De Correspondent over de Wooncrisis

Grappig om te zien dat De Correspondent een serie maakt over de wooncrisis in Nederland:

https://decorrespondent.nl/14143/waarom-ik-geen-huis-wil-kopen/b196ee1f-4ff7-00f6-1463-37df41d85bb5

https://decorrespondent.nl/14572/het-kan-de-bouw-van-betaalbare-woningen-overlaten-aan-beleggers/fd05f4ad-ee26-07be-3b42-1576e194f55d

https://decorrespondent.nl/14844/wonen-is-een-publieke-taak-nu-nog-beleid-waar-je-dat-in-terugziet/073e6ebb-bbe3-0615-1ab0-e485bb65a016

https://decorrespondent.nl/14996/niet-minder-asielzoekers-maar-meer-betaalbare-huizen-is-de-oplossing-voor-de-woningnood/11729058-1943-0564-307b-9b18240a1482

Het is ook typisch De Correspondent om een series historische analyses en stukjes over alternative woon-/bouw-projecten neer te zetten. Allemaal dingen waar je je als lezer over goed kunt voelen zonder dat je iets aan het probleem moet doen.

Ze hadden wel een keer een artikel over de LVT maar de samenhang komt niet echt naar voren.

Laten we wel zijn:

  • De belangrijkste reden waarom bouwen in Nederland zo duur is is de schaarste van land.
  • Land is schaars in Nederland omdat de meeste woningen die verkocht worden in meer of mindere mate verkwistend met land omgaan.
  • Beleid wat dat oplost zou erop neer komen dat mensen die land verspillen daar flink voor moeten betalen of moeten verdichten.
  • Een significante groep mensen in Nederland hebben baat bij de huidige situatie en zitten op land en woningen waar ze aan verdienen (ten koste van alle andere mensen).
  • De Correspondent-lezers en hun ouders horen overweldigend bij de groep mensen die baat heeft bij het huidige beleid.

Dat zorgt ervoor dat wat je bij De Correspondent leest lijkt op journalistiek en diepgravende analyse maar eigenlijk gewoon entertainment is.

2023 Year in Review

Looking back on 2023 I can say that we made lemonade out of an overall pretty shit year.

But not to worry. This is probably just one shit year in a sequence of many more shit years to come. No sign of anything getting better in our near future and lots of trends pointing downward. Does it have to be like this? Not in any way but the majority of people are stupid and we all suffer together.

ACL

I had messed up my knee in late summer of 2022 during a climbing accident and after a bit of stalling figured out that having my ACL reconstructed would be a good idea.

The surgery was scheduled for February 23rd of 2023. That made a lot of the beginning of the year waiting to go into surgery which was followed by getting the surgery (a supremely weird experience), then recuperating from it at home for a couple of weeks and going back to work while doing physical therapy.

The chronology as far as I could piece it together:

I got around mostly using ride shares during the first part which was fine. Turns out that I spent €474,55 on cab rides. A fair bit of that was thankfully reimbursed by my saved up mobility budget. I stopped taking cabs and started cycling on the electric Christiania on April 15th and then had my first outing on the road bike on June 18th. 

During one of my final check-ups I told my physician at the hospital that if I didn’t rationally knew I had knee surgery, a lot of the time I couldn’t remember it. There was no noticeable difference anymore.

Of course there are still lots of situations where I notice it. The difference in strength between the two legs is still there and catching up very slowly. But that things are more or less back to normal is exactly what was promised.

I’m cleared to boulder again from around Easter if I choose to ever practice that sport again.

Kids

School

The kids started their school year with the German event they call the Einschülung, something that I disagree but I have no shortage of things that I disagree with about the German school ‘system’. That’s for another blog post.

The concept of the school and how classes are setup is very cool and the teachers are young and engaged. If everything worked the way it should, things would be amazing. The only issue is that most of the time there are staff shortages that fully destabilize whatever plans or schedules had been drafted. Those shortages stem from the deep dysfunction of the Berlin civil service and mostly because of a lack of funding for the schools that need it the most.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do there but for now we’re going to see if things look up in the second half of the year.

