Long time no email! I meant to reach out while on my journey…and then when I returned…and then every week since then. I wrote a draft Seeking Tribe while I was living it up in Austin but I never pressed send.
I’ve previously alluded to the absurd amount of time that I’ve spent on Twitter. My use certainly increased from the outset of the pandemic and it has been, let’s not mince words here, an on-going addiction. At this point, I have to admit that it’s my favorite MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and it consumes me…just like World of Warcraft Classic did this past February… Right now, I am taking a break from Twitter to try to reset and focus my energy on achieving the goals that I outlined at the beginning of this year.
Publishing a short e-book and associated blogs that I’ve drafted in my journals over the past year or so
Securing a stable enough stream of US dollars and a quality housing opportunity so I can make the leap out of Rochester (likely to Austin!)
Before my trip, I was feeling quite down on how I’d spent most of the last year. I had a ton of free time and mostly spent it tweeting, reading, and coping to not lose my mind while trapped in my house. However, while on my journey, the upsides from my weird use of my time began to materialize.
At this point, I have met twelve ‘mutuals’ (the Twitter term for people who you follow and who follow you back)— most of which I connected with in Houston, Austin, and Oregon. All of these experiences were excellent. I have some tentative plans to connect with more of them and I’ve been invited to quite a few cool parties, meet-ups in the coming months. Furthermore, at least two of the meetings have resulted in interesting part-time gig work.
After my visit to Austin, I began working part-time helping one friend grow adoption for the crypto protocol he helped launch and helping another friend to provide value for his private research community, by co-hosting a series of workshops and Q&As with some brilliant people (I’ll keep you posted about future events). I fully expect that continuing on this weird path and meeting more of my mutuals will result in similarly positive collaborations.
I am partially so interested in moving to Austin because a disproportionate amount of the people I’ve connected with online are located there or are relocating there. There’s clearly an overlap between the selection biases of why people decide to follow me on Twitter and the selection biases of why people are choosing to relocate to Austin.
While some of these trends may begin to shift as we return to true normal, I do think this year has both exacerbated and revealed how atomized and isolated people feel. The pursuit for quality information (or information that confirmed their biases) led many people to online ‘networks’ and ‘communities’. Some people who have been threatening to leave, or who did exit NYC and SF [and elsewhere], will likely return back once social life returns. However, I think migration and other methods of taking online connections offline will continue as people feel comfortable leaving their [limited] social safety nets and venturing out in the pursuit of new opportunities and values-aligned relationships.
I’m optimistic about the positive externalities of people connecting based off of their revealed shared values. But I would also advise you to brace yourself for the acceleration of cults, they exist on forums and Signal chats already. I don’t know where Q Anon is relocating but I guarantee you it’s happening.
Pro tip:you’re much less likely to end up in a cult if you move to a city, rather than coordinating with people to move to a small village or some kind of commune. Keep an eye on your friends!
I wish that I had written this newsletter about a month ago. One of the big takeaways is that it’s still important to meet people face-to-face and break bread. Back when Bitcoin was up to the new all-time-high of ~64k, I was particularly eager to attend the BTC Conference that occurred this past weekend in Miami. However, unlike Austin, NYC, SF, or even Salt Lake City, I have almost no contacts in Miami! I considered purchasing an early bird ticket, half-heartedly tried to find a business to hire me to network on their behalf, or just spending the money to book a hotel and hoping it worked out. Ultimately, I didn’t pursue the opportunity and I regret it.
The conference itself did not seem to be a particularly exceptional event. Many of the videos that I watched were kinda cringe and featured narratives about Bitcoin that I find less persuasive and credible. I regret it because I’m aware of at least a couple contacts of mine (who work places I’d love to…) that I certainly could’ve met with. The next time I have a similar opportunity, I’m going to make it happen and figure out the details later.
This sentiment has been shared with me by multiple people who I strongly feel are going to be wildly successful entrepreneurs and public figures in the coming decades. Keep your mind, eyes, and ears open for weird opportunities that excite you. The 21st century is not on course to become any less strange.
