Weekend Briefing No. 342

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

30.1 BShopify’s Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) for the second quarter was $30.1 billion compared to eBay’s $27.1 billion. For the first time, Shopify processed more transaction volume than eBay.

4,999.99—Costco sold a one-year supply of food for four people for $4,999.99.

12—In the U.S., over the past one, three and five years, Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) stock and allocation fund strategies lost 12 percent less money than non-ESG funds during market declines and displayed less volatility.

Reimagining Venture Capital

The investments in venture capital reflect those who built it. But those who built it, mainly white and male, may have blind spots around markets they have not worked for, lived in or sold to. The business stakes are too high for us not to create a more inclusive industry. Hiring a black partner or “carving out” small amounts of money for diverse entrepreneurs or fund managers is not enough. We need to rethink the culture of our industry, the markets we invest in and the voices we listen to in our conference rooms. These choices have the potential to unlock billions of dollars in markets we may never have seen. The Hill (7 minutes)

Second Time Around

I love working with second and third-time founders. The smart ones have gained some wisdom from experience. Here are a couple of nuggets of wisdom from second-time founders: (1) So many founders don’t realize what was lucky about their first time, and they’ll be able to just do it again. Also, we tend to learn the wrong lessons from success or failure. My second startup is radically different from my first one, and I think it’s an advantage because there’s a tendency to over-extrapolate from what you did before even if industries change. (2) I learned that working with the wrong people will absolutely destroy a startup. This second time around, I used a series of many co-working weekends over the course of a year to work on common problems to judge (a) product-founder fit, (b) commitment, (c) strength fit between myself and the people that showed up consistently, (d) character.  Ultimately, you need your values, work ethic and priorities to align, as well as a balance of skills that complement each other. NFX (12 minutes)

COVID & Student Debt

The CARES Act’s administrative forbearance on federal student loans may be helpful in the short term, as it allows borrowers to pause their payments. However, in the long term, this policy will likely extend the term of these loans, which will in turn extend the impact of these loans on borrowers. Here are a variety of short- and long-term means-tested solutions: (1) Include another round of cash transfers for low and moderate income (LMI) households, or a larger amount of cash for LMI households in more widely distributed transfers. (2) Extend the temporary loan relief through September 2021, and allow for the cancellation of some federal and private student loans (up to $10,000 per borrower). (3) The federal government should make an effort to extend private student loan borrowers and lenders a similar level of relief that federal student loan borrowers received with the CARES Act. This has been done in multiple states thus far and can reasonably be replicated in other states. Brookings (9 minutes)

COVID Learnings

Looking back over the past six months, here are some things we’ve learned about coronavirus: (1) The theory that China was telling huge lies about the virus’ fatality rate, its prevalence in China or its death toll, now seems mistaken. They have probably been misleading us, but nothing too crazy. (2) Looking at Asia, it appears that organized and law-abiding countries can prevent or control outbreaks of COVID-19, on an ongoing basis, and at an acceptable cost. Whether those of us in Europe/U.S./Canada/U.K./etc. will be able to keep control of COVID-19 like Asia has, with our weaker governance and lower compliance with social norms, remains to be seen. (3)  We need to focus relatively less on cleaning surfaces and more on fresh air. We ought to move everything we possibly can outdoors. Open all our windows. Make open-plan offices into closed-plan offices and blow air out. (4) In a situation like one—where so little is known—humility, complete honesty and sincere respect for the public should be what public figures aspire to. That’s true even when you’re right, but the lesson is most conspicuous when you’ve just gotten things wrong. @robertwiblin (12 minutes)

Do Your Best Work

How do we do our best work? We make time for it. (1) Say no. To do your best work, you have to choose what you are going to be crap at. (2) Deep work. Cut the distraction for blocks of time. To do your best work, you will have to replace distractions with focus. (3) Be patient. Talent is the ability to practice. (4) Love. But if you are lucky enough to find something you love doing, that will give you a life-long edge over others. Learning your craft will be easier. Practice will not be a chore. The hunger to improve will never leave you. And most importantly, it will be fun. (5) No ego. The best and the hardest team to form is one when there is no ego. (6) Purpose. To do your best work, you will have to understand why it matters to you. Define your purpose. It will help you do your best work. (7) Small things. Most people want rapid progress. Most people look for huge wins. Most people want to hit the ball out of the park. These big wins happen rarely. Most people don’t want to work on small things. And yet, they deliver improvements almost without fail. Do Lectures (11 minutes)

On Perfectionism

Perfectionism is when the last 5 percent of a project feels like 95 percent of the work. It’s when you feel like you’re close to the finish line, but you won’t allow yourself to cross it. It’s when you obsess over every last word, every little brushstroke, every final note. It’s the belief that what you have now doesn’t fit the vision you had, so you must work tirelessly to get there. Perfectionism is the inability to let your expectations go. When is a project good enough? Let’s first clarify what “good enough” is not. “Good enough” is not subpar work. It’s not a lame attempt to create something just to get it out there. It’s not about releasing work that you know needed more time and thought. Instead, “good enough” is when you’ve done the hard work to get it to 95 percent, but you understand that it’s okay to let it go. It’s the ability to recognize that 100 percent is a construct of the mind, and pursuing it will take you away from exploring other areas of interest. “Good enough” is when you know that the work isn’t perfect, but it still respects the intellect of your audience. It’s not exactly what you envisioned, but it’s still damn good enough to deserve their investment of attention. As a creator, you will never feel that your work is complete. You can only get it to a point where it feels right to let it go. And letting go is the only way to start something else that will further your creative progress. What we lack in perfection can be made up for with consistency. “Good enough” is what allows us to move on and try again. More To That (7 minutes)

Intelligence v. Grit

A new study compared the relative contribution of grit and intelligence to educational and job-market success in a representative sample of the American population. It found that intelligence contributes 48–90 times more than grit to educational success and 13 times more to job-market success. Conscientiousness also contributes to success more than grit but only twice as much. We show that the reason our results differ from those of previous studies, which showed that grit has a stronger effect on success, is that these previous studies used nonrepresentative samples that were range-restricted on intelligence. Our findings suggest that although grit has some effect on success, it is negligible compared to intelligence and perhaps also to other traditional predictors of success. I (Kyle) am curious to learn more about this. My take is that you need to be smart to succeed, but once you are in a group of smart people, you differentiate yourself by having grit. Additionally, isn’t this a little chicken-and-egg? In order to “acquire” intelligence, don’t you need to have grit in the first place? Sage Journals (15 minutes)


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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 Robert V. Ruggiero.

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Weekend Wisdom

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.Brene Brown

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