Let it be clear that Germany is a country that in no way values kids and their education.

Father

Related to our kids going to school, on their first school day morning my dad passed away suddenly in Amsterdam. We knew he was sick but we had no idea that things would progress this quickly.

The funeral was of course in Turkey so I took a flight to Amsterdam to be with my family and see him off and then flew to Turkey with my mother to do the burial in our village. It was the first time I was back in Turkey since 2015.

That was a difficult thing to do and after that everything is different.

Holidays

I heard the news about my dad’s illness on our holiday in the Alps this year. Our first family holiday in a long time and otherwise a resounding success.

After all the affairs were wrapped up we went to Amsterdam for a week during the fall break to keep my mother company and to have the kids experience a bit of the Netherlands again. It was good to be back and to see people we hadn’t seen in a long time.

Studies

I’ve continued the trend of unapologetically self-studying things that I fancy. I can recommend it.

Abstract Algebra

To continue to study category theory I diagnosed a gap I had on basic abstract algebra and tried to close it. I didn’t finish either of the textbooks (Fraleigh and Galian) because it seems that text books are bad for self-studying people.

I worked through a couple of YouTube lecture series on the topic which gave me much more value.

Sheaf Theory

Then I continued on and off in Sheaf Theory Through Examples which is a very mixed book. It’s nowhere near as good as Fong and Spivak’s book and now nearing the end it is getting very obtuse and inaccessible. I’ll finish this and then move on to Bartosz Milewski.

Japanese

I kept studying Japanese for most of the year and on a whim I registered for the December JLPT. During registration I had a choice where I could either go for the safe but relatively irrelevant N5 level or stretch myself and go for N4.

I picked N4 and that turned out to be a lot tougher than expected. I had to push very hard on both vocabulary and grammar to get to a point where I even felt it was worth going to Düsseldorf to take the test. The 1-2 months before the test I was cramming flash cards throughout the day and studying most evenings.

The test itself in Düsseldorf was even harder than I expected and I think that it’s unlikely that I passed it, but who knows… Results are due end of January.

Even if I don’t get the certificate, stretching myself to N4 has made me study much much harder than I would ever have otherwise and I’ve advanced quite a bit. Also I got a quick trip to Düsseldorf out of it where I could eat Asian food at a level and authenticity that’s impossible to get in Berlin.

CulturaI

With everything else that was going on, I didn’t have anything significant happen here. No time, no energy, no relevance.

I don’t really know how other people manage to binge dozens of crappy Netflix shows. I can’t really imagine spending entire evenings watching television. Do people do this still?

There are lots of good shows still that I would like to watch (The Last of Us, The Bear, Succession, etc.) but there’s just no time. 

Books

I only read 15 books this year with Galian, Genki and the sheaf theory book—none of which are listed below—sucking up most of my reading time.

Cold Enough for Snow was a nice book and it also happened to be the only piece of fiction I read this year. The rest of the books above are all highly situational and none of them are particularly interesting or made a lasting impact.

Video

I watched six movies this year. The only notable one was Heat which I first saw as a teenager in the City cinema in Amsterdam.

When it comes to television things look slightly better:

  • The Sandman: We did not finish it but enjoyed the episodes that we watched.
  • Spy x Family S1: Exactly the light-hearted fun anime that I needed to watch. Nothing serious here but a fun conceit well executed.
  • Tour de France Unchained: An epic dramatization of the world’s biggest cycling event that is a must watch if you’re even slightly interested in the sport.
  • The Witcher S3: Nothing of note happened in this season but it was still kinda fun to watch I guess.
  • Attack of Titan S4P2: It was good to watch the ending of this epic series but after such a long wait it was kinda hard to pick up the relatively complex storyline.
  • Death Note: An anime classic that I started which is well executed but tough as nails and not at all compelling.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen S2: The long awaited Hidden Inventory and Shibuya Incident arcs turned into a treat to watch despite the continuously escalating power levels and its sprawling cast of characters and villains.

Games

During my recovery from surgery I started and finished Breath of the Wild. The irony of having had a climbing accident and making Link free-climb epic cliffs on Hyrule was not lost on me.

