A chance encounter and the 48 Laws of Power

A while ago I found myself on an adventure in Kuala Lumpur with no where to stay. By that time my well worn ruck sack was lighter than ever as I’d been giving away items I no longer needed. This included my sleeping bag, it had been hot that summer so I didn’t want to carry anything I wasn’t using. KL is a big city and with no more jungles or beaches I really wanted a bed.

I wandered the streets looking for a hostel that looked interesting and most of all had clean bedding I could sink into. I found a place completely covered in plants (almost), there was green foliage all the way to the roof top. At the entrance were people playing chess, reading, chatting and drinking wine straight from bottles, my kind of place.

I walked past the chess drinkathon and made my way upstairs to what I figured must be reception (a lot of people around a small lady who was shouting ‘no room, no room!’)

As I approached the group a girl turned around and smiled at me ‘no spare beds’.  She had a strange American accent, not one I’d heard before.

‘American?’ I asked.

‘Ha! Me? No I’m Swedish, I think I picked up my accent from too many Friends marathons’

It turned out she had no where to stay either. ‘Let’s go search together, they prefer couples over singles here, so you can be my boyfriend’

That was the start of what became one of my most memorable and life changing months in Asia.

Cathrine was on a break from law school, we spent time together in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where among other things she taught me to think more purposefully (something I hadn’t mastered at the time), as well as how to better recognise a person who wasn’t being genuine (a skill we can never stop learning). I was an engineer and was able to return the favour by teaching her how to repair anything (like the rusty bikes we’d purchased from a random street seller).

Looking back, I was still fairly immature before that time, my new travel buddy definitely had a hand in turning my child mind into an adult mind.

She introduced me to the 48 Laws of Power, an incredible book by Richard Greene. I had never seen anything like it, every page full of history and examples of how others achieved results. Mastering the 48 laws was something that became a fascination for me. Apparently after its release, it was common for law students on the west coast of America to treat it as some kind kind of bible. I didn’t want to be a lawyer but I was keen to learn from history, so it didn’t take me long to realise this book was going to help me figure out how to have a greater impact across my life.

From exposing men posing as people without homes (we caught 2 men at separate times getting into fancy sports cars a few streets away from their begging plot – there were rewards from the police at the time), riding bikes through the lush inner city parks, to helping guide new back packers to the best hostels, we had a blast. By the time we parted in Singapore, her back to San Francisco, me staying for longer to continue reading and exploring, I had been upgraded with a more open mind and a new found thirst for learning.

It was at least 5 years later and the consistent messaging from a friend at EA (who disliked the immoral aspects of the book) before I realised that with great power comes great responsibility. Some of the 48 laws are morally questionable, if not downright manipulative. This is what Cathrine had been teaching me. During our reading of the laws, Cathrine helped me understand that people I meet throughout my life will be using them for or against me, either consciously or unconsciously. Learning and being aware would help me see those trying to hurt me before they could. Seeing those trying to manipulate and take advantage of my kindness (and at times naivety) before it impacted me created huge change in my life, one that I think will last forever, helping me succeed where I’d previously failed.

I could of course use the laws for my own advantage and I did, not something I’m proud of (they work as long as you master them). I do still use my concise copy as a constant reminder, helping me judge a situation, though nowadays I’m simply my true authentic self with everyone. I’ve found it’s the most satisfying and rewarding way to live my life.

End note: A summary of the 48 laws can be found here, it’s worth a read if you’re not familiar: https://www.tke.org/files/file/The_48_Laws_of_Power.pdf

I must have left my mark on Singapore, they named a street after me!

Find adventure, find meaning

“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

One morning, I found myself at the bottom of a small mountain. In front of me, pointing upwards was a sign that read ‘temple’ in Thai and English. I was in a remote part of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. What had taken me to that spot I don’t remember, what I do remember is seeing monks making there way up the steep path in front of me. I followed them, wondering if they’d turn and ask me to stop, they didn’t.

We all have triggers in our lives, ones that change our course. People, experiences, books, thoughts. I’ve had my share and I bet you have too. This mountain and temple was one of my more pertinent, a small miracle that in retrospect was larger than I’d realised.

It took a while to get to the top, the monk athletes in front of me were clearly in better shape. When I eventually got there, gasping for air and sweating like a backpacker who’d been drinking the night before…oh wait, hang on… it was breathtaking, imagine a remote Buddhist temple at the top of a small mountain in Thailand and chances are you’re picturing what I saw for real.

I stayed up there for most of the day, and although the monks didn’t talk to me, they smiled often, offering me bowls of tea and water, not once ushering me to leave.

