Be this dog.

Taken from a recent Quora answer I wrote. 

This advice doesn't apply exclusively to young people, however it's certainly true that my own life would have benefited from this knowledge had I accessed it earlier.

 

Question everything


Dogmatic thinking is intellectual poison. It closes our minds to possibilities and prevents human flourishing. 

Remaining skeptical forces us to accept the universe as it is, not as we would like it to be. And being connected to reality allows us to ask interesting questions, to challenge the status quo, and to lead meaningful, moral lives. 

Read (Books!), question, argue, debate and change your mind when your intellectual integrity depends on it. Notice when your ego is crushed and be profoundly grateful for those moments. 

We all have blindspots in our thinking, tiny cracks of irrationality that play havoc with our decisions. It’s worth continually dedicating a portion of our lives to refining our thinking abilities
 

Connect with the paradox of life


Along with everything in the universe we are in constant flux. Recognising the impermanence of everything allows us to choose when to question, and when to simply experience the present moment as fully as we possibly can. 

Against a 13.8 billion year backdrop humanity is a vanishingly small speck in a vast cosmic ocean. We are bits of talking meat spinning on a tiny wet globe adrift in incomprehensible vastness. But this polarity between insignificance and complete connectedness is precisely what makes our existence precious. We can stare into the void with awe, gratitude and wonder, or we can gaze at it with fear - make no mistake that the choice is ours. In a universe so infinitely vast there is no objective meaning, but this frees us to create meaning in any way of our choosing, and it allows us to let go of a childish need for absolute certainty, the type of which authority and religion often promise.  
 

Do things that interest you


As Alan Watts says in the video: “What makes you itch?" What really matters? In no time at all you’re going to be dead, no more “you” thoughts will exist. How do you want to use the intervening time?
 

Get uncomfortable


Take risks. Be brave. Make mistakes. A full life isn’t possible without challenge. And challenge isn't possible unless we are willing to fail. Personal growth is proportional to our ability to step into the unknown, and like all abilities, it is a trainable skill. 

The world can seem like a scary place before we realise that we don’t exist. At least not in the way we feel we do, as a permeant, monolithic ego rattling around behind our eyes. “You" are a function of everything that is happening in the universe, and you owe it to your future self to embrace your oneness with everything. I know that sounds like a cringe inducing pseudo scientific word salad, but as far as I can tell it’s the truth. 

Many of our fears are illusions born from the fictional stories we tell ourselves. And we can erode fears by challenging them. By overcoming that which holds us back we create the momentum towards positive future experiences. When you stop failing you stop growing. I’ve had some huge losses and some amazing wins, and I hope my future is spiced with more of the same. Because I’ve come to realise that it's rarely worth doing things that have predictable outcomes. 
 

Be grateful

The storm and the rainbow need each other. 

The storm and the rainbow need each other. 

In a deterministic universe there is no deserve. You didn’t construct your own brain, you didn’t set in motion the dominoes which produced you, or the things you’ve done, good or bad. Free will is an illusion, but understanding that is also a liberating truth

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Being alive is awesome, and even when life is terrible it’s still fucking awesome. I know that’s the kind of nauseating statement that is normally uttered by people who've experienced unfathomable privilege, but I don’t really care, because for most of us, most of the time, it’s the truth. The vast, overwhelming majority of us want to be alive, we want to feel something. It’s difficult to argue that consciousness isn’t the most important thing, and if you’re reading this you’ve been blessed with it, that inexplicable, indefinable thing that lets the show go on. Don’t waste it feeling sorry for yourself, or squander it on self loathing, guilt or petty jealously. 

The universe is pitiless, and when it comes to evaluating our own circumstances so should we be. Your life is going to get fucked up. Some of these interruptions will be unwanted waves dislodging your vessel from it’s intended voyage. But eventually, if you live long enough, your entire world is going to get turned upside-down.  

Someone you love will die, or get sick, or leave. Or you’ll lose the ability to do something you loved to do, or your heart will get broken in some other cruel and very usual way. That will happen to you, trust me. And when it does the only thing to cling to is the gratitude that you’re here to experience anything at all. Gratitude is available to us in any moment we choose to connect with the miracle of our existence, but it’s most needed when it’s least obvious. 

