The Profile: The government informant & the startup killing the sports section

I celebrated my 28th birthday yesterday, and I decided to jot down some things I’ve found valuable in the last year. I hope they resonate with you:

Traveling knocks down rigid mental walls: There’s a book I love called “The Geography of Bliss,” which explains how travel has the capacity to act as a reset. “Change your location, and you just may change yourself. 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.”

… But also remember that travel is no cure for the mind: When we travel, we are intently focused on changing our environment while neglecting the one constant we all travel with: our minds. This mental model/illustration/essay thing is absolutely brilliant. “If your mind is not at ease, then the same angst and restlessness you feel today will inevitably make itself known as you travel. That point can be delayed through novel experiences, but regardless of where you are, an uneasy mind will always unveil itself in the end.”

Consider new ideas: Naval Ravikant went on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and the product was a wide-ranging conversation filled with ideas for days. They discuss everything from universal basic income to wealth creation to attaining happiness to the meaning of life. (Also, Naval’s podcast series is also a bank of knowledge.)

Suffering begets growth: Dubbed “The Queen of Pain,” Amelia Boone is a corporate attorney at Apple by day and an obstacle endurance racer by night. She enjoys running when it’s cold, dark, or raining. “It forces you to go through hard things in not-ideal conditions,” she says. Indirectly, that helps cultivate mental toughness in other areas of your life.

Positive self-talk is the antidote to fear: This video of Swedish people jumping off a 10-meter tower is the absolute best example of self-talk in the midst of fear.

Curiosity will get you far: Tara Westover was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. Tara was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom where she learned about world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs,” she writes in her captivating memoir Educated.

You can be more than one thing in life: Charlene de Carvalho was a 47-year-old stay-at-home mother of five when her father died and left her the family business. Not a big deal until you realize that meant running Heineken, which employs 73,000+ people. Carvalho had 10 days to make a choice: continue living comfortably as a housewife or run the world’s No. 3 brewer with no prior business experience. She chose the latter, and she’s now one of the wealthiest women in the world. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Read the profile.

Focus on the identity rather than the outcome: Are your habits turning you into the person you want to be? From James Clear: “The first step to translating [your] goals into long-term habits is to focus on the identity you need to build rather than the outcome you want to achieve. Take whatever goal you are trying to accomplish and ask yourself, ‘Who is the type of person that could achieve that goal?’”

Done is better than perfect: While people are busy dreaming, the really successful are busy doing. In other words, done is better than perfect. From Shonda Rhimes: “You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Do something until you can do something else.”

Avoid the slush puddle at all costs: Never try to jump over a slush puddle. Just don’t do it.

Falling in love is the easy part: In 2013, I interviewed my great-grandmother about her childhood, living through World War II, what she learned from 53 years of marriage, and more. On love: “When you’re young and beautiful like we were, falling in love is easy. But you have to fall in love with someone’s soul — because you will get old, but the soul will never change.”

Happiness is found in the mundane: In a post called “How to Pick Your Life Partner,” Tim Urban says the main reason most people end up in unhappy relationships is that they don’t actually grasp the reality of what a life partnership is. “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.”

Deal with life without medicating yourself: One of my favorite places on the Internet is the Humans of New York Facebook page. Here’s an example of the wisdom of a perfect stranger:

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

“Try your best to deal with life without medicating yourself.” 

You mean drugs?

“I mean drugs, food, shopping, money, whatever. I ain’t judging anybody, either. I was hooked on heroin for years. But now I’ve learned that every feeling will pass if you give it time. And if you learn to deal with your feelings, they will pass by faster each time. So don’t rush to cover them up by medicating them. You’ve got to deal with them.”

You have everything you need: As a young Leonardo DiCaprio said in the best film ever made (Titanic), “I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it.” Today, we live in a world of excess and over-indulgence. Nothing is ever enough. The documentary “Minimalism” is excellent, and it proposes the ever-so-revolutionary idea that our lives might actually be better with less.

