The 4 Hour Struggle http://4hourstruggle.com Entrepreneurial Philosophy by Matt Aaron en-us Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:16:12 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator Stuff That White People Like #376: Hating 2016 http://4hourstruggle.com/stuff-that-white-people-like-376-hating-2016 In honor of one of my favorite comedy blogs ever Stuff White People Like, here is a new one:

If you want to connect with a white person, shared outrage is a surefire way to enter their heart.

Although they had plenty of brunches, vacations, selfies, happy hours in 2016, it was a "bad year" for the world.

While poverty and disease rates are at an all-time low in human history, two key events ruined the year for white people: Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

In order to commiserate with white people, you have to find them first. It isn't hard. Look no further than a virtual space that is quite different from the real world: social media.

Like and comment on their anti-Trump messaging on Facebook and millennial articles like "Okay people, Trump really just said that."

No matter what happened in your actual life, you must also explicitly state that your 2016 sucked.

And make sure not to share your initiatives to change the world for the better. It will make white people feel insecure.

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Thu, 18 May 2017 18:38:24 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/stuff-that-white-people-like-376-hating-2016
Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived http://4hourstruggle.com/not-fade-away-a-short-life-well-lived When searching Google for Peter Barton, it's hard to find him. He’s only considered the 4th most important Peter Barton (behind the actor, historian and rugby player). He died in 2002 when the internet was much less a part of our daily lives. If he had died today, I’m convinced he’d be at the top of the list.

So, before you click away, I should probably mention that Peter Barton founded a company in the 1990’s worth a few billion yet and only had 16 employees. After all, if you’re reading this, you are probably an entrepreneur. That mind blowing statistic should reel you in to read the rest.

Peter Barton lost his dad at an early age and always thought he would have a short-life. It turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy. At age 48, he was diagnosed with cancer and died a few years later. In the last leg of his life, he wrote a book reflecting on cancer, entrepreneurship, family and more.

Peter was an alpha-male thrill-seeker who was always seeking the next adventure. He started his 20’s living out of a van, then a hippie ski bum, to working on political campaigns and serving on the administration of a New York Governor, Hugh Carey.

Around age 30, he went to Harvard Business School for his MBA where we was the old guy surrounded by 24 year olds. They were analytically sharp and did very well in school, yet they were lacking something::

“I also began to realize something else about my fellow MBA candidates. It’s a sweeping generalization, but I stand by it. In the main, they weren’t excited about the content of their eventual careers-the actual work they’d do-but only the rewards.

They didn’t want to create. They didn’t want to take chances. They wanted to find a safe track that offered money and prestige; they would gladly settle for a bland, predictable ‘success’.

Bottom line: They were extremely bright people who would never really do anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad.”

Upon receiving his MBA, he worked for free (at least for the first month) for an entrepreneur in Colorado and helped him build a large company, consolidating a fragmented cable television industry in the mid to late 80’s. He then co-founded Liberty media, which connected the wires (cable infrastructure companies) with the creative side (channels like Discovery, MTV, etc).

Here are my other favorite quotes from Peter:

The two most important life lessons: “Recognizing the difference between a dumb risk and a smart one, and Understanding when you need to change direction, and having the guts to do it.”

On choosing an industry to work in after graduating Harvard Business School: “I would only work in an up-and coming industry. (This, by the way, is something that still amazes me about so many of my classmates. These people could analyze anything, yet most of them followed the herd into mature industries whose greatest days were behind them. Why didn’t they take half an hour to analyze where the real action, the real growth, would be?”

How a house should sound when hosting a terminally ill person: “I love it, too, that my house is full of noise. Some visitors have been surprised at this, even rattled. They’ve felt that a house with a sick person in it should be a quiet place, a hospital zone. My own feeling is that there’ll be a plenty of time for silence, thank you very much. In the meantime I take a tremendous joy in clamor.”

On negotiations: “Seem reckless, but be prepared. Act crazy, but do your homework.” and (paraphrased): To be a good negotiator, you need to be feisty, but also work with a creativity that fosters win-win situations.

On ethics and poverty. For some context this was after, during a the NY Governor campaign, he turned down a cash bribe (after being tempted) from an undercover FBI agent posed as a wealthy Saudi:

“It’s funny, in a way-our society warns us about the temptations of wealth and power, about the slender chances of a rich man getting into Heaven. But poverty has its pitfalls, too. Too little dough can erode a person’s ethcis and values just as easily as too much.”