Don’t get me started on the dogma of positive thinking! If you've ever been so desperate as to fall for something as fraudulent as The Secretnow is the time to wash your hands of nonsense, before you end up like our friend in the video below.


Life’s too short to pretend to be positive, especially when we should be angry, or sad or whatever the reasonable emotional state is. Let yourself be what it is you feel while accepting that whatever state you’re immersed in will pass. The light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that you’re always moving through the tunnel, and any experience is almost always better than none. 
 

Play with it...

Forget politically correct nonsense that usually emanates from the most privileged corners of society. Nothing deserves immunity from having words directed at it. And learning to be a serious person depends on an ability to stop taking yourself so damned seriously.

Reality is completely absurd, and the more we learn the stranger it appears to be. If we embrace the irony of our existence we can let go of much needless suffering and smile wryly at the game of life. 

I'm writing this on a artfully designed technologically marvel and nudging this data out into the world via the miracle of the internet onto a platform called Quora...none of which existed less than a few decades ago. The exponential nature of technological advancement and scientific discovery makes it difficult to imagine what the universe will conjure up next. We can only wonder and smile at the infinite possibilities. You’re in the mix already, so you may as well experience life as intensely as possible. 

Like this dog…be this dog


From Concept to Karma

Since we began working on our startup we’ve heard numerous stories from people who needed Karma to exist. These personal accounts have clearly defined the need for better access to honest information about people. The purpose of this post is to outline the various ways value can be created by reading and writing honest reviews about people.
 

Thank Someone



Humans Of New York’s Brandon Stanton asked President Obama “Who has influenced you the most in your life?” To which the President replied:
 

“My mother. She had me when she was 18 years old, and my father left when I was one year old, so I never really knew him. Like a lot of single moms, she had to struggle to work, and eventually she also struggled to go to school. And she’s really the person who instilled in me a sense of confidence and a sense that I could do anything. She eventually went on to get her PhD. It took her ten years, but she did it, and I watched her grind through it. And as I got older, like everyone else, I realized that my mother wasn’t all that different than me. She had her own doubts, and fears, and she wasn’t always sure of the right way of doing things. So to see her overcome tough times was very inspiring. Because that meant I could overcome tough times too.”


When we thank someone publically we add real value to their lives and the lives of those who wish to learn about them. Humans Of New York is an amazingly uplifting project, but it’s primarily driven by one man and a camera.

 Imagine all of us could easily broadcast information about people in a way that added value to the individual, and wisdom to the crowd.

I recently lost my wallet before it was handed in by a person who wouldn’t accept a reward. So I did the obvious thing and thanked them profusely. And while that’s a nice thing to do it offers very little value to the individual in question. 

Imagine if in addition to a verbal thanks I could write a short review saying:
 

“John handed in my lost wallet and refused to take a reward, what a great guy!”


This information is immensely valuable because anyone wanting to learn about John can immediately know that he is the kind of person who will return a lost wallet. And this knowledge is likely to lead to positive opportunities for John in the future.
 

Learn About a Person
Many people have told us that they wished there was an easier way to learn about others. Existing social networks aren’t great resources for learning a person’s true character and competencies. And that’s a real problem in an increasingly hyperconnected world.
 


Who should you work with, go on a date with, or let babysit your kids? Unless we know a person’s true reputation it’s often extremely difficult to properly answer these questions.

Before the rise of civilisation, humans lived in small tribal communities whose members were intimately connected. Acts of kindness, bravery, or malevolence affected everyone. Reputations were anything but private. Remaining anonymous, or only revealing a tiny part of our reputation while interacting with others is a modern phenomenon.

The problem with existing social networks is that they allow us to appear in the world the way we want to be seen. But there is a reason people read the reviews on Yelp rather than the testimonials on a restaurants own website. Authenticity is increasingly important to people online. But how is authenticity created, how do we access the truth?

