Doctors make bad business people

http://blog.theentreprene…e-1#comment-464

Posting here a comment I left over at the Entrepreneur School Blog, where Jim Beach talks about the lack of business sense in doctors. If it sounds rant-ish, I apologize.

There are good reasons doctors make for bad business people (and entrepreneurs). The healthcare system is set up where the customer is an insurance company (1) and (2) practicing medicine has turned into a matter of treating symptoms rather than proactive care. In other words, the doctors expect *you* to call them when you have a problem because on the front-end (the preventative end) they largely have nothing to offer.

Case in point: medical students only take maybe a semester’s worth of nutrition. Insane when you consider that diet (and lifestyle) choices are certainly the most likely causes of people’s health maladies — so really, when it comes to having the proper tools to help patients avoid getting ill in the first place, doctor’s aren’t equipped. They are proactively/preventatively neutered.

I won’t get into the insurance company angle, but that has an impact, too. The customer has been utterly divorced from the healthcare system when you’ve got so many layers between you and your care:

you -> employer’s HR department -> [the insurance company bureaucracy] -> [hospital bureaucracy that negotiates reimbursement amounts] -> doctors who code procedures and provide you care

Simply cutting out the employer side would immediately get the consumer more plugged in as you’d have 10s of thousands of more individuals interested in getting better rates/plans from insurers than the lackadaisical corporate HR departments. I digress.

And there’s a (3) here, too. That’s that the doctor’s go to school for longer than any other profession, which makes them prone to dogmatism/procedure instead of being creative or driven to trial/error and problem-solving.

All things considered, it’s a disaster of a system. It’s no surprise it’s only getting worse. The only surprise (to me) is that so few people are talking about these core, simple problems that are making for such a disastrous healthcare system.

Collapse and Renewal

http://www.peopleandplace…se_and_renewal#

Found a lot of interesting things to think about in this article. Seems to get at how dynamic/complex/living systems (ecosystems, economies) evolve rapidly and then stagnate, which leads to collapse, and reboots the system (my simplification).

What I Have Learned
Change that is important is not gradual but is sudden and transformative. There is a common base cycle of change in individuals, in ecosystems, in business, in society. Increasing rigidity halts a long, slow period of growth and increasing efficiency. That begins a period of creative destruction and a fast period where uncertainty is great, where novelty emerges, and where new foundations are formed for a new cycle to begin. That is where we are now heading internationally.

In the United States, it is a time when the power of the state has achieved rigidity unseen since the triumphs of the falling of the Berlin Wall. Politicians have reacted to extreme disturbances, like the appalling terrorist attacks of 9/11, with powerful military response, a blind view of history and cultures, and a greedy desire for narrow benefit. Global economic expansion and dependence on peaking oil supplies, particularly in the Middle East, lock geopolitics into a self-destructive state from which transformation is extraordinarily difficult.

That is the time when change is most uncertain. We are living in it now. In this year we have simultaneously faced the sudden appearance of now reinforcing flips – sudden increases in the price of oil, increases in the costs of food, a financial collapse and the start of a recession, the retreat of Arctic ice sheets with climate warming, and accelerating loss of biodiversity. That is a lot to swallow and it reflects a process of human development and expansion since WWII.

But it is also the time when the individual has the greatest influence: when experiments determine the future; when the Internet opens opportunities for collaboration within and across nations; and when low cost mistakes are glorious because they trigger learning.

And these are the lessons I have learned that help in that process of dealing with turbulence:

1) Separate individual thought and work is essential but now, when integrative studies are the only way to reveal understanding, work with others is equally so. An individual’s knowledge can be combined with that of others to make the whole greater. In doing that we each recognize that we do not know everything but we do know, and know well, something. We learn with grace and humor and patience to work with others from different disciplines and backgrounds.

