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On Being a Generalist (part 1)

September 16th, 2008

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” -Robert A. Heinlein

In Pursuit of a Barrel

September 14th, 2008

I’ve had this goal for a few years, to get barreled surfing.  Some folks call it a tube ride.  Getting tubed.

Anyway, I’m here in Bali coming up the steep learning curve and having a fun time at it.

I’ll keep posting pix of my progress…

How to Determine Your Future

September 14th, 2008
In order to know the future it is necessary first to know the present in all its details, as well as to know the past.  Today is what it is because yesterday was what it was.  And if today is like yesterday, tomorrow will be like today.  If you want tomorrow to be different, you must make today different.  If today is simply a consequence of yesterday, tomorrow will be a consequence of today in exactly the same way….If we had will, then through this alone we should know the future, because we should then make our future, and make it such as we want it to be.

Gurdjieff - In Search of the Miraculous

What it takes to Lead a Nation

September 11th, 2008

The following was written by my long-time mentor and pastor David Wilkinson. I found it to be a powerful pointer to what it takes to create lasting change.  Link to the original here.

Guest Opinion

Community organizers empower people

By David Wilkinson
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.10.2008
In the past week, “community organizers” have received bad press from a former mayor of a large American city, Rudy Giuliani; a relatively unknown (until recently) former mayor of a small town and current governor of one of our least-populated states, Sarah Palin; and a U.S. senator and war hero, John McCain.
There is an extremely important ingredient of community organizing that these politicians have failed to grasp, it is an ingredient that embraces a historical perspective that McCain and company have neglected, or forgotten, or perhaps never even realized: Moses was a community organizer.
In his efforts to lead thousands of people across the desert, it was essential to have the organizational skills to lead. That came not from being an executive, but from being responsive to the crying needs of those wandering in the wilderness and to empower them to take responsibility. From such organizational skills, a nation was born.
It doesn’t stop with Moses, however. Jesus of Nazareth was a community organizer. He instructed and organized his disciples in a style of leadership and evangelism that sent them forth to change the course of history.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, organized communities into “cells” and “societies” that became such a force in 18th century England that they helped end the slave trade in that country, established the first system of public education, changed child-labor laws, established health requirements for their sanitation systems, and, quite literally, prevented England from having the type of revolution that was to overthrow the monarchy of France in 1789.
The finest example we have in our lifetime of a sensitive and courageous community organizer was Martin Luther King Jr. King and his circle of courageous leaders would move into a segregated community and empower those who had never had power before.
He helped them believe in themselves to the extent that Jim Crow laws began to crumble; school doors began to open to all children; lunch counters, drinking fountains and restrooms became desegregated; and America truly began to resemble the “land of the free.”
All of these mentioned above were community organizers. And it was through their organizational skills that they reached the pinnacle of leadership.
Please note that it was not the other way around. Leaders must first know how to organize before they can ever become true leaders. One can be a mayor, a governor, a senator, even a president by being charismatic, attractive, articulate, judgmental . . . even arrogant, but you can never become a true leader unless you know how to empower people.
That is a skill that Moses, Jesus, Wesley and King all possessed. And through such skill they built nations. Our next president must possess the same skills.
Write to David Wilkinson at

Inspired Schooling

September 8th, 2008

I’m not a parent but I think a lot about how to create a great education.  I was inspired by this little reply by Don Q to post on Tim Ferriss’ blog.

“You ask about effective education.

I am a 37 year old father of two who grew up attending about a dozen educational institutions in 9 countries: public schools with the middle class; boarding schools with wealthy expatriates; 1 on 1 tutoring with a blind man; classes of 3 students in the rainforest and sessions of 40 students in suburbia; and later a state school and Harvard.

Based on my experiences, what did I decide to do for my own children?

I decided to combine the hard knocks of public schools with the rigors of boarding school. Combine the attention of 1 on 1 tutoring with the social enrichment of large groups. And combine the breadth of state school course offerings with the depth of an Ivy League education.

I decided to homeschool.

There are so many reasons not to send your child through conventional schooling that I will not even attempt to list them here (read “The Well-Trained Mind” for the most authoritative book I’ve found on the subject; and the works of John Taylor Gatto). But I will mention two:

1) Learning is only possible when the motivation comes from the student, not from the teacher; and

2) Homeschooled children repeatedly outperform their conventionally-trained peers in conventional, standardized tests. Consider Switzerland, a country with the world’s highest per capita income and yet only 23% of the student population attends high school.

