Good morning, friends.
There is an excellent profile this week on Rick Steves, the man who has hosted the travel series Rick Steves: Europe for nearly 20 years. In the story, he explains how even the tiniest exposure to other cultures can be enough to change your life. Travel, he says, “wallops your ethnocentricity,” “carbonates your experience” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.”
For me, travel has always been a completely immersive experience. You’re alert, your senses are engaged, and you find yourself looking at the world with fresh eyes. Steves once said that people who don’t travel often think their way of life is the norm (ie: Americans say the British drive on the "wrong" side of the road. No, they just drive on the other side of the road). That’s why leaving your home country for a few days or weeks can act as a reset, allowing you to get a broader perspective beyond the rigid mental walls you’ve built over the years.
There’s a book I love called “The Geography of Bliss,” in which a longtime foreign correspondent for NPR travels to some of the world’s happiest places. He explains how travel has the capacity to shake us up, to jostle our souls. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“I believe, now more than ever, in the transformative promise of geography. Change your location, and you just may change yourself. It’s not that distant lands contain some special ‘energy’ or that their inhabitants possess secret knowledge (though they may) but rather something more fundamental: By relocating ourselves, reorienting ourselves, we shake loose the shackles of expectation. Adrift in a different place, we give ourselves permission to be different people.”
I want to hear from you — What is the most unforgettable place you’ve ever been & what insights/epiphanies stayed with you long after the trip?
On to this week’s profiles:
— Facebook’s forgotten founder [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The world’s greatest adventurer
— The Larry King of the Intellectual Dark Web
— The billionaire who defied Amazon
— The rapper entering the limelight
— Batman’s favorite app
— The pizza empire
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PEOPLE TO KNOW.
Facebook’s forgotten founder: You might remember Eduardo Saverin as Facebook’s jilted co-founder in the film The Social Network. HIs stint with the company ended in 2005, mired in controversy and lawsuits over his reduced ownership stake in the company. By 2009, Saverin had moved to Singapore, giving up his U.S. citizenship two years later. Now, the 36-year-old is one of the world’s youngest billionaires deploying capital out of his under-the-radar venture capital firm. What a story.
“Make mistakes all the time, but learn from it immediately. Apologize if it affects anyone else. And make sure you don’t make that mistake again.”
The world’s greatest adventurer: This profile is so good, but it will give you an urgent sense to grab your passport & get on a plane. Although travel guru Rick Steves has spent nearly half his life traveling, he insists that he would never live anywhere but the United States. He built his business in America, raised his kids in America & often talks about the glories of American life. And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America. “I think it’s loving America to look at it critically,” he says.
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
The Larry King of the Intellectual Dark Web: If you’ve never listened to the podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, it’s an experience. Joe Rogan, who used to be the host of Fear Factor, has one of the most popular podcasts of all time. The show reached new heights when Rogan hosted Elon Musk for a 2½-hour conversation during which the two men smoked weed, played with a flamethrower, and discussed the nature of reality. As this profile notes: “Listening to The Joe Rogan Experience is sort of like crashing an intense, intimate dinner party in which the only courses are whiskey and weed.”
“Joe Rogan is fully invested in the idea that people—progressive liberals, mostly—are too quick to take offense at things that do not offend Joe Rogan.”
The billionaire who defied Amazon: Wish was the most downloaded shopping app worldwide in 2018 and is now the third-biggest e-commerce marketplace in the U.S. by sales. Globally, some 90 million people use it at least once a month. Behind the app is Peter Szulczewski, a 37-year-old Polish-born former Google engineer. Szulczewski is proving it’s possible to successfully take on behemoths like Alibaba and Amazon by building something its customers want — not what Silicon Valley thought they should want.
“Shoppers scroll through an average 600 to 700 items, hypnotized by a pixelated parade of weird and wacky products that scratches the same visual itch as an Instagram feed.”
The rapper entering the limelight: J. Cole might be a famous musician, but he tries to live life like he's not. Home is in North Carolina, where he can play basketball at a local gym for hours without being disturbed. No one knew he was married until director Ryan Coogler accidentally revealed it in an interview. In this profile, the ultra-private star opens up to reveal who he really is, why he’s stayed out of the limelight, and his plans for what’s to come.
“I've been so secluded within myself that people think I don't like anybody, that I won't work with anybody.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
Batman’s favorite app: Citizen is a mobile app that sends you real-time alerts about crimes & other emergency situations in your immediate surroundings. I open the app as I’m writing this newsletter, and I see the following alerts: “Report of trash can fire,” “Suspicious package” and “Pedestrian struck by vehicle” — all within a few blocks from my apartment. Conflicted enthusiasm is common among Citizen users: I don’t know if I want to know, but I can’t not know.
“I’m always torn between wanting to know and see everything, or to have that blind eye toward everything.”
FROM THE VAULT.
The pizza empire: This 2017 profile tells the remarkable comeback story of Domino’s Pizza. Right around 2008, sales were declining, franchisees were pissed off, and people were calling it “an imitation of pizza.” How they turned it around? Honest apologies wrapped in self-deprecating jokes. Execs told customers they agreed the pizza sucked, so they took 18 months to majorly improve the quality. And then there was mobile ordering. And self-driving delivery robots. And drones.
“We’re going to make sure people understand that we heard them, we get it. The pizza wasn’t good enough.”