NOTE: after this incident, he immediately resigned from politics and pursued a level of wealth that would prevent him from worrying about money.

On why it’s important to take kids on field trips showing how things work behind-the-scenes: “Kids-both boys and girls-need nuts and bolts. Screwdrivers and lathes. To feel at ease in the world, they have to learn what the world is actually made of, and how it got that way.”

The book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Fade-Away-Short-Lived/dp/006073731X

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Wed, 15 Jul 2015 02:38:53 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/not-fade-away-a-short-life-well-lived
Phil and Bill - Comparing the greatest NBA and NFL coaches of my life to date. http://4hourstruggle.com/phil-and-bill-comparing-the-greatest-nba-and-nfl-coaches-of-my-life-to-date Phil Jackson: 6'8", athletic, and charismatic. A former player that had the respect of everyone. 11 rings as a head coach and 2 as a player. A practitioner of Zen Buddhism.

Bill Belichick -- Too small to play football, son of a coach and scout. Uncharismatic, but has been studying film since he was 9 years old. He gained respect by his knowledge of the game. 4 rings as a head coach and 2 as a defensive coordinator.


Jackson was a master of dealing with egos. In the NBA, guys like Kobe, Jordan, Shaq, don't come around very often. So as a head coach, it is much more difficult to have only "your type of guys" if you want to win an NBA championship when compared to the NFL.

When Chicago was going on their 2nd run, they recognized a need for interior defense. After clearing it with Scottie and Michael, they traded for Dennis Rodman and Phil assimilated the enigmatic player into a key piece in the 1996-98 3peat.

To help mold his players and get them to play as a team, Jackson got his team to meditate and made timely book recommendations to players.

He also used the media to send a message to his own team and opponents. By praising another player for his game, he was able to light a fire under Michael Jordan, who felt slighted by the comment.

A famous tactic in practice was to have a intra-squad scrimmage with very uneven teams. He would purposely avoid calling fouls on the weaker team as a way to toughen up the stars and make them deal with fabricated adversity.

In the NFL, players move in and out much faster. Beilchick looked for the his type of guy from the start *.

Belichick has never mastered the media or played many locker room games. He is who he is; what you see is what you get.

Belichick is incredibly precise in everything he does. An epiphany he had early on in his career was that meticulous organization is the key to success.

He is famous for his halftime adjustments and being historically better when playing a QB for the 2nd time in a season. Belichick's first Super Bowl win against the heavily favored Rams was considered by analyst Ron Jaworski as perhaps the greatest coached game in NFL history.

Jackson used the triangle offense, a system that when followed correctly creates a beautiful offensive flow.

While both coaches have very different styles, they are strong believers in the "I before the team" concept.

As a sports fan, I have enjoyed watching them through the years. Reading about them has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of their extraordinary careers.

Comparing them side-by-side, it demonstrates that:

A) There is not a universal "right" way to lead.

B) Personal circumstances can help determine the right leadership style. Winning a ring as a player enabled Phil Jackson instant respect among players and coaches, something that Belichick had to slowly learn over many years.

On the other hand, football is a very precise game with 22 starters as opposed to the NBA with only 5 starters and around 12 total players on a team. To implement a looser style of offense in the NFL with more creative freedom for the players .. it may not work.

Today, Phil Jackson is President of the New York Knicks, who are rebuilding, and Belichick is head coach of the Patriots coming off his latest Super Bowl win.

Time to sit back and enjoy the final stages of their careers.

*There was an exception when he had Lawrence Taylor, arguably the greatest defensive player of all time. He lived by his own rules, and Belichick got the other players to accept it.

Learn more:

Eleven Rings and Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson himself.

For Belichick: The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam.

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Mon, 02 Mar 2015 19:42:54 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/phil-and-bill-comparing-the-greatest-nba-and-nfl-coaches-of-my-life-to-date
Reading List - January 2015 http://4hourstruggle.com/reading-list-january-2015 I've made an effort to rebuild by reading muscle. To get back to 1-3 books/week rhythm, I needed to work out my attention span. Luckily, I had some time off for the holidays. It is amazing what a week without internet on a farm will do for you.

Three keys to education via reading:

1. Choosing the right books .. Your peer group, Amazon, Good Reads, blogs, bibliographies of books you love, etc.

2. Active analysis and reflection of the books you are reading. I save notes from every book I read in a series of Google Docs. After a while, the first doc got too big and had to start a new one.