Life is about good stories (paired with a glass of good bourbon): My college professor Barry Hollander passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. Hollander was the first professor who made me fall in love with journalism. But my favorite thing about him was his snarky sense of humor. And that humor is reflected in his obituary … because he wrote it himself. Here’s how it ends:

Send flowers if you like, as Edith loves them, but in my memory raise a good glass of bourbon or single-malt whisky. In my memory, tell stories about me, especially the ones that make me sound like an idiot. In my memory, buy a young person a subscription to a good news source like The New York Times. And in my memory, watch out for Edith, the love of my life. I never deserved someone as good as her, and she doesn't deserve this.

Bottom line: Enjoy life, drink some fine bourbon, crack jokes, and spend time with the people who matter to you. That’s what I did this weekend, and I hope you guys do the same. 


Here we go with this week’s top reads:

The government informant [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The pop star re-building her reputation
The forgotten trailblazer
Syria’s teen documentarian
The site connecting you to your favorite celebrities
The startup killing the sports section
— The company advocating anti-innovation

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


The government informant: Patrick Byrne, the founder and longtime CEO of former e-tailing giant, resigned, alleging that the FBI had directed him to pursue an intimate relationship with the convicted Russian agent Maria Butina as an informant. This profiles gives a snapshot of the man who built Overstock before he got involved with the people he refers to as “the men in black.” (Forbes)

“I will be sitting on a beach in South America shortly, and that is all I want to think about.”

The pop star re-building her reputation: Taylor Swift has had to learn not to run from disaster. Her life has been defined by relationships, friendships and business partnerships that started and ended very publicly. At the same time, the rules around celebrity engagement have evolved beyond recognition in her 15 years of fame. In this profile, Swift opens up about self-awareness, racial privilege, Harvey Weinstein, and why we’re not entitled to her pain. (The Guardian)

“When people are in a hate frenzy and they find something to mutually hate together, it bonds them. And anything you say is in an echo chamber of mockery.”

The forgotten trailblazer: Before there were Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, there was Venus Williams. She was a trailblazer who never quite got her due. “Being the big sister meant that, when I became world No. 1 in 2002, I wasn’t just world No. 1,” she says. “I was also the first black American woman to reach No. 1.” Today, there are a lot of women in sports breaking barriers. But Venus was the first. (The New York Times)

“Venus brought, not trash talk, but the idea that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one is going to believe in you.

Syria’s teen documentarian: Muhammad Najem, age 16, grew up in Easter Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. His father was killed while praying in the local mosque when a bomb dropped. Following the incident, Najem felt a sense of urgency to “get people in the West to know about the reality.” He conducted interviews and documented the bombing of buildings, the sirens of makeshift ambulances driving to collect the injured, and the deaths of people close to him — all through social media. (Columbia Journalism Review) 

“All I want is for my country to return to peace. I just wanted to show the world what was happening.”


The site connecting you to your favorite celebrities: Want a shout out from your favorite celebrity for your birthday? Enter Cameo. The platform allows users to pay celebrities to make personalized video messages. Cameo taps into our celebrity obsession while simultaneously providing a new revenue stream of long-tail content for creators. The company currently has 18,000 celebrities — everyone from Ryan Lochte to Bethenny Frankel. You might notice it houses many C-list celebrities, but as Cameo’s CEO notes: “One person’s ‘C’ is another’s ‘A.’” (Fast Company)

“We know people love watching the videos. So how do we build a content business around that?”

The startup killing the sports section: The Athletic, the hyperlocal sports website, is growing quicker than any sports media company in recent history. It has been hiring veteran writers away from local papers, and its co-founder drew criticism when he said he would “wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing.” The Athletic now has more than a half-million readers, but can it turn a profit? (Bloomberg)

“The more phone calls you make for a story, the more traffic or subscriptions it drives,”

The company advocating anti-innovation: In 2017, Target spooked Wall Street with a $7 billion plan to modernize its business. But now, the company is reaping the benefits of an effective turnaround. This story shows that innovation has its limits. Sometimes, companies are so desperate to try new things that they get distracted and forget the very basics that made them successful. The key to Target’s success was the CEO Brian Cornell’s clarity: Target is not a tech company. It’s a retailer — and it should act like one. (Fortune)

”Everybody [in retail] wanted to act like a tech company. Then they realized: ‘We are retailers and have to figure out how to sell stuff better.’”