The Profile: The NBA’s biggest dealmaker & the church with the $6 billion portfolio

Good morning, friends.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, I always think about one of my favorite Wait But Why posts from 2014 titled, “How to Pick Your Life Partner.”

In the article, Tim Urban puts it all in perspective: When it comes to choosing a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times. That’s … something to think about.

He features characters such as Overly Romantic Ronald, Fear-Driven Frida, Externally-Influenced Ed, Shallow Sharon, and Selfish Stanley. The main reason most people end up in unhappy relationships, Tim says, is that they’re consumed by a motivating force that doesn’t take into account the reality of what a life partnership is and what makes it a happy thing.

So what makes a happy life partnership? Tim believes (as do I) that the key to succeeding at something so big is to break it into its tiniest pieces and focus on how to succeed at just one tiny piece.

He writes:

“From afar, a great marriage is a sweeping love story, like a marriage in a book or a movie. And that’s a nice, poetic way to look at a marriage as a whole.

But human happiness doesn’t function in sweeping strokes, because we don’t live in broad summations—we’re stuck in the tiny unglamorous folds of the fabric of life, and that’s where our happiness is determined.

So if we want to find a happy marriage, we need to think small—we need to look at marriage up close and see that it’s built not out of anything poetic, but out of 20,000 mundane Wednesdays.

Marriage isn’t the honeymoon in Thailand—it’s day four of vacation #56 that you take together.

Marriage is not celebrating the closing of the deal on the first house—it’s having dinner in that house for the 4,386th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day. Marriage is Forgettable Wednesday. Together.”

So happy belated Valentine’s Day, friends. Thank you for spending every forgettable Sunday with me.

If you’re interested in reading more, Tim broke this topic down into two parts — Part 1 and Part 2.

Here we go:

— The teenager drowning in politics [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The NBA’s biggest dealmaker
— The most important new woman in Congress
— The warriors of Antarctica
— The church with the $6 billion portfolio
— The Instagram for prisons
The company printing cars
— The basketball coach focused on the mental game


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PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The teenager drowning in politics: This profile caused an uproar on social media. I encourage you to read it & draw your own conclusions. It’s a profile of Ryan Morgan, a high school senior living in a largely conservative area of Wisconsin. Like many teenagers, he thinks a lot about what he wants to do with his life, because everyone keeps telling him he’s supposed to have it figured out. He’d rather just talk about his girlfriend or cool sneakers or the Packers. But life in an era of social media, school shootings, toxic masculinity, and #MeToo is not that simple.

“Last year was really bad. I couldn’t say anything without pissing someone off.”

The NBA’s biggest dealmaker: As one of the best basketball players on the planet, Kevin Durant can meet anyone he thinks is interesting and invest in any company he likes. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey? He flew in for Durant's birthday party this year. Apple VP Eddy Cue? He just greenlighted a scripted show called Swagger based on Durant's experiences in AAU basketball. No one’s off limits. The challenge for Durant now isn't just in finding the time to take advantage of the exclusive opportunities in front of him but in searching for the right reasons to do so.

"My platform is hoops. Billions of people are watching, so why not leverage it to do the cool stuff that we like to do?"

The most important new woman in Congress: Although outspoken progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are getting the attention, the Democratic Party owes control of the House to moderates like Mikie Sherrill. She’s a former Navy helicopter pilot, former federal prosecutor, and mother of four. Whose agenda will prevail?

“She was not an extremist for left-wing causes or right-wing causes. The vast majority of us live in the middle. And that’s where her voice comes from.”

The warriors of Antarctica: Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd spent almost two months racing across Antarctica, a journey that killed an explorer who attempted it in 2016. They spoke with The New York Times about the race of a lifetime. Also, their before & after photos are unbelievable.

“I think because the canvas is so blank, I could start thinking about something about my past and I would be able to access it fully. Like this lucid, waking dream.”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The church with the $6 billion portfolio: While many places of worship are warding off developers, Manhattan’s historic Trinity Church has become a big-time developer itself. It has long had its own real estate arm, and now it finds itself with a newly diversified portfolio worth $6 billion. Trinity has been able to do this because it’s been a savvy manager of its resources. It is also, as a church, exempt from taxes. But some wonder — Is it ethical for a religious institution to be one of the biggest power players in the world of New York real estate?

“What is the fundamental economic issue going on that churches deserve tax exemption and can build up a lot of wealth?”

