Per My Last E-mail #38

Not Boring Has a Website, Debate Club #3, 100 True Fans, WoP, Debt, Minding Design, Stories of Your Life

Hi Friends 👋,

One of the most fun parts of writing this newsletter is getting to learn and embarrass myself in public.

Last week, for example, I made fun of 2012 Packy for making a website with buttons like this:

whereas 2020 Packy, after six years at a startup, with modern tools like Webflow and Figma at his disposal, makes buttons like this:

What I didn’t realize until Puja pointed it out is: they’re almost exactly the same. 🤦🏻‍♂️

I’ll probably never be a great designer, but luckily, over the past eight years, I’ve made some really talented friends. I asked one of them, Allegra, to look at a couple of color schemes I was playing with, and she came back with an incredible design concept —colors, fonts, site layout, and more — that she put together over her 30 minute lunch break. 🤯It’s better than anything I could have come up with if I spent every breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next year on it. THANK YOU ALLEGRA!

So I took Allegra’s design and went back to Webflow to turn them into the Not Boring website. It’s definitely not perfect (because I’m still a Webflow novice), the mobile version is particularly hairy, and it’s still a work-in-progress, but I’m happy with the way it’s shaping up. Moving Not Boring out of packym.com and into its very own home feels like dropping my baby off at boarding school (or something, I’m not a parent, I don’t know how this works).

Learning in public is half the fun of this whole thing, both to show how unglamorous so much of this process is and to get feedback and input from people who are smarter and more talented than me. To that end, I’d love your thoughts, feedback, and tips.

And today is an exciting one: we’re starting to welcome our first members into the club! So head to the brand spanking new Not Boring website, to check it out and apply to be one of the world’s first Not Boring Members.


Debate Club #3

Debate Club #3 is in the books, and they just keep getting better and better. Last Wednesday, nearly 30 people gathered in NoHo to debate topics ranging from “Superman would beat Batman in a fight to the death” to “Enlightened Despotism is superior to Democracy.” For all of the topics and pictures, head over to the Junto website. Big congrats to our champions: Nick Gidwani, David Lobo, and Tucker Brown!

As Debate Club gets bigger, we’re hitting that fascinating stage where I don’t know everyone who shows up, and where most of the debaters don’t know each other. That’s the make-or-break point - did Debate Club work because it was a good excuse for existing friends to get together or will it get even better as we introduce new people?

It made me so happy to discover that the answer was the latter. The debates themselves were great - the skill level of the debaters goes up every time - but the thing I heard most from people was how much they enjoyed getting to meet the other people in the room and how impressed they were with the quality and openness of the group.

My guess is that it just takes a certain type of person to dedicate four hours on a Wednesday night to debate with a bunch of strangers. Debate Club #3 made me even more excited for whats going to happen when we’re able to get a club full of that type of person together, repeatedly, in Not Boring.

Debate Club #4 will be in March. If you want to get involved, sign up here and make sure to check out our new and improved rules page, featuring a video of former champion Nick Brown sharing tips and tricks for debating and judging.


Links & Listens

👏 1,000 True Fans? Try 100 | Li Jin | a16z

Li Jin is carving out a niche as the go-to thinker on the Passion Economy (a term she coined) - the trend towards creators monetizing their ability to share and teach others about the topics they’re most passionate about.

In this piece, Jin provides an update to Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans theory, arguing that by going niche and providing tangible value, creators can make upwards of $100,000 per year by generating $1,000 from each of 100 True Fans. Importantly, she sees consumers shifting spend away from businesses, school, and institutions and towards individual creators.

The four keys for building up 100 True Fans:

  1. Premium content and community with no close substitutes

  2. Delivering tangible value and results

  3. Accountability

  4. Access, Recognition, and Status

The big takeaway for me is that it’s more possible than ever to make a living by finding the thing that you’re uniquely passionate about and carving out your niche.

🤝Making Friends on the Internet | Will Mannon | Write of Passage

David Perell’s Write of Passage embodies the 100 True Fans theory (although the number of current and former students is rapidly approaching 1,000). This week, WoP’s Course Manager, Will Mannon, wrote about the steps they’re taking to intentionally build community and camaraderie as the cohorts grow.

Their current answer is one that I believe in fully: building smaller, private communities within the larger community, which they’ll do by introducing 10 person feedback groups for Cohort 4.

