In a few of your posts, you mention "Learning universally useful skills". Could you elaborate? I think I have the basic idea - public speaking, writing, negotiation, etc. - but what would you include?
Good question. You listed three in the category of interpersonal skills and yes, that's a useful category. Almost anything important you'd want to do, you'll need to work with other people to some extent. Getting better at communicating is always good. Writing, negotiating, speaking. Conflict resolution. Whatever you'd call what's described in "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Some basic understanding of sales. All useful.
Next up, I'd like to put forward the idea that numbers are either your friend or your enemy, and there is no middle ground. Being able to do basic arithmetic fast is underrated - it has a ton of value. It's easy to train up - before you get a bill or check from somewhere, try to figure out roughly in your head how much it should be. See if it matches the bill. This helps you get your mind around opportunities and costs pretty quickly and helps you check to make sure things aren't going wrong.
Probability and statistics have a ton of value in them. I learned by studying advanced baseball statistics and I enjoyed that, but there's probably other ways. Variance is super important to understand. Getting your mind around how random can be really, really random is important.
Being able to do percents, and percents of percents has a lot of value.
Basic financial accounting has a lot of value to anyone - it also helps you get your mind around numbers.
After that, execution and get-stuff-done skills are important. This could be individual stuff like building good habits, keeping a clean environment, and training yourself how to focus. Defining a scope and your goals/objectives with anything you're doing. Some of the basic formal or informal project management stuff helps.
Underrated in this category are things that you have to do a lot of - things like typing fast, knowing how to set the agenda for a meeting or phonecall so you cover everything quickly, and how to handle email without it ruining your life.
Health, obviously. Yeah, there's a ton of contradictions all the time, but it's still worth learning a little about your anatomy, the basic systems of your body, and how they wear out and fail over time (or don't, and keep working well). Nutrition. Exercise. Basic info about cardiovascular systems. Learn something about addictiveness - tolerance building, chemical addiction vs. psychological addiction, toxicity, etc.
I'd also encourage you to work towards clear thinking - rationality in the vein that Eliezer Yudkowsky writes about at LessWrong is important. It's worth spending some time to learn about how language works and how your mind works.
That's just off the top of my head - I'm sure I missed a number of important ones. Your additions in the comments, dear reader?
It would be really useful to have relevant links/how-to to read more about the topics you and the commenters mentioned. Preferably both in the quick-n-dirty way (like you suggested before to get something important done) and in the "deep" way (like reading GTD to organize yourself)
For example I was really interested in body language and I know that "how to speed read" guides are around, but if I could have someone I trust tell me about one he used that'd be better than googling it myself.
I'd say if your native language is not English you totally need to learn how to fluently speaking it
How would you do it (this might apply to other foreign languages aswell):
- start watching english voices+english subtitles movies at the beginning and once your understand only english voices
- in your city there are probably groups of people speaking english, reach out (think couchsurfing.com members, exchange students, and just people interested in the language)
- make it a point to learn a new word in the foreign language each day and use it in a sentence, even if you're alone just say the sentence out loud using the word
- go live in a foreign country doing barista (or better something in your field if the language barrier is not too high) for 3 months without living or having any contact with people of your own language, it'll work wonders :)
I believe you wrote about that earlier, but certainly controlling your own emotions and not action on them without thinking is valuable skill. I guess it can be trained in things such as poker game. I see a lot of potential in learning how to be good at poker. Unfortunately I'm not there yet...
networking is a skill you need to make sure you have. being able to talk to people is good but you need to be able to follow up on it and pursue it.
if i think of any more ill post them.
I've been spending time thinking about this lately, and have some to add to the list.
Reading. By reading faster while keeping comprehension up, you gain the ability to increase your input. You still need to judge the worth of the information, though.
Body language. You don't need to be an expert, but should be able to recognize when someone is happy, sad, concerned, surprised, and such.
Patterns. This sounds odd at first, but being to recognize patterns through history lets you recognize what's going on today. Playing with numerical patterns, perhaps though Sudoku or something similar, let you see other types of patterns.
I think my weakest area is in the execution. Does anyone have recommendations for building this up? I don't care for formality, so GTD is probably off the table. I just want something simple that I can make into a habit.
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.
I was invited by the awesome connector Shai Goldman of Silicon Valley Bank to the "Brains to Ventures" dinner and panel. B-to-V is group of European entrepreneurs and investors. The dinner was arranged while they were touring Silicon Valley. On the panel were:
Here are my highlights (in "live blog" format) from the event, with a video of the event below.
Bill Tai & Matt Cohler: Be disruptive... And profitable if you can... But profitable without being disruptive is not interesting to Silicon Valley... Bernd Hardes disagreed, said predictable is better for him.
