Posts from the ‘Professional Development’ category

We Need Biology to Win

Biology will always beat machine. I don’t care what anyone says.

fist bump between man and machine


Other than Kevin Kelly, who says that machines will be used for non-human functions. And that eventually, AI will be able to do anything a human can do. Including be creative, or whatever.

I agree, if we stay as constrained, bogged down, oppressed, and trapped as we are now. If we aren’t unleashed, through the power of genetics or whatever.


Would you like permanent and ever-increasing enlightenment for everyone?

Fuck machines. And fuck AI. Cause biology will always be better.

batman robin machine biology

That’s more like it.

I think our energy would be better spent seeing the limits of DNA, assuming there even are limits. Plus other forms of life we can come up with. Because for god’s sake, get it out of your head that life has to be DNA, or even carbon-based.

But my real pickle with machines and AI is the final play of the assholes. Basically, one human tyrant or tyrant family gains control of all humanity through globally adopted AI and machines. And they either wipe everyone else out or who knows. If they wipe us out, the best case scenario would be through not-a-bad-way-to-go bioweapons.

Best case scenario.

Or we get our shit together, and fix our shit through the power of biology. Cause as much as I love Elon Musks’s commitment to preventing our fulfilling-our-worst-selves-scenario, he’s bringing mechanization and AI to us too quickly. Doesn’t he wonder if maybe, just maybe, all of this human capital management, empowerment, mindfulness, values, and so on needs a little longer to become pervasive? To make a widespread difference? Maybe helped with a little gene editing?

Anyway, if we get our shit together, we are the ancient race. We have intergalactic space travel not through a machine, but through biology. Because life experiences matter, space, and time differently than us. Even just the difference between us and a bumble bee.

bumblebee orchid

So cuuute. The bumblebee orchid. I want to huuuuuug it!!! <3333

I’m very aware that this whole “printing of organisms” thing is going to be quite a clusterfuck of ethics and what is life questions. But I have often wondered:

Would it be as bad for feed animals if we were able to make them not have feelings? Or consciousness? Assuming we’re going to eat them one way or another.

If Terminator were to happen, realistically, we’d be pretty easy to wipe out.

Is it a compliment or a disgrace of humanity to say, “If we were in a zombie apocalypse, I would do really well.” Should I be scared of this person or become really good friends with them?

I don’t see why certain superpowers wouldn’t be possible if we could do Bioshock-level stuff with genetics. I mean, at the very least, vampires would probably be easy to make.

I know that Marvel Universe’s X-Men have a real dilemma around their relationship with humans. But both the pro and anti-human mutants are pretty cavalier when it comes to humans dying, especially because of their being completely nutty with power. Like, Magneto murdered probably hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in Apocalypse. And Xavier’s all like, Cheerio. I hope we can be friends, and I’ll see you when I see you.

What’s the fastest-growing lifeform in the world? I bet we could double, triple, even quadruple that with genetics.

If I wanted to be richer than god, I’d use genetics to cure male pattern baldness.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a bacterial composition that would make it so you could eat almost all day long and never gain weight. I want to figure it out, patent it, and throw away the key. Like big pharma has with so many cancer-curing, diabetes-curing, and other-curing therapies. Except in this case, I want to help save the world (versus destroy it from eating itself to death). Problem is, bacterial compositions are not really patentable. I guess I’ll just have to do the second step, which is to make the opposite – the bacterial composition for someone to be able to live off of a cup of rice. Or whatever.

Can we make things like a machine version of a hummingbird’s wings? Like, how pervasive is biomimicry, really?

Coders are always talking about code health and simplifying the code. We know that our DNA has a lot of junk. But it probably also has a lot of dormant stuff, genes that aren’t turned on. What if we have a bunch of genes that got turned off for various reasons, and all we have to do is turn them on? Maybe this is where we could start. And then maybe next, we can work on simplifying our code and removing the junk or repetition to, for example, reduce opportunities for error that result in genetic disease.

Can we modify our brains so that we can also communicate with animals?

Will plants be able to be sentient?

Will all of our buildings be made out of weird grown materials? Can it just all be made out of plant-like material?

Genetics, man. Genetics.

leonardo da vinci drawing of robot

That’s some leonardo da vinci terminator shit.

I believe that giving people control over their own genetics is the ultimate way for us to empower ourselves, and the quickest way to save as many people as possible. And for the world to become sustainable. Including our relationship with it.

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Elizabeth Holmes Was My Hero

picture of elizabeth holmes

The female Steve Jobs?

Elizabeth Holmes used to be my desktop background. She was my hero, but a hero who I could actually become. When I discovered her uniform of black turtlenecks, I realized that I, too, had a uniform: black Exofficio tank tops, jeans, and lime green Solomon sneakers. I wasn’t nearly as elegant. But I thought that since great minds think alike, I could be the next Elizabeth. It also helped that my middle name is Elizabeth, and we were born in the same year.

I read about Elon Musk, but other than comic books and a propensity to be the hero, I closed myself off to learning from him because I’m a woman. He is doing so much for the world, but he doesn’t face what I face. Whereas Holmes created accessibility in healthcare and was a powerful female leader. I often wondered, “How did she manage to retain so much control of her company?” My research confirmed that it was due to her brilliance, presence, conviction, and vision. I thought that she was better than me, but that if I worked hard enough, not for forever.

