Monday Musings (The Paradox of Abundance)

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Hi friends,

I've been orbiting around some big news for a while, and now I finally get to tell you about it (just some hints though).

We're adding rocket fuel to Write of Passage. Until now, it's been a 5-week course that we run multiple times per year. Now, we're expanding into two new product verticals: Business writing and “Liftoff” for ambitious high-schoolers.

That means we're hiring like crazy.

If you're ready to escape a soulless gig in the corporate world and join a team of obsessive builders with tons of autonomy in their work, we want to chat with you. Working with us will be some of the most fulfilling work you ever do.

Here are our open job positions:

  • Director of Student Experience (Liftoff)
  • Director of Operations (Liftoff)
  • Chief Evangelist (Liftoff)
  • Director of Product (Business Writing)

Oh, and one more thing: We have an internal rule that we'll instantly hire anybody we think is exceptional, even if they're not a good fit for an open position. So if top-tier writing instruction gets you fired up, reach out!

(I’m totally serious about this. Two people have job interviews coming up because they reached out over the weekend).

Here’s what I want to share this week:

  1. The Commitment Crisis: Our collective fear of commitment leads to all kinds of lost opportunities, particularly in careers and relationships. Here's my thread on the subject.
  2. Hugging the X-Axis: We live in a world where people are scared of commitment. Among yuppies in particular, people switch jobs frequently and hesitate to get married. But honestly, why should they commit to things? The world is abundant. We should try everything... Right? The challenge is that a life without commitment is a life without meaning. Without commitment, you're stuck hugging the X-Axis.
  3. How Philosophers Think: I’ve made studying philosophy with friends one of my top priorities. I audited a class at Columbia and hired tutors to help us. To my surprise, it's been absorbing the philosopher method of thinking (not necessarily the ideas themselves) that has given me the biggest benefit. This essay is a step-by-step demonstration of how philosophers navigate the intellectual world.
  4. How Philosophers Think (Video): If you prefer video, I adapted the essay for YouTube too.

The Paradox of Abundance (Part 2)

Everybody knows our information environment is more decentralized than ever. The gatekeepers are gone. Anybody can publish their ideas now. Musicians don’t have to sign record deals, writers don’t have to sign publishing deals, and filmmakers can circumvent the Hollywood establishment, and go straight to YouTube. Fringe voices have unprecedented reach and centralized media institutions are losing power.

But there’s a problem with this idea: it’s incomplete.

The information environment is simultaneously centralizing and decentralizing.

— —

How the Internet is Centralizing

The best piece on the subject of centralization is rightfully called Pop Culture has Become an Oligopoly. All the data in this section comes from that piece. The author, Adam Mastroianni, goes industry-by-industry (from movies, to music, to books) to show how the biggest players keep getting bigger:

  1. Movies: These days, it seems like every box office hit is a sequel. He writes: "Until the year 2000, about 25% of top-grossing movies were prequels, sequels, spinoffs, remakes, reboots, or cinematic universe expansions. Since 2010, it’s been over 50% every year. In recent years, it’s been close to 100%."
  2. Music: Though platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube have expanded the availability of music, the number of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 has been falling for a few decades now. Since 2000, the number of hit songs per artist has been increasing too.
  3. Books: Books must be the exception, right? Nobody shops at real bookstores anymore and you can find almost every book ever published on Amazon. And yet, LiteraryHub’s list of the top books from 1919-2017 shows that centralization's engulfed publishing too. In the 1950s, roughly half of top-10 authors had made the list before. Today, it’s closer to 75%. The number of authors who’ve made the top-10 list multiple times in the same year has risen too — and it’s happened almost every year since 1990. In 1998, Danielle Steel became the first author to publish three top-ten books in a single year.

— —

How the Internet is Decentralizing

Despite these shifts towards centralization, you’re reading Monday Musings, which is an example of decentralization. Without the Internet, I wouldn’t be able to publish this newsletter and you’d probably be reading an old-school newspaper right now instead.

I see decentralization in my consumption patterns too. I consume very little mainstream media. I never listen to the radio and I only watch three-letter television channels for sports. I also follow almost 1,000 people on Twitter, but only a few are brands or major media publications.

Below, is a screenshot of articles I plan to read next. The vast majority are written by independent authors, or hosted in obscure magazines.

What’s Going On?

There’s a Paradox of Abundance happening: The information environment is centralizing for the median consumer, but decentralizing for conscious ones.

A decentralized information environment isn’t inevitable. It’s a choice you have to make.

Societally, the variance in consumption patterns is increasing. Following official recommendations and Internet algorithms will centralize you. But Internet-savvy consumers can benefit from a kaleidoscope of perspectives that fulfill the Internet’s original utopian promises — where anybody on the Internet can share their ideas and find people on the fringes of society.

Note: This is the second “Paradox of Abundance” I’ve observed. Many years ago, I noticed that the average quality of information is getting worse and worse, while the best stuff is getting better and better. Markets of abundance are simultaneously bad for the median consumer, but good for conscious consumers.

Photo of the Week

I’m in Long Beach today to celebrate the launch of Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain book.

It’s the first book I’ve ever blurbed, because I believe in the ideas so much. Tiago’s system allowed me to start Writing from Abundance. No longer did I have to write from scratch. Instead, I could instantly give myself writing momentum by pulling from the best ideas I’d ever collected.

Tiago’s book will transform the personal knowledge management space, and hopefully, catapult it into the mainstream. It’s David Allen’s Getting Things Done, written for the Internet age. Everybody could benefit from a better system for managing information abundance, and the best solutions I’ve found are in Tiago’s new book.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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