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The Virtue of Pessimism

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This blog is an excerpt from my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders (the e-book is cheaper here).


Pessimists assume that things will get worse, or not go according to plan, but they care about the outcome. They have an important function to play in challenging an overly optimistic consensus.

As a society, we need people to raise the alarm and ensure we’re not lulled into a false sense of security. To solve complex problems, we need to hear different perspectives to best understand a given situation and how people feel about it. 

My friend Muhammad Miqdad is the global operations manager at a company called PakVitae. Their mission is to expand access to drinking water throughout the developing world by implementing low-cost systems through collaborations with community stakeholders and NGOs. While Muhammad is driven by PakVitae’s goal to provide access to more than 10 million people through their systems, he still identifies as a pessimist:

“When you grow up in a developing country, like Pakistan, or a country that has faced terrorism for a long time, you start to expect less and develop contingency plans in the back of your mind all the time.

For example, growing up it was common that the power would go out randomly. When I would play video games, I would save my progress again and again because I knew that I might lose power and all my progress at any time.

Pessimism is always hugging you, protecting you from unnecessary risks.”


He brought this mentality with him to his work with PakVitae. For the past year, he has been managing a series of projects to implement the company’s water-filtration systems throughout Africa. While his plan was to manage each of these projects directly by visiting each of the sites in-person, he feared that various issues would prevent him from following that plan.

“Right now, I had planned to be in Africa to help support our projects there,” Muhammad explained. “When I started planning these projects, I recruited interns from all throughout Africa to help implement them. I hoped that I would be able to support the implementations in person, but I knew unforeseen difficulties could prevent me from getting there—maybe the payment will not be able to go through because of issues in the banking system, maybe the rupee will become devalued because of economic uncertainty. So I decided to train my interns under the assumption that I would be unable to carry out the plan and that they would need to be competent enough to execute it without my presence. Right now we’re on Plan D, but everything is still moving forward successfully.”

Muhammad’s story demonstrates the merits of pessimism. The contingencies running through his head were critical to his mission. He found it stressful to overcome these obstacles, but his thorough planning and emphasis on training his interns prevented this challenge from turning into a catastrophe. Muhammad is a pessimist, but his perspective comes from his awareness that his actions will have a direct impact on the lives of others. While he cannot control the world, he can take responsibility for his actions.

Cynical nihilism is different from pessimism in this regard. It is a state of fatalism that finds its roots in despair. If you feel powerless to make an impact on the world, internalize that belief, and act (or don’t act) with that in mind, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


In the next section, I dig a bit deeper into the cynical nihilism that has been pervasive in our culture and help my readers to reframe their situation…

To say this has been a difficult year for many would be an understatement. There are reasons to be pessimistic about the future and it may be a helpful perspective to have. This advice from Muhammad helped me to take action when I first heard news reports about the Coronavirus back in late January. It drove me to go to the store and buy soap and a couple bags of rice back when I was the weirdo at work talking about some virus in China. Last time I went to Costco, I picked up some extra cans of beans and hand soap, just incase we experience a second wave similar to those in France right now. Worst case, I make a black bean salad and don’t need to buy any soap for a few more months!

I’m as optimistic as they come. My whole book is a call to my fellow Definite Optimists to reach out and connect with me (if you haven’t, please recommend it to your friend who you think would most enjoy a conversation with me)! But I will never forget Muhammad’s reframe on pessimism:

Pessimism is always hugging you, protecting you from unnecessary risks.

Muhammad Miqdad

Take risks that have the potential to give you a huge upside with an acceptable loss if it doesn’t work out. Don’t take any risks that could truly leave you unable to meet your basic needs. And if you ever find yourself in the latter situation, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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999 Real Fans

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This blog is an excerpt from my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders (the e-book is cheaper here).

You may want to familiarize yourself with Inequality and Power Laws before reading this blog post.

Lookin’ for all my real friends
How many of us? How many of us are real friends
To real friends, ’til the reel end
’Til the wheels fall off, ’til the wheels don’t spin

—Kanye West, “Real Friends

This section is a synthesis of the essay “1,000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly—author and former editor of WIRED Magazine—and the self-love exemplified by Kanye West.

Kelly’s essay opens:

To be a successful creator, you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craft person, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, or entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

The impetus for Kelly to write this essay was not a discovery of these power laws or the desire to simply write a contrarian essay during the globalization of celebrity. He decided to write his essay because of the emergence of networks like Facebook and Twitter, which were facilitating direct, instantaneous communication between creators and their fans. The ability to have a conversation with your fans changed the reality of what it meant to be a fan and opened new possibilities for how one could work full time as a creator.


Depending on your specialization and cost of living, you could potentially live off having 1,000 “true fans,” or even fewer. These are fans who will purchase from or donate to you to support your craft because they love what you make and want you to focus your energy on creating.


