Weekend Briefing No. 259

Welcome to the weekend. Hello Brooklyn! I had a blast teaching at Harvard Law this Winter, but I’m so glad to be back home.

Prime Numbers

34 B – The U.S. government and private companies will need to pay $34 billion to reskill 1.4 million workers who may lose their jobs to automation in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.

41,160,300 – The average value for an acre of land in Brooklyn Heights is $41,160,300 (the highest in the US). In Yell, Arkansas it’s $5,300.

26 – In 2018, Oxfam notes, just 26 astoundingly rich individuals (led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) owned as much combined wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire global population. Since last year’s report, moreover, that bottom half has become 11.1% poorer. At the same time, more people became billionaires, and the richest billionaires became even richer.

Resentment in Relationships

My friend Khe Hy wrote the best article I’ve read this year. If you’re in a relationship, I highly recommend digging into it. Resentment acts as a relationship tax, forcefully injecting itself into every dimension of our marriage: money, in-laws, chores, vacations, and parenting philosophies. And left unchecked, it has some gnarly compounding effects. So how do we deal with it? 1) Name it, to tame it. The philosopher Carl Jung wrote: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” It’s much easier to see recurring behaviors if you can identify them with a name. 2) Share your own introspection. One of the hallmarks of difficult conversations is that they tend to be conversations about identity. To become more familiar with your [particular sensitivities], observe whether there are patterns to what tends to knock you off balance during difficult conversations, and then ask yourself why. What about your identity feels at risk? What does this mean to you? How would it feel if what you fear were true? It may take some digging. 3) Turn towards, instead of away. In Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he introduces the concept of bids. Bids are “any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection” and can show up “in simple ways, a smile or wink, and more complex ways, like a request for advice or help.” 4) Don’t go to sleep mad. It helps to make the apology specific. “I apologize for raising my voice. I apologize for saying this mean thing.” The specificity of the apology honors the fact that a broad solution isn’t possible whilst passions are flaring. And with any accelerating conflict – a brief pause (combined with a night of sleep) – can defuse any tense situation. 5) Go heavy on the attaboys and attagirls.  Three words. (And nope, not the L-Word.) You can never say them enough. “I appreciate you.” Rad Reads (12 minutes)

CEO Activism

There’s more pressure on CEOs than ever to address complicated issues facing society, and those that don’t embrace the opportunity could find themselves dealing with frustrated employees and customers. A loss of trust in traditional leaders, like government officials and journalists, is pushing people to develop more trusted relationships at work and with their employers, according to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer survey. This crucial shift in the employee-employer relationship creates new opportunities for CEOs and corporate executives to rebuild societal trust, but it also puts an enormous responsibility on them to address complicated issues, from civic inequality to gun control. Over three fourths (76%) of the respondents say CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it, up 11 percentage points from last year. A majority think CEOs can create positive change in issues like equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, training for the jobs of tomorrow and the environment.Nearly three fourths (71%) of employees agree that it’s critically important for their CEO to respond to challenges, like industry issues (how automation will change jobs), political events (how elections will impact companies), and national crises. Last year was a landmark moment for executive advocacy, and the results from this study and others suggest that the trend will continue leading up to 2020 and beyond. Axios (7 minutes)

VC Kills

Some tech companies are worth billions of dollars. But the vast majority are not. They should stop raising money like they could be. Raising a bunch of money, and raising way more than you need ends up stunting business’s growth. If you plant a seed, it needs some water, but if you just pour a bucket of water on it’s going to kill it. Venture capital kills more businesses than it helps because the pressure to grow crazy-fast means companies keep raising money to keep their growth rate up. It’s round A, round B, it’s like, you’re going back to the drug dealer. That, in turn, means they rarely have the opportunity to learn how to spend money in a disciplined, sustainable way. Lots of businesses could be great $10 million, $20 million businesses, but they’re not allowed to be. They’ve got to be $200 million or $500 million or a billion… or nothing. Recode (60 minutes)

Hearts & Space

Imagine a laboratory growing human hearts – and imagine that laboratory floating in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth. That may sound like science fiction, but bizarre as it seems, it could bring new hope for transplant patients within the next decade. While about 7,600 heart transplants were carried out around the world in 2017, there’s a desperate shortage of organs, with thousands of people on waiting lists dying every year. Efforts to grow human hearts in the lab are showing promise, but are hampered by the need for the organs to grow around a “scaffolding” to make sure they don’t collapse during the process. Reliably removing the scaffolding once the heart is complete is proving to be a challenge. Space tech company Techshot believes zero gravity could be the answer. The International Space Station (ISS) is in constant freefall around the planet, meaning that anything inside experiences effective weightlessness, known technically as microgravity. This means organs could be grown without the need for any scaffolding. This May, Techshot is going to test fabrication there. Perhaps, one day hearts could be grown commercially in space. BBC (6 minutes)


Jack Dorsey finally had his Rolling Stone interview. I thought these two questions on sleep and essentialism were interesting: Q: When you tweeted your health stats, showing that you get eight and a half hours of sleep a night, people were like, literally, “Well, you shouldn’t be sleeping well at night.” The implication, again, is that you don’t care. A: We can only show that we care through how we change our product and fix things. Nothing I say is going to do that. And, look, I have a lot of people who care about the world and society and our impacts reading my tweets, a lot of shareholders reading my tweets. But I also have a lot of entrepreneurs reading my tweets. And my mom reading my tweets. I don’t want to model a behavior where I’m up 20 hours a day working nonstop to fix something, ’cause I don’t think it’s long-term healthy. Like, it’s delusional. Q: So you want to show it’s possible to run two big companies and also get some sleep. A: Yeah, and I think it’s possible, and I wanna show it to be possible. That being said, every hour I spend is really meaningful. So, like, spending an hour here means I’m not doing something else, and is that trade-off worth it? I need to consider that every single day. And so I end up not watching a lot of TV. But when I wanna get away, I do. Rolling Stone (14 minutes)

Time > Money

No matter what the outcome of our efforts, we all feel increasingly strapped for time, and often the things that we think will make us happy — the accomplishments we work so hard for — don’t. They most certainly do not give us back moments with our families and friends or more hours to ourselves. “Time affluence” — is now at a record low in the United States. In a survey of 2.5 million Americans by the Gallup Organization, we found that 80% of respondents did not have the time to do all they wanted to each day. This situation is so severe it could even be described as a “famine” — a collective cultural failure to effectively manage our most precious resource, time. Time poverty exists across all economic strata, and its effects are profound. Research shows that those who feel time-poor experience lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. They experience less joy. They laugh less. They exercise less and are less healthy. Their productivity at work is diminished. They are more likely to get divorced. And in our analysis of the Gallup survey data, my team and I even found that time stress had a stronger negative effect on happiness than being unemployed did. The irony is, despite the perception that people today work longer hours, the data reveals that most of us have more discretionary time than ever before. How can we feel so starved for time? The answer seems to be money. Just like Adam, most of us fall into a trap of spending time to get money, because we believe money will make us happier in the long run. Our thinking is backward. In fact, research consistently shows that the happiest people use their money to buy time. People who are willing to give up money to gain more free time — by, say, working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks — experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy, and overall, live happier lives. Harvard Business Review (25 minutes)

Changing Our Minds

Statistically speaking… humans don’t change their minds. A raft of research shows that even after the evidence for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs.  A set of Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. Any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way? Biologically speaking, humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to cooperate. Cooperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups. New Yorker (20 minutes)

From the Community

Congrats to my friends Christina Sass and Jeremy Johnson on their $100MM Series D raise for their company Andela.

Weekend Wisdom

Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.Walter Reisch

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 Adam Gong.