One of the most elegantly beautiful piano pieces, “The Well-Tempered Clavier”
Throughout my business career, few positive threads have been more conspicuous than my tendency to gravitate towards (and in many cases work with) a wide variety of unusually talented and honorable business folk. It often has felt like I have been chosen to bear witness to truly remarkable humans in business.
Each of the individuals listed below has had a transformative impact upon my career and worldview. Their stories, and their respective beings, are a testament to human ingenuity and limitlessness.
This list is by no means comprehensive – but simply a foray into this topic.
Andrew Rashbass is no less than a living legend. This imposing character is strikingly real for someone inhabiting the chief executive office of a holding company parent to a centuries-old British newspaper, The Economist.
When you walk into a room, and Andrew is in it, there is simply no question who is the boss. His deputy executives would fawningly use the word “Rashbassian”, to describe ideas marked by his distinctive form of genius. He openly, and unquestioningly, dedicated himself and the paper to editorial integrity, the inability to be bought or persuaded by even the largest advertising customers. More so than anyone I’ve had the pleasure to work with, he is the living embodiment of the “ENTP” CEO (referring to the Myers-Briggs typology, the personality assessment which he dedicated a full day of his time to instill in us). (Not a surprise, that 3 of the four individuals hired as part of the program, including myself, are ENTPs).
Vying against hundreds of competitors for the position, my efforts to get hired for The Economist Group’s “Management Training Programme” were themselves testament to Andrew’s magnetic presence and commanding, inspiring intellect. Beyond being what I considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the fact that he would be my boss and mentor, inspired every ounce of dedication and outlandishly foolish confidence within me. During our one-hour phone interview, he suggested that I might be “overqualified” for the job, and I could sense that he was on the fence about me (although he said he did like to include a “wildcard” every year, which I generously interpreted as a blatant nod to me and my forward antics). As such, upon hanging up, I wrote and sent to him a two-page letter as a follow-up, in which I compared the job to the honor of working as a clerk for the Supreme Court. I would spend close to 50 hours on my short essays for the application, and was the only person to upload charts or graphs (which I sent to the head of HR; and to Andrew, the CEO, for good measure).
One of my dearest friends on this list, Mike is a serial entrepreneur of legendary proportions and impact investing luminary.
While I was still in high school I ended up interning at his company, AllStar Directories, where my dad was Chief Technology Officer. I had heard many a great thing about this enterprising Harvard undergrad, who had served as my dad’s PM while they were at Microsoft. When I first met him, I was absolutely floored by how nice, how amiable and unpretentious he was. Mike would go on to sell AllStar for over $100 million to Austin Ventures. In 2015, he started and sold WalkScore, as well as four other companies. Such is the life of this magnate. Yet the success has only made him more humble, kind and caring – I am blessed to enjoy his enormous coworking space in Capitol Hill as my office, which flows with an ebb and tide of incredible humans constantly. He also invited me to play piano at his holiday party, so that in and of itself is a huge plus as it pertains to this highly objective ranking.
To top it off, is Mike’s dedication to impact investing, a field in which he has been an invaluable mentor. It is a beautiful thing, to watch someone come into financial gain, and so seriously involve themselves in how (ethically) their own capital is invested. Impact investing – the art of taking full accountability for the outcomes generated by our deployment of investment, loan or gift capital – is the moral forefront of capitalism. In my opinion, it is far more honorable and respectable, and more deserving of media praise and coverage, than the overhyped tale of the run-of-the-mill tech mogul trying to increase their wealth from $10 billion to $100 billion, (to be spent on pet projects of dubious social benefit).
Dan is a scion of the family department store that bears his name. A ski bum out of college at UW, he ended up getting married at 24, having kids, joining the family enterprise, launching and running Nordstrom Online, and ultimately leaving due to what one might construe as shifting power dynamics in regards to upper management at the company.
Striking out on his own, Dan would go on to purchase, for ~$600k, the outdoor apparel company founded by the legendary (and recently-deceased as of then) extreme athlete Ron Gregg, Outdoor Research. The epitome of the winter sportswear chief executive, Dan lived the dream for nearly two decades, utilizing skiing and climbing as both his professional networking tools and personal passions, nearly removing the barrier between ‘work’ and ‘play’. Nor was it a casual, lackadaisical business affair – the company was sold to a South Korean conglomerate for an undisclosed though substantial sum in 2017.
Dan is another lifelong dear friend, whom I’ve had the pleasure to spend the last twenty or so Thanksgivings and Christmas’ with, and the fact that he is also such a chiller, earn him massive points in the grand karmic ledger of time. I don’t throw the word “savage” out there lightly – especially in regards to an extreme sports athlete – but this man indubitably earns the title. Whether we are climbing, skiing, or working out, Dan brings the same intensity to his physical endeavors as to business. He is the type of person you are eager to go into battle with, and the first opportunity I had to do so, I duly capitalized on.
