The Special Books that Shaped my Life

Among the many many books that shaped my life, a few remain in a select category. Unfortunately,  I discovered them later in life. I wished I had read them before I turned 20.

But, as the saying goes, “better later than never”. These books arrived at many of my multiple life crises. A great example of their teachings: AMOR FATI.

The first one is “The Manual” (εγχειριδιον or Enchiridion in greek) from Epictetus. This is a concise book with 53 chapters, most of them just a few paragraphs long. The book was written by Arrian, a pupil of Epictetus in the 2nd century AD. And it is a summary of the longer Discourses.

One of the most important and central ideas (which is core to stoicism), is the dichotomy of control. The book opens up with just that: Some things are up to us, some are not… The notion that much of what happens to us in our journey through life is entirely outside of our control. And that it is pointless to focus on the things we don’t control. Instead, we should focus on the things we do control. And that is mostly ourselves: our judgments, our perceptions, reactions. It is a surprisingly simple recipe for happiness, and so challenging to implement. Related to this is the notion that nothing can harm us, except ourselves. It is our judgment of events that cause angst, pain and ends up harming us. Control your judgments and you are invincible. Of course, this is easier said than done.

But I became a convert years ago, and since then, I have followed this and other stoic principles. I started the Enchiridion and followed other classic authors: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Montaigne.

The Enchiridion, I liked to so much that I ended up copying it entirely by hand as an exercise. It took me a few months as I transcribed each chapter, but it was fun to resurface my high school calligraphy lessons.


As Epictetus said, “Philosophy is for living, not just learning.”


Building “Pul”, a Sassafras 16 canoe

In June 2017, I bought a canoe on Craigslist. Living just a relatively short walking distance from the magnificent Lake Sammamish, it seemed silly not to have any floating vehicles.

We used it half a dozen times. I built a PVC pipe dolly to take the boat walking. It was fun! We paddled (I paddled) on Sammamish river, collected tennis balls from the adjacent off-leashed dog park, picnicked on the opposite shores of the lake. Weathered some light winds and motorboats’ wake and felt like I was crossing Drake’s channel. I floated around the remains of the long-gone Campbell Lumber Co., an old timber facility that continues to rot away after a hundred years. It was great.


And then one day, the canoe was gone. In more than 15 years of living in this area, I’ve never had anything stolen. Maybe I got too confident. Maybe (as my wife suggests), someone thought that is was “free” as I left it in my driveway. I don’t buy it, I think it was stolen, I reported it to the police and such, but it is gone.

After my initial shock with the news, (and some sadness for the loss), I figured it was the best thing that could have happened, because now that I had no boat, and having the great experience that we had, I found renewed energy for a much more ambitious project: building a boat. A wooden boat. A beautifully crafted, head-turning, elegant, awesome boat.

Choosing the boat

Long-time ago I bumped into Chesapeake Light Craft. I loved their designs and the stitch & glue building method looks approachable. Especially for someone that has never done it before. And they have great tutorials and content.

After looking through their catalog, I finally settled on the Sassafras 16. They call it a “canoe”, but it kind of looks like a boat. And the shape is just beautiful.

From their website:

The lapstrake canoe is an ancient craft. In its recreational form it had already reached a very high pitch of refinement by the 1880’s, in the hands of artisans like J. Henry Rushton. Something about the combination of lightweight utility and easy, graceful lines makes the lapstrake canoe a very desirable creature, indeed.

Chesapeake Light Craft first introduced the lapstrake Sassafras canoes in the late 1990’s.  Named after a placid and scenic river on the upper Chesapeake, these handsome canoes are at home in rivers, lakes, and bays, able enough to surmount wind chop and powerboat wakes, and to carry a good load.

Lapstrake canoes built the way Rushton did it require extremely sophisticated skills and equipment. Using CLC’s exclusive LapStitch™ process, assembly is accessible to beginners.  There’s no mold, no lofting, no spiling, no tricky joinery.

That sounded really inspiring, so I bought the kit … in February 2018. Today it is November 2019, and I am still building it. Not CLC’s fault. The kit is just great. I’ve been busy and I can only spend a few hours every other weekend or so. So my progress has been … well… slow.

But I am getting there. It’s now looking like a boat:


And I am confident that by next Summer (2020), I will be able to launch it and float once again through Lake Sammamish. I fantasize about taking it downstream through Sammamish River, all the way to Lake Washington.

