Weekend Briefing No. 413

Welcome to the weekend.

I hope your year is off to a great start. Many of you have been a part of the Weekend Briefing community for years; others are new to the community. The beginning of the year seems like a good time to give a quick community update, so here it goes.

  • Growth—At the end of 2021, we surpassed 100,000 subscribers! Thanks so much! That’s a fun milestone, but I believe it’s just the beginning of the potential for the Weekend Briefing. If you love this weekly newsletter, it would mean a lot to me if you share it with your friends. According to our surveys, that’s how most people find the Weekend Briefing.
  • Health—What I care about more than the number of subscribers is building an engaged community. So as we continue to grow, I’ll be more proactive in removing inactive members from the list. If you want to remain a part of the community, make sure you’re opening most of the briefings.
  • Sponsorships—This has always been a side project of mine. I invest five to seven hours every week in an attempt to bring you quality content. As the size of the community has grown, there are now opportunities to partner with brands. You’ll see Masterworks as a sponsor this week for instance. I know this is a change. As with any change, there is bound to be some people that are disappointed or upset. So, I wanted to give you clarity on how sponsorships work. If there is a sponsor, it will be in the third position (or the C Block as we call it), and it will be marked with (Sponsored) next to the link. The goal is to connect good content from great brands with great readers. I know almost half of you are founders, so if you’re interested in sponsorship, shoot me an email. The ideal situation would be that all of our sponsors are members of the Weekend Briefing community. Spots are filling up fast. We’re close to fully booked for Q1.

Also, here’s my January playlist.

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Prime Numbers

4.5 million—An estimated 4.5 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the month of November. The quits rate increased to 3%—matching the same high rate in September. Both figures are the highest on record.

17—In 2021, there was a 17% decline in the number of Hollywood women film directors, even after a record-breaking 2020.

1—Using cutting-edge graphene technology that’s otherwise being studied for use in incredibly tiny electronic circuits, a team has produced a 14-centimeter-long Christmas tree. It is exactly one atom thick.

Tech Questions for 2022

Sometimes the center of gravity in tech is very clear. But as we enter 2022, there are lots of areas where trillion-dollar questions are wide open. These are the questions Ben Evans wonders about today, from crypto to cars to fast fashion. There are others. (1) Crypto. Blockchains let us build distributed, trustless computers, applications and services, based on consensus, ownership and integrated incentives. However, making that real involves a lot of plumbing questions and a lot of product questions that have still only just started. (2) Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Metaverse. We can certainly hope that more Moore’s Law, more engineering and more willpower can push VR into becoming the next universal device after smartphones. We can hope that the optics for AR can work, and then we can speculate about what we might do with all this in a decade or so. Indeed, we can fill a whole whiteboard with those speculations and label it “metaverse.” But we don’t know. (3) China. A billion smartphone users leapfrog the second half of the 20th century and go directly to apps in everything from grocery shopping to consumer finance, generating a torrent of new ideas, business models and applications. Mostly, none of the rest of us can use, test or really understand these first-hand, but all of them sound very interesting. Yet, this sits behind a firewall, in a totally different market structure, run by a deeply autocratic state that, in the last year, has kneecapped some of its biggest champions. How many questions does that pose? How many would you like? Ben Evans (10 minutes)

Exponential Themes for 2022

Here are Azeem Azhar’s themes for 2022 and the years beyond. (1) Quantum computing breakthroughs. Quantum computing advances. A research center in Japan made a breakthrough in entangling qubits (a basic unit of information in quantum) that could make large-scale quantum computers possible. With investments pouring in, startups are proliferating. (2) The continued rise of Web3. There is a growing chorus of signals to demonstrate its resilience, user uptake, developer interest and more. Despite the ban on bitcoin mining in China, the network has proved incredibly resilient. Hash rates are back above their pre-ban levels. Digital wallets, essentially the ISPs and onramps for consumers into the world of crypto, will become a new battleground. Smart funding will back smart founders building tools to make Web3 platforms more scalable, easier to use and generally more useful. (3) A renewed focus on climate tech. How will the debate shift in the wake of two 2021 occurrences. The first is the comparative fragility in European energy systems, as we witnessed price spikes this year. Will this force a rethink about nuclear fission power or the role of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, in the clean transition? The second is whether the relatively small scale of investment in climate tech innovation will grow. Exponential View (10 minutes)

Size Matters

The Art World is bigger than you can imagine. In fact, the total value of art globally is worth $1.7 trillion. That’s more than two times larger than bitcoin’s market cap. And Deloitte expects that number to increase another trillion by 2026. Simply put, the value of Blue-chip art is skyrocketing. For instance, Picasso’s painting “Marie-Therese” sold for $103.4 million at Christie’s—an increase of 1,400% from its original price. No wonder two-thirds of high-net-worth collectors buy art for an expected return on investment. So how can you break into the art market without breaking the bank? Masterworks of course. They’re the only investing app that lets you invest in masterpieces by Warhol, Monet and even Picasso for a fraction of the cost. Want to join their 300K members? Weekend Briefing readers can skip the waitlist with this special link. As with any investment, important disclosures apply. Masterworks (Sponsored)