3. Mixing theory and practice. Integrate learnings into work/life projects. Balance learning, practicing, and doing.

This list covers food, history, physical goods trading , business development, social psychology, and a few fiction classics.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky: Just like the title says, it is a history of the world through the lens of salt. Ancient civilizations were strategically located near sources of salt. While we have sufficient salt in our modern diet, it wasn't always the case. Did you know that Gandhi lead a march to the ocean protesting Britain's law against Indians being allowed to use their own salt? Highly recommended.

Mastering the Grain Markets: How Profits Are Really Made by Elaine Kub: This book gives a brief overview of the commodities market from a farmers perspective. It focuses on corn, soy, and wheat but many lessons can be applied to other commodities. There are two main types of analysis: technical (traders, day traders) and fundamental (those who follow and understand the farming industry). Kub, who grew up on a small farm in South Dakota advocates for fundamental analysis, paying attention to a few key technical metrics.

McDonald's Behind the Arches by John F. Love: I have to give credit to the author, because it is one of the best business books I have ever read. Ray Kroc, as many romanticize him, didn't suddenly become a high-performer in his 50's. While he may not have been rich, he had a lot of experience in the food service industry before he took McDonalds and turned into the successful real estate (Not hamburgers, but real estate) company it is today. Another reminder on the power of systems and win-win agreements.

The Honourable Company by John Keay: I didn't finish this book. It is about the East India Company. In the beginning, they fought off the Dutch for control of the spice islands in the South Pacific and ended up as the largest corporation in world history. Honourable is supposed to be ironic because they were anything but honorable. A lot of 48 Laws of Power exampls. If I had to summarize it in one sentence: the British took control of India, farmed opium, and traded it to China for tea.

The Life of Charlemagne by Ein Hard: It was only 72 pages and no depth at all. The author, Ein Hard, had a hard-on for Charlemagne. Was looking for some insight into Charlemagne as a ruler and didn't get it. May have to try a longer biography of the Franco ruler.

Explaining Social Behavior by Jon Elster: This is more of a university textbook type read. I got a LOT out of this. Email me if you want my notes for this one. I hope to revisit some more social behavior books. It is so important. Humans are animals and observing how our species interact with one another, how they think is helpful in any field. A few of my favorite quotes:

P. 87 - "..It is a commonplace among moralists and novelists that intentional hedonism is self-defeating, and that nothing engraves an experience so deeply in memory as the attempt to forget it. Although we may wish for these states to realized we should beware of wanting to realize them."

P. 100 - "..on the other hand, there are so many plausible-sounding normative conceptions of justice, fairness, or the common good that a person would have to be unlucky or incompetent if she failed to locate one that coincided with her self-interest. "

P. 126 - "..Montaigne said that “many of this world’s abuses are engendered - or to put it more rashly, all of this world’s abuses are engendered, by our being schooled to be afraid to admit our ignorance because we are required to accept anything which we cannot refute.”

P. 157 - "We easily believe what we fear; we naturally tend to give excessive importance to low-probability risks."

How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men and Women Told by Themselves by Orison Sweet Marden: A meta-learning of successful people. Instead of reading a biography of one person, how about a book that devotes a chapter to 21 different people? My favorite part of this book was the contrasting philosophy and methodology of the various subjects. Helps engrave that there are many ways to achieve success. Don't feel compelled to absolutely emulate great men and women.

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares: I'm really glad I picked this book up. Tons of immediate action items to my business. A few mistakes that many startups make are only focusing on product and ignoring distribution. And be careful of "dogmatically" discounting marketing channels without testing them ... maybe trade shows and radio advertising are exactly where you want to be...

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul: The rise and fall of a hotshot commodities trader. The third part of the book is the most valuable; it talks about all of the psychological biases that haunt traders into making bad decisions. And how to avoid them. The biases are universal to all types of business. I will revisit the third part a few months from now.

Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck: Some classic American fiction. A two book series on a small community in Monterrey, California. Beautiful losers. Mack is the leader of the bums who wants to help his buddy Doc, a Marine Biologist. My description doesn't do it justice. A light-hearted, literary treat.

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block: I have read just about every Elmore Leonard novel and was searching for a new crime writer. I found one in Block. This book is part of a series on Matthew Scudder, an unlicensed private detective with a drinking problem. Highly, highly recommended if you are into the crime/murder-mystery genre.

