How to increase wealth for everyone

I’ve started reading The Capitalist Manifesto, a book full of data on how free markets generate prosperity.

The author is nuanced and uses data and logic to show how we should be rooting for capitalism (instead of bringing it down).

Income and wealth inequality created as a function of entrepreneurship is not a bad thing per se. Risk-takers and innovators derive a higher income when they create much more value elsewhere.

Nobody hands over a million dollars to someone else for free. Profit earned by someone in free markets is typically a surplus made available to them because they expanded the pie for everyone. (And not because they stole it from someone else. Capitalism is NOT a zero-sum game.) ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from the book “Decoding the Why”

Finished (well, skimmed) the book “Decoding the Why: How Behavioral Science is Driving the Next Generation of Product Design”. It’s a decent introductory book if you have not delved into behavioral science before, but if you have, most of the ideas in the book won’t come across as surprising or new.

Nevertheless, made some quick notes.

1/ Imagining the future as concretely as possible helps us align our actions towards the future self (otherwise, the future self remains an abstract, theoretical concept).

So, whenever you can, help people imagine the benefit of making a change in their life via your product. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from the book “Magic Words”

Just finished reading Magic Words by Jonah Berger and my notes follow.

1/ Most of us spend a significant amount of time in assembling the thoughts we want to convey, but assume the words to convey them as a given.

2/ This book – written by a professor of business – takes the view that the specific words we choose to communicate have an enormous impact on the listener.

3/ Since words paint an image in the listener’s head, the same idea presented differently can paint a very different image. ...  Read the entire post →

Why you will skim this article

Most likely, you’re going to read this sentence and hit the back button.

Still here?

Good, then you’re likely to scan through a few paragraphs in this article and then give up. (Unless, you’re a long-time reader and trust that my writing is worthy of your time. More on this later)

Why are humans so impatient on the web?

Back in the early 1990s, when the web was getting started, websites looked like this.

Today, the same website looks like this.

What happened?

The answer to the question of why the web is increasingly becoming more visual and less text-heavy will also shed light on how we decide what to spend time on, a question that creators and entrepreneurs need to be obsessed with. ...  Read the entire post →

Don’t sell your soul to the algorithm

The danger of pleasing the algorithm to go viral is that gradually you end up selling yourself to big tech companies.

This is how it works:

  • Algorithms optimize for time spent on platform, because more time spent = more time for showing ads
  • Algorithms promote content that sucks in more people (i.e. content that can go viral)
  • Certain types of content is inherently more viral (rage inducing, hot takes, lowest common denominator, etc.)
  • Creators maximizing reach prioritize creating such kind of content
  • Since creation shapes thinking (as much as the other way around), gradually they become what they tweet

    This loop has two sinister effects:

    • For the non-creator, it appears that the world is falling apart as they see extreme, hot takes all around them as nuanced, well-balanced content is seldom promoted by the algorithm
    • Creators with promise end up losing their soul in the process

    All this to make the richest companies and their shareholders even richer.

    This is why we must refuse to be dictated by the algorithm.

    It’s hard, very hard.

    But what is more important than likes and retweets is having an authentic voice (irrespective of whether it’s reaching to the masses or not).

    PS: It’s also worth noting that the algorithm forces dull sameness of content because machines optimize for a singular metric: time-spent. While what we need to become better thinkers (and also to save the democratic process) is diversity. ...  Read the entire post →

Games are problems people pay to solve

Good definitions are powerful. Lately, while reading The Art of Game Design, it became clear to me that the author’s definition of games makes a lot of sense. He defines games as problems that people pay to solve with either their time or money.

Unlike movies or books, games are not passive: they require an active participation and in that sense, they’re problems to be solved. And the fact that we willingly pay (with time or money) to solve those problems is fascinating.

Even though I’m not a gamer, I’m building a consumer startup in the behavior change domain and that’s pushing me to study games. Specifically, I’m interested in exploring what is that about great games that people will spend many hundreds of hours trying to master them, while most consumer experiences (including courses purchased or apps installed) have a ~90% churn of users on day 1 itself.  ...  Read the entire post →

The Anti-Productivity Manifesto

After a barrage of recommendations on my twitter, I finally ended up reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks. The central premise of the book is simple: everyone has got about four thousand weeks to live, and spending that limited time chasing efficiency is wrongheaded.

