The Profile: The mobster who sent his dad to prison & the VC firm changing its identity

Good morning, friends. (If you’re a new subscriber, welcome! I’m glad you’re here :)

I recently discovered Lawrence Yeo’s blog “More to That,” and I’m a big fan of his writing. I asked him to share his latest post with you: The Right Side of Thought. I think you’ll enjoy this one, and don’t forget to share on Twitter here.

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Hello, readers of The Profile! I’m Lawrence, the writer and illustrator of More To That.

When I’m asked to explain what More To That is, I find it hard to give a straightforward answer. So instead of offering you a big block of text to read through, the below diagram does a better job of summarizing my aims for the blog:

The sweet spot of knowledge acquisition resides at the intersection of these three areas, and this is how I think of More To That. I expand on topics that have a lot to do with the seriousness of the human condition (perspectives on death, navigating fear and anxiety, our struggle with self-doubt), but in a playful manner that makes the content relatable, digestible, and approachable. And if you walk away from the post feeling like the attention you gave was well worth your time, then I know the content was helpful. Now, on to the post.

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How to Get on the Right Side of Thought by Lawrence Yeo

If a loved one were to describe you as “someone who thinks a lot,” how would that make you feel?

Would you interpret that as a compliment, feeling somewhat proud of this designation as a ponderer of the world? Or would you feel slightly insulted, interpreting it as a tendency to overthink things instead of defaulting to action?

A part of it would come down to how the loved one said it, but much of our interpretation is reflective of our ongoing relationship with thought. Growing up, I often found myself wondering why things were the way they were.

My mom takes the view that frequent thinking doesn’t lead to anything fruitful, as asking too many questions about stuff gets in the way of taking action and getting shit done. I, on the other hand, find a lot of joy in the process of thinking.

If there’s ever a universal lesson about thought, it’s that it can help us immensely, but can just as easily destroy us. Toxic ideologies such as racism, sexism, and classism are all the byproduct of misdirected thought.

The issue of choosing between enlightening ideas and toxic ones may certainly represent a struggle for us, but this battle wasn’t what my mom was referring to when she was telling me to stop thinking so much.

Rather than referring to the usage of thought, she was commenting on what she believed to be the innate character of thought. At its baseline level, what is the texture of frequent thought? Is it smooth, allowing for a steady, fluid current of evaluation, or is it rough, causing violent waves to rise and crash in the ocean of your mind? My mom tends to associate sustained thought to be more of the latter, causing it to be the source of pointless worry and fear. Whereas I like to view sustained periods of thought as the only accessible avenue of examination and contemplation.

Interestingly enough, these two perspectives act as the universal endpoints of a see-saw representing our quality of thought – with Rumination on one side, and Reflection on the other.

I call this the Thought See-Saw, and while it features two prominent sides, the truth is that we are rarely sitting at the endpoints of it. Although I’d like to think that sustained thought is a reliable pathway to profound insight, I can easily find myself on a train of thought that is taking me to a pit of anxiety and fear.

We like to believe that we are the conscious authors of our thoughts, believing that these intentions and directives come from a structured, orderly place where willpower reigns supreme. However, if you take a brief moment to sit down in silence for just a minute or two, you’ll notice that the nature of thought is anything but that.

Almost immediately, a ruthless onslaught of thought will assault you about kinds of menial shit – things you have to do later, things you’d rather not do, things that you said earlier in the day, things that you regret you didn’t say, things you did in the past, things you hope for in the future, the barrage is endless. That minute of silence will feel like an hour of incessant chatter, with each thought maniacally screaming out for some of your valuable attention.

How you think about the world fundamentally dictates the actions you take in it. If you believe that people are generally cooperative and good-natured, that will color the way you interact and build the communities you hang out with. On the other hand, if you believe that people are inherently untrustworthy and selfish, then that will shape the way you approach your relationships and work life as well. A framework of thought is the pre-requisite to any form of action, and it can only be constructed with the ideas you’ve subscribed to.

Reflection can mean many things, but at its core, I think it comes down to our ability to strip these emotional charges from our thoughts. Instead of allowing each thought’s emotional baggage to dictate our every action, what if we can strip away that energy and observe the thought itself, without any judgment? One exercise I like to do when I sit down in silence is to imagine my entire field of consciousness as if it were a green-black perspective grid.