Mad Outta Me Head by Colin Post: Colin is a buddy of mine and many of us who followed his blog and writing were waiting for this book to be published; it didn't disappoint. From the streets of Dublin, the I.R.A. to the crooks and junkies in Bogota .. a fascinating tail of an Irishman immersed in the underworld.


I hope to revist some of these books again this year, or a few years from now. As Paul Graham states in How You Know, ".. reading and experience are usually "compiled" at the time they happen, using the state of your brain at that time. The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life. Which means it is very much worth reading important books multiple times".

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Fri, 09 Jan 2015 00:12:29 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/reading-list-january-2015
Bitchy Yoga Instructors http://4hourstruggle.com/bitchy-yoga-instructors I bet this has happened to you. You meet someone who has bad energy: vindictive, passive/aggressive, bitter. And then you find out their profession: yoga instructor!!!

All of us have bad days and bad moments. Regardless, when you meet a yoga instructor that has these traits, how can you take them seriously as a yoga professional?

I don't practice yoga, but it seems obvious that you want to create positive energy, unity with self, etc. Another example: an obese person selling health foods.

Whatever your profession is, picture the behavior of the top performers in your field. How do they act and feel? What impressions do they leave on other people?

Become aware of how you are perceived (I had to ask people) and adjust accordingly. In the long-term, aligning your behavior will pay dividends.

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Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:31:39 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/bitchy-yoga-instructors
3 Heuristics re: Consultants and Product Entrepreneurs http://4hourstruggle.com/3-heuritics-re-consultants-and-product-entrepreneurs There are some crappy marketing/business consultants and there are some great ones. And there are some crappy product companies and some phenomenal ones.

I started out as a below-average consultant, got better, and now I am making a living importing/exporting physical products.

I recently had a call with a business relationship consultant. I would describe this person as sharp, intuitive, ethical, reliable, and emotionally intelligent. It was a 30 minute conversation. What did I learn?

A few little nuggets here and there. Overall, the advice was not very applicable to my situation. Perhaps my business is not large/mature enough to benefit. Maybe, just maybe, experience has taught me a few things over the years. We have also read a lot of the same books.

Most importantly, valid differences exist between marketing/business consultants and hard goods people. Before pointing out a valid exception, remember that these are not rules, but guidelines:

1. Physical goods companies have more grit and more "chops". The complexity of managing physical goods, the ups and downs, is a unique experience. The logistical challenges. Moving physical weight. Bureaucratic, red tape problems.

Don't get me wrong. A consulting business can be very stressful as well. But it's not the same.

I believe that with physical product business, you develop that "grizzled veteran" feeling/persona a lot faster. Merchantry is an ancient practice that has gone on for a long time.

2. Always follow the money. Consultants can give advice, and a lot of times they can improve a business. But the only thing they usually have at stake is losing a new consulting contract.

With physical products, you can run out of cash, go bankrupt. There is a much, much higher level of risk. Having more on the line provides more incentive to really figure it out.

Side note: If you are unsure about your financial aptitude, Finance for Entrepreneurs is a must read.

3. Great marketing/business consulting doesn't add much to a mediocre product. Alternatively, when your product is great, ad agencies and consultants can help take you to the next level.

It is tempting to get an outside expert, but not out of a resistance to the internal work that needs to be done first.

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Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:09:10 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/3-heuritics-re-consultants-and-product-entrepreneurs
Where You Going? http://4hourstruggle.com/where-you-going From The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Moredecai Richler:

"Look at me, he thought, take a good look because maybe I’m dirt now. Maybe I’ve never been to Paris and I don’t know a painter from a horse’s ass. I can’t play tennis like the other guys here, but I don’t go around spilling ketchup in other guys’ beds either.

I don’t trick guys into crazy promises when they’re drunk. I don’t speak dirty like you either.

You make fun of your father. You don’t like him. Tough shit. But he sends you to Europe and Mexico and who pays for those drinks in the afternoon? You’re sorry for making a fool out of me. Gee whiz; my heart bleeds.

Take a good look, you dirty bitch. Maybe I’m dirt today. That bastard of a black marketeer Cohen can give me twenty bucks and a lecture about gambling and feel good for a whole week. But you listen here, kiddo. It’s not always going to be like this. If you want to bet on something bet on me. I’m going to be a somebody and that’s for sure."

