Monday Musings (7/22/19)
New York vs. Los Angeles
Greetings from upstate New York! I’m spending the next few days at a house in Millbrook with a friend.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be traveling through the Midwest. I’ll be in Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. Then, I’m off to Mexico City in August to work on a project I can’t wait to tell you about.
New York vs. Los Angeles
Early in my career, I was strongly influenced by a YouTuber named Casey Neistat.
I started watching his videos back in college. For years, I didn’t miss any of them. He taught me about travel, marketing, and internet culture. Then, after I moved to New York, I wrote my first viral article about Casey.
This week, he moved from New York to Los Angeles. He wants to escape the hustle-and-bustle culture of New York. As he said:
"New York City is a place where you can do anything and be anything because everyone is too damn busy to worry about what anyone else is doing. It’s a place where you’re all at once surrounded by thousands of people, but are entirely alone, left to your devices to do whatever you set out to accomplish. Nobody lives in New York City. You simply survive in this place. And that weeds out the weak. And that social Darwinism leaves you with 8.5 million other people looking to make their mark... nobody lives in New York because they want to relax. Nobody is here because they want to slow down in life.
There’s no conversation you’ll ever have in New York City that doesn’t end with you talking with another person about your career, your goals, and how you’re going to get there. I’ve been here for 18 years and that pretty sums up every human interaction I’ve ever had in this city. And that’s what makes it great... unless you’re not on that path.”
Casey’s assessment of New York is spot on. I’ve lived in New York for 4 years and I’ve visited Los Angeles twice in the past year, so here’s my off-the-cuff take on the two cities:
LA is a buffet. It’s the birthplace of cool, and like most things fashionable, it floats without direction like a log in the ocean. You can be nobody or anybody. It’s the home of tattoos, beach yoga, and “mind over body” billboards. If spiritual, but not religious was a city, it’d be LA.
New York is religious but not spiritual. It represents the past as much as the future, and aspects of tradition are still respected there. Work is gospel and achievement is truth. With that said, I wear a shield in New York that I don’t wear anywhere else. It’s a tough city and everybody pays a price to live there.
I see the appeal of LA, but don’t think it’s high-energy enough for many ambitious people, or mellow enough for those who want to take it easy. It’s the ultimate California dream: fame, convertibles, and warm weather. It’s everything and nothing at once, so it’s a choose-your-own-adventure city.
The next cohort of my online course, Write of Passage begins on August 14th. Writing is one of the most under-rated skills in the world right now.
With the stroke of a pen, you can build your network, improve your thinking, and create opportunities for yourself. Best of all, it's easy to start writing. All you need is discipline.
Here’s why you should write:
“Writing initiates the ultimate positive feedback loop. Online writers are rewarded with instant feedback, and fast feedback loops are the best way to accelerate your learning. Better yet, writing regularly will inspire you to live an interesting life. As your writing improves, so will the opportunities available to you.”
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about why it’s important to learn like an athlete in Monday Musings. In just a couple weeks, the post has been read more than 20,000 times.
"The more you learn, the easier it is to learn. Pick the right projects, and you’ll develop a personal network effect, where each new skill increases the value of skills you already have.
You’ll improve your process every time you complete a learning challenge. By pushing through the cycle of start to finish, you’ll discover quirks about yourself, accelerate your learning process, and ultimately, learn like an athlete.”
Note: I’ve spent the past five months working on an essay called “Who is Peter Thiel?” The 12,000 word essay is now complete. It’s an in-depth introduction to Peter Thiel’s philosophy, and according to one friend, it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m looking for volunteers to provide feedback on the essay. If you’d like to help, please let me know by responding directly to this email.
Coolest Things I Learned This Week
I spent the week absorbed in Raj Chetty’s work. He’s a Harvard University economist who studied the “American Dream.” He’s written about social mobility, the destiny of geography, and the long-term impact of teachers on student performance.
If you’re interested in studying Chetty, I recommend the following path:
Read Chetty’s profile in The Atlantic
Listen to his podcast with Tyler Cowen
Watch his lecture at the London School of Economics
Play with the Opportunity Atlas dataset. It’s probably the most comprehensive and enlightening data set I’ve seen this year.
For example, this is a classic Raj Chetty discovery:
“If you live in places like Salt Lake City, Utah, or San Jose, California, the odds of moving from the bottom fifth of the national income distribution to the top fifth are more than 12 percent or even 14 percent in some cases.
In contrast, in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, or Indianapolis, Indiana, a child’s odds of moving from the bottom fifth to the top fifth are less than 5 percent—less than any developed country for which we currently have data.”
Here’s the Apollo 11 Customs from after the first moon landing by the astronauts, 50 years ago.
The best part: they declared rocks and dust.
These numbers are insane:
Just three players: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have dominated men’s tennis over the last 15 or so years. Between the three of them they have won 53 of the last 64 grand slam tournaments.
Each one of them has won roughly 10x as many grand slam tournaments as players in the next best group.
There is a similar story on the women’s side. Serena Williams has won 23 grand slam titles and at one point was the number #1 ranked player for 186 consecutive weeks!
During the 1980s, there was a beach on the west side of Manhattan. The site was created out of landfill from the excavations to build the World Trade Center.
Today this beach has been replaced by Battery Park.
The images below are from the NASA Earth Observations website.
In order, they show:
Seasonal fire incidence
Amount of sunlight
North Pole ice sheet coverage
Processed satellite images
Ice sheet data from Blue Marble satellite images
Photo of the Week
If you couldn’t tell by the impeccable writing in today’s newsletter, it was written by my friend’s dog. So if you didn’t like today’s email, it’s not my fault. And if you did, I’m going to recruit “Flo” for editions of Monday Musings.
Until next week,