The Instagram for prisons: As the world has embraced texting, FaceTime, and social media, U.S. prisons have largely remained technological dead zones. Now, apps like Pigeonly, InmateAid, and Flikshop have hit on a model that meets inmates’ desire for a more tangible connection while serving the social media habits of their loved ones. Customers subscribe to the app for a monthly fee, ranging from $7.99 to $19.99, in order to send photos and messages. Some believe it could also help recidivism — inmates are less likely to re-offend if they see there’s a life to be lived on the outside.

“Mail call is like Christmas every day in prison. The importance of hearing your name called, of getting something from the outside—it’s a sense of validation that people care, that you still matter.”

The company printing cars: Local Motors is a startup that makes autonomous vehicles using the largest 3D printer in the world. The company has debuted a crowdsourced, 3D-printed, autonomous, AI-assisted shuttle named Olli. It can be manufactured to order, so it could end up as a clinic on wheels, a roaming soup kitchen, or a traveling classroom. Take a look at this small company’s big ambitions.

“A lot of companies make cars. That’s not us. We want to turn the rules of manufacturing upside down.”

FROM THE VAULT.

The basketball coach focused on the mental game: Villanova’s Jay Wright has been called the “anti-coach” because of his New Age-y psychological tactics. There are no championship banners or retired jerseys on the walls of the team’s practice facility -- those are all distractions. He makes players take a character test, so he knows how to push each one. And if a player hits a big shot and gestures in celebration to the crowd, Wright will go off on him. “If you're excited, you have a lot of energy; turn and give that energy to your teammates,” he’ll say. It’s all about winning in the mind before winning on the court.

“When people you trust tell you the truth about yourself? Moments like those? Man, that is where you grow.”


The Profile: The World’s Most Powerful Couples

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

This is a special edition of The Profile, featuring stories of the most powerful couples that I’ve read in the last two years. (Thanks to my friend Lauren who gave me the idea to do this!)

I hope you enjoy the following profiles, and please respond to this email with one lesson you’ve learned from your own experience about what it takes to build and maintain a successful partnership.

Here we go:

The unlikely power duo
The world’s most powerful woman
America’s new power couple
The high school sweethearts paying it forward
The young couple fighting their demons
— The former first lady optimistic about the future
The woman in front of George Clooney
— The breakup museum
— The heartbreak cleanse
The woman who married a terrorist
— America’s love doctor
— The therapist who will fix your love life


If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The unlikely power duo: After dating guys like Drake & Common, Serena Williams is very much in love with Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s nerdy co-founder. At first, Serena considered Alexis an “irritant” who wouldn’t go away. But in a whirlwind romance, he managed to win her over with his techie charm. This isn’t some bullshit love fairy tale, this is real life (wellllll, minus the weekend trips to Paris & surprise proposals in Rome.)

“I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self. . . . I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.”

The world’s most powerful woman: The first time that Melinda Gates ever agreed to do a solo profile was in January 2008. This profile covers the gamut of Melinda’s extraordinary life: meeting and marrying Bill Gates, becoming the essential half of what has turned out to be the world’s premier philanthropic partnership, and dramatically changing the idea around how the power couple should manage their money.

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

America’s new power couple: OK, I’ll admit it, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are great together. Vanity Fair did a profile on the actress-athlete duo, and I can’t stop thinking about this story. It goes like this: Imagine you’re on a first date with J-Lo & you’re nervous as hell. Best way to calm your nerves? A-Rod got up, went to the bathroom to gather his thoughts, and texted her an oh-so-romantic: “You look sexy AF.” An interesting approach that somehow worked out in his favor.

“She told me around the third or fourth inning that she was single,” he says. “I had to get up and go re-adjust my thoughts. I went to the bathroom and got enough courage to send her a text.”

The high school sweethearts paying it forward: Everyone knows LeBron James, the NBA superstar. But only the residents of Akron, Ohio know LeBron James, the local hero. Behind the scenes, LeBron & his wife Savannah have been working with low-income, at-risk students in their hometown. While Bill & Melinda Gates are focused on solving global problems, this power couple is working just as hard on the problems in their own backyard.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

The young couple fighting their demons: This profile demonstrates just how difficult marriage can be — especially if you’re still trying to find yourself. Justin Bieber and his longtime friend-turned-wife Hailey open up about the insecurities, the trust issues, the emotional outbursts, and the petty fights they grapple with in their relationship. With his turbulent past behind him, Justin is still struggling to find peace. “I was real at first,” he says, “and then I was manufactured.”

“You don’t wake up every day saying, ‘I’m absolutely so in love and you are perfect.’ That’s not what being married is. But there’s something beautiful about it anyway—about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone.”

