[VOID] Into the sixth power circle.

Adam Rifkin adam@xent.com
Sun, 9 Dec 2001 15:06:37 -0800 (PST)

 ...yet again, the consciousness gently streams like a rowrowrowyourboat...

I like circles.  A lot.  And it's not just because great minds run in
great circles.

No, I like circles because what goes around, comes around.  I can't
point to a circle's beginning, nor to its end.  I can only point the
circle as a whole, and I can talk of certain points along that circle,
and try to ascertain what they together have to say about the circle as
a whole as time marches on.

Life is walking one's personal circle, while the circle itself is
walking a more universal circle.  Every year I come back to the place I
started, even though the circle I'm on is a year further down its own
circular path, but I get to choose my fixed points in four-space from my
own perspective and use the moment to introspect on what I've learned,
what I forgot to do, and how I want to shift priorities going forward.

Circular logic, to be sure.  But still a worthwhile exercise.

Where was I on previous incarnations of the circle?  At 26, 27, and 28,
I didn't put fingers to keystrokes to bang out phosphors now archived on
the Deep Thought that is the World Wide Web.  At 29, 30, and 31, I did.
Here are some snapshots...

"In case Rohit's forgotten the utility of a good marketeer" -- my circle
at 26-10days:


"There's a slit in my underwear?  Says who?" -- my circle at 27+40days:


"Isn't life a lot better when FoRK is quiet?" -- my circle at 28+9days:


"Flossing is a good time to think" -- my circle at 29:


Said Steve Jobs, "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask
creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty
because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed
obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect
experiences they've had and synthesize new things." -- my circle at 30:


"Who says you can't sleep your way to the top?" -- my circle at 31:


Of the list of startups at the end of that post, Avogadro was consumed
by OpenWave, CrossGain was eaten by BEA, Fleetwire died, GoneSilent was
gutted by Sun, Groove has gotten deeply in bed with Microsoft, and the
rest of the companies are still not sure what they want to be when/if
they grow up.  It is next to impossible to build a software company that
will survive, because the Big Software Companies (TM) swallow or destroy
every Little Company before it has a chance to become a Big Company.

And KnowNow?

KnowNow 3.0 is no more.  In KnowNow 3.0, the Rohits ruled the earth and
the software was to be the kind of thing the average developer would
want.  In KnowNow 4.0, we have fossil records of when the Rohits ruled
the earth, and software is something rich people in rich companies buy
to impress other rich people, presumably in other rich companies.  Say
what you want about Microsoft, at least anyone can afford their software.

In a taste-based culture, you live with the tastes of other people, so
you'd better make sure before you agree to work with them that their
tastes are compatible with your own.  If not, and you can set your
flamethrower to "extra crispy", you'll have a merciless body count.  If
not, and you're disempowered to do anything about it, you will spend 97%
of your time plotting about the future instead of working hard to make
the present happen.  When opportunity costs crossover, everyone's
surprised but you.

KnowNow 3.0 was about "Two Way Web", and I can now safely say that, like
KnowNows 0.1, 1.0, and 2.0, that KnowNow 3.0 is dead.  We lost a bunch
of great minds and a bunch of great ideas.  So far KnowNow 4.0 doesn't
have any "absolute truths", and that creates a very uneasy power
structure because it's not stable.  That KnowNow 4.0 will die is not a
question in my mind anymore; the only questions are whether there will
be a phoenix-like KnowNow 5.0 rising, and if so, what its value system
will be.  How many companies within this one -- all unknown to anyone
outside the company's borders, who see nothing but a stable, unwavering
path -- will we have to destroy before we finally get it right?

KnowNow 4.0 is about "Integration for the Internet."  I can't complain,
but I also can't say it's something I would ever have allowed if I were
in power to do anything about it.  So you could say I've gained a real
appreciation for realpolitik -- to the point that, despite the fact that
I'm vegetarian, I'm learning how to become angry enough not just to
kill, but to relish killing.  I do believe that only if you are able to
enjoy killing, will you be able to do it properly.  This company for the
past 24 months has been slowly and surely turning me into a killer.

