The Cost of Starting a Small Business Int’l Ed

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Ireland and New Zealand are looking pretty hot to start a new business! Although the statistics about start-up lifespans are pretty grim.

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Ancient Rome – Qwiki

Qwiki takes Wikipedia and other sources on the internet to automatically generate a video mash-up and presentation.  I think Qwiki has the light and amusing educational value of the Discovery Channel but made for the internet era. This ancient Rome Qwiki was one of the better samples I could, even find after a good browsing through their history section.

Facebook by The Oatmeal

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I forgot how much I love The Oatmeal!

The Art of Nonconformity: The Art of Self Promotion

The Art of Nonconformity is a marvel in marketing genius.  To be honest, I was fooled and also convinced by several other bloggers who endorsed his book.  I had no idea about the blog behind the book, which offers some free samples of the book’s content and hides the rest behind an email subscription.  I decided to buy this book to support a blogger and a local Northwest author.

What immediately struck me about this book was that it was extremely anecdotal.  I expected this from the “average” self-help book, so why does a book that proclaims itself “nonconformist” use a typical format?  While, the stories of a non-conforming man who has traveled the world would make a good book by itself, it comes across as marketing gimmick in this book.  Later Guillebeau even admits that he needs to move on from being the man who roamed about in Africa.  I suppose the first half of the book should be titled “Stories and Inspirations of a Non-conformist.”

The dichotomy

Guillebeau makes his case somehow, by arguing that he is a completely below average guy whose roots began with dropping out of high school and going on to community college; yet he is able to pursue a unique lifestyle that is also extremely profitable.  It seems completely uncharacteristic for an average guy to have such major ambitions.  However, he milks his average roots in order to fuel inspirational bullet points.  These are, admittedly, very valid points, except the part where he suggests you do not need to have any skills to manage what he has done.  

The author says that higher education is not necessary to achieve his kind of success, as it is part of a system which exists to sustain itself rather than providing the best interest for the individual.  Then he provides an alternative: a DIY Masters’ degree for under the cost of 10K.  Yet, he has himself gone to spend much more to attain a Masters’ and write a thesis on alternative lifestyles. Then he contemplated getting a post-doc.  Guillebeau preaches a principle of spending money on what he values, therefore by spending for his degree, he values education. Yet he seems against the idea of education as a route for his readers.

Guillebeau: Yet, even you Average Joe, with no formal education or skills, can be just as awesome as me!

Me: But I’m not average.  I picked up your book because you said it was the Art of Nonconformity, which implies that the reader is already well aware of some alternative lifestyle.

Guillebeau: Blah, I’m selfless and look at all these charities I work for and give to! Blah, blah, Africa, blah.

Me: I have no interest in these charities or contracting malaria in Africa.  

Guillebeau: Hey aimless audience, figure out what you’re gonna do and do it!  You can do it.  Look at these fools who didn’t start.  Look at these awesome people who did!

Me: Wow! I’m so convinced at this point, you can say anything and I will believe you!

Guillebeau: I mean just look at me.  Look at me!  I know exactly what my goals were, went to school a lot, and look how I made a ton of money.  But you guys don’t need to go to school, have any skills, or generally even know what you’re doing.  You can do it just like me.  You just have to do it for yourself, screw what everyone else thinks.  Also you have to work hard.

Me: Yay!  

The Great Persuader

My favorite part of his spiel is when he persuades me to get off my ass and do something.  Anything.  He has hit the target very precisely why I procrastinate or feel blocked from achieving my goals.  The internal critic being myself and the external critics or the “gatekeepers” of the world, actively serve to prevent progress.  He can be dangerously persuasive to the point that I start to believe that I also want to travel the world.  In the end, I think these parts of the book is more of a Cliff’s Notes version of something more fundamental, which I believe is critical thinking, or learning to think about thinking. I highly recommend this book, Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life, instead of reading Guillebeau’s book.

How it’s Done?

Eventually, after a smattering of inspirational quotes thinly held together by Guillebeau’s exposition and tales, the author does go on to detail how he managed to pull of his idea of an alternate lifestyle, including visiting every country in the world.  The section about travel hacking is pretty cool, although nothing new by now.

He suggests achieving financial independence.  There is a large section about personal finance, which is pretty accurate but nothing new.  Then he suggests that financial independence is not amassing large amounts of wealth, but is about experiencing life today.  This is more of a practical nature.  He is getting better by the end of the book but still strays off into anecdotal land, because he really has no real advice to give except how he did it.

Finally.

At first I found this book inspiring, but ultimately the inspirational high wore off and I finished the book feeling slightly panhandled.

Other Books

Most reviewers compare this book to the The 4-Hour Workweek, but have panned as a greater theatrical masterpiece.  I’d say that Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success is the more sober and scientific look into what it takes to become a nonconformist.  

The Twitter Universe

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It’s pretty stunning how many of these there are. I would love this as a poster.

The Powers that be will have me Travelling less

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The Freakonomics blog welcomes peak oil as it leads to peak travel (Peak travel), so I thought this was another interesting plot of that perspective. Now I finally have an ecological, economic, humanitarian excuse to travel less. Most of these myopics have been focusing on driving, so I really would like this perspective on air travel. I wonder whether air travel is more efficient because it packs in more people, or is it more harmful to global interests because it consumes more oil?

Time to pump myself full of Starbucks Trenta

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I’ve reached the end of Pandora

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So, this is what happens when you've listened to 40 free hours of Pandora! ??Now I wish I remembered what good stuff I was hearing on there so I can switch over to GrooveShark permanently.

Obsessed with Facebook

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Well, I like my pretty charts. I’m likely addicted to Facebook as well.

Facebook for Democracy

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Facebook has become one of the few social media sites approved by members of Congress to be used for reaching out to the public.  Why not go one step further?

 

Facebook Poll and Question can be used to spark debate by members of the government and engage the public.  These tools can be used to get a good sense of the internet public opinion, at least, until the majority of people have joined Facebook. 

 

The policy of democracy by representation will always be in effect, but the representative will have a cheap and instant update from their public.  The public will also gain access to greater influence and hopefully transparency on policy. 

 

If the trend continues to move forward, Facebook then becomes a economical, lightweight vehicle for basic government functionality like voting, identification for drivers’ licenses, for fines and tickets.  Even congressional activities can be done over a webcam and votes submitted to Facebook in real-time, greatly improving efficiency and costs of the entire process.  Granted, in this brave new world, the Facebook places check-in feature would begin to feel very much like Big Brother.  There is however the benefit that Facebook could enable true Democracy and reduce the need for representatives to begin with.  Although to prevent mob rule, Facebook could still be used to elect more proletariat representatives, thus reducing the entry barriers and the typical campaign war chest required. 

 

With true representation, there is a question of true identity.  Facebook Connect is Facebook’s identity system which ties a Facebook user to his profile.  Should the Connect feature proliferate at its current pace across the web, they must move towards a more secure system. There is still no guarantee that one person does not have many profiles, no guarantee that a single person corresponds to his true profile, and probably many more tough challenges. 

 

Since industrial strength security measures are not in place yet, these speculations are fairly premature!  So don’t worry, Big Brother is not here yet.

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