I remember sitting with my legs crossed by a stone buddha, reading Marcus Aurelius’ meditations. I remember because after a while my legs began to ache and my back hurt. So I stood up to stretch and admire the lush Thai countryside, feeling truly alive for what I think was the first time. So many things came flooding into my mind. What had I been doing all my life? Why did I exist? How did I exist? It was in that moment I realised my education wasn’t about getting a job and making money, it was an opportunity for moral and intellectual growth, I’d got it all wrong. Society, my family, the people I had been learning and working with, we’d all got it wrong.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” – Sydney Harris

In that moment I realised I needed to find out how I could lead a meaningful life. Clarity had appeared like a beam of sunlight across my face, it felt warm and nice. Tension lifted, I was beginning to smile like I’d never smiled before, perhaps I was enlightened? Maybe my hangover had subsided? Either way, I was on a new path.

Not long after that, I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, on an adventure with a new found friend. Someone who introduced me to the notion of recreating myself and understanding a number of laws that others would use for and against me, I’ll tell that story next time.

Vanity, me and the chase

Recently a few people have asked me how many readers this blog site has, so I logged on to check the details. What I found was a mix of varying data that didn’t make sense. I ran tests and most social network views (using the links from LinkedIn etc.) aren’t registered through my WordPress analytics, so I signed up to google analytics.

That was yesterday and google hasn’t gathered its data yet.  WordPress tells me I get triple digits at times, that’s not many! I hear you say? Well, I’m pretty stoked given I started in October last year, a little under 4 months ago and I don’t focus on Search engine optimisation.

My motivation is to share what I write (I love the activity of writing), learn from others and maybe inspire and be inspired along the way. There’s enough negativity on the internet, so I’ve created this space for myself and anyone who wants to visit, away from it all.

“We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean… and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.” –Michelle Obama

Seth Godin said in a recent interview that he no longer looks at his readership numbers, it’s not why he writes, he advises others do the same. Like any good product, if it’s great then people will find it.

As humans we’re hard wired to love the chase, that feeling of trying to get something we aren’t sure we can have, like that person you feel an attraction towards, or that fast car you’ve dreamt of. We’ve all chased and many live for that chase. Lots of people that blog are no different. I’m trying to be, as if I chase anything then it’s with good reason not vanity.

Vanity metrics are things like readership numbers. Metrics that mean something are things like the number of people who made a positive change in their life by being inspired through a blog post. That isn’t something easy to measure..

So the best I can do for now is not to completely ignore my readership numbers,  I’ll look a few times a year. If they go down or don’t increase in anyway perhaps it means my writing and the subject matter isn’t interesting to people? It would be terrific if anything I write created positive change for just one persons life, I doubt I’ll ever really know, in fact I rarely tell someone when they’ve inspired me, I’m going to change that from now on.

Choosing who I spend time with

For a lot of us, we’ll spend more time with the people we work with than our own partners, families and non work friends.

Moving jobs from Team Xbox to Unity has shown me how much of a family I had been part of. Some friends and co-workers from my previous job had joined me at Xbox, meaning for my last 2 jobs (17 years combined) I’d been working with people I’d spent more time with than anyone else in my life.

It’s something I’ve only recently realised. Luckily for me they are smart, amazing people. I say lucky for me, as I agree with Jim Rohn when he says we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.

I’m also lucky I’ve met and get to work alongside some terrific people in my new role at Unity. From recruitment to marketing and quality to engineering. More importantly, I enjoy my time with them, not something everyone can say about the people they work with ( I hope you can).

“Your purpose in relationships is simply to be your best self, regardless of the circumstances.” – Rosalene Glickman, Ph.D.

So, I’m grateful for my life having such positive influences from the people I work with. People who have taught me unconsciously (and many times consciously) how to enjoy life and have meaning.

In addition to this, with technology as it is today I get to spend virtual time with fabulous people too. Each year I choose 5 people who I spend time with.

For 2018 I’m spending virtual time with:

1. Seth Godin

2. Ray Dalio

3. Marcus Aurelius (he’s in my list every year)

4. Tim Ferriss (Also in my list every year for the last 9 years)

5. Dan Harris

It’s an interesting exercise to do, choosing virtual people who can shape your life positively, through books, podcasts, talks, blogs and other media. If you haven’t done it give it a go, I think you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make.

Everyday leadership

I recently watched Drew Dudleys Everyday leadership TED talk. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it more. Bonus is it’s only 5 minutes, so no excuses.

It got me thinking about people I’ve worked with who’ve changed my life for the better, dramatically. Especially the ones who don’t even realise it.

