Hi thoughtful human,
Hope you’ve been well! I’ve recently returned from 2 months in Taiwan 🇹🇼
Having just risen up to the surface for air, I thought I would share some updates:
Taiwan - there’s still so much i’m trying to process about my time spent here. Overall, it was a kaleidoscope of beautiful bookstores, warm nights & lanterns, aromatic flavors, & most importantly, good people.
Calm - i’ve been floored by how much I enjoy working on the problems at Calm: habit formation, social accountability, mastery, etc. I recently got a chance to host our bi-yearly Calm Hackathon with Jason Calacanis, and i’m really excited to see some of the winning projects get rolled into the app in the coming year.
The China Spec - I also launched this publication with Rui Ma of TechBuzz China, where we do product teardowns and strategy analysis for top Chinese apps. We did our first product teardown on Douyin - China’s TikTok. I’m excited to share here first that our next one will be on WeChat.
Flowbox - after 6 months of tinkering on this side project, I also launched Flowbox - a newsletter reader - to 900 beta testers. We’re on a mission to make newsletter reading delightful again ✨ and Flowbox is a tool for you to read, manage, and discover newsletters at the speed of flow. Sign-up here if you want access!
Rabbit Holes - I also launched a complete rebrand of Rabbit Holes - a bi-weekly newsletter where I curate the best content in self-improvement, philosophy, art, architecture, & world building, so you can save time and be inspired. Basically, The Browser for thoughtful millennials 😂
Understandably, I have not been able to do as much in-depth writing lately, so I wanted to share with you all the most recent volume of Rabbit Holes for free.
⭐️ [essay] Instead of your life’s purpose - There is a common misperception of what makes life meaningful. It is the idea that we have a special purpose in life – and that once we find it, all our confusion ends.
An alternate approach is a non-linear approach: life is full of randomness punctuated by sudden moments – crises and opportunities – with vast potential for meaning making, when our skills and virtues shine.
Rather than struggle to discover a purpose or vocation, we become people who can recognize and exploit opportunities to create meaning as they arise – resourceful and audacious people who live adventurous lives.
Reminds me of Wait but Why graphic:
[paper] Adding is favoured over subtracting in problem solving- A series of problem-solving experiments reveal that people are more likely to consider solutions that add features than solutions that remove them, even when removing features is more efficient. 🤔 Where in life can we try subtracting instead of adding?
[essay] Climbing the wrong hill by Chris Dixon
The lure of the current hill is strong. There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one. He ends up falling for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists: people tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards. This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people. Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.
People early in their career should learn from computer science: meander some in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.
⭐️ [Quote] I’ve been loving these quotes from Louise Erdrich’s The Painted Drum lately:
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.”
and this one:
“And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”
⭐️ [essay] looking closely at the world - How the pandemic taught Craig Mod (a designer in Japan) to look closely at the world, and how he hopes to carry that forward out the other side.
We tend to see in groups, not details. When was the last time you deconstructed your constantly summarizing gaze, and observed details with a beginners mind?
What’s wild about focused attention is that the act of observation is implicitly timeless. A little dose of time travel. To look closely you must be present. And the more present you are, the more you move outside the boundaries of time.
The point being: Looking closely is valuable at every scale. From looking closely at a sentence, a photograph, a building, a government. It scales and it cascades — one cognizant detail begets another and then another. Suddenly you’ve traveled very far from that first little: Huh.
I’d say that that huh is the foundational block of curiosity. To get good at the huh is to get good at both paying attention and nurturing compassion; if you don’t notice, you can’t give a shit. But the huh is only half the equation.
You gotta go huh, alright — the “alright,” the follow-up, the openness to what comes next is where the cascade lives. It’s the sometimes-sardonic, sometimes-optimistic engine driving the next huh and so on and so forth.
⭐️ [course] The Philosophy of René Girard: An 8-Week Course - i’ll be taking this course starting mid-June, taught by Geoff Shullenberger, PhD. The live cohort course format has been one picking up steam lately, and i’m excited to experience it in the context of a philosophy course.
