Stop buying the AI utopia dream

We have to stop letting AI get by on its potential.

But first let’s look at why we do this.

Some notes on potential

Potential can be so intoxicating. ‘Potential’ is another word for ‘possibility’, which can be limitless if you let your mind run crazy. Probability, with its expectations routed more firmly in reality, is nowhere near as intriguing as possibility.

Probability is most often found among the elders, especially those whose best days are behind them and who give you no reason to think they’re capable of anything new or exciting. Possibility is an asset of the young. It’s easy to believe in the potential of an unformed human being, if for no other reason than you don’t yet have data and anecdotes to tell you your expectations are unfounded.

This logic also applies to young companies and young industries. When talking about young companies and young industries–and especially, young companies in young industries–it’s too easy to push reality to the side and focus only on the possibilities. We may find ourselves considering how big the total market is and therefore how big our slice of the pie can be. (I’d wager you’re better off taking any such projections and divided them by two, three, four–maybe even ten–to bring the numbers back to practicality.)

Roadblocks aren’t as damning for young companies as they are for older, established companies. For older companies, these roadblocks are the obstacles preventing them from doing something remarkable. Roadblocks are reminders they’re not as flexible and agile as they once were. But for young companies, full of potential, these roadblocks are little more than speed bumps on the way to the mountain we call Outsized Success. The reality is that many of AI’s roadblocks are there for great reason; they’ve been unsolved for decades, a point repeated in Rebooting AI by Ernest Davis and Gary Marcus - ( Bookshop.org affiliate link ).

If you’re not careful, chasing potential while ignoring red flags can get you in trouble and lead to a ton of heartache.

If you don’t know what I mean, think back to that one person who broke your heart again and again but you couldn’t walk away from, because potential. For me, her name was Patricia1 and we met during my sophomore year of college. Patricia had the potential to be a great girlfriend, maybe even wife, if she’d just quit playing games. But her name had might as well been PlayStation. Her potential was great. But her reality kinda sucked.

Potential is a great selling point of the young. When you haven’t had time to build a track record of success, theoretical future accomplishments are your greatest bargaining chip. (He got that ambition, baby.) The only problem is that at some point you must deliver on your promises and convert them to reality.

The AI utopia dream

These days, the prophets of AI are trying to sell us on the potential of the AI utopia dream. They promise that one day soon it’ll be real.

Elon Musk thinks AI has the potential to put us all out of work. His solution for when people can no longer earn a living? ‘Universal high income’–it’s like universal basic income, but not. In the words of Buckwheat, it’s as simple as dat!

Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live

But Musk is overlooking a crucial fundamental problem. AI isn’t going to change the human expectation aspect of the economy. For better and for worse, we live in a world in which a few have a lot (the haves) and many have little or nothing (the have nots). The haves, the elites, are not suddenly going to let the playing field be leveled. They’re not going to free their tenants of their rents. Only the haves will have any control over this life-changing AI. And the have nots will be at the (most likely inexistent) mercy of the haves. If economic utopia were possible, we’d already have it, as we already have financial means. I’m unconvinced this future has the potential to change, at least not until countless have nots have been harmed by the new dynamics.

To Musk’s credit, he brings up the concern about people losing all sense of purpose in a world without work. The pressure to make a living is a major one, perhaps the most significant. But it’s still only one of the challenges facing everyday people. We’re a messy bunch of highly-evolved apes. While lack of money manifests into problems seemingly unrelated to money, having an abundance of wealth doesn’t suddenly make all other problems go away.

AI can’t keep living off its potential

Of course, before we can debate the merits of the AI utopia dream, we must first discuss the probability. Let’s not forget a basic point about Sam Altman and his AI peers (Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, etc.)–they’re hypemen. A major part of the job of the hypeman is selling potential.

Though AI has been around for decades, AI in its current and future forms (generative AI and artificial general intelligence) are new to most of us. We still see so much potential, despite the ample evidence showing that reality is much less flattering than the prophets of AI would have us believe.

We’ve seen again and again how AI is used to deceive people. We’ve seen how it harms others with misinformation. And I hope people are starting to see that this wave of AI is reaching its technical limitations and we’re likely in a long period of diminishing returns. Any recent improvements are likely to be incremental, though there’s always the potential for something greater.

We must stop living as if there’s an invisible hand of technology that guarantees major progress. We must stop living as if Moore’s Law is still a reasonable assumption. AI doesn’t have to be adopted at the breakneck speed the prophets of AI are selling us on. AI is likely stagnating, so you have time to wait and see what shakes out and what aspects of it you should get familiar with. The good news is that AI adoption in the workplace appears much slower than we’ve been led to believe.

The downside of potential

At some point, we all must come to terms with our potential. And we must accept and let go of the potential that will never be realized. The prophets of AI want to keep pushing back their self-reflection moment. On one hand, they don’t want to grow up and accept their boring reality. (I don’t blame anyone for postponing their own midlife crisis). But this behavior is also a business tactic, as discussing AI’s potential stops us from observing AI’s lame reality.

AI may have the potential to change the world. It has the potential to make utopia a reality, because potential is anything you can imagine. The barrier for potential is low.

But AI also has the potential to be the latest technology bubble to burst in everyone’s face. Or maybe I’m describing likelihood rather than potential.

In the eyes of Masayoshi Son and Adam Neumann, WeWork had the potential to be a $10 trillion dollar company even though the value of the entire U.S. stock market at the time was $30 trillion. They thought one company had the potential to be worth one-third of the entire market, until it blew up in a spectacular fashion.

Cryptocurrencies and NFTs had the potential to revolutionize commerce. But we’re still using fiat currencies with no signs of slowing down.

At this point, driverless cars should be catching steam. But it looks like we’re pumping the brakes on that technology. (That pun was so lame yet so satisfying.)

There is a sexy side to potential. There’s also the unsexy side (AKA reality). On the front end, we fall in love with the sexy side. But as time drags on, we’re often left with more of the unsexy aspects than we signed up for. They’re two sides of the same coin. And we need to be sure we’re seeing both sides.

Jake LaCaze likes the idea of utopia but has given up on chasing it.


  1. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. And to avoid potential lawsuits. ↩︎

Crap in, crap out - LLMs are full of crap

In case you haven’t heard, Google AI is now telling people to put glue in their pizza sauce to make it a little stickier. This is not a joke.

I can’t help thinking back to my days at a certain former employer when we were migrating data from one system to another. I told an old mentor about the project and his immediate response was:

Crap in, crap out.

It’s true. You get what you give. Whatever you put in, that’s what you can expect to get out.

All the shiniest technology isn’t in good if the data–its very foundation–is crap.