Put another way, "Not in the Next Culture."  Whether that Next Culture
is KnowNow 5.0 (the phoenix that comes back after the next round of
bloodshed in this one), ...or whether it be something that doesn't exist
yet.  At this point, I have no idea what happens or when; all I know is
that I can see the "Mexican Standoff" coming -- the point that, like at
the end of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, everyone's pointing their
gun at everyone else and it strictly comes down to a matter of whose
will is the strongest and who's luckiest enough to survive.

In the Next Culture, we take the people whose tastes are not right on an
Absolute Scale (whose very nature implies idiotic proclivities) and we
grind them up for food.  (Now you're asking yourself, if their tastes
are not my own, won't I gag when I consume them?  And the answer of
course is no: most people are just tasteless, and the tasteless go down
very easy.  It's the ones with unbelievably shitty taste that you have
to wash down with gin-n-juice, but thankfully the genuine shitheads are
rare.  Nonetheless, they do exist, and when the time comes to fall on
that grenade, I'll take one for the team.)

Where are all these violent references coming from in my head?

A realization that the energy needed to create (and, conversely, to
destroy) is an extremely violent energy -- that ideas coming out of
their wombs are born violently into the world, struggling for their
first breaths, and that every step in natural selection is a naturally
violent one.  That there is a lot of economical, logical, and social
upheaval within companies is not a coincidence; it is a manifestation of
the cells within the organization that are fighting to take it over.

But this points to a fundamental problem with venture funding: Your
brain gets smart but your head gets dumb.  Put another way, all the
companies I consider "great software companies" -- Microsoft, NeXT,
Intuit, Oracle, Peoplesoft, SAP, Tibco, Lotus, Red Hat -- didn't start
by getting venture funding.  They started by building successful
businesses first, and then taking the funding to grow.  The founders
were in all cases violently uncompromising assholes with egos the size
of Rohit's, and the founding CEO in all cases stayed at the helm of the
company throughout the formative initial years as the company struggled
to survive in a world that's constantly trying to kill it.  On the other
hand, the incentives to keep a founding CEO in a venture-backed startup
simply aren't there.

Why should I care?  Because only a company's CEO has the power to make
radical change in an organization if something's not working.  React
quickly enough, and the company can navigate difficult waters.  React
too slowly and one day you wake up dead.  When Bill Gates or Steve Jobs
put his foot down and said, "This product sucks for these reasons, go
back and fucking fix it", they *had* to fix it or their heads rolled.

Absolute power, combined with uncompromising vision, is what makes great
software companies.


Back when Steve Jobs was still at NeXT, he was interviewed by Robert
X. Cringely for a PBS special called "Triumph of the Nerds" a televised
version of Cringely's brilliant book Accidental Empires: How the Boys of
Silicon Valley Made their Millions, Battled Foreign Competition and
Still Couldn't Get a Date. The best moment in the show came when
Cringely asked Jobs what he thought about Microsoft.

Jobs leaned back, put on his best ironic smile and said, "They have no

There, in four perfect one-syllable words, Jobs not only nailed
Microsoft, but himself as well. True: while Microsoft has no taste, Jobs
has nothing but.

  -- http://www.searls.com/2001_07_hailstorm.html

(The full quote from Jobs in the Triumph of the Nerds PBS Documentary:
"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have
absolutely no taste, and what that means is, I don't mean that in a
small way I mean that in a big way.  I have a problem with the fact that
they just make really third rate products.")



When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.
  -- Winston Churchill


Sometimes you never know what's going through a person's head until you
wear their toupee...

-----Original Message---------------------------------------------------
From: Rohit Khare 
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2001 11:11 AM
To: Adam Rifkin
Subject: Re: Dear Diary 12/9/2001.
It's OK -- I have a clearer hunch that we're going to be 
splitting paths for a while. Perhaps not as drastic as MBA vs 
PhD completion, but I know that I am working waaay under my 
potential. Because my back's not covered -- I am surrounded 
by folks who won't back up my story when I go forth. 
I am convinced Danny techniques will not work here, at 
present. I could be wrong, in absolute terms, but I am 
convinced, nonetheless.
You've always been able to encourage me to work better, 5-10x 
better than I can on my own. You haven't been too eager to 
write in my observation, too. 
You are certainly right that I make you unhappier than you 
could be, by default. 
Your choice -- I'm at a point that I'm not so needy you can't 
do what's right for you for now. 
I almost as certain, though, that you're not going to live up 
to your leadership potential if you're happy. 