If you lived in Rochester, New York, as a single bachelor, you could easily survive on $36,000 per year, assuming you could qualify for a low premium health care plan. If you can, then you would only need your 1,000 real fans to give you an average of $36 per year, or $3 per month, to cover all your expenses. As we’ve seen, both wealth and social media following fall into a power law distribution. The math—$36 per fan per year on average times 1,000 fans equals $36,000—is correct. However, in reality, you might have one fan who contributes a disproportionate amount of your total earnings.


If you’ve ever watched any of the top Twitch streamers—people who play video games full time—you will see this phenomenon. When Fortnite first came out, I would regularly watch Ninja play, and he would receive a consistent stream of $8 donations and always thanked each donor by name. Every time I watched him play, he would start losing it midstream: “Oh my god. Thank you so much. Really, thank you, thank you. Wow,” and then you would see that one subscriber donated $1,000 to his stream. In an interview with ESPN, Ninja told them that $40,000 was the largest single donation he had received at one time. That one donation is 5,000 times the size of those $8 donations.

Let’s now consider our confident friend Kanye West. One of the greatest surprises of 2018 for me was that I became a giant Ye, or Kanye West fan. He produced albums for Pusha T and Nas, produced and performed KIDS SEE GHOSTS with Kid Cudi, and released ye all within the span of a few weeks. The high quality of this avalanche of albums prompted me to review his discography, and I probably listened to KIDS SEE GHOSTS over fifty times. 


In particular, the song “Reborn” was exactly what I needed:

I had my issues, ain’t that much I could do
But, peace is something that starts with me, with me
At times, wonder my purpose / Easy then to feel worthless
But, peace is something that starts with me.

I had liked some of Kanye’s music in the past, but I never really understood why he had such devout fans. From the Taylor Swift “Imma let you finish” incident to listening to him sing “I Am A God,” I just couldn’t understand his extreme egotism.


My perspective changed when I heard Kanye in this BBC interview:

If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me. You’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the espresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going to make you believe you can overcome that situation that you’re dealing with all the time.

In that moment, my entire view of Kanye West’s brand was reframed. 


His goal was to be the loudest, most egotistical person in the room, or even the world. While an incredibly successful career strategy, his approach had a direct impact on his fans’ lives as well. Not only is Ye able to capture our attention through his personality and antics, but he also creates that space for us all to be authentic, to be loud and assert our individuality. 


And for that freedom, I thank Kanye West. But that’s not all that Ye’s self-love has to teach us.


Let’s return to the example of the bachelor living in Rochester. Perhaps one of his real fans could choose to give him $3,000 one year, maybe even more, but that outcome is quite unlikely. However, he has one fan who can have that level of impact on his life every single year. His realest fan. Fan #1. No, not his mom, although we’ll address that too. No, himself.


If that bachelor chooses to give up drinking alcohol to focus on his writing and swaps Friday nights at bars for sober nights playing cards with close friends, he can save money, avoid liver damage, skip many hungover mornings, and create more content and products. The example is not meant to condemn drinking alcohol (although it is literal poison). 

You can make decisions that will enable you to achieve your dreams. You can view yourself as your most important fan. You can invest in your own work. You can love what you create. 


You have partners in your life who will contribute in nonlinear ways as well. The people you date. Your roommate. A business partner. Your best friend. Your parents. Your mom might give you a jacket for your birthday. Your co-founder might give you advice that enables you two to grow your business’s revenue and cover your cost of living. Your spouse might help you stay sane by being there to support you when you stretch yourself too thin.


As we’ve discussed throughout this book, your collaborators and partners will be critical to your success as a leader. Focus on building and maintaining relationships with your realest fans rather than obsessing about how you’ll get 500,000 followers on Twitter. 

ACTION: Call one of these friends, partners, or family members. If you can’t call them, shoot them a text and ask if there’s a time where you could meet up or video chat in the next week.

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Inequality and Power Laws

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This blog is an excerpt from my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders (the e-book is cheaper here).

One of the people who has most influenced my thinking is former Wall Street trader, philosopher, and best-selling author Nicholas Nassim Taleb. If you find some of the ideas about probability in this book interesting and useful, I highly recommend you read his collection of books, Incerto.


A main idea in one of the books from Taleb’s Incerto, The Black Swan, is that the bell curve does not provide a valid model for many kinds of data and phenomena.

If you are a student, you will likely be most familiar with the bell curve from your experience taking tests. It is common for teachers and professors to grade exams on a [bell] curve. They will assign a certain amount of As, Bs, Cs, etc. based on the distribution of scores on the exam. This enables the teacher to avoid giving every student an A, on an easy exam, or giving every student an F, if the exam was designed for students with greater proficiency.

