One thing that business principles revolve around is the basic idea of providing value. All businesses revolve around the exchange of value.
Cost then, is merely the determination of value. If I price something at fifty dollars, that means that I am determining that the value of my product is worth the value of fifty dollars. In fact, by selling something for fifty dollars, that means that the value of fifty dollars is more valuable to me than the value of my product to me.
However, as Seth Godin comments, the internet age is now throwing a curveball into the game.
“In a competitive, undifferentiated market, the price will generally be lowered by competitors until it is just above marginal cost. Think about that… If it costs a dollar to make something, and your competitor is selling for $1.10, then in an efficient market, you have every incentive to sell your item for a penny less than that. It’s better than not selling it.
There are many implications of this, the first being the explanation of why so much stuff online is free. Free is a magical concept, the place where trial and virality live. If the marginal cost of a new user is virtually zero (and in an ad supported business, a new user is actually profitable, not a cost) then it’s no surprise that it’s hard to charge for your app when there are other apps that do precisely what yours does.
Big, established companies have traditionally had a difficult time understanding this concept. The market for ebooks, for example, ended up in Federal court because otherwise smart people in book publishing couldn’t get their arms around the idea that their marginal cost of an ebook delivered by Amazon was precisely zero. No paper, no shipping, no ink.” – Seth Godin
The reason that Facebook is able to offer a social network for free is because there is nearly no marginal cost for adding another user, and by adding another user, they have a larger collection of users that they can leverage for advertisements, publicity, etc.
As a new experiment on diplateevo, I have decided to give away one free book every month through a random drawing. It is called polyglot, and you can check it out here. I am doing this for a number of reasons.
- I want to provide a resource for people to learn more. By providing a free book, hopefully someone will be able to benefit from the wisdom written in the book. This will hopefully also be a way for my readers to expand their knowledge of what people are currently publishing.
- I want to experiment with the idea of giving away free books and see how people respond. I am interested to see what kind of community I can build by giving away free books, and have a better feel for what people need.
- I want to see how knowledge gets passed around. As part of the polyglot program, books that have been given out for free are encouraged to be continually given away and passed around for free. I am interested to see where my books will end up.
So go ahead and let all your friends and family know, and I will be picking the first winner next Wednesday!
Recently, a friend messaged me on Facebook, asking a question about pursuing his dream. It went something like this:
Friend: What would you consider more noble, right, and helpful for the future: working toward a passion and balancing work or sacrificing a lot of time for an excellent opportunity that will help you in the future (but it may interfere with your passion and work/life balance)? And briefly why?
Me: what do you define as an “excellent opportunity” and what do you define as “helping you”?
Friend: “Helping you” as in stable job and income flow, and “Excellent opportunity” as a competitive internship.
Me: haha as I thought. I mean it’s ultimately your choice.
Friend: I just rejected a competitive internship so I can pursue my research interest in cryptography and systems research, so I am not sure what I did was right.
This is a struggle familiar among all persons of the human race. Everyone struggles at some point with whether they should pursue what they love or pursue what is practical. At the very core, it is a struggle between security and risk.
And the thing is, people are constantly faced with such decisions nearly every day. Almost every decision has an option that appears to be more secure, and an option that appears to be riskier.
To my friend, it seems foolish to reject a competitive internship that is very practical and desired by many, and he is justified in thinking that way. If an internship looks good on your resume, will help you find employment in the future, and perhaps can provide you some money, it almost doesn’t make sense to not accept it. However, the part of being competent and wise person is knowing when to reject good looking opportunities in order to pursue prospects that are more appropriate for them.
My Old Model Airplane Hobby
Yesterday, I rummaged through my closet, pulling out my collection of airplanes that I had built in middle school.
In middle school, I used to build and fly wooden airplanes. It was a hobby that consumed hours of my day, and kept me from having a social life and perfect grades. Building and flying airplanes gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that appealed to me, and almost completely consumed me. I loved the feeling of completing a plane, winding up the rubber band, and letting it take off into the air, watching it circle around the gym.
However, by the time I reached high school, I stopped building and flying. It wasn’t because I got bored with the craft, nor was it because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped because I realized that there were bigger and better things for me, and that I had to let go of how much time I was spending on it.
It was a conscious and intentional step for me to say no to something that was extremely attractive to me in order to move on in my process. I don’t regret any of the time, money, or energy I spent on building and flying these airplanes, and I would love to have the chance to once again fly them with someone.
Being Competent and Rejecting Opportunities
Not all opportunities that present themselves to you are ones that you should take. Being able to decisively and confidently reject an opportunity shows that a person truly understands what they want, what their goal is, and how they are going to get there.
In order to navigate the decisions that you have to make and opportunities that are made available to you, there are three main elements to consider.
- Definite of Purpose – I need to know who I am.
- Knowledge of What One Wants and How One Wants to Get There – I need to know what I want.
- A Burning Desire to Possess it – I need to declare that I will get it.
The person who doesn’t know who they are, doesn’t know what they want, and doesn’t really want it is the person that will accept any random opportunity that comes their way, hoping that somewhere somehow, it will lead them to a better place.
But without the intentional drive and passion to get what you want, it’s easy to get lost and confused in the midst of all the tempting, shiny opportunities.
“The words you hear are what you start to think about. The words you start to think about in your mind will form your goals, beliefs, and ideas. These will move from your mind to your heart. These become an outward habit. These define your character.” – Anthony Arnold
Knowing who you are and what you want helps you to filter and process the things that you listen to and the things that you think about. And as these thoughts eventually determine your character, they also determine the way you carry yourself and how you relate to and impact the people around you.
That’s why you can’t just take every opportunity or thought that presents itself, you have to learn to filter and process what actually matters.
