Weekend Briefing No. 319

Welcome to the weekend.

This week the gravity of the coronavirus is starting to fully set in. It has been a week of immense change and anxiety for most. If you’re feeling the weight of this, I’m right there with ya. Hang in there.

A big thanks to everybody who sent me acts of kindness they saw last week. Check out the Awesome Humans section below.

It wasn’t all bad news. This week was a test run of what it means to connect with people when we’re physically isolated… mostly over Zoom (who’s market cap is now more than Marriot’s). The most trending sentences this week must be “Can you hear me?” “Can you see me?” “I think you’re on mute.” “Click gallery view.” How many of you had to teach your family how to use Zoom?

This weekend I’d like to try a few new ways for us to engage with each other in this time of social distancing:

Bourbon & Briefing – Let’s have a virtual happy hour tonight at 5:00 PM ET. Pour yourself a beverage, join the Zoom and we can discuss the stories in this week’s briefing together. Should be a fun experiment. Sign up here.

Apeirogon Book Club – It seems like forever ago, but it was only 2 weeks ago that I put out an invitation to New Yorkers for a book club on the new novel Apeirogon. Watch the trailer to the book here. We are now opening that up to anybody who wants to participate virtually. The date of the book club will be 4 weeks from now – April 18. If you’re interested (and haven’t signed up yet), Sign up here.

Kindness Challenge – Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to make a commitment to a specific act of kindness or generosity to somebody in your community – friend, co-worker, family member, etc – for somebody that is struggling. If you’re up for the challenge, sign up here.

You are awesome!

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Prime Numbers

118,000,000,000– Between $61 billion and $118 billion in food sales will shift from restaurants to home during the second quarter of 2020. That would translate into an estimated sales jump for grocery stores of 32 percent to 62 percent for the quarter.

600,000– On Sunday alone, 600,000 people downloaded Zoom.

35– The British pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar in 35 years.

Need Not Dominate Our Minds

This C.S. Lewis quote on fear of death from an atomic bomb is relevant in this moment. “How are we to live in an atomic age?”… do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented… the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays (4 hours)

Survive & Thrive During Lockdown

The transition to a life under coronavirus quarantine can be challenging and disorienting. I thought I’d share my current thinking / practices on how to thrive in lockdown. I set out to write a short little post, but ended up turning into a 1600-word article. Here are some highlights: (1) Health & Safety. Wash up. Glove up. Swap out your outside clothes for inside clothes when returning home. Sleep. Work out. (2) Productivity. Center. Get dressed. Set intentions. Time block. Stay focused. Log off. I’d love your feedback. What do you love / hate? Any additional tips? kylewestaway.com (12 minutes)

Managing Risk Through Options

As anyone trading anything in 2020 knows, volatility has returned with a vengeance. For better or worse, the crypto markets in general and bitcoin specifically have reflected the market volatility enveloping stocks, bonds, commodities, futures and other asset classes. In fact, during the first two months of 2020, bitcoin moved by over 3,300 points in dollar terms. That’s why the smart bitcoin money is increasingly turning to options on LedgerX as a great way to navigate the sharp moves in bitcoin’s price. Whether it’s for responsible speculation or prudent risk mitigation, this fully regulated exchange offers several strategies for individual traders to get the most out of their bitcoin trading. To learn more, check out LedgerX (Sponsored)

Remote Collaboration

What augmented knowledge discovery research can tell us about remote collaboration. (1) Present information and questions quickly in small discrete chunks. (2) Make it as clear as possible how others can contribute (3) Enable the smallest contribution possible. (4) The more you can structure your communication for readability the better. It enables other people to sort/filter with minimal cognitive burden and respond quickly. (5) Give people both the upshot and tools to dig deeper. Twitter (8 minutes)

Resilient Founders

As mentioned last week RIP Good Times mentality is back in startup land. Thus, building a resilient company might be coming back in style. One founder who built a successful startup in 2008 shares his perspective: (1) A strong long-term vision will help you weather intermittent storms.What are we going to do? What is our unique vision behind it? That’s an existential, table-stakes prerequisite to building a resilient venture-scale company. Even with the best team in the best market, you’ll hit a ceiling without these ingredients. (2) Product/market fit doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Product/market fit isn’t a diploma you hang on your company’s wall. It’s a moving target that you constantly have to monitor. Take it from me — you can find it, only to watch it slip through your fingers. (3) Looking for your biggest competitive threats? Follow signals, not noise. Resilient founders don’t ask “Which competitor are we scared of?” Instead, it’s “What fully-formed company would be an existential threat to us, whether it exists or not? And if it doesn’t exist, why aren’t we building it?” First Round Review (20 minutes)

