Feed it Opportunity to Get Freedom and Power.

Freedom and power are functions of wealth. That is to say, they are functions of capital. Because there are no reliable routes to wealth outside of developing, accumulating, and controlling capital. And there are no reliable routes to developing, accumulating, and controlling capital outside of owning and growing a business.

Well. You could be born with it. It is true that wealth begets wealth. Capital accumulates capital. Ask Piketty. But let’s say you weren’t born into wealth. The chance to pool up capital through wages has evaporated. The top 10% fight furiously to stay at the top. It’s not pretty. The bottom just drops out for everyone else. …

I have a lot of ideas. But every one of them is couched in ignorance. Every one of them is in some way wrong.

That’s true of all writers. That’s true of all people. Period. With diligence and luck the ignorance recedes. But the terrain is never entirely clear. It just isn’t. It never will be.

Even if the terrain were clear, a single piece of writing couldn’t capture all of the contingencies and exceptions needed to fully elucidate fundamentally irreducible reality. An entire lifetime of writing couldn’t capture it.

But we write regardless.

I hope that my written thoughts are useful and novel. But recognize that they’re incomplete. Necessarily. And they’re subject to revision, as all assertion and analysis should be. …

There are only two ways to create long-term competitive advantage. Efficiency isn’t one.

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The goal of strategy in business is creating long-term competitive advantage. A pair of classic articles from 1996 describe two paths to that goal. In traditional industries like manufacturing, retail, and most services long-term competitive advantage can be achieved by skillfully differentiating business activities. In tech, stable advantage requires rapid growth, lock in, and market dominance.

Michael E. Porter, in What Is Strategy?, describes “activities” as the basic unit of competitive advantage. And strategy as “the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.” Activities, in Porter’s sense, exist at the level of tactics or below. …

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Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Analogical thinking is the single best tool for consistent problem solving.

In Range, David Epstein writes that a successful problem solver is able “to determine the deep structure of a problem before they proceed to match a strategy to it.” By identifying the deep structure of a problem, the problem solver is able to draw on analogous solutions with the same deep structure. The solutions can come from anywhere. This is how great problem solvers pull experience across domains of knowledge. Finding those deep similarities is key. Relying on surface similarities is a trap.

As described by researchers Mary Gick and Keith Holyoak:

The essence of analogical thinking is the transfer of knowledge from one situation to another by a process of mapping — finding a set of one-to-one correspondences (often incomplete) between aspects of one body of information and aspects of another. …

Google was the 99th. Why not me?

I have been pitched by too many entrepreneurs starting the next Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. All ambitious, intelligent people. They found a flaw in the giant’s model. Just fix the problem to slay the giant, like the giants themselves did to all the competitors who came before.

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

How many times have you heard that Google was the 99th search engine?

How many times have you heard that before Facebook there was MySpace and before MySpace there was Friendster. (Friendster was great btw.)

All true.

These anecdotes are used as well-intended admonishments to new entrepreneurs. They encourage bravery and underdog ambition. …

The Myth of the Individual Has Corroded Our Democracy.

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Photo by Chris Grafton on Unsplash

Yuval Levin wrote an op-ed in for the New York Times titled What if Congress Were in Charge, Not Trump? Levin argues that under the US constitutional system, the legislature is the primary branch of government. The legislature sets the rules. The executive executes them. The judiciary interprets them. The executive and judiciary can shape and chip away. But, quoting historian Gary Wills, “No matter what the sequence of action among the three departments, if the process is played out to the end, Congress always gets the last say (if it wants it).”

Or as James Madison wrote: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” …

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Photo by JuniperPhoton on Unsplash

Thinking about progress, trade offs, and morality.

I was having a conversation yesterday with my business partner about the technology being developed by Atrium, a startup law firm.

We’re interested in Atrium for a few reasons — one being that they have adopted a model similar to ours of subscription legal services and flat-fee projects. But what really makes Atrium interesting is the $75,500,000 of venture capital it has raised to build out efficiency-driving technologies.

Most of the technologies Atrium is working on seem to be what any conscientious lawyer with resources would build. But the really interesting technology is a digital layer underlying everything the company does, which is designed to track all lawyer and paralegal activities in a long-term effort to capture all steps and movements necessary to take various actions. Like completing forms. Or pulling up client files. Or anything, really. …


Mark Stansbury

I think about strategy, politics, startups, and technology.

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