-----Original Message---------------------------------------------------
From: Adam Rifkin 
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2001 11:40 AM
To: Rohit Khare
Subject: Re: Dear Diary 12/9/2001.

I don't think we're gonna split paths, actually.  I think we're getting
to the same level of disgust, from very different paths.

The thing about Danny Lewin, according to everyone who knew him, is that
he put his whole heart into it in trying to make something happen,
before he was willing to condemn something as unworkable.  Because he
knew he would always have more ideas, he fleshed out everything as best
he could, whenever he could, for as long as he could.

You will always have more ideas.  Work with me on this one.

I don't give a flying fuck about happiness anymore.  I've come to accept
that my happiness is not a good goal in life.  The happy people are, for
the most part, useless because they check out way too early.  Incindiary
words, to be sure, but when I'm fighting a war I want to lead the angry,
unhappy ones -- they're the ones who are extremely motivated and have
nothing to lose.

You hit the nail on the head.  Shipping great software is a good goal.
Leadership is a better goal.  Making telecom and the Internet available
to six billion people is a great goal.  Pushing the universe toward
self-awareness is the best goal.

I have, am, and will continue to watch your back.  Let me not dice
words: I believe in loyalty, and I believe in faith beyond reason.
Those two principles guide my life.  Yes, we will lose some battles.
But we will win the fucking war, or die trying.



I don't have any idea what we're talking about in those notes, because
I'm seeing two points on a circle without seeing the entire circle as
context.  All I can see is we're driven by faith in a higher cause,
and that the most dangerous people in the world are the ones who aren't
motivated by money, sex, fame, celebrity, glory, or property.


I will never align with another mercenary again as long as I can help it.
I will aspire to only align with the chaplains, preachers, evangelists,
missionaries, cultists, and believers.

Still, as with all good videogames, you have to win in the current
playing level if you want to move onto the next one.  And winning is not
about merely surviving.  Winning is about beating your enemies into
bloody, unrecognizable corpses and burying their tastes and their ideas
along with their bodies.

It's safe to say that living in a war has hardened me to the point of
inappropriateness in a post-911 era.

Yet I want to be clear: I'm not talking about the Dark Side.  Recall
what Yoda said, "Fear is the path to the Dark side. Fear leads to
hate. Hate leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering."

No, I'm talking about the Good Side.  There are times when Good needs to
fight, and fight in a way that's hard, calculating, and disciplined.
The Good Side needs to study its Sun Tzu, and it has to strike
decisively with crushing blows, just as much as the Dark Side does,
perhaps more so, because Good is fighting to make things better.
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, please.

The problem of course is that everyone *thinks* they're on the Good
Side.  Very few people have the fortitude, the courage, the understanding,
the psychological makeup, and the belief beyond reason it takes to find
the Absolute Goods in the Universe worth killing or dying for.  I'm not
certain what they are; I'm just certain, beyond reason, that they're there.

I'm fairly certain that Good Design is an Absolute Good.  We quote again
from the prophet Steve in the Book of Jobs, "To design something really
well, you have to get it.  You have to really grok what it's all about.
It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand
something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don't
take the time to do that."  Amen, brother Jobs, amen.


Now recall what I wrote two years ago:

<waybackmachine time="minustwoyears">


 ...Life is a terminal illness. The terminally ill go through five stages
upon realization of their imminent mortality:


1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Anticipatory Grief
5. Acceptance / Resignation

Each day is like a microcosm of a life, with a journey from start to
finish. You sleep, you wake up, you waste time, you go to sleep and
start again the next day. Sometimes you get a little closer to
acceptance, and sometimes you get a little closer to that creative
pinnacle, but in any case you spend your available time for the chance
of that happening. You travel from the New Otani to the 360 to the
Spinning Bar atop the Westin Bonaventure just for the chance to see how
spectacular a clear winter night can be when the ideas flow free,
knowing in your heart and your mind and your spirit and your soul, that
with acceptance comes calm.