This video – Outdoor Research’s “Our Story”, narrated by and starring Dan Nordstrom – speaks for itself.
I haven’t had the opportunity to work for this individual yet, but his story is no less remarkable, and every moment I’ve spent with him has had me in full brain-sponge mode. Here is the link to the longer version of his story, an excerpt from his deliciously real take on the surreal world of high stakes VC. To this day, this is the best account of starting and selling a company in an emerging and fast paced industry I’ve ever read. He published the book shortly after selling his company (where my dad was employee #4) for $140 million to Microsoft, after being in business less than one year. Charles would then go on to win an Oscar for Best Documentary for the epic, “Inside Job”, which took a close look at the absurdity of how bankers and regulators caused, and subsequently responded to, the Crisis of 2007-8.
Very few people in the political realm are the type to speak truth to power. Yanis is one of those people. I first met this gregarious Greek man while sipping drinks in Spetses with a few friends. Surprised to hear that he was the “Chief Economist” for Valve, the gaming studio, in Bellevue, little did I know that he would soon become the Finance Minister for Greece. My friend Drew and I went to a few of his book-tour lectures, and found him friendly, articulate, and unabashedly real.
Leo has been the homie since high school. Fully tatted and sleeved, Leo has been an “insider” in the cannabis game for 1-2 decades longer than the average cannabis executive. He is now the CEO of 4Front Ventures (FFNTF), which we have had the opportunity to support as an investment syndicate.
It is widely appreciated, that the cannabis game has attracted more than its fair share of questionable executives. As such, it is all the more striking, when we find one who is markedly legit. The epitome of humility, it is clear to everyone around Leo that his ability to step up and get things done, is unparalleled. I am truly honored to be in his camp on this and future deals.
If there is a wildcard on this list, let it be this individual, who boldly started a nonprofit organization, Journeymen, dedicated to raising healthy and mature young men.
With the same zeal that has driven the for-profit pioneers on this list, Nicky has truly defied the odds, to create a lasting impact doing something incredibly important – investing in the young humans of today who will be running the world of tomorrow – that was never going to be a super-lucrative endeavor, by nature of being centered in the beautiful arts of giving and mentorship.
Bruno Ocampo & Andres Blumer
I don’t have to say much about Mi Aguila to convey how special this team of CEO and COO is. Since day one, these two youngsters have been pulling miracles out of the hat left and right, hobnobbing with Richard Branson and other high-profile global business leaders, even throwing a massive Venezuela Aid Live concert, all while running their own ~60 person company headquartered in Bogota, Colombia. Bruno, the full Colombian, and Andres, the half-Colombian, have managed to start the largest private transport business in Colombia, somehow overcoming the absurd challenges (in terms of regulation, access to capital, structuring foreign investment etc) that face small businesses in this relatively exotic business market, the startup ecosystem in South America. My hat is off to these two, who have demonstrated a beautiful ability to complement each other and inspire investors, friends and customers alike.
Confucius praised the great master Laozi (aka Lao Tzu) as “a dragon riding on the winds and clouds”.
Laozi is the 6th century BC sage credited with authoring the Tao Te Ching, the most consequential philosophical and religious work from China’s Warring States period.
The Tao Te Ching, in only 5,000 Chinese characters, arranged across 81 chapters, outlines the Tao, aka “The Way”, the path, method or “mode of doing a thing”. One who knows the Tao, is a master of the world and its natural laws and dynamics. I’ve selected some of my favorite chapters, from one of the many translations, and shared them below.
The central concept permeating the Tao Te Ching is referred to as wuwei, which literally translates as “not doing,”, but is also “noncoercive action”, and, “yielding to advance.” As Mark Spitznagel puts it, “In wuwei is the importance of waiting on an objective process, of suffering through loss for intertemporal opportunities.”
Although the Tao Te Ching, at face value, is a beautiful lesson in humility and gentleness, some scholars go so far as to suggest that it has implicit value as a tactical manual for gaining power and advantage, not unlike the Sun Tzu’s Art of War, or Von Clausewitz’s On War. Along these lines of thought, through “false humility… one deliberately becomes soft and weak now in order to be hard and strong later”, to quote Spitznagel again.
A recurring theme through the Tao Te Ching, indeed, is the notion that a given thing is followed by its opposite. Gaining an advantage, for example, inevitably flows from sustaining or experiencing some kind of disadvantage – regardless of whether this hardship was intentionally sought out or simply imposed upon us by life.
Even at face value, the Tao Te Ching provides a playful, yet profound understanding of the unseen natural forces that shape the world around us. The spirit of the text isn’t moral superiority or submission to God; it is about the nature of reality, the threads and themes that run through all life around us.