Introduction to Mimetic Theory
Rivalry, Resentment, and Conversion
The Founding Murder, the Scapegoat, and Sacrifice
The Scandal of Christianity
Girard Contra Nietzsche and Freud
The Persistence of Scapegoating
[community] IndieThinkers.org community- found this community recently touted as the world's only private community for independent intellectuals, where you can learn from the internet's most independent thinkers and creators.
[show] Philosophers on Twitch playing Flight Simulator - lol love this pairing with topics like “mankind's enslavement to wheat” and “when the astrology read hits just right”.
[essay] ⭐️ why astrology will become a dominant belief system- astrology is currently experiencing a kind of Renaissance, both from within and without. The author explains its rise by addressing 3 criticisms commonly leveraged against it:
There’s no causal mechanism
It enables self-indulgent navel-gazing and facile pigeon-holing of others
It brings a false comfort in higher powers for the uncertainty in life
I found this tenant interesting and reminiscent of Martin Luther’s charter of not needing Church to access God: Astrology’s power is independent of any central authority or dogma and puts the individual in direct communion with the Divine.
Furthermore, unlike the historically-bound tales of most religions, “astrology isn’t wedded to sacred narratives of its own, but serves as a Rosetta Stone of meaning-making by which all subjective experience can be interpreted through its plurality of archetypes”.
[blog] above article is from type studies which you may want to check out -
it’s a research project that explores models on life and their similarities. Its goal is to find evidence of emergent correspondence across fields of inquiry and their levels of complexity towards an intimation of universal meaning
[syllabus] Philosophy syllabus put together by my friend Stephanie
[online magazine] Sienna Solstice - Sienna Solstice is an antidisciplinary and multimedia journal that integrates art and science into one cohesive publication.
Dissolving the lines between art and science, we aim to highlight the truth that we are all more alike than different.
Through a nexus of scientific research publications, creative writing, podcasts, photography, short films, music composition, and critical essays, we strive to capture the present and future human condition in all dimensions.
[newsletter] ⭐️ Techcare by Michelle Ma- Michelle is a member of our rabbit holes community and recently launched a new newsletter that i’m all for: exploring what it means to build tech that cares, so that we can take care — of ourselves, our communities, and the world around us. It’s a philosophy that seeks to push self-care beyond the “self”, and into community and structural care. A virtuous cycle, one informs the other.
[talk] ⭐️ Ways of Curating On Life, Art, and Knowledge by Interintellect salon hostess Patricia Hurducas- When we open our eyes, curation exists all around us. This salon talk has opened up a rabbit hole for me to understand what curation actually is. It introduced me to Ways of Curating by Hans Obrist, which i’m currently reading. I like his definition of curation best:
There is a fundamental similarity to the act of curating, which at its most basic is simply about connecting cultures, bringing their elements into proximity with each other – the task of curating is to make junctions, to allow different elements to touch.
Some other definitions of curation:
What type of curation do you find yourself drawn to most?
5 books on curation if you’re interested in diving deeper:
[interview] ⭐️ Interview with Dr. Anjan Chatterjee who conducts research at UPenn directed at understanding the neural bases of spatial attention and representation. He seeks to understand the biological bases for beauty and aesthetic experiences.
Beauty in art and science evokes similar aesthetic emotions. For example, both art and science can evoke wonder and delight. Other descriptions like elegance, surprise, and even revelation are used to describe experiences in both domains.
Beauty in both can be striking in a way that stops us short and elevates us beyond every- day pedestrian concerns.
Neuroaesthetics has many functional applications.
Obvious ones are the uses of art therapy to leverage aesthetic experiences to help people with brain damage such as dementing illnesses or PTSD.
The neuroaesthetics of natural landscapes and their relationship to built environments and architecture is a newly emerging area that could prove to be extremely valuable.
What about the physical environment that we construct around ourselves affects our wellbeing and invites us to flourish?
Ultimately, and perhaps ironically, a critically important feature of aesthetics is its lack of functionality. The core aesthetic experience is self–contained. Which contrasts with living in a world dominated by productivity and accomplishments as markers of success.
