Weekend Briefing No. 365

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

500 billion—A record $500 billion in impact bond issuance was added to the market in 2020.

3,549—As it stands, there are just 3,549 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, down from the combined 10,000 in 2010.

3.3 billion—Over the past several years, electric vehicle producer Tesla has sold regulatory credits to competing automakers who failed to sell the percentage of zero-emission vehicles that 11 different states require. The $3.3 billion from those sales—$1.6 billion in the last year alone—has kept Tesla in the black over the last five years.

Aphorisms

Chris Paik, a Venture Capitalist at Pace Capital, recently published some frameworks. At the end, he listed some aphorisms. Here are some I found interesting: 1) Preserving optionality has a cost. Optionality can be interpreted as a lack of focus. In order to preserve the ability to change direction, it comes at the cost of speed and acceleration in a singular direction. 2) Every point of dilution must justify itself. The cap table is a very useful tool for founders, almost like a fantasy football roster. The people that are eating into your salary cap ought to be doing the most to foster success. Dilution should be allocated strategically. 3) Laziness is the path to innovation. Laziness is defined as desiring the same output but expending strictly less input. As a result, laziness ends up being an incredible petri dish for creative thinking and problem solving to happen. Put another way, it’s imposing a resource constraint on the same function, demanding the same performance. 4) Relationships are at their best when people give each other the benefit of the doubt and expect the best from one another. Relationships are at their worst when people do not give each other the benefit of the doubt and expect the worst from one another. Expectations are key to our perception of a relationship, whether personal or professional. Add trust in another person’s judgment, and you create the surface area for both delight and disappointment. The challenge is that they are very often self-referential formulas that would normally error out in an excel sheet but freely operate in the wild. Chris Paik (21 minutes)

Breaking Bread

Legendary NBA coach Gregg Popovich was asked about his coaching legacy. “What’s my legacy?” he quips. “Food and wine. This is just a job.” He’s kidding—but he’s not. As much as Popovich knows about hoops, he really knows food and wine. Popovich scouts restaurants and wine lists as obsessively as he might any opponent. It’s a passion for him, but it’s also a tool. In the NBA, the Gregg Popovich meal is the dining room where it happens—a roving retreat through which the Spurs have forged a team culture that’s the envy of the league. But for those in the league who’ve not secured the invite, Pop’s legendary dinners remain shrouded in mystery and no small amount of fascination. Why does Popovich—the NBA’s all-time winningest coach and architect of a two-decades-long basketball dynasty—care so much about dinner? Because he knows that connecting with his team out of their element forges real relationships. Apparently, he’s got strategies for what makes a perfect dinner party. As staffers arrive, Pop will be at the head of the table, arms out, palms in the air, a smile on his face, the Godfather himself. There are typically five other chairs at Popovich’s table—a point of emphasis, former Spur Steve Kerr says. Six guests at a table, Pop believes, fosters diversity of conversation without folks breaking off into separate chats. Not too many, not too few—just right. ESPN (18 minutes)

Meltdown

From 2015 to 2019, Ample Hills raised around $19 million to fund its ambitious expansion plans, hoping to conquer the $11 billion ice cream industry. The company went from a handful of stores in Brooklyn to 17 locations, including one in Disney World. But on March 15, the day before New York City shut down for the pandemic, Ample Hills filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just short of the company’s 10th anniversary. It had nothing to do with the pandemic: Even as annual sales had grown, reaching nearly $10.7 million at their peak, so had the losses. In 2018 and 2019, the company lost about $13 million. In June 2020, Ample Hills sold for just $1 million to perhaps the unlikeliest of buyers—Schmitt, an Oregon manufacturing company that makes laser scanners and sensors for propane tanks. This is a story of the perils of a hot startup putting growth ahead of business fundamentals. Having Disney behind them fueled much of the co-founders’ overconfidence, encouraging them to think they could become the next Ben & Jerry’s. Disney’s interest also helped the company attract investors, he says, which created “a runaway train of raising and raising and growth and growth.” By chasing rapid expansion without paying enough attention to how much they were actually spending, the co-founders ended up making big bets that cost the company millions—and mistakes that left thousands of gallons of ice cream literally swirling down the drain. It was a fairy tale. It was a nightmare. Marker (22 minutes)

