Weekend Briefing No. 414

Welcome to the weekend.

I got a lot of warm responses to last week’s email. Thanks for your support.

As you know, I opened up the Weekend Briefing to sponsors last week. I was hoping that a few of you might be interested. I was wrong. A LOT of you were. By Tuesday, we had sold out all the slots for 2022. I’m actually pretty psyched about each brand for a different reason. I’m doubly psyched that all of the brands are a part of the Weekend Briefing community. You’ll start to see them next week.

If you missed out and you want to get on the waiting list, click here. You’ll be the first to know when we start booking new slots. Enough about that. Let’s get to the briefing. Onward.

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Prime Numbers

40—Preet has just made history by becoming the first woman of color to complete a solo expedition in Antarctica. She completed the 700 miles in only 40 days.

21—This week, James Webb Space Telescope unfolded its 21-foot mirror system, the final major deployment of NASA’s new space telescope.

11—Eleven percent of Americans listened to at least one audiobook in 2011. However, in 2021, that number increased to 23%. I’m a HUGE audiobook fan, so this only makes me ask, “What are the other 77% of Americans listening to?” (Also, if anybody in the community works at Audible, I’d love to bring them on as a sponsor!)

Five Books

I have a reading ritual at the beginning of each year that helps me start with a clear mindset. I read these five books: (1) Essentialism by Greg McKeown. 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 matter. (2) Rising Strong by Brene Brown. 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. (3) Atomic Habits by James Clear. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. This book helps you build systems that make it easy to create positive habits. (4) The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson. This book is focused on how to create leverage that multiplies your effort. So, if you’re doing the right work, you can magnify your impact. (5) Influence by Robert Cialdini. Whether we like it or not, everybody is in the business of selling, whether you are in direct sales to customers or trying to sell your idea to your boss. This classic book explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations. It includes the six universal principles of influence and how to use them to become a skilled persuader. You can see all the books on my bookshelf. Check out my Instagram stories today to see me breakdown the key takeaways of the books (and while you’re there, follow me for more good content like this.) @kylewestaway

Unified Theory of Matt Mullenweg

I really loved this profile on Matt Mullenweg and his view on the future of tech. Users inevitably begin to feel hemmed in and controlled by the closed platforms and yearn for open pastures. Then they go build something better—something open. “People’s natural desire for freedom starts to get more and more of the best and brightest in the world working on open, distributed, decentralized systems.” The seeds of this change are already everywhere, he said. Tesla has open-sourced its patents in an effort to speed up innovation in electric vehicles because, as Elon Musk said, the company’s goal is not just to sell cars but “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.” There’s also the whole decentralized, Web3, blockchain community, which excites Mullenweg every time it comes up. “There’s an inevitable gravitational pull towards open source affecting literally every field: finance, health, politics,” he said. “All the things that currently happen in closed ways, what if they were open? What if they were transparent? What if you could copy and paste it? Do your own version? Remix it?” And then he offered the closest thing you’ll find to a Unified Theory of Matt Mullenweg. “As more and more of our lives start to be run and dictated by the technology we use, it’s a human right to be able to see how that technology works and modify it. It’s as key to freedom as freedom of speech or freedom of religion. So that is what I plan to spend the rest of my life fighting for.” In his mind, WordPress isn’t just a blogging platform, and Automattic isn’t just a startup. Both are also statements of purpose, proof points of a worldview that says that quarterly results and year-over-year growth aren’t the only metrics that matter. (If you wait long enough, open wins at those, too.) Mullenweg has long traded hype cycles for the arc of history. And he hopes he can help bend it a little. Protocol (22 minutes)

Great Attrition

Forty percent of employees stated that they are at least somewhat likely to quit their jobs in the next three months. Attrition could get worse because employees are willing to quit without having a job lined up. CEOs may be tempted to take solace in the fact that 60% of the employees in our survey said they were not at all likely to quit in the next three to six months. But employers shouldn’t consider this 60% “safe” from the prospect of attrition either. Among employees who said they were not at all likely to quit, 65% reported that a primary reason to stay in their job was that they liked where they lived. But among survey respondents who took new jobs in new cities during the past six months, almost 90% didn’t have to relocate (Exhibit 4) because so many more companies are allowing remote work. Having more “location agnostic” positions to choose from could prompt otherwise satisfied employees to start second-guessing their commitment to the companies. So, if you’re leading a company, the question is whether your company is going to suffer from attrition or soar from attraction of talent. This article has a fun quiz testing your ability to turn attrition into attraction. McKinsey (17 minutes)