2) Complexity is in the mind of the beholder, in the patterns that are generated by causes that are simpler. Not as simple as once thought, but explained by a kind of “Rule of Hand”, not by a “Rule of Thumb’. Quite simply, I found in case after case of ecosystem change that four to six sets of variables operating at a number of different scales, in a non-linear way, captured nature’s flipping behavior. It turns out that ecosystems are temporary assemblages, pausing for a few hundreds of centuries in a passing state of quasi-stability as part of evolutionary change. Think of that when we think of the reality of global climate change.

3) There are about three kinds of scientists – the consolidator, the technical expert, and the artist. Consolidators accumulate and solidify advances and are deeply skeptical of ill formed and initial, hesitant steps. That can have a great value at stages in a scientific cycle when rigorous efforts to establish the strength and value of an idea is central. Technical experts assess the methods of investigation. Both assume they search for the certainty of understanding.

In contrast, I love the initial hesitant steps of the “artist scientist” and like to see clusters of them. That is the kind of thing needed at the beginning of a cycle of scientific enquiry or even just before that. Such nascent, partially stumbling ideas, are the largely hidden source for the engine that eventually generates change in science. I love the nascent ideas, the sudden explosion of a new idea, the connections of the new idea with others. I love the development and testing of the idea till it gets to the point it is convincing, or is rejected. That needs persistence to the level of stubbornness and I eagerly invest in that persistence.

All types of scientists are necessary, but I would love it if we could encourage and include the innovative type of artist. At the least, enjoy rigor, but never inhibit the innovative artists.

4) I learned that the key to make effective designs was to identify large, unattainable goals that can be approached, but not achieved, ones that relate to fundamental values of free speech, freedom, equity, tolerance and education. And then to add a tough design for the first step, in a way that highlights or creates options to design, later, a second step – and then a third and so on. We found that the results were steps that rapidly covered more ground than could ever be designed at the start. At the heart, that is adaptive design, where the unknown is great, learning is continual and actions evolve.

5) I am prodigiously curious about nature, and that triggers initial ideas. I am also terribly persistent and stubborn about developing and testing an idea that grabs me; at those times I am totally and narrowly focused, driven by the potential. That is what eventually makes an idea useful. So I conclude that natures create the idea; stubbornness makes it useful! But I have had to learn how to see nature. It is curiosity, anecdotes, funny correlations, jokes and metaphors that start that. It is new emerging theory that completes it.

One has to learn to develop senses that help us listen to intriguing voices that are hidden amongst the noise. Owlish ways to hear the rustle of the mouse. Do that and the future will be fun and rewarding. We all might even help, at this time of great change and threat, to develop further a world of justice, understanding and equity.

The Game-Changer

It’s been quiet here on the site lately as the game has changed. I’m four weeks into fatherhood, and those four weeks feel more like ten.

I’ve been trying to come up with an easy way to explain to others what being a new parent is like. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Living with a nooborn is like setting a kitchen timer on a two to three hour schedule that never stops resetting. Change a diaper, feed, comfort, put baby to sleep, knock a few things out around the house, rinse, repeat. It does not stop.

And there are the fussy times when you lose confidence in your ability to parent — can I soothe this baby? Maybe mother can try. Maybe this will work. Maybe not. These times make me realize just how little I’ve appreciated my own parents (Thank you mom and dad!).

And then there are the moments where she grins from ear to ear or unequivocally meets your eyes with hers. The pride and joy that springs from these moments is profound.

Everyone tells you “your life [as you know it] is over.” They’re right. Becoming a parent is a game changer. There are new requirements, new rules, new milestones, new joys, new sorrows, and on and on. And you learn about it all as you go along via trial and error. Googling helps, too.

Being a parent is an incredible experience.

Aviana a.k.a. “Project Aminowings” a Success

My daughter Aviana entered the world Monday night. She was a smidge under eight pounds, and (no bias I promise) she is beautiful. She is also amazingly intelligent, wanting to stay up all night in an effort to elucidate the experience of dreaming in the womb. Unfortunately, this means that between the hours of midnight and five of six in the morning, she is doing anything but dreaming!

