reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 21


  1. Video Games and the (Male) Meaning of Life – Quilette
    Interesting article on how video games are compensating for lack of meaning in daily life for a large number of men. 

  2. The secret laws of success and status – Nature
    How it works in general, Barabási suggests, is now becoming clear owing to the emergence from research of a number of simple “laws of success”.

    – The first is that “performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success”.
    – That phenomenon is the subject of the second law: “Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded.”
    – The third law that Barabási describes is: “Previous success × fitness = future success.”
    – And then there’s the fourth law: “While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group’s achievements.”

  3. What should you do with your life? – Andrew Ruiz
    This is quite the article. An excerpt: 

    Has anyone ever successfully answered the question of what we should do with our lives?

    I feel like ever since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has struggled to construct a meaning by which they can satiate their souls.

    What I mean by that: In our ingenuity, we’ve stripped life of some challenges that had previously given us meaning. Our biological systems have not evolved quickly enough to give us the same sense of momentum that our ancestors had when cultivating a garden or constructing a shelter.

  4. The Dynamics of Network Effects – a16z
    The most successful companies and products of the internet era have all been predicated on the concept of network effects, where the network becomes more valuable to users as more people use it. 

    While we know that not all network effects are created equal, they don’t evolve equally either. Every product has different types of network effects that mature and develop differently over time. If anything, most network effects businesses are changing faster than ever before.

    So how can entrepreneurs and founders navigate this era of seemingly diminishing network effects? The trick is to know what your network effects look like today, but also project how they’ll evolve over time. To that end, you’ll need to understand three aspects of your company and how they could change going forward: 
    1) your value proposition, 2) your users/inventory, and 3) your competitive ecosystem. Otherwise you could get caught flat-footed, claiming that network effects are dead.

  5. The Chinese Lesson: Online learning has no inherent churn problem – Matrix Partners
    Chinese education technology companies have proven they can solve the #1 problem in online learning. Most people, however, draw the wrong conclusion from these successes.
    Online learning programs in China post remarkable student retention rates. These results don’t stem entirely from a unique cultural phenomenon that we cannot replicate. Instead, homegrown innovation in product and business model have driven stickiness in this category. We can and should learn from China’s success in online learning.

  6. Inside the Pricey War to Influence to Your Instagram Feed – Wired
    The perverse incentives that govern influencer marketing are bad for both consumers and businesses. 

  7. Headspace vs. Calm: The Meditation Battle That’s Anything but Zen – WSJ
    A pair of apps preach relaxation to millions of customers—but still badly want to beat each other.
  8. Thomas Sowell Returns – Reason
    One of America’s top social scientists on what has changed since he sat down with Reason 38 years ago.
  9. How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession – Nir Eyal
    In 2005, as I joined Netflix as VP of Product, I asked Reed Hastings, the CEO, what he hoped his legacy would be. His answer: “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”
    Reed’s aspiration was that the Netflix team would discover what delights customers through the scientific process — forming hypotheses through existing data, qualitative, and surveys, and then A/B testing these ideas to see what works. His vision was that product leaders at Netflix would develop remarkable consumer insight, fueled by results and learning from thousands of experiments.
  10. A Life of One’s Own: A Penetrating 1930s Field Guide to Self-Possession, Mindful Perception, and the Art of Knowing What You Really Want – Brain Pickings
    A long read on some of the more important questions I’m thinking about these days. 
reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 20


  1. A Letter to My 25 Year Old Self – Mike Cernovich
    There has never been a better time in the history of the world to be alive. Western civilization allows people lacking noble birth to rise through social and economic hierarchies. And unless you become an outright druggie, you’ll never starve to death. Western civilization allows you to take incredible risks.

    This is applicable to far more countries than just the West. 

  2. Founder Interviews: Pat Walls of Starter Story – Hackernoon
    Learn how Pat found a successful niche interviewing entrepreneurs, growing his website from 0 to over 300,000 visitors in under a year.

    Really good advice on how to take personal projects to the next level. 

  3. Using Twitter to hack my brain for good – Kyle Russell
    How Kyle used Twitter’s incentives to further his own learning. 

