Juan David Campolargo

Most Curious Curiosities I Learned in 2020

I send an email called The Weekly Memos.

The most popular part of the newsletter is a section called, “Curiosities.”

It’s, of course, curious, thought-provoking, and surprising. This is a collection of the most popular curiosities I shared in 2020. 

Subscribe here if you want to see ideas like this every week.

Common Sense Isn’t So Common

The less smart you try to sound, the smarter you will be. From Nassim Taleb:

“Common sense is nothing but a collection of misconceptions acquired by age eighteen. Furthermore, What sounds intelligent in a conversation or a meeting, or, particularly, in the media, is suspicious.”

Stay Focused in the Social Media/Email Era

Want to do focused and deep work? From Stanford professor, Donald E. Knuth:

“I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.

Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration.”

Break Free From Depression and Anxiety

This year made us see a side of we didn’t know we had. Especially as quarantine started, many people became hopeless and anxious. Be sure to remember this quote from Lao Tzu:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Why Some Ideas (or Viruses) Spread and Others Don’

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.

  1. Contagiousness

Ideas (or viruses) that spread widely are very contagious. If you figure out how to make something sticky and contagious. You’re 50% more likely to succeed in spreading your idea.

  1. Word of Mouth

If it’s contagious, you need something else to make it happen (or at least looks like it happen) suddenly. That is word of mouth. Figure out why people share what they share. Figure out why people talk about what they talk about.

  1. Unexpected

Ideas that spread rapidly are usually unexpected (Black Swan like). Or at least they look like they are. If it’s contagious and you figure out an organic way to make people talk about it. It will probably happen very fast and it will look like a Black Swan.

Everyone should understand why and how certain ideas/trends/viruses spread. You will certainly have less headaches.

A Modern Polymath

Bill Gates described him as the smartest man he knew.

Introducing Nathan Myhrvold:

Dr. Myhrvold says that one of the things that spark creativity is taking ideas from one place and applying them to another place.

I’m always working on many projects, sometimes they could seem totally unrelated.

The power of focusing on many ideas simultaneously is grossly underrated. Especially in a society that rewards overspecialization. The most creative breakthroughs come from the polymaths who are able to make connections across fields.

It’s truly a comparative advantage.

If You Could Have a Superpower. What Would It Be?

Mine would be imagination, which we already have.

I’d choose imagination over other superpowers such as flying or invisibility. Imagination is the unbelievable ability to see what doesn’t exist yet. Using imagination, you can see what’s not there and what could be there.

Creativity is the ability to imagine the world. First, imagine, then build.

Finding Business Ideas by Finding Problems Don’t start a business just because you want. Find a problem instead. Eric Jorgenson shares these questions to find business ideas:

Using Forests to Attract Aliens

The famous mathematician Gauss wanted to take forests and draw the Pythagorean theorem so that if aliens approach Earth, they can say, “Wow, they seem to know math.”

-- Make a PDF Look Hand-Signed and Scanned

Sometimes we have to print, sign, scan and send by email a high number of pages. To save trees, ink, and time.

Edouard Klein wrote this script. It’s incredible. You can make it look like a PDF has been hand signed and scanned.

Where The Word “Mother” Comes From

The word ‘mother’ comes from the Old English mōdor. All the words for ‘mother’ all have their roots in the sound ‘mama,’ which can be recognized in almost any language. Pronunciation can vary, but they all have the same sound of consecutive m’s and a’s. In Spanish, Russian, Greek, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch mother is, “mama”. Even in Mandarin sounds like 妈妈 (māmā).

The reason? “m” sounds are the easiest to produce.

Want To Think Better? Change The People You Think With

I realized that the quality of our thinking heavily depends on the people we think with.

Ask yourself these two questions:

How To Create a Billion Dollar Company?

The founder of Twitter, Blogger, and Medium explains in this presentation how he started his entrepreneurial journey by using the internet. He also explains and gives insights on how to create a billion-dollar company by 1) finding a human desire, 2) making it convenient.

Get Internships/Jobs Without Applying_

My friend Avthar wrote a strategic way to get that job or internship. He says:

“Having an online portfolio of content (blog, essays, podcasts, videos, interviews, designs, art etc) that demonstrates your thinking, personality and execution abilities is more important than having a traditionally impressive resume, with degrees from the ‘right school’ or stints at prestigious companies.”

Difficulty of SpaceX Landings

To land a rocket, as SpaceX does, it’s like dropping a pencil off of the Empire State Building and landing it on its eraser on a napkin.

The Most Important Thing Every Human Should Understand

The most important thing every human should understand is that most people used to be very poor. Now, most people are very rich.

If you think you’re poor, you’re probably richer than John D. Rockefeller. As simple as that.

What People Thought Caused The Black Death

I couldn’t believe this one:

“In 1348 Philip VI turned to the faculty of the University of Paris for an explanation of why the Black Death was sweeping his kingdom.