This post was initially sent via Substack onJune 11th, 2021.
But personally, I think we’re about to have an amazing spring and summer. The past few days in Rochester have been moderately sunny and the temperature has been as high as 38F. While finding that to be good and remarkable is kind of sad, we learn to cope in Western NY. We’ll have some warmer days in the next few weeks and people will find it easier to socialize as we monitor the effects of mass vaccination.
My winter is over. I am leaving this Sunday to go visit Orlando for a week with a few of my friends. From there, I’m continuing on to Houston for a week and then Austin for a minimum of two weeks. It’s unclear exactly where I’ll go from there but it seems unlikely that I’ll return to Rochester before May. If you have any recommendations, connections, big ideas, etc that you want to share with me – please hit me up.
I’m looking forward to seeing the sun again and (re)connecting with friends and strangers alike.
Bitcoin, like Amazon and Tesla, has benefitted disproportionately from the US’ (and other country’s) monetary policy response to the pandemic. As new dollars have flooded the market and short-term interest rates declined, people with a large amount of assets and the ability to borrow at near 0% interest have sought out assets with potential long-term growth and robust network effects. While it may not make sense for Tesla to be valued at $586/share, it would make much less sense to have seen a 500% rise in price of a robust, moderate-growth manufacturing company. Tesla, like Bitcoin, at least has a plausible narrative for how it could eventually earn its valuation. This article demonstrates the utility of Bitcoin beyond its role as a speculative asset class, or hedge as “Digital Gold”. It’s easy for Americans to forget that cryptocurrencies are of global significance.
TL;DR: Read ~40 pages/day, assume 30% failure rate. That’s 10k pages and ~20 books annually. Pick a problem, and read clusters of five books to study that problem from a unique perspective. Visualize each cluster as an instrument to inspect the world. Collect instruments into a mental lab, with various stations for related instruments. You can upgrade the instruments one book at a time. Have your bookshelf reflect this mental image. Win the decade, not the day. Start now and never stop.
I recommend reading the full article. I’m still refining which clusters I want to focus on this year but community and localism will certainly be two of the topics. Lately I’ve been listening to more audiobooks as I’ve soured a bit on podcasts. If you have Audible, there’s a ton of interesting books that are available for free, “Included” FYI.
If you have any opinions about American foreign policy, you need to read this book. Horton certainly has his clear biases, as we all do, but almost all of the most damning claims are from official, publicly available government documents. He does a great job of sharing a clear narrative about the madness of American Middle Eastern policy, from the Carter administration through to the book’s release date.
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read the newsletter and I’d love to hear from any and all of you. I think my trip will be quite energizing and I’ll have some interesting ideas and perspectives for y’all in the weeks to come. Have a great
This post was initially sent via Substack onMarch 5th, 2021.
We live in a world where the improbable happens every day and it’s recorded on camera and curated by people and algorithms to dominate our perception.
The improbable consists of more than just accidents. The internets are also brimming with improbable feats of performance — someone who can run up a side of a building, or slide down suburban roof tops, or stack up cups faster than you can blink. Not just humans, but pets open doors, ride scooters, and paint pictures. The improbable also includes extraordinary levels of super human achievements: people doing astonishing memory tasks, or imitating all the accents of the world. In these extreme feats we see the super in humans.
There are approximately 330 million people residing inside the United States. The CDC estimates that the probability of being struck by lightning in any given year is 1 in 500,000. If more than half of these yearly lightning strikes were recorded by a cell phone and uploaded online and posted to a, hopefully hypothetical, subreddit /r/AmericanLightningRods, you could watch a new American get struck by lightning every single day.
My only hope in sharing that example was to play on the cliché about the rarity of lightning strikes. There’s the tension between its statistical likelihood and what our perception might be if we were active users of the aforementioned subreddit. Furthermore, assuming the approximation would hold, globally (with ~7.8 billion humans alive) we would expect to see ~42 people being struck by lightning every day. As the internet further globalizes, the improbable and outliers will dominate more and more in the winner-take-most game of internet content.
