Manoj Bhargava on Innovation

Energy drink billionaire Manoj Bhargava takes his money and drives innovation in Water, Energy, and Heath. Watch the his movie and you’ll see, this guy is brilliant – in his approach and attitude to innovation.

  • His energy machine… a recumbent stationary bike with a giant flywheel and insane gearing. It takes some time to get it up to speed but after an hour of pedaling it can make 24 hours of energy. The only side affect is better heath from exercise.
  • His water distillery is built to be mass-produced like a car and produces up to medical grade distilled water that can be drank or used in agriculture. I especially love the relatively small size because instead of relying on a centralized infrastructure, people rely on a resilient network of small machines. If one breaks… you fix it… but the network of water production stays online – unlike the modern grid.
  • The medical solution he features here focuses on improving circulation… the center of good health. So instead of treating the symptom he improves health before you need pills.

What I like about all his solutions is that there are at the human scale… like tiny houses are at the human scale. When solutions are simple and small the overall system they are apart of become stronger. Diversity breeds stability and growth.

Pig Latin Encryption May Even Be Better than the iPhone 6 NSA-defeating Data Encryption

The iPhone 6 Plus may be bending in people’s pockets and under the pressure of tough hands, but it’s not bending to the will of the US National Security Agency NSA any longer.” –

Very nice to hear the iPhone 6 can defeat the NSA; I just don’t think I believe it. It’s also a little bit funny that Apple would leverage this slippery topic (NSA domestic spying) to market their phones – but maybe it will help this very real issue be taken more seriously by the main stream.

Why am I skeptical about their data encryption claims? I’m not sure anyone really knows what a hacker can hack unless that hacker makes it known to you. For all I know the CIA & NSA can decrypt MD5 and other hashes. If they choose to watch and leave no trace of their visit – how would I know they were here. Oh sure I could analyze logs and hope intruder detection software works – but a clever hacker may be able to access any connected system.

Hidden Bunkers are Better than Castles – I think of encryption like a fortress. Any fortress can be taken, any defense defeated, it’s a historical fact. So a slightly better strategy may be camouflage. Instead of putting your data in an encrypted vault that has a big sign on it saying ‘SAFE’, put it in a hidden safe – or don’t put it online at all. In other words think hidden bunker versus castle because if they don’t even know you’re there, they can get you. (Good strategy for the Zombie Apocalypse too!)

Camouflaged Bunkers with Secret Doors are Better than Bunkers – If you can’t hide the fact that you exist, consider a camouflage deception. For example, if you keep passwords on your computer put some fake passwords and accounts in a fake file named ‘My Passwords’. Then somewhere else, under an inconspicuous filename, put the real passwords file and create a simple, easy to remember ‘decryption code’ that you keep in your head and can use on-the-fly.

In other words use a self-invented Pig Latin decryption key. Don’t use Pig Latin itself – too easy to decrypt, but invent something as easy to remember. Here’s a Pig Latin refresher:

  • pig => igpay
  • banana => ananabay
  •  trash => ashtray

Like I said, while this particular method would be easy to guess, it illustrates the idea. To take it the next level you might consider some of the following ideas:

  • Add two random characters to the front or back of your recorded passwords. You simply remember to ignore the first or last characters. This would be very easy to remember but easier to crack too.
  • In the real passwords use certain numbers for letters that resemble them like 8 for B or 7 for L. Then when using the password you just remember Bs are actually 8s.
  • Record correctly spelled words in passwords (which is a terrible thing to do for real passwords) then remember your preferred misspelling of that word in the true password. For example, 1Password! might really be 1Pazzwerd!
  • Flip two word passwords around. For example, record a password like, 1badpassword! but really use password!1bad.
  • If you flip things around in any way, like letters or words, be sure they look more correct in their encrypted form. This way the obvious decryption is not easy to spot. For example, if the encrypted password is: 1RedBird! the true password could be: Bird!1Red. The capital letter in the middle of the string shows you where to flip it and RedBird actually makes sense so it just looks like a bad but real password. You could step it up and always replace certain letters with numbers like: 8ird!1R3d (capital B is 8 -and- e is 3).

So why go through this? Hackers hack, and if they can get into a big corporations like Target & Home Depot they can hack your computer. Most of the time professional hackers are going to focus on the castles because the loot is more plentiful, but home networks are easy prey.

Many times home networks are insecure and have wide open holes via printers and other networked devices. So the information on our computers is vulnerable, especially if we leave our computers on all the time without firewalls enabled. With automated tools hackers can scan the Internet in their sleep looking for vulnerable systems, so even though your system may not look like a gold mine, the bots may still visit and test your security.