The former first lady optimistic about the future: In this Q&A with former first lady Michelle Obama, we get an up-close view of her marriage, her life after the White House, and her views on president Donald Trump. She even delves into the intricacies of couples counseling and relationship insecurities with husband Barack. This interview reveals what it’s like to balance a family, a career, and a country — all while remaining optimistic about the future.

“I always thought love was up close. Love is the dinner table, love is consistency, it is presence. So I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently.”

The woman in front of George Clooney: Amal and George Clooney are the epitome of relationship goals. In this profile, we learn about the internationally-renowned human rights lawyer who fell in love with America’s eternal bachelor. She worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and took on a genocide case while housing a refugee in her home. In this relationship, she’s the professional and George is the amateur.

“She was a woman with a fully realized adult life who, almost overnight, became a celebrity of inordinate privilege.”

The breakup museum: All the memories we don’t want to remember — there’s a museum for that. In Croatia’s infamous Museum of Broken Relationships, everyday objects like a toaster or a toilet paper dispenser have a heart-wrenching back story. This story explores why people look at lost love with such nostalgia and attachment to the “what could have been.”

“This museum recognizes that our relationship to the past—its pain and ruptures and betrayals—is often more fraught, more vexed, full of ebb and pull.”

The heartbreak cleanse: Ever heard of “a personal trainer for heartbreak?” Founded by an ex-Googler, Mend is an app that helps you get over your ex. But it’s not just an app. It’s an app-turned-online-community-turned-content-machine-turned-business. You can listen to the podcast and read posts on relationship advice and self care tips. #content. The real secret to mending a broken heart? “A breakup bootcamp” that consists of yoga, a gratitude journal, quinoa, kale, and home-brewed kombucha (of course). All for a cool $1,500. Maybe we’ve reached peak love, and now broken hearts are all we have left.

“'I know I’m on this earth to help people heal their heart wounds,' she tells me over a bowl of homemade chia pudding and granola.”

The woman who married a terrorist: At 19 years old, Tania Joya met an American named John on a Muslim online dating site. She became increasingly uncomfortable with his extremist ideology after 10 years of marriage. John was a jihadist—soon to become one of the highest-ranking Westerners in ISIS. He became abusive, expected her to be a subservient wife, & dragged the family to Syria. That’s when Tania knew she had to leave to save her life, but it wasn’t so easy.

“I said, ‘I want to be happy.’ He said, ‘You’re not supposed to be happy in this life. This life is prison. The next life is paradise.’”

America’s love doctor: Chris Harrison has been the host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise for 20+ seasons now (!) He’s the man behind the tears, the rose ceremonies, and the fantasy suite dates gone awry. This 2015 profile of Harrison shows how his role has evolved into something much bigger. In addition to hosting, it’s now also part of his job to discover future Bachelor/ettes, juggle all the crazies, and “be simultaneously the show’s bullshit-caller and its face of continuity and warmth.”

"Love," he told me at one point, "is as much of a competition as anything. If you don’t think so, you’re either losing the game or you’re not playing." He may have been talking about the show, or maybe he wasn’t.

The therapist who will fix your love life: Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist who is an expert at solving problems having to do with love, sex, marriage, infidelity, and just real shit we face. Her secret? She goes right for the questions people are scared to ask their partners. Her podcast features raw recordings from her consultation sessions. When you hear about the man who has been cheating on his wife for DECADES, it really puts that time someone ghosted you into perspective.

“You’re right, but you’re wrong, too. Welcome to life as a couple.”


The Profile: The first lady of the Internet & Silicon Valley’s disillusioned generation

Good morning, friends.

I still remember when I first met Katie Hawkins-Gaar at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta. She was ambitious, enthusiastic, kind, and someone people genuinely loved working with. And though I learned so much from her and her team during my time at CNN, the most important lesson I (and many others) would learn from Katie came years later.

The lesson is around relentlessness and strength. Two years ago this month, Katie suffered a sudden, unimaginable loss when her husband Jamie passed away unexpectedly. She writes, “Jamie was 32 years old and he was the love of my life. In a lot of ways, it felt like the day that Jamie’s life ended was the day that my life ended too.”

Yet here she is — living with more resolve and determination than most of us could dream of. Through her absolute must-read newsletter My Sweet Dumb Brain, Katie gets to the core of what makes us human — she explores grief, anxiety, depression, and most importantly, kindness.

I’ll let her take it from here.