Needless to say, “Project Aminowings” was a huge success and I am one proud papa.

Joel Salatin’s “Everything I want to do is illegal”

http://www.mindfully.org/…legal1esp03.htm

Richard Nikoley pointed me to this excellent essay by Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin. It is one of the best things I’ve read in quite some time — a complete indictment of government interference with just wanting to be free. Joel suggests that eventually the noose will tighten too much and a cycle will assert itself once more, throwing off these heinous chains to freedom, individuality, diversity and independence. I hope he is right.

Look, if I want to build a yurt of rabbit skins and go to the bathroom in a compost pile, why is it any of the government’s business? Bureaucrats bend over back-wards to accredit, tax credit, and offer money to people wanting to build pig city-factories or bigger airports. But let a guy go to his woods, cut down some trees, and build himself a home, and a plethora of regulatory tyrants descend on the project to complicate, obfuscate, irritate, frustrate, and virtually terminate. I think it’s time to eradicate some of these laws and the piranhas who administer them.

Project AminOwings. B-Day 2009 rapidly approaching!

Above is a logo I designed for “Project Aminowings.” Early in the pregnancy, we were calling the baby “The Project” since we didn’t have a name. The little amino acid with wings logo is something I had mocked up about five years ago prior to Sonal and me getting married—I always liked the combination of “aminowings” because it forced the correct pronunciation of Sonal’s last name and the correct spelling of my last name. Alas, Sonal just took on “Owings” when we got married (oh well! I offered!). I made it an “official” logo this year. And of course, I’ve ordered a tshirt of it from spreadshirt.com (just received it but there are some color problems I’m trying to work out with spreadshirt customer service).

Here’s the front:

The actual due date is August 7, 2009, though only 5% of babies are born on their due date (can’t recall where I got that stat, sorry). The nametag is blank because Sonal and I haven’t told anyone our name. We’re expecting a girl (knock on wood). We’re excited and based on an examination yesterday by a midwife at Northside hospital, the “Project” may come a bit early or on time, which would be a surprise since everyone says your first is usually up to a week late. Of course, that could still happen.

So we’re basically on “high alert” at this point. Hard to believe we’re about to be parents.

Life changes.

Martin Armstrong’s latest on Dark Pools

http://www.zerohedge.com/…real-dark-pools

Martin Armstrong continues writing his typewritten letters (from a detention center in New Jersey) regarding ongoing economic and political events. I’m no expert on Armstrong though if you’ve not heard of him, he was detained (imprisoned) for some seven years for contempt of court and only went to trial when the judge who had been detaining him was removed from the case by the NY Court of Appeals (source: wiki). There’s a pretty reasonable chance that Armstrong did nothing wrong other than crossing the State.

Oh and Armstrong had a number of models and forecasts he used to predict the market, some of which were apparently amazingly accurate. Who knows.

Armstrong’s latest letter is available on ZeroHedge, a finance-centered blog that has quickly become one of the most cited and popular finance blogs out there. Interestingly, the ZH writers are anonymous, taking on the names of various characters in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Recently, ZH took their site off of blogspot.com and moved it to offshore servers to further protect their anonymity and the site’s often whistleblowing content.

Getting to the point. The letter is about Goldman Sachs and what Martin calls the “club” on Wall Street. The “club” is a group of extremely powerful individuals who are out to make massive amounts of money via the financial system. Importantly, the “club” attempts to do this not by making better bets (as in, speculating), but essentially by rigging the system and creating the perfect trades. The “club” accomplishes this goal by controlling inside information.

