The Profile: Allen Iverson, Joe Lubin, & Elon Musk

Good morning, friends.

I somehow went down a rabbit hole this weekend when I first stumbled across this Medium post titled “41 Insightful Quora and Reddit Threads on Life, Career, and Love.” (I almost guarantee you’ll click on one of these, so don’t do it unless you have some free time on your hands.)

Anyway, I happened to click on the Reddit thread where someone asks, “What are the most common life mistakes young people make?” The answers did not disappoint, so I thought I’d share a few with you guys:

— “That living is about attaining security — when there is actually no such thing.”

— “Confusing being able to make minimum payment with being able to afford something.”

— “Placing too much importance on what other people think.”

— “Inability to delay gratification. Immediacy, especially in today's society, controls young people. Instant gratification is a drug.”

— “Neck and face tattoos. Unless you're that guy at the job interview that said your tear drop tattoo represents the blood sweat and tears you’re ready to dedicate to the company.”

— “Not speaking up when witnessing someone else being picked on, bullied, or harassed. Among my peers (mid-to-late 20's), this is a frequently mentioned regret when we talk openly about what we wish we would've done differently back in adolescence. A lot of people we knew then have had their entire adult lives and personalities shaped and influenced by how poorly they were treated.”

— “Keeping toxic people in your life because you feel obligated. There is no obligation large enough to keep a toxic person in your life. None. Nada. Zero. Zip.”

— “Thinking too much about their mistakes. We all screw up. It's part of life.”

Let me know if you’d like to add one to this list.


Here’s what we have this week (they’re all worth your time):

The team trapped in darkness [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The 200-mile race champion
— The crypto billionaire in crisis
— The real Allen Iverson
— The battery company saving humanity
— The startup that stranded customers overseas

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


The team trapped in darkness: We all remember the young soccer team that got trapped in a flooded cave for 18 days this summer. The world collectively wondered — how do you survive the darkness (with no food or water) without going insane? Meditation. The team’s coach taught the boys to breathe slowly, clear their minds, and remove themselves mentally and emotionally from the muddy cave they were physically trapped in. This incredible story demonstrates the true strength of the human spirit.

“There were many theories about which boy would go first—the youngest, the weakest, the strongest—but in the end it came down to a boy who volunteered.”

The 200-mile race champion: Elite ultrarunning is one of the few sports in which women are able to hold their own with men. And the very, very long races (I’m talking 200+ miles) is where 33-year-old Courtney Dauwalter shines. Her prowess has crystallized the debate about whether psychological fortitude can trump men’s innate strength advantages in endurance sports. Dauwalter believes her competitive advantage is suffering — she’s simply willing to suffer more and longer than her competitors. This one will blow your mind.

“I put myself in situations where suffering is going to be involved and hope to be able to tap into the mental piece every time that physical pain becomes too much.”

The crypto billionaire in crisis: Crypto mania made Joe Lubin a billionaire, and he set out to build a utopian business empire. Lubin created ConsenSys, a holding company he describes as a global “organism” to build the applications and infrastructure for a decentralized world. He believed he would revolutionize the future of work and business. But then reality got in the way. Consensys is burning $100 million-plus a year, changing its corporate structure, and undergoing layoffs. It ain’t pretty.

“ConsenSys will end up in the Harvard Business Review as a case study on changing corporate structure or as a disaster.”

The real Allen Iverson: Allen Iverson shares some stories you’ve probably never heard before. He talks about the time he gave Larry Hughes his Bentley with no gas, the time Michael Jordan was found smoking a cigar in the coach’s office, and the time he realized people wore suits to more than just church. So many great anecdotes but there’s one thing you learn from this profile — Iverson is, and always has been, unapologetically himself.

“What I stood for was something way deeper. I mean — to me, if I had to sum it up? I’d say I stood for being yourself.”