Certain sets of data do not fit inside this bell curve distribution. These data sets tend to be focused on domains related to money and social phenomena, rather than biology. We can model many of these kinds of distributions as an exponential growth curve, or “winner-take-most” or “winner-take-all” model. For example, you have likely heard that the top 1 percent of the wealthiest people in the United States owned 38.6 percent of all American wealth in 2016—an example of this type of power law distribution.

The power law curve looks something like this:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Author, Inventor, and Futurist

In the case of, say, Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, this tremendous wealth results from their ability to monetize the value their companies provide. They were able to not only create value, but also successfully convert it into profit. In contrast, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has created tremendous value for the world but did not implement a business model that would enable him to amass wealth in proportion to the value he created.


We can also look at a historical example. George Eastman, with his company Eastman Kodak, popularized personal film cameras. These cameras radically expanded people’s ability to capture photos and were critical to the mass adoption of photography as a consumer good. Eastman Kodak was a tremendously profitable company that captured large amounts of the value it created, through its monopoly on film production and processing. Due to Kodak’s patents, they faced little to no competition for many years.


The proliferation of cameras has created immense value for society, and these products are now available globally. In my lifetime, I have experienced both disposable Kodak film cameras and the incredible, machine-learning-augmented Pixel 2 camera. The latter has enabled my brother to thoroughly document the childhoods of my niece and nephew. A low estimate suggests there may be 10,000 times the amount of photos and videos of their childhood than mine or my brother’s.

A company like Kodak can be cited as an example of both the tyranny of monopolies and the value created from technological innovation. At the time of writing, every smartphone now has a camera orders of magnitude more powerful than anything George Eastman could have hoped to create. While phone companies today compete at the margin to provide the best camera, a high-quality camera is a required feature for any smartphone. Commercial cell phone manufacturing is a highly competitive market with moderate profits, especially contrasted with Eastman Kodak’s consumer film monopoly under George Eastman’s leadership.


While Facebook and Amazon receive justifiable criticism for some of their business activities and the exorbitant wealth of their founders, their critics often ignore or overlook the value they have created. Facebook enables their users to communicate with their friends, family, and fans, facilitates distribution for independent news sources and other entrepreneurs, and encourages fundraising for thousands of nonprofit projects. Likewise, Amazon empowers many small businesses to expand their markets, supports new products and business opportunities through Amazon Web Services, and enables authors, like me, to get our content to our readers in person, on Kindle, or via Audible. You may have good reason to critique these firms, but the point of this section is to point out this tension that arises from innovation.


Inequality can result from innovation that provides immense value to our lives. The reality is that power law distributions exist and we should develop an understanding of the origins of these inequalities.


Another example of power laws can be found in search engine usage. In August 2019, Google’s search engine was used for 93.14 percent of all mobile searches. The next largest search engine, Baidu, only accounted for 3.56 percent of mobile searches. This dominance in search results enabled Google to generate 86.78 percent of all its revenues from Q3 2017 to Q3 2018. This distribution has been relatively stable over time. In this example, we see that not only is there a power law distribution in the usage of these search engines but there is a power law in revenues generated internal to Google. While they have numerous other products, including the aforementioned Pixel phones, they account for a small fraction of their total revenues.


Recognizing the inequality the power law represents is critical to understanding our modern world. These distributions are an issue the next generation of leaders will have to grapple with as we work to build a more prosperous future. Obscuring and ignoring these inequalities is neither pragmatic nor moral.

We need to continue to permit businesses, their customers, and their employees to benefit from the value they create, but we also need to develop institutions that are more effective at supporting those who do not directly prosper as a result of these innovations.

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How I Placed Into Third Semester German With Three Weeks Of Immersion

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Wissen Sie, dass ich Deutsch spreche kann?

I’m not fluent in German by any stretch of the imagination but I’m actively working on it!

This is the quick story of my initial exposure to the German language, which led to my daily Duolingo practice. I am not an expert on language learning and didn’t use any fancy tricks.

In the summer of 2014, I visited Großauheim, Germany, the birth place of my Omi, for the first time. Family friends graciously hosted me and I quickly realized that knowing the word “Nein” (no) wasn’t going to cut it.

While my hosts were away at work, I would spend several hours working through the Duolingo curriculum. And every evening I would be immersed in conversations in German, occasionally joining in with a simple phrase. My hosts taught me phrases like “Gute Nacht” (good night) and “Schlaf gut!” (sleep well) and corrected my mistakes to help me learn.

It is a rare occurrence that I remember dreaming. However, these three weeks that I spent in Germany, I dreamt every single night. My theory is that the immersive experience triggered my brain into rapidly learning the language. Every night my brain was focused on organizing all the information it had taken in and I experienced it as dreams.