Today the best way to learn about events, products, services or organisations is by reading third party reviews written by independent people. By tapping the wisdom of crowds we are able to make better decisions. We already live in a world of online reviews with regards to all kinds of things, it’s time we carefully added humans to the list.
 

Warn The Community

One demographic we’ve spoken with are people who’ve been harmed by others.
These individuals want to prevent the spread of harm and they are often frustrated by an inability to do so. They are also motivated to help correct unethical behaviour.

Our friend, Mike, rented his apartment out only to have the tenants trash the place. Legal recourse was one option to him but it’s time consuming, potentially expensive and there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually recoup losses. Mike really wanted to warn others so they could avoid the same negative experience. We imagine a world where Karma will equip us to do that.
 

Mobilise Reputation

This is a picture of my parents on their wedding day, dad is punching well above his weight!

This is a picture of my parents on their wedding day, dad is punching well above his weight!

My three younger brothers and I grew up in a small town in South Africa where our parents were entrepreneurs. We call my dad The Mad Scientist. He’s a highly creative and eccentric guy who’s built all kinds of businesses, some have been epic failures and others have been successes, but it’s always been obvious that my father is happiest when he’s around family and solving problems. 

My mother is one of the most generous people I know. In South Africa she dedicated large parts of her life to the local community by supporting important social causes. She was a schoolteacher and a nurse before joining my Dad in business. My parents have fantastic reputations in our hometown in South Africa.

But when they immigrated to Australia nobody knew them. So in terms of their reputations they were starting from scratch. It was frustrating watching them struggle to make friends and find opportunities. I think that many organisations could have benefited from my parents experience, but local businesses were totally oblivious to this resource that was available to them. I often wonder how different moving to a new country might have been if all the goodwill my folks gained in South Africa was easily knowable to people here.

When you do a search in your web browser for “reputation is”, Google predicts the next word will be “everything. We intuitively know that our reputations are incredibly valuable, but even as human lives increasingly move online and the world becomes one large village, reputation is still mainly transmitted by word of mouth, or locked in a small network of personal friends and contacts. Not having a reputation that is mobile is a global problem, and it’s one problem we think Karma can solve.

Building this company continues to be a fantastic challenge and we regularly remind ourselves that we are genuinely fortunate to be working on a project we wholeheartedly believe in.

If you’d like to join our mailing list please sign up at the foot of this page, or contact us on hello@karma.wiki if you’ve got questions about Karma.

Cheers,
Clyde

To help create a more informed, accountable, and honest world.

 

On the first day we began working on our startup Dayne and I wrote the above sentence. Six months have since past and we’ve spent that time building Karma around that mission. 

This is the (short) story of our startup. 

Last year, on the eve of my retirement I jotted down some thoughts about the next stage of my life. When I retired as a professional athlete many opportunities presented themselves, but I did not imagine being a co-founder of a technology startup. Which is exactly what's happened. 

Over dinner one night in October last year my brother, Dayne Rathbone, began talking about an idea he’s had for years: to use technology to create and access honest information about people. 

Dinner at the Rathbone household tends to involve vigorous debate, even more vigorous laughter and generous doses of disagreement. But everyone around the table agreed that the world would be a better place if we could easily access objective information about people. 

I found the idea compelling, and I went to bed wondering what the world would look like if we could democratise information about people. Dayne spent the night drafting an email to everyone present at the dinner. I read the document over my morning coffee and one particular paragraph sprung from the page:
 

"We're all familiar with the idea that the quality of our decisions is constrained by the quality and availability of information. When we buy a new car, phone, or computer, we often spend days or weeks researching our options. I typically won't watch a movie that doesn’t have at least 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. And yet the decisions we make regarding other people are perhaps the most important of all. When we pick a teacher for our kids, go on a date or hire someone, we often do so without really knowing the person’s true character or competence."


When Dayne woke we spent the morning in excited discussion about the idea. At some point in the frenzied dialogue we shared what I can only describe as a “holy fuck” moment. It was a realisation that this idea, and we, could change the world. That evening we drafted a one page document outlining the concept. The final paragraph read:
 

"We believe that Karma has the potential to radically shift our culture in the direction of openness and accountability. We are all more honest and moral when we know others are watching, and if our decisions and actions in the present may stay with us forever, how could we be anything but better people."