The battery company saving humanity: This profile takes a close look inside the Gigafactory — the massive factory where Tesla will soon make 60% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries. It’s a one-size-fits-all factory that, ideally, could make anything Tesla sells — batteries, solar panels, home storage solutions, and electric cars. But the question remains — will the Gigafactory ever deliver on its audacious promises? CEO Elon Musk believes literally all of humanity hinges on its success because “without sustainable energy, we’ll pollute ourselves to death.” 😬

“A whir of robots and machines is only occasionally disrupted by the sound of human voices, creating the feeling that, somehow, this massive factory could drone on forever without much supervision.”

The startup that stranded customers overseas: We Roam, a glitzy startup that pitched “digital nomads” on traveling the world while working remotely, had organized a series of 12 month-long stays in different countries. One day, customers woke up to an email labeled “Urgent Message From The CEO,” in which We Roam head Nathan Yates announced the company was running out of money and shutting down immediately. They realized they would be stranded in a foreign country with no promises of a refund. One day, you’re a millennial working remotely from Myanmar, the next you’re homeless in Tahiti.

“For me, where I come from, $4,000 is not a little amount of money. We paid for goods and services that were never rendered, and they took our money.”

The Profile: The entrepreneur whisperer & the robot reading your mind

Good morning, friends.

I’m working on a feature that’s eating up my life, so reading all these profiles is both inspiring and stressful. As I dug into the Guy Raz and Lena Dunham stories below, I was in awe of everything from sentence structure to word selection to anecdotes to flow! (These are the things I get excited about.) Writing a profile so good it inspires people to take action — tweet, tell their friends, call their mom — is really damn hard. But I’m a believer that reading quality journalism makes you a better writer. So pray that I end up writing something cohesive and don’t lose my mind in the process.

All this to say that if there’s anyone out there trying to make their way through an article, a book, or a journal entry, I feel your struggle. And I’ll leave you with this tweet that sums it up:

Brendan Greeley@bhgreeleyWife: How's the article going? Me: I'm at the point where I don't know how I'm going to finish it, I'm angry at myself for having agreed to write it, and I'm not even sure I should have become a journalist. Wife: So you're almost done then.

In the meantime, enjoy the profiles below. You have my word that every single one is worth your time:

The entrepreneur whisperer [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The celebrity that can’t stop making mistakes
Putin’s worst enemy
The robot reading your mind
The mysterious firm controlling Wall Street

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


The entrepreneur whisperer: Instagram. Airbnb. Lyft. Glossier. The founders of all of these companies have appeared on Guy Raz’s wildly successful NPR podcast, “How I Built This.” With questions like, “What was your trough of sorrow,” & “What is that like for you?” Raz makes his guest comfortable enough let their guard down and reveal something very intimate. Listeners say the show makes them feel less lonely. Others say they cue up an episode when their business is a mess and they need a kick of enthusiasm. This profile is an absolute must-read.

“Who are you when you’re on the bathroom floor in the fetal position, crying because you are not going to make it to the next day?”

The celebrity that can’t stop making mistakes: Actress Lena Dunham has been on an apology tour. Among things she’s had to say sorry for: writing a New Yorker essay called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz”; constantly being naked; accusing a Spanish magazine of airbrushing her photos (it did not); comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust; accusing NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. of not wanting to sleep with her. Yet her apologies fall on deaf ears & only make people more annoyed by her. This profile will take you on a wild ride. It’s winding, tumultuous, absorbing, and filled with so many cringe-worthy and WTF moments, you won’t want to put it down.

“I’m like Virginia Woolf writing letters only with emojis, and nobody cares.”

Putin’s worst enemy: I told you guys I’m reading Red Notice, which is a business saga of corruption & murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Now, there’s a jaw-dropping profile on the author himself — American-born financier Bill Browder. At one time, Browder was the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. Now, he circles the globe helping governments recover millions that Russian oligarchs have illegally parked overseas. This profile covers financial malfeasance, tax fraud accusations, and death treats. “Vladimir Putin wants me dead,” Browder says almost every time he is interviewed.

“I see him as a modern-day Pablo Escobar. Putin has no ideology whatsoever. All he wants is money and to hurt his enemies. He is straightforward. That is what makes him so vulnerable.”