And we’re seeing that LLMs (large language models) are full of crap.

Why should the developers of generative AI be immune to this simple truth?

And can it get any better?

It’s not looking good, in my opinion.

Developers of generative AI are so desperate for more data that they’re training LLMs on data that those LLMs themselves create.

The glue-in-pizza-sauce examples highlights how important checking and tagging the original data is. The original data that Google AI used to create its data appears to have come from a certain post on Reddit. Reddit is the best of the internet, and the worst of the internet, wrapped up in one place. You can find people helping others solve devastating problems, and you can find a plethora of shitposts geared at getting laughs.


NOTE: Before you jump down my throat for cursing on my blog, please know that I am using an official term from Merriam-Webster. Pic for proof.

A screenshot of the definition of ‘shitpost’ from Merriam-Webster

Now we’re just waiting for Cory Doctorow’s ‘enshittification’ to get into the dictionary.


The challenge in using data from places like Reddit is that you can often find sincere advice and shitposts intwined in the same comment. Rating such data requires nuance, which LLMs appear incapable of. So you have to frontload the nuance in the tagging.

LLMs and generative AI do have use. But I’m not sure those uses are profitable. These days, I often use Claude from Anthropic as my proofreader. Claude saves me a lot of headache and helps me get my posts out sooner. It’s useful as long as it’s free. But would I pay $20 a month for an AI proofreader? I guess I could justify it if I started cranking out blog posts like crazy and kept at it.

Occam’s Razor is often explained as the wisdom that the simplest answer is the correct one. But others argue it should be more accurately described as ‘the simplest answer is the best starting point to investigate.’ At least that’s what some guy on Reddit said, so take it or leave, especially considering how this post started.

But there’s a variation I keep thinking about–most likely thought up by someone else, because, if the internet’s taught me one thing, it’s that I’m not as clever as I’d like to think. And that variation goes something like this:

The simplest problem is the most likely to create the most headaches.

Time and time again, I’ve seen people focus on the big, sexy problems, while ignoring the simple, basic problems. But those simple problems touch every aspect of what you do. So the headaches compound. And those simple problems end up hurting you far more than the sexy problems you’re so fixated on.

This data issue is the simple issue that causes the most problems for developers of generative AI and LLMs. Since AI blew up in late 2022 courtesy of OpenAI’s public release of ChatGPT, the answer for improvement has been more data. But these developers are running out of quality data. And AI needs a ridiculous amount of power. And no one’s created a moat around their offerings. And no one’s made this tech profitable yet.

It ain’t looking good, at least until someone makes some kind of algorithmic discovery and improvement to AI. Until then, be extra careful of anything you read on the internet.

Jake LaCaze totally used Claude to proofread this blog post crapping on LLMs.

Graduation season is a great time to reflect on personal milestones

Today is the last day of school for both of my kids: one’s wrapping up pre-K, while the other’s preparing for middle school.

It’s interesting to compare my children’s journeys in early education to my own. I didn’t attend pre-K and I went to the same school kindergarten through high school graduation.

I had a kindergarten graduation but didn’t celebrate much else until I’d completed my senior year. I didn’t celebrate any educational accomplishments or experience notable transitions for twelve or thirteen years, however that math works out.

But it’s wrong to say there was nothing worth celebrating within that period. After all, a big accomplishment is just a series of smaller accomplishments strung together. I just hadn’t been conditioned to look for those little things worth celebrating.

Some people say kids get too many trophies these days. But the answer isn’t to give no trophies. We should celebrate our small victories on the way to our big accomplishments. And we should appreciate those ceremonies for what they are: not just a recognition of what’s passed but also an acknowledgment of what’s to come. New challenges. New joys. New failures. New parenting challenges.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there. Whatever you’re graduating from, take time to reflect on your win and get ready for whatever awaits around the corner. And when times get tough, be sure to lean on those who are celebrating with you today.

Replacing human workers with AI is easy when we've already removed humanity from work

Since OpenAI released ChatGPT to the masses, there’s plenty of debate over where and when AI can replace human workers.

But I think this debate misses a crucial point. If AI can replace a human worker for a specific job function, why is that? Is it because the job is so simple and that human insight would be better put somewhere else? Or is it because we’ve created a working environment that squashes human insight and innovation?

In the pursuit of lowering costs in any way possible, we’ve basically turned humans into machines. We’ve eroded the possibility of human touch in most business transactions.

I first realized this problem when order kiosks started popping up at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s. I noticed I preferred the kiosk over the human experience.

Why? For one, the employees behind the counter hardly put forth any effort. They mumble, they hardly smile, they rarely pretend to care.

But who can blame them? They’re paid terrible wages for thankless, undervalued work.

These routine interactions with the people on the front lines can make a real difference in how customers perceive your brand. When I make a genuine (even if brief) connection with the man or woman scanning my groceries, I may be in a good mood for the rest of the day. Such a simple thing is now a pleasant surprise. But it’s unfair to expect those people to make the effort to improve my experience when the only metrics they’re measured on pertain to how many people they can check out in a certain amount of time.

But here’s another point that doesn’t get enough attention:

AI isn’t all that great at this stuff either, as we say with the failure of Amazon’s cashier-free shops.

The official definition of AI is ‘artificial intelligence’. But we’re seeing again and again that the definition is actually more like ‘actually Indians’, who are grossly underpaid.

So the non-human solution is more human, yet more inhumane, than some would like us to believe.

What if the solution isn’t to replace humans, but to empower them instead?

Not all humans are great at customer service, or quite frankly, anything at all. That is undeniable. But some humans are. And they should be rewarded.

But all the developers of AI appear to be hitting the same ceilings at the same time, resulting in diminishing returns and an inability to differentiate one company’s offerings from the other. AI is codifying average, and with AI, you know exactly what average you’ll get.

With humans, there’s at least the chance of getting something special and unique. Can the same be said for AI?

Jake LaCaze hopes the companies that say their employees are their best assets will remember that when they’re tempted to implement AI anywhere and everywhere.

Fastmail and your own domain - A simple marketing tool with great ROI

Every once in a while on online forums, I'll stumble across someone asking if you can appear professional while running your business behind a Gmail address. What about Yahoo!, or Hotmail?

You could spend hours debating this topic. And you can spend hours more debating whether it should matter. But by the time you’ve hashed out the details, you could have just set up your email on your own domain and knocked out one of the simplest marketing upgrades available to any digital citizen.

While you have countless options for setting up your email on your own domain, I’m going to share why I’ve used Fastmail for my personal email since moving away from Gmail nearly six years ago.

A bit about Fastmail

For those who don’t know, Fastmail is simply awesome.