“But what about socialization?” detractors protest.

One does not merely sit at home. Like the “Four Hour Workweek,” the objective is not simply to work four hours, but rather to free time to variegate one’s range of experience into other areas.

So my recommendation for the perfect education is the following 4 step program:

1) KILL YOUR TV: Yes, remove it from the house. Shakespeare will never compete with Bart.

2) BUY LOTS OF BOOKS: They’ll take care of the rest. We formally “teach” our kids no more than a couple of hours a day and now they’re already a few years ahead of their peers. The wealthy class of centuries past simply bought books and hired home tutors. Does it take a lot of brains to parrot a teacher’s workbook? Nope.

3) TRAVEL: Not unfamiliar to the great thinkers of ages past, the refinement that comes with international travel is simply not possible sitting in your hometown. There is something magical about experiencing new cultures, exotic languages, breathtaking sights, and intoxicating smells that is simply not possible sitting in your home country. And by travel I don’t mean getting a 3 week Eurail pass. I mean relocating to a new, preferably poor, country. Why poor? Because the poor usually have more to teach.

4) VENTURE CAPITAL: Starting from an age when your kids can act responsibly with money, usually 5 or 6, give them a hundred bucks and ask them to double it. Then ask them to give it away (intelligently). Sit back and watch them learn more in a couple of weeks than their peers would have learned in a semester.

These 4 steps don’t require a lot of money and certainly the 4HWW makes it completely possible. Besides, all the money that you previously wasted on school is now spent traveling with the kids.

Is it replicable? Easily. Is it cost effective? How many billions of dollars are we going to save by converting decrepit school buildings run by the government into community centers run by families?

By the way, on a completely different note: is it coincidence that your first name stands for “Time, Income, Mobility” and that your family name resembles one “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” who used brains, wit, and technology, to defy convention and authority?”

Don Q   September 14th, 2007  9:44 pm

A nice little interview with Stanford

August 7th, 2008

Mid July I gave a talk at Stanford’s EDAY.  It was a fantastic event and a nice honor to be asked to present.  While I was there, the alumni association interviewed me about Xtracycle.  Here is a link to a pretty good review of the past and preview of the future of Xtracycle.
As part of my talk, I brought a bike blender and we made mad smooties.  The kids rocked it.  Here’s a little video clip:

“In order to fly, you must first learn how to fall.”

July 26th, 2008

Michael Jordan was quoted saying the above.  I can believe it.  And it seems best to start young.  Here’s a clip from a rising star:

The Roots of Rad

In this little video clip, young stunt master and dare devil rider Julian Ramey shows us what it takes to go big.

Bicycle Lifestyle is catching on

July 24th, 2008

I’m sitting here tonight eating fresh organic cherries after a nice ride back from mother truckers (north san juan’s place to get your grocieries) and I just finished reading and watching Mark Benjamin’s review of his week of Xtracycle use on

He gets it.  He did three of the top 5 every day bicycle adventures.  He went grocery shopping, took his kids to school and partied with his friends.  (I wish he had shown the part where three couples rode 3 Xtracycles together to dinner after bike blending margaritas).

I have often tried to figure out how to describe the experience of being someone ‘on the inside’ who wishes they could share with others the ecstatic experience they are having.  I’ve described it with Xtracycle Bicycle Lifestyle as a person out for a walk in a big park that sees some alluring frolic going on off in the distance.  Their mind is dubious, their soul is curious: will they go over and check it out?  Will it be as fun as it looks?  Will they be welcome?

I am so grateful for more and more brave souls who are risking, reaching out and trying on the Xtracycle Bicycle Lifestyle.  Mark Benjamin from is one.  And there are so many more.  Thank you.

SuperFort Magnetic Magic Construction Toy

July 22nd, 2008

SuperFort Video

This is a video I made in the process of developing the SuperFort. It shows a prototype of the magnetically-connecting, foam noodle, play-inducing fort construction kit.

I want to be empty

July 22nd, 2008
And I intend to live completely all of the fabric that exists inside me.  I want to use it up because I want to be finished…People die and take with them their internal buried treasure.  They carry it from lifetime to lifetime to lifetime.  It is the most cursed treasure of all because you never reap its reward.  You can never spend it.  But I’m beginning to really enjoy spending the treasure inside me.  I’m going to blow every penny before I’m finished because all I want in this life is to get rid of everything.  All my accumulated love and knowledge is going out and continues to go out.  I want to be empty.  I want to give back everything.  And you can do this, too.  You just need guts!