The message seems old. The entire self-help industry revolves around saying variations of it. Stay in the present. Enjoy the moment. Seize the day. But where the book differs from the rest is that it’s both poetic and philosophical. It’s the kind of the book that, once you finish, you end up mumbling: gosh, I should have written it...  Read the entire post →

Wealth is not money, it’s the things we use money for

As an entrepreneur, money is obviously a massive motivation for why you’re doing what you’re doing. However, it’s essential to understand that money is not wealth.

Wealth is stuff we want and by that logic, people can be wealthy even if they don’t have a lot of money. In fact, because wealth is anything that is directly desired and attained, even animals and insects can be wealthy.

Money is not wealth

The reason money is so popular because it allows us to acquire (certain types of) wealth. Money will be worthless if what you desire cannot be bought, or if there’s nothing you desire. Because most of what we desire can be had for cheap in modern society, the importance of money in our society is reinforced by people who are excessively driven by status.  ...  Read the entire post →

You can only succeed if you know how you can fail

We want to be successful with our decisions. Even though failure is often glamorized, nobody wants it on purpose. Everyone wishes to be successful when they’re starting a company, launching a product, hiring a leader or even while buying a house.

It may sound obvious, but the bedrock of good decisions is defining what good means before you execute on a decision.

Success criteria has to be defined before a project starts, not after it ends

Here’s why it’s important to define a clear, objective and unambiguous criteria before making any decision. First, without a commitment to an objective criterion, your brain will latch onto your how you’re feeling to decide whether the outcome of the project is good or bad. These emotions are influenced by all sorts of subconscious cognitive biases. In the end, you will end up picking data points that support your emotional inclination while ignoring the other data points.  ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from “Ogilvy on Advertising”

This one is a dated book – it describes advertising in the age when digital channels didn’t exist. But that doesn’t make it irrelevant.

Rather, the basic principles that made a great ad in the TV/print era remain the same. Consumer psychology is shaped by a million years of evolution, so while mediums change, what makes people buy stuff doesn’t.

A beautiful book!

My notes from the book

How to work with an agency

  • Leaf through the medium you’re interested in and see which ads strike you the most
  • Find out who made those ads
  • Talk to their head and creative director
  • Ask them to give their best ads
  • Go with the one who appeal you the most

Principles of writing headlines

  • Spend a lot of time getting the headline right (5 times more people read it vs copy)
  • Headline should promise the reader a clear benefit
  • News style headlines work (introducing, amazing, now, suddenly)
  • Include brand name in headline (most people don’t read copy and wouldn’t know what product is being advertised)
  • Personalise. If a product targets certain people, put a word in the headline to address them.
  • Specifics work better than generics.
  • Helpful information work great as headline (e.g. how to do xyz).
  • Don’t put full stops in headlines, as they stop the reader.
  • Use a standard font that everyone can read easily (those that people are accustomed to reading)
  • Drama belongs to what you say, not in the typeface.

Principles of illustrations

  • The job of illustrations is to catch interest while the reader is leafing, though. It should inspire curiosity (what’s going on), that the copy will answer.
  • Photos work better than drawings.
  • Keep illustrations simple (one person)
  • Before and after ads work great
  • People notice advertisements that feature models of their own sex only (men notice men, while women notice women)
  • More people read captions under images than copy, so always put captions under images. The caption should include brand name and promise.

Principles of copy

  • Write in story format (hook people)
  • Write in everyday language (simple words)
  • Don’t use analogies (people don’t understand)
  • Don’t use celebrities (people remember them, not the product)
  • Include the price always (people move on when they don’t know the price)
  • Long copy works better than short copy (as the more facts you tell, the more you sell), but with long copy, the first paragraph should be a grabber (and not generic)
  • A subheadline helps whet the appetite for the copy
  • Limit opening paragraph to 11 words


  • Readers first look at illustration, then at headline, then at copy (so put them in that order)
  • Headlines below illustration are read by 10% more than headlines above illustration
  • Advertisements shouldn’t look like ads (they should look like editorial)


  • Copy what’s working (don’t innovate until you have a better idea)
  • Pretend you’re an editor (not an ad creator) and you’ll get more sign-ups
  • Never set copy in black background over white (they’re hard to read)

Posters ...  Read the entire post →