Weekend Briefing No. 357

Welcome to the weekend.

For those of you who read The New Yorker piece on outsourcing your to-do list in last week’s briefing and thought “I should try that,” here’s one more reason to do so: use the code WeekendBriefing at sign-up for 10% off your first month for anything over $1K. Connect with my friend Hayley one-on-one to learn more. (Sponsored)

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Prime Numbers

2,400 – The Marshall Plan for Moms is a policy recommendation that includes a monthly, means-tested $2,400 monthly payment to the women who are the bedrock of our economy and our society.

146 – Airbnb IPO’d at $68, but opened on the Nasdaq at $146. Its market value soared to over $100B — more than Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt combined, and more than 5X its valuation in April.

190  – The Doordash IPO was priced at $102 a share. By the close of its first day of trading, shares were at $190. Now Dash has a $59B market value, more than 3X its June valuation.

The Year in Pictures

Certain years are so eventful they are regarded as pivotal in history, years when wars and slavery ended and deep generational fissures burst into the open — 1865, 1945 and 1968 among them. The year 2020 will certainly join this list. It will long be remembered and studied as a time when more than 1.5 million people globally died during a pandemic, racial unrest gripped the world, and democracy itself faced extraordinary tests. The photographs in this collection capture those historic 12 months. Jeffrey Henson Scales, who edited The Year in Pictures with David Furst, said he had never felt such sweep and emotion from a single year’s images — from the “joy and optimism” of a New Year’s Eve kiss in Times Square, to angry crowds on the streets of Hong Kong and in American cities, to scenes of painful debates over race and policing, to the “seemingly countless graves and coffins across the globe.” But two pictures taken in late January in Wuhan, China, are hints of a larger cataclysm to come. In one aerial shot, construction workers are building a giant hospital virtually overnight to handle hundreds of patients stricken with the coronavirus. The other looks like a still from a sci-fi film: A man dressed in black, wearing a white mask, lies dead on a city street; two emergency workers have stepped away from him and gaze at the viewer — all but their eyes hidden by face coverings and ghostly white protective suits. New York Times (19 minutes)

Don’t Log Off

This BBC Podcast was one of the most heart-warming and hopeful pieces of journalism I’ve heard about the impact of COVID on three individuals from very different backgrounds. Alan Dein searches for inspiring and moving stories of how the pandemic has changed people’s lives on every continent. Liana in Armenia celebrates her 30th birthday as her country finds itself at war with Azerbaijan – as well as Covid-19. Alan catches up with 25-year-old entrepreneur Fahad in Bangladesh, who he first spoke to in March when it looked like Fahad might lose his hard-earned fortune. Plus, Ugandan midwife Marion faces the toughest year of her career and Fish in China describes how lockdown is affecting her fellow students’ mental health. Apple Podcasts (27 minutes)


Over the summer, our client CosmosID began collaborating with the Maryland Department of the Environment to sample sewage for secret signals that detect coronavirus outbreaks. Because the coronavirus is shed directly from the gut, it can be detected in the stool of about half of all people who test positive — even if they are otherwise asymptomatic. That makes wastewater surveillance a powerful tool for monitoring the spread of the virus within a community, particularly younger and under-resourced communities where people with less severe symptoms may not get tested as often as they should. And the method does more than just track existing outbreaks. The proverbial canary in a coal mine can also predict when new ones will happen. The coronavirus has been detected in wastewater approximately 7 to 10 days before cases show up at hospitals, likely because shedding of the virus in stool begins before more recognizable symptoms. If a sewershed notices a spike in the virus, leaders of that community are able to predict a future, similar spike in hospitalizations and reinstate restrictions like lockdowns to prevent it from worsening. That, in turn, could be enough to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. I’m so proud of the brilliant work the CosmosID team is doing to help communities continue to battle the pandemic. Medill Reports (8 minutes)

Best inventions of 2020

TIME just released its list of the best inventions of 2020. Here are two of my favorites: (1) Brainbox AI uses data like weather forecasts to predict a building’s thermal conditions, then adjusts its AC or heating output accordingly. Launched last year, the technology now controls temperatures for more than 40 million square feet of building space, helping reduce carbon footprints by as much as 20 to 40 percent. (2) Water is more precious than ever, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Skysource created WEDEW, a mobile generator that produces fresh drinking water via an often-overlooked source: air. Users dump discarded plant and animal materials, such as wood chips or nutshells, into the machine, which WEDEW heats up, releasing water vapor into the air in the process. Then the generator condenses the vapor into drinkable water. The whole system, which also includes a battery storage pod and a refrigeration module, fits into a single 40-foot transport container. In 2020, WEDEW and the World Food Programme formed a partnership to bring the generator to a refugee camp in Uganda, in addition to communities in Tanzania. TIME (26 minutes)

