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Weekend Briefing No. 143
Welcome to the weekend! I’m looking forward to Sunday as I’ll be attempting to check something off my bucket list – running the NYC marathon. I’m so stoked to attempt this challenge in my hometown. You can check my Instagram on Sunday to see some updates (hopefully no videos of me on the ground writhing in pain). I’ll be listening to my November playlist during the run, check it out on Spotify.
More importantly, this Tuesday our country has some big decisions ahead of us. I know that the presidential race gets all the headlines. The irony is that most of us are well informed about the presidential candidates, but don’t even know the candidates running for state and local office. These officials have the most impact on our lives. So, please, do me a favor and take some time to learn about your down-ballot candidates. I’m loving ballotready.org. It lays out all your local, state and national candidates and their stances in a very clean UI.
This Week By The Numbers
$3,000,000,000: The revenue Amazon made on its cloud service, AWS, last quarter with a whopping 56% profit margin. AWS is so big that they are building their own wind farm to help power their data centers in Ohio and Virginia.
1,500%: The estimated inflation rate of the Venezuelan Bolivar. I say estimate because the government has stopped publishing economic data. It’s gotten so bad that Venezuelans have given up on counting piles of cash and are weighing them instead.
51: The combined age of the 2 participants in the 2016 World Chess Championship. Magnus Carlsen (25) and Sergey Karjakin (do the math) will begin the youngest World Chess Championship of all time fighting for a prize pool of over $1.1 million.
The Dashboard at DonorsChoose.org
The first time I set foot in the Flatiron office of DonorsChoose.org, the first thing I noticed was a huge screen with their daily dashboard… right out there for employees and guests to see. After talking with Andy Kaplan, the CFO, I started to understand why. That dashboard is a key to their success because it forces transparency and allows every employee to see how their aggregate efforts drive success. Andy was kind enough to write a piece about how you can build a dashboard to drive impact at your organization in Westaway Review (7 minutes)
Never let it be said that Uber is unambitious. Not content with upending the taxi industry, developing self-driving cars, and making deliveries using robotic 18-wheelers, it now has its aims set even higher. Much, much higher: it wants to build an on-demand urban aviation system… aka flying cars! The company envisions journeys being made by a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically. Learn more at MIT Technology Review (3 minutes).
The Internet & Truth
A wider variety of news sources was supposed to be the bulwark of a rational age. However, studies repeatedly show that when confronted with diverse information choices, people rarely act like rational, civic-minded automatons. Instead, we are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest — we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not. If you see something you don’t like, you can easily tap away to something more pleasing. Then we all share what we found with our like-minded social networks, creating closed-off, shoulder-patting circles online. This creates an ecosystem in which the truth value of the information doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether the information fits in your narrative. Learn more at the New York Times (6 minutes).
Philanthropist in the Boardroom
The head of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, just joined Pepsi's board of directors. Obviously, Pepsi makes the bulk of its money by selling sugary drinks and fatty snacks. What’s more, there is a well-established link between obesity and economic inequality. His new Pepsi connection raised the question: Would Mr. Walker’s day job and his new board duties be working at cross-purposes? He knows the company is not perfect, but he says he’s looking forward to helping this company transform itself toward a more healthy product offering. Learn more at the New York Times (6 minutes)
Elon Musk just showed us the grand unification of Tesla: Fast cars, big batteries, and a stunning solar rooftop. The roof tiles, which look like slate, Spanish tiles or shingles, are actually made of textured glass with embedded photovoltaic cells were announced this week. The idea is a closed loop of energy consumption. Your roof can collect energy, the Tesla battery called the Powerwall stores it, and you can use the energy to power your house and your car. Learn more and watch a video at Bloomberg (5 minutes).
Circle of Competence
Warren Buffett has used the concept of the Circle of Competence to focus how he spends his energy and invests his money. Circle of Competence is simple: Each of us, through experience or study, has built up useful knowledge on certain areas of the world. Some areas are understood by most of us, while some areas require a lot more specialty to evaluate. So, if you want to improve your odds of success in life and business then define the perimeter of your circle of competence, and operate inside. Over time, work to expand that circle but never fool yourself about where it stands today, and never be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Learn more at Farnam Street (4 minutes).
If you’re not conscious or aware through radical self-inquiry, the culture that gets created around you is going to reflect pretty much your worst character traits. These are often legacy traits of your parents; your shadowed qualities as a leader. The parts of yourself that you want to push off to the side. In this podcast one founder wrestles with his own shadowed qualities as he strives to grow into his role as CEO of a fast growth startup. Listen to this emotional podcast at Startup (41 minutes).
About the Weekend Briefing
Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your Saturday morning routine. I love putting it together every week and love hearing your thoughtful insights. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback or suggestions. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.