Monday Musings (Secrets, Thiel, Abundance, Passion, School)


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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

These final few weeks of the year are lovely. As the world slows down, I turn my attention to writing my Annual Review and reading deeply.

Here’s what I want to share this week:

  1. How Peter Thiel Finds Secrets: I had dinner with Peter Thiel a few weeks ago, and while the topics of conversation will remain private, I left thinking about his obsession with secrets. In this article, I provide a framework for discovering those secrets and explain why you should beware of consensus.
  2. The Paradox of Abundance: Two things are true. First, it’s never been easier to access high-quality information. Second, we’ve never been so inundated with informational junk. In this video, I explain how you can use the Internet to think better instead of drowning under the weight of intellectual junk food.

Coolest Things I Learned This Week

Writing While Walking

Whenever I'm ready to write a new article, I open my phone and spend a few hours walking around town while capturing random ideas in my notes app until I have so many ideas that the first draft feels easy.

— —

High-Fragmentation Writing

The investor Brent Beshore says that great business opportunities are found in highly fragmented industries, where there are many companies in the space but no dominant player. As a result, these industries are often opaque to outsiders and customers often have to interact with many vendors.

Likewise, I like writing about highly fragmented topics where, even though there’s tons of information out there, it isn’t available in a central location. Peter Thiel’s Religion provides an example. When I wrote the essay, it was hard to find some of Thiel’s essays. Ideas about his Mimetic Theory, his investing framework, and his Christian worldview were scattered across the Internet. To date, it’s the most popular piece I’ve ever written. Perhaps, the essay was successful not because of the new ideas but because I centralized such fragmented ideas.

As a writer, the right high-fragmentation idea is a slam dunk. Perhaps you’re already reading the relevant subreddits, YouTube comments, and obscure articles — and collecting notes as you do. Once you reach a critical mass of ideas, aggregate them into a single article and share it.

— —

Natural Talent

Some people are just built differently: Patrick Collison got into MIT with a standardized test score he achieved when he was 13 and finished his last two years of high school in 20 days .

Source: 52 Snippets from 2021.

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The Trouble with School

One of the biggest problems with school is it teaches kids to assume that fun things are trivial and important things are boring.

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Prudence vs. Passion

Every human and every civilization walks the line between prudence and passion.

If you’re reading Monday Musings, you inevitably understand the benefits of prudence. Prudent people are willing to sacrifice the present for the future, no matter how distant those future pleasures may seem. The virtue of prudence kicked into high gear with the invention of agriculture, which asked people to toil in the spring so they could eat in the winter. Animals show prudence in the way squirrels bury nuts.

But prudence comes at the cost of passion. As Bertrand Russell writes in A History of Western Philosophy, passionate people are driven by compulsion. The demands of rationality are a constraining burden on their animalistic instincts. The Greeks celebrated the passionate spirit through Dionysus, the god of wine, insanity, and religious ecstasy. We feel most alive in moments of emotional intensity where our imagination is freed from the cage of prudent constraint. As they do, our heart awakens and the imagination runs wild.

For the practical implications of this idea, check out my short article: Beer Mode vs. Coffee Mode.

— —

The Etymology of Enthusiasm

One of the main lessons I deliver in Write of Passage is that writers should follow their curiosity, even when it doesn’t feel productive. Aligned with the wonders of passion, I say: “If you’re enthusiastic about the topic, write about it.”

Perhaps, the etymology of “enthusiasm” can explain why. Originally, when somebody was enthusiastic, it implies that they’d been possessed by a divine spirit and rapt with an ecstasy so invigorating that God that taken reign over their life.

If so, you must follow your enthusiasm as a writer.

Photo of the Week

In the fall, I decided to commit to Austin for the long-term. I'm planting roots and starting to invest in my relationships here and a production studio in town too.

The decision to commit got me thinking about the virtues of commitment. In a world with so many options, why should we commit to anything? Shouldn’t we live it up and nomad our way through life?

Naturally, I answered these questions in a new essay called Hugging the X-Axis.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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