Sebastian Marshall [sebastianmarshall]
What is your profession? What is your title printed on your business card?
Currently running projects in technology, research, philanthropy, writing a lot, and getting in the occasional fistfight.
What did you study and why did you choose to study that field?
I've been a hustler since forever... starting at the bottom and working my way up never appealed to me. I'm all about paying my dues, but I think as soon as you can deliver results, you promote yourself. Bureaucracies see things differently. Dropped out of high school and started doing odds and ends and working at age 16, started my first company at late 18/early 19 years old... I love working for myself and with other talented people, setting my own schedule, controlling my own destiny. It's HARD though, don't get me wrong. Maybe I'd have more money and an easier life if I'd taken some of the good job offers I've gotten. But I love the life I've built, I've done some really cool and crazy stuff with really cool and crazy people, and being able to set my own schedule, direct my own work, be held to a ruthlessly high standard... I love it.
What is expected of you in your job, and how do you accomplish it?
All depends on what I'm working on that day. That's the trickiest thing about working for yourself - there's 10,000 things you COULD do, and you have to pick the one you're going to work on at the moment. Infinite amount of things to second guess, or to have an opportunity cost about... that's tough, you've got to pick something and then execute, but it's enjoyable too.
What links do you have on the Internet: website, blog, social networks?
Blog and personal website:
Hacker News (lots of my best comments and analysis here):
I'm also on Quora and LessWrong. "Sebastian Marshall" on Quora, "lionhearted" on LessWrong. But definitely start with http://www.sebastianmarshall.com if you want to learn more.
Are you satisfied with the education that you received?
Is this a trick question?
Always gotta learn more, keep learning, keep growing. Formal education in the United States is a clownshow though. Really, it's a joke. They could announce that they were going to scrap all the schools at the end of the year with no transition, and a better system would be in place January 1st. It's that bad. It's anti-learning, it fosters obedience and kills creativity and makes people afraid. I don't have many regrets in life, but one of them is that I didn't have enough guts and will to drop out and self-study starting at age 12. I plan to take my kids out of any sort of mainstream schooling by age 12 - they'll still need a way to connect socially, but you can learn MUCH more than you would getting taught by those knuckleheads in the school system on your own. Maybe a tutor for math and writing, and let the kids self-study history, governance, economics, strategy, health, science, etc.
In which tasks are you good at, and in which could you better yourself?
Oh man, that's a long question. The overarching theme of my professional life is that I'm a strategist - I elaborated on this here:
"Me? I'm a strategist"
That should give a general idea.
Do you usually attended seminars or coursework to advance your professional work or would you consider yourself a more self-taught person?
A mix of self taught and I look to constantly meet and share and learn with smart people. I like getting together with people who are good at what they do, ask smart questions, offer them my expertise in the areas I'm good at, learn in the areas they're good at. Coursework and focused study is good too, if you respect who you're studying under. I haven't been to many seminars just because I never really had the time for it, but I think I'd enjoy going to more in the future.
When did you realise that your work was being considered important and that it could possibly take you places?
16 years old... even then, I realized my life energy was slowly bleeding away in schools, so I dropped out to read lots of books, self-teach important stuff, travel around the USA a little bit... just scrapping and struggling and doing what I can to survive. I re-geared even more in 2009, taking a down year away from work to study rationality, biochemistry, martial arts, lots of different eras of history, and looking to do more and bigger things.
Who have been the most influential people in your career?
I've had a lot of friends and mentors and colleagues who were excellent. I also read lots of history - I think history shows us what's possible. I study the Sengoku (Warring States) era of Japanese history, lots of strong men there. Zhuge Liang and Confucious, Jefferson and Washington and Franklin, Saladin, Shah Jahan, the Rockefeller and Medici and Rothschild families, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon, and lots more. I study lots of history. History is the only way to know what's really possible, most people sell themselves and their lives short.
With which types of persons do you feel you work well with as a team?
People who are consistent, persistent, decisive, ambitious, and loyal. Also, FAST. I don't like dragging ass on things. Let's do something, get it done, on to the next thing.
Which goals have you focused on in your professional career?
I'm working to be the greatest strategist of this generation. That means learning a WIDE variety of fields - business, entrepreneurship, commerce, economics, warfare, strategy, tactics, operation, logistics, marketing, sales, prestige, speaking, writing, art, science, applied sciences and engineering, math (especially statistics), language, history, lots more.
Which publications associated with your field do you regularly read?
I read a lot. Whenever possible, I try to read classic works instead of modern works... I think people really underestimate how good the classics are that have stood the test of time. It surprises me that so few people have read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Carl von Clauswitz's "On War" is very good for clear thinking too. Lots of great history and philosophy and strategy has come out of Europe, the Middle East, and China especially, and other places too.
For more modern things, I spend lots of time on Hacker News and LessWrong which is a rationality community. I don't read the news so much, but usually the Wall Street Journal if I do read. For periodicals, I usually don't read any particular periodical regularly until I get into a subject, and then I go get a few years worth of material on that subject and go through it all pretty quickly. Even the best publications usually have a lot of fluff in them, I'd rather have a stack of 20 issues I move through quickly.
Which languages do you speak, and how have you learned them?
English. German through a mix of classes and time in Berlin. Japanese self-taught through time in Japan. Smatterings of other languages of the countries I've traveled through.
Do you have a website or blog? How was the process in making it? Does it accomplish the purpose for which it was created?
http://sebastianmarshall.com - website/blog. I started it, and committed to writing every day... you improve and iterate really fast if you do something every day, and I haven't missed a day yet. It's achieving the goals I set for it, yes.
How do you feel about speaking in front of an audience? What experience have you had in this arena?
I love speaking. I've done a fair bit of it, but I'd like to do more. It's great to connect with an audience, really feel it, give a great talk.
Traveling through Asia