Weekend Briefing No. 439
Weekend Briefing - A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
Question for the community: I’m building out our team and am looking to get a solid process in place for onboarding that includes logistics, culture, and expectation for the role. Are there any resources that you think I should read? If so, shoot me an email. Thanks in advance.
50 million—In 2020, for the first time ever, the government used over 50 million gallons of fire retardant to fight wild fires.
$2.2 million—What does it take to be wealthy in America? A net worth of $2.2 million is considered wealthy in America. A net worth of $4.4 million will put you into the top 1% in the U.S.
53.5%—According to LinkedIn data, remote job listings accounted for only 18.4% of paid job postings in May but nevertheless attracted 53.5% of the total applications, a solid sign that the demand for remote and hybrid work is significantly outstripping central office-bound work.
What, above all else, drives leaders to direct or redirect their lives, to tackle seemingly intractable problems, and to stay true to their values in the face of enormous challenges? The answer is moral courage. Moral courage is the commitment to act upon one’s values regardless of the difficulty or personal cost. It inspires the conviction to take action with the clarity to remain constant in goals but flexible in method. Moral courage is a mindset that centers the internal conditions needed to make the courageous choice visible and to instill the confidence that it’s possible. Equally, moral courage is the determination and resilience required to try and fail as you attempt to address some of society’s biggest inequities—to stumble and get back up again. It is to persist when everything is falling apart around you, to endure the trials of the arena not just for months or years but, often, for a lifetime. How do we cultivate moral courage? (1) Practice self-awareness. (2) Examine, sharpen and clarify core values in dialogue with others. (3) Create systems of trust and nourishment. Stanford Social Innovation Review (9 minutes)
4-Day Work Week
With the pandemic and the "Great Resignation" making it harder for companies to attract and retain talent, a growing number of white-collar employers like Healthwise are exploring new avenues to make work life more appealing. One of them—the four-day workweek—considers if workers really need to be working 40 hours a week. But how realistic is it? Some companies report higher revenues, higher productivity and higher employee satisfaction. However, success seems to be limited to knowledge workers, and it’s dependent upon leadership enforcing employees to unplug. NPR (10 minutes)
Buffet’s Bear Market Rule
To put it simply, today’s turbulent market has a lot of people feeling fearful. Amid an economic backdrop of runaway inflation and rising interest rates, volatility is running rampant. So what advice does the world’s most famous investor have for such times? Buffet reminds us: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” In other words, now is the time for action, not fear. That's why the smart money is taking an opportunity to diversify into real assets that are poised to benefit from today’s environment. One such asset is fine art. In the last stagflationary period from 1973 to 1981, it saw average annual price appreciation of more than 33.2%, outpacing gold and the S&P's sluggish 2.4% growth. Now, the art investment platform Masterworks is making this inflation and volatility hedging asset class available to ordinary investors. To find out more, just click the link. Masterworks. (Sponsored)
Shrinking Middle Class
Nationally, only half of American families living in metropolitan areas can say that their neighborhood income level is within 25% of the regional median. A generation ago, 62% of families lived in these middle-income neighborhoods. In Nashville, the share of families living in middle-class neighborhoods dropped by 15 percentage points between 1990 and 2020. But the portion of families in wealthy ones jumped by 11 points, and the segment living in poor neighborhoods grew by four points. In some ways, the pattern reflects how wealthy Americans are choosing to live near other wealthy people, and how poorer Americans are struggling to get by. But the pattern also indicates a broader trend of income inequality in the economy, as the population of families making more than $100K has grown much faster than other groups, even after adjusting for inflation, and the number of families earning less than $40K has increased at twice the rate of families in the middle. New York Times (12 minutes)
African Fintech Investment
Fintech’s astounding growth has been a global phenomenon with fintech funding reaching a record high last year of $132 billion in 2021 (more than double the previous year of $49 billion). But in Africa, the massive funding increase is even more profound—startups raised more in 2021 alone than the preceding seven years combined, reaching a record $5.2 billion ($1.1 billion in 2020). Of this, fintech made up over 60% of capital invested—three times the global average. Crypto became a major factor in fintech funding. $127 million was raised in 2021; $91 million just last quarter—it’s still a nascent space in Africa—but it’s growing fast and there’s potential. Learn more about this sector in this analysis by Scott Onder. Mercy Corp Ventures (8 minutes)
Not all situations require a response. Sometimes, the best strategy is to choose not to play. When it’s, “Heads I lose, and tails I lose,” the smart choice is to avoid the coin toss. Of course there are times that taking an unpopular stance is necessary to advance your core principles. However, any episode that is likely to unnecessarily suck you into controversy is a hazard worth avoiding. Here’s a short list to consider: (1) Confronting strangers over inappropriate behavior. (2) Being pressured to make a decision when there is little reason to. (3) Answering a question that is designed to embarrass or catch you off-guard. (4) Taking sides in a conflict between friends or colleagues. (5) Staking out positions on controversial issues or topics steeped in political ideology. (6) Responding to a request for an opinion when a decision has already been made. (7) Being asked for an answer or a favor from someone we don’t know. (8) Engaging when tempers flare and emotions run high over an issue. Admired Leadership Field Notes (5 minutes)
Bill Gates was right. He said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.” The law of compounding returns can work in your favor if you learn to play the long game. It works for building wealth and learning new skills. Imagine your best self in the next 10 years, and think about what you will be doing—daily routines, work habits, skills that will be valuable to you. Think of every action, habit or skill as an investment. Which of your habits will still be beneficial in 10 years? With that knowledge, create that life today and watch it compound. You don’t have to take a huge step; focus on small actions you can sustain. A meaningful life today and tomorrow starts with intentional actions. Will your future self be proud of your daily rituals and habits today? Mind Café (6 minutes)
How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smi. An essential analysis of the modern science and technology that makes our 21st century lives possible—a scientist's investigation into what science really does, and does not, accomplish. We have never had so much information at our fingertips, and yet most of us don’t know how the world really works. This book explains seven of the most fundamental realities governing our survival and prosperity. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalization, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check. Before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts. Ultimately, Smil answers the most profound question of our age: are we irrevocably doomed or is a brighter utopia ahead? Compelling, data-rich and revisionist, this wonderfully broad, interdisciplinary guide finds faults with both extremes. Looking at the world through this quantitative lens reveals hidden truths that change the way we see our past, present and uncertain future. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
35 under 35—This is MIT Technology Review’s list of 35 innovators under 35.
Scale, Speed, Freedom—When building a company, all founders need to clearly prioritize the following three values: (1) Scale, (2) Speed and (3) Freedom.
Cement from Algae—A team of researchers claims that we can put a full stop to this cement-driven carbon emission overnight by replacing traditional cement with their new microalgae-based biogenic.
Funding Fridays is a briefing about the data and trends in startup funding. I send it out on the first Friday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.
Web3 Impact is a briefing I co-write with Banks Benitez about how Web3 is making the world a better place. We send it out on the third Thursday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Web3 Impact.
Should We Work Together?
This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed, monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.
Small, daily elevations compound into massive results over time. – Robin S. Sharma