🦶 other significant others.

on the agenda this week: chaos in washington, ants with stilts, and the magic of wooden pallets.

📖 reading time: 5m 01s.

hi, happy monday. how are you doing?

that was the first week of 2021… my day was just wrapping on wednesday when i saw the slack message of a u.s.-based colleague:

“some very not good things happening in DC right now.”

it’s sad that it took a day of insurrection and the deaths of 5 people for the (thin) veil of trumpist nationalism to finally tear.

stay safe and mask up. look after yourselves and thanks for reading.

tag me on instagram or follow me on twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain.

a special thank you to my paid subscribers: i really appreciate the support.

👂 earworm: listen to slowthai and a$ap rocky.

📚 word of the week:


a tendency to speak or write at great or tedious length.

first barack obama gave a very long opening answer; then when the consecutive interpreter started in, obama acted surprised, apologized for his prolixity, and said he would have broken the answer into shorter chunks if he had understood that the interpreter was going to wait until he was done.

- the atlantic, january 19, 2011

🧠 brain candy:

🇺🇸 for nearly two months, trump has alleged widespread voter fraud. his rhetoric came to a dangerous conclusion in washington last wednesday. this timeline shows how much worse the violence could have been on that day.

📹 bill gates on the monetisation of online content in *1996*.

🚗 claims of “sudden unintended acceleration” have followed tesla for years. the national highway traffic safety administration has now said that of the 246 complaints, user error was the cause of the problem in every case.

🐜 scientists attached stilts to the legs of ants to prove that they return to their nests by counting their steps. the ants on stilts walked right past the nest and got lost, proving that the change in legs' length, also changed the ants' count. an internal pedometer of sorts.

📦 have you ever thought at length about a wooden pallet? neither have i. the magic of these pallets is the magic of abstraction: “take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a ‘unit load’—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift.”

💰 have some pandemic fun plotting yourself against the spectrum of financial dependence and independence. also, go buy morgan’s book, it’s great.

🤪 mildly humorous:
💡 longer reads:

👨‍💻 no meetings, no deadlines.

i have a lot of respect for sahil lavingia. i think this article will be referenced for years to come. get a head start:

i started gumroad in 2011. in 2015, we reached a peak of 23 full-time employees. in 2016, after failing to raise more money, i ended up back where i began: a one-person company. today, when i’m asked how many people work at gumroad, i respond with “ten or so.” that’s how i convert the number of people we have into what others expect.

but the truth is more complicated:

if we include everyone who works on gumroad, it’s 25.
if we include full-time employees, it’s none. not even me.
we have no meetings, and no deadlines either.

and it’s working: our creators earn over $175 million a year, and we generate $11 million in annualized revenue, growing 85% year-over-year.

that said, i don’t expect anyone to copy our way of working wholesale. we got here on accident, not some grand plan. however, i do think there are pieces of our story and the way we work that could benefit other companies, their people, and–most importantly–their customers.
today, working at gumroad resembles working on an open source project like rails. except it’s neither open source, nor unpaid.

instead of having meetings, people “talk” to each other via github, notion, and (occasionally) slack, expecting responses within 24 hours. because there are no standups or “syncs” and some projects can involve expensive feedback loops to collaborate, working this way requires clear and thoughtful communication.
everyone writes well, and writes a lot.

there are no deadlines either. we ship incrementally, and launch things whenever the stuff in development is better than what’s currently in production. the occasional exception does exist, such as a tax deadline, but as a rule, i try not to tell anyone what to do or how fast to do it. when someone new joins the company, they do what everyone else does: go into our notion queue, pick a task, and get to work, asking for clarification when needed.

instead of setting quarterly goals or using okrs, we move towards a single north star: maximizing how much money creators earn. it’s simple and measurable, allowing anyone in the company to do the math on how much a feature or bug-fix might be worth.

👉 read more via sahil lavingia.

🦶 other significant others.

a cancer diagnosis in the midst of the pandemic. a very 2020 tale.

last june, instead of a rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, scott and i hosted a rooftop comedy roast for his soon-to-be-amputated right foot. one by one, our friends took turns walking up to the mic, wiping it down and removing their masks before making jokes about my fiancé’s doomed appendage.

“at least for the rest of your life,” said our friend tank, “everything you do will be considered ‘brave.’”

a few months earlier, as coronavirus cases started to rise and people began hoarding toilet paper, scott had ankle pain that wouldn’t go away. when physical therapy didn’t help, he got an m.r.i. inconclusive results led to a pet scan.

after his first visit with the orthopedic oncologist, scott stood in our newly outfitted home office in our small san francisco apartment and said, “she told me if it’s a bone tumor, i’ll need surgery.”

“we can handle that,” i said. “plenty of people have ankle surgery, right?”

“surgery,” he said, “means amputation.”

after multiple biopsies over many weeks (scott said he felt as if he were an ikea desk being drilled into), his doctor called to deliver the diagnosis. we pulled off the highway and put her on speakerphone. it was osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that afflicts some 800 americans a year. it appeared to have spread. the five-year survival rate for multifocal osteosarcoma is 30 percent.

👉 read more via the new york times.

🦶 footer:

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