As Mannon wrote, “Building real camaraderie online is challenging.  Everyone knows how to bond with someone in person…The same norms don’t exist for online courses.” I’m all for experiments to create these norms.

💵Debt is Coming | Alex Danco

I realize that I’ve probably included too high a percentage of Alex Danco’s essays in Per My Last E-mail, but he keeps writing really well about topics I care about.

His latest, Debt is Coming, addresses something I’ve thought a lot about in a slightly different context. His argument is that SaaS businesses’ recurring revenue looks like the type of predictable cashflow that should be financed by debt instead of equity, and that later stage startups should construct a mixed capital stack instead of relying solely on equity financing.

I agree with him on that point, but in some verticals, his argument should extend to early stage companies as well. DTC and real estate startups are two that come to mind, both industries with understood business models and relatively stable marginal costs in which slow and steady usually wins the race.

📧 Minding Design | Anja Jamrozik

The newsletter world is dog-eat-dog, so it’s not often I recommend the competition. In 37 e-mails, I’ve only recommended five: The Profile, Divinations, Rethinking RE, and Stratechery. I got mouths to feed, and I need to fight for that precious inbox space.

But I feel as if I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about Minding Design, the new newsletter from my former colleague and forever one of the smartest people I know, Anja Jamrozik.

Getting to work with Anja was like getting paid to learn - she’s able to read actual research papers (the whole thing, not just the abstract), translate them into lessons that normal humans can understand, and then apply their findings to make things happen in both the physical and digital worlds. While I don’t think Anja’s willing to pay you to read her newsletter, getting to read it every couple of weeks for free is the next best thing.

I’ll leave you with a little snippet from Anja’s post on biophilia to whet your appetite:

What we need to test the effects of green space is a good old-fashioned RCT (randomized control trial) or A/B test (gotcha, they’re the same thing! But of course there’s a different term for it in the tech industry) in which students are randomly assigned to a green space condition….

So, what can I do with this?

Are you trying to learn something new and difficult? Get yourself to a calm spot with a view of nature, take a weekend learning getaway to the country, or, at the very least, get yourself a desk plant.

Subscribe here and get smarter.

3️⃣ Three Things to Know in Your 30’s | Jeff Richards

Because I’m in my 30’s, a lot of Per My Last E-mail subscribers are also in their 30’s. This thread is a crystal ball for the things we’ll wish we had known now when we look back in a decade.

A few favorites (in quotes) and common themes (not in quotes).

  • “Evolution never ends. Pursue your interests, curiosities, and hobbies wherever they may lead.”

  • Nothing is more valuable than time.

  • “Work will take over your life if allowed, but most work doesn't matter. Focus on what matters.”

  • Sleep, fitness, and nutrition matter.

  • Family is everything.

  • Build trust and don’t do anything to lose it.

  • Experiences > things.

  • Time flies and things can change in an instant.


What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction, specifically on community building for Not Boring and history for my Write of Passage essay on Scenius, so I decided to give my brain a break and read some sci-fi: Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others.

I wrote about Chiang’s Exhalation way back in PMLE #4 (I loved it). Stories of Your Life and Others, a collection of short stories popularized when the titular story, Stories of Your Life, was turned into the movie Arrival, was even better. I preferred the written version to the movie, and it was still only my third or fourth favorite short story in the collection, a testament to the strength of the whole thing.

My top three were about the builders of the Tower of Babel, animating automatons and humans with words, and a drug that turns its previously vegetative recipients into supergeniuses, in reverse order.

I’m not normally a fan of short stories, but I love Ted Chiang’s. They’re fiction that makes you think, sci-fi that often takes place in the past instead of the future, and they’re perfect for a break from all of the non-fiction at work and in everyday life. (Insert fiction in politics joke here 🥁)

Note: If sci-fi’s not your thing and you just want the facts, Septivium has a running list of the best introductory books for basically every topic.


What’s Next?

Acceptance e-mails go out to our first Not Boring members go out today and I couldn’t be more excited about the group that we’re bringing together. We’ll be letting people in slowly to make sure that we get the early balance right, so if you’ve applied and don’t hear anything today 1) thank you! and 2) keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks as we continue to welcome people to the club.

Thanks for reading,

Packy


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