These little Pig Latin Encryption tricks may seem extreme, but they could be your last line of defense if someone were to hack your machine. The hacker would think they have your password list, but in truth they would have to spend real time (as opposed to automated bot time) to noodle-through your password encryption – assuming they thought you had implemented one. It’s more likely that they would just give up and move on.

You can do the same thing with credit card numbers, drivers license numbers, social security numbers, and so on – assuming you already keep a list of those things on your computer.

But the true last line is to simply keep these things written in a little book in your pocket. But if you do that, definitely use a Pig Latin Decryption system since that little black book may someday go missing too, and that would suck.

How to Think Different About Making Money

Most people make money by selling their time. We call this getting a job. This could be any job that pays a salary like being a doctor, plumber, teacher, etc. Some people attempt to play the margin too and invest the money they earn by selling their time so that someday, if they are lucky, they can retire and stop selling their time.

I’ve chosen to think differently about making money and come up with some categories for how people make money that are helpful for finding an alternative approach.

Ways People Make Money

  1. Selling Time – Like I said above, this is probably the most common among regular folks like you and me. We get a job and are paid by someone else by the hour or get an annual salary.  The problem with this is that time is our most limited commodity. We only live so long, so there’s only so much time we have to sell.
  2. Playing the Margin – This is the most common method among people who make a lot of money.  In simple terms, think of it like buy low & sell high; the margin is the difference between the two. People that play the margin often hire people, pay them by the hour, and leverage their time to them into more money. Then they take this money and play the margin more by investing in other things like growing their business. Many people with retirement plans also play the margin by putting money in investments, with the hope that someday they can stop working for a living. Commission based sales jobs are an example of playing the margin too. These folks leverage their time into making money, although sometimes these folks are encouraged to stoop to using manipulation to increase the margin.
  3. Manufacturing is similar to playing the margin, but differs by adding value through creating something new from raw materials. In other words, manufacturing takes the addition of skill & time which makes it different from purely playing the margin.
  4. Providing a Service is also similar to playing the margin too because it takes outputting value to deliver a service people want to pay you to provide.
  5. Mining is sort of like manufacturing but is different because you turn labor into the production of a raw material.
  6. Stealing – Some people just take other people’s money or possessions. The Islamic State is growing by leaps and bounds in the Middle East by stealing what they want. Stealing is all bad.
  7. Manipulation – Some people trick people out of their money. The classic example is a snake oil salesman who puts scented oil in an bottle and convinces people it’s a remedy for all their troubles. Tricking people is all bad, so if you sell something, deliver the value you promise.
  8. Taxation – Governments take what they think they need to govern a nation. Taxation isn’t all bad if it fairly distributes the money that make the nation stronger.

Boiling it Down

Except for playing the margin, stealing, and manipulation all of these pay you for your contribution to society. That’s the key to transforming your income from a single income stream – a job – to a resilient multiple income stream model.

If you can find a way to contribute more without spending incrementally more time, you not only free your time up, you become more self-reliant. Think of it like taking your income off-the-grid.

How to Build Income Streams

We all have skills & knowledge that other people do not. We may not be the ultimate expert in our field, but we probably have more to contribute to society than can be delivered through our day jobs. In other words, we all have untapped potential.

So why not package-up our skills & knowledge in a format that can be delivered to other people. The Internet is an ideal way to connect with more people than can be connected with in person. We don’t even need to sell anything to earn money online when we monetize our websites with ads.

We essentially become manufacturers and/or service providers that deliver our own unique value directly to people that want it.

Diversity is a key for the same reason having only one job is a liability.  If we have a variety of things to offer, multiple websites can build diversify too; or maybe a focus on one theme and the delivery of multiple products and/or services can build diversity.

How I Did It

I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. I’m trained & educated in Art. I’m a decent designer. I know how to build a house from end-to-end. I know how to code a web application from end-to-end. I’m a do-it-yourselfer to a fault, and often get in over my head. But I’m happy to muddle though challenges and puzzles. I get bored if I’m not being challenged and learning new things. So I took these strengths & weaknesses and made them work for me.

I started blogging and designing tiny houses as therapy mostly. It was 2007 and the real estate had just crashed; and I found myself trapped in a mortgage. But my entrepreneurial spirit led me to finding ways of earning a side income from my therapy.

Most of the ideas I share online are free, some I’ve polished into downloadable tiny house plans people can buy for less than $10. I even drew a book and self-published it via an Amazon company called Create Space (which I highly recommend).

Initially the main way people found my websites was though internet search engines like Google. But today, with the explosion of social media, that reach has been multiplied many times over. As my website traffic grows, my income grows too. Giving away free content actually seems to pay more than selling stuff thanks to Google Adsense.

