The Weekend Miscellaneous #9 (1979 Movies, Maples/Rabois, Home Haircuts, Naval/Balaji, Andrea Bocelli)

Several weeks ago, I wrote about The Remote Workplace Problem. I was not thinking at that time that most of the world would be working remotely by Easter. Now that most are, many of the biggest struggles that remote workers identify have become apparent to a lot of people all at once. The four struggles most commonly identified as the single biggest are unplugging after work (21%), loneliness (19%), collaboration and/or communication (17%), and distractions at home (10%). I personally would select unplugging after work as my own biggest struggle with working from home. Even though I do not have a full-time job working for an employer, I am frequently working, and I sometimes have a difficult time turning off my driving desire to be productive. That desire, like all others, results in struggle as long as it is kept on but unsatisfied. For whatever reason, I had a particularly difficult time unplugging this weekend. I spent some time trapped in a state of wanting to do something worthwhile but instead doing a lot of the worst kinds of nothing, like distracting myself with my phone, boredom snacking, and thinking about what to do. For me, the best way past this described state is to take some pressure off of myself, to give myself permission to waste time, and more than anything, to simply wait it out. I am very fortunate that I have many more good times than bad ones and many more good days than bad ones but no one is immune to the latter of either, and without the bad, there would be no good anyway. Realistically, I had a fine time this weekend and a pretty great day Saturday, but hours of the day on Sunday were spent in the way that I describe, frustrated by a feeling of inability to unplug the wire in my brain which drives my sometimes relentless desire to always be doing things that are worthwhile. I will likely write more about struggling by desire and wasting time trying not to waste time another time. Maybe soon.

Without any further ado or anything extemporaneous, here is the weekend review which I call The Weekend Miscellaneous.

1979 Movies – I watched two movies from the year 1979 over the weekend. The first was The Black Stallion and the second was Manhattan. The first was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and the second was written and directed by Woody Allen. The first got a 7.3 on IMDb and the second got a 7.9. Both received full 4 star ratings from Roger Ebert’s reviews. The first had no actors I knew and the second had Woody Allen, Meryl Streep, and Diane Keaton. The first made me long for the beach in summer times and the second made me long for New York in normal times. The first had very little talking and the second had very much. Both were good movies in my book, but I preferred the first.

Maples/Rabois – during my Saturday morning run, I listened for the first time to Mike Maples, Jr.’s Starting Greatness podcast. I listened to the hour-long episode with Keith Rabois, former Paypal, LinkedIn, and Square executive who is now a general partner at Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Keith is a well-known contrarian in the valley and I tend to gravitate towards people who by definition tend to see things differently than most. This was the first time I had heard him speak and I enjoyed the episode as expected. In particular, I liked hearing Keith’s perspective on the different styles he witnessed from Peter Thiel at PayPal versus Jack Dorsey at Square. Considering that both companies aimed to innovate on the ways in which people make payments, and considering that both have been generally successful, one might reasonably assume that their leaders took similar or at least overlapping approaches to running their businesses, but Keith reveals that, in fact, this was not the case. Peter created a culture focused on math and speed and believed that his job was to make 3 or 4 really big decisions per year based around hiring, firing, or critical strategies. Jack created a culture focused on design and customer experience, going so far as to ban A/B testing, in which customers would be served two varying experiences to determine which worked better, because he did not want any customer to be served a worse experience than his company was capable of providing. Unlike Peter, Jack spent a lot of time in the weeds and concerned himself with much smaller decisions than Peter did. Clearly, both styles seem to have worked very well for their respective companies which were as similar as their leaders were different. In today’s environment where many people are in agreement on the single best ways to go about doing certain things, it was refreshing to hear a perspective which supports the idea that there is “more than one way to skin a cat”, or in more modernly literal terms, “more than one way to scale a payments company.”

Home Haircuts – a couple of weeks ago, my brother gave me a simple buzzcut with a 3 setting. My father helped by using a leafblower to air the hair off of my face, which was surprisingly as enjoyable as it was effective. This weekend, I turned the buzzer back on my brother as he had been pursuing the ill-advised strategy of giving a haircut to himself but asked for my help on evening out the sides and blending them into the top. I learned that the blend of a fade is all about the wrist. The curling of the clippers away from the head as the buzzer moves up allows for a progressively shorter to longer cut, and therein lies the blend. I am not proclaiming to have a future as a barber, but if nothing else, I will come out of this quarantine more confident in my ability to give a decent haircut.

Naval/Balaji – for my Sunday run, I listened to an episode of the Venture Stories podcast with two guys who are well known enough with unusual enough names to be known by their first names only, Naval and Balaji. They are two of my few favorite follows on Twitter. The podcast episode was from November 2018 and focused on the future of crypto, so if you are interested in crypto, it is probably worth a listen, but if you are not, it is probably not. Part of my greatest conviction in Bitcoin and crypto more generally is founded on the fact that many of the people whose beliefs and predictions I have come to trust the most believe and predict that Bitcoin and crypto more generally is going to be a tremendously valuable part of the future. The fact that both Naval and Balaji are focusing much of their time and energy on this technology is a great example of that.

Andrea Bocelli – my mother and I watched the famed Italian opera singer’s Music For Hope performance on Easter Day. It was performed from an empty Duomo in Milan and to watch it was a somewhat awesome experience. His rendition of Amazing Grace from atop the doorsteps outside of the church was my favorite part and it concluded his performance like the grand finale of a fireworks show on the 4th. I imagine this final song of his performance might be looked back upon for a long time to come as one of the most poignant and yet hopeful symbols of this time. I will close this post with a link to it for those who might like to go watch it for the first time, or like I just did, for a second.