----

Katie Hawkins-Gaar, writer & journalist:

Last year, I spent a 24-hour layover at a fancy hotel outside of Reykjavík. Among other amenities, the hotel boasted its own private geothermal spa, a beautiful lagoon that was blissfully empty when I went for a swim.

Soaking in the mineral-rich waters, I felt pure joy. It was a feeling of contentedness without strings attached, and it was totally unexpected. When was the last time I experienced such uncomplicated happiness? Somehow, the feeling lasted for hours. That night, I slept more soundly than I had in months.

That moment of bliss soon felt far away — 3,600+ miles away, to be exact. For a while, I thought there was something magical about Iceland. I wondered if the hot water unlocked a sensation I’d never experienced before, if the money I spent on the hotel really did buy happiness, or if I discovered a secret about travel: that focusing on a single destination was the key to fulfillment.

I revisited that joy again and again, trying to figure out why it felt so significant. I’ve had plenty of moments of happiness before, but this one was different. It wasn’t followed by a foreboding sense of dread.

If things are this good now, something bad is bound to happen.

I was traveling overseas because my husband died a year prior — suddenly and unexpectedly at age 32. The solo trip offered me a way to heal, to mark the progress I’d made in my grief, and to honor our marriage. Losing my husband is one of the reasons why uncomplicated happiness is such a rarity in my life. Joy is almost always fleeting for me, followed by a chaser of shame, scarcity, or fear.

Now, a year after that trip and two years after my husband’s death, there are more and more moments of happiness in my life, but I still struggle to accept and appreciate them. Researcher, TED Talk star, and best-selling author Brené Brown calls this experience “foreboding joy.”

We can all relate to this feeling: If you’re a parent, you’ve likely smiled while watching your sleeping baby, only to be gripped by fears that your child could die. Maybe you’re a writer, and know how quickly your pride for a well-written essay can be swept away by worries that it will be the last good thing you’ll ever produce. Or you’ve experienced a day of fun and relaxation that’s interrupted by a call; before you even pick up the phone, your mind rushes to worst-case scenarios.

“If you asked me what’s the most terrifying, difficult emotion that we experience as humans, I would say joy,” Brown said in an interview with Oprah. “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.”

That flicker of fear — what if something bad happens? — will always exist. But that doesn’t mean it has to take over. Brown found through her research that the happiest people have learned not to feed their worries when they arise.

So what’s the secret? There are some key things you can do to avoid transforming joy into fear:

Get grounded. When you sense that foreboding feeling, take note of it. Don’t judge yourself, just note your emotions. From there, try and connect with your body. Breathe deeply, and focus on things you can see, touch, feel, smell and taste. Practicing meditation will help you sharpen these skills over time.

Surrender to the feeling. Allow yourself to experience happiness. Sink into the feeling without trying to control the situation, or enjoy it only to a certain point. While this step might seem simple, it’s tougher than you think. Brown calls joy “the most vulnerable emotion we experience.”

Practice gratitude. The next time you feel happiness, give thanks instead of listing reasons to worry. Gratitude saved me in the early months after my husband died. Sometimes I kept a daily gratitude journal; other times, I’d force myself to mentally list things I was grateful for in the moment. It takes lots of patience and practice, but research supports the link between gratitude and happiness.

And that’s what happened in Iceland. The warm water helped me to get grounded — to be in touch with my body instead of my mind. Being relaxed and in a new place made it easier than usual to surrender to happiness. Most likely, though, the unencumbered bliss I felt was the result of a gratitude journal I was keeping. By the time I’d gotten to Iceland, I had kept up a practice of writing three things that I was grateful for every day, for 23 days.

Truth be told, I still struggle with holding onto happiness. But I’m getting better at it, and am glad to report that experiencing uncomplicated joy doesn’t require an elaborate trip overseas. Writing this essay has inspired me to restart my gratitude journal; I hope you’ll join me. If you’re interested in learning how to meditate, Headspace is a great place to get started. And you can read more about Brown’s research findings in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Here’s to finding happiness, surrendering when it comes, and being grateful that we get to experience it in the first place.


👉 If you enjoyed reading this column by Katie, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


This was a fire week for profiles:

The first lady of the Internet [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The deported Americans
Silicon Valley’s disillusioned generation
The young couple fighting their demons
The founder who can’t escape his political ties
The streaming company fighting off Amazon
The company stealing your secrets

PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The first lady of the Internet: Whether or not you know Lena Forsen’s face, you’ve used the technology it helped create. Practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, the former Playboy model remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she says in her first public interview since 1997.