I like to think I add value to society simply by sharing what I create, write, and share. It might not be much, but I think it’s a positive contribution.

I stopped climbing the corporate ladder a long time ago to have more time to be home with my family. I still work for that same company and still sell them some of my time. I’ll stay as long as I add value and it benefits my family.

If I lost my day job, I’d loose a big income stream and it would hurt – but now that I’ve balanced that income with other income streams I would not be forced back into the job market. My backup plan is to take that time and redirect it toward drawing more tiny house plans and writing/drawing more tiny house books. In the mean time, I’ll continue to use that income to downsize my debt, and slowly work toward building those additional income streams as time allows.

Ultimately I want to move my family back to Mendocino County and make pottery again. I’d love to have a little homestead near the coast to grow old on. I don’t want much, just low stress and time to enjoy life. I do not expect to need to rely on retirement savings, instead I’ll work to keep my steady passive income growing.

What to Do?

I’m sharing all this because I think others can do this too. It’s not a pipe dream, and doesn’t take money to make money. It just takes finding a way to connect people with what you contribute to make a bigger positive impact.

Consider the different ways people make money I’ve listed above. Consider leveraging your skills & knowledge and find a way to share it online. You don’t need to necessarily sell stuff either – if your website is monetized with ads.

It’s very unlikely that anyone would ever get rich overnight this way, but it’s so low risk it’s a shame more people still think a job and retirement savings is the best path. Begin small, put yourself out there, be authentic & honest, and you should see positive results.

Learn from the feedback people give you and adjust your course accordingly – but never forget to do what feels right for you. Don’t sell out. Oh, and don’t quit your day job or make that a priority because you may risk those thoughts detracting from the value you provide to that employer.

The bottom line is… think different about money and work… then work differently. Provide value to the people you connect with by sharing your skills & knowledge. There is no set limit to this approach, like there is with selling your time.




Balance over Acquisition

In 2007 I woke up. I remember the exact moment. I was driving to work on a 100 mile commute and was stuck in traffic. The weight of mortgage debt and a crashing real estate market is what shook me from a deep sleep induced by a version of The American Dream.

Since then I’ve been processing, like an old CPU on limited RAM, but I think I’ve come up with a few answers. Not surprisingly the tiny house movement has been a strong force in shifting my thinking.

The American Dream is a convoluted thing, kind of like Christmas. At one time Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Christ, and for some people it might still be that. But for most Americans it’s about celebrating consumerism. The American Dream used to be about earning the freedom to make your own way and succeed – but now many people seem to think they are entitled to a lavish lifestyle built on debt.

The source of the transmutation stems from our prioritization of acquisition over all other things, especially balance. When people make acquisition their top priority they may become rich or terribly indebted, but they miss out on many more important things in life.

They also put themselves and their community at risk. Imagine if everyone busied themselves with acquiring all they could, and few focused on finding a true balance between themselves, the people around them, and the natural environment. Wouldn’t that society as a whole eventually fail?

Native Americans have many stories about greed and how it destroys. The wisdom in stories like these should not be overlooked because they are some of the only windows into our past that teaches what it truly means to live sustainably. Balance, giving, generosity, fairness are values these ancient and long-lived cultures held dear.

Other teachers of the harsh reality of greed can be in historic accounts of civilization collapse. The pattern seems to be that a civilization collapses when people collectively exceed their support system. Collapse also seems to come suddenly due to an environmental or human-made calamity.

Today we live in such a situation, and I think that’s the key motivator for war. It’s clear as day that the U.S. Government wants a global war to protect American National Security. In other words, they know our civilization is overextended and loosing its support system. Evidence of this is everywhere.

  • Economic Stimulus – The Federal Reserve’s economic policies of low interest rates and quantitative easing show that the U.S. Dollar needs propping up.
  • The constant drums for war from Washington D.C. and the funding of destabilization around the world create more wars.
  • The division forming between East & West.
  • The drive to centralize power, as opposed to decentralizing, shows a tightening fist of control.
  • Estimates that 1/3 of Americans are on some sort of financial assistance.

While many people focus on the symptoms, but I’ve learned to target the cause, which is how I landed on this whole Balance over Acquisition thing.

If we value balance over acquisition we still can find ways of making a living and making dreams come true, but we carefully maintain an equilibrium so as not to get too reliant on one thing. In other words, we adopt a diverse set of top priorities that we work to maintain in balance.

These could be things like family, work, education, travel/exploring, health, community participation, and so on. Many people already do this, although I’d argue to make things work in our society we all have to put the acquisition of money ahead of other things more often than we’d like.