What could be more immersive than smoking hookah with a group of German 20-somethings and trying to recognize every word that I could?

Belvedere Palace, Vienna — Yes, it’s this magical in-person

Only a few short weeks later, I arrived in Vienna, Austria to study abroad for the semester. Our program requested that anyone with any background in German at all take a placement test, as the beginner courses are usually full. The German course is required for the program and it’s rare that Americans have any background in German.

Somehow, my limited German experience — 3 weeks with a German family and Duolingo — landed me in third semester German. Was I actually familiar with the language as if I had studied for two semesters?

Hell no! I didn’t know anything. I couldn’t have even used the future tense, let alone conjugated any adjectives properly.

The first three weeks of our semester — in the beautiful late summer of Vienna — we spent our mornings and early afternoons in our German class. For the beginners, this was meant to empower them to complete basic interactions in a respectful way and introduce all of us to the culture of the city.

My peers in third semester German were subjected to a speed-run of everything they had learned in their prior two semesters of German. They spent their evenings easily completing the assigned homework and enjoying the public festivals and Viennese wineries.

In sharp contrast, I made vocabulary flashcards, struggled to understand the fundamentals of German grammar, and spent an additional two or three hours trying to cram two semesters of German into my brain. I definitely didn’t have as much fun as my peers during those first three weeks but I had a transformative experience. I quickly went from being unable to read any signs around me, to being able to read them all.

Eventually, I made it in the famous vineyards myself!

As my studies continued, I caught up to my classmates and began to have a lot more fun. I spent less time studying flashcards and more time trying to speak to Viennese girls at bars. My German was not great when I left Vienna but I had built a solid foundation…the problem would be building on it.

When I returned to the US, I didn’t immediately find a sustainable way to continue to practice German. I became re-immersed in the campus life at University of Rochester and focused my energy on many of the activities that provided the stories and experience for my book — Student Government, politics, and Greek Life.

Over the past two years, I have returned to Duolingo to continue my study of German. My hope is to eventually achieve a conversational proficiency that will enable me to have wide-ranging conversations. That dream is still likely a couple years away.

If this post has inspired you to begin (re)pursuing your own language studies, I do highly recommend Duolingo. I will be publishing a review of my latest experiments with it shortly. If you use this referral link, I receive additional months of Duolingo Premium!

Likewise, if you have any advice or want to (re)connect over our mutual interest in learning languages, email me at grantdever at gmail dot com or reach out to me through whatever preferred channel!

If you would like to encourage me to continue to blog, please consider signing up for my free, weekly newsletter, ‘Seeking Tribe’.

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Paying it forward!

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A year ago, I was living out of my backpack in hostels throughout Barcelona. Although I did live it up —enjoying paella, long walks on the beach, and quite a few adventures at clubs and cafes— I was also on my grind writing Lead The Future and launching my first crowdfunding campaign to cover the publishing costs.

When you travel alone, you end up with a lot of selfies. This one from outside La Sagrada Familia!

I would not have been able to finish the marathon of writing, editing, and publishing the book without the support of the friends, fans, and family, who contributed and supported me in various ways on my journey. It was empowering and, to be honest, kind of nerve wracking to imagine the people who pre-ordered my book reading it. That tension helped me to persevere through some long and difficult days.

Despite my best efforts, I still felt a wave of anxiety pass over me when I submitted my final draft. I thought that moment would be liberating, and in some respects it was, but I also feared that some of my supporters would hate me after they read my book (none of them do…that I’m aware of). Writing a book felt a lot heavier than any of the thousands of posts I’ve made elsewhere on the internet. That experience gave me a greater appreciation of how difficult it is to ship a product that feels deeply personal.

Since publishing, I have been trying to pay the generous support I received forward by supporting various creators in my life. I love it! Most recently, I pre-ordered paperbacks to support four of the students who began their own book writing journeys while enrolled in CAS162: Building Your Creative Confidence, a course that I taught this past spring semester at the University of Rochester (working off of the curriculum of Eric Koester at Creator Institute).

I hope you’ll check out their projects below:

Most of the last 9 months, since I published, have been pretty strange (and a bit different that I had planned back in January). I plan on reflecting more on my experience in upcoming blogposts. If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out at grantdever at gmail dot com.

I would like to again take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported the creation of Lead The Future.

