February 2016

We all want absolute certainty that things will go as planned. And when it doesn't (as is usually the case), we blame everyone and everything. Our belief in the possibility of "perfection" is strong. Warriors and fighters, on the other hand, have developed a secret winning strategy that works 99% of the time. It is called, "being realistic". Apparently, having to put their lives on the line everyday - as part of doing their job - has opened their eyes to a drastically different way of seeing things. We should try that once in a while.

War strategist Carl von Clausewitz used the word "friction" to represent the difference between our plan and what actually happens The bigger the deviation from the plan, the bigger the "friction".

More "friction" translates to more "heat" --- more aptly known as "stress". And "stress" can warp our sense of proportion and wreaks havoc on our propensity for complexity --- which can then feed into itself, until you get overwhelmed, burned out, or break down.

"Friction" is unavoidable because nothing in life is ever the same. No amount of thinking in advance can prepare you for the infinite possibilities of the present moment. Possibilities which you may take advantage of or fall victim to.

What would you give to become immune to friction? 

Indeed, what would you give for the ability to feed on "friction" and convert stress into capacity for excellent performance? Of being able to be attuned to the FORCE of circumstances and master of the moment?

Being master of the moment is what I call being "dangerously awesome".

More than just being fully alive, being dangerously awesome means being fully awake. It means having tremendous fluency and fluidity in adapting to the unexpected. It means having the speed of mind to quickly see and use the potentialities of the unexpected as if you were counting on it to happen because you planned it that way.

At the root of this seemingly tremendous adaptive capacity is our basic set, standard issue, "human survival drive". We are familiar with this kind of strength, we hear inspiring stories and tall tales about it all the time. We admire people who seem to have it, even fictitious characters. But we don't know we have it within us until huge problems force us to be strong.

Philosophers and legendary warriors of old talk openly about this but they can't help but sound vague and mystical. How can they not? Wisdom gained in the face of death in the heat of the battlefield. Wisdom gained over a lifetime of meditations and discourses. They all speak of the same paradoxes to achieving personal excellence.

There are five core principles [and seven powerful ideas for unleashing them.]    

When you realize their life-changing potential, you will understand why I call them dangerous.


Maintain a constant "grasp" of the moment. Be at peace with chaos. Embrace uncertainty. Romance the unexpected. It takes a lot of will power to be always realistic and alert to the changing landscape. But REALITY does not really offer you any alternative. You have no choice in the matter. Surrender to the moment. But make the surrender, your choice. A decision you own. A realization that you are actually "connected" to the universe, so it's less a surrender and more of coming back home. Accept this moment. Love it. The chaos within and the chaos without is one and the same chaos that permeates the universe. Embrace the moment like there is no other reality, cause there really is none.

Seize the moment. Instead of getting overwhelmed, use it's energy as incentive to be fully engaged with reality. Ride life's momentum. Life is a "happening", an event, a constant stream, a cosmic phenomenon.  If you don't ride life's momentum, you'll get run over and over. And over.

Life is a closed door. If you don't open it and get inside, it will forever be an enigma to you. Action is the key to getting inside. And when you act, act generously, not half-hearted. Give. Give back to life. Especially when it seems you have no more to give. Keep giving. Give generously of your self in whatever you are doing now. Invest yourself in the moment completely. If it's not worth doing well, its not worth doing at all. To be aimless is to be dead. Stop waiting for opportunities. Instead, just do something, practically anything of value. That will "attract" opportunities. Especially, do something that you love. Action invites opportunities.

Believe in your success. Especially when it's hard to believe. Keep believing. Hold on to your vision. Keep in mind that strategic vision is more important than specific strategies. That with a powerful vision, everything will fall into place. Focus on the vision and believe.

The power is within you. It's irrelevant to think whether you earned it, or deserving of it. You just happen to have the power by virtue of being alive. That's what you need to understand, believe and be thankful for.  Your next concern is how to unleash it.  And that's the topic for a sequel post.



"We associate the willingness to risk great failure – and the ability to climb back from catastrope – with courage. But in this we are wrong. That is the lesson of Nassim Taleb."
-- Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

An epistemologist of randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb was once described as "the hottest thinker in the world". Born in 1960, he is a Lebanese American essayist whose work focuses on problems of randomness and probability.

His book "The Black Swan" was described in a review by Sunday Times as one of the most influential books since World War 2. In it, he advocates for a society that can withstand "black swans" or difficult-to-predict events --- what he calls a "black swan robust" society. Taleb favors "stochastic tinkering" as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means experimentation and fact-collecting instead of top-down directed research.

According to Taleb, "we humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen, the unknown, resolve the tension by scueezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas".. This, he said, makes us victims to the Ludic Fallacy, or the misuse of games and dice to model real-life randomness.   


Taleb detests the error of comparing real-world randomness with "structured randomness" in quantim physics /where probabilities are remarkably computable/ and games of chance like casinos where probabilities are artificially built.
He said, predicitive models /such as those based on Plato's Theory of Forms/, gravitate towards mathematical purity, thus fail to take some key ideas into account; such as:

1.That it is impossibile to possess all relevant information
2.That small unknown variations in the data can have a huge impact
3.That theories or models based on empirical data are flawed because they fail to account for events that have not yet taken place but could have taken place.

He claimed that the foundations of qualitative economics are faulty and highly self-referential. He states that statistics is fundamentally incomplete as a field as it cannot predict the risk of rare events.

TALEB'S CHALLENGE is how to live and act in a world we do not understand and build robustness to black swan events.

An application of his most effective, or least fragile, risk management approach is one in favor of linear combination of extremes. In other words, Taleb advocates a dualistic approach -- to be both hyper-conservative and hyper-aggressive at the same time, as these two extremes are more robust to estimation errors. This approach of avoiding the middle option is also known as The Barbell Strategy.

For example, an investor might put 80 to 90 percent of his money in extremely safe instruments, such as treasury bills, with the remainder going in to highly risky and diversified speculative bets.    

Taleb believes The Barbell Strategy is applicable across all domains, from politics to economics and to one's personal life.


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