A friend once said of me “You are a mirror with a bullshit filter on it.”
I aspire to be provocative yet uncontroversial, i.e. I want to provoke you with statements and questions but that are so soundly rooted in logic and evidence that they are hard to object to. I am an outspoken nerd with a poor interpersonal skills who is committed to the truth and that can make me unpopular. I am a publicist’s nightmare. OK; I accept that.
HOW I WORK
I think about problems primarily using Mathematics and APL when problems involve computation, and English for everything else.
Sometimes I design solutions using those same tools, and occasionally I act on those designs in ways that can take many forms. One form includes business, and to date I have created seven stand-alone businesses or business units in other firms.
Often I share my thoughts publicly in written form. I do not protect sources or pretend to be objective. My writing might take the form of comment, memoir, and essay but seldom reportage. Unlike most journalists, I am usually willing to share my entire pieces with the subjects of my writing and offer them an opportunity to comment, have their identity protected, etc.
POLICIES This is how you can expect me to act as a person.
Frugal. I am not a philanthropist or investor. There are years when I’ve made much more money than we need and rather than upgrade our lifestyle we’ve saved the difference. Just because you might think we have more money than we know what to do with doesn’t mean I have an interest in lending some to you, supporting your charity, or investing in your business. There are two reasons for this: 1) I’ve got my own ideas for what to do with money; 2) It takes effort to choose where to place money wisely, and I don’t want to do the work right now.
Honesty. If you ask for my thoughts on what you are doing in your business, your job hunt, your work, or even in your personal life, I am inclined to tell you. Sometimes I’ll say even if you don’t ask, and I consider this impolite on my part. My intentions are good, however, and I want to see you succeed.
Secrets. Please don’t tell me secrets. I don’t know how to keep track of what I can say to whom and what I can’t. If you are sure you want to tell me a secret, ask for permission first, and let’s agree on scope and time limit. If you want to confess something illegal, immoral, or unethical then expect me to do something with the information. I am not your priest, lawyer, or psychiatrist. Sometimes I am a journalist, but I do not agree to protect sources.
Networking. I am an “open networker” which means that I keep track of nearly everyone I meet and it is very easy to connect to me on LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, etc. I have over 8,000 contacts spanning my own contact list and on-line networks. Occasionally I broadcast something to everyone and some people object and I’m happy to drop the connection information. Usually I just tell people what I’ve been up to, and occasionally I ask if anyone can do a favor for someone I know, but I don’t sell anything. My personal opinion is that networkers are giving networking a bad name. There is way too much talk and not enough action, and the modal message is “What can you do for me?” not “What can I do for you?” When asking for help, I think it is best to broadcast a request to a broad network, making it clear that you do not expect any one person to have an obligation to respond, even out of politeness.
Openness and Authenticity. I like my privacy (I’d hate to be famous) but I am not particularly a private person. Although I keep my Facebook profile private, you can learn a lot about me on Couch Surfing, LinkedIn, Xing, and on No Shortage of Work (which I founded). If I am not who I say I am, please let me know. It may be hard to change who I am, but at least I can change who I say I am.
Good, not Nice. I aspire to be good. Good and nice are not the same thing. The opposite of good is evil and the opposite of nice is unlikeable. I am always in the market for friends who will like me when I do the right thing that pisses off most people.
Aspiration and Ideal Self. I’m the hero of many stories I tell. This does not mean that I’m always good. If you see me act the hypocrite, call me on it. I may not be the person I tell you I am, but I aspire to be that person.
PERSONALITY: There are my aspects of my personality I don’t like and you might not like either.
Opinionated and Argumentative: I am like my father. He was very smart and well-read (although not academically educated), and in discussion he would look for a point of disagreement. It drove me nuts that after doing battle with him for a week, the next week he might begin saying what I had been saying. I wanted to respond, “Hey, you stole that idea from me.” but he would say, “You changed my mind.” I have only recently discovered this is called Strong Opinions, Weakly Held. This is not a bad way to be if you care about the truth or accomplishing things, but it is not the best way to become popular.
Luckily for me, I fell in love with computer programming where I could win arguments by convincing hardware to do what I wanted rather than other people. In the 1980’s I became a stock trader where disagreement led to trades, and where betting 100% on something you believe to be true 51% of the time can make you a fortune. In some circles that might make me in demand, but it doesn’t make me easier to take.
Egocentric and Narcissistic: Some people have said this applies to me. When you study psychology it is natural to imagine you have every disorder in the book, and if I had to diagnose myself, these two would be my top candidates. If I can find the time I’ll try to work on these, but I’m getting old and a bit tired and have some other things I want to do first. Sorry.
Logorrheic: If I’m talking too much, tell me to shut up. You won’t be the first, or the thousandth.
Unfocused: Although I am capable of very intense effort, I also spend a lot of my time dabbling in many things. For example, in 1986-88, I worked in research at Merrill Lynch and worked on 16 projects of my own design. Only one of them went anywhere, and that defined my career since 1988. I was with my previous from 1995 when I founded a trading desk through 2014 when I shut it down, which for the securities industry is a long time.
Now I’m entering another unfocused phase, and that can be annoying to some but not me.
Eccentric and Unconventional: Just because most people are doing something doesn’t make it best, or even right, and you can’t stand out from the crowed without standing out from the crowd. However, if there was a convention of eccentrics I would stand out as the most straight-laced. What this means to you: If you embarrass easily then it is easy to get embarrassed hanging around me.
TERMS OF SERVICE
This is my personal website. Except where otherwise noted, the copyright on everything here belongs to me.
If you want to reprint something you find here then just let me know. I will most probably give you permission, but if you do not ask for permission then I have not given it. I retain copyright on nearly everything I have published elsewhere as well, although in some cases I’ve given the publishers exclusivity for some period of time. In any event, if you want to reproduce something printed in Science Careers, Quartz, International Family Magazine, etc. just ask. I can probably give you permission even if they won’t.
Usually I do not want my words to hurt anyone, but sometimes I do. I particularly don’t like evil people and organizations and if you are evil in my eyes then I retain the right to speak disparagingly of you. Of course, I grant you the right to speak disparagingly of me too – although you should do that on your site, and not expect me to necessarily host your words here. I am committed to fighting fair, so if I print something that is libelous then just let me know and I will correct my statement.
You might have one of those websites that solicits my contribution, and then unilaterally tries to impose terms and conditions on me through legalize words buried somewhere that I might not even know about, or agree to even if I do know about them. If so, then by these words buried on my website let it be known that I do not agree to your terms, whatever they are, unless they are presented to me in writing, and I accept them in writing. Touché
P. S. If you would like to collaborate on a project with me then please read this.