The months that followed have been a blur of meetings. In the three year period during my first retirement from sport I was fortunate to meet many of Canberra's successful entrepreneurs. I called each of these people and asked them to meet with us. We wanted to know if our enthusiasm was born out of groupthink and confirmation bias, or if the concept had merit in the eyes of those who have long lived in the technology and startup world. 

These meetings were genuinely encouraging because support for our proposition was intensely positive. During this time Dayne and I listened to numerous entrepreneurial podcasts, read everything we could get our hands on and asked as many questions as we dared of people in the know. 

Here we were, a comedian and a rugby player embarking on highly disruptive technology startup. 

I feel incredibly grateful to live at a point in time where the probability of meaningful discovery is so stacked in our favour. The internet is the ultimate problem-solving device. But it remains in an early stage of it's evolution. It’s staggering that in 2015 reputation is still mainly transmitted by word of mouth. 

Two themes emerged from our meetings. The first being that people reviews will become a reality at some point in the future - whether we build it or not, someone is going to successfully bring the concept to market. The second is that ours is a massive undertaking. As we peeled back the layers required to launch Karma the magnitude of the project began to dawn on us. 

What might motivate someone to write about another person? How will we avoid abuse and defamation on our system? What does a prototypical Karma user look like? How will we fund our startup? 

Immersing ourselves in these problems and attempting to find solutions has been immensely challenging and extremely enjoyable. This process has expelled us from our comfort zones and we’ve been joined on the journey by some generous and talented people

It’s rare to be able to work on a project that perfectly aligns with one’s values, but that’s exactly the position in which we find ourselves. We think the world is ready for this idea, and we believe that Karma could help create more honest and transparent societies. I know that’s an astronomically bold claim, but it might just be true. 

Every day Dayne and I are reminded that we’re attempting to build something bigger than ourselves. 

What could be more important?

Adaptafuckinbility...

When not working on Karma (more to come on this soon) I've been spending a fair bit time on quora.com  - If you've never heard of Quora, here is a brief overview of the company.

I think it's brilliant. The value of the content far outweighs anything on existing social media platforms, it's a fantastic Web 2.0 company and a really exciting internet trendsetter. If you like learning and interacting with interesting and generous intellectuals, this is the place for you. 

How is Quora different from something like Twitter? Here's an answer from Quora :) 

"Quora reminds me how many smart people exist in the world. Twitter reminds me that they aren't the majority." Zachary Davidson

 

I posted the following answer to the question: What is the highest form of intelligence?

 

The capacity to change in order to solve problems is how I define intelligence, therefore the problems that require the greatest change also require the highest form of intelligence. 

In a relatively short time life on earth has achieved awe-inspiring feats. Our ability to ask new questions, break through dogma and forge new frontiers relies on our ability to adapt. 

Defining intelligence as the capacity for adaptation is useful for three reasons. 

1. It's broad. 
People often attribute intelligence to individuals or groups that have learned to solve difficult problems in narrow fields. Consider the brilliant but morbidly obese inventor, scientist or investor. These individuals often display super high intelligence in solving certain problems, but show very low intelligence solving the problem of maintaining good health. If we define intelligence narrowly...our judgement of it will be equally narrow. 

2. It’s relative
If you want to know how smart someone is find out what problems they’ve solved. The third world immigrant with no money, education or language, who through shear tenacity and ingenuity found a way to the free world while educating and feeding their family...could well be far smarter than Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Wondering if you’re smart? Ask yourself what opportunities you've had and what have you done with them? And more importantly, what will you do with the opportunities you have now? 

3. It’s motivating
Once you realise that intelligence is the ability to solve problems the entire universe becomes your laboratory. Go out and fail, learn, succeed, and repeat. Personal growth is about change, and we all have far more capacity to change than most of us believe. Don’t let others define your intelligence in narrow terms. If you can change, and you can, then you’re smart enough to get smarter. Embrace that and get busy.