Working with Imperfect Models (Part 1)

Lego HouseWhat does your prediction of an acquaintance’s reaction to a piece of news have in common with the weather forecast? They are both based on models of incomprehensibly complex systems; models that approximate, but do not fully capture the underlying reality, and can therefore prove very wrong.

I use the term “model” here to mean any of the condensed mental constructs we use to represent a far more complex reality. These include concepts, principles, visual models such as maps, mathematical representations, and representations of change such as workflows. More often than not, our models use several of these put together, to create a more complete representation of a particular system.

Human beings need models of reality to survive, of course. They allow us to explain current and past behavior, predict the future, and imagine alternative routes of action. And for the most part they work remarkably well: When an architect designs a building, for example, he can calculate the forces and tensions his building must withstand and can counteract them using his model of sound engineering.

But not all of our models are so reliable. Follow most nutritional or exercise theories with 100% dogmatic adherence in the same way that an architect must adhere to the science of building, and you are likely to harm your body. Trust the weather report too much and you’ll end up wet. Believe in your own self-image too much and you end up stunting growth and afraid to take risks.

It’s easy to conclude that the particular model is at fault: simply find another diet, find a better weather prediction algorithm, or change your conception of who you are to a more “correct” one, and you’ll be happy ever after. But many if not most models are inherently imperfect. Specifically, when dealing with systems of extreme complexity, any condensation of information is a net loss in accuracy and predictive ability. Yet, this condensation has to happen for us to be able to hold the model in our limited brain.

So what do we do? I find it useful to try to keep in mind that I am dealing with a model, not with reality itself. Once you introduce the concept of a “model” into your thinking, you can begin to interact with your models as models, and have a healthier relationship with them. Specifically, you can:

  • Keep Your Eyes on the Road – While the map is a useful model, the road is what really matters. Do not get so involved with the map that the road becomes invisible to you. If you are on a new diet, the “road” is what your body is telling you. If you are getting to know someone new, the “road” is what they actually say and do.
  • Identify Limits – Always keep in mind the limits of your models. Try to find the blind spots, the inaccuracies, the oversimplifications, and the edge cases the model doesn’t account for. If you’re an architect, for example, it’s good to ask yourself whether you’ve accounted for unusual strains such as an earthquake or a hurricane; or whether the forces in play change after reaching a certain height.
  • Expect to Adapt – Models are mental constructs, and as such easier to revise than the underlying reality. Yet most people spend their lives trying to make reality conform to their impossible models. Life is a process of revision and rewriting of your models based on new experiences and new skills. So nurture your models, learn from them, but never worship them!
  • Use the Baseline Rule – When you must rely on a model you know is not 100% accurate, such as the model for a healthy diet, or a training regime, try to determine a baseline that you would follow in absence of this model. This can be based on current or common behavior that has a known outcome. Once you’ve established the baseline, experiment in the space between that baseline and the new model. This will help protect you from the cases where the new model is imperfect and potentially harmful.

Remembering the inevitable gap between reality and our imperfect models of it is tough, especially when it comes to models that are emotionally charged. An inaccurate model, though, can yield frustration and suffering, often in direct relation to how blindly we follow it.

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of models, and the ways they change over time, and interact with our emotions in interesting ways. I’ll write more on that in Part 2 of this post. In the meantime, I hope you found these musings helpful! Would love to hear your thoughts, additions, or corrections.

How effective are yoga and meditation at healing old traumas?

(Originally published on Quora on October 21st, 2012)
I can only speak from personal experience with my own meditation practice, as I’m not involved in any type of research and have not looked at any statistics on the subject.
So here goes: After reading about Vipassana, or Insight Meditation in a post on Sam Harris’s blog (see here –…), I became curious and took an 8 week class at a local center.

The technique, though very challenging in practice, is very simple in principle. You stabilize and concentrate your mind by focusing only on your breath. Whenever your attention wanders, you proceed to look at the new object of attention – be it a sensation, an emotion, or a thought – with your full attention. You then name it, and  gently and without judgment return to focusing on the breath, where you try to remain most of the time. I was instructed to sit for 20, then 30, and eventually 45 minutes a day doing just this, though some further guidance was of course provided, and my questions answered.

Within a week, I was noticing patterns in my own thinking that had been there all along but which I had never noticed before. Within a couple of weeks, I could see some of the reasons for these patterns. By the third week I had vivid memories of past traumas, and could see very clearly the connections between those traumas and some of my unproductive behaviors.