Since I am somewhat of a normal human being, within moments, thoughts will start bombarding my shit. They will all try to make me feel something one way or another. A thought about something on my looming to-do list creates a sense of urgency. A thought about something stupid I said earlier creates an emotion of regret. But rather than getting swept away by them, I try my best to view each of these thoughts as simple appearances on my consciousness radar, blotting in and out as they appear and inevitably fade away:

One thing that I’ve noticed again and again is that each thought has a specific texture associated with it. In the same way a spiky pine cone feels unpleasant when jammed against your hand, an angry thought has this rough, coarse texture that balloons up uncomfortably when it arises fully:

A comforting thought, on the other hand, appears as a glowing ball of warmth that naturally draws you into it:

When you notice the unique texture of each thought, it becomes easier to identify it when it arises, and to view it objectively, without reacting to it. The thought is exactly where it needs to be, and there’s no need to interpret it in any way.

It’s kind of like the difference between seeing a bug in your home vs. seeing a bug in nature. In the former situation, it can freak you the fuck out because your home is not a place you expect a bug to appear, whereas in nature, its appearance is fully aligned with its innate surroundings, so you find no reason to react to its presence. Observing each thought’s texture in your mind is just like watching a bug flutter around in its natural environment — there’s no need to react to anything here.

Read the full post here.


👉 If you liked reading this column by Lawrence, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


I guarantee this week’s profiles will put you on the right side of thought:

The mobster who sent his father to prison [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
The creator of the world’s toughest race
The hurricane hunter
The editor saving Cosmo from the jaws of Instagram
The kid who tracked down Kanye West
The venture capital firm changing its identity

PEOPLE TO KNOW.

The mobster who sent his father to prison: You don’t testify against the mob in federal court and live to tell about it. Especially when your father’s the defendant. John Franzese Jr. helped send his father — the notorious Colombo family mobster Sonny Franzese — to prison. John also used to be a gun-toting, crack-addicted gangster before he became the U.S. government’s key witness against Sonny. “Before there was John Gotti," John says, "there was my dad.” This is the story of what happens when you break the mafia’s sacred code of silence. Make sure you read this one until the end — it’s jaw-dropping.

“We lived our lives worrying about whether someone was gonna kill us or the FBI was gonna put us in jail.”

The creator of the world’s toughest race: What kind of sadist creates the hardest race in the world? Meet Lazarus Lake. His real name is Gary Cantrell, and he is the mastermind behind The Barkley Marathons, a 100-mile-long, unsupported slog through the Tennessee backcountry that thousands have attempted & only 15 have ever finished. Cantrell presents athletes with seemingly insurmountable challenges, not in the hope that it will break them but on the certainty that it will make them stronger. It doesn’t matter if you fail or succeed, he says, what matters is what you learn about yourself in the process.

“Sports are the place where you get introduced to the real world. It’s where you learn that everyone is not going to succeed, that you have to work for what you get, and that the other team is trying to win, too.”

The hurricane hunter. At 49, Josh Morgerman has survived the inner cores of nearly 50 hurricanes—by choice. He is one of a small cadre of men (they’re all men) who chase giant tropical storms around the world. Wherever residents are trying to evacuate, Morgerman is on an inbound flight. He calls it an addiction. “It’s like a hunger for food or sex,” he says. “It’s very innate, it’s hard to verbalize, and it drives you.”

“There is that pressure every year as a chaser, that you’re only as good as your last smash, your last chase, your last hit.”

The editor saving Cosmo from the jaws of Instagram: At Cosmopolitan, data is the new sex. Jessica Pels, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, has doubled down on all the un-sexy, but important, stuff, like boosting Cosmo’s online presence, growing digital subscriptions & increasing affiliate revenue — all while using Instagram as inspiration. She’s catering to women aged 18 to 34, possibly the most Instagram-obsessed demo there is. “She opens Instagram 42 times a day,” Pels of the Cosmo reader. “Anything she can do on her phone, she will.”

“I think she’s bold. I think she’s unapologetic about having fun. I think she wants to have an impact on the world around her, and that she should.”

The kid who tracked down Kanye West: I’m not exactly sure what to call this because it’s not a profile & it’s not a feature written by a news outlet. It’s just a really well-told first-person story by a kid named Harry Dry who made a dating app for Kanye West. The app took off & went viral thanks to Harry’s laser focus and relentless determination. I can assure you, you’ll love this one.

“I woke up Steve Jobs. I'm ending the day Steve Harvey. The site's properly crashed now. I’m trying to put out fires everywhere but nothing’s working.”

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The venture capital firm changing its identity: What’s more disruptive than a venture capital firm disrupting itself? Enter Andreessen Horowitz. It will give up its status as a VC firm and transform into a registered investment advisor so it can take “riskier bets.” You may wonder: What could possibly on God’s green earth be riskier than investing in the earliest stages of companies that have a 50/50 shot of becoming industry titans or, you know, the subject of a Netflix documentary on fraud? Well, have you heard of … crypto?

“If the firm wants to put $1 billion into cryptocurrency or tokens, or buy unlimited shares in public companies or from other investors, it can.”