Thank you: Elize and Don Maxwell, Mary Ann King, Peter Pilarz, Nicole Derby, Bradley Halpern, Justin Bruce, Anne-Marie Algier, Edward Colosky, Eudora Erickson, Nate Less, Dan Ortenzi, Melissa King, Jesse Reichenstein, Jeremy Rogers, Drew Richard, Anna Zhang, Steve Kiernan, Georgi Hristozov, Randy Barkin, Nick Sparacino, Richard Dever, John Kappel, Tim Copeland, Jin Kim, Deniz Cengiz, Nancy Metzler, Shannon Ealy, Tyler Frederick, Hildegard Serratt, Shannon Lue Chee Lip, Grant Halleran, Joseph Sayre, Tyler Trine, Didier Vandevoorde, Ashleigh Morris, Antoinette Esce, Ulrik Soderstrom, Danielle Gartenberg, Ethan Bidna, Jordan Smith, Zoe Tzetzis, Don Frank, Michael Pettinato, Vlad Cazacu, Anthony Elvirez, Anush Mehrabyan, Emily Kumpf, Nate Tibero, Kim Hendricks, Simo Piispanen, Dax Emerson, Julia Maddox, Scott Fu, Micheline DeFranco, Yancey Moore, Judy and Paul Linehan, Eileen Stremming, Kristopher Hendricks, Barbara Burger, John Somers, Nicole Itzkowitz, Doug Reyes, Honggang Lai, Nomi Bergman, Michael Murphy, Kevin Shaughnessy, Collin Hill, Isabel Rogers, Clark Dever, Elisabeth Watson, Nicky Gianadda, Mary Ann Mavrinac, Jake Barkin, Cam Schauf, Brendan Knight, Lheiren Milanette, Dan Martin, Eric Koester, Luke Metzler, Alex Saffran, Dewey Bazirake, David Stark, Matt Skurnick, the Liu family, and Julianne McAdams

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Dave Rubin Comes Out As a ‘Chad Centrist’ Nationalist, He Is Not A Classical Liberal

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I used to work in a library so this is as close I would let a flame get to a book!

This post is a review of Don’t Burn This Book by Dave Rubin. This review was initially posted as a 3 star book review on Amazon.

I pre-ordered this book to help support Dave for all of the wonderful, insightful interviews he has hosted over the past few years. I am grateful for how he has exposed his audience to people who do not conform to the rigid labels conducive to short-form, corporate media: Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Malice, Eric Weinstein, Bridget Phetasy, Heather Heying, and countless others.

I currently identify as a ‘liberal localist’. I agree with Dave on many topics, and apparently disagree with him on even more than I previously thought. I am not rating this a 3 star because of our ideological disagreements. Although, I would consider bumping it up to a 4 star if Dave would give me the opportunity to discuss my worldview on the Rubin Report, as described in my book, Lead The Future (New Degree Press 2019) ;).

THE GOOD:

  • The hook of the book is excellent. It grabbed my attention right away and was incredibly humanizing. It set my expectations high and I love it thematically.
  • Dave is correct that we should prioritize our friendships over political ideology. The story of his first ‘wake up call’ is the kind of story that deserves to be repeated and applauded. I hope that David Webb and Dave have maintained their friendship over the years; it sounds like David might even be winning their ‘battle of ideas’ but we’ll get to that more later.
  • Dave diagnoses the problems of contemporary progressivism and its associated strain of identity politics well. His story is the perfect example of how this type of shaming and resentment hurts well-intentioned people and may, quite intuitively, drive them away from the left.
  • Dave uses humor effectively at many points throughout the book. [Although at times, it comes off a bit callous and hurts his ability to persuade his readers (if that’s even his aim).]
  • And much more!

THE BAD:

  • We know who hurt you, Dave! Although it’s unclear who the audience for this book really is (I imagine someone older and more conservative than me…), one of the audiences was definitely any progressive journalist who couldn’t help but read his book. Dave spends arguably four chapters focused solely on ‘OWNING’ and ‘DESTROYING WITH FACTS AND LOGIC’ some imagined, stereotypical-progressive reader. This is most evident in chapter five where he spams the reader with a set of inconvenient facts, without any real analysis for those of us who don’t know what beliefs they’re supposed to be rebutting.
  • Dave opens the book by stating that he is a ‘Classical Liberal’. He does evangelize many positions which liberals and libertarians share; localization of drug policy and minimum wage, free speech absolutism, skepticism towards Magic Money Theory, etc. However, later in the book he ‘comes out’ again as what might be more accurately described as a centrist/liberal nationalist, or what I would describe as a ‘Chad Centrist Nationalist’ (Now wouldn’t that be an interesting part of a video title for the Rubin Report?).
  • Not passing judgment on Dave’s pivot to a more nationalistic politics, he goes on to make some claims that he barely attempts to justify. He categorically states that the United States is not an imperialist nation, an opinion that you would struggle to find any ‘moderate’ Libertarian would agree with, let alone a genuine liberal. Dave does this by defining imperialism in the most narrow way imaginable, ie. if a state doesn’t have explicit colonial territories, it is not imperialist. He also states, “This aside, much of our foreign military intervention has been good— just look at Korea, Vietnam…where our contribution secured much-needed freedoms.” If you want to claim that US intervention in Vietnam is now justified, you’re going to at least need to make an argument.
  • There are quite a few cringe moments in the book. It seems as if Dave either did not seek out feedback from fellow liberals or he did not listen to them. At one point Dave writes, “…the so-called [wage] gap disappears faster than conservative content on Twitter.”(104) He also opens chapter 7 by telling everyone who doesn’t think “America is the best country on Earth…” should “ditch all of your first-world luxuries”. “A socialist dystopia like Venezuela would be an excellent choice, or perhaps a dictatorship such as North Korea. Sure you’ll have to eat out of the garbage…”(127).
  • There are numerous other factual inaccuracies throughout the book. He needed editorial help from someone with a broader background in the numerous topics he touched on throughout the book.
  • It seems as if he wrote much of this book under the idea he had for “The Ravings of a Right Wing Lunatic” (a title that he mentions he considered at one point) and then tried to re-purpose it as “Don’t Burn This Book.”
  • And yes, much more!