If we extend this kind of thinking to our natural environment, resources, and consumption we then become a more stable part of our larger community. If the majority of people adopt balance over acquisition we build a stronger more lasting society.

But it would not be built to grow as fast as a society build on acquisition – which is what we’ve all become so accustomed to. Fossil fuels and technology have turned a little bit of greed into an enormous war machine capable of consuming vast resources. But it’s not built to last. It’s built to grow exponentially.

So when it runs low of fuel, like we are at this very moment, those best at acquiring pull out all the stops to avoid seeing all they have built disappear. This is the real reason for this coming war.

What to Do?

I’ve just described the problem, a solution, but no bridge to get there. Unfortunately I don’t think Americans want to wake-up, and can’t imagine the world moving at a slower pace. So attempting to wake people up is a bit of a challenge. A war would wake them up, but would refocus their attention on the need to acquire more to save their acquisition paradigm.

When this happens, it’s going to be a huge mess, and probably a dangerous time to be alive. If you are awake and open minded enough to consider that our civilization is overextended and fragile, consider building a bridge.

If some sort of collapse occurs many people will succumb to the torrent simply due to their unwillingness to see what is before their eyes. Others will react violently and grab what they can. Or maybe the current paradigm will continue through successful war after successful war.

In any event, your open mind and ability to adapt will be your guide through all challenges that come.


Oil & The Economy Collide

“There are too many ugly balance sheets,” warns one energy industry analyst, adding simply that “the group is not positioned for this downturn.” While the mainstream media continues to chant the happy-clappy side of lower oil prices, spewing various statistics about how the down-side of low oil prices is contained and the huge colossal massive tax cut means everything is awesome for America, the data – and now actions – do not bear this out.” – Zero Hedge

We all knew oil was an Achilles Hell. We all knew the economy was an Achilles Heel. Funny how we now see the two colliding. The currency war is really starting to come out of the shadows now.

Short Note on Facing Vulnerabilities

While shows like this serve as fear p*rn for some; they also illustrate some of the core vulnerabilities of our civilization. Look around your home at all the things you depend on like the water, power, natural gas, flushing toilets, etc. Do you rely on these things, or are they only there for comfort? What would life be like if these things were gone? Do you have a back-up plan?

Most folks dismiss questions like this because they assume the chances of a wide-spread calamity is unlikely. But did you know that large corporations ask themselves these questions and write-up business continuity plans to prevent disaster when unexpected occur? Prudence and planning isn’t paranoid… it’s what people who live strategically do every day.

Facebook Kills Social for Profit – Transforms into Facebuck

Facebook will change the news feed to decrease the number of blatant promotional messages people see… The move essentially devalues the posts brands push out from their Pages, which may mean more paid advertisement revenue for Facebook.” – Facebook To Companies: No More Free Ride FB – SFGate.

What’s happening? When you ‘like’ something on Facebook it doesn’t mean you want to ‘follow‘ or ‘subscribe‘ anymore – it now essentially triggers the collection of interest meta data so Facebook can show you more relevant ads.

If I owned any Facebook stock, I’d sell immediately. This is not financial advice, just what I would do.

Why? No, no, not for ethical reasons – although those would be valid. My main reason would be that these new policies effectively kill the social aspect of Facebook. If some centrally managed profit-minded master algorithm controls what I see on Facebook, then the experience is no longer social. It’s managed.

Conversely, if I follow an individual or business on Twitter, all their posts are delivered to my home timeline unless its true spam. It’s left up to me to unfollow folks that post stuff I think is junk. People that make noise are naturally tuned-out as others chose to unfollow them.

Today Facebook manages the experience, not the people, so it’s no longer a truly social site. It’s a centrally managed content delivery platform that learns what people like and then delivers the appropriate content including a high percentage of advertisements that look like followed content.

This approach will eventually kill Facebook if the trend continues. When people realize that they are no longer receiving what they want to see, they will leave.

Facebook management is likely attempting to manage this potential exodus by monitoring user activity versus ad levels. But any centrally managed system ultimately fails – just like our managed and manipulated economy. While central management can produce results for a period of time, it ultimately fails because it’s not a natural system that constantly seeks a sustainable balance.

People, on a truly social site, is a natural system of sorts. It’s the human (natural) element constantly seeking balance through selection that leads to a successful social balance. In other words people get what they want because they choose to see it.

Many investors won’t initially see this transformation from Facebook into Facebuck as a problem. They will see the initial spike in profit and cheer. These people are also steeped in the centralist mindset, preferring central management to natural balance via free market virtues.