The service lives up to its name and has been incredibly reliable during my usage. I saw some disruptions a few years ago when some bad actors appeared to be specifically targeting the service, but Fastmail quickly restored service and avoided future attacks.

The service aspect of email is kind of like your IT team: The less you think about it, the better. You expect it to just work. And that’s pretty much how my experience with Fastmail has been.

The basics

So what do you get when you sign up for Fastmail?

You can check out their pricing page for full details, but let’s take a look at the highlights of the individual plan.

  • Email
  • Calendars
  • Contacts
  • 30GB email storage
  • 10GB file storage
  • Connect your own domain
  • Email aliases

You get these awesome features (and more) for $5 a month ($60 a year).

I appreciate that you can connect multiple domains and use multiple aliases to give yourself the appearance of unlimited email addresses. Technically, you’ll have only one email account. But the flexibility of multiple domains and aliases lets you run multiple entities or identities under one account.

For instance, you could send and receive email from and to:

But you’ll have to pay for only one account.

Why would you use such a setup? Maybe you want to use aliases to sign up for email newsletters and lessen the damage if your contact information is compromised. (You can just delete the alias and stop receive emails to it.)

Or maybe you want to pair these features with filters and rules for automation purposes. Either way, you have options; what you do with those options is up to you.

Getting your own domain

You have plenty options when it comes to how you want to go about getting your own domain.

My domain registrar of choice is Namecheap, mostly because they live up to their name and I’ve had no problems with them so far.

The cost of your domain will depend on which top-level domain (TLD) you choose. Domains with the .com TLD are the most common and usually cost around $15 on Namecheap.

After you’ve subscribed to Fastmail and bought your domain, you have to go through the steps of connecting your domain to your email. Luckily, Fastmail includes instructions on how to set up a domain purchased from Namecheap, so they’ve got you covered.

Adding it up

To recap, setting up your own domain on Fastmail will cost you:

Service Cost
Fastmail $60
Domain name $15
TOTAL $75

So, for around $75 a year, you can stop worrying about whether your Gmail or Hotmail email address will look professional, and start emailing from an address you know will look professional. As far as I’m concerned, setting up your own domain with Fastmail is cheap and easy and shouldn’t break your marketing budget, making it a no-brainer for me.

If you sign up for Fastmail

If you decide to pull the trigger on Fastmail, be sure to use my affiliate link for 10% off your first year of service. As expected, I’ll get a little kick back, which will help pay for my own Fastmail subscription.

That sounds like a win-win to me.

Jake LaCaze loves him some Fastmail.

Frugal reading - Tips for reading on a budget

So you wanna read more.

Maybe you’re trying to unplug more often. Or maybe you read a blog post about leadership and bought into the old adage that leaders read.

Whatever the case, you want to get your face in more books and digital content worth following. But money’s tight, or maybe you just want to spend your hard-earned money elsewhere.

Regardless of your situation, I have some tips I’ll now share for reading more on the cheap.

Your local library

If you really want to save money while reading, you have to start with your local library. Otherwise, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

You may be able to get cards for libraries beyond your local library. Some libraries in Texas participate in the TexShare program which gives you access to libraries across the state.

Also, some libraries, like the Houston Public Library will give you a digital library card just for being a Texas resident.

I can’t speak for similar programs in other states. But these examples show why it may pay to ask or search around for similar offerings in your own state.

Physical books and audiobooks

When people think of their local library, they probably first think of physical books and audiobooks. And for good reason.

While libraries have digital services (more on that below), they’re still a great source for getting free access to physical reading (and listening) materials.

OverDrive/Libby

If you prefer reading ebooks, or listening to audiobooks on your phone, then you have to see if your local library offers access to OverDrive. And if they do, also check that they offer Libby.

With Libby, you can read ebooks directly on your phone with the app, or you can send them to your Kindle. (I’m not sure if Libby works with other strict ereader devices, such as anything by Kobo).

With OverDrive and Libby, checking out books is as easy as buying them from the Kindle store. They’re delivered straight to your device and are automatically returned after they’ve expired.

(A little birdie once told me that you can keep your ebooks beyond their expiration if you keep your device disconnected from the internet. But I can neither confirm nor deny.)

Free digital subscriptions

Libraries offer so much, it’s hard to keep up with all of it. And so, many of their offerings go unused.

Your local library may offer more digital subscriptions than you realize. For example, the Houston Public Library offers a ton of digital subscriptions.

Many of these subscriptions are for big-name content providers, such as:

  • The New York Times
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Economist via the PressReader app.

You might have to jump through some hoops like re-applying for a subscription every few days. But that’s not the worst thing in the world, considering the price.

Local retail

Always be on the lookout for local retail stores, especially those that sell secondhand books.

Physical discount store

When I was in Midland, I fell in love with the now shuttered Miss B’s Books. You never knew what you’d find in stock, and that was part of the fun.

You can also check out places like Half Price Books, which does a great job of living up to its name. I’m quite fond of their clearance section, where I often find something that interests me, for $3 or less.

Book sales hosted by your library or local Friends of the Public Library chapter

I’ve been known to go a little crazy at the sales hosted by the local Friends of the Public Library chapters.

These sales usually have ridiculous prices, in the line:

  • $2 for hardcover books
  • $1 for paperbacks
  • $0.50 for children’s books

The details will vary, but you should get the idea.

Some of these books are library books removed from circulation, or they may be title donated by patrons.

Also, some libraries will have ‘book nooks’, where they display some books they’ve removed from circulation that you can get at similar prices.

Online shopping

Sometimes you just can’t find what you want in person. So you turn to the World Wide Web.

Thriftbooks

ThriftBooks has some ridiculous prices. I can often get books I’m interested in for around $3 a piece. You get free shipping on domestic orders over $15.

Your reading list will never be empty again.

Kindle wishlist

Kindle ebooks can add up fast. But if you’re patient, you can often get some great deals.

When I still read on the Kindle, I filled up my Kindle wishlist and I’d check it often. Many days, I could find an item on my wishlist on sale for $3.

These deals might not be available exactly when you want them. But there’s a good chance they’ll come around at some point.

Digital reading

Books aren’t the only place to find great reading material.

RSS

Everyone should be using RSS to combat the unwanted effects of social media engagement algorithms.

Check out the video below if you’re unfamiliar with RSS.

You can use RSS for free by saving your feeds locally. I like to use an RSS service that will save my feeds, just in case I blow up my computer, as I’m known to do. For a third-party RSS service, you can’t go wrong with Miniflux or NewsBlur.