  4. Why are Indian managers so damn good? – Quartz
    Intense competitions, family values and support, ability to deal with ambiguity and a culture that is one of the most diverse in the world – a recipe that makes for good Indian managers.
  5. The day I became a millionaire – DHH
    I took two important lessons away from this upbringing. First, as long as your basic needs are met, the quality of your lived experience is only vaguely related to the trappings of material success. While it wasn’t all roses and butter cookies, I had a great childhood. Second, I wouldn’t learn to appreciate the truth of the first lesson until I saw the other side of the golden fence.

    Once you’ve taken care of the basics, there’s very little in this world for which your life is worth deferring. You’ve likely already found or at least seen the very best things (whether you know it or not). Make them count.

  6. Camille Paglia: ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’ – Spectator
    Camille Paglia is one of the most interesting and explosive thinkers of our time. She transgresses academic boundaries and blows up media forms. She’s brilliant on politics, art, literature, philosophy, and the culture wars. She’s also very keen on the email Q and A format for interviews. So, after reading her new collection of essays, Provocations, Spectator USA sent her some questions.

  7. Figure Out Who’s On Your Team – John Lilly
    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, back when I was 23 and newly out of school, is this: look around and figure out who you want to be on your team.

    Figure out the people around you that you want to work with for the rest of your life. Figure out the people who are smart & awesome, who share your values, who get things done — and maybe most important, who you like to be with and who you want to help win.

    And treat them right, always. Look for ways to help, to work together, to learn. Because in 20 years you’ll all be in amazing places doing amazing things.

  8. Submission and dominance among friends – John Salvatier
    Status dynamics are weirder than you might think.
    I recently found myself longing for male friends to act dominant over me. Imagining close male friends putting their arms over my shoulders and jostling me a bit, or squeezing my shoulders a bit roughly as they come up to talk to me felt good. Actions that clearly convey ‘I’m in charge here and I think you’ll like it’.
    I was surprised at first. After all, aren’t showy displays of dominance bad? I don’t think of myself as particularly submissive either.

    I want these kinds of dominance display as part of a show that I’m part of your plans. That you’re looking out for me because there’s a role for me in your plans; a role you can tell I’ll like. That our relationship is stable because you’re getting something out of it too. And that our relationship is a good one because you’re going to make me better.

  9. A Guide To Corporate Innovation: 19 Strategies To Drive Innovation Now – CBInsights
    CBInsights doing what they do best (second-best?) – satire. Some light-hearted fun at the expense of corporate innovation. 
  10. Reflections on becoming a parent – Sarah Tavel
    And so while we leapt, we were scared. Now that I’ve had seven months to adjust and internalize, a few reflections on the journey thus far that I find myself sharing, recognizing that becoming a parent is an intensely personal experience, and there truly is no single experience:
    The delight of unpredictability.
reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 19


  1. Reality has a surprising amount of detail – John Salvatier
    At every step and every level there’s an abundance of detail with material consequences.
    It’s tempting to think ‘So what?’ and dismiss these details as incidental or specific to stair carpentry. And they are specific to stair carpentry; that’s what makes them details. But the existence of a surprising number of meaningful details is not specific to stairs. Surprising detail is a near universal property of getting up close and personal with reality.
    Before you’ve noticed important details they are, of course, basically invisible. It’s hard to put your attention on them because you don’t even know what you’re looking for. But after you see them they quickly become so integrated into your intuitive models of the world that they become essentially transparent. Do you remember the insights that were crucial in learning to ride a bike or drive? How about the details and insights you have that led you to be good at the things you’re good at?
    This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

  2. Why the world needs deep generalists, not specialists – Aytekin Tank
    In other words, every field imaginable will, eventually, combine with technology to replace a job.
    Who are the individuals that will make this happen? The polymaths, of course.Ironically, the majority of mankind’s biggest breakthroughs haven’t come from specialists; they have come from multifaceted individuals.
    Thus, the question becomes: How can we find the time to develop expertise in more than one area?
    Chapman seems to have found the answer in Pareto’s Principle.

  3. Nine most useful pieces of advice I’ve received – Mathilde Collin 
    A collection of great advice for people building stuff. 

  4. Dude, She’s (Exactly 25 Percent) Out of Your League – Atlantic
    A massive new study of online dating finds that everyone dates aspirationally—and that a woman’s desirability peaks 32 years before a man’s does.
  5. Everyone Poops and has Customer Churn (and a Dozen Notes) – Tren Griffin
    Everyone Poops is the title of the American edition of a Japanese children’s book written and illustrated by Tarō Gomi. This post will explain why every business from Tesla to a hot dog stand has churn, just like everyone poops. I decided to use this analogy because both churn and poop are both inevitable and important parts of an essential process. For example, both individual and business customers all die at some point. This is called death churn and is inevitable, just like taxes.

