The Profile: The man searching for life-saving DNA data & the director behind Pixar’s biggest hits
How to improve your content diet in 2021
Good morning, friends!
One of the biggest discoveries I've made in the last few years is simple but overlooked: What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.
While most of us are willing to invest in our health, we often neglect our "content diet," which refers to the type of information we choose to feed our brains on a daily basis.
During the beginning of the pandemic, we were talking about two things: "Love is Blind" and "Tiger King." Both Netflix series combined total approximately 18 hours. That's 18 hours of ingesting mindless and sensational content.
It's easy to fall into a spiral of consuming what I call “junk food content,” which plunges you into crazy thought patterns and anxious feelings. In 2019, I made a conscious decision to elevate the information I was consuming, and it had a tremendous effect on my mental state.
First, I conducted a content audit: I took an honest look at the content I consumed on a daily basis. What do I read? What do I watch? What do I listen to? Who do I hang out with?
Then, I made a few rules: I would read fewer surface-level news articles and more long-form profiles. I would watch less reality TV and more documentaries. I would limit my conversations to 10% small talk and 90% substance.
Finally, I made it practical. I deleted a few social media apps from my phone. I stopped mindlessly scrolling. I used Pocket and Notion to save interesting articles, podcasts, and video interviews I wanted to watch. I joined communities and engaged with people who enjoyed brainstorming and debating new ideas. I listened to high-quality podcasts during my runs. I launched The Profile Dossier, so I could spend two days per week deeply studying some of the most interesting and successful figures in the world. I also started interviewing people I wanted to learn from.
In May, columnist David Brooks wrote about this idea called “the theory of maximum taste,” which states that each person’s mind is defined by its upper limit — the best content that it habitually consumes and is capable of consuming.
He writes: “This theory is based on the idea that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. If you spend a lot of time with genius, your mind will end up bigger and broader than if you spend your time only with run-of-the-mill stuff.”
When we were all in school, we were forced to put quality ideas into our brains. You got tough assignments, and you had to write essays in which you argued a point you may or may not have agreed with. But after we left college, many of us just stopped learning. We stopped reading dense, hard things. We stopped generating ideas.
As a result, our maximum taste shrinks. Brooks asks the question: "Have you ever noticed that 70% of the people you know are more boring at 30 than they were at 20?”
You'll probably generate more ideas if you spend time reading about Charlie Munger than watching The Bachelorette. It's obvious, but few of us actually do it.
2020 was a year that showed us that we are in desperate need of innovation across medicine, social justice, and the economy. If you want to change the world, start by creating an environment that facilitates falling into intellectual rabbit holes and promotes creative thinking.
Elon Musk has a similar framework in that he often thinks about his “mental software.” He says there’s a distinction between our mental “hardware” (our raw intelligence and natural talents) and our “software” (our belief systems & thought patterns).
The hardware is like a ball of clay handed to us at birth, but it’s the software that determines what kind of tool the clay gets shaped into. In other words, your brain software is the most important product you possess because you can optimize it by regularly ingesting quality information. (That’s why some of our brains are running on iOS 14 while others are still stuck on iOS 7.)
In a world that bombards us with clickbait and articles solely written to sell ads, it's up to you to become more aware and intentional about your own content diet. Ultimately, the information you consume on a daily basis will determine how you think about and see the world.
Make it a goal this year to find outlets (like The Profile!) that act as content quality filters, sifting through large swaths of information to provide a range of articles that will make you pause and see things from a different perspective.
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.
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PS: The Rock is officially part of The Profile club 😂
— The man searching for life-saving DNA data[**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The tennis champion-turned-activist
— The hydrogen power evangelist
— The fans trying to save Britney Spears
— The cruise ship workers coping with depression
— The director behind Pixar’s biggest hits
— The company building the future of media
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The man searching for life-saving DNA data: Bryce Olson was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he told his oncologist, "I want to get my cancer sequenced.” DNA sequencing has the potential to radically expand treatment options for people battling advanced cancer. But for that to happen, the way that data is stored and shared needs to change dramatically. This is an important article about precision medicine, genomic testing, and how the medical industry can ensure cancer patients get the best treatment. (WIRED)
“What’s needed is a lot of culture change, especially with doctors who don’t regularly use it in practice."
The tennis champion-turned-activist: Tennis star Naomi Osaka is half-Japanese and half-Haitian. "I think I confuse people," she says. "I always grew up with a little bit more Japanese heritage and culture, but I’m Black, and I live in America, and I personally didn’t think it was too far-fetched when I started talking about things that were happening here." Here's how Osaka became tennis’s most powerful advocate for racial justice. (Vogue)
“I feel like this is something that was building up in me for a while."