The robot reading your mind: What would you say if told that you could direct an object to move with nothing but your thoughts? It’s not fiction — it’s very much reality. Andrew Schwartz has been studying how the mind instructs the body to move for more than three decades — and now, he might have cracked the code. This profile explains how his research helped a paralyzed woman escape her body & just how much progress scientists have made working on brain-machine interfaces. It’s wild.

“You are more than the body you live in.”


The mysterious firm controlling Wall Street: Susquehanna International Group keeps a low profile even though its fingerprints are all over the financial markets. In addition to ranking among the largest U.S. traders of ETFs, it’s a giant in options trading and has plowed money into sports betting, private equity, and even Bitcoin. But now, regulators are taking a greater interest in the role firms like Susquehanna play in the market — just how risky is their under-the-radar strategy?

“The basic concept that applies to both poker and option trading is that the primary object is not winning the most hands, but rather maximizing your gains.”

The Profile: The man who never forgets a face & the most embattled company in America

Good morning!

I was talking with my friend Laura about potentially starting a virtual book club. As we were chatting, we put together a Google Doc with some great books we’ve read recently. The last one I read was “A House in The Sky,” which I honestly couldn’t recommend highly enough. And I’m currently reading “Red Notice,” which is also a captivating read.

A few more suggestions from our spreadsheet:

— Random Family (by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc)
— Who is Michael Ovitz? (by Michael Ovitz)
— Weapons of Math Destruction (by Cathy O’Neil)
— An American Sickness (by Elisabeth Rosenthal)
— Atomic Habits (by James Clear)
— Billion Dollar Whale (by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope)

Reply to this email, and let me know what you are reading.

Here we go with this week’s profiles:

— The ex-NBA star living in an alternate reality [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The man who never forgets a face
— The football star crushed by depression
— The former first lady optimistic about the future
— The most embattled company in America
— The retailer buttering up to Amazon
— The dog hiking service for the rich

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


The ex-NBA star living in an alternate reality: Kobe Bryant is now a full-time storyteller, with cartoons, novels and Hollywood films in the works. But the story that will never be good enough and the one he cannot fully control is his own. More than 15 years ago, the former NBA star was accused of sexual assault. To this day, he’s still trying to re-invent himself and edit the narrative of his shady past. Real life is not that easy to revise though.

“I’m just chasing a perfect story, whatever the hell that means.”

The man who never forgets a face: If you’re like me, remembering faces & names is a major struggle. But there are some people among us who never forget. Take Andy Pope, for example. By some cognitive quirk, he is able to memorize thousands of faces, often having glimpsed each only once. He works with police to help identify thousands of criminal suspects because his mind is an enormous, automatic image library. Now, some police departments are ditching facial recognition software in favor of employing these “super-recognizers.” This is a wild one.

“It doesn’t matter how many years pass, if I’ve seen your face before I will be able to recall it.”

The football star crushed by depression: Maybe you have never heard of Isaiah Renfro — he did not start at the University of Washington, nor did he play in the NFL. But he is yet another promising student-athlete caught in the midst of a serious crisis sweeping the nation. Recent studies place suicide as the third leading cause of death for college athletes, behind motor vehicle accidents & medical issues. Renfro is the latest player to speak out about the relentless struggle of someone trapped in his own head, quietly drowning in the depths of depression.

“I had no confidence in myself. I was just shattered. No self-belief to start moving forward.”

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 most embattled company in America: Juul Labs was founded with good intentions — give the world’s billion smokers an alternative to combustible cigarettes. But then, things took a turn and the vaping company found itself at the center of a federal investigation for deceptive marketing that helped hook teens on nicotine. Will the $16-billion startup be able to innovate its way out of the crisis it helped create?

“I think the biggest mistake was not believing enough that the core product proposition would be the most powerful marketing tool that we would have.”

