Weekend Briefing No. 361

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

1T—The combined value of all cryptocurrencies just hit $1 trillion as Bitcoin and Ether continue to surge.

932,222—The average selling price for a home in Greater Toronto was $932,222 this past December, up nearly $100,000 year-over-year.

4.9M—Airbnb has 4.9M rooms listed. That’s more than the top four hotel chains combined.

Gospel of Hydrogen

On the East Coast of the U.S., there’s just one person driving a hydrogen-powered car. His name is Mike Strizki. He is so devoted to hydrogen fuel-cell energy that he drives a Toyota Mirai even though it requires him to refine hydrogen fuel in his yard himself. Mr. Strizki favors fuel-cell cars for the same reasons as most proponents. You can make fuel using water and solar power, as he does. The byproduct of making hydrogen is oxygen, and the byproduct of burning it is water. Hydrogen is among the most plentiful elements on earth, so you don’t have to go to adversarial countries or engage in environmentally destructive extraction to get it. The car is as quiet to drive as any other electric, and it requires little maintenance. Because it doesn’t carry 1,200 pounds of batteries, it has a performance edge. His infatuation with hydrogen began with cars, but it didn’t end there. In 2006, he made the first house in the United States to be powered entirely by hydrogen produced on site using solar power. Nine years later, he made the second. He says he has built hydrogen-power home systems for conservationists and celebrities—one of his systems reportedly powers Johnny Depp’s private island in the Bahamas. Mr. Strizki is using his retirement to evangelize for the planet-saving advantages of hydrogen batteries. New York Times (15 minutes)


It’s that time of year.A lot of us are setting goals personally and professionally. You want better performance? Make your goals specific and difficult. (1) Specific: If you want a healthier diet, you’re better off pledging to “eat one dessert per week” rather than promising you’ll “eat more veggies,” which is vague. (2) Difficult: Try to set your goals in the 90th percentile of difficulty. By having tougher goals, you’ll simply work harder and be more focused than if your goal was easy to accomplish. Morning Brew (4 minutes)


A new year brings a new opportunity to shift from “react mode” to “proactive mode.” But how can you design a system to organize and manage all of life’s competing priorities? David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology is a time-tested approach to help you tackle life’s biggest priorities. Join myself and Khe Hy, the creator of RadReads and productivity instructor, for a free private teach-in on GTD’s principles and how to implement them into your daily activities. Join us for this live session over Zoom at noon ET on Thursday, January 14. Sign up here. (Sponsored)


If we can replace a negatively compounding habit or mental discipline with one that’s neutral or positive, we instantly get better. And if we can accelerate positive compounding, we can really see the results. Here’s how the math works out: If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day, and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five or perhaps 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent. Farnam Street (4 minutes)

Deliberate Play

You’ve probably heard of the term “deliberate practice” and the 10,000-hour rule. Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, the 10,000-hour rule says excelling at any skill requires roughly 10,000 hours of practice. The goal is to practice in a deliberate way, get immediate feedback, and iterate and improve over time. Deliberate practice is terrific for honing a specific skill that can be performed the same way over and over again. That’s how you fine-tune your golf swing, hit the right notes on your guitar, and play a great opening move in a game of Chess. But deliberate practice isn’t enough to play the game of life. Life is a game of incomplete information. You can’t see all the pieces on the board. What’s more, just when you thought you mastered the game, the rules, the board and the pieces all suddenly change. When we don’t infuse deliberate play into deliberate practice, we can’t adjust to the changes life throws at us or play ourselves into new opportunities. Instead, we perform the same choreographed dance, explore only well-trodden paths and avoid games we don’t know how to play. As a result, we remain stagnant. Unlocking your full potential often demands bending established practices, not reinforcing them. We often don’t allow ourselves to play because we assume playing means we’re not working. But it’s quite the opposite. Play and work are complements, not competitors. Play opens a portal to creativity. Only by taking a playful attitude toward our work can we reimagine the status quo and find a better path forward. Ozan Varol (8 minutes)

All-You-Can-Eat Economics

Few things epitomize America more than the all-you-can-eat buffet. For a small fee, you’re granted unencumbered access to a wonderland of gluttony. But one has to wonder: How does an industry that encourages its customers to maximize consumption stay in business? Each bite incurs an extra marginal cost to the restaurant, but no extra cost to you. Like most restaurants, buffets operate on extremely thin margins: For every $20 in revenue, $19 might go toward overhead, leaving $1 (5%) in net profit. (1) Buffets often break even on food and eke out a profit by minimizing the cost of labor. Self-service allows a buffet to bypass a wait staff, and all-you-can-eat dishes (which are generally less complex and prepped in enormous batches) can be made by a “skeleton crew” of line cooks. A single buffet cook might be able to prep food for 200 people in the time it takes a normal restaurant to prep 25 meals. (2) Because margins are so slim, buffets rely on high foot traffic: At Golden Corral, a buffet chain with 498 locations in 42 states, dining floors are 5K square feet and seat 475 people. On a typical Saturday, it’s not uncommon for 900 diners to come through the door. Each year, Ovation Brands, the owner of multiple major buffet chains, serves up 85 million dinner rolls, 47 million pounds of chicken, and 6 million pounds of steak—49.3 billion calories in total. It is estimated that between 5 percent and 25 percent of any given dish will be wasted, either through the buffet’s miscalculation of demand or the diner’s overzealousness. Waste reduction is a key focus of any successful buffet, and a frequent tactic is reusing food. (3) Decision Architecture. They put the cheap, filling stuff at the front of the buffet line: (Study: Seventy-five percent of buffet customers select whatever food is in the first tray—and 66 percent of all the food they consume comes from the first three trays.) They use smaller plates. (Study: Smaller plate sizes reduce the amount of food consumed.) They use larger-than-average serving spoons for things like potatoes and smaller-than-average tongs for meats. They frequently refill water and use extra-large glasses. The Hustle (13 minutes)

The Hits

This brilliant piece of audio / visual journalism covers every top-five song from 1958–2016. Put your headphones on, and enjoy the experience. The Pudding (65 minutes)


Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The first book I read every year is Essentialism. I do this for a simple reason; I want to continually refine my actions to align with my values. I want to do less but do better. Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you often busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas? If you answered “yes” to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matters. By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy—instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us. Essentialism is not one more thing—it’s a whole new way of doing everything. It’s about doing less, but better, in every area of our lives. Essentialism is a movement whose time has come. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Bookshelf—This is every book I read in 2020 rated and ranked.

Year in Search—Google reports on what we searched for in 2020.

Playlist—Here is my playlist for January. Enjoy.

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 Pawel Nolbert.

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Weekend Wisdom

Less but better.Dieter Rams

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