Read-it-later services

If you use RSS, you’re likely going to want to pair it with a read-it-later service. These services are where you save articles you’re interested in but don’t have the time to read right now. You could leave these articles in your RSS reader. But sending them to a read-it-later service makes managing your digital to-read list easier. And you can use your read-it-later service to keep up with articles you found outside your RSS feeds.

You’re likely already familiar with read-it-later services like Pocket or Instapaper. But if you want a great free read-it-later option, then you should check out Omnivore. As an added bonus, you can use Omnivore to sync article highlights and notes to your personal knowledge management app, such as Logseq.

Get to reading

If you’re serious about reading more, you now have no excuse. So start filling that idea machine with fuel.

Jake LaCaze just exposed himself as a total nerd.

Idea capture systems for personal knowledge management

Regardless of which personal knowledge management app you prefer (I use Logseq btw), you have countless options when it comes to idea capture systems. Rather than force on app to do everything, you should make sure you’re using the right tool for the job.

Where personal knowledge management app fits in my workflows

Logseq is where I keep the ideas I want to come back to later. I view my personal knowledge management app as a great place for working ideas–ideas in limbo. It’s great for storage, but it’s not great for creativity. When I’m ready to write a blog post, I open copy my notes into Apostrophe and start polishing them there. And once I’ve finished my post, I usually delete my notes from Logseq. Because I’m done. The post is live. If I need any of that information again, I’ll refer to the finished post.

The problem with personal knowledge management apps

Personal knowledge management apps are great for storing ideas until you’re ready to do something with them. But how do you capture these ideas in the first place? If you’re like me, you have so many great ideas you’re sure you’ll never lose track of, only to later find yourself replaying your whole day in your head, desperately hoping lightning will somehow strike twice after you’ve forgotten what you were so excited about in the first place.

Using your personal knowledge management app as your only idea capture system may work if the app is always nearby. But many of us have mobile, active lives that see us away from our computers, or in situations where typing on our phones is inconvenient (or even dangerous, such as when we’re driving).

Idea capture systems for your personal knowledge management app

Now let’s look at a few idea capture systems you can pair with your personal knowledge management app of choice.

Physical notebooks

Physical notebooks make great capture systems, as they’re among the best creativity tools of all time.

If you want a great no-pressure tool for spitting out ideas to see if there’s anything worth pursuing, you can’t go wrong with a cheap notebook. If all your ideas are bad, then all you’ve really list is a little bit of time.

I’m a fan of notebooks because I’m also a fan of writing by hand. Maybe it’s because I grew up writing by hand before computers were ubiquitous, but I find the act freeing, as it lets the mind roam. And there’s something about that mad dash to write down all the best ideas before they float away into the ether. (You can’t capture all the ideas, but maybe you can capture all the ideas that matter.)

By the way, I was intentional when I made this heading plural (‘Physical notebooks’). I encourage having multiple notebooks to write in: a pocket notebook, a commonplace book, maybe even your journal. And for this exercise, I’d include digital notebooks such as the MobiScribe Wave, on which I wrote this blog post.

Notes apps

Notes apps might not be the best candidates for storing notes long term, but they’re great as idea capture systems. That’s pretty much what they were designed for.

The best thing about notes apps is that they’re pre-installed on pretty much all modern smartphones and tablets.

Maybe you forgot your pocket notebook at home. Or your pockets were too full, so something had to be left behind. But most of us have our phones nearby at all times, so that means your digital notes app is never far away.

Voice memo apps

Voice memo apps are closely related to notes apps.

But I think voice memo apps are more convenient idea capture systems in at least a couple situations:

  1. When I’m driving.
  2. When I have a LOT to say but can’t focus on typing a wall of text at the moment.

I appreciate that you don’t need to be in perfect conditions to turn voice memo apps into useful capture systems. I often hold my phone just a few inches from my face as I record my memos. During playback, you may hear wind or other background noises. It’s not a perfect system, but more often than not, the idea is perfectly captured. And that’s what really matters.

Personal knowledge management apps themselves

I know I’ve spent most of this post saying your personal knowledge management app shouldn’t be your only idea capture system. But let’s not forget it can be a competent idea capture system if set up and used properly.

I like using the voice memo feature within Logseq’s mobile app. While I can easily import voice memos from other apps into Logseq, it’s nice to know I can sometimes skip a step, depending on what’s within reach when a great idea pops up.

And you can upgrade your idea capture capabilities with the right plugins, such as the Omnivore plugin, which will import highlights and notes from the read-it-later service straight into Logseq.

You’ve found your idea capture systems. Now what?

Your ideas won’t do you any good if they set in your idea capture system of choice forever. You must be sure to transfer your ideas into you personal knowledge management app.

So you need to establish a new habit. Make transferring ideas from your idea capture systems into your personal knowledge management app part of your daily or weekly routine.

When you learn to simplify creativity, you make creativity a habit. And once you’ve made creativity a habit, you’re on your way to becoming unstoppable.

Jake LaCaze thinks creativity is iterative.

Improve your perspective by seeing yourself in the third person

Each of us is the hero of our own story. And anyone who slights us is a villain. But what if it’s not so simple?

After all, the person who slights us is the hero in their own story. And they’re just trying to get what they want or need. When we see ourselves only as the hero of our own story, it’s easy to take slights personally.

When someone slights me, they’re slighting Jake LaCaze. Don’t they know who I am? Sometimes, this view is fair. Such as if you’re slighted by a spouse or a family member, someone who has deep rapport with you and knows who you are.

But what about when someone slights you during a job offer, and the salary is lower than you feel you deserve? They’re not slighting you. They’re slighting a job applicant. You’re in a negotiation. And a negotiation is a game. In the same vein as tug-of-war.

If you take it personally, you’re more likely to react emotionally. But if you’ve made a habit of viewing yourself in the third person as much as possible, then you’re ready for this. And you’ve prepared a better response. You’ve prepared the reason why your higher counter offer is actually beneficial to both parties.

Instead of yelling, ‘I deserve more, I’m well qualified!’, maybe you say something more like: ‘In the interviews, you mentioned that you want someone who’s going to stick around for the long term. I’ll be better able to do that if I’m fairly compensated from the beginning. There’s a lot of work to do in improving this operation. Promotions will be hard to come by. I need to have that security from the very start. Because my starting salary affects future raises–which may be little more than cost-of-living raises while we’re creating our better vision–it’s really important that we get this right, now.’

There’s no guarantee this approach will work. (Is there ever such guarantee?) Maybe the person offering the job is set on slighting you in the name of keeping more money. But I think this approach of telling the employer to put their money where their mouth is, is more likely to work than reacting emotionally because you, not a job applicant, were slighted.

