Browsing Tag


A Potent Heuristic to Figure Out Success Courtesy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Skimming my Facebook page while eating pancakes and eggs in my hotel room in Orlando, I came across another one of Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s pearls of wisdom that he felt compelled to share with the world through his updates. Taleb is best known to the mainstream as author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

While he is far from being engaged with the media and his fans to the point of being a social media advocate (he is not on Twitter, his website is one unformatted page of text with info on his next book and don’t even think about looking him up on LinkedIn or Instagram), Taleb clearly embraces sharing his ideas (usually broad anecdotes to society’s toughest problems) for his Facebook fans to debate.

I was struck by Nassim Taleb’s musings on figuring out your chances of success:

A trivial and potent heuristic to figure out success: a) you are absolutely successful if and only if you don’t envy anyone; b) quite successful if those you envy you don’t know in person; c) miserably unsuccessful if those you envy you encounter or think about daily.

Absolute success is mostly found among ascetic persons.

This isn’t all there is to success, of course. But it’s clear to see that when we take our eye off of our own goals to focus on another person’s success, we undoubtedly, and almost always, fail (and fail miserably). The reason for this is because envy exacerbates or intensifies our own weaknesses and shortcomings. Whatever our weaknesses are compared to another person’s, when we begin to focus on (and envy) another person’s success instead of working on our own shortcomings and goals, we become even weaker. We deny ourselves the opportunity to be great in our own way. And even worse, we begin to believe the lie our inner-demons tell us that we aren’t as good and could never be as good as that person who sits on top of the world because of their success — we believe (and our actions become rooted in) the lie that success is only delegated to a chosen few.

Having said that, we all have shortcomings. Everyone who succeeds has them. As Taleb suggests, one important key in success is to be ascetic (to be in denial — in denial of your weaknesses, in denial of anything the world tells you contrary to you knowing that you will achieve success, in denial of the part of your ego that tells you that you will never be as good as the other person). Entrepreneurs are especially in possession of this success-trait.


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The Best Mobile Start-up in Africa (VIDEO)

Mobile technology is booming in emerging markets in Africa and Asia (even moreso than here in North America). In terms of demand for usage, they have us beat by sheer necessity. Mobile phones and apps are being used in emerging markets to provide much-needed services and convenience that we take for granted in the West (like access to medicine, money and even condoms that save lives in regions of the world where HIV/Aids is rampant).

Mobile Transactions Zambia (an 18-month old startup specializing in mobile payments) is one of hundreds of new startups seeking to solve basic problems with good, inexpensive technology. But it is the only startup that won “Best Mobile Money Start-Up in Africa” at an award ceremony held in Nigeria by Mobile Money Africa.

Mobile Transactions Zambian wants to make Africa cashless by creating a network of organizations that will be accessible to a mass market via mobile technology (is that all?).  To date, they provide money transfers, electronic vouchers for subsidy distribution, supplier payments, microfinance loan disbursements, and salary payments via mobile phones.

In looking at the incredible technology and startups coming out of the emerging markets (especially Africa), I think the next big disrupter in mobile technology will likely be birthed in one of the emerging markets instead of here in America. The playing field is being leveled. It’s anyone’s game now.

Congrats to Mobile Transactions (fierce idea, well-timed)!  Below is a short, 8-minute, documentary on how Mobile Transaction’s mobile voucher service (an incentive system) is being used by farmers. Truly inspiring.

Mobile Transactions website:
Twitter: @mobiletransact


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Wireless Social Bicycling Hits NY

While writing this post I have come to realize two things: (1) if it isn’t wireless, social or mobile, it doesn’t exist and (2) I have difficulty spealing the word “bicycling” (don’t know why – just one of those things).

Ryan Rzepecki (a for NYC Department of Transportation employee) understands my first realization very well (the second, not so much).  Rzepecki is the founder of SoBi (as in social bicycling) (a wireless bike-sharing system).  SoBi allows customers to rent bikes by mobile phone or a kiosk which uses a wireless system that tracks, finds and unlocks bicycles using a smartphone app(completeling eliminating the eyesore, space-consuming bike racks usually associated with bike-sharing).  Think of it as ZIP-car for bicycles.

According to, The City of New York has awarded Social Bicycle a contract to make New York a more bicycle-friendly place by allowing the startup to launch a test pilot with 20 bike by the end of the year (presumably before Winter).

Anyone who lives in an urban environment has, by now, asked themselves, “What about the thieves?”  Bicycle theft is a way of life for certain criminals in the big city (with top-of-the-line bikes fetching hundreds of dollars on the “market”).  Rzepecki thinks he’s solved the problem of securing standalone bikes on city streets: 

“Any lock can be defeated with the right tools, but you want to make it as difficult as possible.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the right tools, there’s a way,” he said. “But with GPS tracking and the social system around it, we can limit [theft].”

Rzepecki has already been tapped by other cities and universities across the country to introduce SoBi to their citizens and students.  Being the first to create a model that seems solid (obvious problems aside) and gaining traction on potential competitors by landing deals with major cities across the country, it looks like Rzepecki could be the next startup superstar on the block.  What say you?

The Social Bicycle System from Ryan Rzepecki on Vimeo.