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Tue, 10 Jun 2014 23:23:43 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/where-you-going
You should watch this CNBC reality series http://4hourstruggle.com/you-should-watch-the-cnbc-reality-series-the-profit In The Profit, Marcus Lemonis visits U.S. companies that are in a desperate position, either losing money or stunted growth. He then invests in the companies and tries to turn them around. I have seen 4 of the 12 total episodes so far and here are my observations:

  • Very impressed with the education level of a cable tv show. I learn something in every show that I can apply to my own endeavors.
  • Lemonis is a very pragmatic entrepreneur. He is excellent in dissecting the key problems that are holding a business back. It could be problems in the store front, lack
  • I also find that he relates well to people. His keen understanding helps him accurately dissect problems and motivate/persuade people. When someone is upset, he usually calls out the root issue that is really bothering them ( "I know I feel that you feel under appreciated") before telling them to get in line ("And it is going to stay that way unless you show up every day").
  • Lemonis refers to the three P's: People, Product, and Process. He uses this framework to evaluate every company. It is a useful rule of thumb.
  • The sudden and drastic changes Lemonis implements to save the business are tests to the ego of owners/employees. The owners especially, have trouble keeping their ego in check.
  • Second generations of family owned companies: Sometimes the founder dies, and their kids can't steer the ship straight. I have observed this many times outside of the show.

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Mon, 02 Jun 2014 00:37:54 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/you-should-watch-the-cnbc-reality-series-the-profit
Take attacks in stride http://4hourstruggle.com/take-attacks-in-stride "Socrates bore no grudge. He said of attacks on him in the theater: 'If the criticism is just, I must try to reform myself. If it’s untrue, it doesn’t matter.' ”

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Wed, 28 May 2014 21:26:28 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/take-attacks-in-stride
Review - The Obstacle is The Way http://4hourstruggle.com/review-the-obstacle-is-the-way It didn't take long for me to finish The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday.

Before starting it, I was concerned. Having read many of the works Ryan leaned on to write the book, thanks to being on his reading list for a few years now, perhaps there would be repetition of concepts I have already covered?

It turned out to be a fresh perspective. It centers on actionable lessons and tactics from stoicism.

"It’s simple: a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us. "

Telling someone to "keep your cool" and "control your emotions" isn't bad advice. Yet, without context, it is hard to act upon. Ryan elaborates on the concept, providing examples of success stories throughout history.

He also points out that, when faced with a slight/setback, getting mad and taking the "why me" mindset is counterproductive.

The idea, no matter how unjust or tragic the situation, is to calm down and to push your way through it. Examples from history, including Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, show that our 21st century problems are usually minuscule in comparison:

"... shit that’s a lot worse than whatever we’re dealing with. I’m talking physical disabilities, racial discrimination, battles against overwhelmingly superior armies. But those people didn’t quit. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They didn’t delude themselves with fantasies about easy solutions. They focused on the one thing that mattered: applying themselves with gusto and creativity"

When it comes to battle, most of us believe confrontations to be direct and head-on. This almost always isn't the case:

"a study of some 30 conflicts comprising more than 280 campaigns from ancient to modern history, the brilliant strategist and historian B. H. Liddell Hart came to a stunning conclusion: In only 6 of the 280 campaigns was the decisive victory a result of a direct attack on the enemy’s main army. Only six. That’s 2 percent."

We can all agree that having a lot of will (willpower) is a good thing. Yet, Ryan proposes that we may not understand what it really means:

"Too often people think that will is how bad we want something. In actuality, the will has a lot more to do with surrender than with strength. Try “God willing” over “the will to win” or “willing it into existence,” for even those attributes can be broken. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility."

Two other desirable traits to have are persistence and perseverance. What is the difference? Persistence is oriented to a short term obstacle and perseverance is about the mindset for the long haul:

"But a ten-year voyage of trials and tribulations. Of disappointment and mistakes without giving in. Of checking your bearings each day and trying to inch a little closer to home—where you’ll face a whole other host of problems once you arrive. Ironhearted and ready to endure whatever punishment the Gods decide you must, and to do it with courage and tenacity in order to make it back to Ithaca? That’s more than persistence, that’s perseverance."

"Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance."

In conclusion, every obstacle is an opportunity. Turn "shit into sugar". Ryan does a fantastic job showing "philosophy’s true use: as an operating system for the difficulties and hardships of life ..."

I am already applying learnings from this book against my own obstacles.

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Wed, 07 May 2014 20:23:38 +0000 http://4hourstruggle.com/review-the-obstacle-is-the-way