The letter is pretty lucid and provides an interesting glimpse into what goes on behind-the-curtains of Wall Street. What struck me most about the letter is that Armstrong works to dispel the notion that there is some conspiracy theory across all central banks to control the world. What’s really going on is that the central bankers are trying to do their jobs and maintain economic and monetary order. Unfortunately, they are clueless academics. Martin realized just how impotent and lost the powers-that-be were back during the 1989 crash:

It had dawned on me perhaps when there was the 19889 Crash. I had carried two cell phones many times when the model was reaching critical turning points as it did in 1989. The markets were going nuts, and my one cell phone ran[g] that was used primarily for very special clients. it was one of the G5 Central Banks asking me outright what the model was showing and did I think they needed to intervene? As I was explaining the focus was in Japan and that there would not be any abnormal correction and thus there should not be concern about intervention, my regular cell phone rang. It was another G5 member asking the same questions.

What became very clear to me, was they truly had no idea what was taking place any more than the rest of the world. Everyone was struggling to comprehend the new world that was emerging. Communism seemed defeated, markets were crashing, and the general expectation was – Should we be rejoicing?

Most of the central banks have a lot of PHDs, with no real world experience. They have read books, but have not been in the trench to “feel” what it is truly like. This is why government employees rarely have anything worthwhile that will ever contribute to society. …

Armstrong has seen behind the curtain and knows that the authorities (in this case the central banks) are clueless, self-interested, and incapable of working together to effect change. Often, outsiders see these authorities and point out their ineptitude, understanding they are clueless academics. And that’s where outsiders go from insightful to crazy — they go on to conjure up theories of impossibly coordinated efforts by the same incompetent authorities.

In other words, it’s just like the South Park episode — Mystery of the Urinal Deuce.

So what is going on when we see Goldman Sachs making money hand over fist? Simple: they’re doing what they do best, exploiting their inside information, political connections, and their current monopolistic status on Wall Street. Is it all that surprising?

Max Keiser on Goldman Sachs

This interview with Max Keiser is fantastic. Keiser doesn’t hold back with regard to how he views Goldman Sachs as “scum” that has “co-opted” the U.S. government. He even goes on to say they are financial terrorists that effectively held the U.S. hostage by claiming that the world would end if they weren’t bailed out (essentially, Keiser is equating the likes of Hank Paulson, who was head of the treasury when the massive bailout was orchestrated and is an ex-Goldman CEO was basically working for Goldman in his role at the Treasury). And yeah, Max is an outspoken guy, but I have to wonder how many others out there on Wall Street are thinking something very similar but keeping their mouths shut (out of fear of retribution or whatever).

Regardless, you have to wonder: something is extremely wrong when an investment bank squeaked out of implosion a year ago thanks to a massive government bailout only to be the last man standing to reap the benefits of underwriting tons of equity as a quasi-bank-quasi-hedge-fund-with-supreme-access-to-the-U.S.-government and then makes enough money to pay all of their employees $300K+ in salaries/bonuses.

If that isn’t confusing, if that doesn’t make you scratch your head and say, “huh?” then just start looking around. There are a few people like Max, Barry Ritholtz, and, of course, Matt Taibbi (See his RollingStone article if you haven’t already) who are spreading the word.

And this isn’t about envy over a company being profitable. It’s about a company that is succeeding because they have massive influence in D.C. and with the Fed and Treasury. That’s not right. It’s not capitalism. It’s not a free market.

Ok that’s enough from me.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Originally posted this review on Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run on birthdayshoes.com:

Christopher McDougall Born to Run
Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run

I challenge anyone to read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen and not be inspired—to run, to be healthy, to be, well just, better.

Born to Run is about McDougall’s investigative adventure into the world of running, ultramarathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians, a seclusive group of “superathletes” known for their running endurance and speed. The tale begins with a question, “How come my foot hurts?” and ends with a race between a few elite ultrarunners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. In between are a number of answers, questions, and challenges.

It was difficult to put Born to Run down. The book is simultaneously thrilling and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of BtR‘s protagonists — Ann Trason, Ken Chlouber, Caballo Blanco (or “Micah True”), “Barefoot Ted” McDonald, Scott Jurek, Jenn “Mookie” Shelton and Billy “Bonehead” Barnett. Even still, the book serves as an indictment of the running shoe industry, specifically Nike, while also laying out a compelling case that human beings evolved to be runners—chasing prey down, out-enduring them via the persistence hunt. At under 300 pages Born to Run, like the runners and races it describes, covers a lot of ground quickly.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational paragraphs from Born to Run contains the book’s title:

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires”—it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.