Why do certain spaces evoke specific responses? The neuroscience of architecture is a field that is just starting to garner attention.
For me, this space evokes movement and maybe even progress in an abstract sense. It is the Rundetaarn in Copenhagen, one of Europe’s oldest functioning astronomical observatories.
This is a section of a lamp. I am convinced that beauty in everyday objects contributes to our wellbeing.
[art] Creatures of Hope: Cheery Illustrated Monsters Strut through New York City Streets by Loe Lee.
[sculpture] Polka Dot-Filled Exhibition by Yayoi Kusama Sprawls Across New York Botanical Garden
[architecture] Lacime Architects draw from ancient Chinese texts to design a modern edifice
[digital art] A Neuroscientist and a Physicist Used AI to Recreate a Lost Painting Buried Under a Beloved Picasso Canvas(and sold it as a NFT)
[poetry] A poem I loved recently: Weighing the Dog Billy Collins
[esasy] ⭐️ How people get rich now - A good primer on the primary ways people have gotten rich in the past, and how people are getting rich today.
If you only look back as far as the mid 20th century, it seems like people getting rich by starting their own companies is a recent phenomenon. But if you look back further, you realize it's actually the default. So what we should expect in the future is more of the same. Indeed, we should expect both the number and wealth of founders to grow, because every decade it gets easier to start a startup.
Getting rich is indeed “getting easier”, but are people getting happier?
[guide] Guide to Product-Market fit by Casey Winters
Product/market fit is not when customers stop complaining and are fully satisfied. They’ll never stop complaining. They’ll never be fully satisfied. Product/market fit is when they stop leaving.
He references two mental models/extremes to find PMF: Eric Ries vs. Rabios. Being other either extremes has downsides. Winter’s personal belief is a strong vision combined with market feedback is a pretty dominant combination of these two approaches.
[essay] How to start a new country by Balaji - The network state is built cloud first, land last. Rather than starting with the physical territory, we begin with a digital community. Touching on the concept of reverse diaspora: a community that forms first on the internet, builds a culture online, and only then comes together in person to build dwellings and structures.
[map] Speaking of cloud-first countries, check out this Map of Reddit - so dope.
[essay] World Building by Alex Danco
“Everyone’s job is world-building, even if they don’t realize it.”
The more complex or valuable is whatever you’re trying to sell, the more important it is for you to build a world around that idea, where other people can walk in, explore, and hang out - without you having to be there with them the whole time.
You need to build a world so rich and captivating that others will want to spend time in it, even if you’re not there.
[music] ⭐️ lofi.cafe- been jamming to this collection of lofi radios lately
I asked community members what piece of content has shifted their mental models the most, either recently or ever. Here were their responses:
[essay] T-shaped content diet curated by Alexandre Mouriec: “It changed how I think about content consumption and made me choose 6 topics I want to focus on in the future”
[newsletter] Why we escaped city life and built a home in the woods curated by Yi Hui: “I loved reading one of Mindy Zhang's posts about redesigning her life (building a house in the outskirts with her partner), and the fear and change from moving away from the city.”
[essay] Change is the only constant curated by Lulia Gh: “A piece on anti-fragility at work (constant change + regret minimization + persistent skill acquisition)”
[digital experience] Worry Muncher curated by Marie Dolle: “place where you can see how small your worries are... and see them burn. It’s cute and I think the concept could be further developed. (Like a home page promoting wellness / therapy services)”
[essay] The pleasure hit a sound could hold written by Marie Dolle: “I wrote an article on the main “soothing vibes” on the Internet”
[movie] Departures by Brian: “Has anyone seen the film departures, highly recommend if you haven't and free on tubi.”
[essay] Long feedback loops curated by Kenta Nagamine: “What do you rely on to keep going when you work on one thing for a long time?”
[resource] Shepherd curated by Alexandre Mouriec: “like browsing the best bookstore in the world. A website I came across this week which fits perfectly with Rabbit Holes.”
That’s all for April’s Rabbit Holes. If you want to get more issues like this, you can sign-up here.