Skip to content

M&Ms 62: Happy Birthday

Louie Bacaj
Louie Bacaj
6 min read
M&Ms 62: Happy Birthday

Hey Team,

It's America's birthday in a few days.

America celebrates on the 4th of July, and my birthday is on the fifth of July.

As an immigrant to this country, I figured I would say a few words about what this place is and what it means to me. I always refrain from politics in this newsletter, except for things I believe in deeply, right down to my core.

And one of those things I deeply believe is that America is a great place.

A lot of people make snarky comebacks when I say things like "America is a great place"; they say, "that's just because you haven't been a lot of places." Wrong, I wasn't even born here; I was born in communist Albania. And my work and leisure have now taken me all over the world. Of course, that's not to brag as it doesn't mean much, but the point is that I am not some blind bat seeing America through my echolocations with my eyes closed.

I know we have problems in America, particularly right now; we have more civil issues than ever, at least since I was brought here at ten years old in 1996. But I also know deep down from experience that nothing made by humans is ever perfect, it's all tradeoffs. America just happens to be the best set of tradeoffs that a country could make to survive, thrive, and provide an environment of opportunity for people.

By the way things are disorderly not just here but all over the world—war in Ukraine, instability, and many issues in so many countries. Of course that's not an excuse for our problems but it highlights something important.

America is antifragile, I believe, the most antifragile of all the big countries. And what does that even mean?

Nicholas Taleb, who wrote the book on this titled "Antifragile," said that he needed to coin a new word for things that benefit from disorder. Taleb said that words like robust aren't enough to describe the phenomena of things that benefit from disorder. That's because robust implies that something can survive bad things, but it does not mean it becomes stronger from bad events. So he coined Antifragile to describe things that benefit from disorder and chaos.

So what are some examples of things that might be antifragile and why is America antifragile?

From experience, I can tell you that software systems can be antifragile. I've had to explain to C-Level folks many times that software systems built by competent engineering teams benefit from disorder and chaos. To capable teams, bugs can be good. When a bug is found, these teams not only fix the bug in question but also make it so that the entire class of bugs never occur again. In this way, each new bug discovered makes the whole system much stronger.

America is not too different from this.

In his book, Taleb explains that antifragile systems need shocks to remain resilient.

Your body is antifragile; think about what will happen to your body if you sit around all the time. If you never move or do anything with it. Your body will become brittle, fragile, and prone to various diseases and issues.

And so, while it may seem like the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth in America, it is exactly that instability and back and forth that seems to outsiders like our end is here that makes this place stronger. There are places and systems, like where I was born in communism, where no discourse was allowed at all. And what happened to those places? The moment a big shock hit, the system was gone, it was done for, it collapsed like a house of cards. Leaving the country as the poorest in Europe.

So while many are disappointed with some of the decisions of the United States supreme court right now, remember that there are actually three branches of government here. There is tons of redundancy in baked in this system. Those decisions only open the door for more permanent solutions to become law. That open discourse about where people stand on these issues is important to force lazy politicians to do something.

For these reasons, I am more bullish on America than ever.

America has everything it needs to sustain itself and has the right debates going on that will work themselves out like they always have. In so many other large parts of the world, parts that I have personally visited, these same exact issues exist but are hidden under the surface. Many big global governments try run from these problems like a patient with cardiovascular disease trying to avoid exercise and instead trying their best to smooth their problems out with pills. It wont end well once the real big problems hit.

While I hate politics, I love America. So forgive me but I had to write this and I had to wish this place a happy birthday.

After all, America even gave a poor immigrant, wretch like me, a chance. I'd for sure still be uneducated and dirt poor where I was born.

Three Tweets I loved this week:

Ed reminds us of something deeply important with this tweet.

I have said this before but the smarter you are, the more likely you are to overthink what can go wrong.

That's why you have to create a circuit breaker for overthinking.

The world is far too complicated; overthinking will never get the best results. Only action will.

So stop doubting yourself and take action.

A huge problem I had last year was sharing my wins.

But needing to survive as an entrepreneur pushed even an introvert like me past my fears.

And like Golda Meir reminded us in 1969 "Don't act so humble; you aren't that great"

Raj wrote a Twitter thread that got a little shade because he seems to have committed the cardinal sin of doing everything except the actual thing he is talking about.

He read, watched, and talked to entrepreneurs but didn't become one.

And I love that Sidu is not throwing shade on Raj, but he is throwing a dose of reality on everyone else. Something many don't want to admit, it takes a lot of luck.

And the sooner we accept that it takes a lot of luck, the sooner we can begin to do some of the work to increase our odds.

Three Articles I loved this week:

Brag Doc: Why and How?
I started keeping a Brag Doc at work in Aug 2018. I learned about them from Julia Evans on Twitter. The premise is simple. You’re already doing awesome work, therefore, you should get recognized for it. Since I started, I’ve been promoted every year - except for 1. That year they shut down…

One of my favorite article's this week is by my former colleague Janahan.

It is about how he keeps a “Brag Doc” for work. This was a huge reason he was consistently one of the easiest engineers to for me to have promoted.

It’s why I always say to people:

Add Value and then Make Noise

How To Find A Good Deal On An Investment Property

Stephen Elliot is one of my favorite writers on real-estate, who also happens to be a little crazy.

There is nothing crazy about this article though where he discusses why the best deals on real-estate may be found right now. Not later.

Something I agree with him on.

Three Memes for this week:

The one with the beard in the back is clearly a backend dev.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.


P.S. you can respond directly to this email and I will do my best to reply. I'd love to hear from you.