Weekend Briefing No. 137
This Week By The Numbers
All of them – the number of diseases the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is aiming to eradicate by 2100.
21,000 years old– the age of a human skeleton divers discovered at the Antikythera shipwreck site, off the coast of Greece.
38 – the record-breaking number of Emmy’s Game of Thrones has won. The HBO fantasy drama triumphed in three categories at Sunday's ceremony, which means it has beaten Frasier's previous record of 37 and is the now most decorated TV show ever.
28 – the number of websites available in North Korea. Yup, 28. Which means a nation of 25 million people has fewer websites than most of us have in one Bookmark Folder.
Our Enslavement To Dopamine
Has our enslavement to dopamine — to the instant hits of validation that come with a well-crafted tweet or Snapchat streak — made us happier? I suspect it has simply made us less unhappy, or rather less aware of our unhappiness, and that our phones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety. There is no dark night of the soul anymore that isn’t lit with the flicker of the screen, then there is no morning of hopefulness either. And so modernity slowly weakened spirituality, by design and accident, in favor of commerce; it downplayed silence and mere being in favor of noise and constant action. The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn. This article by Andrew Sullivan is an instant classic and my favorite of the year. Pour a cup of coffee and dig in at select/all (45 minutes).
Q: How are you? A: Busy. How did we end up living like this? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings? This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love. Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Let’s have human, healing conversations filled with grace and presence. Learn more at On Being (6 minutes).
Patagonia's Philosopher King
In 1991, Patagonia almost declared bankruptcy. “I realized we were just growing for the sake of growing, which is bullshit,” said its founder Yvonne Chouinard. The company, he worried, was straying from its hard-core origins. “I was faced with the prospect of owning a billion-dollar company, with thousands of employees making ‘outdoorlike’ clothing for posers.” “The capitalist ideal is you grow a company and focus on making it as profitable as possible. Then, when you cash out, you become a philanthropist,” Chouinard said. “We believe a company has a responsibility to do that all along—for the sake of the employees, for the sake of the planet.” This long form profile of Yvonne in the New Yorker gives you an insight on who he is and what he cares about. (23 minutes).
The best leaders are the most insatiable learners. This is central to WD-40, where all employees make a solemn vow to become a “learning maniac” which reads: I am responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers, and making decisions. I won’t wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I’m responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn’t “get this sooner.” If I’m doing something others should know about, I’m responsible for telling them. Learn more about how to make your company learning-obsessed at Harvard Business Review (5 minutes).
Warby Parker devised a new internal system, called Warbles, that lets employees nominate programming projects. Managers assign points to the tasks they think would add the most value. The programmers then get to pick the projects they’re most interested in, but they’re rewarded if they pick the ones with the most points. Teams of computer engineers compete to accumulate the most points, and after every quarter, the winning team gets a prize. Learn more at Quartz (9 minutes).
What does renowned VC Marc Suster look for when he invests? Companies that: 1) tackle hard problems, 2) are mission driven, 3) have a great team. That’s why they just led a round for my friend Rebecca Kantar’s new company Imbellus that is seeking to create systemic change in the way we learn, upgrading from a system built for the id economy to a one built for the knowledge economy. Learn more at Both Sides of The Table (4 minutes).
Go Ahead, Be A Slob
I extol the virtues of minimalism and essentialism, but research shows there’s no intrinsic value in being neat. Those piles of paper on your desk are “full of clues about recent patterns of working. If clean is de facto better than chaos, how do you explain that some of history’s greatest minds labored in their own disarray? Albert Einstein, Alexander Fleming, and Abraham Lincoln were slobs, and all they gave us was the theory of relativity, penicillin, and America. Learn more at Bloomberg (3 minutes).
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