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:

  • At one point, Dave enters the abortion debate. His position is essentially that abortion should be ‘legal, early, safe, and rare,’ which is actually a common, [secular] liberal position. He lays out his thought process about how ‘he’ would have an abortion if his surrogate child was going to be born with serious deformities, or other quality of life issues. This was a completely missed opportunity to demonstrate the complexity of this debate. He completely omits the reality that it would be the surrogate mother who would be the party having the abortion…what are her rights in the situation? What type of contract exists for that type of thing? Was she at all a part of this conversation? It doesn’t seem like it from the brief discussion in the book.
  • In one of the chapters where Dave is mostly focused on ‘owning the progs’, he references two claims which actually have the potential to persuade others to consider his position on how parents should respond to their children identifying as transgender. Unfortunately, Dave does not cite the actual research on the topic to back-up these claims but only the authority of the relevant Rubin Report guest, Deborah Soh. The claims made are “Many children naturally outgrow their gender dysphoria by adulthood.” (61) and “…sixty to ninety percent, completely outgrow the desire [to change gender]. They’re more likely to grow up to be gay, rather than trans.” (61). The latter in particular would’ve been a prime opportunity for Dave to weigh-in on this topic from the perspective of an influential, openly gay man.
  • In a portion about the importance of nuclear weapons as a deterrent, Dave incorrectly states that Ukraine is a member of NATO. However, he goes on to make allusion to the intervention in Libya, which is a much stronger argument for his point anyway. He even quotes Obama conceding that the intervention in Libya was a disaster and likely removed incentive for future ‘rogue nations’ to disarm in the future.
  • Dave’s practice of taking a month off from social media and screens every summer is genuinely admirable and interesting. He mentions it briefly and ends on a note that is informed by his experience ‘unplugging’ every summer for the past two years. I think that a chapter dedicated to this perspective and sharing more about it would’ve been more impactful, and served similar ends, as his chapter about Fake News. It just wouldn’t have been as inflammatory.
  • In general, Dave didn’t attempt to persuade people in ways that were effective which was disappointing as a liberal.

Ultimately, I cannot think of a single person in my personal network who I would recommend this book to. It’s a book for people who want to know more about Dave. If you’re a new fan of the Rubin Report and want to learn more about where Dave is at in 2020, this is likely a good place to start. This book is neither as great as his most tribalistic fans believe nor as bad as his tribalistic haters decree. It needs some work and I’m optimistic that Dave will be open to constructive criticism, “losing a debate isn’t a sign of stupidity or weakness, but a sign of growth if you’re willing to embrace it with humility.” (95)

Dave, if you read this, I am genuinely so happy for you and David. I think it’s wonderful that you two have decided to start a family. That was another aspect of your book that I truly thought was good, although you covered it quite well! I look forward to watching your perspective change as you become a father.

If this review is helpful, please consider tweeting it at @RubinReport. Maybe, we’ll be able to discuss some of these topics on his or ‘my show’, preferably his.

Thank you for reading! If you want to support me on my current adventure, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon,joining my newsletter, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.

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Reflecting with YearCompass Pt. 1

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Introspection is a super power.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

To become more conscious of the traps you fall into, it’s helpful to have a journal. When you read through your old journals you will likely notice that you still have some of the same problems you were dealing with then. This experience can be painful. But that pain might be just what you need to make a change.

After a couple years of sporadic journaling, I was open to the idea of a YearCompass. YearCompass has you review your calendar for the past year and pull out key events, good or bad. I would also recommend that you flip through the photos you’ve taken from the past year.

