The Profile: The man who can’t feel fear & the Tinder swindler

Good morning, friends.

I recently asked Twitter for great non-fiction/memoir recommendations, and they did not disappoint. One of the most enthusiastically recommended books was “Educated” by Tara Westover. I just finished reading it and…wow.

It’s about a woman who was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. Tara was 17 years old the first time she set foot in a classroom where she learned about world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. She discovered a new kind of life — one that took her to Brigham Young University, Harvard, and Cambridge University.

I was completely immersed in her story, and amazed at the sheer will and relentlessness of the human spirit. If you like profiles, I highly recommend this. I’ll leave you with a quote from Tara:

“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.”

Now, on to this week’s profiles:

— The Tinder swindler [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The man cleaning up Uber’s image
— The emperor of fear
— The style legend behind Kanye West
— The Netflix of podcasts
— The resort for elderly tech workers
The billion-dollar snack empire
— The man who can’t feel fear


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


PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The Tinder swindler: This one blew me away. A man who goes by the name Simon Leviev has seduced and swindled women out of millions of dollars. He finds his victims on Tinder & lures them in with private jets, luxury hotels, and expensive dinners. He’s wanted by police in Israel, and reported for fraud in Sweden, England and Norway. He’s somehow still at large. As someone said on Twitter, this guy is a “one-man Fyre Festival.”

He’s not your everyday swindler. This man is in a league of his own.

The man cleaning up Uber’s image: As Uber prepares to go public, Tony West is helping it navigate its numerous legal issues before the big day. West, Uber's chief legal officer and a former Justice Department official, is the key figure behind the company’s most public clean-ups. He settled the trade secrets lawsuit by Alphabet's self-driving car business, Waymo, and negotiated a multistate settlement over a vast 2016 data breach. But the work is far from over.

“I had a reputation that I was also putting on the table, right?”

The emperor of fear: David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, is at the center of nearly every national conversations. About Jeff Bezos. About Stormy Daniels. About the Saudis. About Michael Cohen. And, of course, about Pecker’s friend, the President of the United States. This previously unpublished profile captures the National Enquirer boss at the start of his reign as America’s gossip king.

“We knew he was tasteless. We just didn’t realize he was evil.”

The style legend behind Kanye West: Virgil Abloh is a fashion designer, entrepreneur and DJ who has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's wear collection since March 2018. The creative director was one of the architects working on Kanye West's endeavor to merge rap, contemporary art, and high fashion. With his own brand, Off-White, he bulldozed the brick wall between graphic tees and “designer” apparel and partnered on one of the hottest Nike collaborations ever. I couldn’t stop reading this.

“I feel like I'm figuring things out, but I don't feel accomplished yet. I still feel like I'm an intern.”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The Netflix of podcasts: Spotify’s acquisition of Gimlet Media has sparked a podcasting boom. Now a podcast startup called Luminary has emerged from stealth mode to unveil nearly $100 million in funding and a subscription-based business model. Most podcasts are free, but for $8 a month, subscribers will gain access to Luminary’s ad-free lineup. Would you pay?

“We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming,”

The resort for elderly tech workers: There is now a new luxury retreat called Modern Elder Academy that caters to elderly workers in tech — those who feel that software is speeding up while they are slowing down. Guests have to submit applications for one-week programs & if accepted, pay $5,000 for a room and three meals a day. It gets real sad when you realize some of the “elders” at the resort are only 30 years old…

“We are all elders in the making. If you’re 40 years old and surrounded by 25-year-olds, you’re an elder.”

The billion-dollar snack empire: Kind Healthy Snacks, the maker of 1.4-ounce fruit-and-nut snack bars drizzled with chocolate, has an estimated $800 million in sales and it is conservatively worth $2.9 billion. The company has sold 2 billion snack bars since its founding in 2004 and has done so by wrapping itself in a mantle of nutrition and social good. Unfortunately, it’s almost all spin.

“On a scale of one to ten, one being Coca-Cola and ten being whole foods, Kind bars are likely a six. t’s less unhealthy than others. That doesn’t necessarily make something healthy.”

FROM THE VAULT.

The man who can’t feel fear: Thanks to the “Free Solo” documentary that everyone’s talking about, Alex Honnold has become a paramount symbol of fearlessness. He is history’s greatest rock climber in the free solo style, meaning he ascends without a rope or protective equipment of any kind. In this profile, scientists take a close look at Honnold’s brain to determine what occurs in his amygdala, the “fear center” of the brain. If you find yourself experiencing pangs of anxiety in everyday life, this one will amaze you.  

“It’s better over time if you can put yourself in a situation where you experience some fear, but you overcome it, and you do it again and again and again.”