“I don’t understand, but I think I’ve made some good.”

The deported Americans: More than 600,000 U.S.-born children of undocumented parents have returned to Mexico. Some families were deported, others “return migrated.” But the kids, who were born in America, weren’t returning. They were just … leaving. This powerful profile asks the question — What happens when you’re forced to return to a country you’ve never known?

“This problem of being unable to adapt to Mexico or belong to the U.S. — it’s a generation that was left in between.”

Silicon Valley’s disillusioned generation: Stanford has established itself as the epicenter of computer science, and a farm system for the tech giants. Following major scandals at Facebook, Google, and others, the university and its ambitious students are coming to grips with a world in which many of the stereotypical dream jobs are now vilified.

“It seemed super empowering that a line of code that I wrote could be used by millions of people the next day. Now we’re realizing that’s maybe not always a good thing.”

The young couple fighting their demons: This profile demonstrates just how difficult marriage can be — especially if you’re still trying to find yourself. Justin Bieber and his longtime friend-turned-wife Hailey open up about the insecurities, the trust issues, the emotional outbursts, and the petty fights they grapple with in their relationship. With his turbulent past behind him, Justin is still struggling to find peace. “I was real at first,” he says, “and then I was manufactured.”

“You don’t wake up every day saying, ‘I’m absolutely so in love and you are perfect.’ That’s not what being married is. But there’s something beautiful about it anyway—about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone.”

The founder who can’t escape his political ties: Ryan Williams, the CEO & founder behind real estate startup Cadre, counts Peter Thiel, Mark Cuban, and George Soros as backers. And he was recently about to add the king of investors to his star-studded roster: SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son. But within a month of his meeting with Masa, Bloomberg ran an article emphasizing the potential link between early Cadre investor Jared Kushner, Softbank and Saudi money. Discussions fell apart soon after. Will Williams be able to escape his political connection especially when Kushner refuses to divest?

“I would be lying if I said the political angle wasn’t frustrating or concerning. There are people who won’t work with us [because of the Kushner connection], and we get that.”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The streaming company fighting off Amazon: HBO invented prestige television and long had the category all to itself. But in the age of Netflix and Amazon, the network that brought you The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Game of Thrones has more competition than ever—and a new corporate parent with high expectations. Here’s how its chairman Richard Plepler and programming chief Casey Bloys intend to meet them.

“Being forced, every once in a while, to question your assumptions and talk it through almost always makes the thing better.”

The company stealing your secrets: Adam Khan had invented something he believed to be valuable — a diamond glass that could make your phone’s screen nearly unbreakable. He sent a sample for testing to a laboratory owned by Huawei Technologies. But when the sample came back months late and badly damaged, Khan knew something was terribly wrong. Was the Chinese company trying to steal his technology? As Khan attempted to figure this out, the FBI got involved.

“This multibillion-dollar company is coming after our technology. What are we going to do now?”


The Profile: The Elon Musk of trash & Nashville’s hot chicken empire

Good morning, friends.

“What makes a great profile?”

It’s my favorite question because it seems like the answer is: “You can’t pinpoint it. You just know.”

In reality, all must-read features contain the same elements —  a captivating anecdotal lead, a strong nut graf, a relatable tone, months of reporting, and language that appeals to the reader’s senses (visuals, smells, sounds, etc).

Yet those ingredients aren’t enough — there’s a lot of tweaking, cutting, massaging, re-working, and crying that goes into producing an excellent profile.

One of Fortune’s brilliant editors recently explained feature writing through something he calls “The Italian Grandma Sauce Theory of Feature Writing.” It goes like this: "That sauce you bought at Whole Foods has pretty much the same ingredients as your grandma's sauce. But the important difference is, your grandma's sauce cooks all. damn. day."

So when I got an email earlier this month from Propllr’s Hunter Stuart asking, “What do you think makes a great profile,” I obviously had some thoughts.

Check out the post Hunter wrote about the key things I look for in profiles before including them in this newsletter.

--

There were so many excellent ‘grandma sauce’ features this week that there are two highly recommends.

The Elon Musk of trash [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The school shooter’s brother
The Apple exec transforming retail
The king of horror
The West Wing star starting over in Hollywood
The professor fighting to reclaim his stolen data
— Nashville’s hot chicken empire [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The monster quarterback


If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The Elon Musk of trash: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre, twice the size of Texas, containing nearly two trillion pieces of plastic which weigh eighty thousand metric tons. In other words, there’s a lot of trash in the ocean — and it’s being ingested by fish, which are then ingested by you and I. Now, a young, Dutch entrepreneur named Boyan Slat has an ambitious plan to get rid of 90% of ocean plastic by 2040. After a major setback, Slat is relentlessly pursuing this expensive yet imperative endeavor.