A similar view applies when someone cuts you off in traffic. They don’t cut off you–Firstname Lastname–they cut off the car in front of them that just happened to be you. Don’t take it personally, because it wasn’t personal for the reckless driver who’ll be living rent-free in your mind for the rest of the day.

These days, I’m working on seeing myself in the third person, which is, literally, impossible. I can see the world only from my own eyes. In a literal sense, I can almost see myself in the third person by looking at pictures or video of myself. But still, I’m viewing from my own eyes. So everything starts in the first person.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no benefit in trying to see myself in the third person. Sometimes, when bad things happen to us, we get too caught up in the parties involved. I can’t believe Joe slighted me, after all I’ve done for him. Joe did THAT to ME?

But what if you see the situation from a third-person perspective? How would you advise your friend in a similar situation? You’d be more likely to forget names and focus instead on roles. We can be more easily objective when we’re advising other people through their problems. Yet we so often ignore our own best advice when we find ourselves in similar situations.

Why?

Because we see the problem in the first person. We can’t remove ourselves from our view of the situation. Our personal attachment taints our judgment, which taints our advice to ourselves, which taints the actions we take.

This concept of seeing ourselves in the third person isn’t as crazy as it may sound. We often talk about seeing things from the other party’s perspective. Putting ourselves in their shoes. The same logic applies here. The major difference is that while putting ourselves in their shoes may open the door for empathy, we’re not stopping there. We’re not giving in to make peace. We’re still moving forward to get what we want. The goal is the same. The strategy and tactics are a bit different. By seeing their perspective and understanding their goals, we’re better prepared to find an answer that serves us both.

As I’ve already said, this approach isn’t guaranteed to work. Maybe you can’t find a working solution. Or maybe the other person just isn’t willing to compromise, in which case you weren’t likely to reach agreement anyway; and maybe you shouldn’t do business with someone who seeks to win only by ensuring you lose. (That’s not a great business relationship, and you’re bound to lose worse in the end.)

But by seeing yourself in the third person, you’re better able to give yourself the best chance of success. And the truth is, that’s as good as it ever gets in life.


Songspiration

‘I’m a Cult Hero’ by The Cure/The Glove/Cult Hero/whoever

Friends don't let friends become monopolies

In the autobiography The Life of Frederick Douglass, the author takes an interesting view on slavery when he argues that when otherwise good people become slaveowners, they can’t help becoming monsters. Douglass takes a compassionate view of the villains. It’s not always that bad people become slaveowners–but slaveowners become bad people.

Should we have a similar view with John Deere and other monopolies?

Once you become a monopoly, you become a villain. You stand alone. A walled garden looks great at first. But when you have a snafu like the one John Deere recently experienced when a solar flare knocked out farmers' tractor GPS systems during peak planting season, that walled garden leaves you isolated. Now there’s no buffer between you and the angry customers trapped with you. You’ve made it so that they can’t leave, so you shouldn’t be surprised when they throw humanity out the window and want nothing more than your head on the wall. (Also, if people can’t leave, you don’t have customers; you have captives).

I don’t imagine many people are crying for Deere as a lawsuit against the company’s repair practices is moving forward.

When I was a kid, John Deere was a brand to be proud of. If you owned a John Deere, you signaled to others that you cared about doing quality work with quality equipment.

Nothing runs like a Deere. That used to mean something.

But now John Deere is a villain.

We don’t like characters that we’ve always seen as villains. But nothing’s worse than a hero turned villain. A brand that never cared about you is a jerk. But a brand that made us feel they cared and then turned their backs on us–well, that’s a term I’m better off not putting in writing. When someone we thought was a jerk turns out to be a jerk, there’s most often little lost. But when someone we trusted leaves us feeling stabbed in the back, we feel lied to. Duped. Stupid.

Now John Deere stands alone, with little choice but to reap what it’s sown. On one hand, it’s hard–if not impossible–to feel bad for John Deere. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be this way, during the good and the bad.

Only stakeholders love monopolies. Everyone outside the monopoly sees it as pure evil. And once you’re branded a monopoly, your brand is no longer one people love, but one they feel they can’t escape. See Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, Google . . .

When we talk about breaking up monopolies, maybe we shouldn’t talk only about the consumers, who undoubtedly deserve to be protected and deserve the benefits of fair competition. But maybe we should take a page from Frederick Douglass' book (literally) and remember to have compassion for the monopolistic companies we’re looking to break up.

Sometimes being a good parent means doing things that piss your kids off in the short term but benefit them in the long term. Sure, the monopolies may kick and scream now. They may claim we’re being unfair. But if we don’t do what needs to be done now, maybe we’re setting them up for failure later down the road when the world at large shows up with their pitchforks.

Jake LaCaze once worried that his views were becoming more Socialist. He now realizes he simply wants a truer form of capitalism for all, especially corporations.


Songspiration


‘The Small Print’ by Muse - A band who I once saw as a hero, only to turn villain.

She’s just a mother—Celebrate the hell out of her

I can’t help associating Mother’s Day with another holiday: Thanksgiving. That’s because, in 2011, my mother passed away on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the last holiday I spent with her.

I owe my mother far more than I can ever properly credit. For 10 years in my early childhood, she raised me as a single mother. When she passed away, my mother had worked at a garment factory in southeast Arkansas for 23 years. Her peak wage was $10 an hour. Thanks to the sacrifices of my mother (and my stepfather), I’ve never made as little as $10 an hour since I graduated college.

As a tired single mother, she prepared me for the future the best way she knew how. She made sure I understood early on that education was my key to getting out of the hometown I couldn’t wait to leave behind. She taught me how to study for tests. She made sure I went to school every day unless I was sick. I didn’t need a prestigious education. (Louisiana public schools have served me just fine.) I just needed an education. And she gave me the stability I needed to focus on being just one tier above mediocre so that I could take on the opportunities waiting for me outside of northeast Louisiana.

I shouldn’t be here, where I am, a humble boy from Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, making a good life in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my mother. She is still the rock upon which I stand.

I was 26 years old when my mother passed away. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Even in my mid-20s, I still needed my mommy. And I still do, as I approach middle age.

I often wonder if my mother would be proud of me and where I am. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to hear that sentiment from her. That will never happen. So all I can do is hope.

If you know you owe any semblance of success to your mother–and you know you can never put that fact into proper words–just try. Make the effort. You won’t find the right words. But that’s not the point. The point is in letting her know what you know you can never articulate.

These days, some women lament the idea of being nothing more than just a mother. But there is no such thing as just a mother. A mother brings you into the world. And she is most often the first person to ever love you. We should not discount this simple gift of biology.

So even if your mother is just a mother, let her know you appreciate her. And celebrate the hell out of her while you still can.