  6. The Best Product Managers are Truth Seekers – Sachin Rekhi
    One of the personality traits I value most in successful product managers is they are inherently truth seekers. Truth seekers have a strong bias towards discovering the truth being their primary motivation and what ultimately guides their decision-making. It takes incredible humility and curiosity to embody this trait, but when it exists, the benefits are felt throughout the entire R&D team. 

  7. Altruism Pays* (Read the Fine Print) – Veraxio
    Reciprocal Altruism (RA) is humanity. It is the concept that explains progress and is crucial to study and understand if you’re human.
    RA explains why fish don’t eat each other, why birds sing, why we carry bags of dog poop in public, and why people compete every day to give us free stuff.
    Altruism is any behavior that benefits an unrelated other at your expense.
    Altruistic acts require personal sacrifice. You must reduce your survival chances to help something or someone outside your family. Relatives don’t count. Helping relatives benefits your own genes, even if all they’ve ever given you is terrible birthday presents.
    Reciprocal Altruism is the original high optionality investment; altruism with defined cost and potentially exponential dividends.
  8. A Vegetarian Reporter Explores a Hunting Dilemma – NY Times
    When you’re lying face down for 20 minutes in a steaming pile of elk droppings, having to remain breathlessly still because the herd may have just spotted your hunting party, you find odd ways to distract yourself. I pondered a simple but vexing question: How can hunters claim to care deeply about the animals they kill?
  9. Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 18 Notes Essay – Founder as Victim, Founder as God – Blake Masters
    Founders are important. People recognize this. Founders are often discussed. Many companies end up looking like founder’s cults. Let’s talk a bit about the anthropology and psychology of founders. Who are they, and why do they do what they do?
    Application of Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, violence and scapegoating to startup founders. 
  10. I Am Not a Blank Page – Quillette
    As a young child, I remember being told “You can be anything you want to be if you’re prepared to work hard enough.” I remember feeling inspired by these words. It was empowering to believe that my destiny was mine to choose and that my fate rested in my own hands. But, at the same time, I also remember experiencing a strong sense of shame, because I felt I was failing at everything and letting down everyone who loved me.
reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 18


  1. TikTok: One person’s cringe is another one’s cool – Hardik Rajgor
    There is a tendency to dismiss the content as bordering on the extremes of cringe: Easy for us Netflix-watching, organic-cafe-frequenting, nihilist types who couldn’t see earnestness if it hit them between the eyes.

    Sure, the videos on TikTok don’t match up to the quality of content we’re used to consuming. But what it has, is the spirit of rebellion against a generation defined by snark, the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of what is “cool” and what is “cringe” on the Interwebz.

  2. The Perfect Spouse Is the Best Life Hack No One Told You About – Ryan Holiday
    For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better.

    Instead, we’re supposed to believe that relationships tie people down, that they are the death knell for creativity and ambition. When Cyril Connolly said that there was “no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” he was voicing, in appalling clarity, the selfishness and self-absorption that draws many people away from love and happiness.

  3. Looking For Syllabus 2.0 – USV
    There seems to be a big opportunity to reinvent the syllabus and create best of class learning guides crowdsourced from the already existing open materials on the web.

    How would a syllabus project turn a profit? One possibility is that the syllabi are the free content at the top of the funnel and as people are more and more serious about learning a topic, they can pay to join an online class, fly out to take a week-long certificate-granting seminar or get matched with a learning coach.

    People should be able to learn for the sake of learning for free, and if their goal is to learn in order to change their career or level up professionally, they could have the option to pay to expedite and certify their learning.

  4. Miniso Far. Mumuso good: How China’s cultural copycats took over the world
    Asia’s discount retailers are aping Japanese or Korean culture, but it turns out most of their products – and their operations – are from China.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing, when customers can’t get enough?

