Per My Last E-mail #8

Loonshots, Debate, Murakami, Salons, Disruption and Ambition

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Tuesday and a belated welcome back from what I hope was a fun and relaxing 4th of July. 🇺🇸 Since I know you’ve been refreshing your inboxes since yesterday morning looking for this e-mail, let’s get right to it!

Loonshots Learning Playlist

Over the past couple of months, I have been playing around with the idea that you can take great content that already exists, package it up, and test people on it to create playlists that enable better learning and retention than just scanning an article, watching a video, or reading a book does on its own.

The first learning playlist that I put together was on the Process - the Sixers’ rebuild under Sam Hinkie. Over 300 people took at least one quiz, and 25 crazy people took all 8 quizzes, earning a Process Diploma in the…process. So I decided to build another one.

Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time. It’s written by a former physicist/McKinsey consultant/public biotech CEO and combines science, history and business theory to provide a framework for nurturing innovative ideas in companies, industries and nations. It is the book that I highlighted more than any other I have read in the past few years, so I figured it would be the perfect content around which to create the next learning playlist.

I broke the book down by chapter, and for each, added additional resources like videos, podcasts, papers, and posts, then finished each section with a quiz.

You can check it out here: Loonshots Learning Playlist

If you’ve read the book, take the course to get some additional context and test how much you’ve retained. If you haven’t read Loonshots yet, you can read along as you go through the playlist. Either way, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the content, format, and whether it helped you learn.

Debate Update

The NYC Debate Club has gotten a dozen signups (thank you!) so we’re going to make this thing happen. Next steps: I’m going to find a date in September and a location that is willing to host us. If you want to join but don’t know how to debate, I’ll share our very simple rules and some tips & tricks with those who sign up in the next few weeks. Even if you’re a little bit interested, sign up here to stay in the loop: NYC Debate Club interest form.

What I’m Reading

I am still reading Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, and still recommend it highly for its clever prose and the glimpse it provides into 1920s Russia.

On Audible, I’m listening to Haruki Murakami’s The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. I don’t recommend this one. Murakami is my favorite author when he’s writing fiction. He writes a light form of Japanese magical realism, and his writing is crisp. Whenever he releases a new book, I drop whatever I’m reading to read it. Check out, in no particular order: 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, Killing Commendatore, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, all fiction by Murakami. I even loved What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a non-fiction memoir. But The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche is written as a series of interviews with survivors of the attack, which gives Murakami’s voice less room to shine, and it just hasn’t landed for me.

Links & Listens

🙋 Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in Harvard Business Review

The USWNT’s 2-0 World Cup Victory over the Netherlands was a perfect way to cap off a patriotic weekend. While we’re talking about our women’s soccer team being much more successful than our men’s, check out this article, which shows that women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones.

Megan Rapinoe was the star of the World Cup - winning the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, and leading her team to the Gold Medal. Even though the tournament is over, this ESPN profile about Rapinoe’s relationship with her brother, Brian, is well worth a read.

🇰🇷 Why Salon Culture Blooms Back in Korea by Jung Hae-myoung in The Korea Times

Salons, communities in which adults can pursue hobbies and experiences outside of work, are becoming increasingly popular in South Korea. Park Jong-eun, the CEO of one of the salons, 2gyoji, explains the trend: “I think people did not know what their true interests were in the old days, because they thought working hard and saving money were virtues," Park said. "Now investing in oneself and one's time have become more important than the reason for working.”

I have noticed an increasing interest in something like this in the US too: here and here are two examples of conversations starting around the topic. And Debate Club is certainly something that could fit within the context of a Salon.

If there were a Salon in your city, what activities would you want to see there? Share your thoughts here.

H/t to Dror for sharing this article.

🎙Beyond Disruption on The a16z Podcast with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz

This is a replay of an interview that a16z’s Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz gave five years ago in which they discussed whether Clayton Christensen’s Theory of Disruptive Innovation was still relevant. (If you’re wondering what that is, read this 2015 HBR article.)

Andreessen and Horowitz took a different approach to the theory than I’ve heard, arguing that it’s not about incumbents vs. challengers as much as it’s about new companies still run by their founders vs. old companies run by professional managers. Even though they were established companies, HP under Bill Packard and IBM under Thomas Watson had no trouble doing new, innovative things. For the same reason, Andreessen and Horowitz said that they wouldn’t fund companies that were trying to disrupt Google while it was still run by Larry Page or Facebook while it’s run by Mark Zuckerberg. Five years later, Snap v. Instagram shows why Andreessen and Horowitz’s take might be right.

💼 The Paradox of Ambition by David Perell

In his newest post, Perell, who was my teacher in the Write of Passage course that got this newsletter started, argues that ambition is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more ambitious you are, the easier it is to attract people to your mission, the easier it is to succeed, the more ambitious you become, and on and on. Stripe employee Mark McGranaghan, sums it up nicely:

“Stripe’s insight was that tackling ambitious problems doesn’t just make the potential prize bigger. Ambitious efforts are often more feasible than smaller ones, because the strongest people want to work on the most ambitious efforts. In our experience this positive talent effect was stronger than the negative effect of problem difficulty. So, paradoxically, tackling a bigger problem could be both more rewarding for the company and in a sense more tractable.”

💊 A Vaccine for Alzheimer’s is on the Verge of Becoming a Reality by Stephen Armstrong in Wired

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and my biggest fear is me and my family losing our memories. If I went to a therapist, they would probably tell me that this fear is why I started writing.

So whenever I see an article about a potential cure for Alzheimer’s, I read it. This one seems promising - a mother/daughter team have developed a vaccine for the disease that is currently proceeding with Phase III trials. In Phase II, the vaccine had a 100% response rate and has “seen an improvement in three out of three measurements of cognitive performance for patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease” in 42 patients (a small sample, but promising nonetheless). I will be watching United Neuroscience’s Phase III trials closely.

What’s Next?

Now that the Loonshots Learning Playlist is done and dusted, I’m going to go back to writing about other things!

As always, if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please spread the word.

Thanks for reading and have a great week,

Packy