It's important to understand Anger and Grief, but to have moved on to
Resignation, where you have the most power to create and to destroy.
It's the power who possess the power both to create and to destory,
who have the opportunity to become True Vehicles of Change.

The question you have then, since time is finite and mortality is
certain, is what's worth living for, and what's worth dying for,
and use those to motivate the True Vehicles of Change.

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to hide the
bodies of those people I had to kill today because they pissed me off...
and also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today, as they may
be connected to the ass that I may have to kiss tomorrow.

Prioritize and focus only on What's Most Important.  And once you decide
that, either get busy living, or get busy dying.

Said Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, "I care about the
job, but mostly I want to be inspired."  Missionaries, not mercenaries.


My reflection in the mirror is the connection to myself.  And I still
fundamentally believe in the interconnectedness of all things.

Said Ani DiFranco, "I am a poster girl without a poster.  I am 32
flavors and then some."  And now, so am I.

So here it is codified, the Adam-at-32-flavors philosophy in life:

   1. Culture must be actively created and destroyed.  There is no
middle ground.  Philosophy is useless, theology is worse.  Religions
must evolve or die.  Learn the rules of warfare, and be unafraid to
invoke them when needed.

   2. Do something you are passionate about.  Work in life to get to the
place in life where you're *only* doing things you are passionate about.

   3. Take the time to think, to read, to write, and to engage in dialogue.
Analyze as much as you can, and keep producing newly synthesized thoughts.
Keep putting things together in ways no one before you has.

   4. Temper the fact that if you don't understand something you should
keep drilling down and asking questions until you do, with the fact that
you can't know everything.  Surround yourself with people with
complementary skillsets.  If someone asks if you're a God, you say, "YES!!!"

   5. Be patient.  But not too patient.

   6. Draw people in with:
      A. A great, but not overbearing, sense of humor.
      B. Good manners.
      C. Confidence.
      D. Non-threatening appearance.
      E. Smiling.
      F. Eye contact.
      G. Starting a conversation instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
      H. Knowledge about the subjects at hand.
      I. Knowing when to let go.
      J. Not taking yourself too seriously.
      K. Fearlessness.
      L. Respect for cultural differences.

We summarize these traits: "Be desireless, be excellent, and be gone."

   7. Bad Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.

A corollary to BACGAS is: You can get anything done if you don't care
about who gets the credit for it.  (For the record, it was *me* Adam
Rifkin who initially came up with this concept. :)

   8. Codify lessons learned.  Hypothesis, Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.  
Lather, rinse, repeat.  Lessons are repeated until they are learned.
History repeats itself, but each time the price goes up a little more.
Those who forget history are condemned to study it.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

   9. Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.

  10. Never compromise your integrity.  Get out of dodge if ever asked
to do so.


It's quite a world I've constructed here, where to everything there is a
season: plagiarism, dishonesty, destruction, stealing, and killing all
have their time and place.  And yet, to absolutely declare any of these
wrong in all cases is to stop short of understanding the Universal Good
that transcends them all.

If you've got a question, you ask the eight ball.  Just don't ask the
eight ball to tell you whether it's being honest in its answers.

I'm not getting older, I'm just getting bitter.

Things I learned this year:

   1. My drink of choice is a "Ketel One Martini, Straight Up, 3 Olives".

   2. Inside every older person, there's a younger person, wondering what

   3. The wisdom in Homer Simpson's prayer, "Dear Lord, the gods have
been good to me.  As an offering, I present these milk and cookies.  If
you wish me to eat them instead, please give me no sign whatsoever...
thy bidding will be done (munch munch munch)."

   4. When you begin to coast, you know you're on the downgrade.

   5. The price is exorbitant, the pleasure is transitory, and the
position is ridiculous.  Get over it already.

   6. Life is just a mirror, and what you see out there, you must first
see inside of you.  Time spent reflecting is time well spent.

   7. Looks aren't important; it's what kind of hair you have on the
inside that counts.

   8. You can get dressed much quicker in the morning if the night
before when you are going to bed you take off your trousers and
underdrawers at once, leaving the latter inside the former.

