Weekend Briefing No. 418

Welcome to the weekend. Will you be at ETH Denver next week? If so, let’s meet up. Click here to meet up in Denver.

Housekeeping note: Last week, the Weekend Briefing (along with other amazing newsletters like Farnam Street) got bumped into promotions for some unknown reason. Sorry if I missed you last week.

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.

Prime Numbers

$4.6 billion—Combined sales for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey hit $4.6 billion in 2021, up $288 million from the year before.

88%—The country of Norway has pulled off an incredibly rapid shift in its motor vehicle offerings, and 88% of the roughly 8K new passenger cars sold in January were fully electric vehicles—up from 53% last January.

12.7%—In 2021, 12.7% of directors of the top-grossing films of the year were women. In 2018, it was only 4.5%. We still have a long way to go.

Deep Life

I’m a huge fan of Cal Newport. His books Deep Work and A World Without Email have greatly influenced my personal work operating system. On this podcast, he talks about the “deep life,” which is living a way that feels authentic, interesting, resilient and minimizes those end-of-life regrets. It’s living a life that aligns with the meaningful stuff in your life. If you’re going to live a deep life, the ultimate original commitment is to build rhythms that allow you to do the things that matter, whether you feel like doing it or not. He asks, “Do I have some structure I’m committing to, with the goal of making my life deeper, or am I winging it?” Tim Ferriss Show (120 minutes)

The Satisfaction Secret

Satisfaction is the greatest paradox of human life. We crave it. We believe we can get it. We glimpse it and maybe even experience it for a brief moment. Then it vanishes. But we never give up on our quest to get and hold on to it. The satisfaction dilemma starts with a rudimentary formula: Satisfaction = Getting what you want. However, the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and the Buddha—or for that matter, modern social science—exhort us to stop trying to add more and more, but instead start taking things away. In truth, our formula (Satisfaction = Getting what you want) leaves out one key component. To be more accurate, it should be: Satisfaction = What you have ÷ What you want. All of our evolutionary and biological imperatives focus us on increasing the numerator—our haves. But the more significant action is in the denominator—our wants. The secret to satisfaction is not to increase our haves. That will never work (or at least it will never last). The secret is to manage our wants. By managing what we want instead of what we have, we give ourselves a chance to lead more satisfied lives. The Atlantic (42 minutes)

An Easy Way To Gain 125 Hours

Inefficient and outdated contract management takes its toll on any organization. Time-wasting activities such as searching in folders for documents, tracking expiration dates via spreadsheets, and scrambling to respond to audits and diligence can lead to errors, costly fines, lost revenue and stressed-out employees. And in the midst of the Great Resignation, who needs that? That is why JourneyApps turned to ContractSafe. Before ContractSafe, JourneyApps teams could not find the documents they needed, get ahead of terminating contracts to renegotiate terms or respond quickly to audits. Read how ContractSafe saved JourneyApps 125 hours in contract processing, due diligence and compliance. ContractSafe, an SaaS contract management solution powered with artificial intelligence, makes it super easy to keep all your important documents and information at your fingertips. See ContractSafe’s award-winning solution for yourself by booking a demo today. ContractSafe (Sponsored)

B Corps & Consumers

What hurdles exist for consumers purchasing socially and environmentally friendly products?  (1) There’s a perception that you can’t be two different things—good for the world and affordable. It’s a challenge that not only B Corps but any company that has a social mission has to face and get over. This idea that a product that is good for the environment, a company that treats its workers well and cares about its impact on the world is also going to be more expensive. In many instances, that’s not the case. (2) The second is some healthy dose of skepticism with certifications. The B Corp certification is an incredibly rigorous certification process. But consumers have a healthy dose of skepticism when they see labels on products. One of their questions is “How can I trust this?” (3) “I don’t know where to start.” That was the biggest challenge that really emerged from people as they thought about how they would purchase from B Corps. Do I go to my normal store? Do I search online? Do I search on Amazon? Do I go to a separate B Corp website that sells only B Corp products? Forbes (9 minutes)

As many as 40 of the 49 satellites launched by SpaceX’s Starlink last week will be falling out of orbit after being hit by a geomagnetic storm. The satellites have either already burned up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere or will do so, the space-based internet company announced. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the storm was created by a solar flare Jan. 29, and they had issued a warning for a likely storm on the day before the Feb. 3 SpaceX launch. The storm hit the day after the launch, causing the atmosphere to warm and its density to increase, the company said. Most of the satellites couldn’t reach their final destination as a result. Still, SpaceX has about 2,000 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth, providing more than 145,000 users with high-speed internet across the world. The company plans to have a total of about 40,000 satellites in orbit. CNBC (5 minutes)

AI Alignment

OpenAI just released a new white paper about AI Alignment. GPT-3 language models are pretty decent at creating a string of words. But these models can also generate outputs that are untruthful, toxic or reflect harmful sentiments. This is in part because GPT-3 is trained to predict the next word on a large dataset of Internet text rather than to safely perform the language task that the user wants. In other words, these models aren’t aligned with their users. To make the  models safer, more helpful and more aligned, OpenAI uses humans to rate the output of the AI. The resulting InstructGPT models are much better at following instructions than GPT-3. They also make up facts less often and show small decreases in toxic output generation. OpenAI (7 minutes)

Thrive by Five

Molly Wright is 7 years old, and she just delivered the perfect TED Talk on parenting. “What if I was to tell you that a game of peek-a-boo could change the world?” Breaking down the research-backed ways parents and caregivers can support children’s healthy brain development, Wright highlights the benefits of play on lifelong learning, behavior and well-being, sharing effective strategies to help all kids thrive by the age of 5. She’s joined onstage by 1-year-old Ari and his dad, Amarjot, who help illustrate her big ideas about brain science. TED (8 minutes)

Bookshelf

The Odyssey by Homer. The Odyssey is literature’s grandest evocation of everyman’s journey through life. In the myths and legends that are retold here, renowned translator Robert Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer’s original in a bold, contemporary idiom and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, and to captivate a new generation of Homer’s students. Buy Now

Most Read Last Week

Direct Reports—Research shows that you should ask these five questions to your direct reports.

The Blockchain and Crime—Check out this story about how U.S. prosecutors used the bitcoin blockchain to shut down The Silk Road—a dark web bazaar selling illegal goods. But the more interesting twist is how they also used the immutable power of the blockchain to bust some dirty cops in the process.

Blockchains and Physical Assets—Ever since I heard the concept that a blockchain could track a (non-digital) physical good, I’ve been bothered with a question. How do we trust that the tampering/fraud of a physical good (or its tracker) is captured on a blockchain?

Weekend Briefing

The Weekend Briefing is a Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Fernando Rodrigues.

Funding Fridays

In addition to the Weekend Briefing, I write atwo-minute Friday morning briefing on startup funding called Funding Fridays. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed-monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. 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

Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you loveis the sum of what you focus on.Cal Newport

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.