Jake LaCaze wants you to say hi to your mother for him.


Songspiration


‘Green Eyes’ by Coldplay

Who's on your personal board of directors?

Ryan Leaf is a great redemption story, even if you’re not a sports fan.

The No. 2 pick of the 1998 NFL draft (second only to Peyton Manning) is widely known as being one of the biggest busts in NFL history.

FUN FACT: Leaf recently declared himself the greatest bust in NFL history so that fans could save their breath by no longer having to argue about the topic.

Leaf’s status as an NFL bust was worsened by drug addition, for which he served time in prison.

It’s hard to imagine someone hitting rock bottom harder than Ryan Leaf. It’s equally hard to imagine someone bouncing back as high as he has.

Leaf appears to have truly come to terms with his past. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his failures while he’s working for Westwood One or when he’s guest hosting for sports commentating legends like Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen.

Leaf’s redemption is inspiring. As is one crucial detail: He didn’t do it alone.

Leaf has in the past described himself as the CEO of his own life. Like any other CEO, he seeks guidance from his board of directors, comprised of five people he trusts in the sensitive matters of his life.

I love Leaf’s analogy because we’re all CEOs–CEOs of our own lives. And we all need the support of our own board of directors.

For the last few days I’ve been asking myself who’s on my own personal board of directors. The first slot is easy: It belongs to my wife. As the leading stockholder, she has the most to gain or lose from my decisions.

The next two spots were easy to fill. Those last two spots are a couple boogers, but I have some good candidates in mind.

Perhaps you’ve heard the line that you are the average of the five people you must hang out with. Ideally, these five people would make great board members. But if they don’t, maybe it’s time to reconsider whom you give your time.

So, I think it’s time to ask:

Who’s on your board of directors?

Jake LaCaze knows we all need hope to make it through hard times. What better source than those who’ve been there and done that?


Songspiration


‘Relatively Easy’ by Jason Isbell

Time is running out. So what are you gonna do about it?

I just heard the news that Steve Albini died a couple days ago.

Excuse me while I get all up in my feels and repeat myself from my microblog:

Albini has always had a special place in my heart for producing Pixies' Surfer Rosa.

Surfer Rosa was one of those albums that blew my young mind. I later realized that one of my favorite parts of it was its simplicity. Albini didn’t typically allow overdubs. The drums were loud. The album was pretty much a live album.

Surfer Rosa challenged what I thought knew about music. It expanded my definitions and challenged assumptions I wasn’t aware I had.

The masses say that Pixies' Doolittle album is their masterpiece. But for me, it’s Surfer Rosa, which is a timeless piece of art. Sure, the band (one of my top five all-time) deserves much of the credit. But Albini’s production, by not getting in the way of or overshading the band, brought to life the essence of the band. The album is still so raw today. And it doesn’t sound dated at all.

Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with Albini’s other work with The Jesus Lizard, The Breeders, and, of course, Big Black. When you listen to an Albini-produced album, you know what you’re getting. And in that way, Albini was definitely an artist.

I told my cousin just last week that if I ever had a band, I’d want to record an album with Steve Albini just to know what my band was truly worth. This dream was never going to happen, but that was supposed to be because:

  1. I don’t and won’t have a band.
  2. Any band I did have wouldn’t be good enough to be on Albini’s radar anyway.

But the dream wasn’t supposed to be impossible because Albini won’t be around to do his part.

It’s hard not to feel a bit like ‘the end of an era’ today.

Thanks for the tunes, Steve.

Beyond Albini

Albini’s death is another reminder that time is running out for us all. It’s inevitable.

At some point, the reaper collects his debt.

We know how the story ends.

So what do we do about it?

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

If you want to do something awesome with your time, today’s a great day to get started.

It’s time to get moving.

P.S. Nirvana’s In Utero > Nevermind–no contest. Don’t @ me.

When productivity is no longer the goal

Would we need therapy if we knew how to slow down and unplug? How to stop distracting ourselves from ourselves?

Convenience has robbed us of these opportunities. As certain tasks have gotten easier, we can now more quickly move to something else. We can more easily switch contexts in the name of productivity.

But is productivity always the goal? Maybe if you’re a widgetmaker. But any widgetmaker who stumbled upon this post has likely clicked on to something else.

What do you do when you’ve been productive enough? Pushing alone can take you only so far.

At some point, you need something else to take you to the next level. A fresh insight. A dash of creativity. Brute force can’t be the only option in your toolbelt.

Insight and creativity aren’t easy to measure, like widgets produced. But insight and creativity are every bit as crucial as pure effort for sustained success.

So what do you need to slow down?

Maybe a comfy chair. Place matters.

What about time?

Sure, time can be hard to find, but it’s more doable if you’ve cut out doomscrolling and those streaming services that are becoming more and more like cable television, the very thing you sought to avoid when you cut the cord.

What if the thing you need to do to improve your life is nothing?

Could you do it?

Could you find the space?

Could you find the time?

If you can’t, fine.

But if you can . . .

Place matters

Back when I listened to his podcast regularly, Cal Newport often stressed the importance of place. Newport, not a supporter of working from home, recommended renting some cheap office space down the road rather than setting up shop in the corner of your bedroom. He’d often share stories of writers who secluded themselves in cabins or certain wings of their estates to focus on their craft. Newport’s point wasn’t that you must be able to afford these spaces to be productive. His point instead was this: Where you work matters. Place matters.

Recently my wife and I rearranged our living room. It started with storing the TV in the garage, something we’d been talking about for weeks. Then we moved the couches and the rug and finally, the used IKEA chair my wife got for $25 from Facebook Marketplace, which we moved into our bedroom. (I teased her so much for buying this useless chair; and then I fell in love with it.)

Only a couple hours after the move, I told my wife I’d found my reading and writing nook, centered around that same useless chair. Shortly afterward, I set on starting those habits in a new place. (This very blog post was started in that same chair, in that same spot.)

Auto-generated description: A gray armchair is situated next to a white storage unit with several shelves containing electronics and personal items, placed near a window with curtains.
A picture of the IKEA chair now in my bedroom, only a few feet away from my bedroom office. Shhh, don’t tell Cal.

There’s something about having a certain place reserved for a certain task. You don’t have to think about why you’re there, or what you’re there to do. Once a habit is built, the appropriate neurons start firing once you arrive and your task becomes easier. You create a context, and context informs your thinking and your actions.

Place matters.

This realization is also why I recently created a site dedicated to my microposts (I also must acknowledge that the decision was made easier when Manton Reece gave all micro.blog Premium subscribers five blogs for the price of one).

