Naveen Jain

Naveen Jain (@Naveen_Jain_CEO) joined James Altucher (@jaltucher) to talk about the future. It’s brighter than it looks, says Jain, but we’ll need to work smart to get there. Our table of contents.

– The two ingredients of possibilities.

– Fly to the moon by the seat of your pants.

– Experts? Smexperts!

– Refame the assumption.

– How to be happy.

– On learning.

Two ingredients for possibilities.

“If you’re not doing something that is so big, people call you crazy, that means you’re not dreaming big enough.” – Naveen Jain (click to tweet)

There are two things we can do to succeed says Jain; dream big and don’t fear failure. This sounds inspirational, but the validity is proven in the advice of others. Let’s break it down.

1. Dream big. You need to dream big says Jain. It’s the same thing Peter Thiel suggests to people. Have ideas that are new and will change the world, not another social app. It’s how Gary Vaynerchuk think about investing. It’s how Scott Adams confirmed that affirmations work. It’s why Chris Hadfield ended up in space. You need think big.

But it doesn’t mean crazy. You can look around and make wise choices says Jain. “Skate to wear the puck is going to be,” he says. Technology, for example, has at least one very clear (so far, says Kevin Kelly ) area – Moore’s Law. That assumption is that computing power will double every two years. Okay, Jain, might tell you, so what does that mean?

In 2008 Twitter was beset by the fail whale. The image would pop up whenever tweets wouldn’t load. It even caused one engineer to sell his shares of the company and get out. That problem was solved as computing power grew. 

“When everyone is thinking one way,” Jain asks, “how can you go about thinking in a slightly different way?”

2. Don’t be afraid of failure. When Sanjay Bakshi spoke with Shane Parrish, he said that he counsels his students to become financially independent. Only after this can they make good decision. Financial failure is one of many kinds that people can guard themselves against.

But if you fail, know that it’s not permanent. Authors fail all the time. Andy Weir failed after three years of fulltime work to write a good book, but eventually he did. Stephen Dubner failed twice to write a financially successful book, but eventually he did. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg failed to sell Superbad for ten years, but eventually they did.

You need your failure to be part of a systems, says Scott Adams. Adams says, work in a system where even if you lose some battles, you’re gaining experience that will help you win the war.  You want to create a positive net-net results. Chris Hadfield did this when he was training to be an astronaut. Hadfield wrote, “it’s probably not going to happen but I should do things that keep me moving in the right direction, just in case – and I should be sure those things interest me, so that whatever happens, I’m happy.”

Failure will happen, it’s not permanent, and you can create a net-net positive. Don’t be afraid.

Flying to the moon by the seat of your pants.

Jain wants to go to the moon, but, “we can’t possibly imagine what people will do once we land on the moon.” We’ll figure it out on the fly. Look at the iPhone says Jain, “no one would have said, ‘I want to throw the birds at the pigs.’”

We don’t know and can’t know what the next thing will be. Scott Galloway said that he sees Uber as a valuable company not because what they can do, but because what they will do. They can provide last mile solutions for other companies. Uber for _____. Kevin Kelly said that the things in the future that we use haven’t even been invented yet. It’s amazing that the iPhone (in 2015) is only 8 years old. 

Take this speculation about Tesla from Gavin Sheridan:

“If I’m correct — and I think I am — the future for Model X owners won’t involve them being the only drivers of their own cars. It will involve them renting out their cars to everyone else for a price — with Tesla taking a cut — and the car driving itself. As Musk so often says, cars spend most of their productive lives sitting unused in people’s driveways. Which is crazy for such an expensive piece of hardware.”

Good companies look strange Naval Ravikant said. And you don’t need to know what to do when you find it. Just start looking. 

Experts, smexperts.

If you have a big problem, says Jain, you probably don’t want to go to an expert. “Most disruptions happen from outside the industry,” he says. It’s why Tesla rather than GM is building an electric car that will drive itself.

Experts only give you incrementally better solutions, Jain says. Experts know – by definition – too much. It’s why a 12-year-old boy wins a betting pool. Experts lack two things required for big changes, control of luck and innovative framing.

Luck plays a role in many things. The 12-year-old won the betting pool thanks to some luck. Stocks and sports include luck too. Expert or not, no one control luck.

The other thing experts lack is innovative framing. They see things in the areas of their expertise. To a hammer, everything is a nail. To avoid hitting your thumb, you need other tools. Around here we call those tools mental models.

Tren Griffin and Michael Mauboussin speak about mental models quite a bit. So does Sanjay Bakshi and even Phil Rosenthal suggests there is value to having different models in the domain of writing.

Mental models are different tools for diverse problems. Sometimes money is a solution, sometimes it’s not. Analytics in professional sports grew from a lack of money. That’s another area no one predicted, yet has become pervasive in sports.

Jain says that rather than think in the box or out of the box, find a new box. Use those new tools on old problems.

Reframe the assumption.

When Jain started Infospace, he reframed what people assumed a successful internet company needed to be. Rather than build their own services, Infospace created whitelisted services for other companies.

Ditto for the axiom, “information wants to be free.” That may be true, Jain says, but people will still pay for it. He created a company that compiled public data and sold it.

“The problems are plenty,” Jain says, “the biggest thing is to define the problem correctly.”

Take education, he says. Does education need fixed? Yes. Why? Because we are getting such and such outcomes. Well, was the system designed for such and such outcomes? Actually, maybe it was.

To look at the history of education, the layers of requirements, and the social shortcomings  for some children – you could conclude that the outcomes befit the system.

Another example, Jain says, is water. Do we need to create more drinkable water, or do we need to use less drinkable water for non-drinking purposes. Jain says that if we grow meat in new ways, we can use less water.

We did just that with failure. We reframed the assumption that failure is bad. Now, let’s do it with happy.

How to be happy.

Happiness is not something to be acquired, Jain says, “happiness exists inside us.” If you tie happiness to others – my kids make me happy, I love my job, etc – then you give “remote control” of your happiness to others.

Of course your kids may make you happy, but they should be a passenger in the car, not the driver. Jain suggests, find something that you enjoy doing and do it.

“Assume you have a billion dollars,” he says, “and the thing you think of doing is the thing you should be doing.” Jobs bring us contentment says Tim O’Reilly. If you find a way to pay people a livable wage and frame work as something worth doing, many things will change. We should strive for things says Tyler Cowen. The book Mean Genes explains why striving makes sense biologically. “Allowing us to rest on our laurels would be a genetic mistake.” We are biologically programmed to say “it’s not enough.”

All the better if it’s a business. “The only way to solve a problem in a sustainable way, is to create a business that is profitable,” Jain says.

On learning.

Jain wakes up early and spends his first two hours of the day reading. But he doesn’t try to understand everything. “Maybe I’ll understand 70%,” Jain says. Learning is a system that builds upon itself. You learn a little bit, then a little more, and then more. It’s a positive feedback system.

Elon Musk compares it to a tree. Learn the basics first and then you can branch off to more refined ideas. If you don’t understand something, go back to a thicker part of the tree.

Jain says that one day he had read something about biology and understood the first part, but not much more. Later, he was with a scientist and asked about the part he didn’t get. The scientist was happy to explain it to him.

Jain says he wouldn’t have asked a basic question, but a more advanced one he felt comfortable with. If there is something you want to learn about, just figure out A and B. Then you can ask others about C and D.

Jain’s interests at the time of the interview were in the brain and he recommends these books; The Future of the Brain, Incognito, The Brain that Changes Itself, and Epigenetic Revolution.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.

Wow, you read 1600 words. That’s like 6 pages in a book (and forever online). If you found a few things valuable, you can donate $2.

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