   9. If the automobile had followed the same development as computer
software, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per
gallon, and explode once a year killing everyone inside.

  10. Siblings quarrel like thieves inside a house, but outside their
swords leap out in each others' defense.

  11. Underwear should be worn on the inside.

  12. Sometimes when it's raining really hard outside and I'm inside, I
want to find the guy who invented buildings and give him a big kiss.
Not a big wet kiss, though, because that would defeat the whole purpose.

  13. Intel inside, idiot outside.  (Is this sticker a warning label or what?)

  14. Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.

  15. I sit and drink pennyroyal tea, to still the life that's inside of me.

  16. In response to a question about Tequila and the worm inside: "The
only thing I want floating in my beer is my liver."

  17. Inside every small program is a large one struggling to get out.

  18. The object is not to get rich; the object is to build the kind of
culture where I want to work for the rest of my life.

  19. Cliche though it is, despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.

  20. There are degrees of offensiveness, and you can't fix everything.
Focus only on rewarding the rare and punishing that which keeps you from

  21. Inside us there is some secret.  We are following a narrow ledge
around a mountain, we are sailing on skeletal eerie craft over the
buoyant ocean.

  22. Koans are supposed to be triggers which, though they do not contain
enough information in themselves to impart enlightenment, may possibly
be sufficient to unlock the mechanisms inside one's mind that lead to

  23. Life is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  It's
delicious smothered in secret sauce.

  24. Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and
let the food fight it out inside.

  25. It's not the details that matter.  It's the person typing those
details in stream of consciousness that matters.  Put another way, it's
not the shadow, but what's CASTING the shadow that matters.  A person
has to relax the mind and make it all fuzzy to see through the surface
and get to the inside, where all the magic happens.


I just bought a Dell Dimension 4300 Pentium 4 1.6 GHz processor, 512 Meg
SDRAM at 133 MHz, 2 DIMMs, 80 Gig 7200 RPM Ultra ATA Hard Drive,
16x/10x/40x CD-RW, for $1000.  XeNT now has a sister once I get this
baby outta the box and put Debian Linux on it.  I wonder if we should
call XeNT's sister "PeST" as an homage to the old days... woo hoo, a
backup box!

But that's not much of an improvement.  I need more.

Areas for Personal Improvement in 2002:

   1. More discipline.  More aerobics: More remembering to Breathe.

   2. More defending of what's right.  The best defense is a Good offense.

   3. More offending of what's wrong.  The best offense is a Good defense.

   4. More internalization of "Be desireless, be excellent, and be gone."
It applies to so many more facets in life than the movie would have you think.

   5. More networking.  We believe in the interconnectedness of all
things.  Life is about making more connections; be the high valency
node, and you bring the Universe that much closer to self-awareness.
Be more creative about the connections; be more bold about level-jumping.
Crash more parties.  Party crashin' enables spontaneous new connections.

   6. More loyalty and more belief beyond reason.  Time to strengthen my
character set and become the font of wisdom I always want to typeset
with personally.


>From 32 to 64 is life in the sixth power circle.  Time to learn how to
live at the next level.  The nice thing about each new echelon is that
you *can* take what you've learned with you.  The journey is the reward.

Pulling mussels from a shell,


You can look at the menu but you just can't eat 
You can feel the cushions but you can't have a seat 
You can dip your foot in the pool but you can't have a swim 
You can feel the punishment but you can't commit the sin 

And you want her, and she wants you 
We want everyone 
And you want her, and she wants you 
No one, no one, 
No one ever is to blame 

You can build a mansion but you just can't live in 
You're the fastest runner but you're not allowed to win 
Some break the rules and let you count the cost 
The insecurity is the thing that won't get lost 

And you want her, and she wants you 
We want everyone 
And you want her, and she wants you 
No one, no one, 
No one ever is to blame 

You can see the summit but you can't reach it 
It's the last piece of the puzzle but you just can't make it fit 
Doctor says you're cured but you still feel the pain 
Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain 

And you want her, and she wants you 
We want everyone 
And you want her, and she wants you 
No one, no one, 
No one ever is to blame 
No one ever is to blame 
No one ever is to blame 

  -- Howard Jones