The name

My previous canoe didn’t have a name. It was just “the boat”. But this one will have one. I thought about naming it “Prinz Eugen”, but I settled for “Pul” which is a name that honors my wife who not only gave me encouragement but actively contributed to the project (and all other projects I started in muy life).







Thoughts on GoT series finale

Last Sunday was Game of Thrones series finale, and Twitter is outraged. As I read the stream of tweets, it was easy to jump into the conclusion that EVERYBODY hated it.

But of course, another explanation is that only ones those that took the time to post on Twitter to dump all their rage actually hated. The rest (of us) were still enjoying the episode. I even saw someone on Twitter, who self-admittedly wrote they didn’t care about the series at all but hated it anyway…sigh…Twitter.

I actually liked the finale very much. It was a good ending! Here are my lessons, reminders, and takeaways from some of the most important characters:

  • Daenerys: they say, power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Being so sure of yourself can make you blind. Dangerously blind.
  • Jamie Lannister: sometimes it is not power that blinds us, but love. Not forgiving, but somewhat more understandable. In the extreme, love can make us do terrible things, including ending our own life.
  • Bran: making choices for the greater good can be very tough. Being an effective leader requires a healthy dose of compromise and pragmatism. Bran also shows appreciation for delegation and the importance of a team.
  • Sansa: I liked her passion for self-determination.
  • Arya: I empathized with her courage to take her destiny in your hands, perhaps a risky destiny.
  • Jon Snow: as with Bran, doing the right thing can be very hard. Choosing your battles, knowing when to retreat, and not losing hope for the future, even if it looks grim at the moment.
  • Tyron: everything is an opinion. You can be an imp, and you can still change the world for good. Laugh at yourself.
  • Sam: he showed how humor is perhaps one of the most potent forces.
  • Grayworm: resentment is poison. Holding grudges keeps you down. Better to purge the bitterness quickly and move on.
  • Cersei: you harvest what you sow.

Update: brilliant article from Yuval Harari. Loved this sentence:

You would have thought that encountering fire-breathing dragons and fighting an army of living-dead would have a greater effect on people.


The Books That Shaped My Life – College

When I started college, I found myself surrounded by people….like me! We were all nerds. I met my great friend Rudy, with whom I started my first company. He then married my sister and we become not only great friends but also family.

He went to a german school, and through him, I got immersed in the german culture. I studied German for a few years and got quite fluent in it. Es ist Schade, dass Ich es sehr selten üben kann.

Through him, I met new people, and one of them (Sebastian Goelitz) introduced me to the world of science fiction. I discovered Isaac Asimov, Philip Dick, Frederik Pohl, Brian Aldiss, Fredric Brown, Theodore Sturgeon, among many many others. With their books, I rediscovered the wonders of imagination. I read so many of these books.

The ones that pop to mind and have been very impactful:

  1. All of Foundation and all R. Daneel Olivaw (Asimov)
  2. The Helliconia trilogy and Galaxies as grains of sand (Aldiss)
  3. Gateway (Phol)
  4. More than Human and The Dreaming Jewels (Sturgeon)

I wished I had their imagination, and I am grateful I discovered them.



EY – Entrepreneur of the Year – 2018 – Pacific Northwest

Last night I attended the Ernst & Young gala in Seattle that celebrates the “Entrepreneurs of the Year” on various categories.

I won the “B2B Software and Services“. Which was quite unexpected! My category was full of amazing companies, including my friend Manny Medina’s

I enjoyed the process and was impressed by EY organization and commitment. And I had a lot of fun throughout it. Also very impressed by al the other (nominated and winning) entrepreneurs this year. Each one’s story was very inspiring.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

This was my acceptance speech, inspired a little bit on my previous post on “self-made men”:

Standing on this podium, it is tempting to think I’m here on my own merits. But I believe that “self made men” are a myth.

Countless people have contributed to our lives, and I’m no exception. My parents and grandparents, my sister, my family, my wonderful and always inspiring wife, my children, many teachers, coaches, mentors, managers, colleagues and my team. All of them inspire, love and help me every day.

And while this award has my name written on it, I like to think it belongs to me as much as it belongs to all of them. 

Thank you all, and thank you EY.

Experiencia Endeavor 2018

Last week I was in Buenos Aires for our quarterly business review and planning. I was invited to deliver a short speech during Experiencia Endeavor.

I deliver all my presentations with no notes (except the slides themselves), and I’ve never read my presentations either, but I do prepare (quite a bit actually). Writing the speech beforehand is my favorite technique. Here is my original speech as I wrote it in preparation for the session.