Effective Teams Think Simply

Stanford Graduate School of Business Ph.D. alum Kathleen Eisenhardt, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Engineering, studied how product development teams burdened by a complicated set of rules frequently derail while teams with no rules at all never even get started. A few simple rules is enough to constrain what people do but allow for enough flexibility to innovate. Simplicity allows you to make faster decisions, and people remember them enough to put them into place. But how do we create these simple rules? Here are the three steps: (1) Be crystal clear about the underlying business objective the team is trying to achieve. (2) What is the bottleneck that’s keeping the team from achieving that objective? It may be in places you don’t expect. (3) Understand from your own data what rules matter. YouTube (7 minutes)

The Ship

Different people have radically different pictures of what it means to “work toward a better world.” This explains why well-meaning people can often villainize other well-meaning people. Imagine that the world is a ship. Here are five very different ways one might try to do one’s part in “working toward a better life for the people on the ship.” (1) Rowing. Help the ship reach its current destination faster. They often focus on advance science, technology, growth, etc., all of which help people (or “the world”) do whatever they want to do, more/faster. (2) Steering. Navigate to a better destination than the current one. These people anticipate future states of the world (climate change, transformative artificial intelligence, utopia, dystopia) and act accordingly. (3) Anchoring. Hold the ship in place. These people prevent change generally, and/or try to make the world more like it was a generation or two ago. (4) Equity.  Work toward more fair and just relations between people on the ship. These people focus on redistribution; advocacy focused on the underprivileged; etc. (5) Mutiny. Challenge the ship’s whole premise and power structure. These people radically challenge the world’s current systems (e.g., capitalism). Which of these is the “right” focus for improving the world? One of the things I like about the ship analogy is that it leaves the answer to this question totally unclear! The details of where the ship is currently trying to go and why, who’s deciding that, and what they’re like matter enormously. Depending on those details, any of the five could be by far the most important and meaningful way to make a positive difference. Cold Takes (16 minutes)

User Manual

All social interactions are within the context of norms. Often those norms are unintentional and unspoken. The User Manual is a tool to help each team member explicitly articulate their preferences to avoid misunderstanding and dysfunction at work. (1) My work style. Defining your work style, although it may feel abstract, is key to helping your teammates understand what motivates you and what you hope for you and your colleagues to get out of the work you’re doing. (2) What I value. Telling your colleagues what you value, simply put, gives them helpful insight into what matters most to you in your relationships and at work. (3) What I don’t have patience for. These are your key pet peeves. (4) How to best communicate with me. Not knowing how or when to communicate with your co-workers can be exhausting (especially if you’re on the receiving end of all sorts of Slacks, texts and emails about the same topic). Be clear about how you’d like to be communicated with upfront. Don’t want to get texts or calls unless it’s an emergency? Spell that out. (5) My typical schedule. This gives your co-workers an idea of the flow of your day. (6) How to help me. We can’t expect our co-workers to be mind readers. Tell people how you’d like to be helped. Are you bad at delegating (*raises hand again*)? Tell your people to watch out for that and gently call you out when they notice you gripping deliverables too tightly. (7) What people misunderstand about me. Getting to know people takes time, and we can’t necessarily rush this process, but these disclaimers will help others get to know us a little better and quicker. What are the things that people might get wrong or misunderstand when working with you? Rad Reads (12 minutes)

100 Tips

I liked this random collection of 100 tips for a better life. I’ll include some of my favorites here. (1) The 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of screenwork, look at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will reduce eye strain and is easy to remember (or program reminders for). (2) Exercise is the most important lifestyle intervention you can do. Even the bare minimum (15 minutes a week) has a huge impact. Start small. (3) Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation. (4) If you listen to successful people talk about their methods, remember that all the people who used the same methods and failed did not make videos about it. (5) Noticing biases in others is easy; noticing biases in yourself is hard. However, it has much higher payoff. (6) Cultivate a reputation for being dependable. Good reputations are valuable because they’re rare (easily destroyed and hard to rebuild). You don’t have to brew the most amazing coffee if your customers know the coffee will always be hot. Less Wrong (11 minutes)

Bookshelf

Rising Strong by Brene Brown. When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending. 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. 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. 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. Buy Now

Most Read Last Week

Normie’s Guide to Crypto—This is one of the best introductions to crypto I’ve ever seen. That’s probably because it’s less of an article and more of a jumping-off point to a bunch of great content.

Algebra of Wealth—If you are a young person (relative term) and you’re looking to build wealth, what should you do? Scott Galloway’s observation is that there are four factors in the algebra of wealth: focus, stoicism, time and diversification.

What Is Ethereum?—Ethereum is so many things at once, all of which feed off of each other. Ethereum, the blockchain, is a world computer, the backbone of a decentralized internet (Web3) and the settlement layer for Web3.

About the Weekend Briefing

This is a Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by  [2Ni].

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.Omar N. Bradley

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