“The sea is an unrelenting trial judge. The probability of failure was at least as high as the probability of success.”

The school shooter’s brother: What if the only family you had left turned out to be one of the most notorious mass murderers in history? That is reality for Zachary Cruz. One year ago, his older brother went to school in Parkland, Florida, and killed 14 students and three staff members. The profile features a chilling video of the moment Zach sees his brother the day after the mass shooting. Just a warning: This story will break your heart. And then break it again. And then one more time.

“Other people look at me like I’m crazy for even — and I don’t, I don’t care what other people think. Like, you’re my brother. I love you.”

The Apple exec transforming retail: No company is doing experiential retail with the same level of scale or ambition as Apple. Apple’s VP of retail Angela Ahrendts is behind the company’s new program “Today at Apple,” which offers classes, talks, concerts and workshops. Ahrendts’ plan to transform retail runs contrary to the digital addiction Apple’s business model fuels. “I think as humans we still need gathering places,” she says. “And when you are serving digital natives, the thing they long for more than anything is human connection. Eye contact.”

“The tragedy in retail is that it has become about numbers. It’s about cost-cutting the way to prosperity instead of investing in your people.”

The king of horror: How do you top a movie that shook Hollywood? The filmmaker behind ‘Get Out’ has a simple plan: Scare the hell out of you. In this wide-ranging profile, Jordan Peele opens up about how his comedy career led him into the horror genre, breaks down his process for storytelling, and best of all, reveals how he really feels about Kanye West.

“It’s important to me that we can tell black stories without it being about race.”

The West Wing star starting over in Hollywood: Over the years, Hope Hicks had become an ever-present Trump appendage, a surrogate daughter, de facto whisperer and translator. She touched everything but left fingerprints on nothing. After years in the Trump orbit, Hicks has entered a brave new world of Murdochs, fussy trade reporters, and Los Angeles semiotics. What exactly does her second act entail?

“It was four P.M. when I met her, and it was like an alien landed in the middle of Los Angeles.”

The professor fighting to reclaim his stolen data: David Carroll has been on an obsessive two-year-long quest to reclaim his data from Cambridge Analytica. He has been locked in a legal war to force the infamous company to turn over its files on him. He’s won a battle, but the war continues.

“All I want is everything. Because I’m entitled to it. And so is everyone.”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

Nashville’s hot chicken empire: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is a Nashville institution. It’s been described as “worse than dope” in its addictiveness. Beyoncé and Jay-Z get takeout when they’re in town. The chicken’s spices stimulate the nervous system, awaken mucus, and cause the heart to beat faster. The owner likes to say that hot chicken will sober you up and clean you out. This profile offers an inside look into the evolution of the 80-year-old family business.

“I eat many strange and spicy things around the world, but never in my life have I experienced something like this. Is it food? Or an initiation ritual for Yankees?”

FROM THE VAULT.

The monster quarterback: I discovered that Tom Brady and I have something in common: We both used to be incredibly bad athletes in high school. His life ended up a little differently than mine, but who’s counting? When “Tommy” Brady started as quarterback on his JV high school football team for the first time, he was sacked 15 times. Disaster was an understatement. His old coach says, “It was the worst beating of my life, and it made you want to walk off and go to a bar and quit." Although this profile is from 2017, I’m including it in honor of the Super Bowl today. (Also to be totally honest, I thought the Super Bowl already happened but I was recently informed it didn’t. It is today. #Football #Murica)

“I just want to win because I owe it to my teammates. I'm working this year like I have [no rings], and hopefully it results in a magical season."


The Profile: The man spending millions to live forever & the family of Russian spies

Good morning, friends.

I get a lot of newsletters, but the one I read religiously is Shane Parrish’s weekly Brain Food.

Many of you are probably already familiar with his blog Farnam Street, a site devoted to improve your thinking and help you make better decisions in your day-to-day life. It’s excellent.

Quick intro on Shane: He was a cybersecurity expert at Canada’s top intelligence agency and an occasional blogger when he noticed that 80% of his readers worked on Wall Street. His site, Farnam Street, caters to a high-achieving audience by featuring strategies of rigorous self-betterment as opposed to cheesy self-help. He subscribes to the idea that reading, reflection, and lifelong learning are the keys to true personal development. (If you want to learn more about how he built Farnam Street, read his New York Times profile here.)

