reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 48


  1. The Road Less Traveled – DeWayne Roy
    DeWayne on dropping out and hustling to find a job in SF.

  2. Industry Towns – Where You Start A Company Matters – Elad Gil
    A geographical analysis of where startups are funded and why network effects dominate in startup cities.

  3. Reflections on Refactor Camp 2019 – Venkatesh Rao
    vgr reflects on an eventful refactor camp. The theme this year was Escaping Reality.

  4. Mazes as Mirrors of Creation – Dan Schmidt
    The concept of idea mazes and why creating always involves detours.
  5. The Epic Story of Container Shipping – Venkatesh Rao
    A review of the book  The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Marc Levinson (2006).

reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 47


  1. Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox – Lina Khan
    A comprehensive review of Amazon’s relationship with antitrust regulation and how antitrust legislation has failed to keep up with business models in a networked age. 

  2. Quasiparticles and the Miracle of Emergence – Brian Skinner
    A simple explanation of quasiparticles and how emergence works at the atomic level.

  3. A peek inside Sequoia Capital’s low-flying, wide-reaching scout program – Techcrunch
    Founders have the best connections to other founders. Sequoia used this tactic to fund startups that would’ve otherwise flown under the radar.

  4. Facebook’s cryptocurrency partners revealed—we obtained the entire list of inaugural backers – The Block Crypto
    Details on FB’s foray into crypto. 
  5. How Amazon Is Beating Antitrust Before It Happens – Chris Gillett
    A great article on how Amazon is staying ahead of the curve wrt competition and regulation.

  6. The Day You Became a Better Writer (2nd Look) – Scott Adams
    Writing tips from Scott Adams.

reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 46


  1. Semi-colon shaped people – Venkatesh Rao
    Talks about the oft quoted T-shaped (breadth followed by depth) work/career and why that choice may not be prudent anymore

  2. Half a dozen tips for staying oriented in the 21st century – Vinay Gupta
    Some advice on dealing with complexity in the modern world

  3. Why customer-first companies ultimately win – Kyle Tibbitts
    Kyle talks about why companies have lost focus on customers and principles to rectify that 

  4. Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science – Santa Fe Institute
    The Santa Fe Institute began exploring emergent behavior in science and society at its 1984 founding workshops, “Emerging Syntheses in Science,” during which every speaker dealt with an aspect of emergent behavior as well as the search for the organizing principles that bring about that behavior. 

    Indeed, some members of the Institute’s growing scientific community dreamed of creating a unified science of complexity through which complexity itself could be defined and quantified – and thus classify complex systems in some kind of grand hierarchical schema.

  5. Life Spirit Distillation – Venkatesh Rao
    A modern personal philosophy:

    The alternative to “growth” is not stasis or passivity, but a growing aliveness to the actual change that you’re undergoing in the process of generating responses to specific life challenges. If these challenges are real, then the way you change through responding to them is not entirely within your control.

    Life intensification is the process of consciously becoming increasingly real (and no, I’m not talking about being more “present” so don’t jump to that conclusion) by letting go more and more of your idea of what your life should be like, and embracing the possibilities of what it is actually turning out to be like. 

  6. On Lifestyle Rigidity – Venkatesh Rao
    Why has lifestyle rigidity gone up in the modern world?

    Vgr hypothesizes that lifestyle dark energy has gone up significantly, i.e. variables that determine lifestyle have grown exponentially and so has our energy requirement to sustain arbitrary standards of those variables under the guise of “lifestyle design”.

  7. How to Take a Walk – Venkatesh Rao
    Have you ever just taken a walk? Not a jog with your pets, not a stroll with your friends, or a grocery run. Just an aimless walk?
  8. What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Poor – Venkatesh Rao
    A book review of “Portfolios of the Poor” and why the poorest people have the most complicated mix of financial instruments to sustain their cash flows
  9. The Dead-Curious Cat and the Joyless Immortal – Venkatesh Rao
    I’ve been thinking a lot about curiosity lately. Specifically, about curiosity in the sense of  the proverb curiosity killed the cat: a potentially self-destructive pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that leads to unnecessary risk-taking. In humans such risk-taking often threatens not just the individual or even family/immediate group, but the whole species. Some people just have to go around figuring out new ways to blow things up, often with the noblest of intentions.

    Curiosity does not seem to be a fundamental drive, unlike what I am told are the  three basic biological drives (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and conserving energy), so it is probably derived. Curiosity requires a certain energy surplus, since its visible signature is a restless dissipation of energy, but it does not seem directly motivated by energy conservation concerns. So is it derived from pleasure-seeking or pain-avoidance or some mix of the two? Does that make a difference?

  10. The Calculus of Grit – Venkatesh Rao
    On the dichotomy of generalist vs specialist and how those definitions change when using different frames of references.

    I think I now understand the reason I reject the generalist label and resonate far more with the specialist label. The generalist/specialist distinction is an extrinsic coordinate system for mapping human potential.  This system itself is breaking down, so we have to reconstruct whatever meaning the distinction had in intrinsic terms. When I chart my life course using such intrinsic notions, I end up clearly a (reconstructed) specialist.

    This new way of internal navigation is called “The Calculus of Grit” 

reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 45


  1. The Calculus of Grit – Venkatesh Rao
    On generalists vs specialists, what grit looks like from external vs internal frame of reference and the what do we mean by “work”. 

  2. Why people work: a quick field guide – Aaron Lewis
    An excerpt: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why people work, what work is for, and what makes work worthwhile. There are probably as many answers to these questions as there are people in the workforce, but I wanted to try my hand at mapping out the main worker “tribes” of our time.

  3. How I Built My Network, Before I Knew Anyone – Ali Hamed
    This is a classic case study on how to solve a chicken-egg problem. 

  4. The Art of Gig – Venkatesh Rao
    A three part essay on indie consulting. This is A-grade humor + insightful writing.
    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3
  5. How to fail – Lou Keep
    An essay on the Fearless Girl statue fiasco on Wall Street.

  6. Lessons to my younger self (and other young people today) – Sam Gerstenzang
    Some excellent advice here.

  7. The Dead-Curious Cat and the Joyless Immortal – Venkatesh Rao
    An exposition on curiosity and its consequences.