That was the year. Let’s see what the new one does.

Listening to the Trash Future team describe CulturePulse.ai and the digital twin profile created for entire populations seems very very reminiscent of “The Red Men” by Matthew de Abaitua which didn’t get the attention it deserved but was quite prescient.

https://trashfuturepodcast.podbean.com/e/waltz-with-the-sims/ (minute 23 and on)

Elements from the book such as the corporation known as “Monad” (!) and robotic public service utilities called “Dr. Easy” are looking back from our current hellscape period a bit too on the nose.

See Dr. Easy act in this short film: https://vimeo.com/68368877

I can stop thinking about the Roman Empire, but this piece that draws an analogy between the Fall of the Romans and the End of Twitter is long overdue to be shared and still really good.

Over at twitter this dance was happening but with weirdo right wingers. They were always mad because no one likes them because they are hateful, stupid, and have absolutely no rizz. Because they only know other weirdo right wingers IRL, however, they were convinced that there was some sort of nefarious plot to dunk on them online and they wanted to know when Twitter would acknowledge them, the biggest victims known to man. At the head of this was, of course, your man there Elon who is mad that he isn’t funny. He became convinced that there was an army of bots or something making fun of him and he demanded to know why twitter was letting people be mean to him. “You say that you want weirdo right wingers to be on this site and yet! You allow people to be very mildly mean to them!!!!! Even when they are the richest man on the planet! So much for free speech, etc.” Anyway, he accidentally got forced to buy twitter for too much money because he is quite stupid, and now here we are.

