Friday Finds (Hiring, Facebook, Fiction, Concrete, Bible)

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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

I planned to share my Annual Review with you today, but got caught up in Write of Passage hubbub of what was one of the hardest weeks I've had since starting the biz. Though learning how to run a company has me on one of the steepest learning trajectories of my life, whatever wisdom I’m receiving is on the other side of turmoil. This time it took me away from writing, but I intend to have the Annual Review for you next week!

One way the hard work is paying off is the launch of a new daily Write of Passage newsletter. Its sole purpose is to make you a better writer — to help you find your voice, navigate psychological blocks, grow your audience, and differentiate yourself in the age of GPT.

Click here to receive these daily emails.

Also… I'm still looking for a Chief of Staff, one of the most important positions at Write of Passage. If you love to work, are obsessed with business, and are keen to see what it takes to grow a company, you will love this job.

Today's Finds

Northrop Frye’s Biblical Lectures: This 25-part series explores the synthesis between the Bible and English Literature. It’s worth watching because the Bible infuses just about every aspect of civilization. To the extent that the ideas feel so obvious, it’s only because they’ve been so influential. They’ve become the water we swim in. These lectures explore the metaphorical side of these canonical texts. In one of his lectures, Frye said: “The accuracy of history in the Bible is in inverse proportion to its spiritual value.” You’ll find a full transcript and show notes for every lecture here.

Good Old Neon: Of all the David Foster Wallace short stories, this is my favorite one. It’s a difficult window into the mind of a depressed person, narrated by a ghost from beyond the grave. Given that the author took his life a couple years after it was published, I suspect that it was a way to grapple with the warfare inside his own mind. Here’s the audiobook, and here’s a free 41-page PDF. The heaviness of it reminds me of The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, which I equally recommend.

Chartism: This idea goes back to the British male suffrage movement in the mid-19th century and the work of Thomas Carlyle, who was critical of Chartism’s hold over decision-making. Here’s how I interpret the practical implications of the idea: Policymakers fall somewhere on the spectrum of pro-chart and anti-chart. Pro-chartists think that data can explain the world, and the more we have, the better. But anti-chartists think that relentless data accumulation is misguided because it offers false certainty and misses the big picture interpretation. As the saying goes: “More fiction is written in Excel than Word.”

Mark Zuckerberg Interview in 2005: Whenever I want to learn about somebody successful, I find the oldest interviews of them that exist. People act and speak differently once they gain notoriety, so you have to go back in time to get the "real them." Most successful people start off as very quirky, and normalize over time. The canonical example is the difference between scrawny Jeff Bezos in the early days of Amazon and how ripped Bezos becomes by the time it becomes a trillion-dollar company. This interview is revealing too. Zuck is being interviewed on a couch in Palo Alto, holding a red solo cup next to a keg. One thing that stands out is how much demand there is when you find the right product. Two-thirds of the Harvard student body had signed up for Facebook within a couple of weeks of launch, and the same thing happened at Yale and Columbia. The market pulls you when you have true Product-Market-Fit. Zuck's roommate at the time was traveling around Europe, and when he walked to an Internet cafe in London, two of the other people there were browsing the site. The humility of Facebook also stands out. Zuckerberg saw it as a utility for college kids to keep up with their friends, and nothing more. Little did he realize that he'd later become one of the most powerful people on the planet.

My Life Pouring Concrete: One man’s haunting perspective on the construction industry, which he says is plagued by alcoholism and opioid addiction. This quote stuck out: “Most of the men I worked with had little formal education. Many had a criminal record. Men working in construction and extraction have the highest suicide rate of any industry, as well as the highest rate of opioid addiction and (predictably) overdoses. Alcoholism rates are second only to the mining industry.” A good, but difficult read.

— —

P.S. I hosted one of my favorite writers, Byrne Hobart in the studio this week for an interview for my soon-to-be-released podcast called How I Write. Think of it like Chef's Table, but for writers. Writers are usually interviewed about the contents of their book, but rarely about their actual creative process, which these conversations are all about.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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