Arbitrage and speculation get a bad rap sometimes, but they're incredibly useful.
I'm leaving Ulaanbaatar shortly and I'll be heading to Japan. I went to stock up on some basic supplies - personable consumables and work stuff.
Strikingly, paper is really expensive here for Western-grade, Western-style paper. The local shops literally don't carry it. Instead, they have this checkered sort of paper. It's like graph paper, but with thick black lines. I prefer black ink, and after trying out one of those notebooks, I couldn't read what I'd written.
I tried some of the upscale department stores (Sky Department Store, State Department Store) and there's literally no Western-style, 60 sheet lined notebooks in the $1 to $2 range like you'd see in the USA. They have high end notebooks for $6 to $12, and they have these thin flimsy 20-page booklet-type things for around $1. I settled for the booklet.
Now, if there was the demand to make it worth it, someone importing Western style paper from China at 20 cents a notebook and selling it here for $2 per notebook would be creating a lot of value. If this presented a large enough opportunity, eventually you'd see the margins go down towards cost, as happens in almost all industries.
My awareness is getting better. Last night, I'd been working in a restaurant near Sukhabatar Square until it closed at midnight. Walking home, I was about to pass through a group of three guys when suddenly this flash of danger kicked in. WarningWarningWarning!!!
I stopped, turned on my heel, and walked in a broad circle around them. One of the guys looked at me. I looked back briefly, but then kept moving.
I'm keeping an eye on these guys because they're kind of sort of in my way in the direction I'm going. I can circle around because I'm at the broad part of the walkway past Sukhabar, so there's two paths. But they're still near me.
As I'm watching, a random passerby walks through the three tough dudes. One of them grabs the passerby by the arm, and starts to try totally hold him. The passerby yells, shouts, shoves, pushes, shakes, and is able to get away and run off towards the night.
My awareness is getting better.
Have you ever heard of a paradoxical sentence like, "This sentence isn't true"?
I think it's a mechanics-of-language failure.
See, when we try to express an idea using language, it's often not possible to capture the pure essence of the idea.
There's concepts that don't have words for them and there's words that exist that describe a number of different things ("happiness"). Then, on top of that, there's structures and grammar and traditions and "implied meanings." When someone makes a sarcastic reference to "Mission Accomplished" you'd need to know a considerable amount of recent American politics and history to entirely get their meaning.
In the end, language exists to try to communicate meaning. It takes the thought or concept and puts it into verbal form. But because language does so many different things at the same time, loopholes and broken constructions emerge.
My recent reading/listening list has been almost entirely:
*Biographies of successful businessmen *Biographies of military leaders and statesmen *Practical business reading with case studies mixed in
...and that's about it.
Following those three topics exclusively, I've come to a conclusion.
You're almost required to have the distribution and marketing to make money.
You ever listen to an album a lot of times?
Yeah, of course you have.
Got a favorite one or two or three albums?
Today I'd like to introduce you to Venkat Rao. He writes Ribbonfarm, and he's mastered the difficult challenge of writing smart, novel, entertaining, eloquent, controversial, and accessible content - at the same time. Most people can't do this.
Venkat wrote an excellent reply on Quora to the question, "Is it hard to build, market and maintain a web app that makes at least $1000 a month?" Quora's TOS actually allows you to republish things in full with attribution (and some other requirements), and I thought this would be an excellent introduction to Venkat for you.
This whole reply is brilliant. He's got the orders of magnitude on money, time, and requirements basically dead-on. Extraordinarily impressive read here -
"Is it hard to build, market and maintain a web app that makes at least $1000 a month?"
This is a very interesting question, and the responses are very revealing. It is instantly clear who knows what they are talking about.
You could substitute in the word "initiative," "goal," or "target" if you don't like mantra. I'm not a believer in anything new agey or mystical. Rather, for me, "mantra" captures a complex and detailed idea in a short word or phrase. They're things I'm working on.
I was brainstorming at a cafe what I'm working on, what's most crucial in terms of development. This is the list I came to -
Create Enterprise Start day productive Focus Celerity I don't need to feel good to do the right thing.
In greater detail:
In any field, brilliant maneuvers are remembered and celebrated. But brilliant maneuvers without consolidation amounts to nothing long-term except the empty glory.
We could look at military commanders for an example. There's been some in history that have shown remarkable amounts of brilliance in pioneering tactics and doing crazy maneuvers. These sorts of things go into the history books, like Hannibal Barca's actions or Napoleon Bonaparte's.
Despite Barca and Bonaparte being remembered for their brilliance, it's worth remembering that neither of them won in the end.
We've talked about over-expansiveness in the past and not trusting your successors/family to keep up with your work, which is a common flaw that afflicts low born creators and leaders. Today, I want to look at something a little bit different - on brilliant actions and consolidating actions.
One time, when Hannibal's troops were pinned down by the Romans and it looked like all would be lost, he came up with a brilliant scheme. He waited until nightfall, and then took all of the oxen in his camp, tied branches and tinder to their horns, and lit them on fire and drove them off.
There seems to be two very different ways that the phrase "social contract" is used.
The first is an unspoken conduct agreement between two people. If you hire a great guitar player to teach you guitar lessons once a week, are you allowed to cancel? Is your instructor? How much notice? Is it okay if he's drunk or halfway-preoccupied during your lesson?
How much formality is there? If you don't do the recommended lesson from last time, how disappointed will your instructor be?
How prepared must you both be?
This is a social contract that's actually a social contract. Sure, there's edge cases - even if it's expected that both of you are always at the lesson on-time, prepared, and ready to go immediately, there's still an exemption if you have a family emergency or serious illness or whatever.
I came across this story about Tokugawa Ieyasu from the "Tokugawa jikki." For context, remember the era and how hierarchy was treated at the time - this was actually recorded by a scribe 400 years ago.
Remember the societal roles of the era, which will seem out of place compared to 2011. That's not the point of sharing it - it's the views on money, austerity, and what to prioritize that are worth learning from -
Once, Okaji-no-tsubone ordered her women to wash a white kosode [of Ieyasu] that had become smudged. The women hurt their fingers, and blood flowed from the wounds; she thought it a very cruel task. Since he did have so many clothes, she asked whether it would be all right that they would not wash them anymore, and that he would wear only new clothes. Ieyasu answered: "This is not something that you, foolish women, have to understand, but I will explain it to you, nevertheless. Come and listen."
He called a great number of the women together, and said: "The thing about which I have been most careful all my life, is not to offend the Way of Heaven. What the Way of Heaven hates most, is extravagance. Having seen all the treasure I have amassed here, in Sunpu, you no doubt think that it is much?" All of them agreed. "This is not my only treasure house," Ieyasu resumed, "I also have them in the capital, in Osaka and in Edo, all filled with gold, silver, cloth, and silk. So even if I would wear new clothes every day, what shortage could there ever arise? However, the reason why I have amassed [all this wealth] is, to dispense it at times to the people of the empire, or, by accumulating it for the future generations of my descendants, to prevent the state from ever being short of funds. Therefore, we should not waste even one robe." Although they were women, they were all [impressed by] the wisdom of his holy teaching and did obeisance to him as one does to a Buddha or a god, with the palms of the hands joined together.