I’ve largely walked away from social media, except for LinkedIn, which, despite its many annoyances, still feels like a professional necessity. From time to time, I find myself wanting to share a weird photo or silly quip. But my main blog isn’t the place for that. So now my microblog is. Because, as you know, place matters.

One last bit to bring the point home . . .

I’m going to paraphrase and bastardize a post you may have seen on LinkedIn. (This is one of those aforementioned many annoyances. Of course, now that I want to quote the post, I can’t find it.)

The post makes the point that a soda costs one thing at a grocery story, another at a convenience store, another at an airport, etc.

And if you’re not happy with your worth, maybe it’s time to look for a job somewhere else. Maybe the only thing holding you back from getting more money is your location, whether that’s by geography or just within the walls you call your workplace.

Sure, the post is a little cheesy. And so many people just copy and paste it and you get tired of seeing it.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some wisdom in the post.

Because, yet again, place matters.

Using generative AI in a job search

‘Jake, you’re a big critic of generative AI. So you must hate it, right?’

Not so fast.

I don’t hate technology. I hate the overhype and overselling. I want tech to stay in its lane.

I am the driver, not technology—even generative AI.

Yesterday I used Anthropic’s Claude to help me prepare for a phone interview.

I didn’t ask Claude to fabricate a resume. (I’d already submitted my resume anyway.)

I simply asked it to help me tighten some things up.

Want more details for how you can responsibly use LLMs to help in a job search?

Check out the video.

P.S. This video is an example of how the best uses for tech are sometimes the least sexy and exciting uses for tech.

You can Linux your own way

I’ve recently fallen in love with Manjaro Sway.

While things started great, my experiment using a 2012 MacBook Air in 2024 hit a bit of a snag. 4GB RAM can take you only so far these days. So I started looking at Linux distros to replace an unsupported version of MacOS I was able to install thanks to the OpenCore Legacy Patcher.

I started with Linux Mint, which was great until it wasn’t. And then I tried Debian XFCE, which resulted in the same. On both distros, the desktop would freeze at certain points, and the quickest fix I knew was to hold the power button until the laptop shut off, and then start the machine back up.

NOTE: This issue very well may have been due to user error and no fault of Linux Mint or Debian. Maybe I could have found a solution if I were a little bit more of a nerd (something like using SWAP at installation).

Before I gave up on Debian, I had also installed i3 so that I could give tiling window managers another chance. This brief revisit led to my wanting to again try Sway, which is basically i3 with Wayland support.

NOTE: Don’t worry if you don’t know what all this means. I understand only in the most superficial terms. These technical terms are not the point of this post.

Eventually, I settled on Manajaro Sway because I like how it’s set up out of the box.

My (for now) settling on Manjaro Sway is noteworthy only if you go looking for opinions about Manjaro Linux in general. Because you’ll find plenty people saying not to use Manjaro. That it’s stupid to do so. That there are much better options out there.

And there might be much better options out there–much better options for them.

But, at least for now, Manjaro Sway has been the easiest option for me. That very well may change. But so far, so good.

If nothing else, I appreciate the option to overlay useful keyboard shortcuts that new users may forget, right on your desktop wallpaper.

Manjaro Sway Linux desktop wallpaper with overlay of keyboard shortcuts
‘Look at that subtle coloring. The tasteful thickness. Oh my god. It even has a watermark’ - A sceenshot of the Manjaro Sway Linux desktop wallpaper with overlay of keyboard shortcuts, courtesy of the project’s GitHub repo.

And this brings us to an often-overlooked point about Linux. What’s good about it is what’s bad about it: Choice.

Linux offers a nearly limitless number of choices. You have countless options just within the Ubuntu family tree of distros. And when you consider most distros give the option to install multiple dekstop environments, your options grow exponentially.

When you have so many options, it’s impossible to say which option any one person should or should not use, unless you are intimately familiar with that person’s use case and comfort with new technology.

But online–and especially in the Linux world–you can easily find people shouting from the rooftops about why their opinion is the only right opinion, with only limited context and with no understanding of when their preferred distro may not work for someone else.

My advice is to keep trying different setups until you find the one that works for you. Yes, setting up multiple distros is annoying and time consuming. But you can reduce some of the pain of switching by learning how to back up and restore your Home folder using rsync.

In life in general, the loudest voices are often the ones you should listen to least. The wisest voices are often harder to find. The Linux world is no different. In fact, perhaps the Linux world is the worst example of this universal truth.

Fortunately, cooler heads can be found, even in the Linux world:

As I’ve already said, what’s great about Linux is what’s bad about it. But let’s focus on the positive side. Linux offers an abundance of choice. That means how I Linux is not how you have to Linux.

You can Linux your own way.

Jake LaCaze is on a quest to remind the world that things are far more grey than we are led to believe.


Songspiration

The song that, at least in part, influenced this post:


Other news

In my constant quest to expand my skill set, I’m looking at how I can position myself for jobs in the oil and gas/energy technology sectors.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any ideas.

Namaste.

MobiScribe Wave - The e-ink writing tablet I want to recommend but can't

I’ll always appreciate the MobiScribe Wave as being the device that proved an e-ink tablet has a place in my life, but after nearly five months of use, I’ve realized I can’t recommend the Wave to others. Or, perhaps more accurately, I can recommend it only with specific caveats and to a specific type of person with a specific mindset and specific expectations (basically anyone who’s looking for an affordable e-ink writing tablet, and who doesn’t mind dealing with some tradeoffs).

Let’s take a look at the issues that make this device all but impossible to recommend.

My problems with the MobiScribe Wave

Most, if not all, of my issues with the Wave relate to the software.

Settings

Some settings randomly turn off, including:

  • WiFi
  • Google Play Store

I could understand if the WiFi reset every time the device was restarted, though even that behavior would be unexpected. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to do something requiring the internet (such as downloading an app from the Google Play Store or F-Droid1), only to realize the WiFi had, for some unknown reason, turned itself off.

Speaking of the Google Play Store, the app often disappears from my app listing. Fixing this issue requires opening the settings, selecting the Play Store category, and then clicking a button titled Google Play Store.

A screenshot of the Google Play Store settings on the MobiScribe Wave
A screenshot of the Google Play Store settings on the MobiScribe Wave

Re-enabling the Google Play Store is especially annoying if you do it right after re-enabling the WiFi.

PDF reader

In the Cons section of my original post on the MobiScribe Wave2, I mentioned that the PDF app often opens a previously opened PDF file instead of the PDF file you selected. Fixing this issue requires closing the PDF app and then re-loading the file you wanted to read. While the fix is easy, it’s annoying, especially considering the issue appears to have become more common throughout my usage.

Another issue with PDFs concerns disappearing annotations.

