The Profile: The athlete building a business empire & America's biggest digital media company
I turn 30 this week. Here are some practical, non-obvious lessons I've learned in the last decade.
Good morning, friends!
Let's start this column off with a hot take: I love getting older.
I've heard the never-ending echoes of conventional thinking: "Your 20s are the best years of your life. Marriage is a lot of work. Your life is over once you have kids."
Yet here I am aging, and I can honestly say that this is the happiest I've ever been.
It takes time to find your footing, sharpen your thinking, do away with bad habits, and find people whose company elevates the quality of your life. It's nearly impossible to do that when you're young because everything is being decided for you. As you get older, you gain the freedom of choice, which allows you to build the type of life you want to live.
I turn 30 this week. It's insane to think that I started this newsletter when I was only 25.
The best part of my birthday is getting to reflect on how my thinking has evolved and all the life events I've experienced in the process. If you've been with me for a while, you know I've been doing annual reflections for the last two years (28 and 29).
So I wanted to continue the tradition, and jot down some practical, non-obvious lessons I've learned in the last decade. I hope you find them useful.
1. Approach every situation with good intent: Over the years, I've learned that many of us see the world through a distorted lens of insecurity. If you're worried about losing your job, every offhand remark your co-worker makes in front of your boss will make you think he's trying to get you fired. Is he actually an evil person with a hidden agenda or have you written him that way into your personal narrative? The best advice my dad has ever given me is to approach my life, my work, and my relationships with good intent. It's changed my life in that I've shifted my mindset from blaming others to focusing on my own actions. Malicious or not, I no longer internalize other people's actions nor do I judge how they choose to lead their lives.
2.Stop idolizing imperfect humans: We idolize, worship, and envy relationships, careers, and lives of people we've never even met. And then we gasp in horror when we find out that Bill and Melinda Gates are filing for divorce or that Jeff Bezos has been sending "below-the-belt" selfies to, well, anyone. You don't know Bill and Melinda, and you certainly don't (nor would you want to) know what Bezos does after dark. People are dealing with family drama, money problems, insecurities — all sorts of human messiness on a daily basis. Idolizing forces you into blindly worshipping imperfect humans. Learning, on the other hand, allows you to observe, synthesize, and pave your own imperfect path.
3. Happiness lies in life's most ordinary moments: Brené Brown once said, “We chase extraordinary moments instead of being grateful for ordinary moments until hard shit happens. And then in the face of really hard stuff — illness, death, loss — the only thing we’re begging for is a normal moment.” Here’s the great irony of life — we are constantly pursuing the exciting and the extraordinary yet when we lose someone, we’re willing to give anything to hear the sound of them opening the fridge or singing off-key in the shower just one more time. Remember, each moment we’re alive is impossibly fragile. Learn how to enjoy the mundane moments today.
4.The way you judge yourself is probably the way you judge others: Strangers act as mirrors in which we can see our own imperfect reflections. When you're triggered by another person in a visceral way, ask yourself: What is it about them that irritates me? Could it be something I dislike in my own self? And are there other ways I could better gauge their personal values than this singular lens through which I have chosen to see the world? Carl Jung once said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
5. Don't be a snob: Don't ever underestimate the power of a meal. Remember that the dish you're eating is nowhere nearly as important as where you are sitting when you eat it and who you're eating it with. As Anthony Bourdain said, "It’s something I will always at least aspire to — something that has allowed me to travel this world and eat all it has to offer without fear or prejudice. To experience joy, my father taught me, one has to leave oneself open to it." Embrace difference. Delight in strangeness. Find joy in the weird.
6.Feed your brain high-quality content: What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become. As author Haruki Murakami said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Don't let yourself run on autopilot. Be the one to choose what to feed your brain.
7. Learn to think for yourself: Tribalism and dogma have become dangerously prevalent in our society. Approaching the world with a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing — even if it may not be popular. Next time you hear, "I am doing this because [insert X authority figure] said so," question, inquire, and verify. Even in these tumultuous times of uncertainty, aim to reject blind dogma and embrace the unknown. Remember what Stephen Hawking said: "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."
8. Eliminate the drama: My husband recently made the observation that we have a really small circle of friends — and that's a good thing. Be discerning about who you choose to spend time with. Weed out the drama (and the people who thrive off of drama), and watch your life drastically improve. Surround yourself with friends who challenge you and help elevate your thinking.
9. You will never be ready — and that's OK: We're always taught to prepare. To be ready for the next phase of life. But in the last year, I've learned that you just need to jump in and do it. You learn by doing, not by waiting.
10. Put on your goggles, and face the wind: I've had several experiences this year where a) my plans burned to the ground b) things went (very) wrong, and c) trusted friends blindsided me. I could feel my stomach in knots, my heart racing, and my brain fuming. And yet the secret to staying calm and at peace is to learn how to relinquish control of the external circumstance at a moment when that control is all you crave. Here’s a mindset that has carried rock climber Tommy Caldwell through some dark times: “Hardship is inevitable, so put your goggles on, and face the wind. If we allow ourselves to be exposed to challenge, then that challenge can energize us and show us who we are." Remember, you may not have control over other people and circumstances, but you have control over your own emotional sobriety.
11. Never forget that you are the author of your life: I hope you, like me, are genuinely looking forward to every new season of your life. I once saw a quote that said: "I trust this next chapter because I know the author." That's it — every chapter of life depends on its author picking up the pen. So, it's simple then. Just pick up the damn pen and write something worthwhile.
THE PROFILE DOSSIER: On Wednesday, premium members received The Profile Dossier, a comprehensive deep-dive on a prominent individual. It featured Harvey Karp, the pediatrician who built a $50 million baby sleep empire. Become a premium member, and read it below.
