The Profile's 2020 Year in Review
Here is 2020 through the eyes of The Profile.
2020, man. What a year.
I want to start by saying thank you to all of you who made this really challenging year one full of great ideas, fascinating conversations, and as Malcolm Gladwell puts it, intellectual play. Writing The Profile and meeting you guys virtually was a bright spot for me this year.
The beauty of The Profile is that it documented the year pretty well via deep dives on individual people as well as world events. Here is 2020 through the eyes of The Profile. (If you want more year-end-reviews, check out the 2019, 2018, and 2017 editions as well.)
✨ BEST PROFILES
The brilliant coder who lost himself: This profile raises the elusive philosophical question: If a person isn't himself, who is he? Lee Holloway was the third co-founder of tech firm Cloudflare. He programmed it into being. But then things started to become strange.
The goat farmer who built a doomsday machine: Mark Spitznagel capitalizes on catastrophe — and he’s waited 12 years for one to occur. Spitznagel’s $4.3 billion (assets) firm Universa Investments always loses small sums until one day a black swan appears. That swan appeared in 2020.
The woman fighting America’s other epidemic: Nikki King has become one of the leading voices on the opioid crisis in rural America. She has created a treatment program to help people in remote, underfunded areas, and its results are promising.
The Saudi prince who shook the world: Saudi Arabia had long been known for two things: oil and Islam. That all changed when the mysterious, workaholic son of the king named Mohammed bin Salman took charge.
Hollywood’s best storyteller: Before you can understand the story of what happened to 1980s movie hunk Val Kilmer, you first have to understand why he believes what he believes. To you and me, his perspective may seem totally disconnected from reality, but in the wake of COVID-19, doesn’t everything feel disconnected from reality?
The news giant cracking from within: After Trump’s election in 2016, subscriptions at The New York Times grew at 10 times their usual rate. But as the Times became less dispassionate and more crusading, a raw ideological turf war over the paper’s mission and future has been brewing within.
✨ BEST PROFILE DOSSIERS
(These are normally only accessible to premium members but I've unlocked them for a limited time. If you want the full archive, become a premium member here.)
Charlie Munger, the master of mental models
Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire
Malcolm Gladwell, the thinker selling good ideas
Katie Arnold, the ultra-athlete who outran her anxiety
✨ BEST PROFILE COLUMNS
100 Couples Share Their Secrets to a Successful Relationship (this was one of the most popular articles in 2020)
I quit my job at the start of the pandemic to launch a company. Here’s what I’ve learned in the first 90 days.(if you're thinking about starting a business, read this)
How Labels Shape Our Reality and Limit Our Ability to Reason (every time you slap a label on someone and put them in a box, you filter what you see)
How the Language You Speak Influences Your Mental Frameworks(The brain turns language into an inner voice that drives our thoughts)
How to Be Happy In a World Designed to Depress You(what my grandmother's neighbor Ivan can teach us about life satisfaction)
Why Talking to Strangers Can Boost Your Mood(Turns out small talk can have profound positive changes on your mood)
How You Can Use "Hanlon’s Razor" to Avoid Petty Arguments(this is especially helpful around the holiday season)
✨ BEST PROFILE ORIGINAL INTERVIEWS
Square co-founder Jim McKelvey explains how Square beat Amazon at its own game
Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton delves into the secrets of capturing our humanity
Iraq Veteran Noah Galloway shares his powerful journey to combating depression and building mental resilience
Reporter Laura Entis explains what a year of social isolation has done to our psyche
"The Faces of American Business" original series featured 7 small business owners on how the pandemic lockdowns affected their livelihood
✨ BEST PODCASTS
Jonny Kim is a former Navy SEAL, who went on to earn a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Now, he’s a NASA astronaut. You would think this type of career path belongs to someone naturally fearless, but Kim didn’t fit that bill. This conversation is four hours long, and once you start listening, you won’t be able to stop. Listen here.
Relationship expert Esther Perel learned a huge lesson from her parents who survived the Holocaust: Eroticism is an antidote to death. In this incredible episode, Esther reveals practical strategies for reigniting romance in a busy or “autopilot” relationship. Listen here.
Gay Talese’s famous 1966 Esquire profile, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” became the gold standard of profile writing even though he never once spoke with Sinatra himself. In this podcast, he opens up about his writing process & vivid storytelling. Listen here.
Why are people more likely to get fire insurance for their house but less likely to get a prenup for their marriage? Annie Duke says it has to do with how we think about luck and control. Here’s how she says we can avoid the most common decision-making traps. Listen here.
✨ BEST VIDEOS
In this (free) HBO documentary, you really get a sense of what Warren Buffett is like as an investor, father, husband, and philanthropist. There are a few moments that really makes you see him in a different light. One of the best I've seen in a while. Watch it here.
What makes us brave? Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson says you can’t be brave without fear. In this inspiring talk, she offers three equations that contain the ingredients to a happy, successful life. Watch it here.
In 2008, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry "Hank" Paulson was tasked with the impossible: prevent the collapse of the U.S. economy. In order to avoid a total meltdown, he felt he had to act by signing off on $1 trillion in bailouts for Wall Street. He did it even though he himself found the bailouts morally wrong. (Available on Netflix) Watch the trailer here.
… For more like this, make sure to sign up for The Profile here:
Want more? Check out these great reads:
— How the World’s Most Creative People Bring Their Ideas to Life
— 3 Ways to Attract More Luck Into Your Life
— The Anthony Bourdain Principle: How to Build Better Relationships With Strangers
— How the Language You Speak Influences Your Mental Frameworks
— 100 Couples Share Their Secrets to a Successful Relationship
— The Science Behind Why Social Isolation Can Make You Lonely
— How to Be Happy In a World Designed to Depress You
— 11 Practical Pieces of Advice I'd Give My Younger Self
— 20 Business Power Players Share Their All-Time Favorite Reads
— 7 Question With Square Co-Founder Jim McKelvey
— How You Can Use "Hanlon’s Razor" to Avoid Petty Arguments