Cutting Cost

A lot of startups are thinking seriously about cutting expenses in a way that would have been unimaginable a few months ago. If you find yourself leading a company that needs to make drastic cuts, how do you approach it? (1) Cut the fat. Remove unused employee benefits. Negotiate reoccurring costs – work with your vendors to lower the monthly fees in exchange for a longer-term contract. End unprofitable customer relationships. (2) Cut the muscle. Put long-term projects on hold. Dial back advertising to the most profitable spends. Cut travel (easy in the current context). (3) Cut the bone. Sell real estate or receivables. Cut employee benefits. Implement pay cuts and / or furloughs. Layoffs. Permanent Equity (10 minutes)

Barely Holding It Together

To everyone who’s barely holding it together. Good job today. When you’re just barely holding it together, every day is a long and tiresome struggle, every challenge of every size potentially ruinous. Maybe you’re just barely holding it together financially—many people are; death by a thousand expenses. Maybe it’s a threadbare social network that’s left your nerves feeling stripped and exposed. Maybe it’s a marriage, maybe it’s parenting, maybe it’s the desire to parent and the inability to, maybe it’s systemic racism that keeps you working twice as hard for half as much, and maybe it’s some combination of these and more. On top of a global pandemic. In spite of that, you still manage to make it to your home office, or to pick up the kids, or to go to the store, or hell, to walk the dog. And for that, I want to say: Good job. The Establishment (4 minutes)


Great Ideas of Philosophy by Daniel N. Robinson. Grasp the important ideas that have served as the backbone of philosophy across the ages with this extraordinary 60-lecture series. This is your opportunity to explore the enormous range of philosophical perspectives and ponder the most important and enduring of human questions – without spending your life poring over dense philosophical texts. You’ll journey from the early philosophical ideas of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; chart the origins of Christian philosophy and investigate the Islamic scholars who preserved and extended Greek thought during the Middle Ages; and venture through Enlightenment contributions to philosophy, from Francis Bacon to Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, and Adam Smith. Then shift your attention to the modern era, where you see groundbreaking ideas like psychoanalysis, pragmatism, and nihilism, as well as the collision between the inherently social understanding of meaning created by Wittgenstein, the vastly different estimation of human thought developed by the code-breaking genius Alan Turing, and the subtle response to him made by the American philosopher John Searle. While the lectures cover an enormous range of key thinkers and ideas, they always focus on the most important ideas. The result is a course that gives you everything you need to finally grasp humanity’s exciting philosophical history – without years of intense academic study and piles of dense reading. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Managing Remote Teams – A practical 60-page PDF on how to manage from home.

WFH Bingo – Having fun while working from home.

Moral Disease – Do pandemics bring out the worst in us?

Awesome Humans

I’ve got a PhD in global health and have been following the outbreak news closely. I’ve also been fielding a lot of calls and emails from my family and friends who have been panicked or paralyzed. In response, I started a short video series about covid19 to help folks make sense of what’s going on focusing on practical tips without getting into the politics. If it’s useful, people can see them on my LinkedIn page. – Amy Lockwood

I had a friend of a friend (we met her years ago when we first moved to NY) who venmoed me 25 dollars out of blue with a comment. The comment said “thank you for working hard to help people when they need it most.  Nurses are the real heroes of the medical world! Hope this helps a little to get whatever you need to stay healthy and strong. Praying for you all.” It really took me by surprise and moved me greatly. – Brooke Hames (Nurse)

Neighbors are reaching out to neighbors and asking to help anybody affected by the virus. – Emily Huck

Regarding ways people are rallying, I help run a nonprofit (Community Mindfulness Project) that offers secular, science-based mindfulness sessions in libraries and other community spaces. Meditation has been shown to improve immunity, in part because it alleviates unhealthy stress, letting the brain know that we’re okay. It also helps to deepen our sense of interpersonal connection, something that we’ll all need to work extra hard to cultivate as we self-isolate (as noted in your briefing). Since gathering in person is no longer wise, our team rallied and we’ll be offering 3 live, dial-in mediation sessions every weekday and one each on Saturday and Sunday until we can offer in-person sessions again. We already have recorded meditations on our website, but we thought the live ones would allow people to have a sense of being in community. Here’s hoping! – Erika Long

Love your call to double down on social fabric. My good friend Mary Schmich had a great column in the Chicago Tribune. – David Bank

A local DC flower design shop Sweet Root Village that obviously is impacted as many other small businesses and put on a 4-hr drive thru flower fundraiser to raise money for a DC youth community center DC Dream Center. They made lemonade out of lemons, partnering with other florists and flower wholesalers, to use their leftover flowers from canceled events to put on a fundraiser of floral arrangements benefiting local non-profits. – Nate Wong

TouchNote, an online greeting card company, urged its customers to call your favorite grandparent just to say “hi” and ask how they’re doing. Or perhaps to leave that elderly neighbor a note, letting her know you’re here if she needs anything. They are giving a free card to anybody that wants to do this. – Carol Onderka

Grubhub suspends fees it charges restaurants. – Benjamin Friedman

Delta CEO forgoes 6 months of salary to avoid laying off employees. – Marc Rabinowitz

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 Dimitri Karastelev.

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.Louisa May Alcott

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