Per My Last E-mail #36

Magic, Conjuring Scenius, Not Boring, Kobe, Social Capital, Podcast Groups, Bookstores, and Data Day

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Tuesday!

After a weekend in Disney World, I have magic on my mind.

Puja and I spent the weekend down there for our friends Mike and Jaimie’s incredibly magical wedding. Yesterday, we went to Harry Potter World, where scenery, technology, and story combine to bring the books’ magic to life. And now I’m on the hunt for another kind of magic.

Conjuring Scenius

For my Write of Passage Fellowship essay, I’m searching for the recipe for scenius, the communal genius behind history’s greatest ideas.

I’m setting out to answer two main questions:

  • What causes people to come together in certain times and places to produce world-changing ideas, inventions, and culture?

  • Can we find and apply a recipe that would create hundreds or thousands of modern sceniuses today?

Everyone in the fellowship released our first drafts yesterday. Mine, Conjuring Scenius, is an overview of the topic with historical examples and a call to action to likeminded people to discover and apply the recipe together.

From what I can tell, the recipe contains a list of ingredients and a dash of magic.

Check it out, and if you have favorite examples of scenius or are part of a community that feels like a blooming scenius, please share them with me.

Not Boring

Not Boring is our attempt to create that kind of communal magic, and we’re on our way. We’ve received over 100 applications from some truly impressive, curious, and multi-faceted people and have some exciting early events up our sleeves. I can’t wait to get started. We’ll be sending out the first wave of acceptances in early February - apply now to be among the founding members.

Apply to Join Not Boring

Links & Listens

Remembering Kobe Bryant | Alex Hardy

It’s hard to write this week without mentioning Kobe Bryant. Sunday’s news was tragic and surreal, and hit in a way I haven’t experienced since learning about Princess Diana’s death on an early summer morning in 1997.

This one was different, though, more personal. Kobe played high school basketball at Lower Merion High School, ten minutes from where I grew up. Back when I adorably thought that I would play basketball in high school, then college, then … maybe the NBA, I idolized Kobe. Before yelling “KOBE!” was a thing, I pretended to be him in my driveway my grandpa counted my made jump shots. I tried to make my parents move our family from Radnor Township to Lower Merion so that I could play where Kobe played. When he announced his decision to go straight from high school to the NBA, I bought the Oakleys he wore to his press conference. I even grew out a mini fro in the late 90s after Kobe did it.

And when Kobe took Brandy to prom? Forget it. Every kid living outside of Philadelphia at the time grew hope that they might take a star to prom one day, too.

Kobe has been building the legacy he left behind on Sunday since before he could even vote. My friend Alex Hardy, who went to Lower Merion, captures the pride that Kobe has been giving Philly kids for 25 years as well as anything I’ve read in the wake of Sunday’s crash.

To watch: the 2009 Spike Lee documentary, Kobe Doin’ Work, a fitting tribute that captures Kobe’s legendary competitiveness and drive.

💰 Social Capital in Silicon Valley | Alex Danco

There’s a concept called evaporative cooling which refers to the idea that as communities grow, their quality declines. New people bring down the average, then the best people leave, then new people keep joining and bringing down the average, until the group is no longer what it was, no longer cool. In this piece, Danco puts forward a novel take on fighting evaporative cooling:

Social capital is antifragile: it thrives under conditions of disorder, and it suffers at rest. If it’s growing happily and chaotically, a group can continually accommodate new members without diluting the social capital of the group, so long as opacity is maintained. More disorder – in the form of rotating credentials, status illegibility, and a continual influx of new people – makes for more social capital, more collective confidence, and more communal benefits for those who share it. 

📚 Lessons for Booksellers from the Rebirth of Indie Bookstores | Michael Blanding | HBR

Indie bookstores are thriving in spite of Amazon. How? According to Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli, who has become an expert by visiting bookstores in over 26 states since 2012, there are three reasons: Community, Curation, and Convening.

🎳 Podcast Groups Aren’t Just About Podcasts | Taylor Lorenz | NYT

Communities are forming around podcasts, and taking on a life of their own beyond the content of the shows. The podcasts provide a shared interest and an early icebreaker, and then the groups evolve to discuss everything from outfits to dating advice to parenting.

🏡 Underutilized Fixed Assets | Kevin Kwok

Many of the most successful marketplaces began by allowing consumers to take advantage of underutilized fixed assets to make free money. You pay for your house already, why not rent the spare room on Airbnb to generate extra cash? Over time, though, as the profit opportunity becomes apparent, marketplaces become more professionalized and new participants bring new supply online specifically to serve the marketplace.

🎩🎧 Making Humanity Appear, Magically | DeRay McKesson | Meditative Story

My mom is scarily good at discovering podcasts. First, she sent me The Happiness Lab. This week, she sent me Meditative Story. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of podcasts in the past few years, and not until I listened to Meditative Story did I realize how similar their formats all are. This one, on the other hand, mixes first-person storytelling with high production value and culminates in a short meditation based on the episode’s theme. It’s a really nice break in the middle of the day, and McKesson’s story about building community gave me chills.

What’s Next?

Next Saturday is the DataDay Workshop with Data Culture. Get your tickets now before they sell out.

There’s really no such thing as not being technical enough to get into the field of data or become a data driven leader at work. This exclusive 1-Day Workshop will transform you into a data-driven thinker regardless of your current role or background. Small group programming, unique networking, and career mentorship opportunity. Anyone looking to advance their career, add data skills to their resume, or interview for a data-related role should sign up now - there are only a few spots left, and Per My Last E-Mail readers can grab tickets for $100 with the code DATA100.

Buy Your Ticket Here

We’ll also be hosting Debate Club #3, our biggest and best yet, on February 5th.

Thanks for reading,


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