I’ve had moments of personal revelation or “sudden clarity” throughout my adult life, long before meditation, and those had always helped me grow. But nothing had prepared me for the consistency and sheer breadth of the insights I’ve gotten from practicing Vipassana meditation. For a couple of months, it was like a reliable assembly line was producing insights day in and day out. As if those insights were waiting just under the surface and came gushing out as soon as I had payed stable, nonjudgmental attention to them.

Those insights, moreover, were of a different kind than any I’ve experience before. The trigger for most of my past insights was intellectual: I would be thinking about an idea and suddenly realize that I had been wrong. Or I would realize intellectually that I was acting irrationally in some instance, and would force myself to think it through. In meditation though, much of my insights felt more like undirected observations: I would observe my own thinking and noticed it was tinged with a certain emotion. I would look at that emotion and see it was actually three different emotions, all mashed up together, but in actuality arising because of different causes and conditions. I would look at each one in turn and see how it arose, and often time remember, for the first time in years, a traumatic event that gave rise to it. And by seeing the connection so clearly, I could start laying down new foundations and weakening the old ones.

As weeks went by I was aware that I was beginning to let go of many of these patterns, little by little, and that the unproductive behaviors were significantly reduced or stopped completely. I continue to practice and reap the benefits of meditation daily. I have not tried other forms of meditation, and cannot vouch for their effectiveness. I can’t even guarantee that Vipassana meditation would work for you. But I do believe that paying calm and nonjudgmental attention to the content of your mind once a day is a great first step in coming to terms with trauma.


Low-Bandwidth Teams: Remaining Human from Afar

Long Distance CommunicationThe past twenty years have seen a rampant increase in what I call Low Bandwidth Relationships: Work or personal relationships that are based around video, audio, or textual communication with little or no face to face interaction. If in the past being remote meant that you couldn’t communicate very much at all, we now have emails, texts, instant messaging, group chats, social networking, and video conferencing tools that account for a growing percentage of our daily interactions.

These tools have vastly increased our ability to maintain work relationships across vast distances, and have made remote and even completely distributed teams possible. At worst, though, they can mask fundamental failures of communication by providing a very good illusion: Something that looks and feels like communication, but really isn’t.

Body language and facial expression, tone of voice and contextual awareness – even real presence vs. absence indicators are largely missing from our online interactions. As our brain strives to fill in the gaps, we often get a very distorted picture of who our team members are, what challenges they are facing, and what motivates them. Problems can go undetected, misunderstandings can multiply, and projects may even be derailed by miscommunications around priorities, subtleties of meaning, and levels of commitment.

In the past 10 years I have managed a remote team and two distributed teams and had to deal with those challenges first hand. When, not long ago, a friend asked me for advice on a similar situation, I tried to formulate my thoughts on the topic more systematically. Below are some thoughts on how to work remotely with a team while keeping communication real:

