The Profile: The Netflix of wellness & the company keeping crises quiet
“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective."
When's the last time you looked down and admired the tiles on the floor of a new place you were visiting? Yeah, me neither.
But my grandfather did.
My 70-year-old grandfather visited the United States for the first time two weeks ago. When we were exploring New York City, he paused in the middle of Brookfield Place and looked down.
He pointed to the tiles and proceeded to wonder who did the flooring, marveled at how long it probably took them to complete the project, and explained to me why these particular tiles were so remarkable.
Travel guru Rick Steves says traveling “wallops your ethnocentricity,” “carbonates your experience,” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.”
In the last year, our cultural furniture has been collecting dust and remained fairly untouched as we've dealt with the suffocating feeling of quarantining on the couch. As things begin to open up, I was extremely excited about exploring new places with a newfound sense of appreciation and wonder.
There’s a book I love called “The Geography of Bliss,” in which a longtime foreign correspondent for NPR travels to some of the world’s happiest places. He explains how travel has the capacity to shake us up, to jostle our souls. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“I believe, now more than ever, in the transformative promise of geography. Change your location, and you just may change yourself. It’s not that distant lands contain some special ‘energy’ or that their inhabitants possess secret knowledge (though they may) but rather something more fundamental: 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.”
We're currently traveling, and like my grandfather, I'm finding joy in the tiniest things — cheese pastries, outdoor cafes, and lively streets after a year of lockdowns.
For me, travel has always been a completely immersive experience. You’re alert, your senses are engaged, and you find yourself looking at the world with fresh eyes. But my favorite part of traveling has nothing to do with cheese pastries or cafes. It has to do with something much more abstract: The realization that "normal" is just an illusion.
Steves once said that people who don’t travel often think their way of life is the norm (ie: Americans say the British drive on the "wrong" side of the road. No, they just drive on the other side of the road). In the United States, sitting on the toilet is normal. In other cultures, squatting over a hole is the norm.
"Americans are experts at thinking they're normal," Steves says. "But ethnocentrism isn't just an American thing. Big cultures tend to be ethnocentric."
There is no "right" or "normal" way to do anything in this life, and that is so liberating. "I am changed when I recognize that," he says. "I'm humbled. It's pretty nice to travel with a mindset where you're humbled."
That’s why leaving your home country for a few days or weeks can act as a reset, allowing you to get a more wide view of the world beyond the rigid mental walls you’ve built over the years.
“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective," Steves says.
Approach travel with a lens of curiosity rather than fear. Develop a "traveler's mindset." Aim to experience culture shock. Break bread with the locals. And of course, don't forget to marvel at the simplest things like the tiles you're walking on.
I'll leave you with the words of the late renegade chef Anthony Bourdain: "Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
THE PROFILE DOSSIER: On Wednesday, premium members received The Profile Dossier, a comprehensive deep-dive on a prominent individual. It featured Rick Steves, the world's greatest adventurer. Become a premium member, and read it here.
— The music mogul who mints superstars
— The high-priced sleep trainers
— The women who want to be priests
— The sole survivor of a fatal plane crash
— The only man punished for pitch doctoring
— The company trying to keep crises quiet [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The Netflix of wellness
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The music mogul who mints superstars: Scooter Braun is a business powerhouse who has parlayed his instincts on talent and investing into a billion-dollar merger (of which he took home a whopping $400 million). But as his social media reach and net worth has ballooned, his ascent hasn't been without controversy. In this profile, Braun lays bare his business philosophy, addresses misconceptions about his character, and reveals details of his future plans with HYBE, the entertainment giant that brought K-pop sensation BTS to the world. (Variety)
"What I’ve come out realizing is that this character Scooter, I created him as a kid and he’s built a really amazing life, but the next 40 years, I’d like Scott to be in charge."
The high-priced sleep trainers: Brenda Hart claims to be the most effective sleep trainer in London. Her phone number is passed among the parents of babies and young children who have reached the limits of their struggle with sleep deprivation. Hart promises results within 48 hours, but her services come at a cost. She charges ￡435 ($605) for her standard fee and more for overnight stays. Take a deep dive into what happens inside the world of the expensive and secretive sleep-training industry that caters to desperate and sleep-deprived parents. (The New Yorker)
“Sleep training is the basis for being independent later in life, from going to nursery to school to having a job."
The women who want to be priests: Will the Roman Catholic Church ever ordain priests who are not men? By some accounts, in the past few years women—long the backbone of the Church—have been withdrawing from active involvement in greater numbers than men. Many peel away because they can no longer abide by teachings that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage, endorse contraception, or permit women to be priests. Meet the women behind the Roman Catholic womenpriests movement and why the Church continues to resist ordaining them. (The New Yorker)
"I want a God who isn’t worried about your anatomy but is interested in your call.”