18 years ago I returned from an epic year abroad, one where I took off to explore parts of the world still left largely untouched at the time. I got back and did not have a plan. One of my friends, James, was a producer at Electronic Arts, he thought I’d be a good fit for a job there. He advocated for me, I interviewed and got the role. He let me stay in his spare room and my life was changed forever. I didn’t realise technology and interactive entertainment were my calling, it wasn’t a job, it was a life filled with amazing people and experiences. I will always be grateful.

I moved onto Microsoft years later where two people changed my life significantly, a real life Microsoft upgrade without the blue screening.

At Microsoft I found a learning centre. A room filled with books, cds, magazines and free courses. Not only that, it was managed by real librarians, ones that knew everything, not just the location of books on shelves. The manager even did free research papers on any subject, I was like a 4 year old at Legoland.

David, the manager, would make recommendations to me based on his growing understanding of my passions and interest (he made Amazon’s recommendation algorithms look amateur). One day he asked if I’d read The Four Hour Work Week, a fairly recent book by Tim Ferris, a new author at the time. The moment David handed me that audio cd, my life literally changed forever, I’m still benefiting from his introduction.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it”- Simon Sinek

Alan Page worked at Microsoft, he unknowingly helped me get my job there. He was one of the authors of ‘How we test software at Microsoft’, a book that became my bible for getting into Team Xbox (it’s completely outdated now so I no longer recommend it). I followed his blog (still do) and later he co-founded a podcast named AB Testing. By that time I was about to head up the quality effort on the biggest game franchise in the world – Minecraft – where I wanted a modern, future proof model. Alan, as well as the AB testing podcast, inspired a whole new direction for the impact of my work.

It didn’t end there, he left Microsoft for a role at Unity and when Unity approached me last year, I reached out to Alan who then helped me understand the company from the inside. This helped my decision to join. I now get to work with him again and secretly use him as a mentor without him realising it (unless he reads this blog of course).

Everyday we have the power to change people’s lives, we’re all leaders. Change big and small has a knock on effect, it’s always astounding yet we’ll rarely directly know or see the ripples of smaller change.

Let’s not put leadership on a pedestal, we all have greatness, we’re all leaders.

The price of greatness is responsibility – Winston Churchill

People watching

This week while I sit on the train to work I’ve been watching people. Watching the strangers around me on their devices playing games and watching movies or catch up TV. Hardly anyone just sits there anymore; thinking, reading or resting.

It reminded me of Stephen Coveys important vs urgent matrix, where he encourages the majority of our focus on important activities, not urgent ones.

There’s a definite difference between healthy relaxation and time wasting. I wondered how many of the people playing candy crush clones or catching up on The Voice considered either activity healthy relaxation.

Then I realised I was starting to judge, I felt bad. The Voice might be akin to torture for me, though for many it could actually be healthy relaxation (yep, really). In the end I was reminded of another Stephen Covey memory, a situation where he judged others on a train. Here it is in his own words:

“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the mans pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.’

You never really know the reasons strangers do what they do. That driver who cut you up on the road may have been racing to the hospital, that person pushing you to get off the train may not have actually seen you. I’m trying to see the good in everyone more. A persons actions do not necessarily define them. I can safely say I know and like people who watch The Voice, it doesn’t mean they like crap TV, it means they like The Voice (and of course torture..).

I love the important vs urgent matrix. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s worth getting familiar.

Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic – Stephen Covey

So you want some cryptocurrency? Here’s how…

I’ll always be grateful I had access to the early internet while it grew to be a critical part of our modern world.  Anyone remember connecting their telephone to the computer to get online?

Now I’m grateful to be part of what will change the world digitally, again. That’s right, Cryptocurrency.

Many of you who know me, know I’m writing this as a millionaire through Bitcoin. The sad news is that I made a comedy of errors and don’t have access to my millions. I say comedy, it took friendship and the ability to laugh and be grateful for what I have before I came to terms with my loss. So, whilst I got in on Bitcoin many years ago, I’m not able to buy that dream home in Costa Rica and share my wealth with those who would benefit most.

This year I jumped back on the bandwagon with those same friends. We’ve learnt a lot and made some errors along the way. This post is a resource for those new to cryptocurrency and those who already have some and might be interested in seeing if there is anything they don’t already know.

What this isn’t is financial advice of any kind, I am not advising anything other than not to spend money on cryptocurrency if you cannot afford to lose it.

What this is, is a series of links to articles and people that know much more than I do. I’m sharing places and people on the internet that are experts in their field and safe to follow (not scammers, there are plenty of crypto scammers out there).

Let’s begin

Instead of jumping into buying right away, you’ll benefit from understanding the basics, it will help you make better decisions resulting in reduced risk of losing money.

As John McAfee (founder of McAfee antivirus) said on Twitter recently “If you are new to Cryptocurrency then absolutely do not invest without first educating yourself. Nothing will lose you money faster than investing in what you do not understand.”