I very rarely deliver speeches and presentations in Spanish, so this one took me a little bit longer.

And I followed it quite closely:

En el año 2000 conseguí el trabajo de mis sueños: entre a trabajar en Microsoft como consultor. 2 años despues me mude con toda mi familia a Seattle para continuar con mi carrera profesional allí. Y así pasaron 12 años en los cuales aprendí una montaña de cosas: recorrí el mundo, conocí gente increíble. Pero algo faltaba… algo más profundo que sentía aún no realizado: emprender.

Prestando atención a las sugerencias de mi compañera de vida Magdalena, me anote en una incubadora en Seattle, en la cual dure algunas semanas.

Este video de 20 segundos es el final de mi presentación ante el panel de expertos, explicando mi idea. Veámoslo…

Y entonces hice lo que dictaba el sentido común: renuncié a Microsoft y fundé Auth0 con mi amigo y socio Matías Woloski.

Me encanta ese video. Hay tantas lecciones en él! Agradezco profundamente haber pasado por esa experiencia.

Empecemos por la primera lección: el rechazo. Si no se sienten confortables con la palabra “NO”, emprender no es para ustedes. Porque “NO” es la palabra que más frecuentemente van a escuchar.

La segunda lección: el cliente. Tener un cliente es la forma de validación más poderosa. Saben porque? Porque en la relación cliente-proveedor hay “skin in the game”.

Lo que nos lleva a la tercera lección: emprender es vender. Y no hay acción más poderosa y fundamental en negocios que alguien dispuesto a firmar un cheque por lo que ustedes hagan. La experiencia de otros es importante, y escuchar a mentors, consejeros, etc. también lo es. Pero las palabras mueren instantáneamente frente a la acción.

Así que a tomar acción! No hay un “momento ideal”. El momento ideal es “YA”. No mañana, no “cuando termine esto”, es “YA”. Emprender es no usar ni buscar excusas.

En enero del 2013 arrancamos Auth0 y eramos 5, teniamos 0 dólares inversión, y vendií 2 proyectos: uno de $27/mes y otro por casi $200,000 por año. Y entonces supe que íbamos por el camino correcto. Porque había al menos 2 entidades que veían nuestro servicio con valor. Tan valioso como para darnos algo a cambio: su plata.

Si nos adelantamos ahora 5 años, esto es Auth0 hoy…

Pero este slide mismo es un espejismo. Los números impresionan. Hay quienes me dicen “que suerte tuvieron!” o “ustedes hicieron esto en el momento perfecto!”. Y saben que? tienen razón! Hay un poco de suerte y un poco de elegir el momento preciso. Pero estarían ignorando tal vez uno de los elementos fundamentales: simplemente una enormidad de trabajo y persistencia.

Emprender es saber distinguir lo improbable de lo imposible. Y trabajar (mucho) para transformar lo improbable en realidad y lo imposible en improbable.

Y aca va la cuarta lección: emprender es un camino largo y arduo. No es “prolijo”. No es lineal. Emprender se parece mucho más a una carrera de obstáculos que a un gimnasio limpio y sofisticado. Si no están dispuestos a “ensuciarse”, a embarrarse, pasar frío y soportar bastante incomodidad, a improvisar; a descender para subir, entonces emprender no es para ustedes.

Lo que me lleva a la quinta lección. La persona que me decía “no veo una oportunidad para VOS” (asi apuntando con el dedo), tenía razón!! Yo solo jamas podría haber hecho el Auth0 que es hoy. Rodéense de expertos. Busquen gente que ame hacer lo que ustedes odian.

Y volviendo a los obstáculos. Es natural para todos nosotros que veamos nuestros problemas, conflictos, las quejas de nuestros clientes, los sistemas caídos, e infinidad de otros como cosas negativas que hay que “evitar”. Yo me animaria a decirles que cada uno de esos problemas (aunque dolorosos), fueron regalos. Todos los problemas que nos enfrentamos en estos 5 años en nuestra compañía (que fueron decenas), fueron absolutamente necesarios para construir una mejor versión de nosotros mismos. No eviten los problemas. Emprender es buscar problemas y sortearlos! Si no se equivocan, probablemente no estén haciendo lo suficiente.