Curious as to what it was about, I decided to attend the seminar. There was nothing to lose about a free two hour seminar given in an area of my interest. Upon walking into the seminar, I was faced with a small group of people listening to a man in real estate talk about building companies. The man shared very solid principles about the stages of business, business goals, and other business processes. And at the end, he began advertising an $800 conference that would take place the following week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I get to attend conferences and connect with people who are making a difference in the world. I love listening to people speak from their experiences and learning the things that they have to share.
But the difference between the person who is paying money to attend the conference and the person who is getting money to share at the conference is that the person who is sharing out the conference did something that was worthy of sharing.
Anyone can pay money to attend a conference. In fact, many people attend conferences and seminars, read books and blogs, and never really seem to move very far. The same principles that govern the information diet ring true for skill mastery; that how much you know is mostly irrelevant, but what’s important is that you are implementing the things that you know.
In order to get out of the cycle of simply listening to what other people have to share, it means stepping out into your own experiments to create something worthy of sharing.
I had to decline the offer to attend this entrepreneurship conference because I knew that it would be just as powerful to apply the things that I already knew in my head instead of having the good feeling of learning from industry leaders.
It is powerful to have people to learn from, but only if what you learn extends further than simply knowledge in your head.
When a person sets out to explore a new subject, skill, culture, or location, there are generally two types of exploration.
There’s exploring the possible, which means exploring deeper into areas that are a reasonable extension of an existing field of knowledge or experience. Doing research in academic institutions such as graduate schools is generally the exploration of the possible. Exploring the possible is generally a predictable and detailed exploration.
The flip side is exploring the impossible. Going against common belief in an attempt to uncover a whole new understanding of life and the world we live in. Exploring the impossible requires taking risks to do things that no one else has ever done before. Exploring the impossible is generally unpredictable and unpopular, like the acts of daredevils.
However, the two sides are not mutually exclusive, and many fields of exploration can be seen as an overlap of the two sides.
The fact with innovation is that there must be both; people who explore and further the possible, while others explore and expand our horizons to the things that are possible.
I’ve always hated the distinction between introverts and extroverts because I never could identify with either side. The accepted school of thought is that a person is either one or the other, without any middle ground.
According to Myers Briggs, perhaps the most widely popular and accepted personality test, extroverts are action oriented, seek breadth of knowledge and influence, prefer frequent interaction, and get energy from spending time with people while introverts are thought oriented, seek depth of knowledge and influence, prefer more substantial interaction, and get their energy from spending time alone.
However, contrary to the binary choices provided by Myers Briggs, I’ve realized that extroversion/introversion is a spectrum, like a person’s height.
All of my life, I’ve had people (family, close friends, teachers, counselors) tell me different things. Some would say I was an introvert, and others would say that I was an extrovert. To different people I seemed to be different things.
After browsing the web and looking at a few more resources and doing some reflection, I came across a term called the ambivert, and finally felt understood by a personality test. I am very much an ambivert. There seems to be very little written about ambiverts, (Evernote isn’t even recognizing it as a word) so here are my thoughts.
Ambiverts sit on the spectrum of social interaction right in between the introverts and extroverts. Ambiverts love spending time with people, but get tired after spending too much time around people. Ambiverts are also very capable of doing things alone, but spending an entire day alone can suck them into a depressed, unproductive mood.
Ambiverts love interacting with people, but in a very purposeful way. Ambiverts can have extremely animated and interactive conversations, or mellow and meditative ones. Ambiverts will defend both their personal time as well as their social time.
Ambiverts process information best when they process internally and externally. Ambiverts need time and space to process things on their own, but they also need people who they can trust to process things with externally. In order for ambiverts to fully process information, they usually need both.
Ambiverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, but dive deep when they are truly passionate. Ambiverts can be thought or action oriented, depending on the situation, but they are also oftentimes both.
The challenge for ambiverts is finding one thing to stick with. Because ambiverts do well socially and individually, it’s easy for an ambivert to become the jack of all trades, having knowledge in many different areas but not necessarily an expert an any of them.
Ambiverts tend to do well adapting to any situation that they are placed in, whether it be a loud social scene or a secluded environment.
However, no matter if you identify as an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, don’t let a personality test define how you think about yourself. Figuring out how you work best for yourself is much more helpful than any test.
What do you think? Where would you put yourself on the spectrum?
I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.
Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.
But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.
However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.
Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.
Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.
The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.
It’s been about a week since I attended TEDx San Diego, and I’m still thinking about the inspiration and ideas that were shared at the conference.
TEDx San Diego
In case you aren’t familiar with TED talks that are slowly popping up everywhere, feel free to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.
I stumbled across TEDx San Diego while browsing the internet one day, and decided that I would like to go to one of these conferences at some point in my life. Coming across the TEDx San Diego page, I promptly noticed that I would be in San Diego at that time, and filled out an application. (Yes, you must apply in order to attend a TEDx Conference)
I applied, thinking that I probably wouldn’t get in seeing as I had applied late, and probably wasn’t the hyper-entrepreneur that other people probably were. But when I received the acceptance letter, I quickly paid my $100 for a ticket.
TEDx was incredible. To say the least. The way that the speakers engaged with the audience on levels ranging from emotional to intellectual was nothing short of mindblowing.
I learned about and connected with people who had inspirational life stories, people who were making a difference socially in the world, people who were researching new technologies such as thought controlled computing, and people who were musical prodigies. There were people who were teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, people who were educating homeless children, authors who wrote countless bestseller books, researchers learning about indigenous African tribes, engineers who are creating contact lenses with a computer chip on them, and so many more.
It felt amazing sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people who were so captivated and willing to learn and understand what each speaker was talking about. Each session lasted approximately an hour and a half, but the day felt like it went by in a breath.
It was a seven hour conference packed with 33 talks, all of which struck different intellectual and emotional chords.