The medical team reported that the outbreak of plague was beyond the ability of humans to control: it was caused by the conjunction of three planets in the sign of Aquarius, which, along with other conjunctions and eclipses, had produced a pernicious corruption of the air. They dated the cause of the epidemic to one o’clock on the afternoon of March 20, 1345, when the deadly alignment of heavenly bodies occurred.”

Excerpt from Miracle Cures.

I can only imagine what future generations will think COVID-19.

What Makes Invention Possible? Three things —> Knowledge, Method, and Inspiration.

And maybe Financing.

Conservative vs. Innovative Forces

We’ve seen a rise in tension between life and institutions.

Then, two ways of thinking arise: Conservatives forces and Innovative forces.

Conservative forces consider the importance of the past to re-establish order. Innovative forces, aware of the need to reinvent new structures, forget what has been achieved and acquired and also forget the experience of the past.

We should only have one thing in mind: WHAT ACTUALLY CAUSES PROGRESS.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Timeline for the 21st Century

Beyond judging, if we are achieving some of these things, this timeline is a great way to see where we should be spending our time and energy as a society. Honestly, they would be cool projects too.

Australia & Pluto

Planets with perspective.

Surfing on Future Technologies

The most interesting and valuable technologies aren't buzzwords like A.I, robotics, or cryptocurrencies

The most valuable technologies of the next several decades are only known to a few specialists today

Here are the good news. These people might have invented or discovered them. But they probably won't commercialize them. That's the challenge for us.

How can we make X useful and commercially viable? That's the real opportunity.

Creating the Surfboard

To commercialize and make these opportunities useful, we need to be early in these technologies. How?

And of course, you need to believe in yourself when most people will not.

Why Weren’t Whites Enslaved by Blacks?

Why are whites somehow so powerful?

Joel Mokyr, a Northwestern economics professor, gave a presentation about this topic. He explained that the Europeans had a culture and way to think that allowed them to thrive like any other culture before.

Dr. Mokyr shared 3 Important Attitudes:

By 1450 Europe had rediscovered the learnings of ancient Greece and Rome. They realized there was wisdom but a lot of mistakes.

Europeans from early times were willing to learn from other civilizations, they adopted (stole) and then went to improve them. Europeans started to travel and learned to make Indian Cotton, Chinese Silks and porcelains, and many crops from the Western Hemisphere.

They wanted to learn and then copy and adopt new forms of technology and medicine.

Scientists like Newton became celebrities.

Alternative Path to a High A Net Worth

“Firmly believe the most certain path to building a high net worth ($10M plus) is buying a small business at a relatively young age”

Brandon who has applied this strategy over and over again wrote on how to execute it.

If this sounds interesting to you, send me an email and I’ll share other resources I’ve found.

The Milky Ways in Different Wavelengths

How to Set Goals?

How do you set your goals? Do you have a process? Or you let life happen to you? I’m more of the goal type of guy.

Zig Ziglar developed a 7-step process to set goals. Take a look:








Where Did Dinosaurs Go?Asteroids, right? Not so fast.

The belief that dinosaurs died because of an asteroid is recent. People thought dinosaurs died because they had little brains.

Eugene Shoemaker made the asteroid hypothesis. Then, oil companies also discovered a rim that went around the gulf of Mexico which led us to understand where the asteroid hit the world and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Why Did Tik Tok Become Successful? Tik Tok’s level of understanding of human psychology is impeccable, which explains how they’re disrupting the social media space. Ben Thompson explains:

On Making Decisions: Be Like A Cloud

Alan Watts beautifully says:

“You do not know where your decisions come from. They pop up like hiccups. And people have a great deal of anxiety about making decisions. Did I think this over long enough? Did I take enough data into consideration? And if you think it through, you find you never could take enough data into consideration. The data for a decision for any given situation is infinite. So what you do is, you go through the motions of thinking out what you will do about this.

Worriers are people who think of all the variables beyond their control, and what might happen.

Choice is the act of hesitation that we make before making a decision. It is a mental wobble. And so we are always in a dither of doubt as to whether we are behaving the right way, or doing the right thing, and so on and so forth…and lack a certain kind of self-confidence. And if you see you lack self-confidence, you will make mistakes through sheer fumbling. If you do have self-confidence you may get away with doing entirely the wrong thing.

You have to regard yourself as a cloud, in the flesh. Because you see, clouds never make mistakes. Did you ever see a cloud that is misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave? No, they always do the right thing. But if you would treat yourself for a while as a cloud or wave, and realize you can’t make a mistake, whatever you do, cause even if you do something that seems to be totally disastrous, it will all come out in the wash somehow or other.