Eventually they’ll wake up to the reality that something is wrong when people begin to leave Facebuck. They’ll probably blame the way the system is centrally managed, but I suspect they’ll never blame the centralist culture itself. For that awakening they’ll need a stronger signal.

What to do?

  • If you’re a social media professional using Facebook as a marketing platform, be prepared to pay more, More, MORE – and immediately begin to diversify your development of channels including reverting back to old-school SEO and email marketing.
  • If you’re a Facebook stockholder – be warned. Watch the trends closely for the looming collapse and sell before your investment becomes a statistic.
  • If you’re a avid Facebook user, notice how your timeline is changing and how you see fewer posts from friends and pages you follow. Check out Twitter again and up-and-comer Ello.
  • If you’re a social media startup entrepreneur looking for an opportunity, see this critical flaw in Facebook’s monetization strategy and don’t replicate it. Choose instead to allow people to self-select and embrace a decentralized, crowd-sourced, content delivery strategy; and choose a monetization strategy that enhances the user experience instead of one that replaces it.
  • If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, consider giving users a true ‘follow’ or ‘subscribe’ button. This will allow you to continue on your path while giving users a mechanism for opting-into content they always want to see in their timelines. Then, jump-start an ad network to rival AdSense. This will allow you to monetize the traffic that leaves Facebook and partner more closely with content creators. Instead of alienating bloggers and corporations by forcing them to pay to play – turn on the revenue tap, let the traffic flow, and collect ad revenue as people come and go. Just be sure to build that ad publishing network that can coexist with AdSense, and you’ll have bloggers and content creators lining up to join. The icing on the cake would be to share content publishing best practices with page owners. Revealing this secret sauce would help content creators optimize their campaigns from the start and reduce noise. In other words if people are told that a  certain behavior will benefit them, they will do it – just tell them and in practice they will see.

I’m not opposed to Facebook becoming more profitable. I just think most folks can’t see their own centralist bias – and how in the end it destroys. Our cultures pendulum has been swinging toward the centralist side for some time, and we see the resistance and limits to the trend building. I think this is really the core reason companies like Facebook make decisions like these… it’s a cultural trend thing.

At some point they’ll see something is not working and look for a change. The only true change would be to change the paradigm, in this case think decentralist again, and avoid trying to fix the current paradigm.


Flying Car: Example of Why the Acquisition Paradigm Is so Powerful

The thirst for more knowledge, achievements, advancements, etc drives the human race today, but it’s a double-edged sword. The bright side of putting acquisition above everything else is achievements like this flying car by AeroMobil. The dark blood-stained side are the wars we fight for economic strength & stability. Can we have the light without the dark? Can we balance our greed and lust for acquiring more with everything else? Can we put balance over acquisition and still achieve amazing things like this flying car? I hope so, because if we can we will reach the stars.

Greenspan: Economic Problems Stem from Discounting the Future

I have been definitely doing that – discounting the future. Early in the talk he points to taxes & entitlements as leading causes of this global consensus, but I think it runs deeper. I suspect a fellow like Alan Greenspan would never say exactly he thinks at an on-the-record talk at a Council on Foreign Relations talk, so I’m sure there’s more.

I doubt he’d go down the rabbit holes I like to visit, but I’ll take a stab at it. I think the leading causes of uncertainty come from:

  1. East/West divide and the threat of world war. While war can be profitable for some, it’s not for most. As the BRICS rise they threaten the West’s hegemony. The US has deployed military assets globally. The BRICS continue to strengthen by leveraging production based economies. The timing and outcome of this tug-of-war is anyone’s guess.
  2. Centralization of power and the closing of free markets. As the rich get richer they naturally gain more power and control over the game… exactly like the Monopoly board game. At the end of that game there are only two players left and one quickly bankrupts the other – while all the loosing players just watch the last two try and destroy each other. That’s where we are today in the real world.
  3. Lack of global governance standards. I don’t think we need a world government, I think we need global governance standards so that all people can play on a level field. Right now we play on rocky mesa with the people on top holding all the cards but still needing the resources below the mesa. Globalization has given the people at the foot of the cliffs a view of the top, and they want that life too. Instead of going to war on a global scale we could choose to adopt a set of standards that restores fairness to the people of the world. I’m not describing communism or socialism; I’m describing rules that helps restore balance between the powerful and the powerless.

So to eliminate uncertainty we somehow need to prevent a global war, decentralize power, and establish global governance standards that allow the nations of the world retain their sovereignty while reducing the chances of future conflicts. To be blunt, uncertainty can be eliminated by positioning the world for peace and prosperity.

Until then we should discount the future. For the rich that might mean hedging bets through diversification – for the rest of us that might mean stockpiling bullets, beans, bandaids, and yes, bunkers.