Matt Cohler: "It's best to figure out how to be good at being lucky"
Bill Tai: "Disruptive ideas come from disruptive people"
I was invited by the awesome connector Shai Goldman of Silicon Valley Bank to the "Brains to Ventures" dinner and panel. B-to-V is group of European entrepreneurs and investors. The dinner was arranged while they were touring Silicon Valley. On the panel were: Jan Bomholt, moderator - partner at B-to-V Gunnar Piening, European entrepreneur and partner at ECONA AG Bill Tai - partner at Charles River Ventures Matt Cohler - General partner at Benchmark Capital (also early at LinkedIn and Facebook) Bernd Hardes - with OSTE Investment GmbH and previously CEO at the German company Entertainment Shopping AG Here are my highlights (in "live blog" format) from the event, with a video of the event below. Bill Tai & Matt Cohler: Be disruptive... And profitable if you can... But profitable without being disruptive is not interesting to Silicon Valley... Bernd Hardes disagreed, said predictable is better for him. Matt Cohler: "It's best to figure out how to be good at being lucky" Bill Tai: "Disruptive ideas come from disruptive people" Jan Bomholt: European entrepreneurs start with technology while us entrepreneurs start with business problem.... Matt Cohler disagrees, saying that all entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world start with a problem to be solved Matt: "there's China... And then the rest of the Internet" Silicon valley VCs don't like to invest in companies they can't drive to... or some would say "bike to" Gunnar Piening: Advice to European entrepreneurs: "I realized that to get traction in the US, I would need somebody on the board with a vested interest in the company"... He found that with August Capital... its investment didn't change the company, but changed the pace at which the company wad growing... His was the first company August Capital invested in outside of the US (then jokingly said "outside of California" even)... Some fund rules would not even allow investments outside us... Bill Tai has done 16 IPOs (as investor)... One on Hong Kong exchange, the rest are in the US... "but remember, I started in '91... with a stellar exit environment for a decade"... Now potential IPO activity is a function of how the capital markets behave... CRV is mostly invested in the US, with 65% of its portfolio companies in California... Chinese companies only in Internet space... "There are some business models in China that would never work in the US." Matt Cohler: "Focus on maximizing your upside, not protecting your downside" ... Silicon valley is the place in the world that "maximizes your ceiling" in terms of technology companies... It's "usually the right answer" to move to Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur. Matt Cohler: Hollywood & silicon valley - "we are like studio executives" ... Look at a script and see who the lead actor is... Silicon Valley is the nucleus of the labor pool... jut like movies in LA, having this pool of talent allows entrepreneurs & investors to "put it together quickly"... "If you want to amass a company with an employee pool like Facebook or google, this is the place." Bernd Hardes on Berlin as center of entrepreneurial activity... "take everything you just said (about Silicon Valley), divide it by 10, and you're there" Jan talking about Aydin Senkut and Jeff Clavier... "They can move fast because they only have $15mm under management..." Bernd Hardes says he is "looking to play it safe... to take old ideas like web portals and make them work better... 30% to 40% improvement per year is OK... don't need a 10x return like Silicon Valley does." Berlin is very hip, so all the "cool guys are going there", and because there are so few tech companies, salaries are 1000 to 2000 Euros per month. The UK is beating France and Germany on investments & capital... "If Berlin is so great, why is UK winning?" Matt cohler says that historically, Internet startups based in Germany are addressing German market in German.... but In the UK, products are in English addressing a potentially global market, so that's one reason for the UK's dominance in Europe... Also institutional investors in Germany are reluctant to invest in early stage companies... And exit chances in Germany are limited... Bill tai says the history of the UK is to finance things globally for centuries; that plays a part too... "The UK has penchant for risk and risk capital" Matt Cohler says "the entrepreneur is fantastic" and talks about Researchgate (a professional network for scientists)... it's a German based company that Benchmark invested in... Matt commented "it's a little like dating... You know pretty quickly"... when he went to coffee w/ the Researchgate CEO he wasn't planning on investing, but "I left the meeting saying "I'm going to invest in this company"" Bernd Hardes on "The next big thing": "I Have no clue, and if I did, I wouldn't tell you" ... I'm not trying to find the next big thing; I'm trying to male sure the next big thing finds me." CRV was the first institutional investor in Twitter, and it happened "almost by accident, with Odeo needing funding". " I thought it was a very interesting tool" said Bill Tai... but "none of us knew it was the phenomenon that it became." Matt cohler (an early Facebook employee): "One person saw how big Facebook could be, and that was Mark [Zukerberg]"... It was very rare and very special... Jan, as moderator: "Everyone says Facebook will kill foursquare... Why do you believe Facebook won't kill Twitter?" ... Bill Tai answering: "Facebook is the instantiation of your true network on the web, centered around photos... Twitter is a way to broadcast what is on your mind... Like microblogging... so they're very different' Matt Cohler: Facebook and MySpace are very different... In 2003 people who made social networks were very hesitant to ask users to put your real name... Linkedin was one of the first to do that... Facebook did the same thing... That little thing was very significant... On MySpace, you don't always know the person's real name... "One of the things I remember Mark saying early on was "we are not trying to keep Facebook cool... We are trying to make Facebook useful" ... [Facebook] took MySpace and made it useful. Bill Tai, on predicting the "next big thing": The web has become pervasive and is bringing out the authenticity in people - this is the difference between MySpace and Facebook - Facebook is the real person, MySpace is the "LA version"... The virtualization of yourself will overshoot the actual person... Lots of interesting things about what identity is... Question from audience: "Are Americans more open to "opening their kimono?" than Europeans?" Matt Cohler: At a high level, the while world is moving to openness... the legal environment in Europe around privacy and information sharing in Germany is very strict... Question from audience: "How important is operational experience to being a VC?": Matt Cohler - it's important ... There are various ways to do that... No right or wrong way to become a vc... "I don't know". Here's a video of the panel: