William Liao

June 24, 2022

crazy ideas

In his 112-page manifesto titled Do the Work, Steven Pressfield writes “when an idea pops into our head and we think, ‘No, this is too crazy,’… that’s the idea we want.” A perfectly reasonable person might ask the perfectly reasonable question: “why on Earth would someone pursue an idea so crazy that most people wouldn’t bother giving ...
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June 23, 2022

practical questions versus curiosities

A few years ago during an interview with a marketing executive at a medical device company, she asked me: ‘what product color sells the most? Is it green? Is it blue? What about purple?’ Using my background in data analysis I proposed how we could find out, but before I could finish she leaned toward me and whispered: “it doesn’t actua...
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June 22, 2022

what's the problem really?

The problem isn’t how to build a model, it’s figuring out how to keep your customers happier so they’re less likely to churn. The problem isn’t poor prioritization or a cluttered calendar, it’s figuring out how to achieve a result or level of performance that you aren’t achieving yet. The quickest way to become stuck is by confusing a ...
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June 21, 2022

attention

agitation isn’t always a negative trait; acceptance isn’t always a positive trait. the kind of person willing to move mountains to make a change isn’t going to be the one comfortable sitting still — it will always be the one who physically can’t. your restlessness may not be something to contend with, but rather something to leverage.
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June 20, 2022

attention

the value of your attention depends on where you spend it. the number of things that compete for your attention at any given moment is constantly growing: you can pay attention to the phone in your pocket, the e-mail in your inbox, the friend who is calling you right now, the book in front of you, the to-do item in your checklist, etc....
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June 19, 2022

a few things at most

In an investor panel that I recently attended, every panelist emphasized two pieces of advice on succeeding in an endeavor: 1. Don’t try to do all everything at once: when you have 20 things to do, figure out how to pick 10; from 10 figure out how to pick 1 or 2. 2. Picking what to do can be painful: in an ideal world, 1 thing will sti...
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June 18, 2022

you can figure it out (really)

Marie Forleo wrote a great book titled ‘everything is figureoutable’. I love the title because it captures the punchline of the book perfectly: However intimidating or confusing something might be, you can figure it out. When you can approach a problem with full confidence in your ability to find a way forward, you’ve already won half ...
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June 17, 2022

foresight

We have some foresight. We can think about and anticipate some problems and address them. We can’t, however, anticipate everything. Trying to do the latter is easily one of the top reasons why a) we take too long to try something or b) worse — we never try at all. When you try to know everything, you will think your way out of doing an...
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June 16, 2022

decide and act quickly

It’s good to be back. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this last month, and will be making some decisions about what and where my content will be moving forward. Updates coming soon. In the meantime, here is today’s Daily Spark on June 15th — as promised. — It’s hard to know if you’re making the best possible choice. We don’t make dec...
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May 17, 2022

taking 30

I’m going to spend the next 30 days away from writing. Instead, I will use the space I normally hold for writing to do some much-needed reflection on foundational questions like: how do I want to put myself out in the world? what do I want to express? where do I want to express it? and does writing have to be it, or are there other out...
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May 16, 2022

why?

how well we understand something is predicated, at least in part, on our ability to ask good questions about it. basic, but foundational questions like: 1. why is this interesting? 2. if it seems like a problem: why is this a problem? 3. of the things that seem true, why do they seem true? 4. of the things that seem false, why do they ...
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May 14, 2022

New Day's Resolutions

It’s more useful to think of a New Year’s resolution as 365 daily resolutions. In many cases, the first slip-up in the pursuit of a goal can feel like a pass-fail situation. And when we think we’ve failed for good, it’s very hard to get back up. Think about it this way: if your goal is to grow your knowledge by reading daily, how many ...
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May 14, 2022

the point

On the last day of one of my classes in college, the professor offered the class some life advice by way of his own life story: He had a law career that, by many accounts, was very successful. He was on track to become a partner at his firm, he was very well compensated, and he was well-respected amongst his colleagues. But one day, in...
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May 13, 2022

resilience

A colleague that I’ll never forget working with was known amongst his peers for his exceptional work ethic, levity, and joy. He always worked hard but never took himself too seriously. He would fail spectacularly in one moment and then reflect, laugh, and learn the next moment. During stressful times when many colleagues were feeling o...
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May 12, 2022

slack

In 2008, John Cook shared a powerful example of queuing theory: If you have one bank teller, an average of 5.8 customers per hour, and an average of 10 minutes required to serve each customer, customers will have to wait almost five hours — an entire afternoon — before being served. What happens if you add two tellers? Cook explains, ‘...
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May 11, 2022