Highlights for Amp It Up

What you need on day one is to ratchet up expectations, energy, urgency, and intensity.
You can engulf your organization with energy, step up the tempo, and start executing the basic blocking and tackling with a lot more focus and higher expectations. It will feel like busting a log jam. All of a sudden, everything is moving and shaking.
Don’t let malaise set in. Bust it up. Raising the bar is energizing by itself.
MBO causes employees to act as if they are running their own show. Because they get compensated on their personal metrics, it’s next to impossible to pull them off projects. They will start negotiating with you for relief. That’s not alignment, that’s every man for himself.
The questions you should ask constantly: What are we not going to do? What are the consequences of not doing something? Get in the habit of constantly prioritizing and reprioritizing.
I always operated as if I owned everything, whether I did or not. That didn’t always sit well with peers or superiors. I have since always tried to increase our people’s sense of ownership so they will act as owners. That mentality needs to be nurtured.
We coped in ways I have used ever since: hire people ahead of their own curve. Hire more for aptitude than experience and give people the career opportunity of a lifetime.
We still say, “Architecture matters” at Snowflake; all of our successes at the three companies where I’ve been CEO trace back to superior architecture.
Underperforming tech assets seemed to follow me around like a bad habit.
I had to explain that there is no such thing as an override for CEOs. I said, “You can go to the board and see if they’d like to fire me and give you your old job back. In the meantime, we are doing as I outlined.”
There are times you need to check your own views at the door and bet on the conviction of others.
Today I am less driven by career ambition than by a hunger for sport, action, excitement, teamwork, and a never‐ending pursuit of self‐improvement.
When you take over a company with a wide range of issues, you have to start solving the more straightforward problems as fast as possible so you can narrow the focus on the harder ones. Bringing in some proven performers was a no‐brainer.
As I got more experience, I realized that I was often just wasting everybody’s time. If we knew that something or someone wasn’t working, why wait? As the saying goes, when there is doubt, there is no doubt.
For a more recent example, remember that when the Coronavirus pandemic first hit the US, lockdowns were described as a short‐term strategy to stop the contagion from overwhelming our healthcare system. But before long, lockdowns became the designated method to control the pandemic indefinitely, dragging on in many states for well over a year. Pandemic responses began to seem like a “make it up as we go along” approach to policy, completely untethered from any clear mission.
Not that there’s anything wrong with financial metrics or showing progress to investors or shareholders. I take those targets very seriously, but they are never our mission.
Investors and executives take huge risks on start‐ups that need to be rewarded when a company is successful.
Urgency is a mindset that can be learned if it doesn’t come to you naturally. You can embrace the discomfort that comes with moving faster instead of avoiding it.
Only the government can print money; the rest of us have to take it from somebody else.
The more high‐achieving people who desert their current employers to join us, the more we are winning.
As long as there are no new challengers with new ideas, you can do fine with an incremental approach. But in free markets, somebody is always thinking about dramatic changes. You’re much better off doing so yourself rather than hoping it won’t happen.
Folks prefer narratives that make them feel safe, however removed from reality those narratives might be. Intellectual honesty is a frequent casualty in business.
If you don’t know how to execute, every strategy will fail, even the most promising ones.
One of my favorite observations is that “good judgment comes from bad judgment.” Experience may be overrated by some, but it’s hard to find a substitute for it.
When we promote inexperienced managers to senior roles, chaos ensues. It becomes the blind leading the blind. Organizations cannot scale and mature around inexperienced management staff.
We sometimes use the expression “that dog won’t hunt”—not in reference to a person but to a strategic approach that just isn’t working, no matter what we do. It’s hard to say that if you’re irrationally attached to a strategy.
A strong product will generate escape velocity and find its market, even with a mediocre sales team. But even a great sales team cannot fix or compensate for product problems.
You should resist this temptation by remembering an old joke: “Consultants are people who borrow your watch, tell you what time it is, and then keep the watch.”
The bottom line is that great execution can make a moderately successful strategy go a long way, but poor execution will fail even the most brilliant strategy.
Hire Drivers, Not Passengers, and Get the Wrong People off the Bus
Passengers are largely dead weight and can be an insidious threat to your culture and performance. They inadvertently undermine the mojo of the organization. They sap the animal instinct and spirits you need in business to thrive.
“How do I know if I’m a driver or a passenger?” My flippant answer was that he’d better figure it out before I did.
Don’t surrender to the temptation to go into wait‐and‐see mode, hoping that time will reveal everyone’s true value. You need to make things happen, not wait around and hope for the best. You have to practice sizing up people and situations with limited and imperfect information—because that is all you are ever going to get.
If you don’t act quickly to get the wrong people off the bus, you have no prayer of changing the overall trajectory. We often believe, naively, that we can coach struggling teammates to a better place. And sometimes we can, but those cases are rarer than we imagine. At a struggling company, you need to change things fast, which can only happen by switching out the people whose skills no longer fit the mission or perhaps never really did in the first place.
those standards, that’s fine too. I know this philosophy may come across as harsh. But what’s even harsher is not doing the job you were hired to do as a leader. If you can’t find the backbone to make necessary changes, you are holding everyone else back from reaching their full potential.
Then I started moving faster to replace people who were badly suited for their roles. And often not even catastrophically bad, just worse than the caliber of people we knew we could hire to replace them. This process of systematically upgrading the talent at each key role is called “topgrading,” a strategy developed by hiring expert Brad Smart.
