Weekend Briefing No. 387

Welcome to the weekend.

I’ve been running the Weekend Briefing for more than seven years, and one of my favorite things to do is meet up with readers in person. You are such an impressive group of people. It’s always fun to connect and learn. I’ll be on the West Coast in July. I’d love to meet up with you for a coffee or a drink, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or an investor.

Also, I hope you’re enjoying the country music playlist from last week. Here’s my (non-country) July playlist.

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Prime Numbers

90—An estimated 90 percent of U.S. troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan ahead of the Sept. 11 deadline. U.S. forces left Bagram Air Force Base, which the country has occupied for 20 years, in the middle of the night.

19Nineteen percent of women indicated they had no desire to ever return to an office to work in person.

11—This Belgian-Dutch child prodigy gets a bachelor’s degree in physics at the age of 11. He says, “Immortality is my goal.”

Climate Change and Democracy

What if democracy is standing in the way of solving the climate crisis? What if political systems, in the United States and internationally, fail to curb climate change? These may seem to be impolite questions, even if it’s the path we’re on. President Biden’s climate agenda is both ambitious and, on its own, insufficient. Its political prospects are mixed at best. The international picture is a little better. Only a few countries are on track to meet the goals laid out in the Paris agreement, and none of the major emitters are among them. Ezra Klien convened this panel of climate experts with different backgrounds—technological, literary, political, academic—to try to reconcile the reality of our political progress with the scale of this emergency. New York Times Magazine (21 minutes)

Joy Generator

Although some people are starting to test the waters of public life again, planning vacations and socializing more, others may still have lingering signs of what psychologists call languishing. They may feel an emptiness or dissatisfaction in day-to-day life. Or, they feel like they’re stuck in weariness or stagnation. Feeling blah? Science shows you can boost happiness by taking time for small moments of delight. NPR has created a Joy Generator. So let’s play! NPR (12 minutes)

Think Big

Citi Private Bank recently released their findings on the art market and discovered some incredible stats. (1) Contemporary art prices outgained S&P returns by 174% from 1995 to 2020. (2) Over that same period, contemporary art had a lower loss rate than gold. (3) The asset class had virtually no correlation to the stock market, meaning if stocks went down, art wouldn’t necessarily move in lockstep. (4) It’s estimated that more than half of ultra-wealthy investors allocate at least 10% of their portfolio into art. But unless you have $10 million to buy a Picasso yourself, you’ve been locked out of this exclusive asset class. That’s where Masterworks comes in. They allow anyone to add contemporary art to their portfolio with top-tier artists like Basquiat and Banksy. Weekend Briefing readers can get priority access and join their 175K users with my special link (Important disclosures apply). Masterworks (Sponsored)

The Godfather of Influence

Social psychologist Robert Cialdini has been called “The Godfather of Influence.” He has earned an international reputation as an expert in the field of persuasion, compliance and negotiation. In other words, Cialdini is a master at understanding human incentives and behavior. Through his research, Cialdini found that influence is based on six cornerstone principles: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. In 2016, he proposed a seventh principle. He called it “the unity principle,” which states that the more we identify ourselves with others, the more we are influenced by those in the group. Check out this great profile on him. The Profile (22 minutes)

Curious Babies

A first-of-its-kind longitudinal study of infant curiosity found that months-old babies most captivated by magic tricks became the most curious toddlers, suggesting a pre-verbal baby’s level of interest in surprising aspects of the world remains constant over time and could predict their future cognitive ability. “Something about a baby’s curiosity about magic tricks is predicting how curious they become as preschoolers,” said Lisa Feigenson, co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Laboratory for Child Development. “What the data suggests is that some three-year-olds have a leg up or seem particularly well-positioned to learn a lot about the world.” Johns Hopkins (6 minutes)

Ambitious Innovators

Gena Gorlin is a professor and practicing psychologist. Both her academic and her clinical work focuses on how individuals can overcome psychological obstacles to achieve goals. She’s become especially interested in working with ambitious innovators, particularly startup founders. The nature of ambition and its impact on the ambitious are big themes in Gena Gorlin’s work. In this podcast, she discusses the idea that being ambitious today is lower risk than at any other time in history. It’s much less likely to get you killed, for example, than a few hundred years ago. But that accessibility of opportunity can create a real psychological burden: If anything is possible, why haven’t you achieved more? Gena talks through how she helps founders and other ambitious people navigate questions like these. She also discusses: (1) The tradeoff between ambition and other goals. (2) How founders can avoid zero sum status games. (3) Why self-deception is so tempting and dangerous for ambitious people. (4) The role of parenting in promoting psychologically healthy ambition. Thoughts in Between (59 minutes)

Perspective

Here are some things to keep in mind. (1) When you are keenly aware of your own struggles but blind to others, it’s easy to assume you’re missing some skill or secret that others have. The more we describe successful people as having guru-like powers, the more everyone else looks at them and says, “I could never do that.” This is unfortunate because more people would be willing to try if they knew that those they admire are probably normal people who played the odds right. (2) When someone is viewed as more extraordinary than they are, you’re more likely to overvalue their opinion on things they have no special talent in—like a successful hedge fund manager’s political views or a politician’s investment advice. Only when you get to know someone well do you realize the best you can do in life is to become an expert at some things while remaining inept at others—and that’s if you’re good. There’s an important difference between someone whose specific talent should be celebrated versus someone whose ideas should never be questioned. Eat the orange, throw away the peel. (3) Everyone’s dealing with problems they don’t advertise, at least until you get to know them well. Keep that in mind and you become more forgiving—to yourself and others. Collaborative Fund (7 minutes)

Bookshelf

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert. This is Book Five in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the bestselling science fiction adventure of all time. Leto Atreides, the God Emperor of Dune, is dead. In fifteen hundred years since his passing, the Empire has fallen into ruin. The great Scattering saw millions abandon the crumbling civilization and spread out beyond the reaches of known space. The planet Arrakis—now called Rakis—has reverted to its desert climate, and its great sandworms are dying. Now the Lost Ones are returning home in pursuit of power. And as these factions vie for control over the remnants of the Empire, a girl named Sheeana rises to prominence in the wastelands of Rakis, sending religious fervor throughout the galaxy. For she possesses the abilities of the Fremen sandriders—fulfilling a prophecy foretold by the late God Emperor. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Check out my country music playlist.

Weightless is a popular bodyweight-only workout from Reddit.

Taylor Swift’s Writing Technique—Taylor Swift went from being a hopeful young musician to a history-making millionaire, using a simple storytelling technique: the three-act structure.

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Artiom Vallat.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. In case you’re interested, I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep things simple by offering transparent flat fees. We structure our engagements in two ways: (1) Per-project flat fee engagements—No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel—A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It was recently recognized as one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas.  If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.

Weekend Wisdom

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.Bill Bradley

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