickly, thus saving the latter the research time. If my partner discovers a best practice and just transfers that knowledge to me, I feel that I’m saving time by not doing the heavy lifting myself.

What does the title of Principal imply?

I brand myself as a Principal. What does that mean to me? More importantly, what does that mean to other people?

It turns out that being an independent consultant is a perilous career choice. It closes a hundred doors. Everyone wants a full-time engineer. Nobody wants a fluke.

Why do I position myself as an independent? There are several questions which I am unable to answer, when interviewing as part of a larger organization. Why do you want to work here? Why are you looking for a job? Since I can’t answer these questions, I pursue opportunities where answering them is not required.

As a Principal, I have to take on responsibility. I mentor junior members, I share my knowledge, I propose architectures, and I demonstrate work ethic and discipline by working very hard.

Technical interview questions are actually relatively easy: all you need to do is have a fundamental understanding of computer science. That is learnable in a matter of weeks. It’s not more difficult than a GRE or a standardized test. In fact, a lot of interview challenges are quite standardized.

Velocity (“cadence”). It’s hard to get going, but once you do, it’s easier to maintain the pace, and it becomes a “virtuous circle” – where your previous successes elevate you higher, and allow future successes. This is the opposite of a vicious circle, where being shit makes you more shit. Virtuous circle means that if you are on the path of bettering yourself, later steps become either easier or more impactful than the earlier ones.

Overall, being a Principal necessitates taking responsibility for the actions and development that I take. I have noticed that I’ve actually not done that sufficiently. I haven’t publicly spoken about my achievements; I don’t effectively advertise, and I do very little networking. I should step up my game by a lot, to consider myself an independent Principal.