Every morning, when I turned on my computer, I would see Elizabeth on my desktop. And every day, I’d work harder, longer, and smarter. I wouldn’t settle for anything but a business that I could be proud of, that helped millions of people, if not the whole world. And day after day, where I failed, she succeeded. Still, when I’d see her picture, every morning was another to chance.

Then the WSJ exposed Theranos’s lack of viable technology. Their entire business was built on lies to employees, shareholders, customers, and the public. They ignored concerned employees and even tried to manipulate and bully one. I can only imagine the crushing pressure that Elizabeth faced to deliver on her promises, only to have another day of disappointing results. I imagine her saying to herself, like I’ve said to myself many times, “Just a little while longer.”

As an admirer and fan, I was devastated by the news of Elizabeth’s lack of integrity. I questioned whether a sustainable business was even possible. Was now still the best time to be a female founder? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to meet the expectations of my employees, customers, or investors. And if I didn’t, what would I do? Would I ask, or even “force”, others to lie on my behalf? All in the name of innovation, progress, and humanity?

For almost a year, my future was shrouded in crushing doubt. And after six months of hard, really hard, work and sacrifice, I know better. I’ve learned that sustainable business surrounds us, their stories just go largely untold. And that there never has been a good time to be a female founder, so now’s just as good a time as any. I hate silos in organizations, more than any other destructive business force. And I’m an open book, often to a fault.

Looking back on my future, I know that I have a history of not sacrificing my principles for the sake of anything or anyone. My life has been filled with much suffering and heartbreak in favor of my principles, leaving a graveyard of relationships and opportunities in its wake. But now that I’m over 30 and have seen the impacts of compromise in others, I’m okay with it.

Only now do I realize how little I have in common with Elizabeth.

Most heartbreaking of all, I believe that Theranos could have disrupted the experience of diagnostic testing by pursuing the spa-like experience like Julep did for the nail salon. Or “democratized” it like Warby Parker did with prescription glasses and Dollar Shave Club with razor blades. These are solid, sustainable business models. And Theranos could have merged two profitable ideas while capitalizing on accessibility.

But that’s not the business model that Theranos chose. Every time I see her face, I wish that I could have been in the room when she wanted to be dishonest. Because her downfall wasn’t because the technology didn’t work; it’s because she wasn’t willing to pivot.

Knowing all of this, I was still left with one glaring question for years. As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so pissed. Then, it suddenly hit me: the investors. They lost everything.

This past year, I studied what the MAST Brothers did with chocolate. They put beautiful wallpaper on chocolate bars marketed as “bean-to-bar” when it was actually standard chocolate. I imagine the conversations they had where they rationalized their marketing. And based on conversations with some partners at Deloitte, it’s fairly common for companies to choose “fake-it-till-you-make-it” marketing over the truth. Founders choose vision or “the greater good” all of the time. If it gets them the investment, marketing, PR, whatever they need, they’ll do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old or young company – everybody does it.

The difference between Holmes and the MAST Brothers is that MAST only got caught by the chocolate connoisseurs, and no one cared what they thought. The wrapping was too pretty, marketing too powerful, and profit margins too irresistible.

Theranos didn’t fail because it ran out of money – it ran out of time.

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Working on Something Big

I really just wanted to hop on here to share my canvassing hack.

picture of a three-headed panda vomiting rainbows.

This is what canvassing is like.

I canvassed once and tested about three or four dozen different phrases. By far, the one that got me the most acknowledgments, conversations, signatures, selfies, AND Twitter hashtags was, “Are you feeling altruistic today?” Everyone knew what it meant. I’d only learned its meaning a couple of weeks before.

While I’m here, I’ll mention that I’m working on the stuff from the essays before this one. Most recently, trying to get the whole semester’s worth of reading done as soon as possible.

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Why I Went to Graduate School

School sucks. I hated school so much that my brain would instantly fall asleep when I went to class. If I went to class. The same for when I got carsick or drove. Just an all around unpleasant experience. If I were an animal, I’d be a bunny. Who just passed out when shit got terrible. It all started in 3rd or 4th grade, when I started to get bored.

I had sleep studies done. They put me on adderall. Ritalin. I mostly just had more pocket money cause I hated that shit.

I tried everything.

Except going to a school that taught differently.

I went to Pinchot because it was what I thought school should be. You see, when I was looking at MBA programs like Stanford and MIT Sloan, they seemed like slogs. And they’d only teach me a tiny bit of the picture using a traditional teaching method.

Traditional is our tragedy as Americans.

I thought to myself, “higher ed should be taught on frequent, village-sized campuses, where everyone lives together in a community. And learns by doing at a rigorous pace with an inventive, memorable, workshop-based curriculum. The professors shouldn’t just be PhD’s like they are at MIT Sloan. They should have stories. They should have already made a big impact. And teach from experience.” I wanted entrepreneurial teachers who listened.

Sadly, I didn’t think this existed.