Perhaps it is simply the nature of life, or karma, or cause and effect, when, in this world, the sage naturally attracts power, by intentionally not seeking it?
Selections from the Tao Te Ching
Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed;
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and not tire of him.
Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition.
Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength.
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of will power.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.
The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.
Teaching without words,
Performing without actions:
That is the Master’s way.
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.
The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Tao of the sage is work without effort.
The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others.
I am good to people who are good.
I am also good to people who are not good.
Because Virtue is goodness.
I have faith in people who are faithful.
I also have faith in people who are not faithful.
Because Virtue is faithfulness.
The sage is shy and humble – to the world he seems confusing.
Men look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child.
The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World by Mark Spitznagel
Excellent analysis from one of the world’s most prescient and perspicacious economists, Yanis Varoufakis. His ability to distill the dynamics of complex global economics, is unparalleled in a field where confusing, arcane jargon is the hallmark of “expert” commentary.
The line between con artists, and financiers, has always been a blurry one. If this sounds crazy, consider that Bernie Madoff – the greatest con man of our era – was the CEO of NASDAQ. Jay Gould and Big Jim Fisk – two of the most famous financiers of the 19th Century – were con artists (who conned Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt into attempting to corner the market for shares in the Erie Railroad, by simply printing more and more stock, so as to make the market uncornerable). So was Daniel Drew (who sold bloated cows to Henry Astor). Enron – hailed as one of the most successful stocks of the late 20th century – was essentially a con. Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, while he was Vice President of the United States – and successfully advocated for a costly, destructive war in Iraq, that would enrich him beyond belief.
So what allows the stock market – an ostensibly public, open venue – to be manipulated so thoroughly? The fact that it is dominated by large players, and tends to benefit the wealthy few at the top at the expense of the larger public. Every boom cycle has historically ended in a bust; and during the bust phase of the cycle, the average American has demonstrably become poorer, while the top 0.1% (notably, those in control of and in bed with banking institutions) get richer.
Second of all, the stock market perpetuates the status quo, giving an incredible advantage to incumbent firms. In this day and age, everyone knows Monsanto, Lonmin, Seaworld, McDonald’s, Texaco, Halliburton, are evil; so why are these players still around? Because they are part of the Fortune 500; they are owned by every investor, rich and poor, who owns an index fund like SPY or QQQ. Furthermore, the stock market, with its functioning like a giant digital casino, effectively separates us from our money to such an incredible extent, that most of us have no idea where our money is actually invested – and thus, what it is actually supporting.
Any poetry and musings from now on will make their appearance via our Poetry Forum, http://conscious.capital/poetry/
Please send any submissions in the comments or to email@example.com 🙂
The opportunity to write my senior thesis on the ‘War on Drugs’ would come to shape my very understanding of the relationship between government and governed.
From a policy analysis perspective, the drawn-out (and continued) failure of the “War on Drugs” is one of the key smoking guns revealing that the US government has knowingly favored the interests of the few (military, for-profit prison industries, etc), at the expense of the many, all under the banner of “keeping your kids safe”, being “tough on crime”, etc.
Via the link below, you can download my 58-page thesis as a simple PDF (includes detailed footnotes and references). I’ve also included the text and major figures from my thesis it in the post below, without references.
May you enjoy it!
The following is a two-part video expose on the most powerful man in global health, from Corbett Report. Immaculately researched, with timeless historical footage, these videos watch like mini-documentaries. Take his analysis, like that of anyone, with a grain of salt perhaps; but one must say, he has presented an array of compelling, if not telling, facts for the brain to nibble on.
In an effort to improve your experience, all content pertaining to the stock market will now appear and reside on our Markets & Resources Page.
The birthplace of magical realism, perhaps appropriately, has long held a leadership position among the world’s producers of natural entheogenic substances. Straddling the northern tip of the South American continent, Colombia offers some of the world’s best natural conditions for the production of photosynthetic organisms, from coffee and roses, to coca and cannabis.
However, as the horrors of Pablo Escobar and widespread drug-related death and destruction are still fresh in the memory of Colombians, it is safe to say that drugs, in general, are more frowned upon in the country, compared to say, in the US or in Western Europe.
Thus it is all the more impressive, how far Colombia has come, relative to the rest of the world. Like many states in the US, Colombia has succeeded in legalizing the production and sale of cannabis, by licensed companies, with a focus on exports.
But, unlike almost any other country in the world, Colombia has taken a bold, respectable stance on the subject of individual cultivation for personal use: every citizen of Colombia, is free to grow their own stash, without being subject to any bureaucratic nonsense, up to the healthy boundary of twenty plants per person.
Guaranteeing personal freedom to cultivate and indulge in the magic of one of the oldest crops known to humanity, free from the intrusion of the government and police, up to the reasonable threshold of twenty plants, is a bold and laudable measure indeed.