The good news is that we haven’t allocated more of our waking hours over the last year to consuming this kind of horrific lightning-based ‘content’. And instead maybe we’ve consumed too many clips of people making elaborate Rube-Goldberg machines (many of these recordings take hours and hours of attempts, you just see the 20 seconds of success). The bad news is that our perceptions of the world are being influenced by these same probabilistic realities and content curation incentives in other, more affective ways.
My own combination of selection biases and algorithmically-curated feeds has at times left me feeling below-average and even like I’m being “left behind”.On LinkedIn, I see a stream of successes from my friends who have rapidly risen through the ranks of corporate America in highly competitive roles in tech, consulting, and finance.
On Twitter (and now in my Substack inbox), I am confronted by an awesome deluge of genius and expertise. Many people who I’ve not only discovered on the platform but developed friendships with seem to be not-yet-sung polymaths. Not only is the depths of their knowledge on niche topics of shared interest: nuclear energy, public policy, Bitcoin, etc. more expansive, but they’re also technically competent and have robust jobs or successful companies in growing fields.
The key to managing this kind of warped perspective is to reframe in a way that is helpful and productive. I am not in a zero-sum competition with my former classmates, or these, often pseudonymous, polymaths. Instead of despairing, I can find inspiration and optimism in their achievements and work ethic. The excellence of my friends, yourselves included, is not a problem but part of the solution to the many problems that we face.
In what other ways are our perceptions warped as our media consumption transforms the extraordinary into the ordinary?
With this in mind, how can you mitigate the harm caused by unrealistic expectations or other negative consequences?
This post was initially sent via Substack onFebruary 9th, 2021.
As a few of you may have noticed, I didn’t send an issue of Seeking Tribe last week. After 2 months of delivering every week, I faltered and let a week go by.
The reality is that this happens to all of us in various pursuits.
Many times in my life I’ve had a killer gym routine that I couldn’t imagine leaving (including the beginning of 2020) and now I’m 9 months without entering a squat rack— although I’ve been staying active with the few weights I have.
It’s easy to view the decision to not continue, the moment that breaks your streak, as a big failure and beat yourself up.
But you don’t have to! Instead, it can be an opportunity to ask yourself “Do I want to keep doing this?” and reaffirm your commitment.
Whatever streak you loved and lost, I hope that you’ll take this as a prompt to pick it back up and start wherever you can.
I guarantee that when you look back a couple months from now, you’ll feel more powerful knowing that not only can you keep a good habit but you can choose to pick it back up after circumstances get in your way.
I believe in you.
The Best of my Recent Reads:
“The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” says Alan Davis, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Because most other depression treatments take weeks or months to work and may have undesirable effects, this could be a game changer if these findings hold up in future ‘gold-standard’ placebo-controlled clinical trials.” The published findings cover only a four-week follow-up in 24 participants, all of whom underwent two five-hour psilocybin sessions under the direction of the researchers, from Psychedelic Treatment with Psilocybin Relieves Major Depression, Study Shows
Just to emphasize, as my last email was certainly polarizing (people messaged me to say thanks! and other people unsubscribed), I think that the 538 project is entertaining and has value!
The bigger issue seems to be that there are issues with [a significant amount of] the polling that their model uses. Garbage in, garbage out. I’m sure there will be great retrospectives to come once every vote has been [re]counted. I also do think that my last email aged pretty well…but it’s easy to imagine the alternate world where I would have to come here and apologize for being wrong. I promise you that I’ll do just that!
Are you pursuing your own independent intellectual or creative projects? Looking for a community of people who are also on their grind?
I am a member of this community. Feel free to DM if you’re interested in learning more!
I have been actively avoiding video games for the last 6 months, with the exception of Duolingo (182 day streak!). However, on Monday, I finally broke down and permitted myself to buy and play Hades.