Afterward, it asks you a series of questions to translate all of these thoughts into concrete takeaways and plans for the upcoming year. This part goes by quickly, especially compared to the ~4 hours you might spend going through your calendar and photos.

The magic of the YearCompass comes when you enter year two and beyond. You can review and see which of the goals you’ve achieved, what you’re still working on, what you’ve abandoned, etc.

2019 was my second year completing YearCompass. It has been wild to reflect on everything that happened in 2019. I honestly couldn’t believe all of the events that happened in the same year.

And I still missed most of the aspirations I had outlined in the box labeled DARE TO DREAM BIG. At least no one can doubt my ability to dream.

Dreams that I planned for and realized in 2019:

  • Wrote and published a book
  • Went to Oktoberfest
  • Made friends while abroad (in: China; Warsaw, Poland; Sofia, Bulgaria; Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel…and more)
  • Invested a small amount of money in $BTC

And I didn’t:

  • Win the German Chancellor Fellowship
  • Spend a week skiing in the Alps
  • Get an A in my marketing class
  • Get 1,000 followers on Twitter
  • Write 20 blog posts
  • Meditate for 100 hours
  • Deadlift 315 pounds
  • Date many beautiful German women
  • Achieve near fluency in German (from all the dates mit schönen Frauen!)
  • and oh so much more…

I missed out on most of my big goals but 2019 still might have been my best year yet. I don’t know if the YearCompass played a role in that, but in the pursuit of a great 2020, I’m looking for all the help I can get.

If you have some time, I’d encourage you to complete your own YearCompass and consider inviting a friend by sharing this post. I’ll be writing up a few more reflections from 2019 over the next couple days.

Thank you for reading! If you want to support me on my current adventure, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon, joining my newsletter, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.

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Take Control In 2020

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2019 might have been the best year of my life.

If I’m going to have any hope that 2020 will be as good, I’m going to need to take control of my life and focus my energy and attention on what I truly value.

In my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders, I dedicate an entire chapter to the topic of habits. Personally, I am much happier and sane when I am successful in creating healthy routines for myself: exercising, journaling, meditation, not-eating-an-almond-croissant-every-time-I-order-a-coffee, etc. I don’t create these habits because “that’s what you’re supposed to do.” I create them because they make me feel good.

Last night, I set myself up for success. I put my phone in monochrome. I stopped using my phone at 8pm. I put clean gym clothes in my backpack. I filled my water bottle. I read for an hour before bed to tire my mind out. And I set my alarm for 5:30 am.

I made it to the gym at 6:40 am this morning. I didn’t even put up a fight when my alarm went off.

I’ve done this before but I’m not at all a ‘morning person’. In fact, I hadn’t been to the gym for the last month. It was closed for the last two weeks but before that I had been staying up past midnight binge-watching Hot Ones, going out drinking with my friends too often, and snoozing my alarm when it went off in the morning.

I’m not special. I’ve made all the excuses before. I might even make them again tomorrow.

But can we agree that they’re lies? A subtle self-deception telling yourself that there’s a good reason to not follow through on your routine.

What’s not a lie is this: if you wake up early to get after your new year’s resolution, whether that’s exercising, writing more, or practicing your Spanish, you will feel powerful. 

When it’s 8 am and you’ve already been awake and working towards your goals for two and a half hours, you will feel like a version of yourself that can realize your dreams. When people ask you how you’re doing, you’ll respond, “Living the dream.” When a little thing doesn’t work out for you, you’ll brush it off because you know you’re on your path.

I’m not special. I’m not even an above average athlete.

This was my routine this morning (I weigh 185 lbs):
Squats 5×5 145lbs
Deadlift 1×5 200 lbs
Overhead press 5×5 80 lbs
Pull ups 8-7-5
15 minutes of HIIT on the stationary bike

Start wherever you are right now. Set your daily goal at something that’s achievable and just focus on building the habit. If you can develop the routine, you’ll see that your gains will compound over time.

We don’t get to decide that 2020 will be as good or better than 2019. We only get to decide how we’re going to respond to our circumstances. I hope you’ll join me by taking control of what’s within your power.

Where are you going to start to take control? Let me know by commenting below or sending me an email at grantdever at gmail dot com.

Thank you for reading! If you want to support me on my current adventure, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon, joining my newsletter, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.

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Why I Listen To ‘Controversial’ People

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I enjoy listening to ‘controversial’ people. Even those who I do not admire or generally share values with.

Why?

  1. I am a person who is easily engaged by novelty. The same conversation and set of ideas bore me. I consume a lot of content and information. When I hear the same concepts and talking points said over and over, I find it boring, even if I agree with the speaker.

  2. I have personally changed my mind on many issues over the course of my life. I have been humbled and accept that, even now, I unknowingly believe fake things and have half-baked ideas and opinions that I will later abandon. Perhaps even some of the ideas in my book.