Y con esto termino mi ultima leccion: todos los emprendedores (sobre todo los que tenemos inversores) escuchamos  la palabra “exit” frecuentemente. Nos preguntan “cual es tu exit-strategy?” Para mi la palabra exit implica un fin (ex: afuera, ire: ir). Para mí, psicológicamente implica terminar algo, dejar algo atrás. Y yo creo que esa es la mentalidad incorrecta, o más que incorrecta, la mentalidad menos efectiva para emprender con éxito (una palabra irónicamente relacionada a “exit”). Yo veo más efectivo pensar en mi empresa como algo en construcción permanente. Un permanente trabajo inconcluso. Saben porque? Porque me permite disfrutar del proceso HOY. Constantemente. No mañana, no en 1 anio o en 5, o con un IPO o con una adquisición. HOY. AHORA. Cada paso, cada vuelta, cada revés y cada recuperación. HOY.

Están listos? Gracias

Being Human

I recently went to the doctor and filled the usual questionnaires and disclaimers. One of the questions I always hesitate to answer is “race” (or “ethnicity”).

What am I? White? Latino? Hispanic? South American? South European? So I answered “Human”. The doctor chuckled and said: “that looks accurate”.

I was raised under the belief that most of my family came from Italy and Spain. For some reason, I had a small bias towards things Italian. Perhaps because I had the privilege and fortune of meeting my paternal grandfather (who was Italian), and about whom I wrote before.

Fast forward many years and genetic studies are now a commodity. So I decided to take the test. And I almost forgot about it because it takes a few weeks.

And then I got the email: “your results are ready!” …

I’m glad I answered “human” because my genes are quite a mix:


Iberian and Italian, are no surprise…but the rest? Balkan? (likely greek). North African! British! Native American! West African!

I’m a man of the world!

Not entirely surprised with the Native American and West African. I was told that some of my dad’s mother side lineage came from Brazil. Not many details were offered, but…

An estimated 4.9 million slaves from Africa were brought to Brazil during the period from 1501 to 1866


Slave women were also used by freed men as concubines or common-law wives and often worked for them in addition as household labor, wet nurses, cooks, and peddlers.

So, perhaps some slave blood flows through me…

The Balkan mix is also not super surprising. Sicily, the ancestral place I associated myself with (although I’m hesitant to call it like that anymore), was widely colonized by Greeks, Albanians, and half western world.

The North African is also not at all unexpected. That’s close enough. My grandfather told me he would sail to Tunisia often for trading.

What is really surprising is the British/Irish component… not really sure where it comes from. I have no clue.

I could hypothesize…was this ancestor a “he” or a “she”? was he a slave trader? Was he a mercenary fighting in Spain or in Italy? Or maybe was she in someone’s household? Is it just someone in North Spain (an area close to England and Ireland)? That remains a little bit of an enigma.

My parents have not done the test, so I don’t know which part came from where, but that looks like a nice follow-up project!

Also, now another project is brewing in my mind: visit every place I’ve got ancestry.








My Beloved Metropolitan Vickers

Until I turned 17 or so, my world revolved around the suburb I grew up in (Olivos, BA). I traveled, of course, but my daily activities were circumscribed to a radius of maybe 5 miles from where I lived: the school, the gym, my friends. Anything beyond that was “far”.

Towards my final years in high school, I found myself going more often to “the city” (Downtown Buenos Aires). Especially as I started preparing for college.

I did not have a car, and anyway, the best way of getting around the busy city was the train. It took 25-30 min to get there. I had 2 options.

There were a few ways of getting to the city from where I lived:

  1. Take the bus which took forever, often standing up and crowded.
  2. Take the “Linea Mitre” train at Olivos station to Retiro. Quick trip, crowded in the morning but fast (about 30 min). The station less than a 1 km from my home.
  3. Take the other “Linea Mitre”.  Slightly longer than #2 but comparable. The station was 1.3 km from my home.

2, 3 were my favorites and I liked I could load balance them if one happened to be “down”. This didn’t happen very often, but it did (e.g. strikes, power issues, etc.).

The line from Olivos to Retiro was served with Toshiba electric units that were relatively modern (bought in the 60’s, so 20-ish years old), and where comfortable when not fully loaded.

The line from Mitre to Retiro was served by mixed formations: the same Toshibas and…older Metropolitan Vickers like these:


I loved these. Sometimes, I would skip trains to specifically get in one of these. My two favorite spots were:

  • Right next to the conductor, (behind the little square window you see over the headlight). I could peek into the cabin, and look at the controls, gauges, etc.
  • In the “furgon”. A special section of the train you would go with a bike or bulky stuff.