The sole survivor of a fatal plane crash: At 17, biologist Juliane Diller was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Amazon. The aircraft had broken apart, separating her from everyone else onboard. “The next thing I knew, I was no longer inside the cabin,” she said. “I was outside, in the open air. I hadn’t left the plane; the plane had left me.” Fifty years later, she still runs Panguana, a research station founded by her parents in Peru. Here's her remarkable and impossible story of survival. (The New York Times)
“The jungle caught me and saved me. It was not its fault that I landed there.”
The only man punished for pitch doctoring: Bubba Harkins had been the visiting clubhouse manager for the Angels for 31 seasons when he got a question that took him by surprise: "Bubba, you got a minute?" Harkins had never, he says, received a single complaint about his performance. But now Billy Eppler, the team’s GM at the time, was escorting Harkins into a nearby room where Angels general counsel Alex Winsberg sat waiting. He was about to be fired because he had been supplying pitchers with his home-cooked mixture of liquid pine tar, solid pine tar, and rosin. Here's how Harkins became the first — and so far only— casualty of MLB's recent war on pitch doctoring. (Sports Illustrated)
“It just feels like [MLB was] looking for a scapegoat,”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The company trying to keep crises quiet: Airbnb has built a $90 billion brand primarily on its reputation for safety. Airbnb’s business model rests on the idea that strangers can trust one another. If that premise is undermined, it can mean fewer users and more lawsuits, not to mention tighter regulation. For all its importance, the safety team remains shrouded in secrecy. Meet the team tasked with keeping violent crimes that happen in properties on its platform under wraps. (Bloomberg)
“The only thing that really motivates them is the threat or potential threat of bad PR or a nightmare in the press.”
The Netflix of wellness: The year 2018 was a big one for Peloton because it marked a metamorphosis in the company’s brand, from being known for its bikes to being known for its content. Three years later, much of what its CEO John Foley set out to accomplish has come to be. Peloton has a market cap of around $30 billion. It has signed deals with Peloton member Beyoncé and member Shonda Rhimes. It's done it all by carefully controlling its production values, smartly promoting its instructors, and making music integral to its ethos. Here's how Peloton became a global entertainment brand. (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Their content is so good they have people wanting to buy more expensive hardware just to use it.”
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AUDIO TO HEAR.
Sarah Tavel on the importance of being intellectually honest: Sarah Tavel, a general partner at Benchmark, says that philosophy is underpinned by logic. It teaches you to question your beliefs, seek truth, and become intellectually honest with yourself. Here's how Tavel's experience at Pinterest and later at Greylock and Benchmark has helped her clarify her thinking to make more sound judgements in her life and career. (Link available to premium members.)
Ayesha Curry on the key to building confidence: Ayesha Curry has built a food empire with multiple cookbooks, a magazine, TV shows, and a foundation whose mission is to end childhood hunger. Yet you'd be surprised that she had a deep-seated insecurity that she started her brand with no business background. "I felt this entrepreneurial bug," she says. As a new mom, she launched a cooking blog, and little by little, she built the blog into a massive brand. "I still don't have that formal education, but I'm always educating myself," she says. "And I think where the difference lies is there are ways to continuously educate yourself." (Link available to premium members.)
BJ Fogg on optimizing your life: Social scientist and author BJ Fogg says that if you want to optimize your life, you need to first optimize your habits. Our everyday habits that seem almost subconscious are what drive us to pursue certain careers, relationships, or hobbies. So how can we change them in a way where we see a meaningful difference in our day-to-day? "Behavior happens when three things come together in the same moment: Motivation, ability, and a prompt," he says. This one is so good. (Link available to premium members.)
VIDEOS TO SEE.
Steve Cohen on managing your emotions in volatile times: Steve Cohen, the CEO of Point 72 Asset Management, has been trading for decades. In this video, the interviewer starts off with this doozy of a question: "When does it become easier?" Cohen's answer? It doesn't. He says the landscape is more competitive than ever, adding that "the brainpower in the industry is as strong as it's ever been." In this wide-ranging conversation, Cohen opens up about his morning routine, how he's gained perspective over the years, and why he finally feels liberated in his career. (Link available to premium members.)
Priscilla Chan on the power to change the world: Priscilla Chan is the co-founder & co-CEO, of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which is one of the country's most ambitious philanthropies. Since its launch in 2015, CZI has awarded approximately $2 billion in grants. In this conversation, Chan opens up about her family's immigration journey, why she's passionate about societal change, and how CZI uses technology and capital to create lasting change. (Link available to premium members.)