You play as Zagreus and your goal is to escape from hell. Your Dad is Hades and he won’t let you leave. I still haven’t escaped (on hell mode) but I’ve come very close. The game is really fun and has high replay value because no ‘run’ is the same.
A Direct Ask:
It has almost been a year since Lead The Future was published and went live on Amazon. I am currently working on a retrospective about my experience writing, publishing, and marketing the book.
In Rochester, we’ve been extremely fortunate that our rate of coronavirus transmission has been low knock on wood. One of my favorite coffee shops opened back up last week. It was wild to realize that I hadn’t been there for almost a year.
Where did 2020 go? Sometimes it feels like it will never end and other times I can’t believe it’s already the end of October.
This past week I spent more time writing than I have in the entire rest of this month!
Do you want to know my trick? The trick that will help you get over your writer’s block and help you get back on your grind?
I left all of my technology at home. No phone. No laptop. I brought a bunch of books that I could read but I started my session by opening up a journal. I took a sip of coffee, ate a bite of a tasty cherry danish and put my pen to paper. Once I got started, I quickly got in a groove and ended up writing for over three hours. It felt great to get these ideas out of my mind. The positive feedback was much better than from any social media notification.
It’s simple and it works. The biggest challenge is overcoming any fears or anxieties you have about disconnecting and taking the leap to isolate from your devices. It’s not love that keeps you checking your phone again and again and again. At its root, there is a fear or a neediness. This understanding won’t break your addiction — I’m probably more of a phone junkie than you are — but it’s part of the solution.
Your life might not permit you to unplug for so long during the day. You might need to wake up early or stay up late to get this kind of freedom from those who need you.
I hope some of you will claim a little time to yourself and unplug, even for thirty minutes, and write by hand. If you do, let me know how it goes!
This piece does a great job of explaining, in detail, the threat created by the policies of overt censorship at Twitter and Facebook.
You can despise the New York Post and the article in reference but do you believe that these corporations should be super-editors-in-chief of every newspaper? And will you then still argue that you support democracy and journalism? (Thanks to Quinn Banford for the recommendation)
A Few Cool Things:
One of my best friends, Luke Metzler, is a pop-star and just released the music video for his hit new song “Babydoll“. I would appreciate it a lot if you would listen, like, and subscribe to show my friend some love.
In a few earlier newsletters, I included images of quotes from books that I’ve been reading. I was able to create those easily by using this wonderful service Readwise.io. If you use a Kindle and want to review and work with your highlights, this product is an absolute game changer. Use this link and we’ll both get a free month!
Great for reviewing quotes, exporting notes to Notion or Roam Research, and even highlighting physical books and turning them into digital notes.
In Rochester, the leaves are changing colors and falling from the trees. The sun is setting earlier and the nights are growing colder. Growing up, it was common that it would snow on Halloween! Winter might not be here yet, but it’s right around the corner.
I hope you can all create the space to enjoy these last moments of fall. Go for a long walk in a park. Meet up with an acquaintance for a distanced-outdoor drink at a local bar (ayyy). Sit on your front porch and enjoy the sun on a chilly fall morning (with a hot cup of coffee).
The Best of my Recent Reads:
“The lesson, it seemed to me, was that curiosity has no home. Thinking is at best a liability, something that destabilizes the solidity of a life and rips one from fellowship of other people. At worst it’s poison, a fatal and ineradicable dose of melancholy and doubt. In either case, the only rational course is to avoid it.” from Wisdom That Is Woe by Joseph Keegin
This beautiful piece will resonate with many of you. Joseph explores the often isolating nature of a deeply introspective and intellectual life.
I received a few messages from readers of Seeking Tribe last week asking if I could make a few connections. These may be out there but I figured I’d ask! Please feel free to reach out if you have an ask, or would like to be connected with either of these friends.
Are you of you particularly interested in political philosophy? Are you looking for a roommate by any chance?
