Weekend Briefing No. 209

Welcome to the Weekend. Hello from Cambridge. I’m here speaking at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference. Say hello if you see me wandering the halls!

We’ve had a bunch of new readers recently, so, if you’re new, thanks for checking out the briefing. I hope you like it.

Every week I open the briefing with a section called Prime Numbers. I guess I thought it was cute and it just stuck. But sometimes I meet readers out and about and they bring up the fact that the Prime Numbers section never has prime numbers. So, for all you lovely math geeks out there, this week, the section is exclusively focused on prime numbers. You’re welcome.

Prime Numbers

23,249,425 – A prime number discovery in December was made in the unlikeliest of places: on a church computer in a Memphis suburb. It was the largest one to be found, and contains 23,249,425 digits.

50 – There have been 50 Mersenne primes discovered. Mersenne primes, named after a 17th-century French monk, are a special breed: They’re prime numbers that are one less than a power of two—making them even more rare.

1 – 1 is the loneliest number… but is it a prime number? Apparently, this is a debate that has been raging since at least 350 BC.

Craft Renaissance 

The world’s attention these days is focused on tech – on how much it has changed our lives and how much more it will do so in the future. What remains of manufacturing is being turned over to machines. Yet, in little pockets of cities in the richest parts of the world, clever, prosperous people are quitting their professional jobs and creating firms that look more like workshops from the pre-industrial world than modern companies. This trend has much to say about our needs and wants as both workers and consumers. It could just be that the rise of the craft economy is the harbinger of the future of work. Its workers are subsidized by high-earning professionals whose productivity has been enhanced by technology, enabling the artisans to follow passions that they would not otherwise be able to pursue. The machines, in other words, are liberating people from the machine. It’s a good thought to savor while sipping a tasty small batch bourbon. 1843 (18 minutes)

Gamers to the Rescue

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) thinks gamers and cryptocurrency can help save lives in Syria. I know… seems far-fetched, but here’s the plan. On February 2, the UN led humanitarian aid program launched Game Chaingers—a fundraising initiative that aims to use blockchain technology to raise money for Syrian children. According to UNICEF, 9 million Syrian children are on the verge of losing all “vital emergency help.” The plan is simple—UNICEF is calling on gamers to hook up their graphics cards to the blockchain to mine ether, the in-house cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain, for charity. Motherboard (3 minutes)

Keep on Truckin’

Truckers have become the go-to example for people who should be worried about robots taking their jobs. But a counter-narrative is emerging: trucking jobs will not be endangered by autonomous driving, and in the brightest scenarios, as in new research by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, there may be an increase in trucking jobs as more self-driving vehicles are introduced. The basic idea is twofold: 1) Truckers do a lot more than just driving, and it’s hard to do all of that autonomously. 2) Autonomous technology will greatly increase the utilization of trucks on the road, thereby lowering the cost of freight. This is reflected in a lower cost of goods to consumers and will therefore increase demand, which in turn leads to more truckers on the road. In this version of the future, humans will work in tandem with the autonomous system and not be replaced by them. The Atlantic (8 minutes)


This year a pilot program will use the blockchain for the first time to try to track cobalt’s journey from artisanal mines in Democratic Republic of Congo through to products used in smartphones and electric cars. The aim is eventually to give manufacturers a way of ensuring the cobalt in lithium-ion batteries for products such as iPhones and Teslas has not been mined by children. Tracking cobalt presents many challenges as scores of informal mine sites would have to be monitored, all players in the supply chain would need to buy into the scheme, and accurate, electronic data would need to be transmitted from remote areas – all in a vast country plagued by lawlessness. Companies are responding to pressure from consumers and investors to show the cobalt they use has come through supply chains free of rights abuses, just as they have for minerals used in electronics such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. Reuters (4 minutes)

Goals v. Systems

When it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, focus on systems not goals. What’s the difference between goals and systems? If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day. If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month. If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million-dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process. Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference. The Mission (6 minutes)

Insecure Overachiever

If you are a leader who is wondering “Why am I working harder than ever?,” take a good look at yourself. Our tendency to overwork and burn out is framed by a complex combination of factors involving our profession, our organization, and …ourselves. Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy. These individuals are immensely attractive to elite professional organizations because they are entirely self-motivating and self-disciplining. The firm in effect tells the insecure overachiever, “We are the best in the business, and because we want you to work for us, that makes you the best, too.” But upon joining the firm, insecure overachievers discover that the rigorous up-or-out policy exacerbates their insecurity and their fear of being “exposed” as inadequate — and ultimately rejected. Harvard Business Review (9 minutes)

Love Map

The Love Map is 10 questions to help you either find or deepen love. Some of the questions I think are good, if you are searching for love are: 3) Partnerships that inspire me…  4) Those partnerships inspire me because… 5) Good Story: Write about a moment when you felt great in a relationship. What happened? Why is it such a great memory? 6) Bad Story: Write about a difficult moment in a relationship. What happened? Why was it so difficult? 7) Future Me: Sketch an image of where you’d like to be in two years. What career are you pursuing? What are you doing with your partner? Where are you living? The Experience Journal (9 minutes)

From the Community

My good friend Alex Abelin shares his 2017 goal to subtract or add one thing to his life each month in More & Less: My 2017 Monthly Challenge.

Ama Marston was featured in an article about turning setbacks into advantages in the New York Times.

Joel Solomon wrote about the clean money revolution in the New Age Journal.

Weekend Wisdom

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil

About the Weekend Briefing

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