Per My Last E-mail #27

Debaters, Carless Neighborhoods, Pseudosecrets, Friendship, Mr. Rogers, and Mayor Pete

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Monday! It’s Thanksgiving week, which means only three days of work, turkey, homecoming, family, and awkward political conversations.

It’s also the time of year to reflect on what we’re thankful for. I’m incredibly thankful to all of you for reading this. I’m thankful for a loving and supportive family, a great group of friends, and a smart, funny, and beautiful wife. I’m thankful for the six years I got to spend at Breather, and for the chance to leave to start something I’m even more excited about.

And this week, I’m most thankful for…

The Debaters

Last Wednesday, 16 smart, brave, and intellectually adventurous people came out to try their hand at debating. Fewer than half of the people in the room had ever debated before - and most of the half that had only debated for the first time at Debate Club #1. Despite the naturally competitive tournament environment, the group was open, supportive, and willing to help each other get better. As a testament to that, despite the fact that we finished past 11pm, everyone who lost in the earlier rounds stayed to judge and cheer on the finalists.

We have room for improvement on the tournament format, the rules, and the flow of the debates, but the one thing that was 100% perfect was the group of people in the room, and I’m incredibly grateful to them for coming out and making the night so much fun. I was blown away by their talent, and I want to jump in and debate with them next time.

Congratulations to our champions, Nick Brown and Shital Kalola, who beat Mike Madonna and Will Flaherty by arguing the pro side of the resolved, “Consenting adults should be allowed to compete in official, deadly arena-style tournaments, without having to fear any legal repercussions.” They essentially argued for the Hunger Games, and they won.

One of my highlights from the night came after the debates were over and I was talking to people. One debater told me that she had been to hundreds of meetups and networking events, and none gave her the ability to connect with people as well as Debate Club did, because everyone was there to try something new, to learn, and not explicitly to network.

A successful second debate is as good a reason as any to pony up $12 to Squarespace and give Debate Club a permanent home on the internet.


It’s named Junto after the Episcopal Academy debate club that introduced me to debating, which in turn is named after Ben Franklin’s Junto Club, a club for mutual improvement founded in Philadelphia in 1727. The Junto Club produced proposals for the first lending library, the University of Pennsylvania, the volunteer militia, the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the Union Fire Company. What I love about the Junto is that it combined intellectualism with practicality and action, providing its members with the mutual support needed to conceive of and tackle historically ambitious projects. a simple site with an overview of Debate Club, highlights from past debates, rules, and an easy place to sign up. We would love for you to join us - head to the site to learn how.



This week’s Product of the Week isn’t a product that you can buy yet. Or one that you can buy in the next year, unless you’re willing to relocate to Tempe, AZ. But this week’s P.O.T.W. is stunningly ambitious in its attempt reverse the harms of car-centric development - “air pollution, more fatalities than all wars combined, time wasted in traffic, environmental degradation, social isolationcost, etc.” They’re fighting capitalism with capitalism.

Culdesac is creating “the first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the U.S.” Working with a leading Arizona developer and the urban planner who created the concept of Missing Middle Housing, Culdesac will build homes for roughly 1,000 residents in a neighborhood featuring over 50% landscaping, public courtyards, and greenery, spaces for shared bikes, scooters, and hourly rentable car-sharing, bookable guest suites, and walkable restaurants, shopping, and grocery stores.

Everything about this project is exciting to me. It’s an early attempt to imagine what the future of real estate will look like in a world not dominated by cars. It’s a large-scale real estate project by a startup that intelligently partners with developers so that each party is able to do what it does best. And most compellingly, it is an attempt to create an old-school, IRL community by taking advantage of technological trends.

To learn more, you can check out this piece by Kim-Mai Cutler of Initialized Capital, one of Culdesac’s investors, and this one by Ryan Johnson and Jeff Berens, Culdesac’s co-founders.

Links & Listens

㊙️ Narratives and Pseudosecrets by Michael Dempsey

Dempsey argues that pseudosecrets, “non-obvious narratives about a next-order effect within your company, its path towards world domination, and the future you believe in,” are one of the three ways to shatter or dominantly set the narrative about your company, and that the narrative is a leading determinant of how successfully you are able to fundraise, hire, and win business.

