Friday Finds (Girard, Airplanes, Talent, Gods, Pop Culture)

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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

It's been a long time coming and the day has finally arrived. The first lecture on René Girard is now live. It's a comprehensive introduction to his body of work without the jargon or the stuffiness you often find in academia.

You can learn about the series and find the first lecture here.

No philosopher has influenced my thinking more than Girard. My buddy Johnathan Bi, who I teamed up on these lectures with, has been obsessed with his work for five years and you can feel that obsession in the quality of his analysis. We'll be releasing one lecture each month for the rest of the year.

Here's what else I want to share this week:

  1. The Book You Need to Read: This is the #1 piece on the Gospel Coalition's website, which isn't something I had on my personal bingo board for 2022. The premise is simple: It’s insane that people are so averse to reading the Bible. By no means do you have to be a believer, but if you’re a Westerner, the Bible has influenced your life more than any other book. You should know what it says. Here's my essay.
  2. Write of Passage Newsletter: We've taught more than 1,000 students how to launch their own newsletters, but until this week, we didn't have one ourselves. You can read the first edition for yourself here. Each will be jam-packed with strategies that help you improve your writing, find your people, and build your Personal Monopoly.

    If you want to receive future editions of the newsletter, click here.
  3. Podcast with Danny Miranda: A conversation with one of my favorite up-and-coming creators. Danny has a knack for opening up avenues of conversation that his guests have never explored in public before, and this interview was no different. We talked about how I got into college, determining what you want out of life, and why owning plants has made me a better listener. (Listen Here: Apple | Spotify | YouTube)

Today's Finds

Finding Talent: Talk to any CEO and they'll say that recruiting high-quality people is one of their top priorities. This is the best book I've read on the subject. The two authors, Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross are two of the best talent spotters I know. Tyler runs a grant program called Emergent Ventures (I've received four grants). He has a knack for finding up-and-comers from around the world and enabling them with both cash and confidence. Daniel was a partner at Y Combinator and now runs a company called Pioneer, which uses video game mechanics to find up-and-coming companies. They say you can learn a lot about somebody by how they spend their downtime. One of their favorite questions to ask is: “What are the open tabs on your browser right now?” The answer hints at the other person's innate interests and level of ambition. For some podcasts about the book, I recommend this one with Tyler and this one with both of the authors.

The Economics of Airplane Leases: Many of the airplanes you board aren't owned by the airlines you're flying on. Instead, they're owned by leasing companies who rent the planes out to airlines. New aircraft are typically rented for 10-12 years. The leasing model was pioneered by Tony Ryan, who went on to start Ryanair. He saw how historically, high capital expenditures and oscillating demand crushed airline profitability. As Byrne Hobart observed, leasing companies benefit from an Iron Condor. Individual airlines have high variance. They're constantly growing and shrinking. Meanwhile, the industry as a whole is much more stable. Leasing companies absorb some of the risks that individual airlines would face if they owned their aircraft, and in turn, generate a profit. Here's a good introduction to the aircraft leasing model.

Trader Joe’s: A primer on my favorite supermarket, which sells more food per square foot than any other grocery store. They don’t just have customers. They have fans. Visiting the store is a little bit like thrift shopping because you always find something unexpected. It seems like every other week somebody swells with pride as they recommend some new Trader Joe’s product to me. It’s far more curated than other grocery stores too. Where typical grocery stores carry ~35,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units), Trader Joe’s only has ~3,000. Roughly 80% of those products have the Trader Joe’s name on the label too. Unlike other grocery stores, there are employees everywhere, no social media, no self-checkout lines, no customer loyalty programs, and no online ordering.

Pop Culture Has Become an Oligopoly: Two things are true. First, the Internet has enabled decentralization like never before. People like myself can spin up a website and a newsletter, and bypass the approval of gatekeepers. But at the same time, pop culture is more centralized than ever. From movies to music, books to video games, the most popular content commands more attention than ever. Take movies. Before the year 2000, only 25% of top-grossing movies were prequels, sequels, spinoffs, remakes, reboots, or cinematic universe expansions. By 2010, that number had climbed to 50%. Now, it's close to 100%. The gravity of the Internet leads to centralization, but savvy media consumers can learn from a wider variety of voices than at any other point in human history.

In Praise of the Gods: A soul-filled essay from Simon Sarris, and a worthy critique of rationality. Though the development of reason and the scientific revolution that followed it were worthy progressions in the history of human thought, people in the contemporary world take both too far. Much human wisdom exists beyond them. Stories come to mind here. The wisdom of fairy tales is impossible to transmit rationally. Due to their aesthetic beauty, the knowledge they contain is sticky and magnetic too. With rationality also comes the loss of tradition. Sarris writes: "A lack of tradition leaves us lopsided. Without traditions it is still easy for us to form opinions, but difficult to form convictions." This essay is ultimately an argument for post-rational wisdom. Finding it begins by moving through the world in a more intuitive and embodied fashion.

Have a creative week,

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