Life-Changing Ideas from David Perell
Writing is the world’s best networking activity: Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity.
Best of 2019
Find your tribe: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, back when I was 23 and newly out of school, is this: look around and figure out who you want to be on your team. Figure out the people around you that you want to work with for the rest of your life. Figure out the people who are smart & awesome, who share your values, who get things done — and maybe most important, who you like to be with and who you want to help win. And treat them right, always. Look for ways to help, to work together, to learn. Because in 20 years you’ll all be in amazing places doing amazing things.
Writing is the world’s best networking activity: Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity – stay home, don’t go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down.
Building your network, your audience, and your ideas will be something you’ll want to do over your entire career. Think of your writing like a multi-decade project.
What Kobe Bryant Reads: “I made a point of reading the referee’s handbook. One of the rules I gleaned from it was that each referee has a designated slot where he is supposed to be on the floor. If the ball, for instance, is in place W, referees X, Y, and Z each have an area on the court assigned to them.
When they do that, it creates dead zones, areas on the floor where they can’t see certain things. I learned where those zones were, and I took advantage of them. I would get away with holds, travels, and all sorts of minor violations simply because I took the time to understand the officials’ limitations.”
“Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.” — Andy Benoit
From Tyler Cowen: “At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous. This is in fact one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and with your life.”
Self-Driving Cars: “Some scientists believe that driverless cars will not work unless they learn to be irrational. If such cars stop reliably whenever a pedestrian appears in front of them, pedestrian crossings will be unnecessary and jaywalkers will be able to marching to the road, forcing a driverless car to stop suddenly, a great discomfort to its occupants. To prevent this, driverless cars may have to learn to be angry, and you occasionally maliciously fail to stop in time and strike the pedestrian on the shins. If you are wholly predictable, people learn to hack you.”
Douglas Adams on technology:
- Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
- Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
- Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Best of 2020
If you want to improve your writing, match your punctuation to the mood.
If the scene is tense, keep your sentences short. Be quick. Maintain pacing. And, if you want to slow the pace, add commas and other kinds of punctuation that ask the reader to stop, pause, slow down… and reflect.
Nassim Taleb on success: “For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.”
The best conversations end in one of four ways:
1) Words: You explore so many new ideas that you no longer have the language to say what you want to say.
2) Metaphysics: You debate your values and base-level assumptions because they determine your conclusions.
3) Humor: Your cheeks are sore, your eyes are watering, and your stomach hurts from laughing so hard.
4) Creativity: You leave the conversation excited about a new idea and inspired to start working on it.
Planck’s Principle: This idea is named after Max Planck. It states that scientific change doesn’t happen because people change their mind. Instead, the consensus shifts because old scientists pass away and young ones have different views.
As Planck wrote: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. . . An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.”
One of my favorite questions to ask these days is, “Who is today’s Cassandra figure?” It refers to somebody who is right about the future but has answers we don’t want to hear. The idea comes from Greek Mythology, where nobody believes (or likes) Cassandra even though she can see the future. Apollo grants her the gift of prophecy but turns it into a curse when she does not return his love.
Marathon Finishing Times: Finishing times spike around notable goals, such as 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00. Humans are driven by goals, so we kick up our effort when the next one is in sight.
The Chinese term 報復性熬夜 translates to “revenge to stay up late,” where people who can’t control their daytime life delay their sleep to relish their night time freedom before bed.
Law Salaries: Starting salaries of law school graduates follow a bi-model distribution, where many people have a starting salary of $40,000 – $60,000 per year. On the other hand, there’s a large group of people who make ~$160,000.
Picasso was once sitting in a park. A woman saw him and asked if he could draw her a portrait. Picasso agreed, finished it, handed it to her, and said: “That’ll be $5,000.” The woman was confused: “But it only took you 5 minutes.”Picasso said: “No, it took me my whole life.”
Small talk builds relationships because it says “I care more about you than being productive.”
When choosing a living space, pick the room where the light shines from two sides. I first learned this idea from Christopher Alexander in The Timeless Way of Building, which is one of my all-time favorite books. Light that comes from multiple directions feels more natural, which gives a space life. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, at least one of those windows should face South so you can maximize sunlight. Alexander writes: “This pattern, perhaps more than any other single pattern, determines the success or failure of a room. The arrangement of daylight in a room, and the presence of windows on two sides, is fundamental. If you build a room with light on one side only, you can be almost certain that you are wasting your money. People will stay out of that room if they can possibly avoid it.”If you don’t have windows from two sides, you can replicate the effect by hanging a mirror on the wall opposite of where the sun shines.