Business & Money
I was talking with someone over the weekend that said “tech stocks are about to crash.” I wanted to pin a gold star on his/her chest emblazoned with word “Nostradamus.”
Predicting what’s going to happen in the market is easy. I mean seriously easy. Here are a few other predictions that you can take to the bank:
Retail, as a category, will recover from the current slump.
Crypto will see a serious correction.
Facebook will fail, or at least become a shadow of its current form.
All dips in the market eventually bounce, and all high flyers eventually lose steam. The prediction isn’t the hard part. Investing is all about timing. Whether you make or lose money is all about when you buy and sell.
So going back to the person I mentioned at the top of this section, what I’d be really curious to understand is that person’s definition of “about to.” Because I agree, tech stocks are “about to” crash. Valuations ARE quite lofty and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a correction in the short term. However, if I think about Amazon as an example, I plan to hold that stock for the next decade at the very least. And when the inevitable correction comes, I will likely add to my position to take advantage of the short-term drawdown.
Education is one vertical that hasn’t benefitted from digital transformation in the same way that other verticals have. Classrooms and the education system more broadly look much as they did 100 years ago. And it really sucks that this is the case because higher education is likely the best way for an individual to achieve upward mobility.
The most frustrating part of this story is that we have all of the tools to make digital education a reality. Students all walk around with supercomputers in their pockets. We have cloud computing and cheap internet access. There’s no shortage of students thirsty for knowledge and and no shortage of educational resources to quench that thirst.
Now it isn’t all doom and gloom. For years now we’ve seen glimmers of hope from online learning platforms like Udemy and EdX. Their user numbers have grown exponentially and they power the ability for continuous learning in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Then there are companies like General Assembly and Hack Reactor that have built immersive certificate programs allowing people to quickly gain new skills and jump-start careers.
Many colleges and universities are even offering their courses online in the form of MOOCs, or massive open online courses. And while this is a great thing, too many are simply uploading lectures and coursework to the internet thinking that will be enough. But it won’t. True digital education at scale will require an approach from first principles.
I’m happy to say that I recently became aware of a company called 2U that is taking such an approach. 2U takes the engineering prowess and agility of a Silicon Valley upstart, and combines it with the centuries-old knowledge and faculty of top universities. In other words, they’ve built a software platform and suite of services that work to accelerate digital transformation at some of the best universities in existence, including Harvard, Northwestern, NYU, and Georgetown. Take a read of the CEO letter from 2U’s 2016 annual report.
And do you want to know what makes me really gitty about 2U, this is marketplace business with serious network effects. The more degree programs offered by 2U, the more students will be attracted to online education. And more students will attract more schools to participate and more degree programs from existing partners. And to sprinkle a cherry on top, 2U will be collecting tons of data along the way about what markets need what programs, which programs are doing well, which degrees lead to job placements, etc. If Google, Facebook, Amazon, and all the platform businesses have taught us anything, it’s that network effects combined with massive datasets pave the way for machine learning to speed up the flywheel.
And the flywheel has only begun. Founded only 9 years ago, 2U has about $200 million in revenue across 24 degree programs from 18 university partners. Revenue growth has been insane and that degree program number will more than triple by 2020.
Ps this isn’t some small scrappy startup. TWOU is a public company and you can come along for the ride! (disclosure: long TWOU)
I’ve gotten the question a few times recently that asks how to transition from guided to unguided meditation. That is, to transition from wearing headphones and listening to instructions, to simply sitting down in silence left to your own devices. The guided sort are great, but the challenge there becomes the fact that you are reliant on the guide and/or the instructions. So then if your phone dies or you forget your headphones, your meditation practice suffers.
So in response to those questions, I’ll outline my process here (I’m no meditation expert – I’ve simply borrowed bits and pieces from things I’ve read and/or guided meditations I’ve done):
First, I usually just sit down to a few deep breaths to relax my mind and body. I tend to do these loudly enough so that someone could hear them if they were sitting close by. For me, these breaths help to release any built up tension and get settled.
Next, I move to checking in with all of the sounds in the room. Those sounds usually consist of buzzing appliances, vehicles outside, my dog walking around, plumbing, and many other things. But the point is not to identify each sound and it’s source, but simply to notice them. It’s pretty remarkable how many sounds there are at any given moment that we are generally oblivious to during the course of regular life.
Next, I check in with my body. I can usually feel the pressure of the floor on my ankle bones more so than any other point of contact. Sometimes there is soreness in my lower back. I can feel my chest and lungs expanding and contracting with each breath. If I pay especially close attention to my breath, the expanding feeling can even be felt in my shoulders and my back. In fact, you can almost feel it throughout your entire body.
Finally, I move to checking in with my mind. Sometimes it’s restless and thoughts about the coming day try to creep into awareness. Sometimes there’s fatigue and a feeling that I haven’t fully woken up yet. Other times a bit of apprehension if I know my schedule is jam packed. On the best days, there’s just an overwhelming sense of calm, relaxation, and simple presence.
What you’ll notice from reading the above is that there aren’t any special tricks. It’s mostly just noticing what’s happening and being present. Checking in with the sounds, physical discomforts, and the movements of the mind simply point your awareness at the here and now. And with each new sounds or sensation, the idea is to simply notice it and move on. A great meditation session is not the absence of all of those things that creep up, but simply the ability to notice them for what they are, without allowing any fixation, emotional connotation, or the like.
I hope this helps.
My Latest Discovery
The new iPhone is pretty magical. My favorite part is FaceID. Before the haters jump in, Yes, Apple was NOT first to market with this technology. But as usual, they’ve done it perfectly and made it magical. An example of this is when you get those notifications that pop up on your lock screen. I just got a pop-up for an upcoming calendar event, and when I glanced at my phone, it automatically unlocked to reveal the true content of the calendar notification. That feels like magic.
With so many things being awesome, there are also a few things that suck. One of those is that the control panel is in the top right corner. With the added screen real estate, it’s a pretty far journey for my thumb to make it to the top right corner of the screen. I’m hoping one of you kind readers has a trick for me to get around this.