You can’t wait till you have an acute need; that is a reactive posture. If you wait for a vacancy to open, you can only tap the then‐current supply, which may be quite suboptimal. So create a vetted, prioritized list of possible candidates for each critical role you are responsible for.
The problem is that people don’t learn from posters. Like children and pets, they learn from consequences and the lack thereof. If you want to drive a more consistent set of behaviors, norms, and values, you have to focus on consistent and clearly defined consequences, day in and day out.
Accountability is uncomfortable because we all live with the anxiety of not being good enough and the anxiety of telling others they aren’t good enough. But if you want a great company, you can’t give out free passes for mediocrity. Good enough is never good enough.
Culture doesn’t just happen because of a CEO’s declaration or because senior management exhibits the willingness to act on core values. It happens when most of the organization is willing to defend and promote those values and call out deviations on a day‐to‐day basis.
The paradox is that any business that’s large enough to have functional silos must pull together as if these organizational delineations barely exist.
My role as CEO is to facilitate their initiative and encourage them to reach creative solutions, not simply to tell them what to do. Everyone gets a seat at the table as we hash out challenging issues.
I am generally not a fan of just trying things, throwing ideas against the wall to see if they stick. We lose time and waste resources that way. Let’s try a rifle shot instead of a scatter gun.
Customer grievances are best solved by establishing proper ownership, reducing internal complexity, and removing bureaucratic intermediaries.
Good sales managers are constantly hiring and firing, which helps them develop a clear sense of which candidates are likely to become gunslingers.
Never simply throw them into stone‐cold territories without a viable plan or support. That’s setting them up for failure, which will lead not only to their own failures but to your reputation as a leader who breeds failure.
I have often distinguished between actual profitability and what we call “inherent profitability.”
The question is what would profitability look like if we substantially stopped investing for future periods altogether? Inherent profitability is driven by unit economics, or the gross margin line in the profit and loss statement. If things cost more than what we sell them for, the business will obviously never become profitable. The next question is how operating efficiency will benefit from increased scale. Those answers help us understand what the inherent profitability of the business really is.
So they play it safe. But trying to hang on to a modest business doesn’t mean you have a viable business.
How can I possibly answer those questions for someone else’s business? The answers are relative and situational.
If possible, always own your distribution rather than delegate it to a third party. Nobody cares about selling your product more than you.
It takes intellectual honesty and humility to admit how big a confluence of factors gave rise to your original success. Just because you struck gold once doesn’t mean you know how to do it at will.
I know I said earlier that growth should be prioritized over profitability, but when it costs much more than a dollar to generate a dollar, you don’t really have a business.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have strong financial oversight and discipline on sales compensation. You may be tempted at some point to make your comp plans more generous to recruit and retain top sales talent, but abandoning financial rigor can be a fatal mistake—not just during the planning stages of each year but every day, literally from one sales deal to the next.
But the most valuable leaders are those who can combine the scrappiness of a start‐up leader with the organizational and diplomatic discipline needed in a big company. Those who can scale up or scale down as required. Those who can set aside their experience when necessary, apply first principles, and think through situations in their elementary form.
When a truly new market does appear, it’s usually due to a confluence of industry‐wide factors and circumstances, not the innovations of just one company.
The issues we faced in scope, expansion, and runway now preoccupy my thinking. As a leader, you need to make time to assess these issues from day one; don’t wait for the crush of urgent business to calm down.
Having a bunch of roles on your resume without clear success at each one can become a strike against you. You start to look like a passenger, not a driver.
Start‐ups typically need hard drivers, passionate leaders, goal‐oriented and achievement‐focused personalities—the kind of people who are easily frustrated in larger, more rigid, slower to evolve enterprises. We often liked people with a chip on their shoulder, who had a lot to prove to themselves and others. But it is easy to see how others would be less enamored by such personalities.
The longest‐serving employees tend to be the most prone to nostalgia, constantly reliving the romance of the early days. Those days always seem better in retrospect than they did at the time.
Dan Warmenhoven, the highly successful CEO of NetApp, once remarked that every great CEO has a large ego because you simply could not do this kind of work any other way—but if you can’t keep that ego in check, you’ll be insufferable and therefore ineffective. That’s an uneasy balance.
Even so, continue to share credit as much as possible with the founders. Never lose sight of the fact that success takes a village, and the founders are still honorary members of the village.
Conceding the board’s authority for every major decision isn’t playing it safe. In fact, in the long run it’s much riskier than asserting your own authority and legitimacy and taking responsibility for your own decisions.
You’re not there to make friends or get a gold star for obeying orders; you are there to win.
Apply those experiences, and the insights we’ve discussed in previous chapters, to become a truer, more honed, more effective version of who you already are. Finding your own path, however long it takes, will unlock your personal power.
At the end of the day, great leaders at any level have great outcomes. You can be the most empathetic, charismatic, and popular leader ever, but none of that will matter if your business falls short. And when it does, there will be nowhere for you to hide. No one will care about your legitimate explanations, let alone your excuses. No one will care about the unlucky breaks that were completely beyond your control. Is that fair? Of course not! But it’s the world we live in, the world we have to accept as leaders.