3 things to do before you continue

  1. It’s all about the blockchain – 22 minute video 
  2. Isn’t it about Bitcoin? – 37 minute video 
  3. Listen or read the transcript from a conversation with Tim Ferriss, Naval Ravikant, Nick Szabo – 150 minute podcast ( so you may wish to read instead)

Now you know the basics. But you just want the money! Don’t forget that making money from cryptocurrency is a by product. The goal is for you to adopt new technology that’s changing the world of finance and reducing our reliance on 3rd parties. Try not to focus on the Lamborghini in your future, focus on your financial freedom and your ability to take control of it.

You could mine for bitcoin, though that’s a different story..

Onwards

Choose a wallet for your bitcoin, I’m only describing the purchase of Bitcoin (BTC) as it’s the most commonly asked question from people.

I started with a wallet on my phone. It’s important to not keep cryptocurrency you are holding for growth anywhere other than a wallet. You know you have a wallet if you have a private key, no private key? Then you don’t have a wallet or full control of your currency

Here’s a good explanation of wallets

The below notable wallets are safe and reputable for your phone:

Bread iOS
Mycelium Android 

If you’re spending and holding more than a few hundred $ then a hardware wallet should be your choice. The most reputable and widely used are Trezor and Ledger (I own a Trezor though the Ledger supports more cryptocurrency types than the Trezor at the time of writing).

Now choose how much BTC (Bitcoin) you want to buy for growth (you’re investment), this is commonly known as ‘hodling’ a mistype from a forum years ago.

If you did the research you’ll know that you don’t have to buy whole amounts of cryptocurrency, see here for a basic explanation

If you want to buy alternative cryptocurrency (altcoins such as ETH and LTC etc.), then decide how much of your BTC will go towards that before moving to the next step.

Now you know how much BTC you want to purchase, you can buy some Bitcoin

Most people advise an exchange such as www.coinbase.com or www.GDAX.com, I personally don’t advise them, I’ve nothing against them though they continue to have various issues with scaling and outages.

Your Bitcoin purchase options vary depending on your location, I would consider www.localbitcoins.com, www.gemini.com or www.bitpanda.com (EU only). All 3 are good as you can also use them for cashing back out to fiat ($ or your local currency etc) if you want your money back or profit. You’ll find costs and fees vary between the purchase options. Also, don’t forget it’s important to secure your account, using two factor authentication on all accounts is good (an app like Google Authenticator is most secure)

While you have your ID details to hand (as you won’t be able to sign up to any of the purchase options without them) you’ll want to sign up to www.binance.com if you’re planning to spend any of your BTC on Alt coins and trading.

Now you’re ready! Let’s check…

1. Wallet?
2. Bitcoin purchase account? (Local bitcoins etc.)
3. Cryptocurrency exchange account? (Binance etc.)

You can now buy some Bitcoin, here’s a video from local bitcoins that walks you through it: https://localbitcoins.com/guides/how-to-buy-bitcoins

Now put the Bitcoin you’re hodling into your wallet and any BTC you’re planning on trading onto an exchange such as the binance one. If you’re unsure how to move your bitcoin then this explains the system well.

So that’s it, the basics. Hopefully you’re the proud owner of some bitcoin?

There’s always more…

If you’re interested in a good way to keep track of your purchases, I use https://www.blockfolio.com/, the benefit of this is that you don’t have to keep going into your exchange or wallet to stay up to date.

Owning cryptocurrency is your chance to increase your knowledge and help those around you as it transitions to mainstream adoption, so consider spreading the word and helping others who are interested.

Some fairly critical links to read are below, if you’re serious about having cryptocurrency.

Critical reading for owners of cryptocurrency

Great beginners guide to owning crypto assets: https://medium.com/@linda.xie/beginners-guide-series-on-cryptoassets-d897535d887

Keep your coins safe: https://cryptohustle.com/12-steps-to-keep-your-bitcoins-safe

If you’re not planning on holding until cryptocurrency becomes the currency of choice across the world then have an exit strategy https://moneyweek.com/bitcoin-exit-strategy/

Don’t believe the bad press about damage to the environment: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-12-07/bitcoin-is-greener-than-its-critics-think

If trading, follow Datadash and make informed decisions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCatR7nWbYrkVXdxXb4cGXw

Trading? Learn the basics of candle sticks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rwVV_8uUxc&index=3&list=PLY9Vvl2kECUfDHYdz_F7G3KZd7l8bI8er

Learn how the economic machine works https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHe0bXAIuk0&index=1&list=PLY9Vvl2kECUfDHYdz_F7G3KZd7l8bI8er