Want to see where your alma mater stacks up in his analysis and by what metrics? Click here(University of Rochester is unfortunately not in the ‘Thrive’ quadrant).
Complex problems — for example, any question of public policy— always surprise you by their depths. Lars Schönander’s recent piece ‘The Case for Supporting Open Source Infrastructure‘ further complicated my understanding of value v. value-capture (see Inequality and Power Laws). His analysis reveals how vital open source tools are for governmental, non-profit, and private sector operations and makes the case for actively investing in their maintenance and development.
Is Cheyenne, Wyoming about to become the finance capital of the US? Kraken Financial was approved to become the first ‘Bitcoin Bank,’ receiving a formal bank charter that is recognized by both federal and state law. Wyoming created a regulatory environment that is conducive to gaining whatever upside may come from cryptocurrencies, while New York passed regulations to kill the Big Banks’ competition.
[Full disclosure, I own a small amount of $BTC. If you’d want to read more about that, DM me! *Not Financial Advice*]
My top recent posts:
If you still don’t believe inequality matters, you haven’t been paying attention. But where does this inequality come from and is there a tension between profitable innovation, ie. the creation of consumer photography, re: Kodak, and inequality? Read more about ‘Inequality and Power Laws‘
While Kanye is freaking the media as he works to own his masters, and advocates for black equity. I figured it was a good opportunity to plug my essay ‘999 Real Fans.’ This essay is a synthesis of Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans and the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from Kanye’s self-love.
Question for you all:
What good habit do you wish you started building a month ago? Or which bad habit do you wish you stopped a month ago?
Can you feel it? It’s going to be a wonderful week.
I am so grateful for the positive initial response to this newsletter and thankful that you decided to stick around.
This past week, I had a couple friends from out of town visiting so I ended up much more focused on friendship than my personal projects.
I have decided to stay in Rochester for the next 10 months (originally I had planned to move to DC or another larger city) and focus on: building my ‘skill stack‘, identifying a great, next full-time opportunity, and prototyping various digital events (book clubs, writing groups, author interviews…) and ‘community’ spaces. The quarantine has emphasized my personal need for a social function within a community and the importance of friendship.
If you plan to visit Rochester, please be sure to give me a heads up and if you’re local and want to connect, dm me!
The Best of my Recent Reads:
When most people hear the name Ben Horowitz, they either don’t know who he is or, they think of his work as the co-founder and a GP at a16z. My personal admiration for him comes from his excellent books on management and organizational culture. I am currently reading What You Do Is Who You Are, which opens with insights from Touissaint Louverture’s experience leading the Haitian Revolution and how these principles of culture are being applied by powerful organizations throughout the world. I plan on writing a book review once I’m done but cannot recommend it enough for anyone interested in the importance of culture for any movement or organization.
One of the greatest potential positive outcomes from the pandemic is a deeper appreciation of humanity’s impact on ecosystems. Decreased manufacturing and social activity in various parts of the globe have yielded no shortage of videos of wildlife roaming into areas where they haven’t been seen for decades, most recently these boars in Berlin. This piece by Santi Ruiz in the National Review makes a strong case for a concerted effort to Bring Back The Bison. I’m no fan of the National Review and am now wondering if its decision to run this piece is further evidence of a larger political-cultural shift underway.
In my limited understanding of the tenure system, it was designed to provide academic researchers with the job protections that they need to conduct their research, without excessive pressure to avoid lines of inquiry that are unfashionable, or even dissident. Is that empirically the case and is tenure sufficient? In a recent piece for the Atlantic, Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom, the [liberal] Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, John McWhorter makes the case that it isn’t. Are the figures and narratives he cites mostly a function of who selects and is selected into jobs as academic researchers, or does it have more to do with our current cultural moment?
A survey of 445 academic researchers [,who are members of] Heterodox Academy found that, “…more than half the respondents consider expressing views beyond a certain consensus in an academic setting quite dangerous to their career trajectory.”