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Weekend Briefing No. 256
Welcome to the weekend and welcome to 2019! Here are some tunes to kick off the year. Also, I’ll be in Boston for most of January. If you’re around, hit me up.
45 MM – Netflix reports that its latest flagship show, ‘Bird Box’, was viewed by 45m people.
921,000 – Japanese women had 921,000 babies in 2018. That’s the fewest births since comparable records began in 1899 — when the country’s population was a third its current size.
50 – 50% of all cars sold in Norway last year were electric. The country is making great time on its journey to end all gas-powered car sales by 2025.
Dark Side of the Moon
In a historic first, China has landed a rover on the far side of the moon, state media announced Thursday, a huge milestone for the nation as it attempts to position itself as a leading space power. China's National Space Administration landed the craft, officially named Chang'e 4, at 10:26 a.m. Beijing time in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the moon's largest and oldest impact crater, China Central Television reported. The rover, which China has named Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, transmitted back the world's first close-range image of the far side of the moon. CNN (4 minutes)
Startups & Rock Bands
Successful startups have to make a difficult transition from being a gang of friends working on a cool idea to being managers of a complex enterprise with multiple stakeholders. It’s a problem familiar to rock groups, which can go quickly from being local heroes to global brands, and from being responsible only for themselves to having hundreds of people rely on them for income. In both cases, people who made choices by instinct and on their own terms acquire new, often onerous responsibilities with barely any preparation. Staff who were hired because they were friends or family have their limitations exposed under pressure, and the original gang can have its solidarity tested to destruction. A study from Harvard Business School found that 65% of startups fail because of “co-founder conflict”. For every Coldplay, there are thousands of talented bands now forgotten because they never survived contact with success. The history of rock groups can be viewed as a vast experimental laboratory for studying the core problems of any business: how to make a group of talented people add up to more than the sum of its parts. And, once you’ve done that, how to keep the band together. Here are four different models. 1) Friends, 2) Autocracies, 3) Democracies and 4) Frenemies. 1843 (18 minutes)
Discipline > Vision
As a founder, I’d choose discipline over some grand vision any day of the week. Working on your company’s vision is necessary, but it’s something many early teams spend too much time on; there’s a sort of navel-gazing element to the exercise. The bottom line is more simple: are you disciplined enough to make it happen or not? Discipline comes down to focusing on the right thing, which means you need to be crystal clear on what success looks like and how to measure it. Here are a set of questions to run through for a focused assessment. 1) Making progress: What metrics are you using in order to see if the company is succeeding? How are you orienting your entire team around them? How frequently — and consistently — are you communicating updates? 2) Managing time: Does your calendar actually reflect the priorities from above every single week? Is there an activity you aren’t spending enough time on? Do you have the discipline to disconnect and step away? 3) Fundraising: How are you managing your investors? Are you sending frequent updates on your progress, tightening your pitch and proactively building relationships? 4) Team building: What are you doing to consistently create a great work environment? How are you making sure that every hire meets your standards? First Round Review (21 minutes)
Tinder @ 5
5 years ago when Tinder became available to all smartphones it began to subtly shape dating in a number of ways. The relative anonymity of dating apps—that is, the social disconnect between most people who match on them—has also made the dating landscape a ruder, flakier, crueler place. It’s become more ordinary to stand each other up. Apps had effectively replaced dating for many (especially males); in other words, the time other generations of singles might have spent going on dates, these singles spent swiping. Whereas dating apps haven’t changed happy relationships much, they’ve lowered the threshold of when to leave an unhappy one. College kids go to parties expecting only to hang out with friends. It’s becoming increasingly rare and surprising to actually meet somebody at a party and ask them out. The Atlantic (12 minutes)
The Disease of More
There’s a famous concept in sports known as the “Disease of More.” It was originally coined by Pat Riley, a hall of fame coach who has led six teams to NBA championships (and won one as a player himself). Riley said that the Disease of More explains why teams who win championships are often ultimately dethroned, not by other, better teams, but by forces from within the organization itself. The players, like most people, want more. At first, that “more” was winning the championship. But once players have that championship, it’s no longer enough. The “more” becomes other things — more money, more TV commercials, more endorsements and accolades, more playing time, more plays called for them, more media attention, etc. As a result, what was once a cohesive group of hardworking men begins to fray. Egos get involved. Gatorade bottles are thrown. And the psychological composition of the team changes — what was once a perfect chemistry of bodies and minds becomes a toxic, atomized mess. Players feel entitled to ignore the small, unsexy tasks that actually win championships, believing that they’ve earned the right to not do it anymore. And as a result, what was the most talented team, ends up failing. Mark Manson (9 minutes)
The Best Way to Learn Anything
Feynman Technique will help you learn anything faster and with greater understanding. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to implement. There are four steps to the Feynman Technique. 1) Write out what you know about the subject as if you were teaching it to a child. Not your smart adult friend but rather an 8-year-old who has just enough vocabulary and attention span to understand basic concepts and relationships. 2) You’ll see some gaps in your ability to explain. This is a great sign. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one! This is where the learning starts. Now you know where you got stuck, go back to the source material and re-learn it until you can explain it in basic terms. 3) Now you have a set of hand-crafted notes. Review them to make sure you didn’t mistakenly borrow any of the jargon from the source material. Organize them into a simple story that flows. 4) The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another. Farnam Street (5 minutes)
Each day on Page A3 of the New York Times print edition, they display striking or delightful facts of the day. The editors compiled their 60 favorites from the year that was. Some interesting ones are: 1) The vast bulk of criminal cases never go to trial — 97 percent of federal criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas. 2) The share of people in Oregon counties with kindergarten vaccination rates over 95 percent was close to 100 percent in 2000; in 2015, it was about 30 percent. 3) An eHarmony report on relationships found that American couples aged 25 to 34 knew each other for an average of six and a half years before marrying, compared with an average of five years for all other age groups. 4) The average bra size in the U.S. is 34DD. New York Times (11 minutes)
Thanks for all the great book recommendations. Thanks to you I now have a great list of books by authors of color that address race in America. I’ve already finished my first James Baldwin book and it was fire! (Why did I wait so long to read him?) If your curious, check out the book list here.
Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks. – James Baldwin
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Photo by William Karl.