  5. Interview: Krishnan Subbaraman (ICE 2008) on a career in the Development sector
    There are multiple choices you need to make to find an ideal role for yourself in the development sector.
    (i) The first of course, is of the specific sub-sector or problem that you’re trying to solve (health, education etc.). I feel this needs to be based on a combination of head (i.e. what is the highest need sector, what is being done already etc.) and heart (what issue are you most passionate about, what can you relate to).
    (ii) The second choice is about balancing scale and attributability of impact, which often trade-off against each other. For instance, if you’re directly teaching a bunch of 30 kids in a remote tribal area in Chhattisgarh, you would presumably have a fairly deep impact on their lives personally, but you’re only working with a small number of kids. On the other hand, if you’re working for a funder that has financed many programmes and supports them to grow, you’re impacting more people, but more indirectly. There is no ‘right answer’ as to which is better, but it’s critical to figure out for yourself what you value more.
    (iii) The third choice is about functionality and identifying specifically what sort of role you would thrive in – these range from field work, project management, data and research, program design and management, consulting, fundraising, finance, government advocacy etc., to name just a few. A lot of these require specific skill-sets, of course, and need to be built.

  6. Move Slow and Make Things: Airtable’s Howie Liu Built A $1B Software Giant Emphasizing Substance Over Speed – Forbes
    In the frenetic world of tech, where the ruling ethos is to move fast and break things, Howie Liu moves at a glacial pace. With Andrew Ofstad and Emmett Nicholas, he launched Airtable in 2013. They wanted to create a spreadsheet with the power of a database. Then they spent three years building a prototype.

    The trio pored over academic papers on collaborative software theory, agonized about the Node.js architecture and obsessed over the speed at which windows popped open. After reading Kenya Hara’s design book White, Liu spent months focusing on the interplay of color and empty space.

    Liu, 30, is sitting in his San Francisco headquarters dressed in a black leather jacket and` black shirt, slacks and shoes. It’s a minimalist uniform à la Steve Jobs, the guy who would fuss forever over the shade of white of an iPod: “Instead of trying to rush a new product out the door, we introduce a period of forced delay, so people have a chance to sleep on an idea,” he says. “It’s a concept we call the simmer.”

  7. The Story Behind How Pocket Hit 20M Users with 20 People – First Round
    The story of Pocket, one of my favorite products of all time. 
  8. A Dozen Attributes of a Scalable Business – Tren Griffin
    Given the diversity of views about the definition of scalability, perhaps it is best thought of as a phenomena where “you know it when you see it.” If that is true, what would an optimally scalable business look like? Or instead, what qualities increase the scalability of a business?

    The remainder of this blog post is a discussion of a dozen attributes which can potentially make a business more scalable. As you read this blog post you may conclude, like I have, that these attributes of scalability are in many cases essentially our old friends from the unit economics equation (CAC, ARPU, Churn, Gross Margin and cost of money) plus free cash flow and some outside frictional forces like government regulation and the laws of physics.

    You may also conclude, as I have, that no two businesses are exactly alike when it comes to scalability. Each of the attributes of scalability are always in flux, with changes in any one attribute potentially impacting the others. There is no precise formula or recipe that will enable a business to scale, but there are best practices. Every business faces different scaling challenges and opportunities.

  9. How A Mysterious Tech Billionaire Created Two Fortunes—And A Global Software Sweatshop – Forbes
    From an office suite on the 26th floor of the iconic Frost Bank Tower in Austin, Texas, a little-known recruiting firm called Crossover is searching the globe for software engineers. Crossover is looking for anyone who can commit to a 40- or 50-hour workweek, but it has no interest in full-time employees. It wants contract workers who are willing to toil from their homes or even in local cafes.
    “The best people in the world aren’t in your Zip code,” says Andy Tryba, chief executive of Crossover, in a promotional YouTube video. Which, Tryba emphasizes, also means you don’t have to pay them like they are your neighbors. “The world is going to a cloud wage.”
  10. Figuring Shit Out With Anna Gát – Sar Haribhakti
    What does learning on the internet mean to you?
    I know “democratising knowledge” is a cliché, but let me use it this way: for me the internet levels passive learning and learning-as-dialogue as near-equal. I can both read a finished text by a dead author, or just listen to other people’s conversations, go read what they’re discussing, and then come back and join the debate. This has expanded my knowledge in truly weird directions, and I often feel positively fluid between countries, political sides, generations and disciplines. Very refreshing.
    A few years ago I started reading only first-source texts — where available — and only then someone else’s analysis or iteration. This gave me a lot of confidence in my own judgement and a healthy amount of skepticism in that of others. OK, maybe this is not healthy, we’ll see!