The retailer buttering up to Amazon: Under the leadership of a new CEO, department store Kohl’s is competing with Amazon using a controversial new strategy — play nice with the fear-inducing e-commerce giant. As part of a daring experiment, Kohl’s handles returns of Amazon online orders and sells Amazon’s smart-home products at branded kiosks. The idea is that when an Amazon shopper comes in to return a product, she’ll also make a purchase at Kohl’s. As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

“How do you evolve? How do you keep your core—your coffee credentials—but then innovate?”

The dog hiking service for the rich: In the latest edition of “Dogs Have Better Lives Than Humans,” I present you with a company called My Dog Hikes. For $85 to $130 a day, it will take dogs on three-hour hikes in the woods while their owners sit in their dreary Manhattan cubicles. One dog hiking client said, “He’s so much more fit. He has that sexy waist now.” Nothing surprises me anymore.

“It’s good physically, but it’s even better psychologically for them to be off leash in nature, having a sensory experience.”

The Profile: Wall Street’s master of knowledge & the company deporting its workers

Good morning!

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and there’s nothing I’m more thankful for this year than this community of ridiculously smart people. So thank you for opening this email every weekend and taking time to send feedback.

If you’re in need of holiday reading, make sure you browse through the Profile archives or check out these timeless business biographies of the world’s most successful people.

Also, if you’ve been with me for a while, please reply to this email with one thing you’ve learned from a person (or company) that you’ve read in The Profile. It can be a quote, a random tidbit, or something that just stuck with you for a while after reading about it. I’ll feature the best responses in an upcoming newsletter.

I’ll start.

One of the stories that stuck with me this year was the profile on Franklin Chang Díaz. He immigrated to the U.S. at age 18 with a single goal: Become an astronaut. The only English he knew was, “Hello, my name is Franklin” and “Where is the school?” Yet Díaz clawed his way to NASA, tied the record for most space flights & now holds the key to deep space travel. His improbable journey to the top reminds us that limitations can’t hold us back if we stay laser-focused on the end goal and stubbornly make small daily decisions that bring us closer to that final destination. Persistence truly is the No. 1 indicator of success.

Here we go:

— Wall Street’s master of knowledge [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The capitalist tennis champion
— The domestic stalker
— The most important neuroscientist in the world
— The company deporting its workers
— The company selling meatless turkeys

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


Wall Street’s master of knowledge: Shane Parrish 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. (Check out his interview with Naval Ravikant in one of the most thoughtful conversations I’ve heard.)

“Reading is a way to consume people’s experiences, to learn something timeless and then apply it to your life.”

The capitalist tennis champion: This profile gives us a glimpse inside the mind of a champion. Tennis sensation Serena Williams’ long-time goal has been 25 Grand Slam victories, but motherhood, marriage, and a new business seem to have widened her measure of success. Williams opens up about that wild evening at the U.S. Open, how she thinks about winning, and her transition from athlete to businesswoman.

“Everyone has to work on something. I’m still learning to embrace being, for lack of a better word, great.”

The domestic stalker: A family in New Jersey bought a dream home for $1.3 million — and then things took a sinister turn. They began receiving anonymous letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher.” The letters targeted the couple’s children saying, “Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone?” The couple became obsessed with figuring out the identity of the mysterious sender, but several years later, the bizarre case remains unsolved. Don’t read this one at night.

“All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher.”

The most important neuroscientist in the world: Karl Friston is one of the most influential scholars in the field of artificial intelligence. He is 59 years old, works every night and weekend, and has published more than 1,000 academic papers since the turn of the millennium. For the past decade, he has spent his time developing an idea he calls the “free energy principle,” which could alter our understanding of what it means to be alive.

“There must be a way of understanding everything by starting from nothing.”


The company deporting its workers: In a twisted effort to oust "underperforming" store owners, 7-Eleven has taken to reporting its own franchisees to immigration authorities. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has raided nearly 100 franchises, and corporate investigators have tailed them in unmarked vehicles and planted hidden cameras and listening devices. The feud is getting ugly, and it’s turning into a giant public relations nightmare for 7-Eleven & its executive team.

“All I hear is 7-Eleven being raided. It seems to be we are the only ones being targeted by ICE. Why?”