Born to Run is one of those rare books that captures within its pages an authentic human experience and conveys that experience directly to the reader. It’s a book in which you are awed by superhuman athletes while still seeing their core humanity. And therein is one of McDougall’s primary takeaways: every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA.

Since this book review is for the Vibram fivefingers fan community, I’d be remiss not to note that BtR gives a hearty mention regarding VFFs, specifically via Barefoot Ted, who apparently inspired Vibram USA’s CEO, Tony Post, to go for a run in his fivefingers. I’m guessing this was back in early 2006. “El Mono” (Barefoot Ted) also made use of his fivefingers at various times during his trek to race with the Tarahumara. And as previously noted on this site, Christopher McDougall seems to enjoy his fivefingers for running these days, too.

Conclusion: BtR is a fantastic read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. More than anything, I expect this book to spawn the next generation of runners, and I’m optimistic that it will take barefooting (or pseudo-barefooting/minimalist footwear) mainstream. Born to Run is yet another step in a more general movement towards acquiring a higher understanding of what it means and requires to be human.

Thank you to Christopher McDougall for telling this tale: it needed to be told!

If you’d like to snag Born to Run, just click this link to pick it up from Amazon.com.

Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich


Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich

I read Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich whilst vacationing in Jamaica and am just now (Actual date, not finish date per this review is July 9, 2009!) getting to review it. I’m going to have to limit my review to a few quotes that I enjoyed from the book, the first of which is one that actually describes the structure of the book:

Being bushy by nature, this book will not give you a linear, step-by-step formula for health and fitness success. IT won’t provide you with a prescription or a checklist. It won’t reveal a secret antidote for aging or a breakthrough discovery for instant weight loss. Instead, this bushy material will open your mind to new possibilities, relationships and ideas that you can adapt to suite your own purposes. Most importantly, the ideas in this book will help you develop a sense of depth and sustainability in your life of physical movement. You’ll begin to realize that the world of the body is far more than one of sets, reps and calories. It is immensely rich and endlessly fascinating-an ideal life-long study.

About two paragraphs up from this one was the following great sentence:

“Specializations have their place, but they inevitably lead to fragmentation.”

I couldn’t agree more. And Exuberant Animal takes you on a “bushy,” generalist route through the mind and body. Each chapter essentially stands alone, so the book reads a bit like a series of articles. It’s a great primer for anyone interested in getting back to the core of being human — a core that is fundamentally animalistic, and, well, exuberant!

Another quote I liked from a chapter titled “Learning learning:”

“I hear you,” agreed the philosopher. “The specialists have run amok. They do one thing really well, but they can never get to the other side of the oscillation. Fragmented disciplines, isolated studies. One trick-ponies. No one goes meta anymore. Conservatives are tightening the screws at every level. Multi-disciplinary studies are out of fashion and so no one can see the big picture. When you’re a specialist, taking the big view just isn’t part of your job description. and if you can’t see the big picture, you’re not going to adopt a rhythm. More likely, you’ll live and teach in a rut.”

And finally a quote from a chapter titled “Stop Drawing Horses:”

Find out your awkwardness. Figure out what you’re good at and then—Just Do the Opposite. Go towards your awkwardness, go towards your fear, go towards your instability, your errors and your ignorance.

All “bushy” quotes, no?

There’s a lot more in this book, and I’m giving this review short shrift simply because if I don’t get it out there, I’ll never get it up. If you’re at all interested in getting in touch with your humanity, I recommend picking up Exuberant Animal, a book about a holistic, mind-body life philosophy.

Frank Forencich has been at the forefront of the movement for humans to get in touch with their nature, and if you just want to plug in to what’s up to, be sure to check out his website:

http://www.exuberantanimal.com/

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