Personal Monopoly

The Internet rewards unique people. Find your unique combination of skills, interests and personality traits—your “Personal Monopoly.” Become the only person in the world who does what you do. Then, tell the world by sharing your knowledge. A Personal Monopoly is a unique intersection of skills, knowledge and personality that nobody else can compete with. Personal monopolies aren’t found—they’re made. Global markets increase the upside of having a Personal Monopoly but also make it harder to create one. The process of building a Personal Monopoly is the process of becoming yourself. The sweet spot is finding an idea that looks specific to others, but is still diverse enough to express the many shades of who you are, where you excel and what you want to achieve. We are often blind to our own Personal Monopolies. Like fish in water, we don’t know how to explain what we do, so we depend on others to define our work for us. Listen to others describe your work. Then, double down on the best summaries. David Perell (9 minutes)

Changing Minds

Is it possible to change someone’s mind these days? Maybe. Here are some approaches: 1) The Cognitive Conversation. A successful cognitive conversation requires two things: sound arguments and good presentation. Use it when the detractor may be opposed to your argument because of an objective reason. If they’ve clearly articulated a logical set of objections, and they don’t appear to be hiding ulterior motives, approach them with a cognitive conversation. 2) The Champion Conversation. Don’t jump in and try to convince the other person. Instead, invest time in personally learning about and building rapport with them. Here, it’s not about arguments or presentation, at least initially, but understanding their perspective and why they might feel personally affronted. Use this when the detractor isn’t easily persuaded through cognitive arguments, or when they harbor a grievance in your relationship with them, engaging in debates may be futile. 3) The Credible Colleague. Rather than trying to argue with someone who seems resistant, bring in a credible colleague. A champion of your position from another part of the organization, whether they are a peer or superior, may be better-suited to convince this detractor. Use this when the detractor’s deeply held personal beliefs are making them fundamentally opposed to your proposal. Harvard Business Review (11 minutes)

Home Cooking

In honor of those pandemic home cooks, here are some things food blogger Jenny Rosenstrach wishes she would have known when she started cooking. 1) A salad is not a salad without some sort of crunch—whether that crunch comes in the form of a cucumber, a radish, a nut or a crouton. 2) Salt the water. This is especially true of pasta water, which should taste as salty as the sea. 3) Put ice in the cocktails, people. Fill that glass all the way up! Don’t be stingy. There is nothing worse than a lukewarm gin and tonic. 3) Some Type-A behaviors are worth stealing: Do everything you can in advance when you are having people over for dinner. No matter how easy and tossed-off the task may be. If you forgo this advice and do nothing in advance, at least make sure you start off the evening with an empty dishwasher. You will thank yourself a few hours and a few cocktails later when staring at the mountain of greasy plates in the sink. 4) Learn how to make a handful of healthy dinners without using a recipe. Whether it’s scrambled eggs on toast or your great-grandmother’s 19-ingredient mole sauce, making dinner is so much more enjoyable when you can do it on autopilot, catching up with your kid or your partner as you go, or just savoring the aromas of sautéing leeks, instead of bobbing back and forth from cookbook to stovetop. Cup of Jo (10 minutes)

Misdirection

Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch. In a hilarious demonstration, Robbins samples the buffet of the TED audience, showing how the flaws in our perception make it possible to swipe a wallet and leave it on its owner’s shoulder while they remain clueless. TED (8 minutes)

Bookshelf

Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I mentioned that I read Essentialism at the beginning of the year every year. This year, I’m adding my other favorite book to the top of the year list—Rising Strong. It has been such an influential book for my life. Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall. It is the rise from falling that Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong. As a grounded theory researcher, Brown has listened as a range of people—from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents—shared their stories of being brave, falling and getting back up. She asked herself, “What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common?” The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion, and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort. Walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous. But the process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same. We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

The Cost of Light—This fascinating interactive piece of journalism allows you to explore how much effort has been historically required to acquire light.

Calendly—Here are three reasons why I love Calendly.

Startup Pricing—Pricing is often an afterthought for startups. Here are some frameworks, tactics and hidden truths Founders need to know about pricing.

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 Bon Vivant.

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Weekend Wisdom

We believe in people executing their role and caring about the team more than anything individually. Greg Popovich

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