  1. Meet First in Real Life – The first few meetings with your team members are a critical period, in which all parties form the basis of their opinions and conceptions. As such, it is quite important that those meetings happen in the most bandwidth-rich environment possible: real life. If at all possible, spend a few days working together with new team members in the same location. Go out to have drinks. Getting to know them as people will form a stable basis on which you can build your remote relationship.
  2. Opt for High Bandwidth – Convenience tends to lure us towards lower-bandwidth communications, but don’t give in! Never send an email when you can gain a fuller understanding via chat. And never do via chat what is better discussed through an audio or video call. Try to hold important discussions in real life, where everybody can have a chance to speak and be fully understood.
  3. Value Frequency and Consistency  – Short, frequent communications are key for keeping teams productive and avoiding bottlenecks and errors of judgment. On the other hand, random interruptions are never good for productivity. For that reason, sticking to a light but routine schedule of communication is best. Knowing that there will be a time to discuss suggestions, air out disagreements, and catch up on developments will promote trust and teamwork, and make everybody more productive.
  4. Seek Out Context – Maintaining awareness of another person’s context becomes much harder when the other person is remote. The flow of information stops as soon as the call stops, and it is therefore easy to fill in the gaps in non productive ways, or worse – forget that the person has an independent existence beyond the span of the call. It is important, therefore, to seek out context. Learn as much as you can about their regular work environment, the type of interruptions they face, and any special circumstances. Ask about people’s mood, plans, and schedule.
  5. Be Mindful of Tone – Textual messages, especially short ones, can often be read in very different ways based on our own personal biases and insecurities. Emotional tone is largely missing from textual messages, and our brain has no choice but to fill in the gaps. The problem occurs when we do so without being aware that we’re doing it. Unless we are mindful, our interpretation gains the power of fact, and this affects our judgment of people’s motivation, commitment, priorities, and attitude. It’s always a good idea to pause and consider whether you might possibly be misreading tone. It’s also important to pay very close attention to tone in your own messages, and try to be sure it comes across clearly.
  6. Make Time for Empathy – Empathy, or our ability to read and emotionally respond to the feelings of others around us, is crucial to building effective teams. Unfortunately for Low-Bandwidth relationships, empathy is often put at risk. It is easier for a manager to expect unreasonable things from tired employees they can’t see. It’s also easier for employees to ascribe insensitivity to a manager that is out of sight, or dealing with faraway, unseen challenges. It’s important therefore to engage empathy actively: talk about your aspirations and frustrations and seek them out in others. It feels more natural when bonding over beers in real life than on an early-morning Skype call. But do it anyway, and you’ll gain valuable insight.
  7. Expect Complexity – We may wish we could reduce the people around us to simple, easy to remember labels – but we can’t. When we are exposed to people’s full human complexity on a daily basis, this fact is easy to remember. In a long term Low-Bandwidth situation, however, people tend to flatten in our minds and become abstractions. A team member who’s demotivated because his priorities are unclear might seem simply lazy. A team member going through tough time at home might suddenly seem flaky for no reason. The truth, however, is that people are enormously complex. The less information flow you have about them on a regular basis, the more likely you are to make grave errors and oversimplifications. If your model of a team member is too simple, it is almost certainly false. When it comes to another person, real understanding is complex, nuanced, and subtle. Seek it out!
  8. When Possible, Move – Low-Bandwidth relationships are no fun. They require more effort, offer less reward, and present more risks than co-located relationships. The ideal solution will always be to co-locate. Co-locating enables you to form personal as well as professional relationships with the people you work with, which will help keep you happy and motivated for longer. It will allow you to create and participate more extensively in team culture, and may help you generate better opportunities down the line.

As new tools evolve and change our ability to communicate, for better or worse, the science of management will have to catch up and account for those changes. Until the science evolves, however, those who work with and manage others remotely must remain mindful of the human implications of the new medium, and struggle to maintain a human attitude and process. It’s important not only for productivity, but also for happiness.

Motivation: Why Talented People Create Bad Products

In my time as product designer, I’ve worked with many startups as they struggled to design and build a brand new product. Some companies get it right early: they build a product that people love, and continue to iterate on it quickly as more and more users join and provide feedback. Others struggle, and throw good money after bad in one redesign after another in an attempt to gain traction, which never comes.

More often than not, the people at these struggling companies are very smart, talented, and well meaning. Yet over time, I began to notice a pattern of thinking, both in myself and in others, that seemed to reliably push teams in one direction or another. The issue turned out to be primarily one of motivation. What motivates a team now seems to me a more basic and more important determinant of their results than talent, experience, or resources.

Specifically, I see these three serious motivational issues professed openly everywhere:

  • Designers are motivated by the desire to improve people, instead of the desire to satisfy people . This is a subtle difference, but it will often lead in massively different directions in product design. The desire to improve people via product design is understandable, but it is also a very pernicious form of wishful thinking. In truth, as a product designer you must work with how people are, not how you think they should be. There is room for idealism, but it must always be in the form of “People should be able to do X,” not in the form of “People should do X more.”
  • Designers are motivated by the desire to employ specific technical capabilities, instead of the desire to answer real human needs. Technologies introduce limitations, capabilities, and context for the product designer to work with. But one of the most common mistakes is to allow those technical considerations to become part of your motivation, instead of just a means to an end. Technologies looking for a problem are abound, and some of them sound awfully enticing. (Think of sexy words like Augmented Reality or Social Discovery.) But in the end, products are about people. You must repeatedly return to human beings, their needs and desires. After all – it is much better to solve a big human problem with a very simple technology than to employ the most sophisticated and cool technology to solve a problem that no one has.
  • Designers care more about some external factor like executive approval, or peer perception, than the benefit and joy that users will derive from the product. Even honest product designers can sometime fall into the trap of designing under an external mandate that has nothing to do with what users want. Specifically, there is a tricky balance to hit between the product designer’s job of figuring out the truth of human pain and desire, and the ultimate product design that must eventually be produced in a complex political and business reality. A good analogy for this would be job searching or apartment hunting: it’s a good practice to figure out what you want before looking at what’s available, because it will help you navigate the numerous options much more effectively. If you start with what’s possible before formulating what you want, you will almost certainly settle for the first thing that “sort of works.” Worse, since in product design you are essentially looking for a job/apartment for someone else, there really is no way to start other than to get a very good clue about what people want.

