Once in Baqueira, a ski resort in Spain I had a ski instructor who kept criticizing whatever I did. Not a word of praise no matter how hard I tried to improve. In the middle of the lesson after he told me that “all my years of ski lessons were futile and I hadn’t learned anything”, I looked at him in the face and told him “you are fired”.

He could not believe me. I stared at him and said “I hired you to learn, not to get trashed, please go, I would rather ski with my family”. And he left. And I had a good day of skiing.

I don’t believe that learning should be demoralizing: criticism should always be balanced with praise.

As a person who lived in USA and Spain I should add that US instructors are generally uplifting. Unfortunately a lot of teachers in Spain believe that praise spoils the student. As a result many in Spain are demoralized.

There is a myth going around that Greece went bust because of the size of its welfare state. And the extension of this myth is that sound finances are incompatible with a sizable welfare state. That it is the welfare state itself that is making other countries such as Spain and Italy approach bankruptcy. But this is not true, many European countries have a bigger welfare state in relation to GDP. Greece did not go bust because of the size of its welfare state in relation to GDP but because of the size of its debt in relation to GDP. Countries can choose to be more or less socialist. What they cannot choose is to be socialist when they can’t afford it. Nordic countries are more socialist than Greece, but they provision for their generosity.

Do read this post that I have in Google+. It’s about humanity and how peaceful it is now compared to other times in our history. Concretely it’s about the declining rate of casualties of war and armed conflict over time since WWII. The rate of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants has been falling drastically. Then rejoice. Then read the comments and see the widespread skepticism about this good news. People just can’t believe that we are now living in remarkably peaceful times compared to what we have gone through. That the probability of a random human being of dying in war is lower than ever.

Still I believe in this news. I am happy that my children do not go through what my grandparents went through living in the time of WWII. I guess that one of the characteristics that distinguishes entrepreneurs who do well, myself included, and the general population is that we are more prone to believe in good news. We love good news. We celebrate good news. Most people seem programmed to like and believe in bad news. I guess a headline that read “Most of humanity woke up today, had a normal day and went to sleep” would not get a lot of attention. But it makes me happy.

This is the year in which Europe will either fall apart or emerged stronger. I give it 75% that it emerges as a stronger union but the risk of collapse is still there. Germany has the key to solve the problem because of the size of its economy, its saving rate and its export volume. Germany has to decide on whether it continues to transfer some of its wealth in order to create markets for its exports or it let’s Europe fall apart and ends up with an overvalued currency and deteriorated markets. Already today it started paying negative interest rates which is a prelude in my view to a huge rise in the DM should it be born again. Tough choice. I think Germany can actually both save Europe and make money by buying underpriced Italian and Spanish bonds and selling them after stabilization. It can do what the FED did with many financial institutions, make a profit by providing much needed liquidity at a critical time.

Most people who are concerned about the health effects of food are concerned about the quality of the food they eat. But in the vast majority of cases where food sickens or kills people, it is not the quality of the food they eat but the quantity. Why are all diets about eating something different of what people normally eat? Why isn’t there a simple diet that says, eat whatever you normally eat but less. And not much less, not starving less, but just a little less, so you may get into a new eating habit for the rest of your life and not just during the diet. So you change nothing but eat a slightly smaller amount. That is my diet. My weight is incredibly constant over the years, I just eat the same diet every day. And when I don’t work out, I just eat the same but in smaller amounts.

It’s not what people eat that kills them, the global obesity epidemic and its toll on life is happening because of how much people eat.

When I was growing up, Americans and Europeans used to be concerned about the strength of their potential enemies. Russia, China were feared for their ability to fight us in a conventional and nuclear war. Now, surprisingly we worry about weakness of our enemies, we worry about failed states. Who would have said in the 80s that the biggest worries of USA and UE now would have been countries like Yemen or Afghanistan?

Tonight in Paris, at dinner with @loic @geraldine and @ninavarsavsky, we spoke about attitudes towards failure in USA and Europe.  In Europe it’s still terrible to fail and that is bad because failure is an essential part of success (think of all the sperm that fail to make a child).  But in Silicon Valley, failure is becoming too much of the opposite:  too accepted, people are not trying hard enough, too many start ups are getting funded as if VC’s knew there were bound to fail but went ahead anyway.  In Europe now we are more like in Silicon Valley in 2006 when Fon got funded.  Back then it was not that easy to get started.   And that may not be all that bad.  Failure has to be accepted, but not encouraged!

I don’t understand why the Obama administration had to say that Osama Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed, that he was not threatening the life of the soldiers who were in the compound. Why feed the terrorists with stories that they can use for recruitment purposes? Why not just say that he died in the operation without giving more details than that?

Terrorism is an industry and its main input is angry young men. USA has to realize that certain moves, like Abu Gharb publicized pictures, Guantanamo tortures, air bombings in Fallujah, killing of thousands of innocent civilians in the search terrorists in Afghanistan, and now saying that Osama Bin Laden was unarmed, all these are the stories that feed the terrorists at their key moment, recruitment.

If the purpose is to disengage with terrorism USA should not make it easier for terrorist recruiters to get new people who hate USA.  Al Qaeda’s life used to be much harder when all they had to say was “The infidels are in the holy land so let’s go and murder thousands of them when they go to work”.  Let’s fight them without giving them arguments to multiply and grow.  USA should study the many terrorist movements in Latin America and Europe that ended up completely extinguished.  It was not revenge that did it.  It was careful management of public opinion combined with effective police and judicial efforts.  While my preference would have been to put Osama Bin Laden on trial I can also agree with those who said that capturing him would have made terrorists do all sorts of hijackings and threats to public safety.  But if that is what drove the administration to decide to kill him, then why decrease public safety by confessing that he was murdered and making terrorists even more angry?.

Even though there is a civil war going on in Libya and global powers are divided on a course of action, there seems to be remarkable agreement that whatever is going on in Libya is, for everyone who has something to say about it,  “unacceptable”.

-Obama calls the bloodshed in Libya unacceptable.

-at the same time Gaddafi calls the Arab League support for a no fly zone unacceptable.

-and the Russians are calling outside meddling in Libya unacceptable.

-David Cameron has called Gaddafi’s regime unacceptable.

-Lastly, possible GOP presidential rival of Haley Barbour called the price of gasoline resulting from the Libya conflict unacceptable.

Now my question is, if what’s going on in Libya is so unacceptable to everybody.  Why is it still going on?

Added a day later, Iran gets into the game calling foreign soldier intervention in Bahrain “unacceptable”

I am planning to write a post on Quora but want to get better at understanding it before I do. Still here is a first observation. After 3 years on Twitter I have around 26,000 followers. On Quora I am getting around 200 per day and that is at the very start of Quora. At this rate it will take me less than half a year to have as many followers in Quora as I have in Twitter. Especially considering that the rate will likely go up as it did with Twitter. This I find shocking. Facebook had a slow start. Twitter had a slow start. Still they are both gigantic now. What is going on with Quora that is growing so fast so quickly? Will it be the next big thing? Will it fizzle out like Chatroulette? Should I ask that on Quora?

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