Golden Handcuffs

Why don’t more engineers in Big Tech companies quit their jobs to pursue their dreams? This breaks down the economics on the perks, pay and cost of living and rejects all of those arguments. So, what are the real reasons someone might choose to stay at one of these jobs instead of quitting and starting their own company? Here are some possibilities: (1) You donate most of your income. (2) You love your job more than anything you can possibly imagine doing instead. (3) You engage in very strong temporal discounting. (4) The credentials, learning or capital from your job are a critical step to future plans. If none of those excuses apply, what are you doing instead? Presumably, you have some values, and those values are not maxed out. They might be hedonic (your life is not as pleasurable as it could be), altruistic (the world is not as good as it could be), or narcissistic (your status is not as high as it could be). Whatever the case, it’s possible that your day is holding you back. Applied Divinity Studies (10 minutes)


With marketing professionals handling the art of grabbing customers’ attention and e-commerce turning sales into a series of clicks, what exactly is the sales industry all about in 2020? The expert curators at Morning Brew have tapped industry pros, sifted through years of blog posts, and watched every relevant Office clip to bring you a 10-step guide to the best resources in sales. This article is chocked full of insightful case studies, videos, articles, and more that people in the industry actually use to make them better professionals I’ve been digging in and I think this is a really rich set of resources. Morning Brew (10 minutes)

Benefits of Being Lazy

Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something. Here are some benefits of being lazy: (1) Lazy solutions can be smart. Light switches, remote controls, escalators, smart speakers… laziness has been the source of many innovations. Frank Gilbreth Sr. famously said: “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it” (often misattributed to Bill Gates). While it may be true that necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is a strong motherly figure of innovation as well. (2) Lazy people focus on high-leverage activities. Because they carefully manage their energy expenditure, people who are prone to laziness will tend to avoid unnecessary tasks. Instead, they perform high-leverage tasks with minimum input and outsized output. Such energy multipliers include automating monotonous and time-consuming activities. (3) Lazy time encourages diffuse thinking. Our mind has two modes of thinking: the diffuse mode and the focused mode of thinking. We need to maintain constant oscillation between the two modes in order to be our most creative and productive. Mind wandering, a form of diffuse thinking, is a useful mechanism for our brains to process information—sometimes leading to non-obvious solutions. Another benefit of letting our mind wander without paying any attention to a productive task is a higher focus on long-term goals, according to a study published in Consciousness and Cognition. A bit of lazy time today, for a more productive time tomorrow! Ness Labs (7 minutes)


The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. What has enabled us to dominate the globe, more than any other species? This book shows that the secret of our success lies not in our innate intelligence, but in our collective brains―on the ability of human groups to socially interconnect and learn from one another over generations. Drawing insights from lost European explorers, clever chimpanzees, mobile hunter-gatherers, neuroscientific findings, ancient bones, and the human genome, Joseph Henrich demonstrates how our collective brains have propelled our species’ genetic evolution and shaped our biology. Our early capacities for learning from others produced many cultural innovations, such as fire, cooking, water containers, plant knowledge, and projectile weapons, which in turn drove the expansion of our brains and altered our physiology, anatomy, and psychology in crucial ways. Later on, some collective brains generated and recombined powerful concepts, such as the lever, wheel, screw, and writing, while also creating the institutions that continue to alter our motivations and perceptions. Henrich shows how our genetics and biology are inextricably interwoven with cultural evolution, and how culture-gene interactions launched our species on an extraordinary evolutionary trajectory. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Ultimate Christmas Playlist – A 5-hour playlist of Christmas music I’ve refined over the years. Subscribe on Spotify.

Process Assistant – Invisible is a tool for realizing potential by breaking past the clutter of modern life by outsourcing / automating repetitive, mind-numbing chores—whatever you most hate doing in your life. If you’re thinking “I should try that,” here’s one more reason to do so: use the code WeekendBriefing at sign-up for 10% off your first month for anything over $1K. Connect with my friend Hayley one-on-one to learn more. (Sponsored)

Tony – Albert Lin’s final letter to Tony Hsieh.

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 Artur Matosyan.

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Weekend Wisdom

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure” – Viktor Frankl

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