 In the end, there is only one overriding motivation that can help you get it right: you must desire to remove friction from your customers lives. Which means that above all else you must desire to allow them to do more of what they already want to do, and less of what they already don’t want to do. It may not sound like much, but it’s what technology is all about.

Building a Truly Creative Team

Apple's TeamThere is a complex “chemical reaction” that happens when a group of individuals locks itself in a room and tries to produce something that has never existed before. In most cases, it fails miserably. The results in the end are consistently worse than any individual’s initial ideas. The team is entropic. Instead of working as a harmonious whole, clashes and tensions between individuals produce a mangled product that is nothing less than a physical representation of repression, compromise, and frustration in the creative process.  Other teams work harmoniously, having fun and consistently producing results that are better than what any of the individuals could have come up with by themselves.

It’s clear where every team wants to be. The monetary value of a team that can deliver true creative solutions is enormous, and the value in satisfaction and happiness for both the team and the customers is incalculable. So how do you make sure your creative team is smarter than any individual member? How do you build a team that truly works as a cohesive system rather than a tentative truce between opposing forces?

In my work, I’ve seen the creative process collapse when certain elements have been missing. I’ve also seen tremendous outpouring of creative energies and joy when the right balance was struck. I see these elements as critical to success:

  1. Filter Upfront – Only invite people who are talented, highly motivated to do a good job, and have a fairly secure sense of self-worth that will not become threatened by criticism and honest debate, even if it’s quite intense. You want people who are opinionated, and never afraid to speak their mind. On the other hand, don’t let total jerks in either. You want a supportive, enthusiastic, and collaborative environment that spends very little time on either wounded or inflated egos.
  2. Keep the Team Small – The creative team should be small enough so that anybody could feel free to jump into the discussion without having to ask for permission, and without total chaos ensuing. High bandwidth communication tends to break at around 5-10 people. Experiment with what works for you, but for really creative problem solving, I believe it’s important to maintain the team’s ability to have free flowing creative discussions, without overly rigid rules about who speaks when.
  3. Get Enthusiastic Buy-In – Be very clear about goals, and make sure everybody who’s going to participates in the product discussion fully and enthusiastically agrees with the goals, the value hierarchy, and the process. This may involve some long initial discussions, but it’s very important to get this out of the way early so that you don’t waste time on this later. These sort of questions, if you refuse to deal with them early, tend to creep into other discussions and become really pernicious.
  4. Aim for Consensus – Once the team has started dealing with particular problems, features, or products, always aim for consensus. If your team really is composed of smart, creative people who share the same goals – aiming for consensus is the best way to air out any unexplored issues with any of the proposed solutions. Spending the time discussing those issues and trying to resolve them in an elegant way makes 90% of the difference in the product process. Transforming an inevitably mediocre first draft to a brilliant final design often depends on nothing but the manager’s sincere desire for consensus in the braintrust, and the willingness of everyone on the team to spend time in an uncomfortable position of uncertainty.
  5. Allow Complex Positions to Unfold – Behind everyone’s differing positions, opinions, or suggested design is a very complex array of assumptions, opinions, and creative decisions that have to be understood before they can be accepted or rejected. Allowing people enough time to explore and explain those elements is crucial for achieving true consensus. Once you’ve done it enough times, you’ll learn to recognize that different members of the team always see different aspects of the complex problems you’re facing, and that only by exploring all these truths openly can the team agree on the basic elements of the problem and begin to work out a truly elegant solution.
  6. Encourage Mindfulness – Encourage team members to pay close attention to their own reactions, both to the product as it’s evolving and to their own and other people’s position. Encourage team members to speak up the slightest objection, if they believe it is relevant. More than anything, the team should value openness and honesty over repression.
  7. Use Authority as a Last Resort – Very rarely is your authority as the product owner relevant to the discussion at hand. Using authority out of place is the best way to kill the quest for truth that the team has engaged in. It demotivates the people who are primarily in it to solve the problem, and motivates those who are in it for power and external rewards. It also prevents you from finding out the complex truth that invariably lies behind other people’s opinions. Authority should be used only when the team has failed to achieve consensus in a timely fashion, and moving forward is simply more important than discovering the truth on a particular point. Otherwise, your role as the product owner is to decide who is part of the process and who is not, and to set the general direction of the team, then let consensus emerge.
  8. Structure Time – Early in the process, you may need plenty of unstructured, wide-ranging discussions to get everybody excited and on the same page. Once the discussion has naturally shifted towards more concrete solutions and problems, it may be time to start introducing more structure. For instance: people take turns presenting their thoughts and others ask questions. Or – people throw out their ideas on a whiteboard, and then the team does a quick vote to get a read on controversial areas. At any stage in the process, it’s better for the time and place of the meeting to be fixed and predictable, so that people arrive at the meeting with a ready mind.
  9. Let the Process Evolve Organically – At the same time, structure should not be rigid. It’s important again to get buy in from everyone about whatever process you follow. It’s OK to spend some time discussing process adjustments every couple of meetings. The process should evolve organically with the problem. No two processes should be exactly alike in the same way that no two problems or teams are exactly alike.
  10. Balance Alone Time / Group Time – Whenever the team has identified an especially hard challenge or complicated problem, consider assigning it as “homework” for people to try and solve individually in their own time. The next time you meet, comparing everyone’s proposed solutions will introduce plenty of new material to discuss and iron out as a group. As a general rule, I find that alone time is best for solving complex problems, while group time is best for identifying problems, generating creative new ideas, and making critical decisions as a team.
This is by no means a complete list or a final one, but I hope it helps you think about the issues facing your own team, reduce entropy, and allow for true synergy to emerge. Would love to hear your thoughts, especially any additional tips you have for keeping teams creative!