— The quarterback rising from the ashes [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The best young player in the NBA
— The athlete building a business empire
— America's silent victims
— The artist who disappeared from the internet
— YouTube's 'wholesome content' sensation
— America's biggest digital media company
— The newsletter startup taking over the world
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The quarterback rising from the ashes: For Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, April 23, 2020 is a day he’ll always remember but would give anything to forget. It was the day that his brother shot himself and died soon after. Deep into his worst 18 months ever, Prescott gleaned important wisdom that he would carry into the 2021 season. Just thinking about others, their pain, helped him to deal with his own. Here's how he found a way to cope—and to come out stronger than before. (Sports Illustrated)
“What I’ve been through, I’ll call it a callused mind."
The best young player in the NBA: Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball is a star right now. But in a way, his NBA fate was preordained. “My whole life, I always knew I was going to the NBA,” he says. “I always knew. Everything about this felt normal to me. I knew I'd have stardom. I grew up into it. I already had my life planned out." Here's how his father, LaVar, started a publicity campaign touting the basketball talents of his three sons, of which LaMelo became the golden child. (GQ)
"I ain't even gonna say I'm a rock star. It's something other than that. I'm something rare.”
The athlete building a business empire: Alex Rodriguez has been a staple in the sports world for nearly two decades, but his successful transition from Major League Baseball star to dedicated businessman has also made him a well-known figure in the ever-evolving entertainment world. Take a look inside his many business dealings. (Forbes)
"Every day you start with a new scoreboard. I’ve learned in my time, both in baseball and business, that I don’t like go wide and shallow but narrow and deep."
America's silent victims: In rural communities across the United States, fatal police shootings have occurred at high rates, without the attention and protests that urban shootings have drawn. Police shootings in isolated areas are rarely captured on video, and many rural officers don’t wear body cameras. The Marshall Project and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year examining the little-publicized killings in rural America. (The Marshall Project)
“We tend to get justice in this country based on whether you have access to money. Rural areas suffer from a lot of the significant problems that the rest of the country does.”
The artist who disappeared from the internet: It's an understatement to say that Selena Gomez has been through a lot in the last decade. By 29 years old, she's battled lupus, chemotherapy, a kidney transplant, public heartbreaks, and a mental illness. But now she's back and ready for a new chapter. Here's how Gomez navigated her personal struggles and channeled them into the work she's doing now. (ELLE)
“For a while, I felt like an object. It felt gross for a long time.”
YouTube's 'wholesome content' sensation: There's a whole realm of “wholesome” content, an ever-widening pool of tender, morally uplifting stories about moments of kindness, human beings caring for one another, and people leaving big tips. YouTube sensation Dhar Mann has amassed 11.2 million subscribers creating just that — short sketches that deliver positive messages. Here's how. (The New York Times)
"Mann guarantees us both a happy ending and the feeling of being right."
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
America's biggest digital media company: Red Ventures is the biggest media company you've never heard of. It started as a digital marketing company and attracted serious investments from private equity firms until it became perhaps the biggest digital publisher in America. With 4,500 employees, $2 billion in annual revenue, and a valuation of more than $11 billion, it brings in an average of 751 million visitors per month to the media properties it owns. Lonely Planet, CNET, Healthline, The Points Guy, and BestColleges are all part of its portfolio. Here's how Red Ventures backed its way into becoming a media giant. (The New York Times)
“We’re going to have a chance to be an alternative to the big walled gardens."
The newsletter startup taking over the world: Over the last year, content platform Substack has ridden a wave of subscription newsletter frenzy in the U.S. media industry. Now, the company is setting its sights abroad. After raising an additional $65 million from investors, it has begun recruiting journalists in places like Romania, Brazil, and India, raising questions about how the company plans to navigate threats to press freedom as it grows internationally. (Rest of World)
"More than any other reasons I joined Substack because there was a complete absence of gatekeepers and censorship."
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AUDIO TO HEAR.
Richard Thaler on what alters your behavior: We make choices every single day — about what to buy, about financial investments, or about our health. University of Chicago’s Richard Thaler came up with a concept he calls "the nudge theory." A nudge, he says, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. He believes that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. This is a fascinating conversation. (Link available to premium members.)
Mark Bertolini on improving his mental frameworks: The biggest change that former Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has made in his time as a leader was improving his "mental heuristics," or the mental frameworks that allow people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. How? He improved the quality of his reading material, he reserved two nights per week to have dinner with people he didn't know, and he began learning about Eastern philosophy. "If you keep the heuristic current and expansive, you have an ability to contribute," he says. (Link available to premium members.)
Marissa King on the network effect of social movements: Marissa King, a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, looks at the world through the lens of an intricate web of social connections. "You can predict everything from who's likely to engage in fraud and malfeasance to who's likely to be promoted," she says. "There's something extraordinarily powerful about this way of seeing the world." In this conversation, she explains how your network type can have consequences for your mental health, your physical health, your longevity, and your professional success. (Link available to premium members.)
VIDEOS TO SEE.
Oprah’s life of resilience: In this interview, Oprah Winfrey shares some of the seminal moments of her career journey and discusses the importance of listening to your instincts. She offers advice on how to find your calling: "Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you." (Link available to premium members.)
Evan Funke’s obsession with the art of pasta: Evan Funke is an acclaimed chef who is one of the best artisan pasta makers in the world. He was at the top of his field … until it all came crumbling down. In this documentary, Funke is thrust into a dark vortex after he inexplicably walks away from his critically acclaimed restaurant. Years later, still healing from the pain of emotional and financial ruin, he begins mounting his comeback, eyeing the most competitive street in America as a stage for the dying art of handmade pasta. (Link available to premium members.)