the forest

One of my favorite adages is “see the forest for the trees.” The ‘trees’ are the finer details, the ‘forest’ is the big picture — what all those details amount to. This adage seems useful for thinking about how we spend our time. The ‘trees’ are the individual activities we engage in — the people we meet, the books we read, the work we...
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May 9, 2022

have fun

In his 2008 TedX Talk, Dr. Stuart Brown astutely pointed out that The New York Times Magazine’s cover story from earlier that year, titled ‘Why Do We Play?’, portrayed several kids engaging in different types of play. Conspicuously missing from the cover were adults. Being playful and being an adult are often portrayed as either-or. To...
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May 8, 2022

You can always choose to add kindness

You may not be able to control what others do, but you can always choose to add kindness to the world instead of hate. You can choose compassion instead of disdain — remembering that everyone is fighting their own battles. You can choose constructive words instead of callous criticism. You can choose to raise others up in earnest inste...
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May 6, 2022

important reminders for rough days

The definition of your best effort can fluctuate on a daily basis. Some days you will accomplish everything (or almost everything) you set out to do. On other days, you might find yourself struggling for any number of reasons. In both cases you are doing what you can — in other words, you’re doing ‘your best’ for that day. On days that...
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May 6, 2022

jumping at shadows

Every Scary Thing you avoid doing is guaranteed to stay scary. Every Scary Thing you choose to go through, for the most part, simultaneously becomes more rewarding and less scary. When you struggle, you learn; when you learn, you adapt. All of this is possible provided that take the most important step: you take a leap — you start.
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May 5, 2022

glass balls

While going over the priorities for a project I was working on in a previous role, my coworker asked me: “which of these priorities are glass balls?” Unfamiliar with the term, I asked him to elaborate. He explained to me that ‘glass balls’ is a term he and his peers had used in the Marine Corps to identify what priorities they couldn’t...
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May 4, 2022

let it go

A couple of years ago, I was complaining to a family member about a frustrating situation that I couldn’t get over. About halfway through my complaining, this family member played “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen and we both burst into laughter. All jokes aside, the exchange offered a valuable lesson that I try to be mindful of ...
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May 3, 2022

Your second life

About a year ago I came across this quote from the Chinese Philosopher, Confucious, that sent chills down my spine: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” It’s easy enough to utter the words, “I have one life”, and a much more difficult task to fully appreciate the implications of that statement. B...
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May 2, 2022

not lukewarm

When you decide to work, strive to achieve the kind of intensity that can only be made possible with 100% of your attention and energy. When you decide to take a break, have the discipline to come to a screeching halt so that you can recover and conserve your energy. To waver between these two modes where you are neither working at you...
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May 1, 2022

the rise and all of importance

It’s easy to overestimate the importance of a problem when it strikes which is why some problems can feel like the end of the world when you’re faced with them. It’s also easy to underestimate how quickly problems stop mattering given enough time, which is why we often don’t realize just how insignificant certain problems are until lat...
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April 29, 2022

you're allowed to make mistakes

Consider for a moment what it would mean to be forbidden to make a mistake. Would that actually stop you from making mistakes? No, because you’re human. Would the mistake you make be totally in vain? No, because there’s almost certainly a lesson to be learned that will help you perform better in the future. The idea of not being allowe...
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April 29, 2022

verse jumping

In the film Everything Everywhere All At Once, the lead character is able to unlock her potential by accessing different versions of herself from different universes. In order to gain access to these different universes, she must envision the version of herself that she wants to become and then do something that she wouldn’t normally d...
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April 28, 2022

always wish others well

For someone that you have an uncomplicated and positive relationship with, it’s probably the easiest and most intuitive for you to want to wish them well. There’s nothing controversial about that. Conversely, for someone that you have an upsetting and difficult relationship with, wishing them well might be among the last things you wan...
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April 27, 2022

give your attention a break

Take this moment as an opportunity to interrupt your regularly scheduled information consumption. Instead, try sitting in silence for just one minute. Sit with your thoughts. In the same way your body needs to recover after a workout, so too does your attention after a day of attempting to stay laser-focused from one task to the next.
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April 26, 2022

stop chasing after the future

Some activities feel like stepping stones to some future state that seems better. A difficult conversation with a friend or coworker might feel like something to “get over with” so that you can arrive at a resolution. During a tough work week, Monday through Friday might feel like days to “get over with” so that you can arrive at the w...
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