Interface is Everything

Emotiv's brain interface.

If you think the debate over iPhone vs. Android, or Windows vs. Mac is too vitriolic, prepare for the real battles to come. Touch interfaces have removed a psychological and functional barrier, and opened the way to an always-connected, computing in your hand world. This is a major step forward, but as early demonstrations of Google Glasses reveal, computing technology continues to strive for an ever greater and closer integration into our psyche.

That’s interface. And whether it’s touch, gestures, voice, augmented reality glasses, or eventually a direct brain connection, it is going to play a much greater role in our lives in the coming years. Our online data and activities are bound to leak in and eventually fully integrate with our everyday physical existence. Eventually, interface will not only shape how we “use apps” or “surf the web” – it will filter how we view the physical world around us, shape how we make sense of it, drive how we operate in it. Increasingly, the people who shape the interfaces we use shape our lives, and even shape us.

That’s why it’s important to realize that different interfaces are based on different assumptions about the world and the user. Embedded in Apple’s software interface, for example, is the assumption that your experience while using the tool is just as important as what the tool does. Dig deeper, and you’ll see a present-oriented approach. The idea that life is made of a string of “nows”, and that good experiences are therefore the most important thing in life. Embedded in Google’s designs is the idea that new technical capabilities must be available to users as soon as possible, and that over time the right experience will develop. Again, dig deeper and the assumption seems to be that your ability to get a certain result in the future is more important than your experience in the present. Google, in other words, views life as a string of past and future milestones. As long as you hit the right ones, what’s in between matters less.

When buying into a software platform, we should be aware that we are buying into a philosophy of life, and that that philosophy, whether conscious or not, will shape our lives in no small way. When thinking of particular app designs, the assumptions become more concrete. What is the most important thing for us to know in a given situation? What is the most important action we need to take? When and how should we take that action? When is it OK to interrupt us, and who gets to decides that? All of these are interface questions that already shape our lives today.

How much more influential will they become, when software becomes less and less separable from our own psyche?

What’s Syntropy?

Syntropy is the opposite of entropy.

It is the appearance of order out of chaos. The self-organizing tendency of matter, over long periods of time. The tendency towards greater complexity and harmony that occurs naturally and counteracts the universal law of entropy, in living systems as well as inanimate constellations.