The company selling meatless turkeys: For decades, Tofurky has helped give vegetarians a seat at the Thanksgiving table. A punchline practically since its founding, the company has ridden out 40 years of ridicule to become one of the world’s leading meat-alternative makers. This Thanksgiving, it will sell its 5 millionth roast — a number that proves Tofurky is no joke. As the company’s head of marketing said, “That’s five million times somebody took a personal risk to show up to a Thanksgiving meal with something that was weird.”

“A lot of people, strangely enough, they’ll not blink at eating an animal. But they’ll look at something that has ingredients like tofu and gluten and say ‘Ew, gross.'”

The Profile: Silicon Valley’s favorite doomsayer & the power boss of Hollywood

Good morning, friends!

Apologies for the delay today. But I ran the “original” marathon & came out alive … well, for the most part. I needed medical attention before the marathon even started thanks to a stretching routine gone very wrong. ANYWAY, we’re done, we’re in Greece, and this week’s profiles are fire.

Hope you’re having a very relaxing, safe, and marathon-free weekend!

Silicon Valley’s favorite doomsayer [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The world’s greatest athletes
— The chessmaster fighting for glory
— The media pioneer trying to clean up Vice
The power boss of Hollywood
The organization selling you a life cleanse

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


Silicon Valley’s favorite doomsayer: The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari worries a lot. He worries that Silicon Valley is undermining democracy, that big tech companies are destroying the idea of a sovereign individual with free will, and most of all, that one one else seems to be worried at all. So what does our future look like, according to Harari? It’s one in which we worship big data, AI surpasses human intelligence, and some of us develop God-like abilities. If you work in tech, this is an absolute must-read.

“Utopia and dystopia depends on your values.”

The world’s greatest athletes: The Players’ Tribune brought together two of the greatest athletes in the world to hang out at the oldest basketball court in the world. Basketball sensation Steph Curry and soccer phenom Neymar Jr. sit down for a candid conversation about life, fatherhood, and their relentless desire to achieve greatness. The stories they share are pretty epic.

“It’s like a laser focus that you tap into that you never really thought was possible.”

The chessmaster fighting for glory: If you ask the people who know Fabiano Caruana what Fabiano Caruana is like, they will tell you he’s … just a normal guy. He likes movies. He works out. He goes on dates. Just a normal guy who, you know, also happens to be ranked second in the world in chess and got pulled out of seventh grade to do nothing but play the game. This week, he faces off Magnus Carlsen for the chance to become the first American to win the world championship title since 1972. This is a really good one.

“Fabiano does not think about a life without chess.”

The media pioneer trying to clean up Vice: Hype, sex appeal and the promise of young audiences turned Shane Smith's wild brainchild Vice into one of the hottest digital brands on the planet. Then came scandal, skepticism, and sexual harassment allegations. Now it’s up to new CEO Nancy Dubuc to clean up the $5.7 billion media company’s culture and balance sheet while stitching its disparate businesses into something cohesive.

"If you do smart context on news and information in a world that is so filled with misinformation and confusion, there's a real audience for that."

The power boss of Hollywood: We’ve seen Jennifer Lopez successfully transition from dancer to actor to singer to producer to businesswoman. With a new movie and other deals in the works, she’s come to realize Hollywood hasn’t given her her fair share. She credits boyfriend Alex Rodriguez for helping her realize that J. Lo the artist is one of the most powerful brands on the planet — and she should be 100% in control of it. “I want what I deserve,” she says.

“There is racism. There is sexism. There is ageism. There is all of this and you know what, that’s still not going to stop me. I believe that 100 percent, to the bottom of my soul.”


The organization selling you a life cleanse: We’re living in a time of tremendous dislocation in people's careers, political polarization, and the fragmentation of community. It’s only natural that people are craving meaningful connections and searching for self-help programs that vow to alleviate their anxiety. A GQ reporter went on a one-month wellness retreat that plunged him into the dark depths of his psyche, and it’s just as horrifying as you might imagine.

“If there’s one thing that connects many of the people I spoke to for this story, it’s that they’re searching. Searching for meaning. Searching for purpose.”

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