I opted out of getting an MBA even though it had secretly been a dream of mine to get those three, shiny letters. Walking away seemed better than throwing away a few hundred grand for something I’d do much better on my own (and did).

I put together a MOOC-based MBA. But only two weeks after I’d started, I found what I had been looking for.

At Impact Hub Seattle, we were suddenly awash with Sustainability MBA’s from upstairs. These new hosts were pretty great to work with. What’s more, they didn’t suck to work with.

Upon investigation, I learned about Pinchot (Chapter 3).

  • Taught systems thinking
  • Workshop and project-based
  • Everyone came from diverse work backgrounds.
  • The whole curriculum was integrated…like a system.
  • It was taught in the woods where we got to hang out and live together for almost a week.
  • The day I happened to visit, they were doing the Lean Canvas. Basically, my favorite thing to do.
  • The perfect amount of our assignments were, go out into the wilderness and write about it, then tell us about it.
  • While most schools studied systems, we did our own deep analysis by the end of December. It was also a white paper.
  • While most schools studied case studies, we wrote our own by the end of March. Our whole curriculum was a case study.
  • Our first field trip was living in a spectacular version of what’s possible on an island in the British Columbian wilderness.
  • While most schools took five months (a semester) to teach entrepreneurship and how to write a business plan, we did it accelerator style in three. We got one big assumption though (e.g. our technology works), so it was great for learning at the maximum speed. Cause the second year was for actually doing a business, not the first. But sometimes folks used both for a real business.

I’m not even mentioning the sustainability parts, which are HUGE. I think we are queued up more than anyone on the planet to deal with what’s to come.

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Even better, I transferred my second year to a Sustainability MBA program on Wall Street. It uses a non-integrated curriculum, so I can do deep dives into whatever I want. Which I have. And it still is almost entirely workshop and project based. Except now we work for clients at real companies to see what that’s like. Good, lord, I don’t know how people do it. Do meetings ever start on time? Seriously? How lazy can we be?

But I digress.

Can you imagine if traditional MBA’s taught this way? Both a sustainability-focused way and then a hybrid way?

The book, Makers and Takers, says that traditional MBA’s go into the program thinking that their job is to “benefit a diverse group of stakeholders.” But by the end of the second semester, they think that “greed is good”. And they think that the way to be greedy is to “increase shareholder returns at any cost and produce less high quality goods and services.”

What the fuck.

What’s worse is that every year we church out 156,250 of these people. Not you, of course. Because you’re not in a traditional MBA program.

Just the majority of 156,250.


Giving Voice to Values says that in traditional MBA ethics classes, they learn how to rationalize and justify unethical behavior and choices. Literally, a handbook of arguments.

So, I joined Pinchot cause I didn’t want to be an asshole.

MBA’s aside, most education in the US is garbage compared to what it could be.

Everyone knows the story of the Indian kids who were given a computer.

A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.

If children have interest, then education happens.

Arthur C. Clark

Our education squashes curiosity, so it’s no wonder that our skills gap is being filled with immigrants. Except that we stopped letting immigrants here. So we’re still going to have a bunch of unemployed people, and on top of that not enough skilled labor. Then American businesses will just die. And we’ll get wiped out because other countries are educating their people properly.


But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Hypotheses for the Successful Adoption of Mental Models around Entrepreneurialism

  1. Learning
    1. The vast majority of people have experienced oppressive, suppressive, overly structured, unimaginative, wasteful learning methods for the majority of their education. These methods are based on the industrialization of the world in the early 1800’s and haven’t been updated with the pace of technology and science, despite being scientifically disproven and one-upped again and again. Bureaucracy and insecurity prevents us from improving education. It’s our greatest tragedy in America.
    2. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper workshop with a proper team in a proper space. Experiencing this would make a positive and profound difference on how they see the world, themselves, and their life. Some percentage of these people will have a viral difference on the people around them.
    3. It’s been a while since Americans learned by doing, such as apprenticeships. Which is such a shame, since they’d be so easy and economical now, and other countries are doing them.
  2. Empowerment
    1. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper work environment and culture.
    2. The vast majority of people do not know how to plan for the future and are not prepared. They also have no hope for retirement.
    3. The corruption behind ITT Tech and University of Phoenix continues to set off a tidal wave of disenfranchised, negatively impacted students. When ITT Tech closed in Sept 2016, just at that time, they had 40,000 students and 8,000 employees. Students have been suing since 1998. That’s a lot of people, their families, and a giant chunk of our country.

Hypotheses for the Target Audience (at least one is true)

  1. They have no hope for retirement.
  2. They don’t want to have to work for anything.
  3. They’re afraid their job will be replaced by a robot. For example, truck drivers, factory workers, and accountants. In addition, I predicted that self-driving cars would predominate major cities within 4 years. Last Friday, Tim Ferriss predicted 3.

In which direction should I go to run a beta test? A small pilot with about ten people in the boonies. Eastern or Western Washington?

I say this with urgency as I’d love to just target kids and the education system. But the reality is that no one’s invested in our kids for a while, especially not us. And, we don’t have enough time to wait for them. We need engaged adults now. Like, right now. Now. Yes, now.

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