The term is not in common use. A more common name is “Negentropy”, or “Negative Entropy”. Wikipedia describes the term’s evolution as follows:

The concept and phrase “negative entropy” were introduced by Erwin Schrödinger in his 1943 popular-science book What is Life? Later, Léon Brillouin shortened the phrase to negentropy, to express it in a more “positive” way: a living system imports negentropy and stores it. In 1974, Albert Szent-Györgyi proposed replacing the term negentropy with syntropy. That term may have originated in the 1940s with the Italian mathematician Luigi Fantappiè, who tried to construct a unified theory of biology and physics. Buckminster Fuller tried to popularize this usage, but negentropy remains common.

Whatever word we use, I believe that the concept is of the utmost importance:

To the extent that there is a single “reason” for our existence, and for everything around us, the fact of syntropy is it. And if any one concept can guide us forward, as the rate of technical innovation accelerates and the very way we think of humanity expands, I believe that syntropy is that concept.

This is my personal blog, and I intend to blog about many things including philosophy, technology, art, and the psychology of human happiness. But I also hope to express some of my ideas about syntropy and its applications. I hope to engage with others who are thinking about similar topics. And I hope to get more people talking and thinking about syntropy.

Enjoy the ride!

Why do many people believe things based on faith rather than due to the Scientific Method?

(Originally published on Quora on December 29th, 2011)

I believe that the following reasons play a major role:

  1. Human beings have a psychological need for meaning. That meaning must be more than the simple injunction to “make the most of it.” People are looking for some way to look at life and feel that it matters in more than just a personal sense. They want to know what is a life well-lived, and what is the standard.
  2. Human beings have a need for everyday psychological guidance and practice. This goes beyond “curing mental disease”, which is the focus of most of today’s psychotherapy. People are looking for guidance in dealing with the normal difficulties of life. Especially the universal limitations that all human beings must deal with: limited control, limited time, uncertainty, etc. People are looking for tools for increasing happiness, satisfaction, perspective, and meaning in the face of the inherent difficulties of everyday life.
  3. Human beings need a systematic way of dealing with and accepting death.Even Atheists (such as myself) find it helpful to remember and “digest” the fact of their own mortality, and place it in a positive framework. Virtually every religion in the world revolved around a core concept that either denies death or explains it away in a way that help people accept it, at least as long as they believe in the model.
  4. Human beings have a psychological need for meaningful social ritual. By this I mean a way to share and celebrate life and its meaning with others. A structured way to share the journey with your loved ones and your community. A structured way for the community to provide emotional and moral support in times of crisis.

As an Atheist, I believe it is possible for a completely scientific, rational, and proven system to provide us with all of the above. However, it’s also important to note thatno such system exists today.

Until one is developed, people will always flock to systems that seem designed to answer those fundamental needs. They would rather ignore the light of reason when it means, to them, a meaningless and cold existence with no support network or the comfort of social rituals.

Steve Jobs is Gone

Steve Jobs



I’ve been playing with the idea for this blog for a long time. But something about today made me start it: Steve Jobs is dead.

A couple of hours ago the news started surfacing online, and then we read this statement by Apple’s board of directors:


CUPERTINO, Calif. — We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.
Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

Steve Jobs, the ultimate man of Syntropy. The man who almost alone among the early computer enthusiasts, realized that the personal computer would one day change everything, then proceeded to effect this change by creating Apple and the first accessible, beautiful personal computer. The man who, years later, saved the same Apple from bankruptcy by heading it again, and leading it to become the world’s most profitable, and one of the most deeply impactful, companies in the world.  The man who had spent a lifetime removing friction, obstacles, and unnecessary complexity from our lives, while making us more productive, more connected, and yes – happier.

Each one of his major products: the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad introduced new possibilities, allowed new forms of interaction, production, and enjoyment. Each one was followed by an outpouring of creative energies, business ventures, and competitors quick to copy his ideas.

Steve was also a man who understood the inevitable nature of entropy. He knew that our time on this earth is precious. He knew that what we do with it, with every second, is the only thing that mattered. In his Stanford Commencement Address, he famously told us:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

So I’m following mine. I’ve wanted to start this blog for a very long time, and today – I did. And for that, along with everything else, I thank you Steve Jobs.