Sometimes annotations may reappear; but more often than not, they appear to be gone forever.

I know I’m not the only one who’s had this issue. See the video below for proof, and a visual explanation of the issue.

One last note about the PDF reader: After the most recent firmware update, the erase button on my Lamy AL-Star stylus no longer works. I now have to select the erase option in the PDF toolbar, which is especially annoying if I’m viewing a PDF file in fullscreen mode (meaning the toolbar is hidden). I then have to exit fullscreen to the reveal the toolbar, select the erase option, and so on and so on . . .

Before the update, I could cut these extra steps by simply pressing the erase button on the side of the stylus. But the removal of this option now makes reduces the value of additional features some styluses may offer.

Lock screen

When I had a security PIN activated, the device would randomly lock, sometimes while writing or annotating. And sometimes it would lock mere seconds after unlocking the device.

To solve this issue, I decided to disable the lock screen and not write anything too secretive. This ‘solution’ makes the device less useful.

Battery

The battery life on the MobiScribe Wave is not great. I don’t know if this is due to a hardware limitation (the capacity of the battery) or if the software isn’t properly optimized for the device. Either way, the battery life is underwhelming.

The good news is that I’ve yet to have the device fully discharge in a single day. An iPad, on the other hand, would likely die after only a few hours of heavy use.

But I wouldn’t expect the MobiScribe Wave to make it through two days of heavy use without a recharge. (One bit of good news: In my experience, the device can easily remain charged for multiple days if idle and unused).

Consumers have come to expect more from e-ink devices in general. It’s not crazy to expect e-ink devices that can go weeks between charges. And all the Wave’s peers–such as the Kindle Scribe, Remarkable 2, and devices from Supernote–appear to offer devices that knock the Wave out of the water in terms of battery life.

It’s gonna be a ‘no’ from me, dawg

All the issues above (and maybe even some others I forgot to mention) make the MobiScribe Wave nearly impossible to recommend. I can’t ask anyone else to part with his or her money for this device.

I’ll continue to make do with mine. But this is an example of someone being only as faithful as his options allow.

Jake LaCaze now knows that an e-ink writing tablet has a place in his daily life. But he thinks his next will be something other than a device from MobiScribe.


  1. F-Droid ↩︎

  2. MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

When real life does not compute

What series of events–what algorithm–led to this bird in my tree?

I often ask this question any time I’m entering or leaving my driveway.

A tiny owl of some sort has decided to make its home in a small tree in my front yard. The tree is really close to the driveway. I could probably jump up and touch the owl if I wanted to, though I wouldn’t, because he very well may chomp off a finger. And I’m quite fond of my fingers.


📝NOTE: My family has taken to calling this bird Hootie. We’ve also defaulted to referring to the owl as a he. We do not know the bird’s gender and all inquiries into the matter have resulted in blank stares. Because the other members of my family value their fingers as much as I value mine, none of us has attempted a physical examination.



Video proof of Hootie

I simply cannot justify why this owl has made his home in the tree in our front yard. There must be far better trees he could have chosen. Trees with higher branches. With better coverage. And these far better trees aren’t far away. Hell, he’d need to look no further than the other side of our front yard.

Yet here he is.

For some strange reason, I feel honored that he’s chosen our tree as his home.

Every morning and evening when I go to and from my car, I look up to see if Hootie is in the tree. And I can’t explain the excitement I felt when one morning I looked into the tree and saw his eyes were open and staring back at me. Up until that point, I’d only seen him with eyes closed as he snored away in broad daylight. Only a few mornings ago, my son who’ll start middle school next year was excited to finally see Hootie’s eyes open.

This whole situation makes zero sense for a couple reasons:

  1. Why is this bird here?

  2. Why does my family care so much?

But we do. It’s something out of the ordinary. It’s a simple pleasure we’ve learned to enjoy.

Yet when I think about this bird-brained situation, I can’t help hearing in my head:

This does not compute. This does not make sense.

If you had told me before this bird showed up that I could be excited about having an owl in my front yard, I would have laughed and said no way.

But the reality is there’s no way I could have optimized for this experience. This experience was not on my radar. Yet it’s something I look forward. It is, in its own way, inspiring.

This situation doesn’t feel like optimization. It feels like serendipity.

But AI in the forms of social media engagement algorithms1 have removed serendipity from our lives and have instead replaced it with the likes of the masses. These algorithms don’t cater to your specific tastes. They offer the most mainstream versions of the content they think you’re interested in, leading to a more-often-than-not generic experience.

Would AI have ever thought to put a bird in my front yard to make me happy?

Maybe, if you ask those who think human beings are just a bunch of data we’re unaware of–and little more. Maybe the data was already there to pick through and make the call. But what if it wasn’t?

This does not compute.

Yet it is.

And I’m so glad.

With each passing day, Jake LaCaze is learning to embrace the joys uncertainty sometimes brings.


  1. Social media engagement algorithms and the illusion of choice on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

Managing expectations with a failure-first mindset

All too often, we contemplate how we want to succeed.

What would you do if you knew you were destined to succeed?

Go do that.

So the wisdom goes.

But sometimes it pays to look at the other end of the spectrum. What if your venture is doomed to fail? For this thought exercise, assume there’s no way to salvage things. You’re going to fail, no matter what. The question is how you’re going to fail. What will that failure look like?

What do you need to do to ensure you can be proud of your failure? When do you need to speak up? When can you take control?

Even if you have control of only 1% of the situation, that 1% is everything. So own it. And do so in a way that lets you hold your head up high when the whole operation blows up around you.

This line of thinking is more useful than daydreaming about immense success, leading to great disappointment when the success doesn’t materialize. A pessimist might say my proposal dooms people to failure, because they’re expecting things to go badly. But I disagree. The point of my thought experiment is to accept the possibility of failure so that you can focus on the process and conduct yourself in a way that makes you proud.

Failure is far more common than we like to admit. The vast majority of new businesses fail within only a few short years. Those who succeed do so because they’ve stopped doing the things they were failing at. The beautiful thing about the failure-first mindset is that it ensures you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you’re wrong. Compare that to the feelings associated with being wrong when you lean into a success-first mindset.

As I recently heard paraphrased on an episode of The Tim Ferris Show featuring Morgan Housel1:

Happiness equals reality minus expectations.

Some people claim failure is never an option. But I argue failure is often the default option. Perfectionism is a fool’s errand. Working to become comfortable with failure is a far better use of time.

So, now I ask you:

What would you do if you knew you were destined to fail?

Go do that.

Jake LaCaze is highly successful at failing.


  1. Morgan Housel on The Tim Ferris Show ↩︎