The hydrogen power evangelist: On the East Coast, there is just one person who owns and drives a hydrogen electric car. His name is Mike Strizki. He is so devoted to hydrogen fuel-cell energy that he drives a Toyota Mirai even though it requires him to refine hydrogen fuel in his yard himself. Here's why he's using his retirement to evangelize for the planet-saving advantages of hydrogen batteries. (The New York Times)
“You can design almost anything on paper, but to make it work is a whole different animal. You need the patience and creativity.”
The fans trying to save Britney Spears: The #FreeBritney movement believes that Britney Spears is trapped in an immoral and possibly unlawful conservatorship. Her supporters say it's up to them to save her, and they've turned to her Instagram for clues. In one video, Spears walks back and forth nine times, obviously Morse code for SOS, they thought. In a photo, users claimed they saw saw the words “Call 911” written in Spears’s lower lashes. Are these people simply deluded conspiracy theorists or do they have valid reasons to be concerned? (Vanity Fair)
“Human beings are particularly ‘good’ at finding patterns within random noise when there’s sufficient motivation to do so."
The cruise ship workers coping with depression: Cruise ships were an epidemiological nightmare during the pandemic, and they’ve also been a disaster for the mental health of some of their crew. Separated from families and confined to tiny cabins, sailors experienced a more extreme version of the household lockdowns that have sent people tumbling into depression. There have been at least a half-dozen fatalities among cruise ship crew members who were trapped at sea. Most of them are suspected suicides. Here's how things became so dire. (Bloomberg)
“How would you feel if you were confined to a windowless cell and could only go out once or twice a day?”
The director behind Pixar’s biggest hits: Pete Docter has had a hand in nearly every Pixar production since the original Toy Story, but is credited as the director for four of them: Monsters, Inc., Up, Inside Out, and Soul. He's known for using elaborate metaphysical conceits to express profound truths about human desires and frailties. Over 25 years, Docter has gone from one of the company’s foundational voices to its defining voice, and his creative genius is now more apparent than ever. (The Ringer)
"He’s an unwavering optimist about human nature and our capacity to better ourselves.
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The company building the future of media: Yep, this is yet another article about newsletter platform Substack. A Substack newsletter is both a product and a portfolio: a way to make money, but also a venue for displaying personality, intelligence, and taste. This writer of this article posits that it's "debatable whether [Substack's model] represents 'a better future for news.'" I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself. (The New Yorker)
“Gig work isn’t going anywhere—but there are now more ways to capitalize on creativity.”
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AUDIO TO HEAR.
Jack Dorsey on maximizing creative freedom: A year before COVID, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey implemented the following schedule for himself: He would work from home every Tuesday and Thursday and reserve Wednesdays and Fridays for check-ins with his team. He found himself more focused, creative, and productive while he was at home. Here's how Dorsey thinks about working independently versus working collaboratively. (Link available to premium members.)
Jim Loehr on developing your private voice: Jim Loehr is a performance psychologist who has worked with Olympic athletes, FBI hostage rescue teams, and military special forces. In his years of research, Loehr has discovered the power of "the voice no one hears." In other words, our inner voice — the one we use to talk to ourselves — can be brutal and can be a detriment to being the best version of ourselves. In this podcast, he outlines some strategies that can help us make the voice more constructive and kind. (Link available to premium members.)
Annie Duke on thinking strategically: In this conversation, Annie Duke goes beyond the typical discussion of probabilistic thinking. She goes deep into the role of consensus, transparency, backcasting, and even regret. “You need to think about regret before you make a decision,” she says. This one’s packed with actionable wisdom. (Link available to premium members.)
VIDEOS TO WATCH.
The Olympic swimmers reaching for gold: This documentary demonstrates the brutal journey of what it takes to reach the Olympics. It features the two similar but diverging paths of then-Olympic hopeful Missy Franklin and three-time U.S. Olympic champ Kara Lynn Joyce. The film is a story of competition, commitment, triumph, and a whole lot of adversity. I’ve recommended this one to all my family & friends. (Link available to premium members.)
Courtney Dauwalter on finding her inner drive: Ultra-runner Courtney Dauwalter eats candy, crushes nachos, and drinks beer — all while ruthlessly beating male and female competitors on the 200+ mile course. And here’s the thing: She’s extraordinarily humble about it all. “When you talk to her, she seems so normal,” Joe Rogan says. “You’re like, ‘Where’s your demon?’ Her demon’s a quiet demon. It’s there … it has to be.” This short documentary follows Dauwalter during an ultra-race and explores how she finds the drive to keep gong. You’ll feel the pain just from watching this. (Link available to premium members.)
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