Unlike the more modern Toshibas, the Vickers had a mix of motorized and non-motorized units. The “M.U. 72” label on the picture above stands for “Motor Unico”, meaning that the unit is motorized and is “single class” (no First or Second Class). Local trains in Argentina were of single class. Long distance had a few levels: Coach, First, Pullman, all the way to actual cabins with real beds. I took a 33-hour ride once in one of such cabins. That will be another post.

Back to the Vickers, the units labeled “A.U.” meant they were “Acoplado Unico” (not motorized). Riding these was much more interesting, it was a little bit like being on a rollercoaster. They moved side to side, up and down. Lot’s of fun!

Riding these units was my first choice second perhaps to being next to the conductor.

The trains showed their age of course: the windows rarely worked. The floor had holes and you could see the rails below you.

Another favorite was riding on the doors that were not automatic. You could feel like you were flying. The true test was riding on the door over one bridge:


It was not that high, but I was young, and I felt I was on top of the world. And for 2 seconds or so, I hold the handles tight and felt very scared and brave.

I rode these trains for years. In the last years, they were refurbished once and painted white, but to me, nothing replaced “los marrones” (“the browns”). And will forever remain my favorites, my beloved Vickers.


The Books That Shaped My Life – childhood

One of the most significant treasures of my childhood is my library. My parents rarely said “no” to books, so I grew up surrounded by many.

One of my early favorites was the “Enciclopedia Estudiantil” from Codex. I inherited it from my mom, and it was not complete, but each book I had (made up of smaller chapters) was a window into beautiful stories and information.


I read its pages many times, and it became handy at school too.

When I was 10(?) I inherited a large set of books from my godfather. Among them were quite a few from the “Robin Hood” collection:


Anyone from Argentina will recognize the yellow covers. These books were gateways to an incredible world. I traveled in sailboats across all oceans, I’ve barely made it through terrible storms, I’ve fought pirates, recovered treasures, crossed deserts, joined the Légion étrangère. My all-time favorites were Jules Verne and Emilio Salgari. Among those, I remember the most are: En las llanuras de Argelia and Sandokan. 

Later in high school, I turned to some history books. I read a lot of books about WWI and WWII. I also read Beria’s Gardens and The Morning of the Magicians. During that time, I also frequently bought the Spanish magazine Muy Interesante, which was something like Popular Science in the US.

High school was the peak of my interest in model trains, so I was a subscriber for many years to Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman. They always arrived with months of delays in the regular mail. But each issue was a small miracle for me, and I expected them eagerly every month.

A Spanish literature teacher introduced me to Borges and Fritjof Capra. Borges I loved. All his books are fantastic. One to highlight is The Book of Fantasy, a compilation from Borges, Bioy Casares, and Ocampo on fantastic literature. (Not all of them written by Borges). I also read English classics: Animal Farm, 1984.


Hello NV87148

I inherited my grandfather’s typewriter from my mom. The longer (unverified) story is that my great-grandfather (Ynocencio, my maternal grand mom’s dad) worked in an import company in Buenos Aires (Palmer & Co.) and there was a fire in a warehouse. Everything was destroyed, and among those unfortunate items was a batch of typewriters. My great-grandfather was a handyman, so he salvaged pieces from one machine and another and built this one that is sitting next to me:


Somehow, it ended up in my mom house. And it was the machine my grandfather (Eugenio, my mom’s dad) used to write his poems, stories, and essays.

My mom would always tell me about how Eugenio would stay late, writing (like I’m doing now). The sound of the keyboard piercing through the night.

For a few years, it was lost. It had been sent for repairs, and never reclaimed. I had been fascinated by my grandfather’s writing, so I asked my mom and dad about the typewriter. My father remembered the old address of the mechanic, so one afternoon we drove there, and ….voila! There he was. The old mechanic, still alive. And yes, he had the old typewriter. Recovered from oblivion for the second time.

In late 2017 I went to Buenos Aires, visited my parents, and my mom decided to give me the typewriter. And I brought it home. I changed the ink spools (that I got from Amazon), and here we are, writing this.

The machine has no visible marks or brands, so I decided to do some research. Remington was my first guess, and after some googling, I found a perfect match for it: it is a Remington Portable Model 1. Some more research led me to the Typewriter Database. And after some cleaning, I found the serial number: NV87148:


Turns out, our adventurous typewriter is 90 years old, was born in July 1928:


  • N: Model 1
  • V: July
  • 8: 1928
  • 7148th machine built that month

It still works perfectly, and perhaps more amazingly its keyboard is highly compatible with its distant cousin in the future, one reason I can type (almost) as fast and double as loud.