I asked Shane to write a guest post for The Profile on how he used mental models to transform his thinking since he began working on Farnam Street. We can all learn a thing or two from this one. I hope you enjoy.

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Shane Parrish, Farnam Street:

Back when I was working for a three-letter-intelligence-agency, I had to make a lot of decisions that often felt like lucky guesses. I was given responsibility but no methodology. As funny as it sounds, despite multiple university degrees and a host of promotions, no one had ever really taught me how to think through a problem or make a decision.

When it hit me that at some point my luck ran out, I was flooded with questions. What should my thought process look like? How do I distinguish the relevant information from the irrelevant? How do I determine the interconnections? How would the smartest people I know think about this problem and what can I learn from them? Are there shortcuts, or general thinking tools, that I can use so rapidly improve my thinking?

Someone pointed me in the direction of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's intelligent, irreverent business partner. Munger has spoken a lot about the value of mental models, about learning the fundamentals from a wide range of disciplines and using that knowledge as a lens to better understand the dynamics of any situation. The more of these models we have, the better we are able to understand things.

Every discipline, like biology or physics or even psychology has its own set of models they use to see the world. Some of these are incredibly specific to the discipline, but a lot of them are useful for a wide variety of situations outside of their original discipline. And some of them, like reciprocation, appear in multiple disciplines (psychology and physics). Having specialized in computer science, my models were pretty limited.

I think of models like tools, and my mind like a toolbox. The more tools we have in our mind, the more likely we are to have the right ones for this situation. If we don’t have the right tools, we default to using the ones we do have and become the proverbial man with the hammer: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

That sounds a lot like thinking to me.

At first, this new way of thinking was daunting. I had never really thought consciously through the lens of mental models. I wasn’t sure I had the time for something whose payoff was only going to be realized far down the road. And looking at situations while trying to figure out what ideas from multiple disciplines are at play is time-consuming.

Eventually things clicked. I remember one of the first days I started to see the world differently. I was in the middle of a meeting, listening to the same conversation I'd heard a thousand times. The same intractable points of view were going to lead to the same train wreck we'd experienced time and time again. But instead of being stuck, it just made sense. It was like I was Neo in the Matrix.

“We’re not looking at this though the context of base rates,” I said. “So we’re making a decision but ignoring a vast swath of data that suggests we’re wrong.” The room went silent. Finally someone said, “Base rate?” And I replied “A lot of other people have tried this and failed.” And that changed the conversation.

In that one meeting, the questions we asked of each other changed. We started to pull apart hidden assumptions and see the world in a new light. Who tried before? Did they have the same resources as we do? Has the environment changed? Why did they fail? What can we do to increase our odds of success?

I'd love to be able to tell you that we made a better decision that day, but that isn't what happened. But something had changed. I was different. And from then on, I was all in to learning and applying mental models trying to look at situations through multiple lenses in order to think better and understand the situation.

As cheesy as this sounds, I started asking myself how a physicist would see this problem. How would a biologist see this problem? How would a mathematician see this problem? I realized that we can learn from everyone and started seeking out people with opinions I previously dismissed. I changed the people I invited to meetings where we made decisions. I wanted cognitively diverse viewpoints — not a room full of people with a computer science degree — so we could make better decisions.

At the time, I wondered why there wasn’t just a big list of the mental models I should have learned? So I created one and put 109 models in it.

Some practical mental frameworks you can employ in day-to-day life include:

1. The Map is not the Territory

The map of reality is not reality. Even the best maps are imperfect. That’s because they are reductions of what they represent. If a map were to represent the territory with perfect fidelity, it would no longer be a reduction and thus would no longer be useful to us. A map can also be a snapshot of a point in time, representing something that no longer exists. This is important to keep in mind as we think through problems and make better decisions.

2. Velocity

Velocity is not equivalent to speed; the two are sometimes confused. Velocity is speed plus vector: how fast something gets somewhere. An object that moves two steps forward and then two steps back has moved at a certain speed but shows no velocity. The addition of the vector, that critical distinction, is what we should consider in practical life.

3. Inversion

Inversion is a powerful tool to improve your thinking because it helps you identify and remove obstacles to success. The root of inversion is “invert,” which means to upend or turn upside down. As a thinking tool, it means approaching a situation from the opposite end of the natural starting point. Most of us tend to think one way about a problem: forward. Inversion allows us to flip the problem around and think backward. Sometimes it’s good to start at the beginning, but it can be more useful to start at the end.