Then through this capacity, you will develop a kind of confidence, and through confidence, you will be able to trust your own intuition. But this is the middle way, of knowing it has nothing to do with your decision to do this or not, whether you decide you can’t make a mistake or whether you don’t decide it, it is true anyway, that you are like cloud and water. And through that realization, without overcompensating in the other direction, you will come to the point of where you begin to be on good terms with your own being and to be able to trust your own brain.”  

How To Deal With Probabilities?

Amos Tversky who was a cognitive and mathematical psychologist said once that, “In dealing with probabilities…most people only have three settings: “gonna happen,” “not gonna happen,” and “maybe.”

What Should Be The Purposes of a good Educational System?

From Deschooling Society:

A good educational system should have three purposes:

  1. It should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives;

  2. Empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally,

  3. Furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known

Working with Your Open Opened/Closed

It reminds of Hamming’s analogy about working with the door open or the door closed. Hamming noticed that if you have the door closed, you get more done but later down the road you don’t know what is worth working on. While if you work with the door open, you get interrupted all the time, but you also get clues about what’s important.

He says:

“I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing - not much, but enough that they miss fame.”

Best Resources To Learn Programming/Computer Science

Fireworks Have Become Brighter

If you think life has become more colorful, you’d be right. Not only do TVs have colors, but fireworks have also become brighter and more intense.


The formation of metal chlorides during the burning process. The gaseous metal chloride molecules are way more vibrant than the atoms themselves.

Where “Living in the Present” Might Be Coming From

“The poor have always had to live for the present, but now a desperate concern for personal survival, sometimes disguised as hedonism, engulfs the middle class as well.”

From one of the best books I’ve read this year called The Culture of Narcissism

Where “Living in the Present” Might Be Coming From

“The poor have always had to live for the present, but now a desperate concern for personal survival, sometimes disguised as hedonism, engulfs the middle class as well.”

From one of the best books I’ve read this year called The Culture of Narcissism. 

180° View of Life

"Success is largely the failures you avoid.

Health is the injuries you don't sustain.

Wealth is the purchases you don't make.

Happiness is the objects you don't desire.

Peace of mind is the arguments you don't engage.

Avoid the bad to protect the good."

-Morgan Housel

Time Breakdown of a Long Human Life

We spend way too much time “taking care of the human pet.”

You Can’t Be The Average of Your Average

I talked to the co-founder of Twitch and the CEO of YCombinator, and he shared a powerful and counterintuitive about being the best at what you do, especially in startups.

He suggested that if you’re starting a startup or play in the NBA. You can’t be the average of people around you. Imagine being the average of your high school or college basketball team. YOU WON’T MAKE IT.

Similarly, the average outcome in startups is DEATH.

What Should You Work On?

Having trouble deciding where to find ideas? Here’s an idea from Simon Sarris:

“Make the world better for average people. The lowest hanging fruit in the progress of many endeavors is forgotten because the average person is often forgotten.

It's worth starting to explore the area by simply asking ourselves, what products, apps, etc, have improved the lives of the average person (barely online, barely tech literate) the most in the past 10 years? How? How are they different from the ones that have improved our (presumably tech-literate) lives?”

Mighty Dragons are Little Princesses

"Perhaps all the dragons in our life are princesses who are only waiting for us to be radiant with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is at bottomless helpless, waiting for our help."

From a fantabulous book called Letters To A Young Poet.

Why We Shouldn’t Distrust the World

Another quote from Letters To A Young Poet!

"We have no reason to distrust our world because it is not against us. If it contains frightful things, these frights are our frights, if it contains abysses, these abysses belong to us, if there are dangers we must try to love them."

From Letters To A Young Poet.

Who Rejects a Nobel Prize?

Only a patriotic bold man.

I learned about a fellow Venezuelan who was one of the lead investigators of the Nasa Apollo Project and taught in many universities such as MIT and UChicago. He was the first person to use the concept of cryo-ultramicrotomy and contributed to the development of the electron microscope.

What stands out the most about Humberto Fernández-Morán is that he rejected a Nobel Prize because he was required to reject his Venezuelan nationality to acquire it.

Take Control of your Phone

I’ve been thinking a lot about the dangers of social media and our phones. They can be great but we need to be careful!

College Isn’t About Learning Useful Stuff

I talked to Nir Eyal (best-selling author of Hooked and investor of Eventbrite, Kahoot, and others) where I asked him for advice, specifically on college.

He said, “Undergrad is about dedication and commitment to finish.” It’s not really about learning. He then says, “It’s about signaling you can achieve something solid.”

Forget about your passion or calling, it’s about DISCIPLINE. And the discipline gets easier when you study a topic you’re curious about.

Is Innovation in Human Nature? Anton Howes explains:

“I disagree. The more I study the lives of British innovators, the more convinced I am that innovation is not in human nature, but is instead received. People innovate because they are inspired to do so — it is an idea that is transmitted. And when people do not innovate, it is often simply because it never occurs to them to do so.”



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Tags: annual curiosities