    Given that I have continually changed my opinions on various topics throughout my life, it would also be accurate to say that I disagree with myself. If that’s true, there’s no way that I agree with someone else on every single topic. If I didn’t listen to people I disagree with, I wouldn’t listen to anybody.

    Yes, this is accepting an extreme view of what it would mean to refuse to listen to someone with whom I disagree. However, it illustrates the point that I could agree with someone on all but 20% or .01% of things. If I don’t listen to what they think, I cannot know if we disagree on the margins, on means, or if we have divergent worldviews and values. I could trust others to filter for me but then I’m dependent on the people who influence them, people whose agendas, names, and values are a mystery to me.

  3. Furthermore, even if we did disagree on 20% or more of topics, this person might know something that I don’t know. That knowledge could be a fact that could change my perspective. Or they might be able to teach me how-to information that saves me time or frameworks that prevent me from making a costly mistake.

    I have incorporated systems and advice from ‘controversial’ (who decides?) people. The merit of a tool or a framework should not be measured by the person promoting it but by its utility in achieving a desired aim in practice. No one should avoid using a hammer because of its association with totalitarian communism. 

    Throughout Lead The Future, I share powerful ideas and frameworks from ‘controversial’ people to emphasize this point: John Mackey, Peter Thiel, Nassim Taleb, Kanye West…

    For some of the ideas, I could have found a similar idea from a person who is still controversy free, for now, but for others that’s simply not true. Omitting the most impactful ideas I’ve stumbled upon because of the current reputation of the person promoting them would’ve been a great disservice to my readers. If people whose values you don’t share get to scare you away from the best ideas, you’re reducing your chances of succeeding in realizing your vision for the world. That choice might be the difference between success and failure.

  4. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if you wish to persuade those who disagree with you, it is critical to know what they believe and why they believe it. When listening to someone, you may realize that you share the same values but disagree about the way to advance and realize those values. You may not be able to change their mind in any particular conversation but it’s generally not a great strategy to make enemies with people who share your values.

    I believe that I am generally well informed on many topics and confident in my core values. In a conversation, I think it is much more likely that I would convince someone to reassess their prejudices than they are to persuade me to become hateful or prejudicial.

    In certain situations (not in the global online ‘discourse’), say when talking to a friend, someone in my community, or a family member, I feel a duty to share my counter perspective and ask difficult questions. If I’m not responsible for challenging extreme or unproductive beliefs among those in my circle of influence, who is? (another topic I touch on in my book).

    I want to enter those conversations prepared to engage in a way that increases my odds of successfully moving someone away from a position that I believe is immoral and dangerous.

As I begin to publish more on my blog, and explore podcasts and other mediums to promote ideas and develop partnerships, I am going to engage with people and books/ideas/content by people who are ‘controversial’. Beyond this post, I do not intend on going out of my way to explain why I’m doing that. As always, I will be open to criticism and accept responsibility for my actions. But unless you can convince me that my reasoning above isn’t solid, I wouldn’t expect to see me retreat from this liberal position.

My intention with this post is not to convince you that my frame is the only reasonable or acceptable one to have. There are many benefits to choosing to listen to and engage only with people who share your values. My intention is simply to explain the reasoning behind my position and how it’s resonant with my values.

I am going to engage with people and ideas considered controversial. I will do this because it’s entertaining. I will do this because my own opinions have and will continue to evolve over time and I seek to understand before I seek to judge. I will do this because controversial people shouldn’t be able to secure a monopoly on any of the best tools or ideas. I will do this because it will enable me to be a better champion for my values.

I hope that you’ll join me on this adventure by subscribing to my newsletter and holding me accountable for publishing more shorter-form content throughout 2020. If you want to support me in this pursuit, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.

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I’m Loving: Calm

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On Cyber Monday, I received a barrage of emails trying to convince me (quite the price sensitive – a euphemism for fru- … cheap – consumer ) to pull out my credit card and ‘treat myself’.

The only purchase I made on that day was a year-long subscription to Calm.

At the beautiful price-point of $30 for 12 months, I now have access to a meditation toolkit, optimized by software engineers, to get me hooked on… finding my breath and noticing my thought patterns. 

I have been spending upwards of 20 minutes meditating every day for the last week or so. It is nice to breathe during my work day and recognize my breath, appreciate the moment, and step back from whatever ideas are consuming me.

For those fellow users wondering, I am definitely a rain sounds kinda guy.

If you’re curious about meditation but don’t know where to get started, I’d highly recommend this short little Youtube video. I was listening to that with some frequency before Calm sold me. 

I know that I’m an ad. Do you?

As of 12/10/18, no one has offered me any money for any of my writings but I wouldn’t mind it if someone did…

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