Improving your understanding of how the world works doesn't happen overnight, and you don't see the benefit right away. Over time though, you start noticing that you have more time. You are less stressed. Most of the problems that do come up are exciting because you feel like you have the right tools to figure them out. This is what mental models have done for me.

Better decisions. Better life.

— Shane Parrish is the editor at Farnam Street, a website dedicated to mastering the best of what other people have already figured out.


👉 If you enjoyed reading this exclusive content from Shane Parrish, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too!


Here’s what we have for you this week.

The man spending millions to live forever [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The founder trying to fix trust
NYPD’s worst nightmare
The man building ‘the Netflix for sports’
The startup building the future of entertainment
The crypto startup fueling a gold rush
— The family of Russian spies

PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The man spending millions to live forever: Bulletproof Coffee founder Dave Asprey has made the widely publicized claim that he expects to live to 180. To that end, he plans to get his own stem cells injected into him every six months, take 100 supplements a day, follow a strict diet, bathe in infrared light, hang out in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and wear goofy yellow-lensed glasses every time he gets on an airplane. So far, Asprey has spent at least a million dollars hacking his own biology, and making it to 2153 will certainly take several million more. This one is nuts.

“Is living a long time a kind of superpower? Yes. Although I might die trying.”

The founder trying to fix trust: In this wide-ranging Q&A, you get a sense that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is somewhat self-aware about the unforeseen implications of his platform. He explains that Twitter has inadvertently created bubbles and echo chambers. “I’m not proud of that,” he says. “Like, we definitely help divide people. We definitely create isolation.” Isolation leads to distrust, and Dorsey is often on the receiving end of people’s rage about what’s going on in the world. This is a really good one.

“There’s a lot of fear. It’s fear of companies like ours. It’s fear of power, and it’s completely 100 percent natural. People are afraid of what technology has become and what it can do.”

NYPD’s worst nightmare: Manuel Gomez, a private investigator who used to be a cop, has made a name for himself investigating the cases of people who claim to have been charged with crimes they didn’t commit. Although Gomez looks for cases that seem to reveal police wrongdoing, he has some credibility issues of his own. He could be rash to the point of recklessness. He’s had a history of aggression and violence. And he sometimes overlooked facts that didn’t conform to his preconceived ideas of justice and injustice. I couldn’t put this one down.

“I see myself as a punisher for the wicked and a bringer of justice to the innocent. I protect the weak.”

The man building the ‘Netflix for sports:’ John Skipper accepted the opportunity to become president of ESPN and one of the most powerful people in television. He sat in front of about 450 on-camera reporters, analysts, and anchors and told them his plans. Less than a week later, he resigned claiming the reason for his departure was an ongoing struggle with substance addiction. After the incident, Skipper is back with a new sports media startup that aims to beat his former employer at its own game.

“What I see in John is ambition—and a little revenge. When he mentioned, ‘Look, we want to compete with ESPN,’ I said, ‘Of course. Bingo.’ ”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The startup building the future of entertainment: Media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman have raised $1 billion in funding for their new media startup, Quibi. The company aims to update old-school video techniques for the mobile age. It will create an app-based subscription service that features high-quality programming specifically created for mobile devices. Could this paid app succeed where Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram failed?

“Five or 10 years from now, we'll look back and go, ‘There was the era of movies, there was the era of television, and there's the era of Quibi.'"

The crypto startup fueling a gold rush: In the last three years, Bitcoin has created a virtual gold rush in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Crypto mining company Bitfury has helped migrate most of Georgia’s land registry to blockchain, making the government one of the first to rely on the secure digital ledger. The country is now an energy guzzler, with nearly 10% of its energy output gone into mining. Even farmers got involved. “At one point, it was more profitable than owning a cow,” one business owner said.

“Bitfury has given our country many things, including a path to the future. When you have a ticket to get onto the world map, you should use it.”

FROM THE VAULT.

The family of Russian spies: Not exaggerating when I say this is an extraordinary story. It’s about the children of deep-cover illegal spies who had no idea their parents were Russian. For years Donald Heathfield, Tracey Foley and their two children lived the American dream. Then an FBI raid revealed the truth — they were agents of Putin’s Russia. The man and woman the boys knew as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ really were their parents, but their names were not Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Those were Canadians who had died long ago; their identities had been stolen and adopted by the boys’ parents. The sons tell the family story.

“The family home had been bugged for years. The FBI knew the couple's real identities, even if their own children did not.”


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