Electric Vehicles and Recycling

General Motors announced earlier this year that it plans to stop selling gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Audi’s goal is to stop producing them by 2033, and many other major auto companies are following suit. As the world looks to electrify vehicles and store renewable power, one giant challenge looms: What will happen to all the old lithium batteries? Currently, lithium (Li) ion batteries are hard to recycle. In your average battery recycling plant, battery parts are shredded down into a powder, and then that powder is either melted (pyrometallurgy) or dissolved in acid (hydrometallurgy). But Li batteries are made up of lots of different parts that could explode if they’re not disassembled carefully. And even when Li batteries are broken down this way, the products aren’t easy to reuse. The advent of a less complex, safer battery that is cheaper to make and easier to separate at the end of its life is the ultimate answer to the current sustainability problem with EVs. But until such a battery makes an appearance, standardizing Li battery recycling is a significant move in the right direction. Future Planet (18 minutes)

Stocking the Fridge

Walmart is making a big bet on customers’ desire for increased convenience, announcing Wednesday that its InHome delivery service will expand availability from 6 million to 30 million households, including in cities such as in Los Angeles and Chicago, by the end of this year. InHome allows Walmart employees wearing cameras to enter a customer’s home to deliver groceries and other purchases or to pick up returns, even when the customer is not there. “Now you’ve got this ultimate convenience where you get home, the refrigerator is restocked and other items like video games, clothing, toiletries and other nonperishables are on the countertop,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of last-mile delivery at Walmart, in an interview. “We will also pick up your return if you start that process on the app; we will grab the item the next day and will process that return for you.” CNBC (6 minutes)

Transaction Cost Hell

Currently, the web is monetized mostly by either ads or subscriptions (or by companies offering you free stuff and then selling your data). Over the years, there have been various attempts to switch to a system of micropayments. But these attempts have largely failed. There’s a very deep and fundamental economic reason why they keep failing: non-monetary transaction costs. Imagine if everything you do online required you to decide whether to make a tiny payment. Send an email? Pay a few cents. Read one more paragraph of an article? Pay a few cents. And so on. It would be an utter nightmare. The psychic cost of having to decide dozens or hundreds of times a day whether to pay a tiny amount for a tiny piece of product would be enormous. In the end, most of these users would likely migrate back to either free ad-supported services or to subscription services that only make you think about payments once in a while. This is why the people trying to build web3 should probably steer away from making it just “micropayments, but in crypto.” This might sound crazy, but having to pay for stuff is not a feature. Here’s a prediction: The added allure of being able to pay for things in ETH or BTC would not be enough to make micropayments succeed where they once failed. Web3 could become transaction cost hell. Noahpinion (16 minutes)

Sleep and Food

Studies show that reducing sleep by about four hours per night, for four nights, led to an increase in eating, amounting to about 300 calories per day (the equivalent of one McDonald’s cheeseburger). The cause is increased activity in the reward centers of the brain specific to food, along with alterations in hormones that control feelings of fullness. In other words, people who sleep less feel hungrier, and tend to crave foods that are high in sugar and fat. But getting more and better sleep isn’t always just a matter of going to bed earlier: It turns out that diet is an under-recognized contributor to good or bad sleep. Studies show that eating more fiber and less saturated fat and sugar during the day results in deeper, less disturbed sleep at night. It may be particularly helpful to eat a Mediterranean-type diet rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and olive oil, and low in red and processed meat and whole-fat dairy. In our research, those who followed this diet were 1.4 times more likely to have a good night’s sleep and 35% less likely to have insomnia. So, there’s a viscous cycle: Sleeping poorly makes you eat poorly, and eating poorly makes you sleep poorly. Knowable (6 minutes)

Bookshelf

Influence by Rober Cialdini. You’ll learn the six universal principles of influence and how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and, just as importantly, how to defend yourself against dishonest influence attempts: (1) Reciprocation: The internal pull to repay what another person has provided us. (2) Commitment and Consistency: Once we make a choice or take a stand, we work to behave consistently with that commitment in order to justify our decisions. (3) Social Proof: When we are unsure, we look to similar others to provide us with the correct actions to take. And the more people undertaking that action, the more we consider that action correct. (4) Liking: The propensity to agree with people we like and, just as important, the propensity for others to agree with us if we like them. (5) Authority: We are more likely to say “yes” to others who are authorities, who carry greater knowledge, experience or expertise. (6) Scarcity: We want more of what is less available or dwindling in availability. Buy Now

Most Read Last Week

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Effective Teams Think Simply—A few simple rules are enough to constrain what people do but allow for enough flexibility to innovate.

User Manual—The User Manual is a tool to help each team member explicitly articulate their preferences to avoid misunderstanding and dysfunction at work.

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 Tamas Pap.

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Weekend Wisdom

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.Walt Disney

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