Weekend Briefing No. 243

Welcome to the weekend. October is off to a bang! Not one, not two, but three of my friends – Scott Harrison, Casey Gerald and Jedidiah Jenkins – launched books this week. I’m proud of each of their personal journeys. I read all three of them this week and I’m impressed by the fact that each of their stories include a deeply spiritual struggle as they are seeking to find themselves, their voice and their purpose. This briefing is going to be a little book heavy, but I think you’ll like all of them.

Much less significantly, I published the second issue of Crypto Esq. If you are interested in blockchain, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts and want to understand the legal side of that world, check it out and SUBSCRIBE HERE.

Just as a little treat, here’s my October Playlist.

Prime Numbers

2528 – New Hampshire farmer Steve Geddes has grown a 2528 pound pumpkin breaking the North American record for the largest pumpkin.

50 – As of this month, just over 50% of the world’s population, or some 3.8 billion people, live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered “middle class” or “rich.” About the same number of people are living in households that are poor or vulnerable to poverty. So, September 2018 marks a global tipping point.

40 – A new survey indicates that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 29% of people aged 65-74 and 27% of people aged over 75 said the same.

Thirst

At 28 years old, my friend Scott Harrison had it all. A top nightclub promoter in New York City, his life was an endless cycle of drugs, booze, models—repeat. But 10 years in, desperately unhappy and morally bankrupt, he asked himself, “What would the exact opposite of my life look like?” Walking away from everything, Harrison spent the next 16 months on a hospital ship in West Africa and discovered his true calling. In 2006, with no money and less than no experience, Harrison founded charity: water. Today, his organization has raised over $300 million to bring clean drinking water to more than 8.2 million people around the globe. In Thirst, Harrison recounts the twists and turns that built charity: water into one of the most trusted and admired nonprofits in the world. In the tradition of such bestselling books as Shoe Dog and Mountains Beyond Mountains, Thirst is a riveting account of how to build a better charity, a better business, a better life—and a gritty tale that proves it’s never too late to make a change. Amazon (10 hours)

There Will Be No Miracles Here

My friend Casey Gerald comes to our fractured times as a uniquely visionary witness whose life has spanned seemingly unbridgeable divides. His story begins at the end of the world: Dallas, New Year’s Eve 1999, when he gathers with the congregation of his grandfather’s black evangelical church to see which of them will be carried off. His beautiful, fragile mother disappears frequently and mysteriously; for a brief idyll, he and his sister live like Boxcar Children on her disability checks. When Casey–following in the footsteps of his father, a gridiron legend who literally broke his back for the team–is recruited to play football at Yale, he enters a world he’s never dreamed of, the anteroom to secret societies and success on Wall Street, in Washington, and beyond. But even as he attains the inner sanctums of power, Casey sees how the world crushes those who live at its margins. He sees how the elite perpetuate the salvation stories that keep others from rising. And he sees, most painfully, how his own ascension is part of the scheme. There Will Be No Miracles Here inspires us to question and reimagine our most cherished myth – the American Dream. Amazon (13 hours)

 To Shake the Sleeping Self

On the eve of turning thirty, terrified of being funneled into a life he didn’t choose, my friend Jedidiah Jenkins quit his dream job and spent the next sixteen months cycling from Oregon to Patagonia. In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Jed narrates the adventure that started it all: the people and places he encountered on his way to the bottom of the world, and the internal journey that prompted it. As he traverses cities, mountains, and inner boundaries, Jenkins grapples with the questions of what it means to be an adult, his struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his conservative Christian upbringing, and his belief in travel as a way to “wake us up” to life back home. A soul-stirring read for the wanderer in each of us, To Shake the Sleeping Self is an unforgettable reflection on adventure, identity, and a life lived without regret. Amazon (12 hours)

Hard Work & Luck

What determines success? Hard work or good fortune? Effort or randomness? I think we all understand both factors play a role, but I’d like to give you a better answer than “It depends.” One way to answer this question is to say: Luck matters more in an absolute sense and hard work matters more in a relative sense. The absolute view considers your level of success compared to everyone else. Then there is the relative view, which considers your level of success compared to those similar to you. Absolute success is luck. Relative success is choices and habits. Here’s the key: You can only control the slope of your success, not your initial position. It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. The more time passes from the start of a race, the less the head-start others got matters. This is not always true, of course. A severe illness can wipe out your health. A collapsing pension fund can ruin your retirement savings. Similarly, sometimes luck delivers a sustained advantage (or disadvantage). There is indeed an element of luck, and no, there isn’t. The prepared mind sooner or later finds something important and does it. So yes, it is luck. The particular thing you do is luck, but that you do something is not. In the end, we cannot control our luck—good or bad—but we can control our effort and preparation. Luck smiles on us all from time to time. And when it does, the way to honor your good fortune is to work hard and make the most of it. James Clear (14 minutes)

Solid

The World Wide Web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, has launched a way to make it easier for people to control their personal data. Will it take off? He’s working with a team at MIT and beyond on a startup called Inrupt which runs an open source project, Solid, that hands you back control over your own data. How will it work? Decentralization and control are the guiding principles. Solid will let developers create decentralized apps that run on data fully owned by users. They decide where to store their data, and who to share it with. The first wave of apps being built on Solid is being developed now. The plan is very ambitious. Its success will hinge on whether enough people adopt it beyond just hardcore techies. It’s well-timed in the week of Facebook’s breach though, and the fact it’s the brainchild of Berners-Lee can’t hurt either. Medium (5 minutes)

Auto-automation

Is it unethical for a software developer to not tell their employer that they’ve automated their job? Reactions are split between those who feel this cheating, or at least deceiving, the employer, and those who thought the coder had simply found a clever way to perform the job at hand. Call it self-automation, or auto-automation. At a moment when the specter of mass automation haunts workers, rogue programmers demonstrate how the threat can become a godsend when taken into coders’ hands, with or without their employers’ knowledge. In most fields, workers rarely have any formal input over whether their job is automated, or how and when automation could be implemented. Self-automators offer a glimpse of what it looks like when automation is orchestrated not by top-down corporate fiat, but by the same workers who stand to reap its benefits. Some embrace the extra leisure time, while others use the spare hours to learn new skills and tackle new programmatic challenges. The Atlantic (12 minutes)

Social Network of Brains

The first “social network” of brains lets three people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads. BrainNet uses direct brain-to-brain communication to collaboratively play a Tetris like game. Player 1 can see only the top half of the Tetris screen, and so can see the block but not how it should be rotated. Player 2 can see the rest of the screen, and can therefor send a signal saying either “rotate” or “do not rotate.” The signals consist of a single phosphene to indicate the block must be rotated or no flash of light to indicate that it should not be rotated. So, the data rate is low—just one bit per interaction. Player 1 performs the action. But crucially, the game allows for another round of interaction and can transmit the next course of action—either rotate or not—in another round of communication. MIT Technology Review (5 minutes)

From the Community

My friend (and former neighbor) Khe Hy’s been adapting his popular newsletter RadReads into a quirky mix of Instagram posts and stories. I love his relentless focus on personal / professional growth. Follow @radreadsco for a daily “nudge” about being more intentional about your career, relationships, and finances. 

Weekend Wisdom

No matter how much we try to run away from this thirst for the answer to life, for the meaning of life, the intensity only gets stronger and stronger. We cannot escape these spiritual hungers.Ravi Zacharias

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.

 

 

Photo by Hector Marquez.