What’s an example of a pseudosecret? It’s that thing that you can say about a company’s potential that makes you feel like a smart insider, something like, “You know, Spotify isn’t just about music. It’s about audio, and one day, about all streaming content. Podcasts were just the first step, but this thing could be really huge. A pseudosecret like that lets you: 1) raise money from investors attracted to a massive Total Addressable Market, 2) hire and retain talent by showing that there are still big opportunities for impactful work ahead, and 3) win business from customers and partners who don’t want to miss out on being part of the next huge thing.

Dempsey has shown up in PMLE before, with his excellent piece on animation eating the world. A deep history and future of animation plus an insightful post on how to use pseudosecrets to set narrative show an impressive depth and breadth of knowledge.

🎧👬 Why We’re So Lonely and How to Create Deeper, More Meaningful Friendships on the Broken Brain Podcast with Dhru Purohit and Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

My friend Suzie Welsh, the founder of Binto, sent me this podcast after reading last week’s e-mail, and I loved every second of it.

Purohit and Chatterjee are friends who are both interested in studying how to make friendships happen. They discuss the evolutionary drivers behind friendship, the health effects of loneliness, differences between make and female friendships, how to make friends when you’re already busy, and more over the course of two information-packed hours.

The part that stuck out the most to me was around minute 48. When discussing how to make new friends, the host, Dhru Purohit, said to “go where people grow.” People who are taking classes, doing CrossFit, and trying new things are likely to be more open to new experiences and friendships. It’s almost like Google’s intent-based marketing for friendships - by actively taking steps towards self-improvement, people are demonstrating an openness to new knowledge, experiences, and relationships.

🤑 Post-Capitalism for Realists by Yancey Strickler

In another example of fighting capitalism with capitalism, Strickler, the founder of Kickstarter, discusses the differences between Value and Values. He argues that we overindex on economic value and underindex on values because economic value is so much easier to measure, and that we should hone our measurements of other values in order to evolve capitalism. He cites Adele, who, “used an algorithm that measured the loyalty of her fans to distribute concert tickets… Adele balanced financial value by using a measurement that approximated another value — in this case loyalty.”

Strickley isn’t suggesting that we throw out financial value, but that we “expand our dashboards to include non-financial values — like CO2 emissions, a person’s wellbeing, and social connectedness” in order to fix some of the problems we still face despite strong economic growth.

🎧👨🏻‍💼 The Candidates: Pete Buttigieg on The Daily

This isn’t a politics newsletter, BUT… 1) it’s the #1 week of the year for people who don’t know what they’re talking about to confidently express their political viewpoints, and 2) this is definitely a newsletter that’s about impressive rhetorical performances. And putting politics aside, it’s hard to listen to Mayor Pete’s interview with The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro and not walk away impressed with his poise, his ability to handle difficult questions, and his honesty to a nation that may or may not accept him for who he is. I’ve listened twice already and will refer back to it before speaking in public in the future.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and The Mr. Rogers No One Saw by Jeanne-Marie Laskas

Fred Rogers, 1985.

On Saturday, Puja and I went to see Tom Hanks play Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s one of those movies that has you alternating between smiling and tearing up. Mr. Rogers seems almost impossibly kind, and despite attempts to call out the work he put into being good, it leaves you with a sense that Mr. Rogers was a benevolent deity sent down to spread goodness.

The New York Times’ profile by my mom’s best friend and all-around-great-person-herself Jeanne-Marie Laskas is a perfect complement to the movie, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the hard work and dedication that the movie alluded to.

Start the week off right by reading The Mr. Rogers No One Saw, and go see the movie ASAP. (Before you do, prepare yourself by reading Miles Surrey’s piece in The Ringer, How Much Will ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Make You Cry?)

What’s Next?

Right now, I’m working full time on building a IRL Members Community for the Intellectually Adventurous, combining my passions for education and community. Debate Club is a pilot for the type of programming I want to build, and there will be more debates and new clubs to play with. I’ll keep you all posted, and if you want to get involved or have ideas, let me know!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! 🦃

Thanks for reading,