Monday Musings (Steve Jobs, Paradoxes, Gifts, Consensus, Delegating)


Read in your browser here.

Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

Here’s what I want to share this week:

  1. Paradoxes of Modern Life: My mini-essay with some counter-intuitive ideas about our world.
  2. Counterfactual Theory of Value: Value accrues not to the people who work the hardest but to the ones who are indispensable.
  3. Podcast with Alex Lieberman: The founder & Chairman of Morning Brew asked me to talk about the three pillars of my writing philosophy: (1) write from abundance, (2) write from conversation, and (3) write in public. Listen to the podcast here.
  4. Interview with Sahil Lavingia: My interview with the founder & CEO of Gumroad about how he wrote his recent book and built such a loyal online audience.

Coolest Things I Learned This Week

Tinker with Ideas

The smartest kid in my middle school class used to take computers apart and put them back together again in order to understand how they work.
That’s what writing is too.

Whenever you write, you're tinkering with ideas and playing with all their component parts.

Also, I wrote about the implications of thinking like this in How Philosophers Think.

— —

The Steve Jobs Effect

Before Apple, people were expected to read a manual to figure out how things work.

But increasingly, people expect design to be so intuitive that you don’t even need a manual.

— —

How to Give Gifts

Now that the holiday season is here, many of us are thinking about gifts. I’ve been lucky to be the recipient of many heartwarming gifts, which has shaped how I give them:

  1. Though you often have to spend money to give a good gift, the best gifts have more to do with thoughtfulness than money.
  2. If money is the driving factor in your thought process, you’re almost always limiting the upside of how good your gift can be. In this way, gifts are like Halloween costumes. The best ones make people smile not because they’re so expensive, but because they’re so creative.
  3. When giving gifts, ask yourself: “What can I uniquely give this person that they’d never have otherwise?"

Also, surprise gifts are very under-rated. Giving people I love random gifts throughout the year is one of the things that makes me happiest.

— —

The Paradox of Consensus

Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was found guilty by all the judges, the suspect was deemed innocent. Legislators observed that unanimous agreements increased the chance of a systemic error in the judicial process, even if nobody could explain the error.

Empirical evidence supports the wisdom of Jewish law. In one study, researchers gathered witnesses and organized a modern-day police line-up. Witnesses tried to identify a suspect out of a group of several people. As the group approached unanimous consensus, the chance of them being correct were no better than a random guess.

For a while, the idea didn’t make sense to me.

The Paradox of Consensus clicked once I thought about coin flips. If you flip a coin 100 times and it lands on heads 65 times, it’s safe to assume the coin is rigged. If it lands on heads 90 times, you know it is. Likewise, if next year’s presidential election ends with unanimous consent, we should assume the vote was rigged.

The world is messy. Disagreement is often proof of rigor. We should be skeptical about data and our conclusions when they’re too clean.

— —

Delegating a Task

If you ever need to delegate a task, do this:

  1. Outline the vision.
  2. Share resources.
  3. Describe your definition of done.

The system is called 360 Delegation, which you can learn more about here. On this same theme, I recently recorded a video about how to hire and train a personal assistant.

Photo of the Week

I had the pleasure of meeting Lex Fridman, one of my favorite podcasters last week.

With personalities like Joe Rogan and Tim Ferriss, it feels like Austin is becoming the podcast capital of the world.

I have two theories why: First, Austin's culture celebrates the kind of free speech and intellectual freedom that modern podcasting rewards. Second, low taxes make Texas is an attractive state for remote workers. People who predominantly earn a living with equity tend to live on the coasts, while people who earn a living in cash tend to live in lower tax states in the middle of the country.

At some point, I plan to write a piece on why Austin is such a boomtown for creators.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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